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Volume 19: debated on Tuesday 2 March 1982

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asked the Secretary of State for Employment whether he is satisfied that sufficient training schemes will be available under the new training initiative to guarantee a place for all applicants.

The new youth training scheme includes a guaranteed offer of a training place to all unemployed school leavers who leave school at the minimum age. We are working towards this goal now, and we will need the wholehearted co-operation of all concerned to reach it.

Does my hon. Friend agree that some of the comments of Opposition Members—particularly the right hon. Member for Crosby (Mrs. Williams), who called this scheme cheap and cosmetic, while doing nothing herself when she was able to get a scheme on to the statute book—will or could undermine the work of the Manpower Services Commission, which is desperately trying to get this worthwhile and positive scheme off the ground?

I agree with my hon. Friend that the right hon. Member for Crosby (Mrs. Williams) had ample opportunity to bring in a scheme such as this, but apparently did not desire to do so. I also agree with my hon. Friend that it is neither constructive nor helpful for one or two hon. Members on the Opposition Benches to niggle about a scheme that is costing a fantastic amount of money and that will serve school leavers extremely well.

Is the Minister aware that one of the rules says that refusal of a reasonable offer disqualifies an applicant from benefit? Who decides what a reasonable offer is, and what is a reasonable offer?

The hon. Gentleman will be aware that the goal is to provide for every school leaver who does not have a job an opportunity of a place on a scheme. We want to make sure that round pegs fit into round holes and square pegs into square holes. I should have thought that

Will my hon. Friend ensure that, under the training initiative, local education authorities are used to the maximum, in co-operation with the Manpower Services Commission, because they often have facilities that could be made available within the new initiative, and it is important to maximise those facilities?

I agree with what my hon. Friend says, that local education authorities have facilities and resources that the new training initiative and the new training scheme can use. To the best of my knowledge, the co-operation and collaboration between the Manpower Services Commission and the education authorities is progressing well.

Is it not clear that the scrapping of most of the statutory industrial training boards has placed industrial training in many industries under threat of imminent and total collapse? Is it not obvious that the voluntary system that the Government propose is desperately short of volunteers and that Manpower Services Commission is near despair over the consequences of the Government's policies? Should not the Government think again about this lunatic idea?

The answer to the right hon. Gentleman is "No", "No", "No". I am sure that he would agree that industrial training boards per se did not train anybody. They oversaw training that was done in the industries, and I have great confidence that the voluntary organisations will do that, too.


asked the Secretary of State for Employment if he will make a statement on the future of the scheme announced for apprentice training by the electical contractors.

I welcome the electrical contracting industry's proposals for a new training scheme. They are wholly consistent with the Government's new training initiative.

Bearing in mind that Germany has four times as many apprentices every year as we have in Britain, can my hon. Friend at this stage give us an idea of the increase in numbers, quality and standards of British apprentices if more industries follow the example of the electrical contractors? What is the reaction of the Construction Industry Training Board to the electrical contractors going it on their own?

In answer to my hon. Friend's second question, the Construction Industry Training Board has tbaken a flexible line, and the proposals by the electrical contracting industry will be put forward within the construction industry training board. As for my hon. Friend's first question concerning my estimate of the increase in the number of apprentices, at this stage it is rather difficult to give him that information.

Is the Minister aware of the failure of private building contractors, with a handful of honourable exceptions, to employ and train apprentices? Is he aware that throughout the country, including Manchester and Salford, the majority of places in technical colleges for these apprenticeships are going to direct labour organisations? Will he therefore encourage DLOs, rather than decimate them, as he is doing at present?

I am aware that there are some cutbacks in apprenticeship training, but I am also aware that the Manpower Services Commission, on behalf of the Government, is subsidising 35,000 first-year apprentices at a cost of £50 million, where it is necessary. That applies to the construction industry as well as to other industries.