David Wright, president of the HCIMA, chose last night's presidential dinner to demand the reintroduction of the training levy and a grant system for vocational training.

Training levies, which were abolished in the 1980s, forced all employers to pay towards the training of their workforce. Mr Wright said many companies now neglected the training of their staff, which has led to poaching.

"At one time, good training only came from the Savoy Group, Lyons and British Transport Hotels. Only after the introduction of the levy did anyone else invest in training," he said.

"For 20 years it worked well with our workforce honing its skills. It was only political dogma that led to the Hotel & Catering Industry Training Board's dissolution, an outcome which is to be much regretted."

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