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Labour revamps training package

The Labour party is understood to have beefed up proposals for a training levy of employers after a draft policy paper was rejected as too weak.

The party's Training and Learning for Work paper, due before the end of this month, has been delayed till March after calls for changes during consultation.

The paper, which was from the office of Stephen Byers, the party's education and training spokesman, was condemned by some as "ultra-Blairite and "excessively voluntaristic".

Pressure from within Labour's education and training team and from interest groups is understood to have prompted strengthening proposals to encourage employers to contribute towards training.

The document is still likely to stress the need for collaboration between government and industry, as Labour leaders fear appearing to advocate a tax on business.

By contrast the party is also believed to have watered down its proposals on Compulsory Individual Learning Accounts - savings schemes for employees to pay for study. Instead of a national system in which employers and staff would contribute to accounts, the paper will stress individuals' "entitlement" to open accounts, possibly with the government matching their contributions.

That would remove one obligation from employers, who are known to be extremely wary of the cost of CILAs, particularly since Labour is committed to introducing a national minimum wage. The party is hoping to avoid alienating industry by working closely with employers over how a levy and minimum wage can be adopted.

Elements likely to be retained in the final version include proposals to step up the Investors in People initiative - a Government scheme intended to encourage employers to invest in staff training - and making firms publish their training spending in annual accounts.

Mr Byers said: "We are trying to incorporate something more substantial than was there at the beginning. I think it will now be a much more significant document." One source said: "It starts off purporting to be big vision stuff but it ends up with very little in the way of new ideas."

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