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Employment Training

Volume 174: debated on Monday 18 June 1990

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To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what plans he has to maintain employment training in Wales.

Employment training in the future will be delivered by the employer-led training and enterprise councils. I am confident that they will provide a first-class service tailored to local needs.

On behalf of my Opposition colleagues, I offer congratulations to the hon. Gentleman on his honour. He must know that, above the party battle, he enjoys much affection from all hon. Members.

In view of the proposed closures of the Blaenant colliery and the Brymbo steelworks, will there be special training programmes to meet the requirements of those who cannot be accommodated within their existing industries? Are there likely to be special training facilities available in Neath and Brymbo to deal with the problems that will arise in relation to young people for whom the industrial disasters in Wales will create difficult employment problems?

I am well aware that the closure of Blaenant colliery led to 580 redundancies. I am glad to say that, as we have designated that district as an area of large-scale redundancy, this means that there will be immediate entry to the employment training programme for those involved. The programmes's capacity to cope with the numbers involved will depend on the number of applicants from among the coalminers, but we are monitoring the position carefully through the Training Agency. It is a little premature to talk of such designation in relation to Brymbo.

Is the Minister of State aware that the new programme has reduced the number of places in Mid Glamorgan by 538? Is he also aware that when the community programme was thrown out there were 300 redundancies on Community Action Training Ogwr alone of which I am chairman in Mid Glamorgan? Is he also aware that the underfunding will mean that a number of training agencies will close their books, thus pushing trainers and trainees back on to the dole queue? Is it not time for some stability in the training programme so that trainers can plan their programmes?

I am aware of the hon. Gentleman's connection with the community training organisation at Ogwr. I am happy that at least all the employment training providers in Mid Glamorgan have re-contracted. I know that CATO did not get all the 250 places that it asked for. It received 217 places, however, which partly reflects the fall in the occupancy rate from 292 to 220 by 9 May this year.

Bearing in mind 1992 and the opening of the channel tunnel, and the ferocious competition to which Wales and Britain will be subjected in the years immediately ahead, does the Minister agree that we need more investment in training? I emphasise the localities of Blaenant, Swansea, Kidwelly, Hirwaun and Brymbo and the problems associated with the loss of 2,000 jobs. We do not want any complacency. Why has the Minister of State accepted a £2·5 million, 7·5 per cent. cut in employment training?

The hon. Gentleman must not seek to outdo me in stressing the importance of training. I fully agree with what he has said—we have always placed it in the forefront and given it the very highest priority. This year there is a total budget of £144,324,000 for spending through the Training Agency in Wales. That is a little less than last year, but the agency underspent last year. The employment situation has improved and employment prospects are good, despite the small increase in unemployment last month.

Training is all-important, and we have been highly successful in setting up training and enterprise councils throughout Wales. All are in the development stage and we trust that they will all be up and running before the end of the year.

Order. We are making rather slow progress. I ask for brief questions, and then perhaps we shall have briefer answers.