To ask the Secretary of State for Employment what steps were taken to ensure that the bid procedure, involved in the privatisation of the Skills Training Agency was fair and reasonable to all potential purchasers.
[holding answer 25 June 1990]: My right hon. Friend the Member for Sutton Coldfield (Sir N. Fowler) announced on 13 March 1989 that he intended to sell the Skills Training Agency by private tender. In September 1989 advertisements were placed in the national press inviting potential bidders to contact Deloitte Corporate Finance for a copy of the information memorandum. The memorandum fully described the STA, the scale of its operation, the nature of its business, and the property that it occupied. Those interested could request information packs which give details of the individual skill centres and other units of sale. Further information was made available to shortlisted bidders, who were able to visit STA sites, talk to local managers, and make the inquiries they felt necessary to enable them to judge whether to proceed to make a final offer. All bids were evaluated against the same criteria, taking full account of the objectives for the sale. These objectives were placed in the Vote Office on 13 February 1990—[Official Report, 1 May 1990, column 42)· All evaluations and recommendations on bids were made by professional advisers.
To ask the Secretary of State for Employment if the selection of advisers on the privatisation of the Skills Training Agency was based on competitive tendering.
[holding answer 25 June 1990]: Deloitte, Haskins and Sells were appointed on the basis of competitive tender to advise the Secretary of State on the feasibility of transferring the Skills Training Agency into the private sector. Deloittes were then appointed on the basis of a single tender to act as main sale advisers and to undertake some accountancy work.The surveyors, King and Co·, and solicitors, Field Fisher Waterhouse, advising on the sale were also appointed on the basis of competitive tenders.
To ask the Secretary of State for Employment what steps were taken to ensure that the general principles contained in paragraph 32·1·2 of chapter 32 of Her Majesty's Treasury's manual "Government Accounting on Disposal of Assets were observed in the privatisation of the Skills Training Agency.
[holding answer 25 June 1990]: The Department took particular care to ensure that appropriate systems of control were instituted over the disposal of assets involved in the privatisation of the STA· Staff involved in the sale of assets were not involved in valuations. Valuations of premises assets were made by external specialist advisers, appointed for the purpose. Valuations of equipment assets was subject to indexation using the "Business Monitor".
To ask the Secretary of State for Employment how many of the civil servants identified as surplus to requirements in note 11 of the Skills Training Agency accounts 1988–89 had left before 13 February.
[holding answer 25 June 1990]: The number of staff employed in the Skills Training Agency fell by some 500 between March 1989 and February 1990.
To ask the Secretary of State for Employment on which assets the clawback procedure for the Skills Training Agency privatisation will apply.
[holding answer 25 June 1990]: Clawback has been applied to the freehold and long leasehold properties acquired by Astra Training Services Limited It will be applied as appropriate when the Government's remaining property interests in the STA are sold.
To ask the Secretary of State for Employment if he will make a statement on the reasons for the reduction of employers' income to the Skills Training Agency from March 1989 to February 1990.
[holding answer 25 June 1990]: The employer income received by the Skills Training Agency between April 1989 and March 1990 was £12·4 million compared to £13·8 million in the previous year. The reduction reflected in part the ending of two short-term training schemes, funded by the construction industry training board and the engineering industry training board respectively, which were available in 1988–89 but not in 1989–90; and in part a substantial reduction in the size of the British Coal retraining scheme for redundant employees.
To ask the Secretary of State far Employment if METEL, and The Training Business Group Ltd·, have benefited in any of the contractual agreements covering employment conditions or pension rights following the privatisation of the Skills Training Agency; and if he will make a statement.
[holding answer 25 June 1990]: The contractual agreements covering employment terms and conditions met the requirements of the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations. Pension and redundancy terms met requirements set by the Secretary of State. These regulations and requirements applied to all purchasers, including METEL and The Training Business, and were for the benefit of staff transferring to the private sector.