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Skilled Tradesmen (Vacancies)

Volume 980: debated on Wednesday 5 March 1980

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asked the Secretary of State for Scotland how many vacancies exist for skilled tradesmen in Scotland.

Vacancies in the craft and similar occupations group notified to employment offices and job-centres in Scotland and remaining unfilled on 30 November 1979 totalled 4,800. That figure does not necessarily include all skilled occupations.

Does my hon. Friend recognise that those figures demonstrate the dilemma of employment in Scotland? Will he accept that although unemployment is rising there is, nevertheless, a shortage in the skilled sector? In his responsibility for industry and education, will my hon. Friend concentrate on training opportunities for skills and not indulge in make-work schemes as the previous Administration did?

My hon. Friend is absolutely correct in saying that we must try to make training schemes much more relevant to the vacancies that exist. The Manpower Services Commission has indicated that unreported vacancies in Scotland may double the number of vacancies reported.

Is the Minister aware that, because of the cuts in the Manpower Services Commission budget, measures to expand, explore and develop the labour market for skilled men in the engineering industry have been turned down in Lanarkshire? Will the hon. Gentleman accept that at a time when there is such a shortage of skilled engineering staff in the expanding electrical, electronic and engineering industries in Scotland, it is deplorable that the activities of the MSC are being cut?

I know that there are vacancies because a sufficient number of people are not taking up places in skill-centres and other establishments. I am not aware that people who wish to take up places are being turned away. I should be interested to hear from the hon. Gentleman of any examples of people being turned away from skillcentres.

Does the Minister agree that one of the causes of skill shortages is geographical immobility? Does he agree also that that problem will be substantially helped by the measures in the Tenants' Rights Etc. (Scotland) Bill?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. Scotland has suffered for many years from immobility of its labour force. The Tenants' Rights Etc. (Scotland) Bill will go a long way towards helping to resolve that problem.

Surely the figures given by the Minister about the shortage of skilled manpower in Scotland make nonsense of the Government's decision to close two skillcentres in Scotland and to stop the go-ahead given to the development of a new skillcentre at Irvine.

The figures that I gave related to job vacancies. No decision has been made to close any skillcentres in Scotland.

Order. I propose to call one more hon. Member from either side and to allow an extra minute at the end of Question Time.

Is my hon. Friend aware that there might be many more opportunities for skilled tradesmen if small businesses are allowed to expand? Is he aware also that many of those businesses are worried that they may not be allowed to complete their expansion before the removal of assisted area status, owing to the prolongation of the steel strike? In that case, will he give an undertaking to look sympathetically at any such problems?

Is the Minister aware that Scotland suffers not from the immobility of the labour force but from the inability of Scottish Office Ministers? Is the Minister saying that he proposes to close down skillcentres because there are not sufficient applications to take up the places in them? Would it not be much more progressive to advertise more extensively that these places are available and to encourage the 200 unemployed people whom he causes each day to become unemployed to take up these places?

It is anticipated that when the Manpower Services Commission has completed its rationalisation of skillcentres in Scotland more places will be made available, not fewer.