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Employment

Volume 80: debated on Tuesday 11 June 1985

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Crown Immunity

1.

asked the Secretary of State for Employment what representations he has received about removing Crown immunity from workplaces covered by the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act; and what consideration he has given to the matter.

The General Municipal, Boilermakers and Allied Trades Union has sent my right hon. Friend a report on this subject. This followed our meeting with the trade union, the right hon. Member and other right hon. and hon. Members on 17 April. We have asked the Health and Safety Commission for its considered view of the case set out in the report.

I welcome that request to the Health and Safety ▸Commission. However, is the Minister aware that Crown immunity protects from criminal prosecution so-called Crown institutions, such as hospitals, when they break the law under the Health and Safety Acts and that this is gravely damaging to patients? Can he give one good reason why a hospital which food-poisons its patients should be immune from prosecution when a hotel which food-poisons its visitors can be prosecuted?

As the right hon. Gentleman knows, the food hygiene regulations are a matter for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services. I cannot give him a good reason, but I can give him a true reason. It took two years, from 1977 to 1979, for the Labour Government to take no action. I therefore believe that we are pursuing the right course in asking the commission for its advice, and we shall then consider the advice that it gives.

Does my hon. Friend realise that hon. Members on both sides of the House feel that inactivity in this regard is quite shameful? Frankly, the deaths from food poisoning at the Stanley Royd hospital in Wakefield cannot be tolerated. At present, patients going into hospital face possible danger. However, there is no question of environmental health officers being entitled to go into hospitals—they go in by invitation. I therefore urge my hon. Friend seriously to hold talks so that Crown immunity is stripped away to ensure that patients enjoy the same privileges as they do if they dine in a hotel or restaurant.

As I have said, we shall give serious consideration to the advice for which we have asked. Although there are differences between Crown and non-Crown premises, there is a shadow procedure for Crown notices similar to statutory notices, which ought to have a great effect.

Disabled Persons

asked the Secretary of State for Employment if he is satisfied with the operation of the quota system for the employment of disabled people.

The Government have been concerned for some time about the working of the quota scheme. I have recently received from the Manpower Services Commission a report on the scheme by a working group representing all interested parties. I am now considering its advice and recommendations.

As only 30 per cent. of employers reach the 3 per cent. quota, will the Minister use the code of practice on the employment of disabled people as a means of strengthening the quota? If the code of practice does not work, will he give statutory backing to it?

As the House knows, the hon. Lady has long and valuable experience of this subject. From our evidence to the all-party disablement group six weeks ago, she will be aware that the principal difficulty is the reluctance of disabled people to register. However, the DROs in the employment service are doing their best to persuade employers the advantages of employing disabled people. I am glad to say that this is reflected in the figures for placings, which have gone up from 69,000 to 71,000 against an extremely disappointing general employment background. We hope that this trend will continue. If it does not, and in the light of research which the special MSC report recommends, we shall consider what further action to take.

I am delighted that my hon. Friend is at last beginning to tackle the problem. What does he intend to do about the certification of exemption, which is all too readily available to employers? Does he agree that the regulations for exemptions should be much stricter and stiffer?

I appreciate my hon. Friend's point. The reluctance of disabled people to register means that only 32,000 registered disabled people are eligible and available for the quota scheme, so, even if every one of them were taken into employment, the total would still be less than half that required by the Act.

Does the Minister agree that Government Departments could set a good example by fulfilling the quota themselves? Is he aware that data made available earlier this year show that only five out of 44 Government Departments reached the 3 per cent. quota, and that, even more disgracefully, the DHSS, which ought to be well above the quota, accounts for only 1.5 per cent.? Will the Minister ask his colleagues to do something about that?

The hon. Gentleman is perfectly right. The Government should set an example. As I have explained, the sheer mathematics of the problem makes it virtually impossible to comply, but I take his point about the poor figures for the majority of Government Departments. I have written to them once about this and I shall be writing again. I am glad to say that by Department has the best record of all with a figure of 2.5 per cent.

Rade Unions (Postal Voting)

asked the Secretary of State for Employment if he will now introduce legislation to make compulsory the use of postal voting in ballots for trade union political funds.

If the Secretary of State will not go so far as legislation, will he at least authorise the certification officer to grant exemption from postal balloting based on the case put to him by individual unions?

The rules have been agreed by the House and the ballots are now taking place. One has been a fully postal ballot; two have been conducted on a part workplace and part postal basis. I am encouraged by reports of the efforts being made to conduct the ballots in the appropriate way. The House will remember this in the future and will expect the same standards to be observed by all unions.

Does my right hon. Friend accept that irregular and corrupt practices regularly take place in union elections, not just in relation to political funds, but in the election of union officers and when strike decisions are taken at mass meetings? Does he agree that it is time those practices were brought to a halt in the interests of the average union member?

My hon. Friend helpfully supported legislation which has effectively outlawed mass meetings and removed immunity from them. We welcome the procedure increasingly being followed in any question of strike or industrial action whereby there must be a secret ballot if immunity is to be retained. That is a most important and successful reform.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the ballots on political funds that have taken place so far have been extremely successful, not just in their results, but in the way in which they have been conducted? Is he further aware that more discussion and interest is shown by trade union members in workplace ballots than in postal ballots, as the turnout figures show?

I confirm that my information is that in the one fully postal ballot the turnout was 20 per cent., whereas in the two part workplace and part postal ballots the figures were 57 per cent. and 67 per cent. Despite all the opposition from Labour Members about monstrous and impossible impositions on trade unions, I note and welcome the observance of our legislation by the unions. We shall note the efforts made to ensure fair balloting, and we shall expect that to be the practice in all future ballots in the interests of union members.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that far too much money is donated to and by trade unions without ballots and proper consultation? Was that not illustrated last weekend by the unfortunate donation of £16,000 by the rock star, Bruce Springsteen, to support miners who were sacked during the strike, which probably also illustrates a lack of proper consideration and advice?

With regard to the legislation and the steps that are being taken, I welcome the important development that if a ballot for political funds is conducted, and is successful, it is the duty of that union to notify each of its members under the 1930 legislation, which was repeated in the 1984 Act, of their right to contract out of that political fund. If the ballots are to be correctly conducted, the House would expect that step to be implemented.

Is the Secretary of State aware that we do not want lectures from Conservative Members of Parliament, who get money from companies which are members of the CBI—which would not know a ballot if it stared them in the face — and that we do not need hypocrisy from the Liberal party, which has just received the biggest-ever political donation of £188,000 from the British School of Motoring and for which no ballot was conducted? Would it not be a good idea if everyone who has paid through the nose for lessons at the British School of Motoring were given the chance of a ballot to decide whether the Liberal party should have received that money? Is it not the height of hypocrisy?

I am surprised that the hon. Gentleman has still not learnt the important lesson. As a Member sponsored by a union that must bitterly regret the fact that it did not dare to consult its members before embarking on such a disastrous strike, I should have thought that even he might have begun to understand the merits of ballots.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that postal balloting must be evaluated in the much wider context of an improvement in the general industrial climate? Therefore, will he join me in welcoming the recent decision by British Rail to end the closed shop?

I noted that announcement. My impression was that the closed shop in British Rail ended about two years ago, and I am surprised at the excitement about the announcement. Following our legislation, the British Gas Corporation, the Post Office, British Telecommunications and all the water authorities have notified all their unions that the closed shop is ended.

Will the Secretary of State make it clear that he rejects the scurrilous charges that are made about irregularities in ballots without the production of evidence? If no such evidence is available, we should treat those charges with the contempt that they deserve. Does the Secretary of State accept, after three political fund ballots, that a combination of workplace and postal ballots produces twice as many participants as does a pure postal ballot? Will he make that clear to the Prime Minister, who is considering new legislation for the trade unions in pursuit of her vendetta against them?

It is incredible that, so recently after the serious events in the Transport and General Workers Union, the hon. Gentleman can allege that there are no malpractices in trade union elections. If anything could clearly underline the importance of our legislation and of the emphasis that we have given to fair and secret ballots, those recent events have done so.

Youth Training Scheme

4.

asked the Secretary of State for Employment when he will next meet the chairman of the Manpower Services Commission to discuss the second year of the youth training scheme.

My right hon. Friend and I frequently discuss the progress and development of the youth training scheme with the chairman of the Manpower Services Commission, and did so yesterday.

At one of his meetings, will the Minister of State make sure that he gives a very strong lead on the second year of the youth training scheme? If the second year of YTS is not planned as a proper foundation stone for a real training programme for our young people, YTS and all the Government's temporary training measures will fall totally into disrepute. We must have a foundation stone for real training in the 21st century, not cheap job experience.

I agree entirely with the hon. Gentleman. It is absolutely crucial that the second year of the youth training scheme should be real training, with qualifications at the end of it, so I am delighted to have his support. I can assure the hon. Gentleman that that is precisely what my right hon. Friend and I and the chairman of the Manpower Services Commission are saying.

Following the launch of the Genesis programme, when my hon. Friend sees the chairman of the Manpower Services Commission will he discuss how greater advice and encouragement can be given to trainees to use their skills to set up their own businesses?

My hon. Friend will be pleased to hear that the enterprise courses are part of the youth training scheme. I agree that many trainees should consider setting up in business on their own. In fact, that has already happened.

Labour Statistics

5.

asked the Secretary of State for Employment if he will arrange for equal prominence to be given by his Department in the publication of numbers of people employed at the same time as the release of statistics showing the numbers unemployed.

We seek to give equal emphasis to employment as well as to unemployment, since clearly both statistical series are important to obtain a clear perspective of what is happening in the labour market. The figures are released at different times in the month as soon as they are available.

I share the concern that is felt by all hon. Members about unemployment. Does my right hon. Friend agree that if we were to succeed in securing wider publicity about the number of people employed that would not only recognise the steps that the Government have already taken to create more jobs, but offer some hope in an otherwise rather depressing scene for those who are still unemployed?

I understand my hon. Friend's question. I have been seeking to emphasise that point. Hon. Members know that during the past 18 months there has been a rapid increase in the working population. That has made the task not only of providing more jobs but of reducing unemployment more demanding.

In view of those bullish remarks, does the Secretary of State think that by the time of the next general election there might be a return to the same number of people in employment as there were when the Labour Government left office? If that is too optimistic, does he think that there might be a return to within 1 million of that figure?

The challenge that is being faced not only in this country but in every other country of the Western world is very tough. I have never concealed that fact and I have never sought to put forecasts before the House. I take encouragement from the rapid increase in the number of new jobs being created and from the fact that the most recent forecast of the Confederation of British Industry is the most optimistic for many years. I hope that at last there will be the scale of improvement that every hon. Member wishes to see.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that there are parts of the country—for example, not far from my own—where the number of jobs available is much greater than the number of people applying for them? Does he also agree that one of the disincentives to people seeking employment in those areas is that it is too easy, for young people in particular, to move into employment which is some kind of cul-de-sac? Can he give an assurance that he is taking that point on board?

There is no doubt that the overall figures show a considerable improvement in the number of vacancies, but I am the first to accept that they are not evenly distributed around the country. In many areas there are frequent complants about skill shortages and the difficulty of getting labour for jobs, but that at least shows that there is an improvement. We hope that the improvement in the economy will help to reinforce it.

Since the right hon. Gentleman is so interested in the employment figures as opposed to the unemployment figures, will he now answer the question of my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, North-East (Mr. Leighton) and say what were the employment figures in 1979 and what are the employment figures now.

The figures are known to the House. There is a later question on this subject. Between 1979 and March 1983 there was a net fall of about 1.8 million in the employed labour force. Since March 1983 there has been an increase of about 600,000 in the employed labour force.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the Liverpool research group estimates that the black economy is now worth about £45 million a year? Does he think that people registered as unemployed are contributing towards that vast sum? If so, what can be done about it?

I am under no illusions. It is a substantial figure. The chairman of the Inland Revenue has on occasions tried to make an estimate of the scale of the black economy. I have no doubt that it is substantial and that some unemployed people are taking advantage of the situation. However, I am well aware that there are many parts of the country with substantial problems of unemployment which are not met by explanations of that kind.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the figures would be more realistic and would give us a better ability to interpret the situation if they included whole-time equivalents?

There is obviously something in that. I have made it clear that there are a number of part-time jobs. However, some hon. Members have an illusion that the increase in the employed labour force, to which I have referred, is entirely part-time. I assure the hon. Gentleman that there is an increase in full-time male employment, in full-time female employment, in self-employment and in part-time employment.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that there is growing interest in the employment figures, for two reasons: first, because the CBI has forecast that by the end of this year there will be 1 million more people in work than there were at the last general election; and, secondly, because of the embarrassment that that will cause to the alliance parties, which, in their manifesto at the last election, said that the biggest increase that could be expected over the same period would be far less than one million jobs — about 650,000 — if their policies were pursued?

I do not know how much of an embarrassment it would be. I suppose it would depend on how many people actually read their manifesto. I was not aware of the point as stated by my hon. Friend, but I note what he says. Certainly there is considerable optimism about the creation of more jobs. I do not conceal from the House the challenge that we have to face, with the substantial increase in the working population. We may be meeting that challenge better than other countries in Europe, but not well enough to achieve a real reduction in unemployment.

asked the Secretary of State for Employment what are the numbers of people who have been unemployed for over 12 months; and what this is as a percentage of those registered unemployed.

On 11 April 1985, the latest date for which figures are available, the number of claimants in the United Kingdom who had been unemployed for over 12 months was 1,334,000–41 per cent. of the total.

Does the Minister recollect that in April 1980, 334,000 people, or 23 per cent. of the total, had been unemployed for more than 52 weeks? Is he aware that eminently respectable people, such as Hywel Jones, director of the Henley Centre for Forecasting, have estimated that unemployment will continue to rise year by year until the end of the century? Will the hon. Gentleman look at the facts of the case rather than at dogmatism and produce a policy for employment?

The hon. Gentleman should recall that at the time to which he refers the community enterprise programme was in existence and had 30,000 places. Since then, under the community programme for the long-term unemployed, that has been expanded to 130,000 places. Now, with the Chancellor's announcement in the Budget, it has been increased to 230,000 places. That is a practical example of what the Government are doing and how we care for the long-term unemployed.

As the most notable aspect of the plight of the long-term unemployed is their lack of any formal or educational qualifications, will my hon. Friend pay close attention in any extension of the community programme to the training content of the programme and the prospects for remedial education?

That is precisely what we are doing. As my hon. Friend is probably aware, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has announced that about 50,000 places in the programme will have a training element.

Does the Minister agree with the Prime Minister's weekend statement that there will still be about 3 million people unemployed at the time of the next general election? Do not the figures mean that the overwhelming majority of over-50s who are currently classified as long-term unemployed have no reasonable chance of a full-time job so long as the Conservatives remain in office?

The hon. Gentleman has probably seen the outturn statistics for the community programme.

The hon. Lady is right to ask. They show that one in three get a job and that their opportunity of getting a job is greatly enhanced as a result of the community programme, which, as I explained, has been expanded substantially by the Chancellor's Budget proposals.

The Minister has told us that there are now 1,200,000 fewer people employed than there were in 1979. How many of those who have been unemployed for more than 12 months are young people who, training schemes apart, have never had a job?

I cannot cite the precise statistics. The hon. Gentleman has rightly put his finger on a key area. Many of the 21 to 24-year olds did not have the opportunity offered by a youth training scheme. If the last Labour Government had bitten the bullet in 1978, those people would have had that opportunity. Because of that lack of action, their position has been made rather more difficult.

Young Persons (Langbaurgh)

7.

asked the Secretary of State for Employment if he will make further arrangements to cater for the high unemployment rate amongst young people in the Langbaurgh region in view of the fact that the youth training scheme will not be available to all those eligible in the area.

There has been no shortage of places in the Langbaurgh area under the present youth training scheme; and young people there will benefit substantially from the expansion of the scheme.

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for the reassurance that, despite the rumours in the area, there will not be a shortfall. The major consideration is, however, about the national average of a 60 per cent. take-up of full-time employment after YTS is completed. In Langbaurgh the figure is about 20 per cent., or even less, despite the hard work of the staff. What encouragement will there be for young people to embark upon YTS for one year if their chance of obtaining full-time employment following that scheme is less than 20 per cent.?

The rumours to which my hon. Friend refers are always regrettable because they lead to a great deal of disillusionment and to uncertainty about whether it is worth going on to the scheme. I am glad that my hon. Friend welcomes the expansion of the scheme and the fact that the number of places provided for in Langbaurgh is larger than the number of projected applicants. Subsequent entry into employment must necessarily depend upon the level of economic activity where the scheme is situated. The scheme's extension to two years has been widely welcomed. The extension will give a higher level of skills and training to those participating in the scheme and will further enhance their employment prospects.

Wages Councils

9.

asked the Secretary of State for Employment if he has received any further representations regarding the proposal to abolish or reform wages councils.

Will the hon. Gentleman confirm that there is little evidence that the abolition of the wages councils will create any real jobs? Does the hon. Gentleman not think that the Government would be better occupied in creating real and lasting jobs than in destroying the wages councils, which action will remove the protection for all trained workers?

No, Sir. I take this opportunity to point out that the movement of wages and costs, especially unit labour costs, throughout the economy makes a very substantial difference.

Has my hon. Friend read the recent survey of members of the Institute of Directors, which showed that 54 per cent. of those interviewed would employ more people if wages councils were abolished?

I am delighted to hear that. Most of those members already have the opportunity of doing that because they do not all operate in wages council industries.

Are statistics available for each travel-to-work area giving the number of people covered by wages council awards?

Does my hon. Friend agree that, if the United States had had wages councils, it would not have been able to create 10 million new jobs during the past 10 years? [Interruption.]

I wish that the hon. Member for Birmingham, Ladywood (Ms. Short) would stop answering my questions for me. As she has rightly pointed out, the United States has a national minimum wage. It is important to start looking at the real effects of minimum wage legislation, how it operates in this country and the age groups it most affects.

Will the hon. Gentleman confirm, or deny, that his Department is thinking about attacking the minimum wages paid to people under 21 so that their wages will be about the level paid to people under youth training schemes?

The hon. Gentleman should pay a little attention to the motives and success of the people in the electrical contracting industry, who freely negotiated a reduction in the starting pay and raised the number taking part in traineeships by three times in 18 months. So, the simple answer to his question is no.

If evidence is being called for, is my hon. Friend aware of the work done by Mr. Stanley Siebert of Birmingham university, who has estimated that there are about 230,000 jobs lost for teenagers because of the minimum wage structure established by the wages councils?

Yes. The important thing is to put people on the bottom rungs on the ladder and ensure that more have a chance to move up the ladder.

Given the large number of press leaks that we saw over the weekend, will the Minister tell the House what the Cabinet decided last week—if the Secretary of State has told him? Will the Minister confirm that it means that the current consultation is something of a sham? In reply to a large number of representations it was said that the system should not be weakened in any way. Those assurances have obviously been ignored because of the Cabinet's decision to legislate in the next Session either to weaken or to abolish the wages council system.

The difficulty in answering the hon. Lady is that hers is the only question to which she does not give the answer. The only person to whom I offered advice wrote an article that was exactly the opposite of what I said.

Will my hon. Friend accept that one of the defects of wages councils is the abnormally high rate fixed for school leavers, usually 60 per cent. of the rate for an adult trained worker, and that that precludes the employment of many school leavers?

Yes. It is worth recognising that most school leavers, or people of school leaving age, face four choices. They can stay on at school, getting no income whatever; they can try to get one of the jobs that are available, in a wages council industry or some other industry, at a fairly high rate of pay; they can stay on in education, at a college of further education, where they get less money; or they can use the youth training schemes, where they can get training to make them better qualified for employment. It is better to make sure that the wages that they get in wages council industries are not so high as to stop most of them getting their feet on the bottom rungs of the ladder and moving upwards.

Labour Statistics

11.

asked the Secretary of State for Employment, on the latest available figures, what is the total number of unemployed under the age of 25 years.

On 11 April 1985 the number of unemployed claimants in the United Kingdom under 25 years of age was 1,213,000.

Does the Minister realise the depressing nature of that figure? Have not the Government, through their economic policies, written off a large proportion of the generation under the age of 25? When will the Government act on their behalf? What hope can there be for those people in the future if there is continuation of the same miserable policies?

As I said in answer to a previous question, the Government have not written off the 18 to 25–year-olds. The Government have expanded the community programme to almost double its size. As the hon. Member will be aware, about half of the people on that programme are under 25.

Is it not time that we had a significant drive to get more young people to take jobs in the service industries? In view of the high unemployment figures, is it not ludicrous that restaurants and hotels throughout the country are staffed almost exclusively by foreigners?

I agree in part with what my hon. Friend said. There are many opportunities available in hotels, restaurants and the retail industry. As he will no doubt know, there are large numbers of youth training scheme places aimed at precisely those parts of the economy.

Does the Minister know that, as the end of another school year approaches, the prospects for school leavers throughout the country—certainly in my constituency in Leicester—are very bleak indeed, and that many of their school friends who left at the end of the last school year are still unable to find jobs? The youth training scheme may be admirable, but it is no substitute for a job.

As the hon. and learned Gentleman knows well, in Leicester, as in other parts of the country, every one of this year's school leavers will have the opportunity of taking part in a quality youth training scheme. That is more than ever happened under the last Labour Administration.

One regrets the large number of unemployed people under the age of 25, but is my hon. Friend aware that in the city of Leicester, because of a dispute within NALGO, the community programme has not been agreed as an agency agreement with the city council, and that, therefore, 400 jobs cannot be confirmed? Will my hon. Friend arrange for the jobcentres to publicise the number of jobs going begging, numbering about 1,600 in Leicester? If those jobs were filled, it would reduce the number of unemployed and would be of help to the rest of the country.

As my hon. Friend will know, I am aware that NALGO in Leicester has, for the moment, not approved the community programme. One must, therefore, assume that it is not worried about the long-term unemployed. At present I am looking into that matter.

12.

asked the Secretary of State for Employment what proportion of those in employment are in full-time work; and what the proportion was in May 1979.

The labour force survey conductec in the spring of 1984 found that 79 per cent. of employee; regarded themselves as working full time. That compare; with 82 per cent. in the survey conducted in the spring of 1979.

Does the Minister realise that that reply and those figures mean that there is a growth in part-time employment, which means that there are fewer full-time employees? Is he further aware that those part-time employees are represented in the main by the council—I mean, by wages councils? Bearing in mind that the Government have a policy to abolish wages councils, is the Minister aware that bosses and employers will walk all over those people? It is obviously a typical Tory party policy.

I am certain that the House will feel thai the hon. Gentleman's question lost nothing in the briel interval during which he rehearsed his punchline. If he examines the figures, he will see that the difference between 1979 and 1982 is small. Indeed, the proportior has hardly altered. There is nothing disreputable about part-time work. It is generally accepted that future patterns of employment in industrial societies will include an element of job-sharing and splitting, and flexible early retirement. Government policies and special employment measures are directed towards that.

Skillcentres

13.

asked the Secretary of State for Employment how many people are currently attending skillcentres; and what were the figures for 1984 and 1983.

During April 1985, the latest month for which information is available, on average 8,800 people attended skillcentres at any one time. For April 1984 and April 1983 the numbers were about 10,600 and 12,100 respectively. Overall, however, skillcentres plan to train 35,000 adults in 1985–86 compared with 33,000 in 1984–85 and 31,000 in 1983–84.

Does the Minister recollect the words of the Secretary of State, who recently said that the shortage of skill in Britain represented a time bomb which, if not remedied, would blow the whole economy to pieces? Why, then, has he changed his mind and decided to keep open only two skillcentres out of all those that have been closed? The two that have been re-opened are in Twickenham and Southampton, and members of the Conservative party in those two areas knew that their centres would remain open before the Minister announced publicly the new decision.

I recollect well what my right hon. Friend said about skill shortages. Surely the hon. Gentleman was not listening to my answer. I pointed out that in the year ahead 35,000 people would be trained in skillcentres, compared with 31,000 in 1983–84. Furthermore, thanks to the rejigged adult training strategy, 250,000 people will be trained next year, as opposed to 125,000 in the past year.

Does my hon. Friend agree that it does not matter whether the physical building is called a skillcentre, a technical college or a training centre; what matters is the quantity, quality and cost-effectiveness of the training?

I could not agree more with my hon. Friend. That is precisely why the adult training strategy has been adopted.

Will the Minister come clean and accept that the so-called re-jigging hides the fact that throughout the country short-term "cheapo" courses are being substituted for genuine year-long skills training in our skillcentres? Is it not a surprise that the two skillcentres that the Minister has saved are in Tory marginal seats? Is he aware that men and women in other areas will take that lesson hard, they having had their skill-training opportunities taken away from them?

The decision as to which skillcentres to keep was made entirely by the chairman of the Manpower Services Commission. The hon. Gentleman will know that the leader of the CSU pleaded with the chairman of the MSC to retain the Southampton skillcentre. He will know also that it was the Labour-controlled council which guaranteed money for the Southampton centre. Those are the facts.