and Industry Secretary Stephen Byers explains Labour’s business agenda to
Economic stability is the foundation of raising productivity.
When we were elected in 1997, we took action to lock in low inflation and
cut government debt – introducing new fiscal spending rules, that keep
government to tight financial discipline. These tough decisions have proved a
solid foundation for Britain’s strengthening economy. We will not put that
stability at risk.
With stability in place, both government and business can build on it to
increase productivity. A skilled workforce is one of the key drivers of
prosperity and productivity in today’s knowledge-driven economy. It is people,
knowledge and skills that will ensure our competitive future.
The Government has worked hard to upgrade skills in the workforce. The
number of adults taking part in basic numeracy and literacy programmes has
rocketed, hundreds of thousands are opening Individual Learning Accounts and
Learn Direct is now providing courses to 60,000 people in 900 learning centres
Now we need to achieve a step change in workplace learning, particularly in
small and medium-sized companies. Labour wants everyone to have the opportunity
to train through a partnership between employers, employees and government.
The first priority is to help those adults who lack basic literacy and
numeracy skills, with the aim of 750,000 people achieving basic skill levels by
2004. We will set up a network of 6,000 IT learning centres, extend the
Individual Learning Accounts, and tackle financial barriers that prevent adults
studying in further education.
To tackle the skill shortages in IT we will open two Technology Institutes
in every region to meet the rising demand for high-level technical skills.
We are determined to develop a three-way partnership to bring this about.
Where both sides of industry in a sector agree, we will help set up a statutory
framework for training. Government has a wide-ranging role to play and is
seeking to develop a training tax credit. We will look to business and unions
to come forward with proposals on how they can contribute to meeting the
nation’s training goals.