§ Mr. Speaker
I must announce to the House that I have selected the amendment in the name of the Prime Minister.
§ Mr. Tony Blair (Sedgefield)
I beg to move,That this House deplores the fact that at a time of deepening recession, with thousands more each day facing unemployment, the Government is cutting back on investment in training; believes this sends entirely the wrong signal to industry; and condemns the Government's failure to deliver the training policy Britain needs to boost skills and provide for the country's industrial future.Let me remind the Secretary of State of the background to the debate. This year, 25,000 companies will go to the wall; this month, tens of thousands of new redundancies will be announced; last month alone, it was announced that 1,200 jobs were to go in Derby, 1,200 at British Rail Engineering Ltd., 1,000 at London Transport, 450 at Mattessons Walls and 350 at GEC, and 3,500 jobs are in jeopardy at Lewis's stores. There are countless more thousands of jobs in jeopardy up and down the country.
When the Minister speaks, I defy him to tell us that he has any reason to believe that, when he announces next week's unemployment figures, they will be any lower than the appalling 80,000 rise in unemployment announced in December. If that is right, it means that, today and every day, 3,000 more people join the dole queue. That is the reality in Britain today under the Government.
The recession is not some distant theory, it is here, it is now and it is everywhere. A short time ago, the new Prime Minister promised us a classless society; instead he has only brought us a classless recession, hitting everyone in equal measure.
Let us be clear that the distinctive feature of this recession is not that it is happening in the south and not in the north, but that it is happening everywhere—in the south-east and the south as well as in the north and in Wales and Scotland. It is affecting new technology and old, manufacturing as well as services. It is affecting every region of Britain, in every sector of industry, in every occupation at the workplace.
It is the extraordinary achievement of the Government that, having divided the nation for 11 years, they have finally united it in recession. Yet not one word of apology have we had, nor one expression of regret. We have not had one new initiative to tackle the rising unemployment that the Government have created. Let us examine the ministerial gloss that has been put on the unemployment figures by right hon. and hon. Members.
When unemployment first rose in the spring, we were told that it wasa short period of slower growth, concentrated in the south, not the north".In the summer, as unemployment rose higher, we were told that it wasconcentrated mainly in the south.In the autumn, as the figures rose again and the desperation grew greater, we were given the rather implausible excuse that it wasconcentrated on men, not women.292 Finally, two weeks ago, when unemployment levels had risen in every area of Britain, covering all categories of people, the Minister fell back on the final refuge of all failed Ministers. He told us that we mustget these figures in perspective.Let me tell the right hon. and learned Gentleman the perspective of my constituents and that of countless thousands and millions of other people. They were told that this Government had created an economic miracle, and they have not. They were told that the problems would be temporary, and they are not. They were promised that there would be no recession, and there is. Promises followed by betrayal, boom followed by burst, that is the record of this Tory Government and all Tory Governments.
The Government, having created the recession, surely cannot duck their responsibilities for the victims. Perhaps what is most devastating of all in this period of rising unemployment is that we still suffer skill shortages in vital areas of industry. In the north-east for example, a report published a few days ago said that more than 20 per cent. of firms in the region experienced shortages of skilled labour. In the north-west, where unemployment has risen by about 15,000 recently, 30 per cent. of manufacturing firms were found to have major skill shortages. In the west midlands, where unemployment has risen sharply in the past few months, the Black Country development corporation conducted a survey among more than 1,800 companies. Despite the high unemployment, it was not plant capacity but skill shortages that were inhibiting expansion.
Just a week ago—just a few days ago—the Financial Times told us that a report commissioned into the leather-making industry, a key area of trade which does £150 million-worth of trade every year, showed that the constraint to growth was lack of skills. Yet the chamber of commerce survey for the fourth quarter of 1990, bang up to date for last December, gave the staggering figure that over 50 per cent. of manufacturing companies and almost 50 per cent. of service companies reported recruiting difficulties. There was not a single area of the country where such companies did not suffer a shortage of skilled labour.
Can there be any more fundamental indictment of failure than that—that, at a time of rising unemployment, we still cannot provide the skilled labour we need for our future? The shortages are concentrated in the very areas in which we most need to compete effectively;, the areas where we have the largest balance of payments deficit and the areas of most acute skill shortages are correlated.
We need to train, not simply to develop people at the workplace but, crucially, for the economic success of this country.
§ Mr. Patrick Nicholls (Teignbridge)
If the hon. Gentleman is as worried about these skills shortages as he says, perhaps he would care to tell the House why the Labour party has opposed every single training initiative since 1979. While he realises that the word for which he is groping is no, perhaps he will reflect that spending by this Government on training is exactly six times in cash terms as much as that of the Labour Government. That is the record and the case which the hon. Gentleman should answer.
§ Mr. Blair
That is an extraordinary intervention in a week when the hon. Gentleman's Government have 293 announced the collapse of employment training, the scheme which they introduced. If he examines the comparisons between Britain and our main competitors, he will see that the areas in which we most need skills to be developed, are the very areas where skills are most lacking.
For example, in the decade up to 1988, the number of people with intermediate vocational qualifications grew by just 3 per cent. in Britain to the paltry figure of 26 per cent. That is a critical area for manufacturing and industry. In France, the figure rose by 8 per cent. to reach 40 per cent. and Germany is already 64 per cent. ahead in that category.
§ Mr. Nicholls
Why, then, has the Labour party opposed every single major training initiative since 1979? That is the question. That is what we need to hear from the hon. Gentleman.
§ Mr. Blair
The subject of our debate is the Government's failure. The reason why we did not support the Government's training policy was that we disagreed with it. I should have thought that even the hon. Gentleman would realise that that is why we are debating this motion today.
If the comparitive figures are broken down, for example in the critical areas of engineering and technology, we find that an astonishing gap opens out at the craft level. In Britain every year, 35,000 craftsmen and women gain their qualifications. In France, the figure is 92,000. In Germany, the figure is 120,000. Is it any wonder, when our competitors develop their skills to so much greater a degree than us, that we have the manufacturing deficit in our trade of which we are all aware? Those figures will be confirmed by a major new study as yet unpublished, by the National Institute of Economic and Social Research into intermediate skills in the United Kingdom, France and Germany. It is worth referring to that study.
§ Mr. Frank Haynes (Ashfield)
Does my hon. Friend agree that the ex-Minister responsible for training, the hon. Member for Teignbridge (Mr. Nicholls), has a nerve? We are having the debate today because the Government have been a complete failure in training and this nation needs the opportunity of a proper training programme, not the programme which the hon. Gentleman pushed forward as a failed training Minister.
§ Mr. Blair
As I am well acquainted with the hon. Gentleman, I am not the least surprised by his nerve.
The most up-to-date comparison of numbers of technicians in manufacturing in Britain, France and Germany gives us some clue to our economic performance. Whereas Britain has 31 per cent. of technicians with no qualifications at all, France has only 27 per cent. and Germany only 8 per cent. At the critical intermediate level of those who are qualified, we find that France is about 10 or 15 per cent. ahead of Britain and Germany is producing 30 per cent. more qualified people a year.
The report goes on to study the effect of this skills gap on our companies. Based on interviews conducted with people in British industry, it concludes: 294In Britain foremen in both spinning and engineering frequently mention that crisis management, chasing missing materials, rescheduling to cope with machine breakdown or training new staff where turnover was very high and new employees were normally untrained occupied the greater part of their time.The study goes on to compare the numbers of foremen and supervisors with qualifications in different countries. In the past decade, Britain has trained about 50,000 of them; in the same period, Germany has trained 50,000 every single year. Surely that is why we are not doing as well as we should.
§ Mr. Ian Bruce (Dorset, South)
Surely the statistics that the hon. Gentleman quotes so eloquently tend to show that the amount spent by this Government is broadly comparable with that spent by the other Governments he has mentioned. Unfortunately, our manufacturing industry has not spent as much of its own money on training as its European counterparts and has failed to see the advantages that it would derive from spending as much. Surely hon. Members on both sides of the House should urge industry to appreciate that.
§ Mr. Phillip Oppenheim (Amber Valley)
Will a future Labour Government make an increase in the training budget an immediate priority or does the hon. Gentleman agree with the shadow Chief Secretary, who has said that the only immediate priorities for a future Labour Government would be child benefit and pensions?
§ Mr. Blair
What we would not do is cut the training budget at a time like this. I should have thought that the hon. Gentleman would be worried about the 25 per cent. increase in unemployment in his constituency in the past few months.
Virtually all other international comparisons show the same trends. France and Germany have four times as many electricians as we do. Germany has five times the number of mechanical engineers and 10 times our output of trained staff in clothing and textiles. It produces 10 times the number of people qualified in office work every year. France produces seven times the number of people in the retail trade every year—
§ Dr. Kim Howells (Pontypridd)
Is not it true that the implications of what my hon. Friend is discussing are significant for large areas of this country, because, although it is important to areas such as south Wales to have inward investment, all too often it is concentrated on assembly line factories, not on primary production or research and development, which would provide real money, real jobs and real security of employment?
§ Mr. Blair
My hon. Friend is right. He mentions one of the main reasons for investing in those skills.
The comparisons in relation to virtually every sector of industry are frightening. If we agree that we need a training revolution, surely it must start with our young people. However, in such training we have the biggest gap with the very countries with which we need to catch up. Britain is virtually the only country that is cutting capital spending on schools as a real percentage of GDP. It is the 295 only country in the industrialised world with fewer than 40 per cent. of young people staying on in higher education and training.
If young people were leaving school and going into first-class training, that would give some satisfaction. There are 300,000 or more young people on the youth training scheme. On the Government's own figures, fewer than half of those receive a proper qualification at the end of the training. More than 50 per cent. of the young people employed, unemployed or in employment outside YTS receive no training whatever.
At the very time when that is happening in Britain, Germany will this year increase the number of apprenticeships to almost 2 million. Now we can see why this country has fallen behind. Against a background of rising unemployment, skill shortages and a skills deficit in vital areas of trade, we look to see how the Government are responding.
§ Mr. James Arbuthnot (Wanstead and Woodford)
The hon. Gentleman finds it difficult to answer the question posed by my hon. Friend the Member for Amber Valley (Mr. Oppenheim). Would extra spending by a Labour Government be a priority or would it come about as resources allowed?
§ Mr. Blair
The answer is obviously yes. If the hon. Gentleman had been here for the speech by the shadow Chancellor, my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Monklands, East (Mr. Smith), he would have heard him say exactly that. Of course that is one of our priorities. The Government are betraying the future of the country by cutting skills.
The Government say that, because fewer young people are coming on to the Labour market, they want to cut expenditure on training. On our calculations, the youth training budget will be cut in real terms by about £100 million over the next few years. If that is because fewer young people are coming on to the labour market, would not any sensible Government, given the state of qualifications among our young people, reallocate that money and provide better quality training? The real dereliction concerns the 100,000 young people who leave school every year, go to work and receive no training whatever. In other countries it would be unthinkable—indeed, unlawful—for that to happen.
§ Mr. Blair
I shall not give way. I should be happy to educate the hon. Gentleman, but this is a debate, not a seminar.
There is growing support for Labour's policy of some form of intervention for young people that would put training within a proper legislative framework and ensure that public money provided decent training and proper qualifications. We are today beginning a new process of consultation on our proposal with training and enterprise councils, industry and unions. Why does not the Secretary of State do that? He should consult people to see whether there is support for proper legislation to ensure that young people are helped.
§ Mr. Andrew Mitchell (Gedling)
I am listening carefully to the hon. Gentleman, who is now dealing with TECs. I am a great supporter of TECs, and I understood that the hon. Gentleman also supported them. When he was recently out of the country, his hon. Friend the Member 296 for Fife, Central (Mr. McLeish) gave an interview on, I think, Radio Sheffield, and deliberately rubbished TECs. Is the Labour party in favour of TECs or not?
§ Mr. Blair
That is complete nonsense, as I am sure my hon. Friend the Member for Fife, Central (Mr. McLeish) will tell us.
The cuts in youth training are bad enough, but those in training for the unemployed are savage. Some 30 per cent., or £300 million, will be taken out of the budget for training the unemployed next year alone. Thousands of those presently receiving training will be denied it. Would any other Government, at a time of rising unemployment, when training and retraining have never been more important, cut and savage the budget for training the unemployed?
We are proffered the reason that the Government have discovered that training is not always the best thing for the unemployed. I have only two things to say to that. First, that is a mighty curious thing to say. I remember when the predecessor of the Secretary of State for Employment introduced employment training. He told us that the reason why it had to be introduced, replacing the community programme, was because training was what the long-termed unemployed required. What has changed? Did he decide that training was no longer necessary and make the budget cut, or did he agree the cut in the budget and then cast around for an excuse to justify it?
Secondly, in all the criticisms of employment training and in all the campaigns to change it, and in all the studies and reports of its inadequacies—including those of the South Derby TEC and the Manchester TEC, which published reports last year, that of the Select Committee on Employment, which published a report last year, and the Department's evaluation study, no one has ever said that the problem with employment training was that there was too much of it.
When we see the cuts in youth training and employment training, we are entitled to look for some help in training for those already in work. It is here that we find the most serious gaps in Government policy. We know that, in the year 2000, 80 per cent. of those in the work force now will still be employed. We know that, in a recession, training will always be cut. A recent CBI survey shows a declining trend of those companies still wanting to invest more in training. There is no proper policy for in-work training whatever, apart from exhortation.
The Secretary of State has endorsed the standard, developed by industry, unions and others, of investors in people. He has endorsed the kite mark for training excellence, which is given to employers who have proper training plans drawn up in consultation with their work force, involving each employee in the upgrading of his or her skill and evaluated or costed according to a universal standard. His predecessor set out as a Government target the aim that, by 31 December 1995—less than five years away—all employers, large or small, should become investors in people.
Why can the Secretary of State not accept what the Labour party urges—that he will not succeed in that target by exhortation alone? If all that were required were persuasion, even these Ministers could have succeeded long ago. Even if he cannot accept our case on that, he should have retained the Department of Employment budget so as to find other ways to use that money to stimulate training. Are we really saying that, with some 297 imagination, we could not have put together a programme for management training, for a crash course for TECs to deal with skilled shortages, for improving the profile for national vocational qualifications? Any of these things could have been done, with foresight, imagination and a restored budget.
At a time of recession, investment in skills must be maintained and increased. Is that not the case that the Government take out to industry day after day? How can the Secretary of State expect industry to heed his call to keep up its training investment when the Government set a bad example by cutting their training investment, as we can see from the recently announced figures? Only a Tory Government could have allowed Britain, the one country with the unlooked-for bonus of North sea oil, the one country with the God-given means to invest in skills and training and to prepare for our future, to be the one country that, before the single European market takes effect, will cut training investment. That is why we condemn the Government.
The Government are not merely not investing in training; they are incapable of understanding that training policy cannot be a response to the short-term changes in the labour market. The essence of any training policy is that it should plan for the long term. It is not simply that long-term planning is incompatible with the Government's dogmatic obsession with market forces: it is that it requires a different attitude of government, a different culture in industry, a different relationship between Government and industry.
The Government's failures in respect of training are not just those of policy, gross though they are; they are fundamental failures of leadership on a vital issue for our industrial future. If the Secretary of State really meant what he said about supporting our idea for a training revolution, he would be a spectator, not an extra in the crowd. He would be leading that revolution, creating the partnership in industry necessary to achieve it, using the power of government to legislate for our young people, providing the incentive for employers to upgrade skills, extending his Department's training initiatives.
Other countries are not standing still. Between 1988 and 1990, when we have lost some £1,000 million from our training budget, French expenditure on training will rise by about 30 per cent. in real terms. In Italy it is also rising. We are not struggling to catch up with our competitors parked by the roadside. The distance that we have to travel is not between us and some fixed point. We have to catch up with a vehicle that is moving ahead fast, with the driver's foot on the accelerator. When we consider where we are and where we need to be, we can see that we are not even in the right business of getting our skills training right.
The activities of our competitors are the product not just of their national pride but of economic necessity, because they know that the world of work is changing. This is the age in which the person in the workplace will become the pivot upon which the success of the enterprise turns. It is not just that we face skill shortages at a time of rising unemployment; it is not only that that is in the areas in which we most directly need to compete: it is in those very areas that the demand for skilled labour will grow.
298 Any analysis of occupations in the future shows that it will be in the professional occupations, the skilled manual occupations, that employment will grow, and it is in the unskilled jobs that it will fall. Most other countries know that. They appreciate that the markets of the future will be high-value-added markets where the advanced technology is applied by the most skilled people. The technology revolution of the 1960s will give way to the people revolution of the 1990s. The products from Japan and Germany are increasingly customised, individualised, precision goods, leaving mass production to other, less-developed nations.
How long will it be before we have debates in the House where the adverse comparisons that we make are not with Germany, France and Japan but with Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Korea and Indonesia? That must not be allowed to happen, yet it is happening under this Government. It is because of that, because they have no answers to the recession or the problems that lie beneath it, because they have mismanaged the short term and failed the long term, that Britain needs a new start with new policies for the new challenges we face, one which combines commitment and a sense of urgency. The Government will never complete the task. That will be left to a Labour Government.
§ The Secretary of State for Employment (Mr. Michael Howard)
I beg to move, to leave out from "House" to the end of the Question and to add instead thereof:`welcomes the Government's creation of a climate and strategic framework which is encouraging employers to improve their already substantial role in the national training effort, in which participation in training and the attainment of skills is rising, and which is set fair to meet the United Kingdom's skill needs in the 1990s and beyond.'.We have had this afternoon from the hon. Member for Sedgefield (Mr. Blair) the usual litany of woe which he brings to our debates on this subject.
The Government's training policy is designed precisely to achieve the objectives that are set out in the Opposition's motion—the need to boost Britain's skills and to provide for our industrial future. We are addressing those objectives, we are succeeding in achieving them, and the hon. Gentleman's speeches would have a good deal more credibility if he were to recognise and give credit for the extent to which that is the case.
If hon. Members want to test the truth of what I have just said, all they need do is take as their text a speech made last week by the hon. Member for Sedgefield. In that speech, he set out the policy of the Labour party towards the training of young people. He said that training should be based on qualifications gained, not on time served. That is precisely our policy. It is a policy that we have put into effect. Since last spring, youth training has imposed no time limit on the training offered to young people and has been designed to ensure that those who complete it reach a minimum qualification.
The hon. Gentleman also said that qualifications for young people undertaking training should be certified by the National Council for Vocational Qualifications. I agree. Great progress towards the achievement of a national vocational qualification for every young person in training is already being made. In fact, more than two thirds of those who complete youth training already gain a vocational qualification.
299 The hon. Gentleman also called for closer integration of education and training. Almost 10 years ago, the Government launched the technical and vocational education initiative to achieve precisely the aim of bringing education and training closer together. We did so at a time when the right hon. Member for Islwyn (Mr. Kinnock), then his party spokesman on education—I am delighted that he is with us—was parading up and down the country denouncing vocational education as fit only for second-class citizens and appropriate—he has always had the gift for a phrase—only forhewers of wood and drawers of water".That was the phrase used by the Leader of the Opposition about TVEI. But I am always delighted to welcome late converts to the truth, and I am glad that the right hon. Gentleman recognises the merits of what we are doing.
It would be difficult to gain the impression from the speech that we have just heard by the hon. Member for Sedgefield that most of the policies which he advocates on youth training are already in place. Yet that is the fact: we have given all 16 and 17-year-olds a right to training if they want it—the only country in Europe to do so. No such right existed under the last Labour Government.
The fact is that nine out of 10 of our 16-year-olcls are today undertaking education or training—an improvement of a third since Labour was in power. We will have in place by the end of next year a system of vocational qualifications covering 80 per cent. of the occupations in Britain, which will offer every worker in those occupations a ladder of opportunity which they can climb rung by rung and which will make it possible for them to train towards a qualification.
Of course, the availability of a national system of job-related qualifications is relevant not only to our young people but to our adult population, employed and unemployed, and there is a mass of evidence that our people are taking full advantage of the opportunities available to them.
§ Mr. Ian Bruce
Before my right hon. and learned Friend leaves recent speeches by Labour Members and the speech of the hon. Member for Sedgefield (Mr. Blair), can he tell us whether there was any mention in that speech of the Labour party's decision to levy on every employer a large slice of turnover, to be given to bureaucracy, who would meddle yet again in training which ought to be done by employers?
§ Mr. Howard
I was astonished by the total failure of the hon. Member for Sedgefield to say a word in his speech about the training levy, which he announced just two days ago and of which our newspapers yesterday were full. The reason why he did not say anything about it today might be that the Leader of the Opposition was sitting on the Front Bench. On 4 April last year, the Leader of the Opposition dropped the levy from his party's policy. Two days ago, we heard that the hon. Member for Sedgefield was bringing it back. No doubt because the leader of his party was sitting next to him, he did not feel able to say a word about it today.
Employers are spending about £20 billion a year on training. The number of employees that they trained increased by about 70 per cent. between 1984 and 1989. The new training and enterprise councils are two years ahead of schedule, with 1,200 business people of the highest calibre engaged in an unprecedented partnership with Government.
300 We launched a major new initiative, "investors in people", which will increase employer commitment to training still further in the years ahead, and which, I was happy to note, obtained the enthusiastic endorsement of the hon. Member for Sedgefield in his remarks on Monday.
Most encouraging of all, perhaps, the latest Confederation of British Industry quarterly trends survey indicated that, even in these difficult times, more than four times as many companies intend to maintain or increase their investment in training as intend to reduce it. If ever there was evidence that we are succeeding in revolutionising employers' attitudes to training, that survey proves it.
§ Mr. Andrew Mitchell
The Opposition's confusion over levies is mirrored—despite the remarks of the hon. Member for Sedgefield (Mr. Blair) in response to my earlier intervention in respect of training and enterprise councils. The hon. Gentleman denied that there was any lack of support for TECs among members of the Opposition Front Bench, but, on 30 December 1990, the hon. Member for Fife, Central (Mr. McLeish) said on BBC Radio Sheffield that TECs placeda completely false emphasis on the nation's needs.Is it not the case that the same Opposition confusion exists in respect of TECs as it does in respect of levies?
§ Mr. Howard
My hon. Friend is right. Confusion runs through all Labour party training policies, and I shall comment later on the remarks made by the hon. Member for Fife, Central (Mr. McLeish).
§ Dr. Kim Howells
Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman completely satisfied with the nation's training? If so, is that the cause of the complacency that has led to his decision to cut the money available for that activity?
§ Mr. Howard
I confess to some disappointment, because I had hoped that the hon. Member for Pontypridd (Dr. Howells) was about to clear up the confusion surrounding the Opposition's policies. Of course there is more to be done with training, and of course we are in the middle of a revolution that is not yet complete. Of course we must do more to transform the attitudes of employers and individuals. Nevertheless, we ought to acknowledge that progress has already been made, and that the right policies are in place to continue and to complete that progress.
§ Mr. Howard
If the hon. Gentleman will contain himself for a moment, I will address that point.
Of course the Government also have a crucial part to play. Expenditure by my Department—as my hon. Friend the Member for Teignbridge (Mr. Nicholls) pointed out has risen from the £377 million a year spent by Labour when in office to £2.6 billion a year today—six times more in cash terms, and two and a half times more in real terms. That is why we increased the planned spending on youth training for the coming year. That is why we welcome with enthusiasm the undoubted improvement in the quality of training that has occurred.
§ Mr. Matthew Taylor (Truro)
Much of the criticism so far has centred on the Government's failure to spend enough on training. Will the right hon. and learned 301 Gentleman comment on reports that criticised the administrative procedures used by some TECs, whose consequences included mispayments? That is an important matter, whatever the overall issue. Can the Secretary of State give the average cost for each non-vocational qualification course, to level 3 or equivalent? Some very high figures have been circulated.
§ Mr. Howard
On the first of the hon. Gentleman's questions, he will appreciate that the deficiencies to which he referred were identified by the audit arrangements, which were instituted by my Department. The information which became available a few days ago is evidence of the effectiveness of those audit arrangements. They will continue to remain in place, and those weaknesses will be remedied, because the TECs will improve their administrative arrangements to ensure that those difficulties do not recur. That is already happening.
§ Mr. Matthew Taylor
I am sure that that is what the Minister wants to happen. One of the worries about TECs is that, once one is in place, there are precious few ways in which Ministers can regain control of the organisation if it is badly managed. That is partly because, in effect, it is a self-perpetuating organisation. How does the Minister intend to exert control on TECs which are making the sort of mistakes—deliberate or otherwise—which appear to have been revealed by the Government's audit?
§ Mr. Howard
The audit arrangements will continue, and TECs will continue to have to operate in accordance with the contracts that they signed with me. A considerable range of monitoring arrangements exist to ensure that they continue to provide the high-quality training that we intend them to provide.
As my hon. Friend the Member for Teignbridge said in his intervention, each and every initiative which has led to the improvements in training in this country in recent years has been opposed by the Opposition. They opposed the technical and vocational education initiative when it was launched. They opposed employment training at their 1988 party conference, and called on their local authorities to boycott it, which 13 Labour-controlled local authorities did. Now the Opposition admit that they were wrong and they seek to pose as the defenders of employment training.
The Opposition opposed training and enterprise councils when they were announced by my right hon. Friend the Member for Sutton Coldfield (Sir N. Fowler), who is in the Chamber today. Now they admit that they were wrong and they support them—at least, the hon. Member for Sedgefield says they support them. In a moment, we shall consider the extent to which the Opposition speak with one voice on training and enterprise councils.
Time and time again, the Opposition have simply copied our policies, after a respectable period of time has elapsed, and ditched their own. This week the hon. Member for Sedgefield placed our "investors in people" initiative at the centre of his latest proposals.
The hon. Member spoke at length about the alterations in training funding that we should be making from next April. Not surprisingly for him, he did not refer once to the significant increase that we shall be making in planned spending on youth training. He did not refer to the transfer of responsibility and money for work-related further 302 education to the training and enterprise councils, and he left out altogether any reference to the important additional flexibilities that will be given to TECs to increase the value for the taxpayer of the investment that we are making in training.
Perhaps that is because the hon. Gentleman agrees with his five Front-Bench colleagues, who signed an early-day motion a few weeks ago, describing as "disasters" those flexibilities requested by training and enterprise councils —and warmly welcomed by TECs.
§ Mr. Bob Cryer (Bradford, South)
Could the Minister explain the flexibilities that he gave to skill centres when he handed over £14 million to his friends and to friends of the Tory party, which resulted in the flexibility to close down a fair proportion of the skill centres, to sell off the sites, because they were also handed over free and gratis, and to sell off the machinery, other training equipment and facilities? What benefit is that for skill training?
§ Mr. Howard
We transferred skill centres, which had been making a substantial loss for some time, to the private sector because we were convinced that that was the way in which they could provide more efficient training than they had previously made available. The evidence is that that is precisely what has happened.
The hon. Member for Sedgefield mentioned changes in funding of employment training. The fact of the matter is that he does not have a leg to stand on when it comes to discussing funding. We might be able to take what he says a little more seriously if he had succeeded in persuading the shadow Chief Secretary that training would be one of the areas on which Labour would immediately increase spending. He constantly tried to give the impression that that would be the case. However, we know that it is not the case: the hon. Member for Derby, South (Mrs. Beckett) keeps telling us that it is not the case; the Leader of the Opposition keeps telling us that it is not the case. Training, they tell us, is something on which they hope to spend more as resources allow. I fear, Madam Deputy Speaker, that if a Labour Government ever returned to power and you were waiting for "resources to allow" you would have to be very patient.
§ Mr. Thomas Graham (Renfrew, West and Inverclyde)
Does the Secretary of State realise that, in Renfrewshire, our young folk were guaranteed a training place? That has never come about, however. The places cannot be filled. Does he also realise that the money to finance training for my constituents has been cut?
§ Mr. Howard
The hon. Gentleman is talking about the youth training guarantee. That guarantee applies and will continue to apply, and young people who cannot find jobs will continue to be guaranteed a training place. As I said earlier, this is the only country in Europe to guarantee two years' training for all 16 and 17-year-old school leavers who cannot find jobs.
We have explained many times the reasons behind our decision to alter the funding of employment training next year. I do not expect Opposition Members to understand, because to them the unemployed remain a mass of undifferentiated people to be lumped into a category, used for political purposes and treated as a lumpen proletariat.
We take a different attitude. We believe that the unemployed deserve to be treated as individuals, and we want to give them individual help. That is why, for the first 303 time, since January this year every person who signs on at an unemployment benefit office is interviewed for up to three-quarters of an hour, and receives an individual back-to-work plan tailored to his individual circumstances and showing him the best route back to work.
That is why we have taken heed of the detailed studies that we have conducted into the local labour markets in Bristol, London and the west midlands, which clearly showed that a significant proportion of the long-term unemployed already possessed the qualifications to match the vacancies in their areas. It has become very clear that, for many people, a lack of skills is not the prime obstacle to finding a job: for many, the main difficulty is lack of morale or lack of motivation. That is why we are determined to provide the unemployed with the widest possible range of help to assist them to return to work as quickly as possible.
§ Mr. John P. Smith (Vale of Glamorgan)
The Secretary of State has mentioned attitudes to the unemployed, and the way in which they are treated as a homogeneous mass. Will he explain why, in September 1982, the Government —for some inexplicable reason—stopped conducting an occupational analysis of the unemployed and keeping the statistics?
§ Mr. Howard
I must confess that my memory of these matters does not go back to September 1982. If the hon. Gentleman was listening to what I was saying, however, and understanding the information that a range of help was now available for people who had lost their jobs, he will know that that range is wider than it has ever been before.
Because we want to ensure that we provide a wide range of help, we shall be increasing the number of places at job clubs, and in the job interview guarantee scheme, by up to 100,000 next year. Employment training, on which we shall still be spending £750 million next year, will have an important part to play. Training, however, is not the only, or always the best, way in which we can help people without jobs back into the world of work.
You would never guess, Madam Deputy Speaker, from the language of the Opposition, that those who lost their jobs when unemployment doubled under the last Labour Government had no access to employment training or a restart interview, no chance of a place in a job club, no prospect of assistance through the job interview guarantee scheme and no guarantee of an in-depth interview with a new client adviser as soon as they registered as unemployed. The present Government introduced this comprehensive package of assistance for the unemployed, and created the conditions for a record number of jobs—2 million more than existed in 1979. The present Government have presided over the creation of more jobs in recent years than any other European Community Government.
It is, of course, the case that at the heart of our policy on training lie the training and enterprise councils. These councils provide a direct solution to the problem that has plagued Britain's training performance for the last two centuries—the difficulty of securing active employer involvement and commitment to training. The Labour party believes that it is possible to achieve employment commitment to training only by taxing employers, by penalising employers and by legislating against employers. 304 At the very most, such negative policies could only secure grudging employer involvement, and would generate great resentment amongst them.
§ Mr. Howard
The hon. Gentleman shakes his head. Is he abandoning the levy announcement that he made as recently as Monday? If not, what is the levy but a tax on employers?
§ Mr. Blair
What we are saying is that the "investors in people" standard can be made to work, and the target set out by the right hon. and learned Gentleman's predecessor met, only if those employers who do not meet it make some contribution to overall training, and those who do meet it do not make a contribution.
§ Mr. Howard
Of course it will be a tax. Or will it be a voluntary contribution? What on earth is a compulsory contribution except a tax? Policies of compulsion—perhaps "compulsory contributions" is the phrase that we should use—were tried in this country in the 1960s and the 1970s, and they failed. They led to a climate in which employers were forced into training by numbers and mindless form-filling in order to avoid levies.
The hon. Gentleman need not take my word for it. These are the words of the CBI just last month:The CBI members continue to reject the use of statutory measures as a means of increasing training activity. No legislative approaches have been devised that relate training to business needs.Coercing employers is not the way to secure the full-hearted and genuine commitment to training that we need if we are to secure the high levels of skills that will be very important in the years ahead.
Training and enterprise councils provide the solution. They engage employers because they are led by employers; they have an impact with those working in the private sector because they are private sector bodies; and they can deliver increased commitment to training from employers because they are led by employers with a demonstrated commitment to training themselves.
§ Mr. Rhodri Morgan (Cardiff, West)
The Secretary of State talks about getting a more active commitment from employers via the TEC mechanism. Would he care to comment on the case of the South Glamorgan TEC, which covers my constituency? The chairman of that body—Mr. Helliwell, of the building company William Cowlin and Sons—asked one of the civil servants who had been loaned to the TEC to shred the two tenders submitted in competition with that from his own firm to build the TEC's offices. The contract is worth about £450,000.
Is that what the Secretary of State means when he talks about getting more active involvement by employers in the affairs of the TECs? Can he tell us what the outcome of this case will be? I understand that his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Wales had to ring up Mr. Helliwell and tell him not only that his firm should not proceed with its now winning tender, the other two having been shredded by his civil servants—reluctantly, obviously, but on instruction from the chairman of the TEC—but that it should not take part in the re-tendering processes suggested by the Secretary of State for Wales in direct communication with Mr. Helliwell.
§ Mr. Howard
I have no detailed knowledge of the circumstances to which the hon. Gentleman refers. What 305 is the purport of his question? Is he suggesting that that is a basis for opposing the development of TECs? Is he suggesting that opposing TECs should therefore be the policy of his party? If so, he should have a word with the hon. Member for Sedgefield.
§ Mr. Morgan
The point that I am making is that there are limits to the degree of freedom that employers may be given to run organisations that spend public money. If the Secretary of State's Department were to set up a more efficient monitoring organisation to watch what is happening in the TECs, we should be much happier about the expenditure of public money by private sector organisations, which he seems to think is the be-all and end-all of policy making in this field.
§ Mr. Howard
I can assure the hon. Gentleman that we have effective monitoring arrangements and that we shall make sure that TECs behave in accordance with the contract that they have signed and in accordance with the high standards that we expect of them.
§ Mr. Howard
Yes, high standards.
Already, training and enterprise councils have secured greater employer involvement in training at a senior level than has ever been achieved before in this country. More than 1,200 of the most important business people in the country have committed themselves to their local TECs. By last October every TEC had entered at least its development phase, completing the national network two years ahead of the schedule we set in 1988. In fact, 51 of the 82 across the country are already operational.
I am the first to welcome expressions of support for Government policy from the Opposition, so I am delighted that the hon. Member for Sedgefield has gone on record repeatedly in support of training and enterprise councils. But it is a pity that his enthusiasm is not always shared by his own Front-Bench team. No sooner had the hon. Member told the "Today" programme on Radio 4 that TECs were important because of the extent of employer commitment to them than his Front-Bench colleague, the hon. Member for Fife, Central, launched what will no doubt go down in the history of these matters as his Sheffield initiative.
On 13 December the hon. Gentleman went to Sheffield. His first call was at a trade union meeting organised by those in the Department of Employment who were understandably concerned about the consequences for their jobs of the changes that we are making in the way in which training is organised.
We all know that the first rule of Labour party politics is that, when a Labour spokesman is addressing a trade union audience, he tells them what they want to hear. The hon. Member for Fife, Central behaved like a model Labour party spokesman when he went to Sheffield on 13 December. He told the trade union meeting that he regarded TECs as "new and unproven", and he urged the Government to "ease up" on the speed of their introduction. He said that the Labour party was opposed to the reductions in the size of the national administrative staff—reductions that are, of course, an inevitable consequence of a move to a locally based system. He supported the criticisms of the new financial flexibilities 306 granted by the Government to training and enterprise councils at their request, made by some 60 Labour Members of Parliament, including five Front-Bench spokesmen, in an early-day motion in November last year.
The hon. Gentleman's second call was at BBC Radio Sheffield. By the time he got there, his blood was up. He said that the Government were moving far too quickly in establishing TECs, which he considered to bea completely false emphasis on the nation's needs.I do not know how significant it is that the hon. Member for Sedgefield was out of the country on 13 December. I do not know how much this episode really was a case of "when the cat's away, the mouse will play", but I do think that the House and the country are entitled to a clear explanation of who it is that speaks for the Labour party on these matters. Which is the authentic voice of the Opposition? Is it the hon. Member for Sedgefield, the pro-TEC Dr. Jekyll? Or is it the hon. Member for Fife, Central, the anti-TEC Mr. Hyde? Or is it simply that the party is in favour of TECs when the hon. Member for Sedgefield is in the country but against them whenever he goes abroad?
I have already outlined the progress that we have made in providing training opportunities for our young people.
§ Mr. Blair
Perhaps the Minister would like to say whether he agrees with this comment in The Economist a couple of weeks ago:Almost two years after its launch, to the sound of grandiloquent claims from Tory Ministers and loud cheers from businessmen, the Department of Employment's market-led training policy is in danger of falling apart.
§ Mr. Howard
I do not agree with that comment in The Economist, but the person who wrote the article does not sit beside me on the Front Bench. The hon. Gentleman might expect rather more sympathy and support from his colleagues who sit beside him.
In less than three months, we shall be launching training vouchers in 11 pilot areas. In those areas every school leaver will be issued with a voucher, worth an average of £1,500, with which they will be able to purchase any approved training course of their choice. They will be able to use their voucher with an employer, at a further education college or at any other local training provider approved by the relevant training and enterprise council.
Training vouchers directly address the issue of increasing the proportion of our young people who receive training. They define very clearly the difference between the Government and the Labour party. We want to encourage young people by giving them choice and by giving them control over resources. We will give them the very best advice and guidance available, but we will then leave it up to them to make their own decisions.
The Labour party, on the other hand, wants to force young people to fit into the pattern that it would design for them. It would close down opportunities to those young people who wish to pursue careers which do not require training from the very beginning, and it has no interest at all in transferring control of resources from the national to the local level, let alone into the hands of young people themselves.
§ Mr. Ron Leighton (Newham, North-East)
The Secretary of State has made a welcome announcement. To give real freedom of choice, will he also pay an allowance 307 to youngsters staying on at school after 16? It is important that many youngsters stay on at school, and we should not just pay them money and bribe them to leave school.
§ Mr. Howard
It is important that young people should stay at school and, as the hon. Gentleman will know, they are doing so in increasing numbers. The voucher is designed to pay for training and not for anything else, so the hon. Gentleman's comparison is inappropriate.
I have already referred to the astonishing omission from the hon. Member for Sedgefield's speech of his proposal, repeated earlier this week, for a training levy. If we look at the history of total confusion on this issue, we shall understand why he decided that it would be prudent to remain silent.
The story begins in November 1986, when the Labour party's then employment spokesman, the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, East (Mr. Prescott), committed his party to introducing a training levy of 1 per cent. on the turnover of all companies. Two days later, he was flatly contradicted by the then shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer, the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley), who ruled out such a levy by saying:I can't imagine it's going to be the policy.It was not long before the Leader of the Opposition tried to perform his usual act of reconciling the irreconcilable. On 20 March 1987 the right hon. Gentleman saidA levy on turnover would not be appropriate in many industries.That was the "maybe a levy" stage in the evolution of the Labour party's policy. By the time we get to 1989, we find a different levy. In "Meet the Challenge—Make the Change", we read that a major source of funding for the national training fund will be a contribution by all enterprises of 0.5 per cent. of payroll, to be known as the training investment contribution.
Just a few months later, on 6 February 1990, the hon. Members for Sedgefield and for Dunfermline, East (Mr. Brown) launched a new policy document covering technology which did not mention the levy at all. In March last year, in another document, "Investing in Britain's Future", there was again complete silence about the levy.
On 22 March last year, in answer to my right hon. Friend the Member for Circencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. Ridley), the hon. Member for Dunfermline, East brought the levy back. He said that it was still a part of the Labour party's proposals. That was affirmed later that month by the hon. Member for Sedgefield in a debate on training.
On 5 April last year, the Leader of the Opposition re-entered the fray. The Independent of that date said:Labour's plans to impose a £1.25 billion job tax on company payrolls to help finance the national training programme were quietly dropped yesterday. The unheralded climbdown was made by the Leader of the Opposition".A month later the Labour party produced yet another document, which made a proposal for a different levy. It said:A purely voluntary approach will not work. We will therefore set employers … an initial minimum of 0.5 per cent. of their payroll to invest in high quality training to clear and agreed standards.Yesterday there was yet a further version of a levy, this time tied up with investment in training.
Those dizzying changes of direction make the Labour party look ridiculous. The hon. Member for Sedgefield 308 resembles nothing so much as a spinning top, and it is not surprising that he omitted all reference to the levy from his speech.
I want to make a serious offer to the Labour party, which is directly relevant to the question of skills shortages to which the hon. Member for Sedgefield referred. There is one thing that we need above all if we are to succeed in transforming the skills performance of our country in the decade ahead. We need to make sure that the attainment of relevant skills is suitably rewarded. That means recognising the importance of differentials in pay.
There is not a great deal that Government can do to help achieve that objective, but there is an enormous amount that the Government can do to hinder it. Nothing would hinder it more than the introduction of the minimum wage to which the Labour party is so devoted. On even modest assumptions about consequential effects on differentials, a minimum wage as proposed by the Labour party would lose 750,000 jobs. They can only deny the validity of that estimate by suggesting that no attempt would be made to maintain differentials after a minimum wage was introduced. If that were to happen, it would sound the death knell of our hopes for improving the skills of the British people. If the Labour party is serious about the need to improve skills, it will abandon its proposals for a minimum wage. The two objectives are utterly inconsistent.
There is a very clear choice on the issue of training lying before the House and the British people. It is a choice between a Government who set the pace on training and an Opposition who struggle to catch up. It is a choice between a Government committed to work in partnership with British employers and an Opposition pledged to work against them. It is a choice between a Government who have already delivered a massive increase in spending on training and an Opposition unable to comment on their spending plans.
It is a choice between a Government committed to expanding training choices and opportunities for our young people and an Opposition determined to conscript them into a rigid framework. It is a choice between a Government determined to deliver training on a local basis, matched to local needs, and an Opposition pledged to centralise, regulate and nationalise. Above all, it is a choice between a Government who have already delivered the most significant improvements in this nation's training performance in our history and who have put in place the policy for a dramatic leap forward in our national training performance in the 1990s—and an Opposition condemned by their own blinkered ignorance to a policy mish-mash of cheap imitation and impractical extremism.
Training is a serious business. It requires a serious Government, certain of the way forward and committed to work with every part of our society to deliver improvements in our training performance. There is only one party in the House and the nation able to form such a Government. That is why we shall stay on the Government Benches long after the next general election.
§ Mr. Ron Leighton (Newham, North-East)
In the war in the Gulf we are continually told two things about our service men. We are told about the quality of their equipment and the standard of their training and that a 309 land battle will not begin until the troops are adequately trained. Training makes for success or failure, victory or defeat.
There is another war that is possibly more important and of greater long-term significance for the future of this country and that is the battle for economic survival in an increasingly competitive world. Our responsibility is to give our people the best equipment and training for that battle. We are not doing so. We are failing our people. While our competitors forge ahead with state-of-the-art, high-tech equipment, investment in Britain is negative. Our training is woefully and scandalously inadequate. We are sending our people into the battle of economic competition with one arm tied behind their back. We have the worst educated and trained work force in the industrialised world. We have a staggering skills shortage alongside large-scale unemployment, often in those industries where the balance of payments deficit is greatest.
That failure is deep-seated. More than a century ago, in 1884, the Royal Commission on technical instruction said:Neglect of training is the key reason for Britain's lack of competitiveness.There has been a history of failure and neglect.
One country that we must match is Germany. In simple industries such as furniture, nine tenths of German workers have served a three-year, externally examined apprenticeship, whereas in Britain the figure is fewer than one in 10. Is it any wonder that German productivity is 60 per cent. higher than ours and that much of the kitchen furniture sold in this country is made in Germany? Hon. Members may have noticed that high-quality garments and textiles also bear the "Made in Germany" tag. Eighty per cent. of German machinists have served a three-year apprenticeship, but hardly any British machinist has done so.
The same is true in virtually every other trade, such as the hotel trade. German sales assistants have product knowledge. One rarely meets a British shop assistant who is able to explain what he is selling. Countries such as Germany are not standing still, but are making progress all the time and at a much faster rate than us. They have three, four or five times as many skilled workers, which gives them an enormous competitive advantage.
We have fallen behind not only European countries but countries of the Pacific and the Pacific ring. We face not only the powerful economy of Japan, but countries such as South Korea, which hopes that by the end of this decade 80 per cent. of its young people will reach university entrance standards. We are hoping for 30 per cent. The position is dire. The industrialised world is undergoing a technological revolution. Evidence that the Select Committee on Employment has received shows that in the next decade between 70 and 80 per cent. of new jobs will require brain not muscle power, and that almost half of them—roughly 40 per cent.—will require brain skills equal to a university degree or its equivalent. Unless we take drastic action, the revolution will pass us by.
§ The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Employment (Mr. Robert Jackson)
May I attempt to correct an often-quoted mistake in the interpretation of the higher education figures, which I recall from my previous responsibilities for education? The hon. Gentleman is comparing the proportion of our young 310 people who enter higher education with that in other countries. A relatively low proportion enter higher education in Britain because we have a selective system of entry, unlike other countries, where everyone who attains the equivalent of our A-level has a right to higher education. The benefit of our system is that people do not drop out of it; more stay in higher education than elsewhere. The proportion of our young people who graduate with degrees and diplomas is one of the highest in the world.
§ Mr. Leighton
I am always interested to hear the hon. Gentleman on these matters, on which he is an expert. I hope that he is not being complacent. The figures that I have show that at the end of the decade about 30 per cent. of British youngsters will achieve university entrance standards, whereas South Korea is aiming for 80 per cent. The point that I am making is that we are falling behind not only western Europe but the countries of the Pacific and that, because we do not grasp the gravity of the problem, we are in danger of falling further behind. We led the first industrial revolution, but I fear that unless we take more drastic action we shall fall behind and be relegated to the low-wage, low-productivity third division of nations. The relative decline in the British economy is accelerating and it will be extremely difficult to reverse.
Surely the facts are known; our failure in training has been analysed to death. There has been a stream of reports, which we all know about, but what are we going to do? The Government's record is hopelessly inadequate. The ever-worsening skills gap surely is testimony to their failure. We have had YOPS, TOPS, the community programme, the youth training scheme, and the new JTS and ET. All those measures were much trumpeted, but most of them have been scrapped. All were underfunded, largely cosmetic and had as much to do with massaging the unemployment figures as with training.
We had the Manpower Services Commission, which was a tripartite body. The Government dislike tripartite bodies and are hostile to unions. They robbed the MSC of its independence, leaned on it, gave it instructions and treated it like a puppet. They kicked the trade union representatives off it, swamped it with employers and killed it.
Next, we had the Training Agency, but the Government killed that. We now have no national body with overall responsibility for training. The industrial training boards have been abolished, and in their place we have small and weak industry training organisations, which again are under-resourced. The unions are being kept out. They are neglected and few people know that those organisations exist.
After two or three years of further upheaval and reorganisation, training and enterprise councils were introduced. The launch of the TECs was accompanied by substantial reductions in funding. As the Secretary of State knows, there was disappointment among business men on TECs and they expressed their doubts and despondency. They felt that the reduction in funding undermined the credibility of the Government's commitment. What a way to start an initiative. What a way to launch the TECs—greatly to reduce the funding available.
If we are to achieve world-class results, it will cost money. As my hon. Friend the Member for Sedgefield (Mr. Blair) pointed out, the training budget of the Department of Employment has been cut every year since 311 1986—87. Provision for next year is three quarters the amount for 1986—87 in real terms. Provision for ET this year is 29 per cent. down on last year and next year there will be a further cut of 34 per cent. Next year's resources devoted to ET will be less than half the total of two years ago.
Employers have been complaining about the cuts. I shall mention the industry with which I am connected—the printing industry. I had dinner last night with the British Printing Industries Federation, the body which represents printing employers. It said that reports in the national press on 29 January of a reduction of £79 million in the youth training budget for 1991–92 confirms its worse fears. In 1987, as a national managing agent, the BPIF was able to offer grants to companies of nearly £28 a week. In a briefing, it says:As a direct result of reductions in Government expenditure on YT, we are currently able to offer only £16 a week. Allowing for the effects of inflation between 1987 and 1990, the grants have been eroded by 54 per cent. in real terms. The incentive value of the grants is already weak. A further cut … combined with the effects of inflation, would almost certainly rule out any BPIF participation in future.That is the printing employers. Cuts have made them so despondent that they are likely to opt out, resulting in the elimination of 1,200 high-quality training placements each year—a significant loss not only to the printing industry but to the new TECs. If the Secretary of State does not take any notice of what I say to him, I hope that he will listen to the printing employers.
We all wish the TECs well, if only because they are the only show in town. The best that can be said of them is that they are unproven. We cannot say what they have done because they are only just coming into existence. They have not done anything yet, so they are still unproven. Their chief feature is that they are employer-led. Of course we must involve employers, but this is where the scepticism comes in. Can training be left to employers? What has stopped them training hitherto? No one has prevented them from doing so. The yawning skills gap, of which we are all aware, exists precisely because employers failed us in the past. Many employers can see no further than their noses. They regard training as an expendable overhead. It goes first when times get hard. They take a short-term view. Many prefer to poach rather than to train employees
§ Dr. Kim Howells
Does my hon. Friend agree that there are employers who recognise the importance of training and have good training programmes? Does not that reinforce his remark that all too often they find their trained personnel poached by employers who do not train their staff? Does he agree that that is a serious consideration for any industry investing in any area?
§ Mr. Leighton
That is absolutely true. All successful employers, businesses and companies train staff. We must ensure that their efforts are not undercut by bad employers who do not train, but poach. That is the argument for a levy. We should not apologise for speaking about a levy. It is exactly what we want. It is difficult to have confidence in an approach which leaves everything to employers.
My main criticism of the Government is that, when a radical improvement in national training and education is needed urgently and badly, they abdicate all responsibility. If anyone asks about training, he is always referred back to the TECs. It has nothing to do with the Government. Ministers repeat endlessly that training is a matter for employers and nothing to do with the Government. They 312 wash their hands of it. That is the Government's major sin of omission. It is a view driven by dogma. They have an ideological aversion to intervention. That is the nub of the issue and where things have gone wrong. It is incredible that the Government should be so shortsighted. The market mechanism—the invisible hand of Adam Smith —will not produce enough training. In the present recession manufacturing companies are struggling to survive. They are cutting anything that can be cut and often training is one of the first casualties.
§ Mr. James Paice (Cambridgeshire, South-East)
The hon. Gentleman is right in saying that in the past training has been one of the areas to be cut. Is he aware that in these present difficult times that is not happening? The CBI is saying that for the first time industry is recognising the importance of maintaining its training budgets and that they are not being cut.
§ Mr. Leighton
I agree with the hon. Gentleman that the best employers now understand the importance of training. Nevertheless, this is not an economic climate which encourages training, as the hon. Gentleman will agree from his knowledge of these matters.
Employers' interests are often the short-term, specific training needs of their particular company. It should be fairly simple for everyone to grasp that the aggregate of the present needs of individual companies does not equal the national need or national interest. Somebody must look not just at the perception of present needs, but at the country's future needs. Who can speak up for the nation's needs in the overall national interest? Only the Government, not individual employers. That is what divides us in the House.
We in the Labour party think that the Government should accept that responsibility. Obviously, there must be local efforts, but they must add up to a national strategy. The seriousness of our situation means that it cannot be left to a purely voluntary approach and to market forces. Statutory underpinning is needed. The Government should set clear, national targets and monitor progress regularly.
The previous Secretary of State, who I am pleased to see always attends our debates on these matters, advocated setting national targets. He was on the right lines. The new Secretary of State has reneged on all that. He has made a dramatic U-turn and gone backwards.
§ Mr. Leighton
Perhaps the Secretary of State will change his mind and say that he accepts the targets laid down by his predecessor.
§ Mr. Howard
The hon. Gentleman will know that I have said that targets must be clearly related to responsibilities. I set out the responsibilities of those who have a role to play in these matters in my national strategic guidance which I issued in the autumn. I have welcomed the CBI's initiative. It is consulting about national targets. I have said that when the CBI's initiative is complete, I shall consider with it how best the Government can be associated with the targets that come from that exercise, so long as they are closely related to the relevant responsibility.
§ Mr. Leighton
Perhaps the present incumbent has not completely fallen back on the previous position. Perhaps 313 he is on a learning curve and is coming round to the idea of accepting the responsibility of setting national goals. Last night, I had the chance of speaking to Sir Bryan Nicholson of the CBI who has done a great deal of work on this issue. He has the right idea and the previous Secretary of State had the right idea. I hope that the present Secretary of State will come round to it. I should be grateful if he would write to me and set out exactly what his policy is on these matters.
All 16 to 18-year-olds should get education and training leading to a recognised qualification. I was pleased to hear what the Secretary of State said about that today. It should be unlawful to employ youngsters without training.
In order to provide a real choice for youngsters of whether to stay on or to leave school at 16, an allowance should be paid to those who stay on. A youngster who leaves school and goes on a youth training scheme receives an allowance. In other words, we pay people to leave school. We should pay them a similar amount to stay at school from the age of 16. That point must be addressed.
It is not only the young; all workers need training. Every year time should be allocated for training. All our people at every level, now and throughout their working life, need training to cope with the changing world. I am attracted to the idea of everyone having a training passport. It would outline their entitlements to training —their rights. It would also outline the details of their achievements. We need to make a special effort to reach out to women, especially those who return to work, and ethnic minorities. There should be training committees in every work place just as there are safety committees. We should ensure that good firms are not undercut by bad ones—that those who train are not undercut by those who poach.
How are we to pay for this? In my experience, everything comes back in the end to money and who pays. The hon. Member for Dorset, South (Mr. Bruce) said that the British Government put as much money into training as continental Governments and that historically British employers have not invested an equal sum. We could gain by looking at the French practice. The French have a levy on pay bills to be spent on training. I think that it is 1.4 per cent., but we can discuss how much it should be. The great merit of that is that there is no bureaucracy. When a firm's accounts are audited, if the money has been spent on training, that is fine and if not, it is taken in tax. The levy should be linked to the National Council for Vocational Qualifications, which Sir Bryan Nicholson is promoting. In that way training will be seen not as a cost, but as an essential investment leading to increased productivity and competitiveness. It would be a way of getting more out of the work force by having less machine downtime, the ability to use more advanced technology, to innovate and respond to change. A systematic investment in our greatest renewable resource—our people—will yield increasing results and returns over time. For the individual, training is the gateway to opportunity, to rewards, to success and to job satisfaction.
My criticism of the Government is their failure to respond to the challenge and to accept their responsibility. They have refused to set targets, but, given what the Secretary of State has just said, I look forward to targets being set. The Government have refused the money that is 314 available, which is the wrong signal to send now. They persist in relying upon voluntaryism, and in that way they have failed the nation.
§ Sir Norman Fowler (Sutton Coldfield)
I agree entirely with the hon. Member for Sedgefield (Mr. Blair) in his concern for training for the long-term unemployed. I am also touched by his concern for employment training and the employment training programme. However, I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Teignbridge (Mr. Nicholls) that that concern would be a darned sight more convincing if it had not arisen after a period in which many in the Labour party had campaigned against employment training and proper training for the long-term unemployed.
The previous shadow spokesman on training went round the country seeking to campaign against employment training. The Trades Union Congress did the same, and went against it at its conference. Its decision was not only against my advice, but against the advice of the Leader of the Opposition. I am sure that the hon. Member for Sedgefield remembers that his right hon. Friend pleaded with the TUC to reconsider its decision. The Labour party is not in such a strong position now as the hon. Member for Sedgefield suggested it was to take a moral stand on training.
§ Sir Norman Fowler
The hon. Gentleman is trying to re-write history. I understand his embarrassment, but it is all down on the record. Despite the hon. Gentleman's considerable techniques as a lawyer, I do not believe that even he can square the fact that the leader of his party went to the TUC to ask it to vote one way, but it voted the other way. If that is a victory for the Labour party, may it have many similar victories in other areas.
§ Mr. Tony Worthington (Clydebank and Milngavie)
I advise the right hon. Gentleman not to pursue that argument too far, because he should know that his successor is backing away at speed from employment training because he has realised what a waste of money it has been in terms of outcome.
§ Sir Norman Fowler
That is not right; it is yet another fundamental misconception of employment training. I accept that employment training is not sacrosanct, but there is no proposal to abolish it.
There is more agreement on both sides of the House about training than this debate has so far illustrated, which is a pity—the hon. Member for Newham, North-East (Mr. Leighton) touched upon that. Some schemes and programmes have been remarkably successful, for example, the compacts. Under that scheme, industry and schools have come together so that children who meet particular requirements have a job with training. That scheme was long overdue. The first compact initiative was a scheme undertaken in Newham, but the major initiative was carried out by the Government after I had visited Boston.
315 I would have been happy if we had had four or five compacts as a result of our initiative, but we now have 47 and another 16 are on stream. About 5,0000 employers take part in those compacts, and 25,000 jobs with training are available. That is an outstanding result. For years we have all spoken about the importance of industry and education working closer together. The compacts have achieved just that, for the benefit of young people.
There are two ways in which we can approach this debate. First, we can treat it as a party knockabout, in which the Opposition seek to establish that all the problems in training have suddenly arisen in the past 10 years. That is a silly argument and anyone who knows anything about training knows that it is nonsense. If we pursue such an argument, it will not add a great deal to our debate. Alternatively, we can recognise that training and the lack of training are a long-term problem.
In terms of training, this country has a great deal about which to be modest. We have run behind countries such as Germany not just for 10 or 20 years, but for the entire century. The hon. Member for Newham, North-East, with his knowledge of the subject, made that precise point. In terms of training we have run behind our major competitors in western Europe for the past 90 years. If we accept that, however, we should try to put together the best ideas available so that we can make a recovery. That recovery has started in the 1990s, and it must go on into the next century. However, we shall not be able to change the whole basis of training in a matter of a few months or years—such change must continue decade after decade.
Given the problems faced by British industry, this may seem an odd time to raise the subject of training, but training is a long-term policy that must be followed. In one respect, we are better placed now to tackle the problem of training than at any time in the past 40 years. In the past, many of our managers had to deal exclusively with strikes and other industrial relations problems. However, in part due to reform of the industrial relations law, such disputes are not anything like as much a problem now as they were in the 1960s. Industrial relations are much better than they were, and I am sure hon. Members will welcome that improvement. The question for the Government and the nation is, what is the next step?
§ Mr. Mark Wolfson (Sevenoaks)
I agree with my right hon. Friend that now is a good moment to ensure that there is a greater emphasis on training on the part of employers. Does my right hon. Friend also agree that there is a necessary requirement to raise the quality of goods and services, and that to link quality with training is a necessary step forward?
§ Sir Norman Fowler
Yes, the challenge now facing the country is to make its work force as skilled as possible.
A range of actions are required to improve the skills of our work force. We should be open to the challenge, and we should consider all the options. I am sure that all hon. Members recognise that we must ensure that those in the 16 to 19-year-old age group are trained well. We know about the shortage of young people coming on to the labour market, and we must ensure that that age group is treated for what it is—a scarce resource. Too many young people go into jobs without training and the time has come to consider radical steps to ensure that that no longer happens.
316 We should not, however, run away from the consequences, and if that means some kind of mandatory training, so be it. I strongly advocate that that issue be considered anew. The public would support some change if the reward was better training for young people and that people in the 16-to-19 age group did not enter the labour market without any training or prospect of training.
We must also remember that people who are beyond school age and youth training, even though it goes up to the age of 19, are at work now. It is important to realise that training does not simply take place at an initial, introductory stage, but must continue through life. We must be signed up to that concept.
We have a duty to unemployed people: there is no question about that. We have a particular duty to the long-term unemployed. When I examined some employment training programmes, it struck me that there was a great deal of talent among long-term unemployed people if only we could use it properly. There is a massive agenda for training.
There is a mountain to climb in training. No matter which party is in power, that mountain exists, because the problem is so long-standing in Britain. I make three suggestions for the future. First, there must be some consistency in training policy. Clearly, schemes can be changed and developed. Changes in employment training are not a source of criticism, but the basic structure should remain. It is important to have national standards, but it is also vital to have local delivery. In that I agree entirely with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State. The training and enterprise councils are of fundamental importance because they involve local industry, local commitment and some excellent managers.
The hon. Member for Sedgefield referred to the comment in The Economist. I believe that The Economist has got it entirely wrong on training and enterprise councils. It published an article on their history which I knew from my knowledge and experience was entirely misplaced and wrong. The chairman of the National Training Task Force replied to the article and The Economist has returned to the fray. It does no good. It simply betrays the fact that it is not aware of the developments taking place in training in Britain.
Having created training and enterprise councils and attracted some outstanding managers to them, we must devolve to the TECs. There must be no question of lingering bureaucracy or, dare I say it, the Department of Employment, or a part of it, remotely getting in the way or drowning the councils in forms and regulations. The TECs must have the freedom to deliver.
My second suggestion is that it must be recognised that Government have a financial duty and responsibility to train unemployed people. I hear what is said about employment training. I agree that one of the major problems—the hon. Member for Newham, North-East will accept this—is to persuade people to consider the training schemes and opportunities on offer. Often it is not a case of people going on employment training programmes or to job clubs and saying, "We do not like this. It is inadequate." People simply do not go, even if they have agreed to do so. If anything could be done to alleviate that problem, everyone would be happy.
The London survey, and to a lesser extent the west midlands survey, showed that a great number of long-term unemployed people had qualifications. Many had a 317 degree. It was not a lack of training that was at fault but a lack of will—perhaps motivation is a better word—to return to employment.
When unemployment falls, as it did in the past two or three years, the cash for training unemployed people is reduced. I agreed to reduce it. If one means what one says about giving priority to other areas such as the health service, Ministers should be prepared to reduce their budgets. However, I must say in the gentlest way that that is not the position today. Unemployment is not falling, it is increasing, and better training is one way of tackling it. I address those words not to my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Employment but rather to the shadowy unseen guest at all our debates, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury.
We have a substantial training budget in Britain of £2.6 billion. By any standards, that is a substantial amount. It is certainly much more substantial than the amount spent by the previous Labour Government, but I hope that we can take a new look at the matter.
My third point is also about money and resources. There are two possible sources of money for training. One is the Government and the other is industry. When I say "the Government", I really mean the taxpayer. Training for industry is the responsibility of industry. But we then come up against the old problem that the best companies train and the others tend to poach the people who have been trained. That argument has bedevilled the training debate year after year in the House.
I say to the hon. Member for Sedgefield that I am cautious about a national levy collected by a national body and policed—inevitably, such schemes must be policed —by a national bureaucracy, which was how it worked on the last occasion that such a scheme was tried. However, I say openly that I am not opposed in principle to those who avoid providing training making some financial contribution.
The obvious solution—here I take up a point made by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State—is to ask the training and enterprise councils and the National Training Task Force for their advice and proposals. It is they who represent industry. They know the training position. They know the impact of training on industry and the financial impact on industry itself. They include some outstanding people. It would be in accordance with our views on the training and enterprise councils to ask them to examine the position and make proposals on a basis of all options being open.
The training and enterprise councils are much more likely than we are to know what is best for industry. We should recognise that training has changed in Britain and that we have passed the stage where the centre seeks to know best on all subjects, whether that centre is the Department of Employment, Sheffield, the Manpower Services Commission or the Training Agency. We now have a potentially much more flexible and practically experienced organisation. My only plea is that we should use it to its maximum effect and impact. I urge my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State to do so.
Few subjects in government are more important than training. If we can get it right, we can have a skilled work force and a prosperous country. If we fail, our future is 318 unquestionably much more limited. There is a long way to go, but the Government are getting it right, and they certainly deserve our support tonight.
§ Mr. Matthew Taylor (Truro)
In some ways the speech by the right hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield (Sir N. Fowler) was the most thoughtful in the debate so far. That was partly due to his privilege as one who has moved beyond the job rather than being in it or aspiring to it. A number of his comments were well worth discussing and I hope that the Minister will deal with one of them in particular—the right hon. Gentleman's emphasis on the fact that there is still a mountain to climb.
The Secretary of State often says that the Labour Opposition would do better if they gave credit where it was due. I am happy to give such credit. The Government's achievement is that of having introduced the principle of entitlement where previously there was virtually none. It is a definite step forward and now we need to discuss quality, methods of delivery and the necessary investment to back up that entitlement.
Much of what the Secretary of State discussed, however, concerned travelling through the foothills—ascending a peak, dropping down the other side and ascending another one, whereupon the Government raise a flag and congratulate themselves on having climbed another foothill. But the mountain remains to be climbed. In some cases we need to build on what is already in place; in others, we must make new departures.
My speech will differ from the Labour party's contribution to this debate in three essential respects. First, I intend to concentrate on an outline of our policy proposals instead of discussing what is happening or what has happened, which does not get us very far. Secondly, my party has clearly identified education and training as priorities and we have also clearly stated that increased investment, for which we call, may imply an increase in taxation. If people do not believe that to be a correct priority they will reject it, but they face a clear choice on our stance.
Thirdly, I make no apology for concentrating much of what I have to say on subjects that are the responsibility not of Employment Ministers but of Ministers at the Department of Education and Science. Our policy would be to bring training and education together in one Ministry—a necessary change.
Much of what needs to be done to lay the skills base for this country should be directed at the 16 to 19-year-olds and their involvement in continuing education and training. Much of the context of this debate was outlined at rather too great length by the Opposition spokesman, who did not leave himself time to spell out Labour's alternative—it would have been useful to know its alternative.
In June last year the estimates day debate on training fell in the same week as the publication of the Employment Select Committee report on the subject. The report highlighted the poor record of this country in training people in the skills needed for the new high technology age which we are entering. Eight months later there has been no adequate response to the points made in the report. The Government are not sufficiently heeding the warnings about what will happen—if they do not act more quickly —to our competitive position and to the future of young 319 people who will continue to be turned out without the skills that they need. We may talk about adult training, but if 16 to 19-year-olds miss out at that age it is difficult for them to retrieve later what they missed. That is why we must move as rapidly as possible to improve what they are being given so that we can stop turning out so many youngsters without skills and start to turn them out with skills.
The Government have implemented cuts in training. I understand the argument that unemployment has fallen, but my party believes that that opportunity should have been taken to begin a massive improvement, not to economise. Ministers talk of the importance of training; they deliver a cut of 30 per cent. for training programmes for the adult unemployed. They talk of the importance of skills; they deliver reduced expenditure on employment training. They talk of the importance of training for the young, but they cut expenditure on youth training in real terms.
So what hope, what prospect and what promise of opportunity does this give the unemployed and the young? The problem is becoming increasingly urgent. As unemployment rises, demand for education and training will become more apparent. I crave the indulgence of the House for an example from my constituency. In September last year, the largest single employer in St. Austell, English China Clays, announced 750 redundancies—a devastating blow for what is in some ways a one-industry town. Most males there are employed in that industry, which is relatively unskilled but which provides stable employment opportunities for young people growing up in the area.
Not so long ago English China Clays' executives were rather unhappy about programmes of investment in alternative employment in the area because they believed that they could use all the male labour that was likely to come on the market and they did not fancy the idea of having to compete for employees.
We now recognise that such employment is in long-term decline. The headquarters staff of the company are moving out of St. Austell in response to the company's international concerns. Some of the workers face compulsory redundancy, but the greatest impact is on the employment prospects for 16 to 19-year-olds, who used to expect and receive training and employment from the town's major employer.
That highlights the inadequacy of investment in the skills that would enable these young people to build alternative careers or would attract employers who might want to make St. Austell a centre for alternative skills. Far as we are from the mainstream, apart from the extractive industries—tin, clay, fish or food, the traditional industries of Cornwall—there are not many other reasons for employers to set up in the area if the work force lacks the necessary skills.
In Cornwall, wages are 20 per cent. lower than the national average and unemployment is double the national average. Whatever happens to wages or unemployment elsewhere in the country, statistics for Cornwall are always roughly the same: wages 20 per cent. below and unemployment roughly double. The only way to overcome the problem is to build a skills base that can begin to transform the economy of my part of the world. Rather in the same way as Cornwall is on the edge of the United Kingdom, the United Kingdom is on the edge of Europe, and in the long term the United Kingdom itself may 320 become an economy with low wages, high unemployment and few skills—just as the economy of Cornwall has traditionally been.
§ Mr. Geoffrey Dickens (Littleborough and Saddleworth)
Does the hon. Gentleman accept that employers all over the country are taking much more interest in schools and are running some of the courses in those schools to help groom youngsters for the industries in which they are interested? Training and enterprise councils, made up of the top management of top local companies, are an enormous success. Gone are the old moans from industry that schools do not produce the type of people that it wants. Now, local industries train the people whom they need for the skills to match their industries. At the same time, I realise that the hon. Gentleman's constituency is a peculiar case.
§ Mr. Taylor
I do not deny the importance of the involvement of business in schools. I encourage it; I should like more of it. Neither do I dismiss the work in which TECs are engaged or some of the experiments, such as credit systems, that are being conducted, or the work of companies such as Sight and Sound Education Ltd that are delivering skills, not just training. That is interesting and points to new initiatives that would bring a high return on investment. That has not always been the case; nor is it the case now.
As I say, the hon. Member for Littleborough and Saddleworth (Mr. Dickens) is talking about the foothills, not the mountain. We are not overcoming the problem as a whole. TECs are essentially a system of management and delivery and do not deal with how much is delivered or with the quality levels that are needed. The Government have to initiate that, because they set the financial limits and decide on the quality levels. The Government must tackle that much more strongly.
I shall now deal with training for 16 to 19-year-olds. The debate about the crisis in training should not get bogged down in the immediate technical problems of how it is delivered, although such problems urgently need to be tackled. We will solve this once and for all only by looking into the slightly longer term to see what needs to be achieved. The long-term skills shortage is a tragedy. If we do not deliver the goods now, we will face difficulties in future and will not be able to retrieve the position.
I am angry at the way in which we have failed the majority of our 16 to 19-year-olds. We should be ashamed of the way in which their potential is marginalised by a system that focuses on the academic minority. In Britain only 35 per cent. of 16 to 19-year-olds are in full-time education or training. In Germany the figure is 47 per cent., in France it is 66 per cent., in Japan 77 per cent. and in the USA it is 79 per cent. One third of our 16 to 19-year-olds are not receiving even part-time education or training, and no solution to the skills shortage will be found unless the needs of that age group are met. We need to create a climate in which it is natural for young people automatically to continue education and training of some sort until the age of 19. In the world that we are entering we cannot safely say that we have completed anybody's education and training at the age of 16. To say that is to sell people and the country short, because it will not be long before we find skills shortages emerging. Young people must be given a sound skills base.
321 Too many young people are cut off from future education opportunities, and that means that the needs of our economy are not met. At 16, many young people are disillusioned with education and seek independence and the attraction of earning money. We need to find a way to reconcile that with the need to continue their education and training. It is scandalous that so many employers are keen to capitalise on the desire to earn and have independence and buy young people out of training into low-status jobs for life. Such jobs have limited career potential and no opportunity for training. We know that employers offer youth trainees a few pounds extra to leave courses which would give them the qualifications that they will later need to improve themselves and which the country will also need. We must tackle that problem.
The Liberal Democrats have proposed a radical measure to address the natural aspirations of young people while providing them with education and training. We do not flinch from arguing that all employees under the age of 19 should spend two days a week in education and training, part of it at the direction of the employer and part depending on the choice of the individual. The benefits of those two days are undisputed. Whether the principle of compulsion is disputed is another matter, but the benefits will be better skills, improved education and career prospects, and the better trained work force that the economy needs.
Two days is the base from which young people could be sufficiently qualified to go back into higher education at a later stage. That is crucial. Those two days would be spent following recognised and validated courses with a range of standards. The best of the young people would be able to meet standards that would enable them to return to publicly funded higher and further education. All policies currently aimed at those who leave school at 16 fail to do that. We would offer to those young people the choice of either staying full time at school or taking up employment offering two days a week qualified education and training, from which the best of them on either route could see a way into further or higher education. That would begin to bring about a dramatic change in the way that we treat our young people, especially those who could not otherwise afford to take such opportunities.
§ Mr. Ian McCartney (Makerfield)
There is a more feasible, cost-effective and better organised way to deal with this issue. The Government and the Opposition are committed to the Business and Technician Education Council, which is wedded to the system of preparing people for work and for education opportunities in school and on entering employment. Some schools are involved in projects with the Department of Education and Science, specifically to provide that type of curriculum for 16 to 19-year-olds who are in education and working for local authorities. They work to a curriculum agreed with the Department of Education and Science and BTEC and have recognised standards to reach. That is a far more logical way to deal with the matter than the way proposed by the hon. Gentleman.
§ Mr. Taylor
BTEC has many advantages and much can be built on it, but I do not think that it addresses the 322 problem that I seek to address. I do not propose to give way again because I wish to outline a package and I am concerned about the time.
Through the element of compulsion we can break the present cycle, which leads to many people rejecting education and training at 16, often because their parents did that or because their expectations are low. Some parents are not prepared to allow their children to continue with their education and training because they cannot afford to see it through. We would provide a valuable freedom by saying to young people that they can have the independence of a salary and the responsibilities of employment, but that the option of further education and training is still available, as it will be if young people obtain an accredited qualification as a result of their two days out-of-work training.
That is not a proposal for sending 16-year-olds back to school. It is to give them an opportunity to receive training or education in any subject they like, academic or practical, relevant to their job, for their own development, or for its own value. We need such an initiative to reverse attitudes in Britain, and there is no point in pretending that anything less will deliver the kind of change that we need within the time that is available.
§ Mr. Taylor
If time allows I shall give way later, but I should like to make some progress.
In order to achieve what is needed we must question the Government's insistence on maintaining the academic and technical divide and the A-level system. We must have a fully modular single system of academic and tertiary qualifications, overseen by a national body. Employers and other groups must be able to set up courses that are validated and approved by that body, and are tailored to the needs of a company, group or sector. That would provide a system of education for 16 to 19-year-olds that would meet the needs of every individual and ensure that no horizons are unnecessarily limited by the nature of the system itself.
The problem as a whole cannot simply be tackled by considering only 16 to 19-year-olds, because we have already allowed too many people in that age group to slip through and reach adulthood without the skills which they now need on the shop floor and which they will need even more in future. That means giving equal importance to adult education. First, we must develop and give to people the right to return to training or education. The period of training would be equivalent to one year but would probably be taken in modules. There must be investment in such a system, and we must ensure that business is prepared to recognise its value.
Secondly, if we are to do that at an achievable cost, we must use new techniques and new methods. I mentioned some of the developments earlier. We must look at the open learning and distance learning techniques, developed by the Open university at graduate level, but applicable at all levels. Although the Government have started to move on this, they have not yet done anything effective, particularly at the Open college. The matter must be re-addressed.
If we have both a new start for 16 to 19-year-olds—the group which misses out under the British education and training system—and help for adults who cannot make up 323 for what was not delivered to them at an earlier stage, we shall begin to develop a system that will put us at the forefront of what is happening in Europe and the world rather than at the back. Rather than criticising, the Labour party should have been offering that as an agenda. We are prepared to face up to the costs of such a system, but it is not. The Government may argue that they have already made many achievements, but that is to concentrate only on the foothills and to forget the mountain that there is still to climb.
§ Madam Deputy Speaker (Miss Betty Boothroyd)
Order. The minimum time taken by Back-Bench Members has been 20 minutes each. This is a short debate and the winding-up speeches are to start at a little before 6.30. I appeal for brevity.
§ 6 pm
§ Mr. Lewis Stevens (Nuneaton)
I agree with the speech made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Sutton Coldfield (Sir N. Fowler). Apart from covering almost everything to do with training, he expressed a moderate and non-partisan view of the aims for training with which many of us agree. The hon. Member for Truro (Mr. Taylor) also put forward aims with which we can agree.
The Opposition motion is a little audacious. If ever there was a party which did not recognise the importance of training to the country, it was the Labour party. I agree that in the past even the Tory party gave less importance to training than it does now, and that industry was reluctant to see the importance of training. The hon. Member for Newham, North-East (Mr. Leighton), said that the needs of the country and those of employers often did not coincide, but they must come somewhere near to coinciding if they are to succeed. If they do not, the danger will be that the centre will have to set out what everyone should do. That has been tried in the past and it did not work. The system provided opportunities for education and training. If that suited the individual, that was fine; but if it did not, nothing else was available. What was on offer was restricted.
There was a similar problem with the training boards. Instead of the employer and the trainee getting what they wanted and the system being fitted around that, the boards and the Department laid down rules. Through the training and enterprise councils, the Government are trying to provide a system which takes account of what the individual and the company need. In particular, the youth training scheme will be geared to the needs of the individual. That is what training is all about.
The hon. Member for Truro spoke about providing for the 16 to 19-year-olds. I accept that this is an important group. Of particular importance are those in it who do not go on to further education and who, in general, need some training. I wonder how many of those who leave school at 16 from choice would look forward to the opportunity that the hon. Member for Truro would like to provide for them. YTS has brought about a recognition by 16 to 19-year-olds that training is desirable. Before YTS, many who left school at 16 did not accept that training should be a part of their future. They did not realise that it was necessary and they resented doing it. Even today, many young people would prefer to leave school at 16 without having to go into training. That may be a fault of the 324 education system. Unless the development and acceptance of training which have been a part of YTS are carried on, things will never improve.
§ Mr. McCartney
In the 1960s, when I left school, everyone in my class who left at 15 started an apprenticeship the following Monday. That was traditional, but since then the apprenticeship system has been destroyed, along with the opportunity to learn skills. When I left school, anyone who wanted an apprenticeship was guaranteed one. Nowadays, those leaving school are offered short-term YTS places.
§ Mr. Stevens
I disagree with the hon. Gentleman. In the 1960s, people could go into fully paid jobs rather than apprenticeships. Whether they believed in that or not, the trade unions encouraged the development of such jobs. Often, because of the way the wages were set, one would not necessarily get better wages for having completed an apprenticeship than for having a national certificate. The lack of differentials between skilled and semi-skilled work was a great deterrent to training. It also did not encourage companies.
I welcome the approach that the Government have taken and their success in the way the TECs have developed. For the first time, industry, local education authorities and the community have come together to generate the training to serve an area and the people in it. So often, facilities were available for training but did not provide the skills necessary for the area. As a result, industry did not have the skills that it wanted at the right time. Time is essential in training. One cannot guess what might happen in five years' time, particularly if the projection is a national one. For example, population forecasts of what might happen in five years are often not fulfilled for 10 years. If that happened with training, we would have an awful lot of trouble on our hands. TECs are important because they understand their areas and offer a facility that we have not previously had.
The hon. Member for Newham, North-East was critical of the TECs in comparison with the other schemes of the past 10 years. However, the acceptance by 16 to 19-year-olds of training because of YTS and the changes that we have made in the training available to them has brought us to the position where, instead of having a general national concept, we can focus on local areas, relying on businesses and local education authorities to provide training. If we had said 10 years ago that we could get industry and commerce enthusiastic about combining with schools, LEAs, technical colleges, polytechnics and universities to work on a training scheme in their local area, we would have been told that it could not happen. The evolution of the Government's training scheme has brought us to that position. There is a mountain to climb, but we are over the foothills to which the hon. Member for Truro referred, and we can start the ascent, confident that the guides that we have put in place in the TECs are among the best possible.
It is generally accepted that in the months ahead more people will, unfortunately, be made redundant, and one group may be less well provided for in the new TEC structure—those for whom the community programme was devised. I appreciate that the community programme did not, in general, provide good training, but it served some purpose for some people. As well as assisting with some of the jobs that needed to be done in the local 325 community, it provided a base for people who were not ready for a more sophisticated training set-up and who, under the TEC system, may not be regarded as suitable for training to a particular level of skill by commercial and industrial bodies. Will my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State consider whether some community programme type work should be retained?
Organisations such as Apex trust have set up some good schemes for the rehabilitation of offenders, particularly those between 16 and 19 years of age who often find it difficult to return to the employment or training in which they were engaged before their conviction. I appreciate that such organisations are not eliminated, but they do not automatically fit easily into the TEC structure. There may be one or two other similar groups which I hope that my right hon. and learned Friend will be able to consider when he meets the chairmen and chief executives of the TECs.
We are going in the right direction, however, and there is more confidence in the provision of training in Coventry and Warwickshire than I have seen for a long time.
§ Ms. Diane Abbott (Hackney, North and Stoke Newington)
Training has become like sunshine—everybody is in favour of it—but the Government do not want to pay for it.
Last Thursday, I went to the launch of the City and Inner London North Training and Enterprise Council—CILNTEC—my local TEC covering the City, Hackney and Islington, which took place in the Mansion house. I was struck by the grandeur of the surroundings, which were very impressive to a girl from Hackney. I was impressed by the energy, enthusiam and ability of the people who have been found to serve on the TEC—notably the chairman, David Peake from Kleinwort Benson, and our two Hackney representatives, Christopher Latham and Julian Royle. Above all, in the glittering surroundings of the Mansion house, I was struck by the fact that the future life chances of the thousands of young people in Hackney whom I represent depend on the initiative succeeding. That is why I want to talk positively about what I want to see from the TEC initiative.
Nevertheless, it would be unrealistic not to put the TEC initiative in the context of the failure of publicly funded training in the past decade. Conservative Members from outside London who talk in glowing terms of YTS can never have talked to inner-city youngsters about their experiences of it. They saw themselves being used as cheap labour, they came off the schemes to no jobs, and they felt that they were being exploited. Past attempts at publicly funded training have a deservedly bad reputation among some of the young people whom such training was designed to help.
Looking at the Government's training record in the past 10 years, it is difficult to escape the impression that their training schemes were far more concerned with massaging down unemployment figures than with genuinely providing some sort of hope, future and marketable skills for the kind of young people whom I represent. There can be no doubt that the TECS are an attempt by the Government to try to nudge and push 326 training into the private sector, and to make the private sector tackle endemic unemployment and training issues which are not really the business of the private sector.
CILNTEC has been launched in adverse circumstances. First, there is the recession which, until a few months ago, Ministers refused to talk about. It was the recession that dared not speak its name. But we in Hackney know that there is a recession. The head of the local school careers service says that jobs for her school leavers have dried up. Small companies, estate agents, small manufacturers and builders' merchants in Hackney know that there is a recession. Inevitably, recession means that businesses have less money to spend on training and many firms will go out of business altogether. The TECs could not have more adverse circumstances in which to try to get off the ground, and to add insult to injury their expected budgets have been cut by up to a third.
§ Mr. George Howarth (Knowsley, North)
Is it not scandalous that a 50 per cent. cut in training places on Merseyside was announced last week? Inadequate though the scheme is, that cut will make a huge difference to the training prospects of young people on Merseyside—exactly the kind of people my hon. Friend is talking about.
§ Ms. Abbott
I agree entirely. Such cuts are an act of bad faith with the many genuine and committed business people and members of the community who are giving up their time to serve on TECs. Many life-long Conservatives serving on TECs are shocked and affronted that the Government could welch on them in that way.
It is unreasonable and cynical of the Government to expect the private sector—which, certainly in the south, is experiencing a worse recession and slump than in the early 1980s—to take up the slack in training provision which will result from the Government's cuts. It is no use talking about lowering the number of unemployed when the Government have massaged unemployment figures year in and year out. Ministers will have seen a survey carried out by the London School of Economics in December 1990 which shows that even now TECs are struggling to cope with their responsibilities due to the lack of support and funding problems.
I represent one of the poorest constituencies in the country, with precisely the kind of people who need training, who want training and who have a positive contribution to make to the economy if they can only have that training, and I want to see certain things from the TECs as they develop.
All TEC chairmen want to see a commitment from the Government to fund the TECs properly. They all want proper support from the Government. In the move to employer-based training—employer-led, semi-privatised training—the weakest and most vulnerable of our young people should not go to the wall.
It would not be proper to leave the subject without touching on black trainees in the inner cities. As Ministers will be aware, one in five of trainees on schemes in London are black, but they are twice as likely to be unemployed. The unemployment level overall for trainees leaving schemes is 16.3 per cent., but the level for Afro-Caribbean trainees leaving schemes is 28.6 per cent. Black trainees with the same qualifications, and as much energy, commitment and will to succeed, have found great difficulty with the current schemes. There has been a 327 marked reluctance by private sector employers to take them on. Investigations and surveys have found that there is discrimination.
It is all very well for Ministers to consider short-term accountancy and cuts, but if they are pursuing a training policy which allows the weakest to go to the wall and allows a pool of disaffected inner-city youth to fester and grow, they are storing up problems for themselves which will cost far more to solve. I do not want to see young people in the inner city squeezed out under the TEC regime because of its employer-based nature and the stringency of funds.
Conservative Members are smiling. They do not live in the inner city and they do not know what a hard and cruel life the young people have. They do not understand what it is like in Hackney, where the unemployment rate for young black males is one in two. I do not want the House to discover what that might mean in instability and social tension.
I want the TECs to work and to meet the needs of all young people. I do not want the needs of inner-city young people, particularly young black people, to be marginalised because they may be more difficult, more complex and more expensive to deal with, with the result that employers will not be interested in that social dimension.
For better or worse, millions of young people want the new employer-based training to work. It will be a terrible fraud on them and their parents if the TECs are set up almost to fail because they are so much under-resourced by the Government. In their vision of the future for training, how do Ministers seek to meet the needs of inner-city young people, and young people from ethnic minorities and other groups whose needs were largely met by the community programme?
The new TEC in Hackney combines the tremendous resources and jobs base of the City with the energy, enterprise and passion to achieve of some of my constituents. We can achieve great things in Hackney. It is easy for the Government to make short-term cuts in training to ensure that their books balance. However, regardless of political affiliation, people will believe that a Government unwilling to invest in training and in the future of young people disregards its responsibility to the country.
Even with all their limitations and problems, I should like the TECs to succeed. I can only reflect on what concerned business men have said to me about their fears because the Government have left the TECs so short of money. In inner cities, we want not just training which is cheap and convenient for the Government to provide and which brings down unemployment artificially; 'but real, high-quality training which offers hope to all young people, whatever their colour or creed.
§ Mr. Simon Coombs (Swindon)
I am happy to follow the hon. Member for Hackney, North and Stoke Newington (Ms. Abbott). She suggested that Conservative Members were smiling at what she was saying. If she was referring to me, it could only have been because 1 was agreeing with her about the problems that she was describing. I was a member of the Select Committee on Employment which looked into the problems of 328 employment in the London Docklands development corporation area. We were very conscious of some of the points to which the hon. Lady has just referred.
To cheer the hon. Lady up a little, I would point out to her that it was remarkable that one of the first educational compacts was set up in that area by private enterprise, which felt that it needed to do something to help disadvantaged youngsters there. I hope that the hon. Lady agrees that the position is not as gloomy as some people have suggested.
This has been a good debate, although it has not been long enough to address all the problems. In general, the debate has been carried on in a good spirit of co-operative and constructive thought. I am sorry, therefore, that the hon. Member for Sedgefield (Mr. Blair) opened with a slashing attack on the Government, as if they had managed to achieve nothing in the last 11 years. I am sure that in private he would not dream of suggesting that, but when he gets to the Dispatch Box he feels the need to go wild.
The hon. Gentleman dismissed the idea that the Secretary of State should refer to the need for perspective. I can see no reason why we should not have a sense of perspective. Perhaps it was the absence of a sense of perspective which led the hon. Gentleman into one or two excesses to which his speech was prone. It is right to set the debate in context and in perspective.
As has been said several times, the Government have spent two and a half times more, in real terms, on training than the Labour Government spent in the last year that they were in office. So for the Labour party to cast a stone in our direction is not justifiable on the facts. If we are doing so badly, how much worse did the Labour party do in failing to recognise that Government had a role in training?
There was a complete absence from the speech of the hon. Gentleman of any reference to the remarkable efforts of the private sector. That is important. The estimate of what the private sector is putting into training this year is £20 billion. That is not an insignificant amount.
The hon. Member for Hackney, North and Stoke Newington, who is not now in the Chamber, said that we could not rely on the private sector during a slump. The answer is that we can, because obviously the private sector is carrying through its responsibility. The CBI survey last week showed that, by comparison with previous difficult times, the private sector is carrying on with the job that it has set itself of providing good quality training, in-house.
When the debate was announced for today, all the private sector companies and organisations which wrote to Conservative Members—perhaps they did not write to Opposition Members—including Ford, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders and the CBI, wanted to tell us what they were doing in training, how important they thought it was, and how committed they were to it.
In my constituency there is an organisation called the Swindon Partnership, which was set up by private companies to get to know the schools in the area, to provide them with computers and to give them a chance to send their pupils into companies to learn how industry works. There is tremendous enthusiasm for this in my part of the world, and I know that we are not unique. Much more is happening than the Labour party is ever prepared to admit. I do not know why, unless it is for the narrow partisan political advantage that it is always seeking.
329 The hon. Member for Newham, North-East (Mr. Leighton) said—how well we understand Labour party thinking on this—that the nub of the matter is intervention. I do not think that I have quoted him inaccurately. He is not here to defend himself, but I am sure he will when we next meet in the Select Committee. What is youth training and employment training if not a very positive form of intervention in training? The Government may and will no doubt be accused of many things, but surely they cannot be accused of not having been prepared to intervene in the training market.
The Labour party is always against everything we try to do. The Leader of the Opposition was here at the beginning of the debate and I am sure that he enjoyed the rip-roaring stuff from the hon. Member for Sedgefield. He was nodding throughout the speech—until the point when some of my hon. Friends asked about how he had referred to TVEI when he was the Opposition spokesman on education in 1983. I saw the Leader of the Opposition mouth the words, "Not true," when it was said that he had described TVEI as beneath contempt and only suitable forhewers of wood and drawers of water".The right hon. Gentleman said that on "Panorama", and we know that anything that the BBC broadcasts must be true. I dare say that there are even some right hon. and hon. Members who watched "Panorama" on that occasion.
It is no use Opposition Members wagging their fingers at me, because that statement is on record. Labour was against that innovation, in the same way that they always oppose anything that we try to do to help. It is time—I will be very patronising—that Labour Members adopted the approach taken by the hon. Member for Truro (Mr. Taylor), who will, perhaps, stop writing and pay attention to the debate. At least that hon. Gentleman gave some thought to the matter, and is not in the business of being aggressive and horrid to anyone who tries to help. That is a splendid sign from that Bench.
§ Mr. Dickens
Does my hon. Friend agree that the Opposition often fall into the trap of thinking that just by throwing resources at the problem everything will be that much better? Is it not much more important to involve the right people, companies and trainers? That approach has worked well in Oldham and Rochdale, because we have the right calibre of people. It did not cost any more money. Additional resources are not always the answer.
§ Mr. Coombs
I could not have put it better myself, and of course I agree with my hon. Friend.
The Labour party, having opposed employment training and youth training, now opposes any reduction in the size of the training effort—even though that might result from a reduction also in the number who can benefit.
Labour Members always take the approach that the more money they promise to spend, the more virile they are. Members of the Opposition Front Bench look virile only when they are promising to spend money. If I run the risk of resuming my seat in a few minutes' time, the hon. Member for Fife, Central (Mr. McLeish) will get to his feet with a promise of more hope for the future, if only more money can be spent.
My hon. Friend the Member for Nuneaton (Mr. Stevens) referred to climbing mountains. We always look 330 for the best way up, and if that sometimes requires a change of direction, we should not hesitate to take it. If that means spending a little less on employment training and a little more on providing the good advice that is available from job clubs, and on preparing personalised statements that recognise people's individual needs, that should be the way forward. The answer is not simply to go on throwing money at the problem.
Labour, as always, is bereft of ideas. It is panicking because it knows that we are winning the battle to create a better training environment. Labour will remain in opposition for as long as it only opposes ideas and fails to make constructive suggestions—as other hon. Members have done in tonight's debate.
§ Mr. Henry McLeish (Fife, Central)
It appeared that the Secretary of State wanted to talk more about the speech that my hon. Friend the Member for Sedgefield (Mr. Blair) did not make, in respect of training investment, than the speech that he did make.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman also referred to remarks attributed to me on a visit to Sheffield. That contrived assault on a perceived policy difference highlights the fact that the Government are losing the argument. I put it on record that I very much support TECs. I warmed to the remarks of the right hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield (Sir N. Fowler), who said that TECs could have a role in a statutory framework, in respect of companies that do not train. That was a constructive proposal and one with which we identify. I hope that the Secretary of State will take it on board.
My hon. Friend the Member for Newham, North-East (Mr. Leighton), who always makes informed contributions as Chairman of the Select Committee on Employment, emphasised that the key training issue is economic performance in the decade ahead.
I endorse also the suggestion made by the right hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield that Britain's skills crisis existed long before the last war, and he made a specific reference to the mid-1880s. I quote from an article by someone who I am sure is a friend of the Conservatives, Dr. Correlli Barnett:Where Britain does have successful industries, such as aerospace—£2.5 billion in the black in 1989—these are hampered by shortages of scientists and technicians. Britain still displays patterns of weakness that can be traced back to about 1840.No one disputes that the training skills crisis has long endured. No one would argue either against the proposition that it is a complex problem, for which there is no quick fix or instant panacea. Nor would anyone disagree that the problems are deep seated, cultural and involve attitudes. Politicians can attempt to effect changes, but it often takes decades for them to have any bearing on the problems that such changes are meant to overcome.
Over the past 12 years, the Government have failed to display the urgency, sensitivity and immediacy required to resolve a deep-seated skills problem that is also structural. Given 1992, European monetary union beyond that, the threat from the Pacific rim countries, and intensification of supply-side policies in France, Germany, Italy and Japan, we must act quickly. There is no room for complacency, yet the Government often exude complacency in respect of skills training.
331 Skills should be used to unlock the potential that individuals have to make a contribution to our economic well-being. We talk a great deal about productivity, profitability and performance, but the key difference between Britain and its major competitor countries is that they have invested in skills training for much longer, so their cultures have adjusted and they can now enjoy the fruits of that investment in the form of measured economic success.
The Government had an opportunity in the 1980s to take the supply-side initiative. There was a massive shake-out of labour in the early 1980s and productivity improved, but there was no skills initiative. In the mid-1980s, to coincide with the electoral cycle, there was an economy boom, but still no initiative was taken on skills investment. There is now a possibility that Britain's entry into the exchange rate mechanism could create difficulties, unless we invest in the tools that will bring success.
There is a crisis of confidence in the industrial community in respect of the Government's ability to resolve the skills crisis. The Government will not speak of the devastating cuts that there have been, but in 1991–92 there will be cuts of about £367 million in employment training alone. Why do the Government show such contempt for training providers? The newspapers are littered with stories about providers going under and being treated in a cavalier fashion—receiving just a phone call or a letter from the Training Agency saying that their figures and budgets have been cut. There is no negotiation or discussion—just contempt.
One of the problems with TECs is that, although the Secretary of State is unwilling to fight in Cabinet for resources, the TECs are squeezing him for more. The net effect of all that is that TECs are now writing to the press, and confiding in us, saying, "Yes, we have a job to do, but we need the tools to do it." I believe that they are under funded and the Government must tackle that.
There is another aspect to special needs provision. Understandably, there is an emphasis on skills and the economy, but what about the excellent schemes that have been set up throughout the country to tackle the problems facing adults and young people with handicaps and disabilities? Surely it is the measure of a civilised society that, no matter how the Government view the recession, they do not walk away from people who find it enormously difficult to climb the first rung on the ladder of employment or further education. The Government should ring-fence the budget for that training.
The cash crisis is another aspect of this issue. Today we have heard much about the money that the Government have spent during the past 12 years. The Government are right. They have thrown money at the problem. The Department of Employment will have spent £46 billion between 1979 and outturn in 1992–93. But what do we see for that expenditure? Where is the training infrastructure? Where are the employment trainees' qualifications? Where are the youth trainees with qualifications? The key point about that investment is that the Government have squandered billions of pounds of taxpayers' money and have not achieved the desired effect, which is improving the economy, extending opportunities for individuals and providing the social and regional cohesion that the nation desperately needs.
When we talk about money, let us use the Government adage that it is all about "value for money". What value 332 for money? The Government say that their policy is all about output-led investment. What are the outputs? I should like someone to tell me why we spend so much money. Indeed, considering the Gulf, the phrase comes to mind, "Why is so much money being spent on so many people, with so few results?"
The third problem that worries us is the policy chaos that the Government exude. The right hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield made a thoughtful contribution to the debate, emphasising qualifications. He had an excellent idea and set radical and ambitious targets in November 1989. The new Minister of State, the hon. Member for Enfield, North (Mr. Eggar), said in a press release that the Fowler targets were to be abandoned. More recently there has been another slight about-turn—[Interruption.] If Conservative Members wish to see the press cuttings, which I cannot quote because of lack of time, I am willing to oblige them.
The Secretary of State for Employment has returned to the National Council for Vocational Qualifications. He has said that by 1992,80 per cent. of the work force should be exposed to vocational qualifications. He did not say that 80 per cent. should be achieving vocational qualifications. He could have said that 150 per cent. of the work force should be exposed to them; his statement is utterly meaningless.
The Government would be better served by returning to the radical propositions suggested by the right hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield when he was in that high office. The right hon. Member also said that the way for the unemployed to get work was through gaining skills. However, the present Secretary of State for Employment said that training might not be the best way to get the unemployed back to work. He suggested that they should have job interviews or more counselling—anything that did not cost the Government more money.
At a time of recession, and when we are investing in TECs and on those aged between 16 and 19, we cannot allow the unemployed to be treated as second-class citizens and, as a consequence, be asked by the Government to eat cake as regards proper provision for them.
Investment is linked to training policy. When will the Government come clean with TEC chairmen, G10 and the thousands of business men throughout the country who are making a contribution, and who came into this exercise in good faith? Employers wanted to make a commitment. It was employer investment, employer-led—those are sound concepts. There is only one problem—TECs did not get the levels of cash that they expected. Now the Secretary of State and the rest of the Government are running around trading flexibilities. They are saying, "Let's give them work-related further education. Let's get them involved in TVEI." They are doing every conceivable thing except to give TECs extra cash so that they can make a contribution to our economic success.
Another problem that the Government have not tackled is the key substantive issues that the Labour party is now tackling. Why is it that after 12 years we have the most incoherent programme for 16 to 19-year-olds in Europe? We have had scheme after scheme, but there has been no coherence, no stability of policy and no stability of investment. Fewer young people now stay on at school, and fewer young people enter a proper traineeship. That trend has to be reversed. It is a substantive issue which the Government have been guilty of ignoring in the past 12 years.
333 The Government believe in voluntarism. However, in the past 140 years voluntarism has not worked in the provision of training for employees in employment. If it had worked, we, as the first industrialised nation, should be the best trading nation on earth, but we are not. We are not facing up to key issues which other countries are tackling.
§ Mr. McLeish
The hon. Lady has only just come into the Chamber, so I shall not give way.
Voluntarism has failed and all our modern successor countries are now considering a statutory framework for training.
Another substantive issue concerns the unemployed. We believe that they should be regarded no differently from people in work or from those aged between 16 and 19. The unemployed should have a personal skills development plan aimed at acquisition, ownership and enhancement of skills. That has to be backed up by resources and not rhetoric. That is another reason why we distance ourselves from the Government Benches.
If the Government are serious about training, we require leadership from their Front Bench and resources to replace rhetoric. We need a statutory framework that provides an opportunity for companies that train employees not to have them poached by companies that are doing nothing whatsoever. We must set standards for success, which means that we must invest more money in the National Council for Vocational Qualifications, and that we must establish a partnership in industry among employee representatives, trade unions and employers. That is the way forward.
Conservative Members mumble and laugh, but if they consider what has happened in Germany, France, Italy, Japan, parts of the United States, Denmark, the Scandinavian countries and the Pacific rim they will not laugh. Those countries have shown that taking skills seriously is the passport to economic success and to individual opportunity.
My hon. Friends may not win the vote tonight, but we shall win the election, and tackle the skills crisis.
§ The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Employment (Mr. Robert Jackson)
Parliament is a place where the Government are held to account and that is quite right, but that should not lead us into the fallacy of believing that whenever we identify a problem it is all the current Government's fault—whatever party it may be—and that only the Government can do anything about it.
In the course of this debate we have had many examples of that fallacy. It was the basic premise running right through the speech by the hon. Member for Sedgefield (Mr. Blair), it was explicitly affirmed by the hon. Member for Newham, North-East (Mr. Leighton), the Chairman of the Select Committee on Employment, and I am afraid that it was also a feature of an otherwise admirable speech by the hon. Member for Truro (Mr. Taylor), who I fear also fell victim to that fallacy.
I do not want to dwell on the negative features of this debate, because I agree with the hon. Member for Fife, Central (Mr. McLeish) that it has been very constructive. 334 As my right hon. Friend the Member for Sutton Coldfield (Sir N. Fowler) and my hon. Friend the Member for Nuneaton (Mr. Stevens) said, there has been a lot of common ground and I welcome that. The common ground is that we all want an improvement in both the quantity and the quality of training in Britain. I especially noted the eloquent remarks that the hon. Member for Truro made about his experience in St. Austell, in his constituency.
In pursuing our common objective—more and better training—we must ensure that the right strategy is adopted. A good point at which to start defining that strategy is the survey into the way in which training is funded in Britain which the Government carried out in 1986. That survey showed—the facts are not disputed—that, in 1986, the state was investing about £7 billion a year in training while individuals were spending about £8 billion and employers some £18 billion. The last figure has since risen to about £20 billion. I have no doubt that a similar pattern can be seen in other countries. Incidentally, the study produced no evidence that we as a nation are investing less than other countries in training; in so far as it is possible to make international comparisons, they tend to show that the Government's investment is relatively high.
What is clear from the figures is that, although the Government's role is undoubtedly important, if we are to achieve the improved total national effort that we all seek, the central contribution must come from employers. I was surprised at how little appreciation the hon. Member for Hackney, North and Stoke Newington (Ms. Abbott) seemed to show when she spoke of the privatisation of training.
I intend to develop the point about the role of employers later, because it is fundamental to any solid, properly conceived training strategy. First, however, I wish to say a few words about the proper role of Government. Governments have an important role to play. As has been said, they must provide leadership and set the framework. We need to encourage the development of incentives to achieve more and better training, and we must remove or reduce the disincentives. We also need good delivery mechanisms for Government programmes—for example, the setting up of the new training and enterprise councils.
§ Mr. McCartney
My constituency contains an active TEC. The problem is the continuation of programmes that the TEC has taken over, and access to those programmes for the disabled. Some of the groups involved in drawing up provisions for the disabled might like an opportunity to discuss such matters with the Minister.
A second problem relates to the pilot schemes involving vouchers that TECs are to operate. How will young people be protected if the participating companies experience closures and redundancies halfway through the scheme? Will the money be chopped up so that such people can shift without any financial loss and another company can continue their training?
§ Mr. Jackson
The hon. Gentleman has sat through the debate very patiently, and I am sorry that he was not given the opportunity to speak. I have mentioned delivery mechanisms. While it is clearly important that the TECs are given the freedom to manage the budgets allocated to them—that, I think, is common ground in the House—they will have to address the problems themselves. None 335 the less, I am willing to discuss the problems of people with disabilities with the hon. Gentleman, and anyone whom he may care to bring with him. The Government must, of course, take on board the hon. Gentleman's point about vouchers in regard to pilot schemes. We certainly do not want any young person to waste the opportunity provided by vouchers; nor do we want taxpayers' money to be wasted.
As I have said, we need good delivery mechanisms. Those are being provided in the form of the TECs, and it is good to see that they are being given so much support. Another point which came across to an extent in today's debate but which needs to be emphasised more strongly is the need for a strong and relevant framework of vocational qualifications. The achievements of the National Council for Vocational Qualifications are important in that connection.
The Government also have a key role to play in ensuring that young people are properly educated and trained. We have introduced such programmes as youth training, and we are launching a training credit scheme. I was interested to hear the suggestions made by the former Secretary of State, my right hon. Friend the Member for Sutton Coldfield. We must also ensure that training is available for unemployed people who will benefit from it. I can tell the hon. Member for Hackney, North and Stoke Newington that we share her concern about the inner cities and ethnic minorities, and are pleased to learn that she supports her local TEC. My hon. Friend the Member for Nuneaton spoke of special need groups: we and the TECs take their problems very seriously, and will consider them carefully.
Let me remind the House of the scale of the Government's operations. As my hon. Friend the Member for Swindon (Mr. Coombs) pointed out, they are now spending two and a half times as much, in real terms, as was spent on training 12 years ago; 900,000 people have benefited from the employment training programme since it started two and a half years ago; 88 per cent. of people who completed youth training in 1988–90 went into jobs, further training and further education, while 67 per cent. of those gained a vocational qualification. Given the large numbers who participated, that is a significant figure: some 2.7 million young people have benefited from youth training since the scheme began in 1983. I feel that that considerable achievement should be recognised.
I said that I wanted to focus on the central strategic question of how to persuade employers to increase their commitment to more and better training. I appreciated what was said by my right hon. Friend the Member for Sutton Coldfield, and, indeed, the hon. Member for Sedgefield, about consulting TECs and about the way forward. I assure them both that we are engaged in constant dialogue with the TECs, and are actively seeking their suggestions for ways in which to increase employers' investment in training.
§ Mr. Wolfson
A number of us find it worrying that, although good companies spend a good deal of money on training, many companies do not. I think that that message should be delivered.
§ Mr. Jackson
That is indeed important; I am about to say something about it. The same theme was touched on a number of times in today's debate, although was disappointed that the hon. Member for Sedgefield had so 336 little to say about what he recognises as a central question. It is a pity that he did not choose to present to the House the idea of a central training levy which he presented to the press only last week. Nevertheless, I propose to take his idea seriously, even if he has not done so.
We feel that the best way in which to achieve our common objectives—here I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Sevenoaks (Mr. Wolfson)—is to co-operate with employers to enhance their commitment, rather than coercing them. We must not forget that we have been here before. My hon. Friend the Member for Nuneaton reminded us that a system of legislative compulsion operated from the early 1960s until the end of the 1970s, under Governments of both parties, and I have met no one who considers that that was a success. If we have a training problem today, its roots go back to those 15 years.
We must also take into account the experience of other countries. The hon. Member for Newham, North-East said that voluntarism in training would not work, but the fact is that our major competitors—the United States, Japan and Germany—all operate voluntary systems. None has a general system of compulsory training taxes of the kind sometimes advocated by the Opposition. Only France is doing what the Opposition seem to advocate, and the general verdict of those who have viewed the French experience dispassionately is that its arrangements for legislative compulsion have not been a significant factor in its admittedly considerable training achievements.
What, then, is the Government's strategy for training? In a sentence, it is—while continuing our spending programmes—to encourage, to "incentivise" and to enable employers and individuals to undertake more and better training. That is the strategy behind the TECs. I welcome the Opposition's support for the concept, whose key features are employer leadership and local control.
It is a pity that the hon. Member for Fife, Central has been showing some equivocation, which was very wittily exposed by my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State. However, I am delighted—indeed, the whole House is delighted—that the hon. Gentleman is willing to eat his words about the training and enterprise councils. The strategy that lies behind training credits—individual young people—is the most hopeful new development. I welcome the support that we have received for this idea from the hon. Member for Newham, North-East, who is the Chairman of the Select Committee, and I hope that we shall be able to get stronger support for it from the official Opposition spokesman. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Sevenoaks that it is the strategy behind the very important new "investors in people" initiative. Despite the strictures of the hon. Member for Truro about the supposedly limited managerial role of TECs, they will play a key role in managing the "investors in people" initiative to ensure an improvement in training investment by companies up and down the land.
It is perhaps inevitable that in debates of this kind deficiencies and failures should be emphasised. At least so far as the Opposition are concerned, there is a premium on gloom. However, it is important to get a balanced picture. That balanced picture shows that we are making very real progress. Employers' investment in skills is rising, and is now of the order of £20 billion per year; the number of employees being trained in a given month has risen over the last five years by about 70 per cent.; the CBI's monthly surveys show a consistently rising trend of investment in 337 training by employers; the skill levels of our work force are rising; we have statistics to show that the proportion of economically active people with qualifications is going up; the number of people with A-levels is rising; the number of people in professional and technical jobs is rising; the number of young people staying on at school is rising; the numbers of people in further and higher education are rising quite dramatically; and more and more qualified young people are entering the labour force.
The fact is that we are making very considerable progress in training. The Opposition have tried to pretend that we are not, but it is clear to all who have attended this debate that they have failed to make their case.
§ Question put, That the original words stand part of the Question: —
§ The House divided: Ayes 227, Noes 283.340
|Division No. 59]||[7.1 pm|
|Abbott, Ms Diane||Darling, Alistair|
|Adams, Mrs. Irene (Paisley, N.)||Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)|
|Allen, Graham||Davies, Ron (Caerphilly)|
|Alton, David||Davis, Terry (B'ham Hodge H'l)|
|Anderson, Donald||Dewar, Donald|
|Archer, Rt Hon Peter||Dixon, Don|
|Armstrong, Hilary||Dobson, Frank|
|Ashdown, Rt Hon Paddy||Doran, Frank|
|Ashley, Rt Hon Jack||Douglas, Dick|
|Ashton, Joe||Duffy, A. E. P.|
|Banks, Tony (Newham NW)||Dunnachie, Jimmy|
|Barnes, Harry (Derbyshire NE)||Dunwoody, Hon Mrs Gwyneth|
|Barron, Kevin||Eadie, Alexander|
|Battle, John||Eastham, Ken|
|Beckett, Margaret||Evans, John (St Helens N)|
|Beith, A. J.||Ewing, Harry (Falkirk E)|
|Bell, Stuart||Fatchett, Derek|
|Benn, Rt Hon Tony||Faulds, Andrew|
|Bennett, A. F. (D'nt'n & R'dish)||Fields, Terry (L'pool B G'n)|
|Benton, Joseph||Fisher, Mark|
|Bermingham, Gerald||Flynn, Paul|
|Bldwell, Sydney||Foot, Rt Hon Michael|
|Blair, Tony||Foster, Derek|
|Blunkett, David||Foulkes, George|
|Boateng, Paul||Fraser, John|
|Boyes, Roland||Fyfe, Maria|
|Bradley, Keith||Galbraith, Sam|
|Bray, Dr Jeremy||Garrett, John (Norwich South)|
|Brown, Gordon (D'mline E)||George, Bruce|
|Brown, Nicholas (Newcastle E)||Golding, Mrs Llin|
|Brown, Ron (Edinburgh Leith)||Gordon, Mildred|
|Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon)||Gould, Bryan|
|Buckley, George J.||Graham, Thomas|
|Caborn, Richard||Grant, Bernie (Tottenham)|
|Callaghan, Jim||Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)|
|Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE)||Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)|
|Campbell, Ron (Blyth Valley)||Grocott, Bruce|
|Campbell-Savours, D. N.||Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy|
|Canavan, Dennis||Haynes, Frank|
|Carlile, Alex (Mont'g)||Heal, Mrs Sylvia|
|Cartwright, John||Healey, Rt Hon Denis|
|Clarke, Tom (Monklands W)||Henderson, Doug|
|Clelland, David||Hinchliffe, David|
|Clwyd, Mrs Ann||Hoey, Ms Kate (Vauxhall)|
|Cohen, Harry||Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth)|
|Cook, Robin (Livingston)||Home Robertson, John|
|Corbett, Robin||Hood, Jimmy|
|Corbyn, Jeremy||Howarth, George (Knowsley N)|
|Cousins, Jim||Howells, Geraint|
|Cox, Tom||Howells, Dr. Kim (Pontypridd)|
|Crowther, Stan||Hoyle, Doug|
|Cryer, Bob||Hughes, John (Coventry NE)|
|Cummings, John||Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)|
|Cunliffe, Lawrence||Hughes, Roy (Newport E)|
|Dalyell, Tarn||Hughes, Simon (Southwark)|
|Illsley, Eric||Patchett, Terry|
|Ingram, Adam||Pike, Peter L.|
|Johnston, Sir Russell||Powell, Ray (Ogmore)|
|Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)||Prescott, John|
|Jones, Ieuan (Ynys Môn)||Primarolo, Dawn|
|Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald||Quin, Ms Joyce|
|Kennedy, Charles||Radice, Giles|
|Kinnock, Rt Hon Neil||Randall, Stuart|
|Kirkwood, Archy||Rees, Rt Hon Merlyn|
|Lambie, David||Reid, Dr John|
|Lamond, James||Richardson, Jo|
|Leadbitter, Ted||Robertson, George|
|Leighton, Ron||Robinson, Geoffrey|
|Lestor, Joan (Eccles)||Rogers, Allan|
|Lewis, Terry||Rooker, Jeff|
|Litherland, Robert||Rooney, Terence|
|Livingstone, Ken||Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)|
|Livsey, Richard||Rowlands, Ted|
|Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)||Ruddock, Joan|
|Lofthouse, Geoffrey||Salmond, Alex|
|Loyden, Eddie||Sedgemore, Brian|
|McAllion, John||Sheerman, Barry|
|McCartney, Ian||Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert|
|Macdonald, Calum A.||Shore, Rt Hon Peter|
|McFall, John||Short, Clare|
|McKay, Allen (Barnsley West)||Skinner, Dennis|
|McKelvey, William||Smith, Andrew (Oxford E)|
|McLeish, Henry||Smith, C. (Isl'ton & F'bury)|
|Maclennan, Robert||Smith, Rt Hon J. (Monk'ds E)|
|McMaster, Gordon||Smith, J. P. (Vale of Glam)|
|McNamara, Kevin||Snape, Peter|
|McWilliam, John||Soley, Clive|
|Madden, Max||Spearing, Nigel|
|Mahon, Mrs Alice||Steel, Rt Hon Sir David|
|Marek, Dr John||Steinberg, Gerry|
|Marshall, David (Shettleston)||Stott, Roger|
|Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)||Straw, Jack|
|Martin, Michael J. (Springburn)||Taylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)|
|Martlew, Eric||Taylor, Matthew (Truro)|
|Maxton, John||Thomas, Dr Dafydd Elis|
|Meacher, Michael||Thompson, Jack (Wansbeck)|
|Meale, Alan||Turner, Dennis|
|Michael, Alun||Vaz, Keith|
|Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley)||Wallace, James|
|Michie, Mrs Ray (Arg'l & Bute)||Walley, Joan|
|Mitchell, Austin (G't Grimsby)||Wardell, Gareth (Gower)|
|Moonie, Dr Lewis||Wareing, Robert N.|
|Morgan, Rhodri||Watson, Mike (Glasgow, C)|
|Morley, Elliot||Wigley, Dafydd|
|Morris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe)||Williams, Rt Hon Alan|
|Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)||Williams, Alan W. (Carm'then)|
|Mullin, Chris||Wilson, Brian|
|Murphy, Paul||Winnick, David|
|Nellist, Dave||Wise, Mrs Audrey|
|Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon||Worthington, Tony|
|O'Brien, William||Wray, Jimmy|
|O'Neill, Martin||Tellers for the Ayes:|
|Orme, Rt Hon Stanley||Mr. Martyn Jones and|
|Parry, Robert||Mr. Thomas McAvoy.|
|Adley, Robert||Bennett, Nicholas (Pembroke)|
|Aitken, Jonathan||Benyon, W.|
|Alexander, Richard||Bevan, David Gilroy|
|Alison, Rt Hon Michael||Biffen, Rt Hon John|
|Allason, Rupert||Blackburn, Dr John G.|
|Amos, Alan||Blaker, Rt Hon Sir Peter|
|Arbuthnot, James||Body, Sir Richard|
|Arnold, Sir Thomas||Bonsor, Sir Nicholas|
|Ashby, David||Boscawen, Hon Robert|
|Aspinwall, Jack||Boswell, Tim|
|Atkinson, David||Bottomley, Peter|
|Baker, Rt Hon K. (Mole Valley)||Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich)|
|Baldry, Tony||Bowis, John|
|Banks, Robert (Harrogate)||Boyson, Rt Hon Dr Sir Rhodes|
|Batiste, Spencer||Braine, Rt Hon Sir Bernard|
|Beaumont-Dark, Anthony||Brazier, Julian|
|Bellingham, Henry||Bright, Graham|
|Bendall, Vivian||Brooke, Rt Hon Peter|
|Brown, Michael (Brigg & Cl't's)||Grylls, Michael|
|Browne, John (Winchester)||Gummer, Rt Hon John Selwyn|
|Bruce, Ian (Dorset South)||Hague, William|
|Buck, Sir Antony||Hamilton, Hon Archie (Epsom)|
|Burns, Simon||Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)|
|Butler, Chris||Hampson, Dr Keith|
|Butterfill, John||Hannam, John|
|Carlisle, John, (Luton N)||Hargreaves, A. (B'ham H'll Gr')|
|Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)||Hargreaves, Ken (Hyndburn)|
|Carrington, Matthew||Harris, David|
|Carttiss, Michael||Hayward, Robert|
|Cash, William||Hicks, Robert (Cornwall SE)|
|Chalker, Rt Hon Mrs Lynda||Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L.|
|Chapman, Sydney||Hind, Kenneth|
|Chope, Christopher||Howard, Rt Hon Michael|
|Churchill, Mr||Howarth, Alan (Strat'd-on-A)|
|Clark, Rt Hon Alan (Plymouth)||Howarth, G. (Cannock & B'wd)|
|Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford)||Howell, Rt Hon David (G'dford)|
|Clark, Rt Hon Sir William||Hughes, Robert G. (Harrow W)|
|Clarke, Rt Hon K. (Rushcliffe)||Hunt, David (Wirral W)|
|Conway, Derek||Irvine, Michael|
|Coombs, Anthony (Wyre F'rest)||Irving, Sir Charles|
|Coombs, Simon (Swindon)||Jackson, Robert|
|Cope, Rt Hon John||Janman, Tim|
|Cormack, Patrick||Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey|
|Couchman, James||Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)|
|Cran, James||Jones, Robert B (Herfs W)|
|Critchley, Julian||Jopling, Rt Hon Michael|
|Currie, Mrs Edwina||Kellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine|
|Davies, Q. (Stamf'd & Spald'g)||Kilfedder, James|
|Davis, David (Boothferry)||King, Roger (B'ham N'thfield)|
|Day, Stephen||King, Rt Hon Tom (Bridgwater)|
|Devlin, Tim||Kirkhope, Timothy|
|Dickens, Geoffrey||Knapman, Roger|
|Dorrell, Stephen||Knight, Greg (Derby North)|
|Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James||Knight, Dame Jill (Edgbaston)|
|Dover, Den||Knox, David|
|Durant, Sir Anthony||Lamont, Rt Hon Norman|
|Dykes, Hugh||Lang, Rt Hon Ian|
|Eggar, Tim||Lawrence, Ivan|
|Emery, Sir Peter||Lee, John (Pendle)|
|Evans, David (Welwyn Hatf'd)||Leigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh)|
|Evennett, David||Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark|
|Fallon, Michael||Lester, Jim (Broxtowe)|
|Favell, Tony||Lilley, Peter|
|Fenner, Dame Peggy||Lloyd, Sir Ian (Havant)|
|Field, Barry (Isle of Wight)||Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)|
|Fishburn, John Dudley||Lord, Michael|
|Fookes, Dame Janet||Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas|
|Forman, Nigel||McCrindle, Sir Robert|
|Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)||Macfarlane, Sir Neil|
|Fowler, Rt Hon Sir Norman||MacGregor, Rt Hon John|
|Franks, Cecil||MacKay, Andrew (E Berkshire)|
|French, Douglas||Maclean, David|
|Fry, Peter||McLoughlin, Patrick|
|Gale, Roger||McNair-Wilson, Sir Patrick|
|Gardiner, Sir George||Malins, Humfrey|
|Garel-Jones, Tristan||Mans, Keith|
|Gill, Christopher||Maples, John|
|Gilmour, Rt Hon Sir Ian||Marland, Paul|
|Glyn, Dr Sir Alan||Marshall, John (Hendon S)|
|Goodhart, Sir Philip||Marshall, Sir Michael (Arundel)|
|Goodlad, Alastair||Martin, David (Portsmouth S)|
|Gorman, Mrs Teresa||Mates, Michael|
|Grant, Sir Anthony (CambsSW)||Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin|
|Greenway, Harry (Ealing N)||Mayhew, Rt Hon Sir Patrick|
|Greenway, John (Ryedale)||Meyer, Sir Anthony|
|Gregory, Conal||Miller, Sir Hal|
|Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N)||Miscampbell, Norman|
|Grist, Ian||Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling)|
|Ground, Patrick||Moate, Roger|
|Monro, Sir Hector||Spicer, Sir Jim (Dorset W)|
|Morris, M (N'hampton S)||Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)|
|Morrison, Sir Charles||Squire, Robin|
|Moss, Malcolm||Stanbrook, Ivor|
|Mudd, David||Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John|
|Neale, Sir Gerrard||Steen, Anthony|
|Nelson, Anthony||Stern, Michael|
|Neubert, Sir Michael||Stevens, Lewis|
|Newton, Rt Hon Tony||Stewart, Allan (Eastwood)|
|Nicholls, Patrick||Stewart, Andy (Sherwood)|
|Nicholson, David (Taunton)||Stewart, Rt Hon Ian (Herts N)|
|Nicholson, Emma (Devon West)||Sumberg, David|
|Norris, Steve||Summerson, Hugo|
|Onslow, Rt Hon Cranley||Taylor, Ian (Esher)|
|Oppenheim, Phillip||Taylor, John M (Solihull)|
|Page, Richard||Taylor, Teddy (S'end E)|
|Paice, James||Temple-Morris, Peter|
|Patnick, Irvine||Thompson, D. (Calder Valley)|
|Patten, Rt Hon Chris (Bath)||Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)|
|Patten, Rt Hon John||Thorne, Neil|
|Pawsey, James||Thurnham, Peter|
|Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth||Townend, John (Bridlington)|
|Porter, Barry (Wirral S)||Townsend, Cyril D. (B'heath)|
|Porter, David (Waveney)||Tracey, Richard|
|Powell, William (Corby)||Tredinnick, David|
|Price, Sir David||Trippier, David|
|Raffan, Keith||Trotter, Neville|
|Raison, Rt Hon Sir Timothy||Twinn, Dr Ian|
|Redwood, John||Vaughan, Sir Gerard|
|Renton, Rt Hon Tim||Wakeham, Rt Hon John|
|Rhodes James, Robert||Walden, George|
|Riddick, Graham||Walker, Bill (T'side North)|
|Ridley, Rt Hon Nicholas||Walker, Rt Hon P. (W'cester)|
|Ridsdale, Sir Julian||Waller, Gary|
|Roberts, Sir Wyn (Conwy)||Ward, John|
|Rossi, Sir Hugh||Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)|
|Rost, Peter||Warren, Kenneth|
|Rowe, Andrew||Watts, John|
|Ryder, Rt Hon Richard||Wells, Bowen|
|Sackville, Hon Tom||Wheeler, Sir John|
|Sainsbury, Hon Tim||Whitney, Ray|
|Sayeed, Jonathan||Widdecombe, Ann|
|Shaw, David (Dover)||Wilkinson, John|
|Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey)||Wilshire, David|
|Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')||Winterton, Mrs Ann|
|Shelton, Sir William||Winterton, Nicholas|
|Shephard, Mrs G. (Norfolk SW)||Wolfson, Mark|
|Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)||Woodcock, Dr. Mike|
|Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge)||Yeo, Tim|
|Shersby, Michael||Young, Sir George (Acton)|
|Skeet, Sir Trevor|
|Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)||Tellers for the Noes:|
|Soames, Hon Nicholas||Mr. Nicholas Baker and|
|Speed, Keith||Mr. Timothy Wood.|
§ Question accordingly negatived.
§ Question, That the proposed words be there added, put forthwith pursuant to Standing Order No. 30 (Questions on amendments), and agreed to.
§ MR. DEPUTY SPEAKER forthwith declared the main Question, as amended, to be agreed to.
That this House welcomes the Government's creation of a climate and strategic framework which is encouraging employers to improve their already substantial role in the national training effort, in which participation in training and the attainment of skills is rising, and which is set fair to meet the United Kingdom's skill needs in the 1990s and beyond.