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Volume 173: debated on Tuesday 5 June 1990

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To ask the Secretary of State for Employment (1) if he will make a statement on his recent visit to Czechoslovakia;(2) if he will make a statement on the programme of assistance to Czechoslovakia, recently agreed with his Czech opposite number.

I visited Czechoslovakia from 13 to 15 May at the invitation of the Federal Minister of Labour and Social Affairs, Mr. Peter Miller, during which time I also had talks with the Prime Minister, Mr. Calfa, other Federal Government Ministers, industrialists and a trade union leader.Discussions focused on the importance of creating the right climate in which enterprise can flourish, and the more immediate practical help and advice my Department can provide.On 14 May Mr. Miller and I signed a joint statement on co-operation between our two countries in the labour market area.We agreed a programme of immediate assistance which will include advice and practical help in establishing arrangements for the training and retraining of adults and in the development of small firms and employment services. We also agreed to set up a joint planning group to co-ordinate assistance and to develop proposals for further projects.In addition, I have agreed to second a senior official from my Department to the Czechoslovakian Prime Minister's office to provide advice as Czechoslovakia introduces its economic reforms and moves to a market economy, including advice on labour market aspects.I am very pleased that the Czechoslovak Government have asked my Department for assistance and that we have been able to agree a programme of co-operation. I look forward to the development of a rewarding and beneficial relationship between our respective Ministries.