HL Deb 28 June 1990 vol 520 cc1726-7

3.20 p.m.

Baroness Turner of Camden asked Her Majesty's Government:

What is the position of the construction industry training scheme in the light of reports that substantial cuts in funding are contemplated.

Lord Strathclyde

My Lords, the Construction Industry Training Board and my department are still conducting negotiations on the volumes and funding of youth training undertaken by the board. These negotiations are not yet complete and I am therefore not able to comment on them at this stage.

Baroness Turner of Camden

My Lords, I thank the Minister for that Answer and am glad to learn that the discussions are still proceeding. Is there a possibility that the youth training scheme could be abandoned altogether unless the funding is provided? Would that not be a great pity? The building industry is still suffering from a chronic shortage of skilled workers and there has been a decline in the number of school-leavers.

Lord Strathclyde

No, my Lords, I do not think that there is any prospect of youth training ceasing to be a programme of the CITB.

Lord Mellish

My Lords, is it not on record that the Government have said that the Construction Industry Training Board scheme is the finest in Britain and an example to be followed? Does it not flow from that that cuts should not be directed at what the Government consider is one of the finest training schemes?

Lord Strathclyde

My Lords, we have already shown our commitment to the CITB by leaving it in its statutory format, while other industry training organisations have been privatised. By the same token, however, we feel that employers themselves should play a greater part in contributing towards the training of their future employees.

Lord Dean of Beswick

My Lords, is the Minister aware that, even though there is a downturn at present in the building industry, there is still a severe shortage of skilled operatives? Come the time when the Government may be able to lower interest rates and the building industry starts to increase its activity again, will it not further exacerbate the problem if there is a growing shortage of skilled operatives? In its own interests the nation will need a larger pool of skilled young people going into the trade. Can the Minister take that on board in his general considerations?

Lord Strathclyde

My Lords, it is precisely because of what the noble Lord said that we feel that employers should contribute more to the training of their future employees.

Lord Rochester

My Lords, on a related question, is it the case that training and enterprise councils have complained of inadequate funding and asked for greater freedom of operation and more control over their budgets? Do the Government agree that these councils should have more autonomy in such matters?

Lord Strathclyde

My Lords, with great respect to the noble Lord, that is another Question.