asked the Secretary of State for Employment which statutory industrial training boards scheduled for abolition in 1982 he has visited; and if he will make a statement.
I met the chairman and a number of members of every industrial training board last year before the Government took decisions on their future. I have made it clear that as and when any issue arises, I am always ready to discuss it personally with the chairmen of training boards.
Does the Minister agree that it is wrong to abolish the statutory training boards in such industries as distribution, paper products, and food and drink? Is not the way in which the boards operate with insufficient budgets and staffing a horror story? Have not the TUC and the CBI expressed concern at the incompetent manner in which the Department is handling these matters?
Does my hon. Friend agree that where a single firm, such as Hoover at Perivale, is replaced after tragically folding, with several different types of concerns on the same site, industrial training boards do not have a direct application and that new mechanisms for training workers for the new jobs are required?
I agree with my hon. Friend that we need a more flexible attitude towards training, and that is one of the principal elements in the new training initiative.
Is the Minister aware that there is general widespread unease about the proposed abolition of the training boards? Given the obvious lack of training in this country compared with our major competitors, will he please ensure that on the proposed voluntary arrangements we can establish what are the criteria and how the voluntary arrangements work on the basis of them, so that we can reverse his disastrous decision at the earliest opportunity?
I am not aware of the general unease, except from certain vested interests. I am aware that the Government have put training high on their list of priorities with the publication of the new training initiative, the backing to it and the £1,000 million a year given to the youth training scheme.
May I remind my hon. Friend that one of the training boards due for abolition relates to the footwear and leather industries. Is he aware that about 500 further redundancies in that industry were announced last weekend in Northamptonshire alone? Will he therefore give some indication on behalf of the Government that there is some confidence in the future of the industry? Many of my constituents are extremely concerned that, with the abolition of the training boards and the continued decline of the industry, the Government might be abandoning a traditional, hardworking and loyal industry?
I assure my hon. Friend that the Government have no lack of confidence in the footwear industry and that the proposed abolition of the Footwear, Leather and Fur Skin Industry Training Board should not give that indication.