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Astra Training

Volume 229: debated on Tuesday 27 July 1993

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To ask the Secretary of State for Employment what action he intends to take to secure training programmes undertaken by, and the future employment of, staff employed by Astra Training in Sheffield.

The Department contracts with training and enterprise councils for the delivery of training programmes in their areas. It places a contractual obligation on the TECs, where a training provider closes, to find the trainees concerned suitable alternative training. This provision will come into effect in the event that Astra's receivers close any skillcentres. We understand that skillcentres are continuing to offer services to customers while the trading position is reviewed.

Where redundancies take place among Astra's staff, whether in Sheffield or elsewhere, the full facilities of the Employment Service are available to help the people concerned find alternative work. The redundancy payments service is already in touch with the receiver to ensure that where redundancies do occur, statutory payments are made as soon as possible.

To ask the Secretary of State for Employment what residual obligation his Department has to the staff and trainees currently employed by the collapsed firm Astra.

As was made clear from the outset, the sale of the Skills Training Agency in 1990 was conducted on a clean-break basis. At the time of the sale, the Government ensured that the staff who transferred to Astra were covered by the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations and that Astra and other purchasers provided pension and redundancy rights in line with ministerial undertakings. The Department has no continuing obligation to Astra staff who were civil servants. The Department's contract with training and enterprise councils requires suitable alternative training to be found for trainees whose training is affected by any closure of a training centre.

To ask the Secretary of State for Employment what action he intends to take to provide training facilities to replace those lost by the collapse of Astra.

The Department contracts with training and enterprise councils for the delivery of training programmes in their areas. It places a contractual obligation on the TECs, where a training provider closes, to find the trainees concerned suitable alternative training. This provision will come into effect in the event that Astra's receivers close any skillcentres. We understand that skillcentres are continuing to offer services to customers while the trading position is reviewed.

To ask the Secretary of State for Employment what protection for the staff employed in the training centres were negotiated with Astra plc when the sale was made.

The sale of skillcentres to Astra—and other purchasers—in 1990 was governed by the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations—TUPE. This meant that those terms and conditions to which staff were entitled and which were covered by TUPE transferred with staff to their new employment. In addition the Government required purchasers to provide pensions broadly comparable to those applying to the civil service, and redundancy rights at least equivalent to the civil service terms in force at the date of sale. These measures prevented changes being made to terms and conditions for reasons due to the transfer itself, but were not agreed in perpetuity.