HC Deb 20 July 1976 vol 915 cc1503-6
8. Mr. Canavan

asked the Secretary of State for Employment what is the rate of unemployment for young people who left school during the summer.

16. Mr. Wigley

asked the Secretary of State for Employment what is his estimate of the number of school and college leavers this summer who are currently unemployed; and what proportion this represents of all those who have left schools and colleges this summer.

Mr. Booth

I regret that the information is not available in the precise form requested. On 8th July, 199,955 persons under age 18 and 24,380 aged 18 and over, who were still seeking their first employment following completion of full-time education, were registered as unemployed, but the statistics do not define the date on which education was completed.

Mr. Canavan

In view of the 1½ million unemployed—the worst total since the war—does my right hon. Friend agree that it would be particularly obscene to use up to 250.000 youngsters as an economic weapon? Will he reject further public expenditure cuts that would cause even more unemployment, and consider introducing emergency programmes, such as the training schemes proposed by the Standing Conference on Youth Unemployment, especially in areas such as Kilsyth and Stirling, where the male unemployment rates are about 15 per cent. and 8 per cent., respectively.

Mr. Booth

I must appeal to my hon. Friend: the figures are bad enough without exaggerating them to 1½ million. Whatever the figures are, let us agree that they are far too high. We need to concern ourselves with policies and measures that will reduce them. I am sure that my hon. Friend agrees with that. I agree that it would be inexcusable to use unemployment among the young, old or middle-aged as a weapon of economic policy, and that is no part of the Government's approach. The Government are considering urgently measures to supplement existing measures, or to replace them with more effective measures than have been used up to now, to deal with this terrible level of unemployment. I hope to make an announcement very shortly.

Mr. Wigley

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the 199,000 school leavers who are unemployed represent an increase of 82,000 on last month's figure and must be compared with the 55,000 unemployed 12 months ago for the same age group—namely a fourfold increase? Under those circumstances, will he extend the recruitment subsidy at a level of £10 per week and make it applicable to these people?

Mr. Booth

The figure of 199,000 represents those registered at careers offices. It consists of virtually all the under-18 figures. The figures are not directly comparable with those used by the hon. Gentleman, because this year school leaving took place from 28th May. That is bound to increase the figures. I am at present examining with the Manpower Services Commission an alternative to the present recruitment subsidy for school leavers, thereby acknowledging that school leaving figures of this dimension require a more effective approach.

Dr. Bray

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the juvenile operator training pilot schemes operated by the Engineering Industry Training Board in Lanarkshire have been a remarkable success and are ripe for wider application throughout Scotland and the United Kingdom? Can my right hon. Friend offer any prospect of their early expansion?

Mr. Booth

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that question. The Government's proposals for new arrangements for vocational preparation for the 300,000 or so young people who leave school without any qualifications each year, and who have little opportunity of getting jobs in the present circumstances, are being considered. We shall publish tomorrow a document indicating our proposals for further pilot schemes. If these schemes prove successful, we hope to introduce them on a nation-wide basis to deal specifically with this problem.

Mr. Scott-Hopkins

Does the right hon. Gentleman agree with his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer that unless at least £1,000 million worth of cuts are made in the Government's expenditure the unemployment figures for young people and for other unemployed people are liable to rise in the coming 12 months?

Mr. Booth

I must ask the hon. Gentleman to try to seek some accord with Opposition Members who have argued that if we had reduced public expenditure we should not have had this serious level of unemployment. In examining public expenditure I believe it is essential that we have critical regard to its effect upon unemployment generally, and not only on unemployment among young people.

Mr. George Rodgers

Does my right hon. Friend agree that if the proposed cuts in public spending take place it is inevitable that there will be a substantial increase in unemployment? What steps is he prepared to take to resist that situation?

Mr. Booth

As I have indicated to the House, I am concerned that we should examine the measures that we are now running to deal with the special problems of high unemployment, with a view to introducing measures that may be more effective or that will supplement the present measures.

Mr. Prior

What reply does the right hon. Gentleman give to the parents of a young teacher leaving teacher training college this summer who cannot get a job—one of 20,000 who cannot get a job—bearing in mind that the Government know perfectly well that they could employ them if they allowed the price of school meals to be increased by 5p for each meal?

Mr. Booth

If they put that proposition to me on that basis, I should say that if parents had to pay more for school meals, the demand for other goods and services would thereby be reduced, which would also have an effect on employment.

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