HC Deb 30 July 1975 vol 896 cc1791-2
4. Mr. Canavan

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland how many young school leavers left Scottish schools in the summer at the earliest possible leaving date.

Mr. Milan

Precise figures are not yet available for this summer, but it is expected that about 33,000 will have left on reaching school leaving age.

Mr. Canavan

Is my hon. Friend aware that there are 16,000 unemployed school-leavers in Scotland at present and that employment prospects are particularly bleak for the 33.000 16-year-olds whom he has mentioned? Although, in the long term, we can look forward to measures, such as those of the Scottish Development Agency, with a strong public enterprise role, helping in some way to make up for the lack of jobs being provided through lack of investment in the private sector, will he urgently consult the Secretary of State for Employment with a view to taking immediate emergency Government initiatives to ensure that these young Scots get the right to work?

Mr. Millan

Initiatives have already been taken, for example, by the Manpower Services Commission in its statement on 2nd July, from which a number of measures will follow—a training award scheme, special financial incentives to employers in the construction industry to encourage recruitment, measures relating to apprentices, and so on. A good deal has already been done. However, I should not disguise from my hon. Friend or the House the fact that the employment position for school leavers this year is likely to continue to be difficult and a good deal less satisfactory than in recent years. I assure my hon. Friend that we are doing everything we can to improve the situation.

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

Does the hon. Gentleman realise that the figure of nearly 16,000 is about half the total number of school leavers and is more than twice as bad as the worst figures of the past five years? Is it not a tremendous condemnation of the Government's policies over the last 17 months, and of their failure to manage the economy? When will he stop being so complacent and do something about it?

Mr. Milan

I have already said that we are doing certain things about it. I do not recollect hearing any constructive suggestions by the Opposition regarding this matter or, indeed, anything at all. The figures are serious, and I am in no way complacent about them.