HC Deb 04 May 1972 vol 836 cc585-7
Q4. Mr. Carter

asked the Prime Minister if he is satisfied with the coordination between the Department of Employment and the Department of Education and Science in attempting to deal with the problems of 532,000 school leavers in the summer.

The Prime Minister

Yes, Sir. The figure quoted by the hon. Gentleman includes young people going on to further education and the universities. It is hoped that the vast majority of those leaving school this summer to take up employment will be placed within a few months.

Mr. Carter

Is the Prime Minister aware that over 16,000 unemployed school leavers, including 9,000 who have left school at Easter, are very doubtful about the concern of him and his Government? Since over 10,000 of these people have been unemployed for over a year does he not think that emergency action ought now to be taken?

The Prime Minister

As for school leavers last summer, all but 2 per cent. had found employment or training by the end of the year. The hon. Gentleman is aware of the special measures which have been taken by my right hon. Friends, in addition to those taken last year, to try to improve the situation. In particular my right hon. Friend the Lord President when he was Secretary of State for Employment sent a personal message to employers asking them to take on and train more young people, particularly since the number leaving school in 1973 as a result of the raising of the leaving age will be considerably fewer than this year.

Miss Joan Hall

Does my right hon. Friend agree that one of the problems about jobs for school leavers begins before they actually leave school? By this I mean the advice given to school leavers, boys and girls, on career opportunities which is far too sketchy in the country as a whole.

The Prime Minister

I think my hon. Friend is right. Again special action has been taken, because careers officers have already been asked to visit employers and discuss with them vacancies for summer leavers. The more this can be done by these officers, the more effective it will be in getting young people placed soon after they leave school.

Mr. Denis Howell

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that one of the most disturbing aspects about unemployed school leavers is the drop in the number of available apprenticeships? For example in Birmingham the figure has dropped by 40 per cent. this year as against last year and a similar drop is prophesied for next year. Whatever measures his right hon. Friends took they were obviously inadequate. Will he please get some Ministers to pay special attention to this?

The Prime Minister

Again, my right hon. Friend has taken action to persuade employers to take on young people for additional training because of the drop in apprenticeships which has been shown recently. I hope that this will provide immediate training for young people leaving school.

Mr. Harold Wilson

Can the Prime Minister give the House the figures, in addition to those he has quoted, of those school leavers who failed to find employment last summer and who have since been specially accommodated by Labour and other local authorities through special educational arrangements—nothing to do with educational needs or requirements but just to keep them off the streets? Can he say by what amount the unemployment figures he has quoted should be increased to take account of that? Is he aware that he has received representations in this House in the past about the acute school leaving problem in Kirby in my constituency and will he say what is being done to alleviate the position there since none of the things he has mentioned will help at all?

The Prime Minister

I do not agree with the last part of the right hon. Gentleman's remarks. As to the specific analysis of the problem of unemployed young people, if the right hon. Gentleman wants details of that kind, with notice either my right hon. Friend or I will give them to him in writing. It is obviously not a figure which one has immediately available. Most right hon. and hon. Gentlemen will realise that part of the problem does not arise with those just leaving school. Most of us who have been concerned with this matter over many years know that it is those who have had a first and second job and then failed to hold down a third job who provide the greatest problem. The only answer to this is surely training facilities which will enable them to hold down a job.

Mr. Wilson

I am not completely out of touch with this. Is it not a fact that the problem, in Kirby or other development areas, is that there is no first, second or third job for school leavers to go to?

The Prime Minister

It is very easy for the right hon. Gentleman to say that, but when I show him that of the school leavers who left last summer all but 2 per cent. had been placed by the end of the year it obviously refutes the complete exaggeration to which he is so prone.