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Volume 169: debated on Tuesday 13 March 1990

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To ask the Secretary of State for Employment what proportion of firms with 10 or more employees provide training.

The latest survey carried out by my Department shows that 80 per cent. of firms with 10 employees or more provided training for their employees in 1986–87. The survey excluded agriculture and the armed services.

Does my hon. Friend agree that those figures are most encouraging for the future? Do not they give the lie effectively to the charge that is often made that British employers are not willing to provide training?

My hon. Friend is right. A total of £33 billion was spent on training in 1986–87, and the amount spent by employers has increased substantially.

When the Minister calculates the amount spent on training, will he include in this year's figure the £11 million given to Astra Training Limited and the land which was passed to Astra, valued at almost £100 million, on which the skill centres are situated? That was a complete break with the policies set out in the Deloitte Corporate Finance Ltd. document issued on behalf of the Department of Employment. When will this ramp of taxpayers' money be given the publicity that it so richly deserves?

That money was made available to ensure that Astra could continue training at those skill centres. It represents an excellent agreement for the taxpayer and those who will continue to get training at the skill centres concerned.

Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that the increase in expenditure on training demonstrates the Government's increasing commitment and the fact that, in addition to the substantial success of the training and enterprise councils, the more control employers have over the delivery of training, the more their commitment will be and the better it will be for the long-term future of the British work force?

I agree entirely with my hon. Friend. Training and enterprise councils represent the most exciting initiative ever in training. I am delighted with their progress and my hon. Friend is absolutely right to recognise it.

Is the Secretary of State aware that the 1989 labour force survey has just been published? Why, after 11 years of indifference and inactivity, do only 14 per cent. of British employees receive any form of either on or off-the-job skills training? Will he concede that we are in the second division for skills training—and not seeking promotion to the first division, but trying to avoid relegation to the third?

I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on drawing on his footballing past for the analogy in his question. I do not accept the suggestion of second division status in any respect. The latest labour force survey statistics show a substantial increase in the number of employees in receipt of training. We propose to build on that increase, and the training and enterprise councils will ensure that we succeed.