What training initiatives would you provide in supporting the many small and medium businesses within the hospitality industry?
Jeremy Hunt, Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Conservative) To help firms in the sector get the skilled staff they need, a Conservative government would fund an extra 100,000 apprenticeships and pre-apprenticeships every year. We would also fully fund all adult apprenticeships - currently, these are only half-funded by the Government, with employers currently paying the rest.
To make training schemes easier for firms to run, we would cut the bureaucracy, cut inspection and auditing requirements, and make more payments directly to employers. To help firms meet the cost of training, we would pay a £2,000 bonus to small and medium businesses for every new apprenticeship they created. We would also give businesses a much stronger role in skills planning, including overhauling the way colleges are funded so that the courses offered better matched local employment needs, and giving more powers to Sector Skills Councils rather than Regional Development Agencies.
Finally, we would set up a new £100m adult community learning fund to pay for courses for older workers in need of retraining or upskilling.
Labour Labour has taken action to support businesses and provide employment opportunities during the global downturn. In terms of the hospitality industry, we are providing relevant training in qualifications such as NVQs in Food and Drink Service and Hospitality Supervision. We also supported over 27,000 learners in the industry through Train to Gain in 2008/09.
In addition, our investment in apprenticeships has led to employers seeing them as a cost-effective way to invest in the workforce. Apprentices have the choice of one of six career paths within the industry - service/waiting staff; drinks service; cookery/chef; reception; management and administration; and cleaning. Successful completion of the Advanced Apprenticeship could lead to management or supervisory roles.
Our recently announced independent skills review for the pub industry will build on the research carried out by People 1st and will look at access to training and funding for SMEs/community pubs, and business management skills for lease/freeholders. Pubs will also be eligible for the wider support for leadership and management training set out in New Industry New Jobs.
John Thurso, Shadow Secretary of State for Business, Innovation & Skills, Liberal Democrats We will reform education to ensure a better balance between academic and vocational education by introducing a new General Diploma and enabling young people to study at a college from age 14, opening up opportunities for vocational subjects like catering. We have also announced a £3.1b economic and jobs stimulus package in our first year of government that includes paid internship opportunities for 800,000 young people and full funding of the off-the-job costs of adult apprenticeships.
Will you be resisting any new European legislation that will increase the cost of employing staff in hotels and restaurants?
JH (Conservative) We would be minded to oppose any legislation that made job creation more expensive. The burden of regulation on British business has grown and grown under Labour, despite repeated promises to cut it. Since just the last election, the cost to businesses of EU regulations introduced under Labour has risen has risen from £6.09b to £6.443b a year. A Conservative government would seek to end this relentless increase in red tape by negotiating for the return of Britain's opt-out from social and employment legislation in those areas which have proved most damaging to our economy and public services.
To cut the burden of red tape in Britain, a Conservative government would introduce a system of regulatory budgets, meaning that no new red tape could be introduced without a compensating cut in the costs and burden somewhere else. We would also give each regulator and quango a "sunset clause", meaning that they would automatically cease to exist after a set period unless they could prove their continuing usefulness. Together with our plans to scrap Labour's increase in national insurance, abolish payroll taxes on jobs created by new firms and cut corporation tax, this will help make Britain a much better place to do business.
Labour Labour has always sought to engage constructively in shaping EU employment legislation so that it meets the needs of our labour market - striking the right balance between the interests of employers and employees. We have been prepared to resist measures that we believe would effect that balance - most notably on the Working Time Directive.
JT (Liberal Democrats) We will look at each new regulation on its merits although our bias is towards less red tape, not more. The Liberal Democrats have set out detailed proposals to manage the introduction of new regulations including using sunset clauses, introducing independent checks on the costs of regulations and ending the gold-plating of European directives.