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Manpower Services Commission (Training Services)

Volume 981: debated on Tuesday 18 March 1980

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15.

asked the Secretary of State for Employment what further changes he is planning to make in the provision of training through the Manpower Services Commission; and if he will make a statement.

The Government's aim, shared by the Manpower Services Commission, is to increase the effectiveness and relevance of training services provided by the Commission and by employers themselves. The Manpower Services Commission plans to expand its direct training services, which can be tailored closely to the needs of individual firms and to increase, within overall programmes, training at technician level and for computer occupations.

Does my right hon. Friend recall that on 5 March the Government said that new skillcentres would be opened in certain areas where they would be put to better use? Will the Secretary of State give an assurance that the rules governing the age at which a young person may enter a skillcentre will be reviewed? Will the Government discuss once again with the TUC the acceptability of a skillcentre course for a young person who is looking, for a skilled job?

I shall look at those points. The proposed building programme comprises a new young persons' centre at Lambeth, an experimental training centre on Merseyside and extensions to the centres at Norwich and Castle Bromwich. Perhaps more attention should be paid to the intake of young people. I shall consider that point.

As the number of unemployed school leavers will double according to the Government's figures by this time next year, and as the number of long term unemployed will increase from about 300,000 to 500,000 during the next few months, does the right hon. Gentleman not regret that the Manpower Services Commission's budget has been reduced by about £300 million? If the Manpower Services Commission will come back within the next few weeks and says that it cannot do the job adequately will the Secretary of State argue with his colleagues that the budget should be increased?

I do not accept the right hon. Gentleman's forecast about the level of youth unemployment. The budget for the youth opportunities scheme has been extended by 25 per cent. this year. Although the amount of cash available for the training budget has been cut, those courses dealing with technical and advanced training have been increased. Skilled labour is needed in those areas.

Is my right hon. Friend satisfied with the criteria that are used by the Manpower Services Commission, particularly in the case of married women when determining admission to TOPS courses? Does he not accept that admission seems to be biased in favour of those women who have yet to get married and produce a family and against those who have already completed their families?

We have made considerable cutbacks on the clerical courses and some of the managerial courses. There has been a low uptake in employment, of about 52 per cent., after those courses have been completed. We should reorient those courses that have a better uptake and those in which people make use of the training that they have been given.