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Baroness Masham of Ilton: I wish to add one point which has not been mentioned. There might be a problem with maternity leave if the carer became pregnant and had a baby. Perhaps local authorities should be encouraged to be flexible and take such matters and all extra payments into consideration.

Lord Addington: I wish to support the amendment which is based on common sense. If you are to provide someone with the ability to purchase or employ--that is, the carer and the support services--he must have this type of backing. Otherwise it is conceivable that funds will be insufficient, as has been pointed out--and practical examples ram the point home--or that he will run into legal problems. Unless one is prepared to fund the whole thing properly, as with all types of care outside institutions, there is a distinct danger that, with the best will in the world, what one has may well be worse than whatever it replaces.

Baroness Cumberlege: It will be for local authorities to determine the level of direct payments. Just as authorities decide on the nature and level of a community care service which someone receives, so it should be the local authority which decides on the level of the direct payment, the basis of its calculation and what it is meant to cover.

Not everyone who receives direct payments will wish to become an employer. Others may contract with an agency or secure services in some other way. We feel that to give local authorities a legal duty to include an allowance for a specific item which would not necessarily be relevant, would not be sensible. It would also fundamentally undermine local authorities' discretion in their dealings with individuals, which is at the heart of community care legislation.

I understand the points made by Members of the Committee in regard to having sufficient funds to cover the care needs of the individual. That is something which, of course, I endorse, but I believe that it has to be left to local authorities to decide what that level should be.

Baroness Hamwee: Before the noble Lord responds, perhaps I may reinforce the support for the amendment from these Benches. I had thought that the Minister might reply that the amendment was unnecessary because the cost of securing the provision of services--the wording in Clause 1--might be interpreted as extending to all the costs, including those which the noble Lord, Lord Swinfen, mentioned. However, I am rather more perturbed now because the Minister seems to be suggesting that the cost mentioned in Clause 1 may not be the full cost.

Lord Swinfen: I too was somewhat disappointed by the reply. My noble friend seems to think that because a number of people in receipt of grants would be using agencies to provide staff, they would not need to worry about the on-costs. But the agencies would have to provide the national insurance contributions, the holiday

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and sick pay and all the rest of it. They would have to include it in the charge that they made to the recipient of the grant. Therefore, fewer hours of care could be bought with the grant than might be provided by the local authority if the local authority which was not responsible for all the costs--particularly value added tax--were basing the grant on exactly what it was paying for the services. It might not necessarily be so in all cases but it may well be that the staff employed by the agencies were better trained and therefore entitled to higher rates of pay. All these matters need to be taken into account.

I hope that my noble friend will consider this between now and the next stage of the Bill. I intended this as a probing amendment; therefore I shall not be awkward to my noble friends at this hour of the evening and divide the Committee. However, we should return to this matter at the next stage. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Baroness Trumpington: I beg to move that the House be now resumed. I suggest that the Committee stage begin again at 8.10 p.m.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

House resumed.

Industrial Training Levy (Construction Board) Order 1996

7.10 p.m.

The Minister of State, Department for Education and Employment (Lord Henley) rose to move, That the draft order laid before the House on 30th November be approved [3rd Report from the Joint Committee].

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move that the Industrial Training Levy (Construction Board) Order be approved. It may be for the convenience of the House if I also speak to the other order in my name, the Industrial Training Levy (Engineering Construction Board) Order.

The proposals before the House this evening seek authority for the Construction Industry Training Board and the Engineering Construction Industry Training Board to impose a levy on employers in their industries to finance their training activities, including grants schemes, and to fund the operating costs of the boards. Provision for this is contained in the Industrial Training Act 1982 and the orders before the House would give effect to proposals submitted by the two boards.

The proposals from each board include provision to raise a levy in excess of 1 per cent. of an employer's payroll. The Industrial Training Act 1982 requires that in such cases the proposals must be approved by affirmative resolution of both Houses. In each case the proposals are exactly the same as those approved by both Houses last year. As in previous orders they are based on employers' payrolls and their use of sub-contract labour.

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As required by the Industrial Training Act, both boards have provided for the exemption of small firms from the levy. The level at which this exemption takes effect is unchanged from last year and aims to strike the right balance between helping small firms to grow and giving them unfair commercial advantage. However, all firms need a skilled, competent workforce if they are to be competitive, and small, non-levy paying firms in these sectors are encouraged to take advantage of the services offered by the boards and to provide placement opportunities for trainees.

The Construction Industry Training Board proposes to raise a two-part levy: 0.25 per cent. of payroll and 2 per cent. of net expenditure by employers on labour-only sub-contracting. Employers with combined payroll and labour-only payments of less than £61,000 are exempt from paying the levy.

The Engineering Construction Industry Training Board treats its head offices and construction sites as separate establishments and proposes to raise a four-part levy: for head offices the rates are 0.4 per cent. of payroll and 0.5 per cent. of net expenditure by employers on labour-only sub-contracting. Those head offices employing 40 or fewer employees are exempt from paying the levy. The rates for sites are 1.5 per cent. of payroll and 2 per cent. of net expenditure by employers on labour-only sub-contracting. There is exemption for site employers with combined payroll and net labour-only payments of £75,000 or less. The higher rates on labour-only payments reflect the fact that employers using labour-only sub-contractors do not, in the main, play any active part in the training of the pool of skilled labour from which they recruit.

Both sets of proposals involve levy rates in excess of 0.2 per cent. with no provision for exempting employers who make their own training arrangements. In such cases the Act requires boards to demonstrate that the proposals have the support of the employers in the industry. I am satisfied that each of the boards has obtained that support.

The House will know that the two boards are the only two statutory industry training boards. They have been retained at the express wish of their industries and a crucial indicator of their effectiveness is the continuing level of support from employers.

The draft orders before the House will enable the two boards to carry out their training responsibilities in 1996, and I believe it is right that the House should agree to approve them. I commend the orders to the House.

Moved, That the draft order laid before the House on 30th November be approved [3rd Report from the Joint Committee]--(Lord Henley.)

7.15 p.m.

Baroness Turner of Camden: My Lords, I thank the Minister for his explanation of these two orders. They were, of course, the subject of a lengthy debate and even, I believe, a vote in the other place. Much of that debate related to the quality, or rather the perceived lack of quality, of the Government's training schemes.

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Although there is much to be said on that score, it is a subject for another debate and I do not intend to follow that path tonight.

Moreover, after lengthy debate in the other place, the orders were approved. The Minister will know that it is not the custom of this House to seek to oppose what has already been approved in the other place; nor do I think it would be a good idea to do so. However, there are one or two points that I should like to make.

The Minister will know, as I have said so on many previous occasions, that I was a supporter of industry training boards, and in particular of the CITB and EITB. I was not opposed to the industry board system being subject to review--some ITBs were no doubt no longer performing a useful function. But the fact that the training provided was industry-specific was a tremendous point in their favour. Both the EITB and the CITB in particular were doing a very good job indeed. I regret that the Government did not see fit to permit the continuation of the Engineering Industry Training Board in its previous set-up, except in relation to construction.

I also favour the levy system, although I regret the exclusion of small firms. I believe all employers in the industry should make a contribution to training. Incidentally, it would appear that the Federation of Master Builders shares this view. I was somewhat agreeably surprised to find that was the case. I had expected it to support the exclusion of small employers, but I believe that it has not done so.

The construction industry, unfortunately, appears to have been shedding labour recently. The looked-for upturn has not yet happened. That is no doubt because the housing market is still stagnant. Yet there is plainly a need for construction projects, most notably in housing. One would have expected local authorities to be leading the way in housing provision but, as we know, government policy has been to discourage local authorities from operating in this field, putting the emphasis on housing associations, which do not have the resources to provide the stimulus needed. I mention this because even very good training schemes founder if the participants can see no prospect of employment at the end of the training period. That is important in view of the much higher rate of unemployment among young males. As we all know, this can bring all kinds of social problems in its train. Government policy should be directed to ensuring that construction continues to offer employment to trained personnel--and employment, moreover, that appears to offer some degree of continuity and security. Trainee target numbers have, I am informed, been cut for two years. The reason is that there is simply not the work in the industry. I am informed by the CITB that public sector construction is grinding to a halt.

Safety is of particular concern in this industry. It is one of the industries in which there are inherent dangers, no matter what is done to try to diminish these. The CITB has an excellent record in health and safety matters. But there are still far too many accidents, some of them, unfortunately, fatal. I believe,

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however, that the record would have been much worse without the CITB and the programmes that it has introduced. We must remember that an accident can mean a considerable cost to an employer.

I recall that when the EITB was in existence it introduced a number of programmes directed specifically at women. I was on one occasion invited to speak at a seminar arranged by the EITB on one of its courses for women. I was much impressed by the enthusiasm and commitment of all concerned. The women were not all young. Many of them were attempting to rejoin the labour market after years spent looking after children. Some had switched, or wanted to switch, from other kinds of employment and relished the opportunity to acquire skills in a non-traditional area--at least, non-traditional so far as women were concerned. I do not know what happened to that kind of initiative with the demise of the EITB, but I like to think that courses of this kind are still available.

Finally, I am glad that the life of the CITB has apparently been extended by a further five years. Even so, I wonder why it was necessary to put a time limit on it at all. Perhaps the Minister will respond to that point. I understand that the excellent staff of the CITB have been much disturbed by the lack of continuity and security, and although they will welcome the five-year period, time goes very quickly and it will not be all that long before they start getting worried again. That is particularly true in the light of the philosophy of the Government in regard to training. As we know, they have been against industry specific statutory bodies and in favour of more diffuse local voluntary arrangements. The ITBs also involve unions, as the CITB still does. That is important, since unions have a strong commitment to training and in particular to health and safety. Therefore, I hope that the Government, in the light of experience, will see fit to drop the time limit altogether, so that the staff have some feeling of continuity and permanence.

Having made those points, however, we on this side of the House do not wish to oppose either of the orders which are before the House tonight.

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