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Careers shake-up promised

(First Edition)

THE GOVERNMENT is to insist that the careers service which advises school-leavers on jobs will be put out to tender.

An employment Bill to be introduced in the autumn will pave the way for the local authority-controlled service to face competition from employer-led Training and Enterprise Councils and private sector organisations.

Gillian Shephard, Secretary of State for Employment, envisages that some services could be run by consortia involving local councils, but that the quality of assessment and advice given to school-leavers is inadequate and the system needs a shake-up. It could mean that contractors would take over the service next year.

Meanwhile, Mrs Shephard signalled that the 'war' declared against unions conducted by Margaret Thatcher throughout the 1980s was now over.

Speaking to industrial journalists in London, Mrs Shephard said that while the union problem 'had to be sorted' in the early 1980s, there was no further need to take aggressive action against abuse. Yet her comments were more to do with style than substance.

She insisted that the employment Bill, due to have gone before the House of Commons during this parliamentary session, would extend increased choice and freedom to union members.

It would ensure that workers could join the union of their choice rather than be dragooned by the TUC and that they would be protected by legislation against union fraud and ballot-rigging. Citizens would also be given the right to take legal action where services were disrupted by unlawful industrial action.

All the main elements of the legislation envisaged by Michael Howard, her more right-wing predecessor, would be retained.

Mrs Shephard indicated however, that some of the derogatory comments about unions in last year's Green Paper were too strident for her tastes.