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Payroll Levy

Volume 205: debated on Tuesday 10 March 1992

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To ask the Secretary of State for Employment what recent representations he has received on the subject of the introduction of a statutory payroll levy.

I have received representations from various sources on the subject of a statutory payroll levy related to employers' training expenditure. The most recent, from the Institute of Directors, firmly opposed

"any system of levy or tax that discriminates between employers on the basis of assumptions about what a firm spends on training".

Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that, among the many business men who have condemned the payroll tax as likely to cost companies money and, therefore, jobs, is the president of the chamber of trade in Teesside? Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that if the Labour spokesman is unable to convert to Labour policies those business men in his immediate area, he is also unlikely to convince the country?

I entirely agree with my hon. Friend. Increasingly, we find protests from employers in the area represented by the hon. Member for Sedgefield (Mr. Blair) about the effect of his policies and those of the Labour party. The truth is now out—Labour's policies would be disastrous for jobs.

Is the Secretary of State aware that the labour force survey was published today? Will he take time to explain to the House why, in the past year, 177,000 fewer people were in training in Britain—a reduction of 5·4 per cent? Whatever happened to all the talk about a world-class skills revolution? What about the fact that £20 billion is supposed to be spent by industrialists? Is not it really the case that the Government do not care about training, that we have a disastrous training record and that it is high time that we had a Labour Government to tackle the problems?

The same survey showed an increase of more than 100 per cent. between 1984 and 1991 in the number of people receiving training paid for by their employers and seven times as many people receiving training now as in 1979. That is the reply to the Opposition's synthetic protestations. [Interruption.]