§ Motion made and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—[Mr. Snape.]
§ 3.41 p.m.
§ Mr. Prior
Perhaps I should start by apologising to the House for an extremely bad cold. This was one reason I did not start earlier and try to drown the noise. I dare say that some of the remarks I shall make later will generate a certain degree of noise, because I wish to say one of two fairly tough and rough things about the Government's attitude.
Today we are debating the very serious employment situation which faces young people, though I do not think that any hon. Member would wish to concentrate entirely on young people at a time when there is so much unemployment generally throughout the economy. If it is our intention today specifically to concentrate on the section of society which is, say, under 24 or 25, that is not to be taken as any ground for suggesting that we are not mindful of the problems of the older generation. I want to make that crystal clear from the start.
The problems of unemployment generally are those of macro-economics, and the remedies which we have been suggesting to cure unemployment amongst young people are concerned with microeconomics. We have to look at the macro-economic side first, to look at the level of unemployment, and to look at the number of jobs available in the pipeline.
The precise figures since we last debated this subject have changed, as I shall show. In the United Kingdom there are at present—these are the latest figures—1¼ million unemployed, including 37,739 school leavers, and there are vacancies for 120,600. In May 1975 at 1104 the time of our last debate there were 814,000 unemployed and 160,000 vacancies.
The month before that last debate the Chancellor of the Exchequer was smugly asserting that unemployment in Britain was coming under control, that our record was much better than that of many other countries, and that because we had taken action earlier than most we were in a stronger position than most. At that time, the unemployment figure stood at 721,000. It is now 1.25 million, so we can see what has happened to the Chancellor's target.
As forecast after forecast and target after target have been cast aside, the Government have looked for other scapegoats. We have had a number of those other scapegoats in the past few weeks. The Prime Minister and the Chancellor have told the House that the people who are to blame for the present high inflation and high unemployment are the Conservatives because when they were in Government they allowed the money supply to get out of hand.
Those of us on this side who had to withstand some of the insults delivered to us by the Labour Opposition in 1972 and 1973 will have a rather different version of that story. I never remember a time when we were in Government when we were told by spokesmen for the Labour Opposition, from the Prime Minister and the Chancellor downwards, that public expenditure was too high, that the creation of jobs was too high, that the stimulation applied to the economy would result in too many jobs too quickly. The whole weight of the then Opposition's attack can be stated in the question—"What are the Government doing to create jobs?"
If I am any judge of these matters, I would still say that on balance the fault of increasing the money supply too fast was a good fault compared with the policy which is now being pursued and which has been pursued by the Labour Government, of using unemployment as an economic weapon and allowing the number of unemployed to get as high as it is today. I do not want to hear any more hypocrisy from Labour Members to the effect that it is the Tories who like to use unemployment as a weapon whereas the Labour Party is always trying to keep unemployment down.
1105 Let us look at the matter from another angle. If the Conservative Government were to blame for the present rate of inflation, and therefore the present high levels of unemployment, because of the policies we pursued in 1972–73, which is the gist of what the Prime Minister and the Chancellor of the Exchequer have been saying recently, it is extraordinary that they fought the October 1974 election on a very different basis.
On 26th September 1974 the right hon. Member for Huyton (Sir H. Wilson) said at Bury:Price rises in the shops are slowing down … all those results point in the same direction—to a significant reduction in the speed of price increases.He said in October:Unemployment … is beginning to fall; the balance of payments shows a substantial improvement; the pace of inflation and price rises is moderating … but now we are being inundated with gloom and doom from the Conservative leadership.That is what the then Prime Minister said in September and October 1974.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer had more to say:We have in fact succeeded in doing very well on our own this year—I have cut the inflation rate I inherited by half and cut the deficit on our balance of payments by half.Less than two years after that, when things are so much worse and the unemployment figures are so high, Ministers have the nerve to accuse us of being the people who caused inflation and unemployment. Let us nail that one straight away and perhaps we can then begin to get down to a serious discussion of where the problems lie and what has caused them. The cause has been Socialist policies and Socialist measures over the past two years—more than two years now—and the failure of the social contract. We all know that that is correct.
If I can just end this list of quotations from speeches by Ministers or ex-Ministers, the then Prime Minister made a great speech at Bury just before the election in October 1974 in which he attacked my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, North-East (Sir K. Joseph) and myself for our attitude towards public expenditure and our warnings that if inflation were not brought under control 1106 there would be high unemployment. The Prime Minister of the day, in words very typical of him, ended up by saying:Unemployment demonstrates the difference between our two parties.I doubt whether at that time he thought that his words would be turned round and used against him in the way they ought to be used today. Unemployment demonstrates the difference between our two parties. Unemployment now stands at 1.25 million.
Under the Conservatives unemployment never reached 1 million. During the period of Conservative Government from 1951 to 1964 there were only three occasions when unemployment reached 500,000. Turning to the record of the Socialist Government, between 1964 and 1970 unemployment was rarely below 500,000. Let us kill the myth about unemployment once and for all.
It is against that background of what we believe has been a totally misguided policy in the running of the economy that we come to this serious problem of youth unemployment. There are no panaceas, no easy ways around this problem. The one thing we can do is to recognise that this is a situation that is not with us just for one or perhaps two years. It is a problem which we must get used to living with, and we must try to deal with it rationally in a way we have not had to do since the war.
It is significant that at the TUC conference last week, when Mr. Alan Fisher made a notable speech in which he said that the Government's target of 600,000 unemployed by 1978 was farcical, he was warmly applauded. The TUC and the country realise that the problem is far deeper and far less susceptible to easy answers than the Government have up to now realised. Last August unemployed school leavers totalled 150,000. By the end of the year they were still at the level of 32,000. Today, because of the Easter school leavers and some early school leavers coming on to the employment market, the figure is back to 37,000. That figure in itself conceals a large number of people who, perhaps, took a job during the summer, kept it for a few weeks and then lost it, probably on the basis of last in, first out.
1107 My local newspaper said on Saturday:Only one teenager in six finds a job. At the end of last week 309 youngsters who left school three weeks ago were registered for work with the careers office in Lowestoft —and there was only one job for every six of them on the list of vacancies.I dare say that right hon. and hon. Members in all parts of the House can verify that they have the same position in their own constituencies. It is a grim situation. [Interruption.] Perhaps the hon. Member for Ormskirk (Mr. Kilroy-Silk) who has just grunted, will say—bearing in mind what he has always said in the past—that it is a good deal worse in his constituency.
§ Mr. Prior
No, I will not give way to the hon. Member for Keighley (Mr. Cryer). He did not grunt.
We need a proper strategy and we must recognise that the problem is particularly acute among young people. If we are not careful we shall create a generation of disillusioned and disaffected young people. We can reap a bitter harvest for years to come from that. How many hon. Members now, looking back over the past 20 or 30 years, would deny that many of our industrial relations problems of today arise from the unemployment of the 1920s and 1930s? We could be storing up enormous industrial problems for ourselves if we do not get to the roots of this problem.
These are not only industrial problems. They are social problems too. Another speech at the TUC conference last week by Lawrence Daly made this point quite clearly. The article written by my right hon. Friend the Member for Worcester (Mr. Walker) last week did the same. Racial tensions will mount among the parents of unemployed whites, resentful of young coloured people who might get jobs, and unemployed immigrants who feel that they have been discriminated against. As Lawrence Daly pointed out, they can easily tell each other apart. There are considerable dangers in the present problems of youth unemployment.
§ Mr. Sydney Bidwell (Ealing, Southall)
I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman would agree that in calling in aid the remarks of Lawrence Daly he is seeking 1108 the help of someone who is a profound and convinced Socialist, who would advance Socialist remedies aimed at solving the problems of young constituents. Lawrence Daly would not place much reliance upon capitalism. The right hon. Gentleman is opposed to public expenditure and social arrangements. Under capitalism it is certain that these young people would not enjoy full employment.
§ Mr. Prior
I do not wish to enter into a dialectical argument between the hon. Member for Feltham and Heston (Mr. Kerr) and the Government Front Bench. Certainly we have a Government dedicated to Socialist principles. They have allowed, indeed created, levels of unemployment such as we have not experienced since the war. It is no good people complaining that what is required is further Socialism and further public expenditure.
§ Mr. Prior
There are enormous deficits at the moment. The Government are borrowing one pound in every five and the situation gets worse. It is perhaps a great shame that the Labour Party did not listen to us earlier. Had it done so it might not have created the levels of unemployment from which we are now suffering.
§ Mr. Cryer
If we had listened to the right hon. Gentleman and his party we would have closed down Chrysler, Alfred Herbert and British Leyland. In addition, we would now be instituting swingeing cuts in public expenditure. Can the right hon. Gentleman explain how his party's policies of virtually closing down the British motor car industry and the machine tool industry, as well as making massive cuts in public expenditure, would help the unemployed, young people in particular?
§ Mr. Prior
I will try to explain, in simple terms, a fact which the hon. 1109 Gentleman has never taken on board. This is precisely the argument that the Labour Party was using in the election in October 1974 and that the Chancellor was using in his Budget Speech in 1975. It was said that if the Government carried out those measures unemployment would be created. What has happened to unemployment since? Where has the hon. Gentleman been in the past few years while the number of unemployed has doubled? Has he not realised that it is the very level of public expenditure which is creating unemployment? Does he realise that if the Government had adopted a policy of curbing public expenditure we might be in a much stronger position today? I spoke in the debate on British Leyland on behalf of the official Opposition. We never said that we would close down British Leyland overnight. That is not the right industrial solution. I believe very strongly that British Leyland would work and function much better if it were split into a number of smaller groups.
Most recent analyses of young unemployed people among racial minorities suggest that there is higher unemployment among coloured children and young people than there is among the population as a whole. What we need and what I believe we should have, is more up-to-date statistics on this matter. It is a terrible commentary that the latest statistics about the numbers of young coloured unemployed relate to February 1975. I hope that the Government, who have not published the relevant statistics since 1974, will start publishing them again.
§ Mr. Neil Kinnock (Bedwelty)
On the very sensitive matter of unemployment among the races in this country, which the right hon. Gentleman has rightly raised, will he take this opportunity, without making a party political point, to denounce racialists and to declare the abhorrence of and opposition of his party and himself to the advantage being taken of the current economic crisis and the way in which simple-minded people have seen it as an important racial platform? That would greatly assist the conduct of the debate.
§ Mr. Prior
Plainly the hon. Gentleman was not in the House on Thursday afternoon when my right hon. Friend the 1110 Member for Penrith and The Border (Mr. Whitelaw) did precisely that. I confirm everything that my right hon. Friend said then. There can be no place in Britain for two categories of citizen. All citizens in Britain must be equal under the law and must have an equal opportunity to obtain the jobs available. I make that abundantly plain and, in doing so, I am sure that I am supported by every one of my hon. Friends. When the hon. Gentleman rises to speak, I become suspicious that he thinks that he may be able to divide my party, otherwise he would not do so.
I have said that we must consider the problems of unemployment, particularly among young people, in a much longer-term perspective. There are many reasons for believing that the situation in industry is changing quite rapidly. We know that there is a good deal of over manning in industry. We know that public expediture will be cut which will, therefore, increase unemployment. We know that industry cannot absorb the total number of unemployed people. Many industries should decline and release efforts for new fields of activity. There is a polarisation between big and small firms: big firms are needed in some areas, small firms are needed to supply the big firms with innovatory ideas and to perform the tasks which cannot be carried out economically by the big firms. Job patterns are changing as we move into the new post-industrial society.
The answer to unemployment, therefore, is not short term, not within the existing industrial structure, not in continued, dead-end, or temporary, or non-jobs, not in forcing quotas of unemployed on firms which need to trim their labour forces, and not only in big or established industries.
Therefore, the answer to unemployment must be sought in a whole series of new initiatives. We must identify what one might terms new hole-in-the-market enterprises. We must develop small groups or co-operatives. We must have concious training for new and growth industries. We must have a loosening from existing unions, crafts and other compartments to make this possible. We have to teach people to look after themselves rather than always giving them a subsidy to do so. We must teach people 1111 to fish rather than simply give them fish to eat.
That is the way in which we should examine the running of the present schemes and how we can best improve them. The strategy for young people has been to concentrate on Community Industry, on the job creation programme, on further aid for industrial training and on certain subsidies to employers to take on or retain labour. I wish to consider each of those in turn.
First, the Community Industry scheme has done an extremely good job. I do not regard it as an important element in relieving unemployment so much as meeting a long-term continuing need to help the under-privileged in certain areas. It is right that it should concentrate on the low intelligence groups, on those who are not likely even to get a job given the best employment prospects, and on certain big cities where there are particular problems, especially among the coloured communities.
Last year Community Industry was expanded to 4,000 places. I think that it is almost up to that number now. I should have thought that the time had come when we could advance and the scheme could take on an extra 2,000 places. I suggest that those places should be confined to inner city areas, especially those with young West Indians and Asians. I believe that Community Industry would be prepared to advance that far. I hope that, if it does, we shall bear in mind that there is a tendency and danger in British society that when we advance from something which had a small beginning it starts to become bureaucratic. From what I have seen, there are signs of Community Industry developing its own bureaucracy, which would ruin most of its objectives and the enthusiasm which has been shown for the scheme. I therefore suggest that we should carry on with Community Industry which is now in a position to take up another 2,000 places. We all pay warm tribute to the work which Community Industry has done.
I come to the question of the job creation programme. Funds have been committed until September 1977 and therefore we are considering it in a rather longer time scale than we were a few 1112 months ago. A good many weaknesses have been shown up in the programme, and I dare say that that is inevitable with any new scheme. There are, however, weaknesses which we are now in a position to remedy. The scheme is far too expensive. I see no reason for paying wages of up to £56 a week for job creation. That is an unnecessary waste of Government money and it means that a lot of money is being spent on only a few people.
Secondly, the jobs are too short lived. Many last for only three months and the employees are then back on the dole queue.
Thirdly, there is a totally insufficient training element in the jobs provided. We should be considering jobs under the scheme which provide a maximum of training for people who would not ordinarily undergo a skilled training programme. Much more should be done to make training an integral part of a basic job. The TUC has put forward some suggestions on this matter which should be carefully considered.
Another fault is that we have depended far too much on local authorities. They have taken up the bulk of the schemes because they have been in a position to expand, but unfortunately, on the whole, the jobs they have provided tended to be of no use or benefit to the people involved. One suspects that local government may have used the job creation programme to do work which it wanted to do but which might otherwise have come out of the rates or the rate support grant.
I would prefer to see much more effort going into the private sector. Here, we are up against the problem that so far the private sector has not been allowed to take on people under the programme where there was any opportunity of making a profit. I believe that to be wrong. It would be far better to allow profits to be made out of job creation. In any case, the Government would get 52 per cent. back of what they put in. Let us, therefore, have some schemes run by private enterprise where profits can be made and jobs provided. If the Government are worried by the availability of profits, and whether this would be the correct use of public money, I suggest that they could write into any of these schemes a requirement for basic training, including perhaps attendance for 1113 further education for a specified period. I believe that private industry would be able to build on the money thus used.
§ Mr. Tom Litterick (Birmingham, Selly Oak)
The right hon. Gentleman is suggesting that public money should be invested in the private sector in places where a profit might be made. Surely, if the public, through the State, can recognise where there is an opportunity for making a profit, the private sector itself should be able to recognise that fact. If, recognising that opportunity, the private sector asked the public to finance it, all the public would be doing would be financing a private profit-making exercise through what, in effect, would be cheap labour.
§ Mr. Prior
A number of ventures which might not perhaps be terribly profitable or remunerative could be undertaken and would be useful to the company and society but they will not he carried out unless there is some special incentive. What are we interested in achieving with the job creation programme? I thought that it was designed to create jobs. If we are interested in creating jobs, we should surely allow the private sector and free enterprise a greater opportunity of taking up these jobs. It might provide the sort of jobs which young people actually want. Many of the job creation schemes in the early days of the programme—now improving—were dead-end jobs with no possibility of those concerned enjoying them or feeling that they were doing useful work.
Too many of the jobs created were dead-end. They reminded me sometimes of the sort of "bob-a-job" work one gives during Boy Scout week. They were not satisfactory to those doing them and of not much use to society. [HON. MEMBERS: "Describe them."] My hon. Friends will give plenty of examples in the debate, but I will point out just a handful. I am not sure that washing graffiti off walls or planting trees on motorways or clearing up beaches are among the most positive jobs that we can find for young people. Indeed, many of them have been an insult to young people, and we should be able to do considerably better. We certainly will not do better if we confine the programme solely to the local government sector, which is where most of the money and most of the resources have gone so far. 1114 Hon. Members opposite must get away from the narrow approach they have adopted. Again, because the jobs have been based so largely on local government, they have got bogged down in bureaucratic processes. All this needs going through.
Someone wrote to me today:It is ludicrous to run temporary work and training schemes which actually tend to encourage young people into dead ends:local government cannot expand, but that is where most temporary work experience is being offered;the voluntary sector can hardly expand much, and yet that is where nearly all the rest is being based;manufacturing industry must expand, and yet in most cases it is artificially kept away from the young people who, in any future expansion of the economy, will form one of its most valuable potential assets.That sums up the position well. The job creation programme is not working as well as we should like it to work, and a training element must come into it much more. We welcome the fact that the Government have, quite rightly, made more funds available to the Manpower Services Commission to expand training, both last year and again this year. But we must warn them that it is no good taking out apprenticeships if the jobs are not to be there at the end of the apprenticeship period.
I have seen a circular from the Construction Industry Training Board, which has trained apprentices and is looking for places for them but cannot as yet find them. We would like to know how widespread the problem is becoming. I believe that the TUC's recommendation to set up work experience training schemes—three days in industry, two days of further education and the payment of unemployment benefit plus £5—is a proposal that we should support. It is a more realistic concept than the idea of £56 a job for a job creation scheme, which is being put about in some places. There is, for example, the sort of scheme at the Jordanhill College at Strathclyde for unemployed school teachers. These things can make a contribution.
I have never been particularly impressed by the temporary employment subsidy. I do not know how many jobs it has saved. A number of firms have taken it up, but I wonder how many 1115 would have been saved in any case. I am not certain that the subsidy should be continued.
We always argued during the passage of the Employment Protection Act that it would mitigate against the employment of women and young people and result in firms being prepared to work more overtime and at weekends rather than take on extra people and thus incur more obligations. That is particularly true of small businesses which could take on more labour if they felt that they would not be putting a millstone around their necks in doing so. That is why we felt that there should be an exclusion clause for small businesses and why we believe that the Government would have been wiser to bring in the Act over a much more prolonged period, thereby avoiding the situation building up of employers not taking on extra labour.
I come to the whole question of the Government's priorities. Let us look at them. We were due to have an increase of 5p in the price of school meals this autumn. They already cost £350 million a year in subsidy. One-tenth of the schools budget goes on school meals. The 5p increase in price this autumn would have saved £35 million. I believe that 15,000 teachers will be coming out of the training colleges this summer who will be unable to get jobs in teaching. The cost of employing them is estimated at £33.75 million—in other words, we are putting a higher priority as a nation on keeping down the price of school meals by 5p when they are already highly subsidised than on the employment of 15,000 young school teachers who have spent three years at least in training. What about the priorities of Socialism there? It is a disgraceful situation.
§ Mr. Robert Kilroy-Silk (Ormskirk)
The right hon. Gentleman has made a very interesting and valid point, but would it not be more effective if he pointed out that the whole of the £33 million could be found if we got rid of a greater anomaly—just one multi-rôle combat aircraft?
§ Mr. Prior
If the hon. Gentleman wants to leave this country defenceless, I hope he will tell his constituents just that. We know what the left-wing of the Labour Party is all about. It does 1116 not happen to be the voice of this side of the House, nor is it the voice of 90 per cent. of the population. I hope that hon. Gentlemen opposite will go round peddling this sort of stuff in their constituencies. They will then reap the whirlwind they deserve.
On the question of priorities, what possible justification can there be for holding down the price of school meals this autumn when we could at the same time save 15,000 jobs, thereby helping the schools and finding employment for young school teachers who have been properly trained? All I am saying to the Government is that I believe that their priorities are totally wrong and mad in relation to this aspect of our society.
A much longer look needs to be taken at the problems of youth unemployment. We shall not solve this or any of our unemployment problems quickly. We have to prepare a proper scheme and a proper concerted action for the next five ward for the next five years.
I see none of these things happening. I see a job creation programme which was set up in a great hurry when the Government suddenly realised, about this time last year, that they were getting into trouble. I see a temporary employment scheme which was also set up in an enormous hurry. I see none of the long-range thinking that will be required. We need a new positive approach and concerted and effective leadership. It ought to be the responsibility of a Minister who should be put in charge of all this work, with a special function, so that his Department can get on to producing proper concerted action for the next five years.
We know that these are not short-term problems and that these suggestions in themselves cannot solve the problems before us. We know that there have to be major changes also in the running of the economy. We have to make it more attractive and rewarding for new investment. That means changes in the Price Code. It means a different attitude towards profits. It means giving confidence to industry to invest and expand.
We have also to switch resources from the public sector to the private sector. The British economy is a mixed economy. Now that over 60 per cent. of our resources are going to the Government, it is in danger of becoming a totally 1117 Socialist economy. We shall have only ourselves to blame if unemployment is with us at a much higher level than is necessary—a much higher level than if we had a free enterprise economy working within a mixed economy.
The problems of Britain are that we have too much Socialism, too much bureaucracy and too much waste in public expenditure. What hon. Gentlemen opposite never seem to grasp is that when the Government spend money they always do it badly. There are enough examples to show what is going on. What we need is a return to a free enterprise economy, and for the Government to spend less. Then we shall be able to hold out much greater hope for young people and there will be greater hope for the country as a whole.
§ 4.24 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for Employment (Mr. Albert Booth)
I first thank the hon. Member for Lowestoft (Mr. Prior) and his hon. Friends for providing the House with this occasion for debating the subject of employment opportunities for young people. It is rather over a year since we last debated the subject, which is one of deep concern to me and to my Department. I therefore particular welcome this chance to report to the House and to debate in the House some of the measures which the Government have introduced since then.
In the last 12 months the unemployment situation for young people, including school leavers, has remained serious, although over the last year there has been a marked deterioration in the employment situation for all sections of the working population. Last summer we experienced record levels of unemployment among young people, and the figures so far this year, compared month for month, are even higher than last year. These figures need to be seen against a background of some half a million young people leaving school in the last 12 months in the middle of a world economic recession.
Obviously I have no intention of minimising the seriousness of this situation in any way. It was bad enough when the right hon. Gentleman raised the matter last year. It remains bad, and the immediate job prospects for young people are not very promising. These are harsh 1118 and unpleasant facts—especially for a Labour Government—but no purpose is served by failing to confront them.
But a lot else has happened since the right hon. Gentleman and I last debated this matter. Recognising the seriousness of the situation, last year the Government took a number of special measures, some of which have been mentioned by the right hon. Gentleman. These measure are unprecedented in their nature and scale, and in our view they amount to a formidable battery of weapons with which to attack the scourge of unemployment among young people.
The Government have done a lot to help young people over the last year. They have, for example, made available sums of money for additional training for young people at a time when public money is probably more scarce than it has ever been. Let me make it clear that I disagree completely with the analysis which says that if there were a cut in public expenditure the job prospects for young people would be improved. All our evidence points in a contrary direction to that.
The Government have also introduced the recruitment subsidy for school leavers and the job creation programme, which have provided thousands of jobs for young people who might otherwise have been unemployed. I want later to say something specific about that and to answer some of the criticisms made.
§ Mr. Anthony Steen (Liverpool, Wavertree)
Will the right hon. Gentleman tell us how many jobs for schools leavers the job creation programme has created?
§ Mr. Booth
I shall come to that and deal with the figures. At the moment I am giving a broad indication of the range of measures taken.
It is true that the situation for young people remains bad in that particular area, but our contention is that it would have been very much worse but for the action we have taken. In fact, in August 1975 there were 190,000 unemployed youths in Great Britain. In May of this year the figure was down to 67,000. I would not for one moment suggest that 67,000 is an acceptable level, but there is no denying that that is a very considerable drop, and part of it was brought about by the special measures introduced by the Government.
§ Mr. Booth
There are some slight differences in the way in which it is made up, but I do not accept that the figure is in any way unrepresentative. I have checked very carefully the basis of the statistics. The only change in the method of collecting statistics which could affect that figure relates to the recording of adult students. The figure I am quoting is for young people up to 18 who are recorded in the careers offices and the unemployment offices. I believe, therefore, that it gives the best broad guide to the number of unemployed youth in relation to the subject we are discussing, which is job opportunities for the school leaver.
As this year's school leavers begin to come on to the labour market, we have a good opportunity to assess how effective the measures have been and whether they are likely to be adequate for a further 12 months.
§ Mr. Victor Goodhew (St. Albans)
The right hon. Gentleman mentioned, perhaps in error, that we were discussing today job opportunities for the school leaver, but according to my Order Paper we are discussing job opportunities for young people, and that includes those who left school perhaps a year or two ago. The right hon. Gentleman seems to be trying to cut them out.
§ Mr. Booth
I accept the hon. Gentleman's correction. I should have said "for young people". But the statistics I quoted are for a particular category of young people. They are for those registered at the careers offices and those registered at the employment offices who are 18 years of age or below. That is a very significant group of young people for the purposes of this debate.
Before I go on to deal with specific measures, there are two factors I want to stress. The first is that I do not believe that a solution to the problem can be achieved by the Government alone. The Government, the Opposition and public and private sector employers are all involved in the solution, as well as the trade unions, local authorities and community organisations. Unless they are involved, it is idle and unproductive for anyone in this House to pretend that there is a single agency which can 1120 provide a complete solution on its own. Of course, the Government of the day have a very special responsibility for taking the necessary corrective measures. I believe, however, that we should look at this difficult problem together to see what more needs to be done. We should not turn aside any ideas just because they come from a quarter whose views we do not generally share. Original ideas are always in short supply, and we must try to examine any that are put forward as dispassionately and as sympathetically as we can.
That is one of the reasons why I welcome this debate. It is an opportunity for Members in all parties to make their contributions to a discussion of how we are to deal with what is undoubtedly a serious situation for large numbers of young people. I believe that in our debate last year a number of valuable and constructive suggestions were made, and others have been fed in since. My Department, in conjunction with the Manpower Services Commission and its other agencies, has put a number of these into practice.
Clearly it would not be possible today for me or for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland, who will be replying to the debate, to deal in detail with every suggestion that is put forward. Obviously we shall want to take away some of the suggestions which are made and look at them carefully before we respond to them.
The second factor which I must impress upon the House is that the problem of youth unemployment is not only one of availability of jobs but one of training and education. While vocational training arrangements are still geared primarily to the school leaver, missing out on a job at the time of leaving school can mean in some cases missing an opportunity for the whole of one's life to practise a satisfying and rewarding job and to acquire a necessary skill. Therefore, it is a tragedy in that sense for the young person, but it is also a tragedy for the country, in which only 20 per cent. of young people receive part-time education to complement their training in their jobs compared with more than 80 per cent. in Sweden and West Germany. In tackling this problem, therefore, we have to do something which has a long-term implication as well as something which 1121 will immediately create jobs for young people.
§ Mr. Litterick
Our experience in Birmingham suggests that there is, if not a paradox, at least a break in communications vis-à-vis provisions for young people and their training and education. I say that in this sense. The Training Services Agency has funds which it has to dispose of for this purpose. However, in the West Midlands it is underspent. The local authority, on the other hand, is responsible for providing training resources within its catchment area. As we know, local authorities are under great pressure to reduce expenditure. At a time when, in Birmingham at least, the Training Services Agency is actually under-spending, cannot my right hon. Friend look into the matter with a view to some sort of marriage between the TSA and the local authorities? It is scandalous that several thousand young people in Birmingham should be going without training facilities when the money resources are available but cannot be spent because of a conflict on the local authority side.
§ Mr. Booth
I undertake to look into the point raised by my hon. Friend. I can say from a general knowledge of the Training Services Agency position that, if some are underspent, it is because they have still to develop the number of training places available for which the Manpower Services Commission is targeted. But I accept that, even where that position obtains, there is still a case for saying that it is necessary to develop co-ordination in certain areas between the Training Services Agency and education authorities in the interests of young people, especially unemployed young people.
In our view, the employment situation for young people at the moment is very largely a reflection of the general economic situation. It is an observed fact that unemployment among young people rises more quickly than it does among other age groups during a period of economic recession and falls more quickly in an economic upturn. Therefore, the key to a large part of the problem must depend on a lasting improvement in the general economic situation, and that in turn means completing the job of getting inflation under control.
One of the main weapons at our disposal here is the recent agreement with 1122 the TUC on pay over the next 12 months. I believe that the TUC, at its conference last week, did more to bring about the general economic recovery that we need so badly—and, hence, an improvement in the job prospects of young people—than any single measure that the Government could take without its co-operation. Once we have the economy right, I believe that there will be a dramatic improvement in the prospects for young people, though there are some longer-term measures that we need to take to deal with some aspects of employment and training for young people, to which I shall refer later in my speech.
Before going on to analyse the new measures, it is fair to point out, as one of my hon. Friends did in an earlier interjection, that many of the measures which the Government are carrying out and many of those introduced by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Industry in saving and in rescuing firms through the National Enterprise Board and through the use of Sections 7 and 8 of the Industry Act are maintaining opportunities for jobs for young people leaving school which would not otherwise be there.
§ Mr. Nicholas Scott (Chelsea)
The right hon. Gentleman claimed just now that the measure of agreement with the TUC over pay for the next 12 months had done more for job prospects than any other single Government measure. Will he accept, as the other side of the coin, that the abandonment of incomes policy in March 1974 did more to destroy today's job prospects than any other single measure of this Government?
§ Mr. Booth
No, I do not accept that. I do not want to go into a general debate on it now, but the abolition of the Pay Board at the end of July 1974 was an inevitable consequence of the tremendous conflict which had built up between the trade unions and the Government, and it was necessary to restore a basis on which there could be co-operation to achieve what was then required. What was achieved last week was remarkable against the background of the situation which existed less than 12 months ago, when we had wage increases being granted at a level of about 30 per cent. and when inflation was rocketing ahead at a similar level.
1123 If I am right in my contention that it is necessary to overcome inflation to establish a sound economy, I am not suggesting that we must not, therefore, look at the special measures which we shall have to run and develop for some time against the very high level of unemployment which is the background to the youth unemployment problem which we are debating.
I turn first to job creation. Although I disagree with a number of the points made by the right hon. Member for Lowestoft, he has been consistent on this matter. In his speech last year, he was not particularly keen on the idea of a job creation scheme, although he recognised that something might have to be done and that a scheme might have to be introduced in the short term. That is what we have done, and £75 million has been made available to the Manpower Services Commission to provide some 60,000 temporary job opportunities over a two-year period, with the emphasis on jobs for young people. The programme is expected to produce about 34,000 jobs by September of this year. We know that from the number approved up till now.
I know that the programme has attracted a number of criticisms, but I believe that it is an essential emergency response and that it should be understood, in the light of what the right hon. Member for Lowestoft said, that it is not a scheme confined to local authorities. Far from it. A number of other organisations were invited to sponsor job creation schemes.
§ Mr. Booth
I do not believe that is the case. I would find it very surprising if a community organisation which had saved up for a number of years to find the total price to go ahead with a project, and had probably saved more than the material costs of the project, did not welcome this opportunity to carry it through. Otherwise, it probably would not be carried out for some considerable time. The limitations on local authorities 1124 have become more stringent because a number of authorities tend to use the 10 per cent. on providing transport for young people to get to jobs.
§ Mr. Booth
I cannot turn up the actual figures. My impression is that it is undoubtedly the case that the overwhelming majority of projects considered by the Manpower Services Commission have been proposed by local authorities. I envisage good schemes being run by other organisations as well.
I want to take this opportunity to correct the impression that a very large proportion of the jobs created consist of schemes such as the removal of graffiti or the cleaning of beaches. Unfortunately the Manpower Services Commission, in its anxiety to get some job creation schemes under way in the early stages, picked some schemes that had very little training content and not a good deal of social value. But that is not the case now. The schemes now being approved are, in the main, very valuable.
The new schemes include a Scottish scheme in which a church annexe is being converted into a centre for rehabilitating alcoholics, a Merseyside scheme in which young people are working with craftsmen to convert box vans into caravanettes and schemes for building adventure playgrounds, decorating old people's homes and renovating community buildings. In Bristol young people are being trained in audio-visual techniques to make cassettes, and there is a voluntary group at work in South London providing job opportunities in preschool playgroups. There is an adult literacy project in London, and one job creation scheme in my constituency has three schemes running for converting old factories into training centres. I shudder to think how many times I tried, without success, to get training centres in Barrow-in-Furness before this scheme was introduced. In Wales help is being given to extend the Ffestiniog railway, to improve the Neath and Tennant Canals, and to expand the activities of a community arts centre.
1125 There are a very large number of first-class job creation programmes, and the more that are put forward the more possible it becomes for the Manpower Services Commission to be selective about the ones which it approves.
§ Mr. Dafydd Wigley (Caernarvon)
The Secretary of State mentioned a minute ago that the vast majority of schemes come from local authorities. Is he satisfied that the Manpower Services Commission is doing enough to sell the idea and that information about these schemes is provided to industry and other concerns in order to enable them to take the initiative themselves? I get the impression that many industrialists are totally unaware of the potential.
§ Mr. Booth
There is the point here of how much money the Manpower Services Commission should use in publicity. At the moment, the Commission has a film which it is having shown about the type of schemes which are running, and I hope that this will encourage a number of people to take the initiative.
§ Mr. George Park (Coventry, North-East)
Does not my right hon. Friend agree that it was an unfortunate fact that, when he visited Coventry to talk to employers, all the schemes there had come from local authorities and none at all from private concerns?
§ Mr. Booth
Yes, I confirm that. I hope that as I raised the matter very directly on that occasion there may have been some further response. The Manpower Services Commission has a travelling presentation, and in the future there will be a greater knowledge of what is possible and what is available. I think that increased take-up may come.
Job creation projects involving 26,542 jobs have so far been approved at a cost of £32.3 million. Projects involving 17,083 jobs have already started and it is estimated that 40 per cent. to 50 per cent. of the people currently employed under the scheme are under the age of 18. In the light of what has been said, it is only fair to pay tribute to local authorities which came in and set up projects in the way they did. We appreciate what they have done at a time when they are placed in difficult economic circumstances.126
§ Sir Paul Bryan (Howden)
On the question of publicity, I agree with everyone who has said that private enterprise and voluntary community organisations have often failed because they did not know about the scheme. Earlier this year I asked the Minister of State how many private enterprise schemes had been put forward on Humberside, and he said that there had been none. I should like to advance the idea of using television for publicity purposes. I am a director of Granada Television, which did a programme recently called "Reports Action". As a result of that, officials from the Department of Employment tell me that 15 projects have been put forward and 10 have been approved. That means that 60 jobs were created from one programme. Why not approach other television companies and ask them to enter into a project of this sort?
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Myer Galpern)
Order. The hon. Member for Liverpool, Wavertree (Mr. Steen) has already made four interventions, and he may try to catch the eye of the Chair later.
§ Mr. Steen
I am grateful for your advice, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I assure you this will be my last intervention. I want to ask about the figures just given by the Secretary of State. He said that 17,000 jobs had been started already and about half of these—about 8,000—had gone to young people under 18. What about the 28,000 under the age of 18 who are still unemployed? What is he planning to do for them?
§ Mr. Booth
I am not claiming that job creation schemes can cover all youth unemployment problems. We have to see this in balance. If hon. Members are critical of the amount of money being made available to the Manpower Services Commission, they should bring this point to my attention and I will listen carefully to their criticisms. But 1127 my view is that the Commission is adequately funded for its purposes for some time to come, and it should be able to introduce a number of worthwhile schemes.
I turn now to Community Industry. Last year the right hon. Member for Lowestoft called for expansion of the scheme. We have responded and increased the number of places provided by the scheme from 2,000 to 4,000 in the last 12 months. I note what the right hon. Member said about the possibility of further expansion. I join him in the tribute he has paid to those who have done excellent work in the Community Industry team, both at headquarters and in the areas where the schemes are operating. I am only too conscious that much of the dedicated work is being done by Community Industry area managers and scheme consultants as well as by the headquarters team in what is inevitably a very difficult area in which the problem of the socially disadvantaged young person is the major test.
Of course, the Community Industry scheme is not primarily a counter-cyclical scheme. One can take the view, as I do, that it will probably have more clients in a time of high youth unemployment, but it might also be more difficult to identify the number of clients who are there because it is a period of high unemployment and how many would be there anyway because of their background, their social problems, the problems of the industries in the area, family disruption problems and all the things which lead people to require the aid of Community Industry. But I believe that the expansion may be justified as a continuing project without reference to the high level of unemployment, and that is something we should like to examine.
I turn now to the local authority careers service, which stands at the crucial stage of transition from school to work and which has an important job to do. The rate support grant for 1976–77 recognises the increased importance of the service at a time of high unemployment by providing for a 5.5 per cent. increase in the level of expenditure for 1975.76. Thus expenditure on the careers service has been exempted from the general con- 1128 straints required this year in local authority expenditure. The Government believe that it is of crucial importance to maintain the capacity of the service to respond to the increased demands made upon it during a period of high unemployment.
Over and above that, however, the Government have made £1.5 million available up to March 1977 specifically to strengthen the service to deal with unemployment. The money currently available provides over 100 additional careers officer posts and 100 additional employment assistant posts in the areas most badly hit by unemployment among young people. The posts are, within the terms of Government grant, used solely to deal with unemployment among young people.
The scheme has been widely welcomed and reports show that since it started some 3,000 vacancies have been obtained by special approaches to firms, and more than 2,200 placings have been made as a direct result of the scheme. The important rôle of the careers service is necessarily recognised. Certainly the service needs to be better known. The Central Office of Information has just produced a new film explaining in a very imaginative way how the service can help young people, and I hope that hon. Members will take steps to see that the film is shown in their areas.
These are measures which, with others—like the recruitment subsidy, which has already helped nearly 30,000 school leavers to get jobs—are primarily directed at improving employment prospects for young people. But, of course, training is also important, and that is why we have made available to the Training Services Agency some £135 million to finance additional training by both the industrial training boards and the agency itself. The industrial training boards are mainly concerned with training at and above craft level and the additional money being used to provide various grants to employers and training award schemes. To date, nearly 30,000 applications for grants and awards have been approved.
The TSA has considerably expanded its activities and is providing a number of additional facilities, particularly below craft level, in terms both of places and of the range of occupations which it covers. Many new aspects are introduced. 1129 There are short industrial courses, occupational selection courses and the experimental wider opportunities course, and these are expected to help some 7,000 young people this year. All in all, the special training measures may help up to 70,000 young people over the next two years.
In a speech last year, the right hon. Member for Lowestoft said that his Government had vastly expanded the amount being spent on training. I think that the figures I have just given show that the present Government have travelled very much further in that direction.
§ Mr. Barney Hayhoe (Brentford and Isleworth)
The right hon. Gentleman referred earlier to day release and compared us very unfavourable with other countries. Will he say something about this matter, because since 1964, when the Henniker-Heaton Committee reported, instead of there being a doubling to 500,000 in the number of young people going into day release, there has been a small decline? Have the Government any plans on this front?
§ Mr. Booth
We do not have any specific plans. I want to deal with another aspect of this matter, but since the hon. Member has asked me to comment I shall do so. We in this country must examine ways of increasing the role of day release connected with vocational training. I do not believe personally that the scheme should be restricted to vocational training. I should like to see some of the youngsters in dead-end jobs given the opportunity for day release to take courses not necessarily connected with their own vocations to enable them to gain some of the wider advantages of this form of education. That is not covered by a direct proposal, although I want to go on to something else which is and which I believe, will be of interest to hon. Members.
I said earlier that, while our response to unemployment among young people was based primarily on the belief that the problem was largely a reflection of the current recession, there are some longer-term measures which need to be taken. One of these concerns an improvement in job prospects for the less able. This is a matter which was rightly emphasised the last time we debated this 1130 subject and which I hope will be stressed again today. Job prospects for the less able are particularly scarce now, although this is not a new problem. The report that we debated about national youth employment, which was entitled "Unqualified, Untrained and Unemployed", drew particular attention to the decline in job opportunities for unqualified youngsters. That report concluded that those young people were at a greater risk of unemployment than their fellows and that investment in training below craft level was relatively low. Last year the TSA in its discussion document "Vocational Preparation for Young People" drew attention to the same problem and to the need to do something for the large number of young people—there are some 300,000 or so—who leave school every year and who enter jobs with little or no further education or training. The Government have carried out a detailed study of this problem and within a few weeks will be publishing their proposals for action. Action there certainly needs to be.
The meagre amount of money spent on these 300,000 or so youngsters contrasts with the wealth of resources devoted to the others. Our performance here compares very unfavourably with that of our competitors in Europe and I believe that it represents a waste of human resources which we can ill afford. Part of the trouble has been the separate development of education and training, one aspect of which has been referred to by one of my hon. Friends in an intervention. What is needed is new forms of vocational preparation in which training and further education can be combined to produce arrangements which may be attractive to these young people and of real benefit to them in their careers. The Government's statement which is to come out shortly will propose an experimental programme to test the new arrangements which will be run jointly by the Department of Education and Science and the Training Services Agency.
§ Mr. Clement Freud (Isle of Ely)
Will the Secretary of State accept that there is a damaging division between the Department of Employment's jobcentres, which are financed by the central Government. and the youth employment offices, which are the responsibility of 1131 the Department of Education and Science and the local authorities? Certainly in my constituency the former is very flush and the latter is very hard-up, and this does a great deal of damage to youth employment. Will the right hon. Gentleman comment upon that?
§ Mr. Booth
I should need to look at the situation in the particular area, but it is no part of our policy or intention that one of the services should be working to the disadvantage of the other. The ideal situation would be for them to supplement one another, and it should be to the advantage of young people leaving school to choose which of the services they want to use.
The proposition I wish to put to the House is a development of great potential for improving employment and training prospects for less able young people. It is necessarily a long-term solution and it cannot do very much in the immediate crisis, but it is a necessary step for the Government to be taking on both social and economic grounds. I believe that if the experimental programme is a success it will fill a widely recognised gap in the training and further education arrangements for young people in this country.
While considering long-term solutions, we should also ensure that a larger proportion of young people are able to enter apprenticeships, both in their own interests and in order to provide skills which the country will need in the economic upturn.
I was asked about the Government's attitude to training people in apprenticeships for trades in which we could not definitely say that there would be jobs. We have decided as a matter of policy that we should not restrict entry into training to the areas where jobs are waiting. That would deny a number of people entry into training and deny the country a number of trained people who, we hope, will be needed in the economic upturn. I believe it is better for a person to spend time in training than in a dole queue.
The MSC and the Government will shortly be publishing a consultative document putting forward—without commitment on behalf of the Government—a possible scheme of collective funding 1132 for initial training in transferable skills in selected occupations. I ask hon. Members to await publication of the document for details of the scheme. Its main purpose will be to make more effective financial arrangements for first-year apprenticeships. I hope that the document will be available to hon. Members by the end of this month.
To return to the short-term situation, particularly the prospects for this year's school leavers, I have said that job prospects for young people this year, according to our reports, are far from promising, although in the last few months there has been a small but encouraging rise in the number of unfilled vacancies at careers offices.
I have shown that the Government fully recognise the problem and have responded with a large number of special measures. It may be argued that they are not enough, and I accept that they can do little more than provide temporary and emergency help. That is why a large part of the improvements in job prospects for young people must depend ultimately on an improvement in the economic situation generally. The Government's industrial strategy lays the foundation for this improvement and for an improvement in the employment prospects of young people.
We must continue to deploy special temporary measures to provide and sustain employment for young people in the recession, but we must simultaneously develop policies of continuing value to those requiring vocational training in future. All these policies can play an important part in enabling young people not only to obtain jobs but to obtain jobs which will enable them to work in places which will match their potential, give them the chance to develop as individuals, work in a more satisfying way and meet their individual interests.
§ 5.4 p.m.
§ Mr. Julian Ridsdale (Harwich)
The Secretary of State blamed a number of our troubles on the world economic recession. That may be partly true, but he should pay more attention to why we are in our present position. One of the reasons is surely that the Government came to power in 1974 and abandoned all forms of prices and incomes policy, saying "Give them the money." They increased Government expenditure by 50 1133 per cent. and so created the inflationary situation which is such a handicap to our attempts to export.
Hon. Members with detailed knowledge of other countries and their industries know how much our present difficulties are a long-term problem created by the fact that people have been moving out of the wealth-creating industries into local government and the service industries. That is why we want more investment. The Government claim that we want to cut back Government spending, but we want a redeployment of the investment forces now being used by the Government for Government spending. They should be used in industry so that wealth and jobs are created.
§ Mr. Litterick
Will the hon. Gentleman dwell on that point, particularly with reference to the United States where a very much smaller proportion of the labour force—only 30 per cent. or 31 per cent.—is engaged in manufacturing industry and where unemployment levels are considerably higher than in this country, not as a matter of cyclical effect but as a matter of permanent effect?
§ Mr. Ridsdale
I do not wish to be led astray too much. I had in mind more Japan than the United States. Japan has had much more investment in industry, but its problems are more like ours than are the problems of the United States. I do not wish to be led astray on the general economic argument. I wish to deal in detail with the problems facing many of our young people.
I welcome this debate. I am greatly disturbed by the increased unemployment, especially among school leavers in my constituency. The number of school leavers in my area who cannot get jobs has gone up by three times, compared with last year. My right hon. Friend the Member for Lowestoft (Mr. Prior) rightly said that this is the equivalent of one in six school leavers being unable to get jobs. This is most demoralising for young people, especially when one realises the hopes they have when they leave school.
Unfortunately, the prospects are not good. I have talked to the careers officers in my constituency. I listened to the Secretary of State saying what a good job they were doing and how much more 1134 money was being spent on the service. I welcome the fact that there are to be 100 more careers officers posts created, but all the time I was wondering how they are going to get the jobs for young people. Are we to get them by bureaucratic means? I do not believe it.
I have some constructive suggestions to make which I hope will help to cure the problem. In North-East Essex there are not nearly enough vacancies for school leavers. I listened with great interest when the Secretary of State said he was giving help to many areas. That kind of help has not been given to us.
Another difficulty in my area and in the whole coastal belt of seaside towns throughout the country is the cost of transport. Fares have increased by 50 per cent. and there is no flexibility in the movement of labour. There is a stagnation in the country, which is most disturbing. I wish the Minister would come to my constituency and see the sort of problems we face.
My right hon. Friend suggested that we should have a Minister to deal with this problem. I agree that is vital if we are to get away from the complacency and bureaucratic attitude which I felt slightly tinged some of the suggestions made by the Minister.
The right hon. Gentleman talked about apprenticeships. We would all like there to be more apprenticeships. Does he realise that in North-East Essex British Railways have cut down their apprenticeships from 20 to two? There is also difficulty for young people travelling on the railways to towns where they can get apprenticeships because of the prohibitive cost of transport.
One reason why there is so much unemployment among school leavers is the industrial rationalisation that is taking place. We welcome better benefits and pension arrangements in industry, but rationalisation is causing industry not to be able to employ as many young people as in the past.
We must realise that we are creating a new situation and that something practical must be done. It is against that background that we must try to think about solving the problem. I know that good Government must be a balance between freedom and authority. I tend 1135 possibly to move on balance to the side of freedom rather than authority.
Two weeks ago I visited a comprehensive school in my constituency and talked to the teachers and children about their problems. The headmistress of that school said that something must be done because there was nothing more pathetic than to see those who had just left school hanging about outside the school because they could not get jobs. That is the situation that we now face. That is why I welcome this opportunity of voicing my concern. There can be nothing more demoralising than seeing the school leavers outside a school because that was the last place where they did any work.
Something practical must be done. We must use all the resources of local communities—rotary, industrialists, and local government. Those who wish to do a constructive job of good relations in the community should volunteer.
I welcome the suggestion made by my right hon. Friend about publicity being given for this purpose. A lead must be given by this House so that young people may have some hope. There is nothing more demoralising than for young people to draw £11.90 unemployment pay but to have no prospect of doing any work. My right hon. Friend suggested that the £11.90 plus £5 should be given for useful work in the community. For example, there are 35,000 retired people in my constituency who suffer hardships and difficulties. Yet young people are being paid £11.90 unemployment pay and nobody seems to care about the elderly. This is not good government. It is bad, inhuman government. Something constructive must be done.
This morning I spoke on the telephone to the local manager of the employment office in my constituency. I asked "How would you react if someone were to come forward and say 'Here is £11.90 unemployment pay plus £5 if you help on a voluntary basis with the elderly'?"
There is a lot of light industry in my constituency which is doing very well in exporting. Alas, there is not enough co-ordination between the schools and industry to get the kind of jobs that youngsters need. Industrialists complain that they are not getting enough skilled people. There must be better education 1136 of the right type in schools to help solve that kind of problem. I am convinced that something along those lines must be done to deal with the immediate problem. If not, many young people will be demoralised and apathetic. Indeed, they will not wish to work because they will have got out of the habit of working. We need a "parental" body of industrialists and others to take care of these young people who should be given hope. Otherwise, they will lose hope. That is not the kind of society for which we have worked so long to create.
Emergency measures must be taken to deal with this problem. Some of those emergency measures may run counter to some of our political philosophies. But this is an emergency.
I ask the Minister to ensure that the correct backing is given to create what I have described as "parental" committees all over the country in order to get co-operation between headmasters, careers officers and people in industry. If that kind of backing and Government help can be given, it will give hope to a vast number of young people who, if this situation continues, will be thoroughly demoralised and, in the end, a drag on society.
§ 5.16 p.m.
§ Mr. Sydney Tierney (Birmingham, Yardley)
I am sure that most hon. Members accept that the present level of unemployment is intolerable and that we want to do what we can to bring it down.
I understand that every year 500,000 young people leave our schools, technical colleges and universities. They are young and idealistic and see starting work in some trade or profession as achieving some goal at which they have been aiming and being prepared for for most of their lives. The fact that their aim is not realised and that thousands remain unemployed is an absolute waste and condemnation of us all. We must tackle this problem with the utmost urgency. It must have priority in the general strategy to beat unemployment. I think that we can all agree on that.
The Government, with the school leaver recruitment subsidy, the job creation programmes, the temporary employment subsidy scheme and the many other activities mentioned by my right hon. Friend have taken positive steps, but 1137 I think we all accept that these schemes can have only a marginal effect on solving the problem of unemployment.
The problem of job opportunities for young people is part of the deep and fundamental problem of unemployment as a whole. The problem could not have been more clearly pinpointed or defined than it has been in Birmingham and the West Midlands generally with the cry for Government help from British Leyland, Chrysler and Alfred Herbert. These developments reveal deep structural problems in these long-established industries. These firms were generally run down. Government money has been provided and the companies have been saved. I understand that most of the investment will be used for modern labour-saving machinery so that the companies can again prepare themselves to compete in world markets. With Government intervention many jobs were saved, including jobs for young people. But thousands of jobs will be lost, including many jobs for young people, when this modern machinery is in use.
One is bound to ponder and to ask how much of our industry is in the same state as Leyland, Chrysler and Alfred Herbert. In the West Midlands, particularly, we are faced with deep structural employment problems, over and above the annual cycle of stops and goes. While increased industrial investment will increase industrial activity and create more jobs, only a speedy upturn in our economy and a greater share of world trade can help to provide the solution.
It is my belief, too, that there is a greater need to co-ordinate the activities of the Government and national bodies such as the TUC and the CBI at regional and city levels to provide job opportunities for young people. The area that I represent is heavily dependent on the motor car industry. It is an area that is famed for its skills and ingenuity in manufacturing. There is a great need today for inventiveness and skills if the area is to survive industrially. In the West Midlands, employers and employees like those anywhere else in this country, will have to come together to plan and scheme to produce new products and capture new markets if our industrial and economic prosperity is to be increased.
1138 There are some good signs in the West Midlands. For instance, I am impressed with the planning agreement that has been produced by the Lucas Aerospace Combined Trade Union Joint Committee, which seeks, with management, to embark on new products in hybrid electronics, such as electrically propelled cars, producing retarders as a secondary braking system for buses and heavy vehicles, producing safety equipment for deep-sea divers and many other projects.
In hybrid electronics we lead the world in work skills and technology. It is an area which could and should be developed in order to provide for world markets. The National Enterprise Board could well play a part in encouraging both Lucas and the Trade Union Joint Committee to help in this venture. Hybrid electronics is an area that would attract our young people with new job opportunities. More and more industries generally should plan with their employees to find new outlets, new markets and new jobs.
In Birmingham, another pleasing feature has been the arrival of the National Exhibition Centre, its success and its great prosperity at present. The arrival of this centre has created 3,000 full-time jobs and 3,000 part-time jobs in the hotel servicing and catering industry, apart from the employment that will be created for those in retail distribution and the commercial field by the spin-off from the activities of the exhibition centre.
However, my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Employment, in a speech that he made to representatives of the hotel and catering industry, asked for a better use of manpower in the hotel and catering industry. He was speaking to the Hotel Catering and Institutional Management Association. He expressed particular concern that employers were not making sufficient efforts to recruit and train school leavers at a time when so many were looking for jobs. He went on to refer to an Economic Development Council survey of the industry which showed that only about a third of employers in the industry were making any attempt to recruit school leavers.
Besides that, the hotel and catering industry relies heavily on overseas workers. My hon. Friend said,In a period of high unemployment there should be a very limited number of overseas 1139 workers needed for unskilled vacancies; and secondly with the pledged help of the Manpower Services Commission and its Employment Service and Training Services Agencies there is a first class opportunity of attracting to the industry people—especially young people—who are looking for new jobs.Like retail distribution, this is a low-pay industry with anti-social working hours. There is a great need for a better pay structure. There is certainly a need for a career structure—now non-existent—if we are to attract young people to these particular industries. I make that point because even in a place such as Birmingham, where these new jobs are being created—new service jobs which will certainly help in respect of the great dependence we have to place on manufacturing industries—we find that there are jobs but not in the types of industry in which young people are given opportunities for the development of careers in which they can place their future employment.
Dealing further with the need for coordination and better uses of what resources we have in our regions and cities, at a time when the Birmingham Council Careers Service is saying that 1,854 unemployed young people are registered with the service, according to a report in the Birmingham Evening Mail of last Saturday, Leyland has 256 places for young people for crafts, engineering, technical apprentices, and engineering and business students. I might add that that is 145 more places for young people than were available last year. That ought to be placed on record and Leyland should be given credit for that. But according to the newspaper report, Leyland is still looking for 100 young people out of the 256 to fill the vacancies available.
There is something tragically wrong here, where we have the various local services finding people for jobs but have this difficulty in finding people to fill those 100 vacancies at that particular plant.
Furthermore, on the day that the right hon. Member for Worcester (Mr. Walker) published his findings on the unemployment problems of West Indian youths in London and Birmingham, and all the difficulties that they portend for now and the future, there was a report in a Birmingham newspaper that 25 unemployed 1140 Birmingham youths working at the West Indian Federation building would have to stop work. Although the wages and the supervisors were provided by the Government, through their scheme, they had no money for materials. They were short of sand and cement, and though they had had many promises from local organisations and individuals that at least the materials could be and would be provided, no materials were forthcoming. On the very day of this announcement, we read that because of a lack of materials—sand and cement—some project is breaking down.
However, these instances apart, I am sure that we all have to agree that much effort is being made by the Government—albeit marginally—to beat this problem of youth unemployment. Our efforts must be further concentrated at regional and city levels to provide job opportunities for young people. If a young person does not get a job when he leaves school, it is more difficult for him to get training opportunities later. Often young people must move into dead-end jobs because those opportunities have been fewer for them as they had not had a job at a particular time.
We have had much talk about cuts in public expenditure and so on. I say to Opposition Members that cuts in public spending will further cut job opportunities for young people and career opportunities for young people will be cut further still. We need the upturn in the economy and we need an increased share of world trade. We need to provide investment and selective public investment in economic growth. Most of all, however, we need to invest in our young people in terms of jobs and opportunities.
We can all get emotional about unemployment generally, and about the unemployment of young people in particular. However, we must work this out and become more active, not only at Government level but in regard to coordination at city and regional levels. We must remember that the future of our country depends upon the opportunities we give to our young people today. Their job opportunities now provide our future economic and industrial survival.
§ 5.30 p.m.
§ Dr. Reginald Bennett (Fareham)
It is a desperate situation at the moment when so many of the young—and I as a family 1141 man, have an immediate opportunity to know—are without jobs, and we must take a serious attitude to try to supply the missing jobs. Here we have something that is nation wide. It is not a matter of individual crises, although for this House it is the summation of a large number of individual crises.
As the Minister said, this is a reflection of the general economic situation, and I would add to his conclusions, which come with his authority, that the situation today is a derivative of the principle,to him that hath shall be given, and from whom that bath not shall be taken away even that which he hath.In other words, the whole of the future is on the side of the big battalions. I shall not rub that in any further, because we know that that is a fact.
I have a specific point to make in this connection which concerns some of those who are least strong in their claim to unemployment in the world, and that is the newly-qualified people. I am referring not to those whom my hon. Friend the Member for Harwich (Mr. Ridsdale) mentioned, the school leavers, but to those who have gone through higher education and have become graduates or diplomats—or whatever the technical term is for those who have their diplomas; I think technically they are diplomats—or have other qualifications and are on the market. They are unable to get employment. This is an uncomfortable situation, because no additional training will do them any good. No arrangements for other accommodation of them will do them any good. They are already on the public market and they have in some way to get into it, but they do not know how.
I speak on the same theme, unexpectedly as it may seem, as the hon. Member for Birmingham, Yardley (Mr. Tierney) because of my accidental but prolonged association with the catering industry. Those who are interested in the matter have been finding that it is those who have obtained qualifications in cateing who are in the most difficult situation, and only in the last week it has been brought to my notice by the manager of the House of Commons Catering Department that he has written a letter to a catering magazine on the subject pointing out that it would be a good thing if this problem were faced.
1142 There was an overwhelming response to the catering manager's letter. Everybody offers jobs to catering trainees after they have had one or two years' experience, but nobody will offer a job to a trainee who don not have that period of experience, and this produces a vicious circle which looks like choking off entry to any future catering industry unless something can be done about the problem.
Clearly, what has to be done about the problem is nothing that any individual Member of this House can do, but it is something that the House as a whole can do. In fact, it is something that only the Minister can do because, although he is not personally responsible for a great area of the catering industry, the fact is that 60 per cent. of those employed in this country are now employed by or for the Government, and the Minister is therefore able to exert a direct influence. I have no doubt that if he were to choose to use his influence it could have an effect on the rest of the trade to start stimulating the provision of places for initial trainees so that they will ultimately and in a short time become sufficiently qualified to be able to stand on their own feet.
The purpose of this brief intervention is to draw attention to this anomaly which I am sure will be reflected in other circles of endeavour in other technical fields, and I hope that the Minister, who I feel sure is able to influence the situation, will see fit to do something about it.
§ 5.35 p.m.
§ Mr. George Rodgers (Chorley)
I cannot help feeling that there is something curious and illogical about the theme of our debate. The problem of employment, or the lack of it, for young people is not a separate problem from that of unemployment generally. If there is substantial unemployment it affects the work force as such and it is patently absurd to pretend that the disease can be remedied in one age group and remain rampant in others.
I appreciate the various and ingenious schemes and formulae that have been put forward by my right hon. Friend to relieve the misery of youth unemployment, but there is a danger that they will serve to conceal the more offensive aspects of a deeper and wider situation. 1143 None the less, we must not be churlish about this, and a tribute should be paid to those responsible for creating special job opportunities for young people. I recognise that there is genuine concern in the Department about the effect of unemployment on young people who are on the very threshold of adult life.
To lose one's job without much prospect of securing alternative employment is a shattering blow at any age during a working lifetime, and it is difficult for those who have not experienced the situation to realise the depression, indignity and loss of confidence that come about after a period of constant rejection. As I come from the North-West I am well aware of the impact of unemployment and the dejection of touring factories almost begging for work, to say nothing of the stigma that is attached to queuing up for unemployment pay. I assure hon. Gentlemen opposite that it does not take long for the stuffing to be knocked out of a grown man when faced with that situation, and I speak not merely from association with this problem, but from bitter experience of it. How much worse it must be for the young person just emerging from school or training college, obviously filled with bright expectations. It is no wonder that young people have become cynical about the antics of politicians, economists, industrialists and those who manoeuvre the wealth of the world.
One thing is certain—the thought that we must have constantly in our minds that young people are the victims of a system that is not of their making. I have a teacher training college in my constituency. During the last 10 days I have received nearly 150 letters advising me that those concerned are desperately troubled about the lack of employment prospects in the teaching profession, and I appeal to the Minister to look closely at the situation. I agree with the hon. Member who referred to the absurdity of, on the one hand, having a training programme and, on the other, of having a number of trained and able people who are unable to secure employment.
I believe that education and employment are allied. We cannot separate the two. If we are not prepared to invest in education, we are not desperately interested in industry and employment.
§ Mr. John Stokes (Halesowen and Stourbridge)
We all understand the difficulties and frustrations of teachers, but does the hon. Gentleman agree that it might not be a bad thing for teachers, instead of being at school and college and then back at school for the rest of their lives, to go out into the world for a few years and do another job—perhaps industrial training or something else—and then go into teaching a few years later, enriched by that wider experience?
§ Mr. Rodgers
I think that we should be prepared to examine any proposal. I assure the hon. Gentleman that the teacher training college in my area takes people who have previously been in industry, and there has been an appeal to people to come in and make their knowledge and experience available. Some have made the gesture even though faced with the prospect of a loss of income, but they now find that no jobs are available.
I understand that about £20 million would remedy the situation. We could employ the teachers who are emerging from teacher training colleges and universities. That is a paltry sum and I look to Ministers in all Departments to focus attention on this situation and to provide a remedy.
Three major factors confront the Government today—unemployment, inflation and the necessity for massive investment in industry. It is often suggested by hon. Members in this House, and members of Government, that these are three different facets of the same problem, and many honestly believe that if we cure inflation then, almost automatically, we shall resolve the problem of unemployment. I do not share that view at all. Those who recall the mass unemployment of the 1930s will also recall that the country was not plagued with inflation during that period—not that this was any consolation to those people who suffered the miseries of unemployment.
I accept that there must be huge investment in manufacturing industry. Only thus can the wealth be generated to finance our social programme. For the life of me I cannot see the sense in a policy which simply restricts spending in the public sector with the pious hope that the resources thus made available will 1145 be utilised by the private sector for industrial investment. This appears to be a triumph of hope over experience.
It would obviously be much wiser to make use of the apparatus already available through the National Enterprise Board to direct investment. That, I understand, is the function of the board, but I feel that the finance at present available to it is totally inadequate. If investment were properly harnessed and allied to training programmes and apprenticeship schemes a good number of jobs would be created for young people in industry. It seems folly for the Government to accept responsibility for employment if they do not also accept responsibility for the investment programme. The two issues are interwoven and one cannot be solved without involving the other.
In the short term I believe that an uplift in world trade, a centrally planned flow of investment into industry and extended training facilities will provide employment for many young people whose prospects at the moment are bleak. I do not think it possible in the longer term. The longer-term outlook is that there will be a much smaller labour force in manufacturing industries. It is an inevitable consequence of industrial investment.
I would quote some figures. In the years between 1964 and 1973 in the gas, electricity and water industries, output actually increased by 57.6 per cent., and this was with a labour force which was reduced by over 16 per cent. In engineering, output increased by 46.6 per cent. and, here again, the labour force diminished by 13.2 per cent. In chemicals, coal and petroleum there was a staggering increase in output of 71.5 per cent. with a reduced labour force of 8.5 per cent. In textiles the increase in output and production was 30 per cent. and the labour force also reduced by 30 per cent. I have quoted figures from just a few industries but the process applies across the whole spectrum of manufacturing industry.
We must accept that the days of labour intensive industry have gone for ever. I represent a constituency in central Lancashire where the decline of the coal and cotton industries has had a devastating effect on the whole region. Superimposed 1146 upon this we have the problem that within eight years the working population—by working population I mean those between the ages of 16 and 65, excluding students—will increase by 1,500,000. That is a formidable figure. It is more than the number at present unemployed. Does anyone believe that we can absorb that number, most of it among the lower age groups? Anyone who believes that we can absorb it in manufacturing industry with its smaller work force, despite increased production, is living in dreamland.
It is absurd to expect that by some remarkable coincidence the number in the work force available should exactly match the number of job opportunities. It may be that the old concept of full employment is becoming obsolete. I believe that the purpose of industry is to provide prosperity, not employment. If we accept this contention we must seriously examine the other options which have become available. I have never myself considered that all work is virtuous. Indeed, much of it is plain drudgery. The reason that people seek employment, even in the dirtiest and most dreary of occupations, is that the alternative has been poverty.
It is rather different if one is an idle individual in possession of substantial wealth. There are still a fair number in our society with private means who have never become involved in work, as I understand the meaning of the word, although the absence of endeavour, in the circumstances, does not appear to unduly depress or embarrass them. Most people, particularly young people, would prefer to make a contribution to the well-being of our community. If we wish to take advantage of their enthusiasm, and utilise their abilities, we must look for an expansion in public spending.
That will horrify hon. Members opposite. However, an OECD survey, published as recently as 1975, pointed out that unemployment in Sweden in December of that year was only 1.6 per cent. of the population and that this was because public spending had actually increased by between 5 per cent. and 8 per cent. In some areas—public transport, the hospital services, the social services and education—I believe there must be a larger work force, and public spend- 1147 ing in those areas is a sound investment for the future.
We shall have to explore the possibilities of early retirement and sabbatical years for ordinary working people, as well as wider opportunities for travel and education. These benefits should flow from the regeneration of industry. The benefits which flow from that regeneration must not be directed towards enriching a small minority in the community. I believe that the trade union movement at the present time, and working people generally, are making huge sacrifices to sustain this Government in office—sacrifices which involve not only income but also principle.
I have never disputed that an incomes policy is one of the ingredients necessary in order to combat the economic crisis. However, I believe that this is only one ingredient in our armoury. There is ample evidence that too many of us are simply not involved and not making any sacrifice at all. It is true that the great mass of the country's wealth is still concentrated in the hands of a tiny proportion of the population. If we are to go forward with a programme which is designed to give worthwhile opportunities to our young people, and to improve the living standard and quality of life of the whole community, then we must have the courage to bring about fundamental changes in the distribution of wealth and power, because wealth and power are one and the same thing. Without this there can be no real advance.
I commenced my remarks by suggesting that it was difficult to debate the problems of unemployment for young people as though it were an isolated and separate problem.
I conclude by insisting that we cannot successfully discuss or resolve the problem of unemployment without analysing and reforming the economic structure of our society. It was for this purpose that the Labour Government were put into office, and it was for this purpose that the Labour Party was created. Only when it sets about implementing those basic principles will a Labour Administration demonstrate that it represents a more humane, as well as more efficient, method of Government than that advocated by hon. Members opposite.
§ 5.49 p.m.
§ Mr. Anthony Steen (Liverpool, Wavertree)
At an increasing number of points in our everyday life Government are intervening and the limits within which we can operate freely without coming up against rules and regulations are narrowing. Increasingly, administrative bureaucracy frustrates our efforts at every turn. Big Government impose further controls, reduce scope and opportunity and affect the purposes of our lives. In the last decade the question of Government intervention in industry has increased and now, in employment, the Government have moved in with the big battalions.
In the 1920s the Government introduced their relief work programme for unemployment. The public programme of work included improvement schemes for sewage disposal and the building of hospitals and provided amenities such as swimming pools and improving parks. The Treasury frowned on these public works since it took the view that they were useless at tackling unemployment.
None the less they did provide earnings for the unemployed to help meet the basic lower order needs, such as food, clothing and shelter. Today the basic lower order needs of people are well provided for by the Welfare State, whereas in the 1920s the basic social provisions for those without work were very rudimentary. Today, job or no job, one is looked after, yet it is the higher order needs which are not being satisfied. There is absence of job satisfaction, lack of personal incentive, lack of opportunities, lack of ability to use one's own creativity and dull and boring jobs. So while there may be a social stigma of having no job, there is no danger of going hungry.
Therefore, instead of the motivation to seek work being based on the wish to satisfy the basic needs, those seeking work today are after something more. Their aspirations are higher, their demands are higher, their wish to participate is greater, they want to know more about what they are doing and why they are doing it. With increased educational provisions, young people are expecting more out of their lives and taking work is not something they do just to dispel boredom but something from which they demand job satisfaction.
1149 Yet the Government's approach to the unemployed is still that of the 1920s. This is well illustrated by the way in which the Government approach their job creation programme. Instead of satisfying the higher order needs of young people, challenging them by giving them opportunities for initiative, and entrepreneurial skills and chances to be constructively creative, it has been set up on the basis that total control will remain fairly and squarely with the Government and their munchkin men.
One argument that the Government advanced for tightly holding the reins was that unemployment amongst school leavers would soon disappear. Yet if one looks at the pattern of unemployment amongst school leavers since 1968, one sees that quite the converse is true. In 1968 there were 28,000 18-year-olds unemployed. In 1971 that figure rose to 63,000 and in September last year it was 124,000, and it rose even higher. In spite of those figures the Government insisted when they launched the programme in September that it was a measure to alleviate unemployment in the short term. They would run the programme and would create 15,000 jobs for young people.
Thirty years ago the Education Act 1944 talked about service for youth and the provision of recreational facilities for them. It was not until nearly 30 years later that the Department realised that service for youth should be superseded by service by youth, that the young wanted a stake in the future of the country and wanted to be involved and to participate in the life and development of their area.
The basic assumption, therefore, that the Government should control the job creation programme and run it with a bureaucracy and in such a way as effectively to prevent the young from showing any initiative either indicate the Government's reactionary and backward thinking or, far more likely, shows that they are afraid of actually giving power and responsibility to those school leavers without jobs who now abound throughout the country.
If the higher order needs of such young people are to be satisfied the job creation programme must be put into reverse, and past. Individuals and groups 1150 of young people should be invited to develop their own proposals. They should have the right to create their own jobs. They should be encouraged to gain experience, to plan and operate their own projects. Their involvement is primary. They should participate in identification, selection, planning and ultimate performance, and should be responsible for all aspects of the administration, including book-keeping, preparation of financial reports, and a written overall evaluation at the conclusion of the project.
The range of ideas is limitless. The more conventional include work with preschool play groups, building adventure playgrounds, helping with the meals on wheels services and assisting in hospitals. Language schemes could be started for immigrant communities, conducted by immigrant young people themselves. Young people with practical skills could build furniture for low income families. Litter could be collected and recycled and young handymen could start toy hospitals to repair children's toys.
The jobs could be used as an important part of a young person's training by teaching him essential skills, not only in handling accounts and managing projects, but in dealing with people and caring for neighbourhoods. Furthermore, the emphasis on social and community-type problems could result in a real attack on vandalism. If the young are involved in redecorating the schools and community centres in their own neighbourhoods, it is far less likely they will wish to see them vandalised.
To a large extent, therefore, the solution could come from the young unemployed themselves. But even where the young are unable to create their own work there is another way which will put the initiative on them to take decisions and choose what they want. Each local job shop could carry lists of community jobs that needed tackling in the area. These could come from the statutory authorities, hospitals and other public boards, local voluntary organisations and community groups. It would be a running list which would be added to daily and the young would in this way be able to choose which type of work they would like to do. Besides putting the responsibility on the shoulders of the young, decision-making must also be 1151 shared with them, especially as they are the main, if not the sole participants.
But what do we have? Of the nine action committees which make decisions for each programme, all but three are chaired by professors of local universities, one by an industrialist, and, recently, two by members of the programme itself. There is a heavy representation of trade unionists and local authorities and only a few have a voluntary organisation on them. What they all exclude is the young themselves. The participation therefore in the decision-making process, as to what they should do, is neatly tied up with the bureaucrats, officials and public bodies. This needs to be turned on its head. The action committee should be at the grass roots, at the bottom of the bureaucratic ladder, rather than at the top.
As if this destruction of initiative and choice is not bad enough, the Government are paying the school leavers an obscene amount of money to do obscenely boring jobs. The Government's argument is that they are paying the market rate. At the same time they say the jobs being done are ones that would not otherwise get done. How can there be a market rate for a job that would not normally get done, and how does one determine the market rate? Surely it is the kind of money which would be paid by employers in the area.
My hon. Friend the Member for Cleveland and Whitby (Mr. Brittan) and I spent an illuminating day on Merseyside a few months ago, when we met a sizeable cross-section of young people on the programme. We were unable to find one young person who was not earning approximately double what he had been earning previously, before he became unemployed.
The market rate that the Government have adopted is generally the NALGO rate. They are paying that rate even though the job is one which would not normally get done and even though it is plain that, as soon as the Government programme ends, the young person will receive approximately half of what he is earning at present under the Government scheme. This is immoral. It means that a young person is being paid an inflated wage and that as soon as he 1152 finishes the Government scheme he either becomes unemployed and receives very little or takes a job on the open market and receives approximately half what he was earning under the job creation scheme.
That is immoral. I have yet to find someone who disagrees with me that the wages are both inflationary and obscene. It is as if the Government are bribing young people to do the most boring and irrelevant jobs by paying them 100 per cent. over the odds.
As well as failing our school leavers' higher order needs, the Government have also badly deceived them. In the statement which launched the programme, the Government stated:Wherever possible the jobs will be designed to provide some vocational training and will be linked to appropriate forms of further education.Perhaps the Minister would tell us just how many of the jobs created are linked to appropriate forms of further education and whether there is widespread vocational training. Certainly on Merseyside I could find very few which included training content in the job.
The greatest heresy of all is the hypocrisy of the Government in saying that they care about the young unemployed. There are still 36,000 with no jobs whatsoever and no likelihood of jobs and that number is likely to increase throughout the summer. I should like to know from the Government—
§ Mr. Eric S. Heffer (Liverpool, Walton)
I accept some of the hon. Gentleman's arguments, but does he not agree that 180 projects have been developed on Merseyside to the tune of £4 million and that another £9 million is available for further projects? Does he agree that one of the problems is that insufficient sponsors are coming forward with ideas to develop the projects?
§ Mr. Steen
That is true. One of the problems of which the hon. Gentleman may be aware is that the Government insist that 10 per cent. of all supervisory costs and 10 per cent. of material costs will be borne by the Government, and that the other 90 per cent. of supervisory costs and material costs will have to be found by the individual sponsor. That means that the voluntary bodies, the community groups and the individuals 1153 cannot come forward unless they can find the other 90 per cent. That is one of the reasons for more projects not coming forward from the private sector.
§ Mr. Steen
I am most grateful to the Minister. It still means that 90 per cent. has to be found from other sources. All the voluntary organisations that I know say that they cannot find the funds to fill the gap. It may be that the Minister needs first-hand knowledge of what the grass roots are experiencing, in which case I shall happily provide him with it.
I return to the comment of the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) about the number of jobs on Merseyside. If the rate for the job were the market rate, the number of jobs created could be doubled. It is the high inflationary wage which is paid which means that the number of jobs created is so much lower than would otherwise be the case.
I suggest that the Government consider my proposals for ending school leaver unemployment. I suggest that they give school leavers the opportunity to create their own jobs in return for a wage equivalent to their unemployment benefit. Pay them a little more if we must, but there seems absolutely no justification for offering up to £56 a week to about 7,000 young people under the job creation projects while the remaining 36,000 are still on the dole.
The ingenuity and initiative that young people show in anti-social activities well merit an experiment designed to show what they can do constructively. Everyone knows that there are a thousand and one jobs that need doing in every area throughout the country. To pay an inflationary wage to a few for doing jobs that do not need to be done, while leaving the rest with nothing to do, shows how twisted is the present Government's thinking.
We have become the laughing stock of the world. We continue to aggravate the present serious economic situation by 1154 constantly pursuing the wrong policies. The job creation programme is a fine example.
§ Mr. Speaker
I remind the hon. Gentleman that he has the Adjournment debate on the job creation programme and that many of his hon. Friends are hoping to speak in this debate.
§ Mr. Steen
I am most grateful to you, Mr. Speaker, for that direction. I was on my last minute.
I was saying that we have become the laughing stock of the world. The job creation programme is a fine example of an unimaginative idea that has gone off the rails. As long as it continues in its present form there will be disastrous consequences and our young will become even more disillusioned. Instead of turning into society they will turn on to it. Can we blame them?
§ 6.5 p.m.
§ Mr. Bob Cryer (Keighley)
This debate cannot ignore the fact that in the narrow context of school leavers and young persons being unemployed there is a reflection of the position of the economy as a whole. Given the critical position of our largely capitalist economy, an economy that is supported by Conservative Members, the Government have put forward several palliatives of varying application. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State mentioned the job creation programme and the £75 million that has been allocated to the Manpower Services Commission, but in my view the Government should consider matters such as early retirement, which was mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Chorley (Mr. Rodgers). Retirement at 60 for men, introduced over a period of years, would be a step in the right direction.
The point has been clearly made that investment of itself will not necessarily produce jobs, but the general trend indicates that the greater degree of investment the greater the number of jobs that are replaced over the long term.
It is interesting that in the context of the Opposition being critical of the present situation, it was the Conservative Party that took us into the EEC. We are now talking about a high level of unemployment, a situation which the EEC has notoriously failed to help. 1155 Those promised jobs for the boys do not seem to have come to fruition.
Whatever the faults of the Labour Government—by no means can they be put beyond criticism—there is the will to end unemployment. The Opposition's comments are entirely out of place, as I shall demonstrate, when they say that we have created a much greater level of unemployment. The aim of the Labour Government is to remove and reduce unemployment among the adult population and among school leavers. It is worth reminding the House of the Opposition's attitude. I mentioned this in an interjection which was signally badly answered by the right hon. Member for Lowestoft (Mr. Prior). The Government have rescued Alfred Herbert from extinction. That rescue cost the taxpayer money, but the firm was valuable as an important component of the British machine tool industry. If we are talking about achieving the regeneration of British industry, we cannot possibly ignore the machine tool industry. It is the basic seed corn of any industrial development.
The Opposition opposed the rescue of British Leyland. They wanted it split up. They wanted to get rid of the volume car manufacturing sector and to retain only the prestige makes. That would have meant a large increase in the number of jobs lost. The Opposition opposed the rescue of Chrysler. If we had taken their line, which they followed with their votes, there would have been an in increase in the number of jobs lost of 50,000-plus both here and in Scotland.
The Opposition also want huge public expenditure cuts. That has now become almost a fetish with them. The slightest movement of the pound causes an Opposition spokesman to appear on television or to make a speech, issued through Central Office, to the effect that we must have massive public expenditure cuts. When these cuts are not made, when the Chancellor stands firm, as he did very properly, they express great disappointment. That does not help either the country or the pound.
The Opposition opposed the Aircraft and Shipbuilding Industries Bill, a measure which is designed to protect jobs in both industries where a lot of 1156 taxpayers' money is being placed. The nationalists oppose it as well. It is significant that when the Bill was last delayed we did not see shipbuilding shares shooting sky high. In fact, it caused some to plummet.
One of the difficulties that the Government are facing is the combining of the Opposition parties. All the petty little parties, including the nationalists, are jumping on to any bandwagon that they can find. They are combining against the Government. At the same time the Government are seeking to preserve jobs in two important industries.
The Opposition's record—this must be made clear—means that they would produce a large increase in the level of unemployment. They shed crocodile tears now when they talk about the high level of unemployment being of concern, but in practice they are still the party of unemployment.
I comment briefly on Government strategy. It is clear that private industry cannot be relied upon to provide the level of investment which is necessary at this stage in the development of our economy. This was illustrated graphically by the British Steel Corporation, which wanted £70 million to finance steel stock holding. The corporation went to the City to raise the money, and the City refused to respond. The Government provided the £70 million and that protected several hundred jobs. That illustrates that private industry in many cases, though not in all, is just not prepared to make the necessary investment. We therefore have to rely on finance by the taxpayer.
The White Paper on Public Expenditure suggested extensive cuts by 1978–79. There was no strategy contained in that White Paper for directing into manufacturing industry the resources which would be produced by those cuts. Our experience is that resources which are released do not always go into the sectors of industry that need the investment. In the early 1970s under the last Conservative Administration fringe banks. property companies and foreign countries benefited to a much greated degree than did British manufacturing industry.
Investment has to be directed to where it is needed, and we say that the National Enterprise Board is the instrument to do this. The Trades Union Congress has 1157 argued that the board needs at least £1,000 million per year investment to be an effective instrument for the creation of jobs. It is at present receiving only £250 million per year for four years. That is not enough. The amount must be increased by the Government so as to ensure that the NEB does not become merely another industrial bank but becomes a part of our industrial strategy and that the investment is placed where it is needed most. People are prepared to make a sacrifice of present consumption for future jobs but are not prepared to see the money ploughed into fringe banks and property companies where the profit is the highest.
Clearly the solution, for the benefit of employment generally, must be a high level of investment coupled with selective import controls. No hon. Member has mentioned this so far, but the Government will have to consider the use of selective import controls. There is always the possibility of retaliation. I realise that a judgment has to be made. I am not suggesting blanket import controls across the board. I am saying that, if we believe in some sort of directed economy and in direction of investment, which we believe is necessary, we cannot leave imports to the free market. There are many examples of goods being dumped in Britain which are having the effect of wiping out industries and large numbers of jobs.
We must be prepared to use selective import controls, whatever the European Community says. One of the bugbears is that we are bound by this conglomerate of the European Community. However, I believe that we must be prepared to take action within that framework.
For example, almost 15,000 jobs were lost in the textile industry in 1975. That meant that the prospects for young people leaving school were thereby diminished in the textile industry. The Government have fixed quotas for imports from a number of countries, but import quotas should be based at least on the levels prevailing in 1973 and not on the levels prevailing in 1974–75, because they were years of high imports. It is not good enough to go through the motions of having import quotas when they are totally meaningless for the industry concerned.
1158 There has been a slight upturn in the textile industry, but it is still suffering from a lack of orders and the future is by no means as bright as it should be.
In engineering, we often face high tariffs when we export. For example, if we export machine tools to Japan we face a tariff of 15 per cent., yet the Japanese face a tariff into this country of only 8 per cent. Machine tools are a basic and important industry. One of the sad facts is that, although in 1969 there were 4,500 engineering apprenticeships in Yorkshire and Humberside, the figure had dropped to 3,500 in 1974. If we are to regenerate the 1969 level of apprenticeships in Yorkshire and Humberside—the figures for the rest of the country reflect the same trend—we must be prepared to enable the machine tool industry and the engineering industry in general to export. This means that we must at least negotiate equality of opportunity so that, for example, we have the same sort of tariff entry barrier into Japan as the Japanese have into the United Kingdom.
It would also be of great benefit if the nationalised sector of the British motor car industry and that sector which is supported by the Government—British Leyland and Chrysler—brought forward orders for the British machine tool industry. We want to retain the capacity for when the much-vaunted upturn actually arrives. The Government have brought forward a £5 million stockpiling scheme, which is all very well, but we want the orders for the British machine tool industry to ensure that when the upturn comes the industry has the capacity and no more firms go into liquidation or face the difficulties that Alfred Herbert faced.
The motor industry employs large numbers of young people, mostly in apprenticeships. The industry is now beginning to face the fact that selective import controls may well be necessary. Even the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, which has for a long time held off from this view, is now beginning to change its mind and is saying that some import licensing system may well be necessary.
The motor car industry has the enormous problem of the multinationals which can switch investment and use multi-pricing techniques to gain tax advantages 1159 in one country as against another. Chrysler showed this up very well.
We need only to remind ourselves of the way in which the motor cycle industry has been virtually wiped out by Japanese competition. If we do not do something before it is too late, our capacity may well be seriously eroded both from the point of view of manufacturing cars and from the point of view of manufacturing components. It is worth hon. Members reminding themselves that it is a co-operative venture that keeps the flag of the British motor cycle industry waving and in some shape at present. The Meriden Motor Cycle Co-operative employs almost 700 people and produces British motor cycles on a continuing basis, but the concept was opposed bitterly by the Tory Opposition because it represented a different form of organisation from the usual capitalist structure with which they are so besotted.
A number of our electronic industries are facing very severe—indeed, unfair—competition. I do not suppose any hon. Member—not even a Conservative Member—will disagree with me when I say that British industry does not mind competition. It is unfair competition and the dumping of goods which is such a black shadow rising over so many parts of our industry.
My hon. Friends from the North West will no doubt expatiate on the enormous problems of unemployment amongst school leavers and the general population which face the North-West. The Skelmersdale television tube factory was closed because the Radio Corporation of America withdrew its technological aid and assistance.
The Opposition talk continually about cutting public expenditure except for defence. Let us nail this clearly. The amount of money that we spend on defence warps our design and technological development. Britain does not have the expertise to make television tubes. It must be hammered home again and again that the Japanese do not export arms and that the sale of Chieftain tanks or whatever is no substitute for selling people the goods that they need. That is a very open secret which the Japanese have discovered. The closure of the Skelmersdale factory illustrated this graphically.
1160 In this country we do not have the technological ability to design our own colour television tubes. If the Dutch firm, Mullards, pulls out, we shall be without any manufacturing ability. That is the sort of priority the Government have to get right. They have to channel money and energy into our own technology and not rely on imported ideas.
We have been talking about 15,000 unemployed teachers. We certainly want to commit more education facilities for our young people so that we have a reservoir of skilled and able people, ready to be involved in industry when the upturn comes. We have a fairly simple solution that would ensure that there were no unemployed teachers. All we have to do is to cut out the Lance tactical nuclear weapon contract, whereby we are purchasing thousands of these missiles from the Radio Corporation of America at a cost of £55 million over five years. That contract adds to our balance of payments deficit and involves the purchase of weapons of mass extermination.
We already have the Honest John tactical nuclear weapon. The Secretary of State for Defence has not produced any concrete reasons why Lance would be so much better than Honest John. As a Labour Government we ought to say that we will have none of these weapons of mass extermination. They are weapons that are horrific in the eyes of mankind.
Hon and right hon. Members talk about the slaughter in Northern Ireland. That is horrific but it is as nothing compared with the slaughter of which these weapons are capable. Unfortunately, Conservative Members and some of my hon. Friends and the Government seem to want to buy these weapons.
I know that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment has his heart in the right place. I ask him to work against the intransigent attitude of the Secretary of State for Defence and to get rid of some of these contracts. They do not even have the advantage—dubious in the long term—of providing employment for our work people. They provide, instead, jobs in America. I should have thought that there were better things to do with the money, such as ensuring that our teachers were given jobs.
1161 We have to ensure that our design knowledge and know-how are not exported. The extraordinary fact is that we are allowing multinational companies to take out our skill and designs and manufacture abroad. Fortunately, because of the Government's action, that did not happen with Chrysler. The Alpine, which was voted car of the year in 1975, was designed in this country and manufactured in France.
It has happened in Bradford where the Rank factory, producing hi-fi products, designed a new Leak range of hi-fi amplifiers, the Leak 3000. That factory is now closed, with the loss of 200 jobs. As a result there are fewer opportunities for young people to enter what has been hailed as a new industry. The design of this amplifier is being transferred to Japan for manufacture there and subsequent export to this country.
Many work people suspect that when it was importing the Japanese equivalent of these sets Rank tended to advertise the Japanese product and let the Bradford product take a back seat. The Government ought to be prepared to say that if British design and technology are involved no firm will take jobs abroad by exporting that design and technology.
I turn to the delicate subject of race relations. I am glad that the right hon. Member for Lowestoft made it clear that the blame for unemployment does not lie with immigration. We were all sorry that the Leader of the Opposition did not make her position clear when she had the opportunity to do so last week. We have to nail this myth firmly. The blame for unemployment must rest with the economic situation.
It is a matter of great regret that a few members of the Opposition, not all, are climbing on a most dangerous band-waggon. We know who they are, because we have heard them in the House during a quite disgraceful debate about a fortnight ago, a debate initiated by one young blood on the Tory Benches who did not have anything better to think about at the time. We heard the vague innuendos, the suppositions and assumptions which had no factual basis.
We have to make the position absolutely clear. We must ensure that investment is properly channelled into British 1162 industry. We must have more, not less, Government intervention coupled with selective import controls to preserve British manufacturing industry for the upturn. That is the basis on which we have to work. The palliatives, the assistance the Government have given in the short term, are of great benefit, but we have to look to the longer term to make sure that the young, the middle-aged and the elderly up to 60 and 65, in so far as they want to, have the opportunity to work for their country. It is only by adopting this strategy that the Government will succeed.
§ 6.25 p.m.
§ Mr. Clement Freud (Isle of Ely)
It surprises me that in a debate on employment opportunities for young people no hon. Member has yet made mention of social security, because the payments that some unemployed young people get are a definite disincentive to work. Despite the current economic restrictions, it is essential for this country to move towards the concept of a national minimum wage. Until that happens, there is but small incentive to seek work.
I wrote recently to the Department of Employment because I had a constituent who was working a 50-hour-week, had two children and received 28.80 in take-home pay. I suggest that this is no example with which to woo a young person into gainful employment. I sent the pay slip to the Department of Employment asking it to investigate. It took 21 days for the Minister of State to answer the letter, which shows that he must have thought carefully about the matter. The letter said:My letter of 27th May was written on the assumption that Mr. Johnson's gross pay had not, in fact, been subjected to any exceptional deductions. His pay slip serves to underline what I said originally, that Mr. Johnson is very poorly paid for working a 50 hour week.I am sure that that will be a great help to that man.
In his opening speech the Secretary of State spoke of job opportunities and mentioned some of the fairly pointless things that have been found for young people to do, but not all jobs for young people need to be as pointless as those he outlined. The right hon. Member for Lowestoft (Mr. Prior) has suggested the planting of trees on the motorway. That is 1163 certainly an original concept of
I draw attention to a project which I came across recently. There is a charity called Research into Child Blindness, which collects money to pay for medical research. It has taken over the car park of the Odeon cinema in Temple Fortune and set up a waste disposal centre. People bring in waste, particularly cardboard and paper, for which they are paid in Green Shield stamps at the rate of two stamps for every pound of paper. The charity employs young people to sort and stack. Substantial amounts of waste are collected, and last year that enabled over £10,000 to be contributed to medical research, at the same time providing decent and honourable employment for young people. I suggest that there are many such jobs that are useful and virtually self-financing.
In a debate of this kind it is up to every hon. Member to pay particular attention to his own constituency. In the Isle of Ely in the first six months of this year—and I have talked today to the employment officers—the situation is static; there is even a slight improvement. Compared with January, Ely now has 59 fewer unemployed and 57 more jobs vacant, which is a step in the right direction.
In the north of my constituency life is much more difficult. The area careers officer expects the youth unemployment figure to be at a minimum of 25 per cent., 250 jobless, out of 1,000 school-leavers. That raises an important question—namely, what does an area careers officer do when there are no career opportunities in the area? Admittedly, he could add his to the names of the unemployed, although I suppose that as he is no youth it would not alleviate the situation. However, the matter deserves considerable thought. In my constituency the good man showers his unfortunate registerees with lengthy questionnaires, which is not entirely constructive—but there is not much else the man can do.
I mentioned, in an intervention to the Secretary of State, the damaging division between the Department of Employment offices and job centres on the one hand, and the youth careers offices, on the other. Hon. Members warned the Government 1164 when these offices were created that to have two organisations seeking to do roughly the same job for roughly the same type of people, one financed from Government agencies and the other from local authority funds, was bound to cause problems in the long run.
In Ely the careers office is open from 9.30 to midday on four days a week. In a city which has a pretty poor bus service and where the majority of people come in for lunch and look round our splendid new job centre in the afternoon, that is unfortunate. In March, the employment office had no figures for the unemployed under 18 years of age. When I tried to telephone the office this afternoon, it was closed. If the Government wish to offer school leavers genuine help, they must create closer co-ordination of effort between unemployed people of 16 to 18 years of age and unemployed people of 18 years of age or over.
A very good paper published last month by the Department of Employment states under the heading "Staying on at school"The proportion of pupils staying on for at least one year beyond the current minimum leaving age (which is the equivalent of two years beyond the pre-1972–73 minimum leaving age) rose from 24.8 per cent. in 1966–67 to 29.9 per cent. in 1972–73".This year it is only 28.4 per cent. The Government should take a little more care about creating in schools curricula which are attractive to children over the age of 16 in order to get them to stay on at school with attendant benefit to them, to their job prospects and to the country.
There must be more publicity for youth employment. Very much more should be done in schools, in conjunction and co-operation with the Government, to ensure that young people are steered towards the sort of knowledge and learning that will enable them to find employment in the area in which they live. There is a failure to appreciate the needs in agricultural areas, for instance, where there is a great deal of summer casual work, from harvesting to strawberry picking. The recruitment subsidy has had minimal effect in the area, because it was badly timed. It was introduved when there were fewer young unemployed. There is a genuine need for it now, but it is difficult to obtain.
1165 Training schemes should be available for young people leaving school, but they are not. They go through May, June and July without a job, and any kid who has had three months' enforced unemployment is that much more loth to go into a training scheme or to take up an apprenticeship. Government measures could be much more effective and, above all, they should take into account regional and cultural differences. It is no good people in Whitehall yet again deciding what should happen in Yorkshire, Cambridgeshire, Devon and Cornwall, as if there were no difference between any of them.
Much has been said on the subject of teacher unemployment. Teachers have no God-given right to full employment and if there is unemployment, it is right that this should be shared reasonably evenly. However, it seems to me that the Government do have a God-given duty to find employment for people they have trained for three or four years. Students in colleges of education go there on the understanding that there will be a job at the end of it. Why else would a country spend several thousand pounds on their training?
The hon. Member for Halesowen and Stourbridge (Mr. Stokes) suggested that teachers would be enriched if they spent a few years away from the school room. That is possibly true in the case of experienced teachers. However, it is totally wrong to suggest that someone should spend three or four years at a teacher-training college and then go into industry for three or four years, because that person would never return to teaching; the investment in him would be lost.
Arguably, the Government have a special moral responsibility for student teachers who are without jobs. We are told that 15,000 teachers are unemployed and, as the right hon. Member for Lowestoft said, the total sum of money needed to employ them is equivalent to an extra 5p on school meals. Many of us can afford an extra 5p, and there are adequate safeguards for people who cannot, but if we do not want to take the analogy of school meals, aircraft carriers, or whatever it may be, one might remember that the other night we 1166 voted an extra £500 million for food subsidies. Only one-sixteenth of that sum would give employment to student teachers who have spent years in colleges of education and who surely deserve the chance of proving what they can do in employment.
The Liberal Party urges selective measures to employ those teachers, because real benefit will thereby accrue to the nation. In the long term, unemployed teachers can improve the education service, alleviate the poor teacher-pupil ratio and derive experience in teaching. In view of the difference between the amount paid to teachers in unemployment benefits and the small extra sum which, if it came from Government funds, could virtually put an end to much of the illiteracy and innumeracy in this country, it must be right to pay 20 per cent, over and above the unemployment benefits to give full employment to graduates of teacher-training colleges.
§ 6.38 p.m.
§ Mr. Ian Wrigglesworth (Thornaby)
This debate on the waste of young human resources naturally raises strong feelings on both sides of the House—though I found it a little difficult to detect that from the style of delivery of the hon. Member for the Isle of Ely (Mr. Freud). It has been demonstrated by hon. Members, particularly by the hon. Member for Harwich (Mr. Ridsdale), that we are debating a serious and tragic situation which is part of, and cannot be distinguished from, the national unemployment situation, but it can rightly be considered separately—and here I disagree to a certain extent with my hon. Friend the Member for Chorley (Mr. Rodgers) —because there are some distinct issues and characteristics relating specifically to the youth of this country.
Unlike you, Mr. Speaker, I am not one to give sermons, but I should like to start by giving a text for what I have to say by quoting from the excellent report "Unqualified, Untrained and Unemployed", published some time ago, and on whose recommendations it is rather sad that we have not seen more action. It states in Part 3:If the provision of training"—of young people—were improved, and made more universally available, the opportunity would be provided (in many cases) for young people to protect 1167 themselves as individuals against the forces of cyclical change and regional imbalance. It would not overcome these problems, but it would put young people in a less vulnerable position.How true that is. In the area I represent, in the county of Cleveland, there are 1,711 young people unemployed. That compares with some 1,077 last year and 522 at this time in 1974. Before the end of the year, in a short period, 6,000 more young people will be coming on to the jobs market in that area.
In a recent report of the Cleveland County Council, one of the main characteristics of long-term unemployment in the area was identified as being the high incidence of unskilled labour. The Employment Services Agency in the area reports that more than 60 per cent. on the register of unemployed people are unskilled and untrained by any criterion. The major problem facing not only Cleveland county but many other areas is that where there is long-term unemployment there is this large pool of unskilled, untrained workers. It is confirmed by further research by the county showing that in our area the excess supply of labour is largely in the unskilled sector.
Indeed, the situation is more highlighted by the fact that labour shortages arise from time to time in certain sectors for skilled employment, despite the fact that there is this large pool of unskilled, untrained workers. It seems to me that the present time provides us with a marvellous opportunity to overcome these defects and not to add to them. I think that the Government should look at this problem as an opportunity to take up the challenge of training more young people and providing them with skills and, if one may call it so, a "meal ticket" for the rest of their lives.
One of the areas with which the Labour Party has failed to grapple over some years has been the gross inequality between the young people who go into further and higher education and the facilities with which they are provided, and the services which they obtain, and the young people who leave school at 16 and go into part-time education or, indeed, no education at all and have virtually no education and training resources provided for them. I am not running down the facilities provided by technical colleges, polytechnics and 1168 universities, but when I look at the facilities provided at Liverpool and Sheffield Universities, or at some of the newer universities established in recent years, and compare them with the resources made available for young people between the ages of 16 and 21, I believe that that gross inequality cannot be continued. We must provide many more resources over the coming years for the training and education of young people who leave school at the age of 16.
In my view—and this is the case I wish to press upon the Minister—vocational training is much better for young people than the opportunities provided by the job creation programme and by Community Industry. I do not run down the work that these schemes are providing. I do not agree entirely with the remarks which have been made about some of the jobs provided by these schemes, particularly the environmental jobs which young people have been doing in recent months. I do not think that it does harm for young people to clean up the environment in which they live and to take pride in it, and if cleaning graffiti off walls, or removing unsightly things from railways, roads or river banks, gives them pride in the area in which they live, I do not think that that is a bad thing. While it is not entirely satisfactory, it is better than hanging around the streets and doing nothing constructive at all.
Vocational training is much better for young people than opportunities of that sort, however, I hope, therefore, that the Government will consider increasing the training allowance to a comparable level for the training courses that are provided for young people. In my area, and in others, short, three-month courses of industrial appreciation have been organised for young people. They take up apprenticeship places to give them some experience of what it is like to work in industry, providing them with the first idea of the skills they will have to have in later life if they go into whatever trade or profession they are having an opportunity to examine.
These industrial appreciation courses—I have visited craft schools in industry in my area and have talked to apprentices working on them—do a tremendous amount to enthuse the young people towards the idea of going into manufacturing industry and other useful work. I 1169 have seen them making their own tools and their own tool boxes and learning their own initial skills. These are marvellous opportunities for people to do something constructive and to learn some elementary skills which they will have to develop later if they are to get full apprenticeship training to give them full qualifications.
I believe that the Government should make funds available to provide a sub stantial range of sponsored apprenticeships in industry. Already some are provided. I should like to see these extended so that young people have the opportunity to obtain the skills they require if they are to be able to help when the boom comes and to have useful, constructive and satisfying jobs in their later life.
One way in which they are stopped from doing this is the lack of co-ordination that several hon. Members have mentioned. I believe that there is a great demand and a great need for better co-ordination between all the different services providing training and educational facilities for young people. At the moment, we have the Department of Employment, the Department of Education and Science, the Scottish Education Department, the Manpower Services Commission, the Training Services Agency, the Employment Services Agency and the careers service, which is under the wing of the Department of Education and Science and of the industrial training boards. This plethora of organisations and different bodies responsible for training and education of young people appears to me, both at local and national level, to be unco-ordinated to a certain extent, and is certainly not providing the thrust that is necessary to create the opportunity for education and training.
I should like to see a strong central co-ordinating body for all these bodies and departments so that we get that thrust both at local and national level that would help to overcome some of the problems of co-ordination and ensure that no single place in a technical college or craft training school or any other organisation or institution is left vacant when it could be used by better co-ordination and more thrust from a central co-ordinating organisation.
1170 I hope that the Government will be prepared to look at that, because this is clearly a subject on which hon. Members on both sides feel strongly. It would not cost a great deal of money, but it could help to provide tremendous opportunities for young people that are not being given at the moment.
I asked the Secretary of State for Employment whether he would look into this matter, and his reply to me today does not encourage me. He said:Existing arrangements for co-ordination between the training and education services are generally satisfactory, but they are kept constantly under review.I hope that the Secretary of State after this debate will change that constant review to something a little better. I hope that he will give it urgent consideration and come forward to the House with specific proposals.
I should like to comment on one or two other proposals on which I have received the Minister's comments today. I am pleased to learn thatthe recruitment of apprentices under Industrial Training Board grant schemes to employers' or Boards' own training award schemes where these are needed could take place without delay.I should like to pay tribute during this debate to the valuable and dedicated work done by the careers service, and to express my gratitude for the suggestions made to me and to other hon. Members by the careers service and the Institute of Careers Officers. I should like to comment on some of the replies to other points which the institute has put. The Minister also said today that the extension of the temporary additional posts allocated to the careers service to March 1978 would receive further consideration. I hope that he will reconsider that very seriously. Many of the local employment offices and youth employment offices are under considerable pressure at the moment. The burden of high unemployment is giving rise to enormous problems. I hope that the posts allocated will be sustained and that the Government will make an announcement on this matter before long.
I am pleased that the Minister is reviewing the future of the recruitment subsidy for school leavers and that, as he has indicated, he will make an early 1171 announcement. In my view, the recruitment subsidy should be extended to all young people employed in job creation schemes to assist in obtaining permanent employment for them. The subsidy, which at present stands at £5, should be increased to the £8 proposed by the careers officers and extended to all unemployed young people who have been out of work for over three months, in order to attract more organisations to participate and provide more opportunities for unemployed young people.
The present predicament in which we find ourselves with this pool of young people without employment should not be disheartening. We should take it as an opportunity to provide training and education for young people that will give them security for the future and bring greater wealth and prosperity to the country.
§ 6.54 p.m.
§ Mr. John Loveridge (Upminster)
When I heard earlier the words of the hon. Member for Birmingham, Yardley (Mr. Tierney), they touched a chord in my heart. He used the phrase "condemnation of us all" in relation to what the House did about unemployment. He was asking a lot of the House and, indeed, of the Government, because this is a very old problem.
I looked up the figures for the 1870s. According to the trade union statistics, there was then a fall in unemployment from 5 per cent. at the beginning of the decade to 2 per cent., and it then rose to over 12 per cent. towards the end of the decade. This pattern has been repeated throughout much of the century, and particularly up towards the war years.
Today most of us feel that, next to the loss of health and liberty, a prolonged period of unemployment is perhaps the most severe ordeal through which an ordinary citizen can pass. It leaves him depressed, but it also leaves him damaged for years afterwards. All of us have seen this among our friends when we have had the sorrow of observing their circumstances when unemployed.
Unemployment has risen to 1,281,000 in the United Kingdom, according to the latest figures. In January, 49 per cent. of the total were under 30 years of age, and 1172 18 per cent. of the total were under 20 years of age. I cannot give the precise figures for today, because they are collected at six-monthly intervals, but there must now be about 230,000 persons of 19 and under without a job and seeking a job. That is a terrible condemnation.
A report of 50 years ago said that 54 per cent. of those going into first jobs received no further training. I think that the hon. Member for Thornaby (Mr. Wrigglesworth) was right when he spoke of the need for sponsored apprenticeships and for a higher percentage of training for the unemployed and those in first employment. Far too many still receive no training. What a tragedy it is to see in one of my own local constituency newspapers, the Recorder, a headline readingBlack day as school-leavers face 'scrap-heap'.The article states that1,000 young people will be chasing a mere 46 vacancies.Perhaps it is not as bad as that, because there is a faster turnover of jobs than there was a little time ago, so that the apparent discrepancy between 1,000 and 46 is not accurate. None the less, there are still too few jobs, and the Government know it. I remind the Government of their own supporter's words, which struck my heart so closely—this is a condemnation of us all.
But as society changes there will be even greater need to get not only the habit of training when young, but the expectation of retraining as industries change. I heard the other day of a boy with A-levels who had no job. He said "Why did I bother to stay on at school?" What a discouragement it must be to him to have to say those words—and also a discouragement to his fellows and to his parents. The old wicked belief that young people from the least educated homes matured earlier than the others is wrong, and we must ensure that that is understood.
We shall have a rising number of young people leaving school until 1981, and after that, the figures will fall away. But, because the figures are rising until 1981, the Government must put special efforts in the years from now until then into the area of youth employment. We recognise what is being done by the Government, and much has been said about it, 1173 but I do not feel from anything that has been said so far that they have really grasped the scale of the requirement that they will have to meet to fulfil the need.
Unfortunately, our system of school-leaving dates does not help to encourage training. Those who leave at the earlier of the two dates in the school year almost always do so without qualifications. I recognise that this is not the responsibility of the Secretary of State for Employment, but surely the Government have a duty to try to put this right in order to ensure that all school leavers have the opportunity to obtain every qualification that they can.
Those who leave school without qualifications tend to go into a blind alley or into what one Government supporter described as "dead-end" jobs. The modernisation programme throughout industry will lead to fewer and fewer vacancies as machines take over from men. That in itself should be an advantage to the country because, as we get greater productivity and lower unit costs. everyone will be richer. But it is essential that the Government make constant efforts to ensure that money is poured into the creation of jobs for the young in the new areas of industry.
A little while ago the Government were asked whether they would not themselves allow money from their Manpower Services Commission to be put towards the creation of jobs for young people in firms employing between one and five persons, thus enabling small businesses to build up their staffs and to get ready for the boom which we hope is soon to burst upon us and bring benefits to us. I hope that the Government will do that.
In the main, the Government's pump priming has been for the larger areas of business such as cars and steel But a real need exists for small sub-component manufacturers in many areas. If a coal mine closes down, for example, a whole society can be broken up unless the Government are prepared to back small firms that wish to move into the area to set up small businesses.
Recently, I came across an example in my constituency of a non-financial way in which the Government discourage employment creation. I met a man who has three lorries, one of which is laid up because he does not work it. The 1174 other two are working. But he told me that he could employ six men next week if only he could obtain licences to operate his lorries abroad. His complaint is that the licensing system is too slow and too chaotic. Transport is obviously a business with an appeal to youthful people, especially if it takes them abroad. What a pity it will be if small businesses are to be left out of the deal while licences go to the larger firms.
During our recent censure debate, the Prime Minister said that he felt that he had been deprived by never going to a university. How much more deprived must the young person today feel by not going to a job. Young people are fearful of having no job or a poor job. Even if they are able, they are not encouraged, because they see initiative damaged by discouragingly high marginal rates of direct taxation. Even the highest rate of VAT on luxuries is trifling compared with the highest rates of tax on hard work. Why do not the Government encourage people to work?
The increasing move of Governments of all parties towards the support of large units is a danger. We see what happens in the nationalised industries, or, for example, in the Post Office. I am reminded of some words of Aneurin Bevan, who said that a "Minister, by divesting himself of parliamentary responsibility, disfranchises the House of Commons and that that means that he disfranchises the electorate as well."
Young people entering careers in vast organisations often can look forward only to low pay and little right of redress should they fall out with authority, whether that authority be the monopoly employer or a trade union. We pay much lip service to Magna Carta in this bicentenary year. One of the provisions of that charter was that a workman should not be deprived of the tools of his trade. One section, speaking of a trivial offence, says in translation that a manshall be fined only in proportion to the degree of his offence, and for a serious offence correspondingly, but not so heavily as to deprive him of his livelihood. In the same way a merchant, shall be spared his merchandise, and a husbandman the implements of his husbandry.In the fourteenth century, there was a guarantee that, if anyone was trained for a job, he could do it. Does a young man 1175 entering industry today have that same guarantee? He knows that not only does he have to satisfy by his work but that he has to satisfy those who are in authority over him, whether they be a monopoly employer or a trade union.
I turn away from the detail to the general economic background on which employment depends. It was the late Lord Snowdon, speaking in this House of his plans for the relief of unemployment, who said that schemes involving heavy expenditure would have to wait until prosperity returned. Is not there something very familiar in the ring of those words? Do not we keep hearing it today. Do not we keep hearing, too, about how we have to wait for the balance of payments to correct itself?
Since then, we have had the benefit of the writings of Lord Keynes. To some degree, the Government appear to have heeded Lord Keynes. For example, they have a £12,000 million public borrowing requirement this year. Some would think that that was too much. But the important question to ask ourselves is where it is going. Harold Macmillan once said that if private investment was not forthcoming, public investment must take its place. That is a sound argument. But what is happening today is quite different. The words might almost be paraphrased. In other words, if private investment is not forthcoming, public squandering must take its place. That is very different.
The change has come about for this reason. In the 1930s one-third of the gross domestic product was spent through the agency of Government. In more recent years, we have seen this proportion rise to two-fifths of the GDP and now to over three-fifths. This has changed the balance of the economy, so that only a small part of the economy is subject to the normal Keynesian reaction to expansive expenditure, and the private sector is increasingly starved of the capacity to invest by this very means.
Even when public spending has gone into investment, it has gone largely into nationalised industries, where sales have not risen fast enough to pay for the investment and as a result these industries have been forced to charge higher and higher prices for their services. This in turn undermines the capacity of the 1176 private sector to sell abroad at reasonable prices. Thus, exports are continually being made more difficult, and are maintained only by the ever-falling pound.
In 1960 there were 11 deutschemarks to the pound. Just look at the rate of exchange today! If this trend continues, our young people will be working their lives away to give our goods away to foreigners while paying the highest possible prices for the goods we have to import. This imposes an increasing burden of debt interest. According to the Government's own estimates in the White Paper on public expenditure, this burden will reach £7,500 million a year before the end of this decade. That is a very heavy burden on young people going into employment today. Our over spending is going to be paid for by them and they do not like it.
The only hope for them lies in the recovery of world trade and the oil flowing from the North Sea. Even this oil is being used up steadily in advance by the Government in order to borrow more. This burden of debt interest makes it very difficult for the Government to lower interest rates. Yet Lord Keynes said that the scale of investment was promoted by low rates of interest, provided we did not attempt to stimulate it beyond the point that corresponded with full employment. We are a long way from that point today, and there is a deep need in this country for lower interest rates.
What is the way out of this dilemma? I think there are two solutions. The first is to eliminate our balance of payments problem by reducing consumption, and the second is by forming a broader balance of payments boundary around Europe. There is some hope, as far as that is concerned, in the visit to Britain this week of the French President. Europe is a natural payments boundary. The United Kingdom alone has always had difficulty over balance of payments—ever since we reached the stage where the population could no longer be fed from our own resources. This balance of payments problem has done constant damage to our industrial expansion because every boom we have had has had its head cut off so that the best part of it never materialised.
It is possible to achieve some temporary relief in the balance of payments 1177 problem by control of imports. I advocated that myself immediately after the oil prices boom broke. At that time import controls would have been helpful in staving off the debt loaded on the nation. It was a Conservative Chancellor in 1951 who last effectively used import controls on a temporary basis.
We welcome all the steps the Secretary of State told us he was taking, and particularly the new measures which will be outlined in his Green Paper later this month. We look forward to seeing that. However, I do not think there is an adequate sense of urgency about the problem from all that the Government have said.
This problem of youth unemployment is very serious, and the Government must put their resources into solving it, or the nation will not forgive them.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. The winding-up speeches are to be taken around 9 o'clock. There are still 18 hon. Members who wish to take part in the debate. I hope that that information will be considered relevant and useful.
§ 7.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Douglas Henderson (Aberdeen. shire, East)
This debate is extremely timely, because in 10 days 65,000 boys and girls will leave Scottish schools and start looking for employment. We have heard from one hon. Member about the position regarding student teachers, and we in Scotland know the problem. We are all disappointed with the Government's response to it, and I hope that the Secretary of State for Scotland will have more positive news for us when he winds up. I met many of the young people who came to the House to lobby us last week, and I was impressed by their common sense in looking at this problem, their dedication, and their desire to get started with the job for which they have been trained.
It makes no sense to me that the Government have spent thousands upon thousands of pounds training these people and in advertising to get people to enter the teaching profession, yet they could not see three years ago that there would be no jobs for teachers today. It seems incredible that the Government have found it necessary to make this cut now. The Government still have time to reconsider, 1178 and we can still hope for a more sympathetic response.
I have begun to feel that the capacity for indignation among hon. Members, with the exception of the inimitable hon. Member for Keighley (Mr. Cryer), has been exhausted, because frequently there seems to be a mood of defeatism on both sides of the House about the whole problem. I agree that we must see this problem of youth unemployment in the context of the total problem of employment generally, but, nevertheless, there is a very special situation with young people, because surely this is the age at which their attitudes to work, society, social benefits and social responsibility are being very strongly influenced, if not moulded. There could be a further deterioration in social expectations of many young people, particularly in Scotland where we have had more than our fair share of difficulty.
§ Mr. John Mendelson (Penistone)
What gives the hon. Member the impression that there is a mood of defeatism? Many of us staged a major debate recently and we should have liked to vote on our amendment, but that was not allowed by the procedure. There is no defeatism. Many of us have demanded changes in Government policy—controlled reflation and selective import controls. We will start this campaign in a big way in the next few weeks.
§ Mr. Henderson
I have always respected the views of the hon. Member for Penistone (Mr. Mendelson), but he has not been present for most of this debate and he has not heard most of the speeches. He may not have noticed the defeatism, which is anathema to him, and I am sure it would disturb him greatly.
On the subject of the attitudes of young people, I refer to a survey carried out for the Scottish Standing Conference on voluntary Youth Organisations called the Euro-Scot Report. This survey took a sample of young people in Scotland, Germany, Holland and Norway, and considered their attitudes to their promotion prospects at work. It was very significant that 27 per cent. of those in Scotland thought they had poor promotion prospects, compared with only 4 per cent. in Germany, 8 per cent. in Holland, and 10 per cent. in Norway. In other words, young Scots were seven 1179 times less hopeful about their futures than young Germans, three and a half times less hopeful than young Dutchmen, and three times less hopeful than Norwegians. This indicates certain attitudes in society and certain social values out of which we must break if we are to have a modern and prosperous Scotland.
In the context of Scottish employment as a whole there were 141,935 people unemployed in Scotland in May, plus 10,000 partly stopped. In April we had 3,807 unemployed school leavers—almost the same number as South-East England although Scotland has only one-quarter of the working population of South-East England.
It is in that context that emigration is rising. I should be interested to hear the comments of the Secretary of State for Scotland on the latest projections for emigration. The figure rose from 2,000 in 1974 to 19,000 in 1975. It is significant that over the years there has been a correlation between the rate of emigration and the level of unemployment, and emigration means that we lose the brains and talent of our young people.
In that same survey children were asked whether they thought they would have to leave their country to find work. In Scotland 42 per cent. said yes compared with 13 per cent. in Holland, 12 per cent. in West Germany and 6 per cent, in Norway. Almost as many young people in Scotland thought that they would have to leave the country as thought they would be able to stay and work there.
There is the nightmare figure of notified redundancies, which is rising. In the first five months from November to March this year the figure was 11,370. In the two months March to April it was 12,224. The figures came from a parliamentary Answer to me by the Secretary of State for Employment. It is a very serious situation when the past two months have been even more serious than the previous five.
There has been a serious reduction in apprenticeships. Between 1973 and 1974 there were 3,000 fewer apprenticeships in Scotland. The facts, however, are masked to some extent because those entering further education in that period 1180 increased by 2,500. There are fewer children, therefore, going on to the labour market in Scotland. The raising of the school leaving age a few years ago has distorted the situation even more. The situation is more serious than the Secretary of State led us to believe in his opening remarks.
Let me turn to the short-term measures. I appreciate that the right hon. Gentleman felt compelled to defend the job creation programme. One pays a tribute to any imaginative scheme, such as those the right hon. Gentleman quoted to the House, and useful and imaginative many of them seem to be. But there are certain charges which have to be levelled at the job creation programme. By and large the programme involves unskilled manual work on jobs which last no longer than six months, after which many of the young people have to return to the job centre or the employment exchange, or whatever name one gives it these days.
In reply to an intervention from the hon. Member for Liverpool, Wavertree (Mr. Steen), the Secretary of State corrected the figure of 10 per cent. If there is the prospect of a better type of job which requires more planning and supervision and which uses skills more effectively, perhaps the Government should be a little more generous in the amount allowed for planning and management of such projects. That would be a constructive change that the Government could make.
The other point upon which we should like some assurance concerns the amount of monitoring that is done of what happens to young people after they have worked on one of these projects. Is such a young person better equipped or fitted for another job? Will he have acquired experience that will be useful to him in obtaining another job? Is the fact that he spent six months cleaning up the beach or doing something much more worth while likely to attract an employer to him? We want some assurance on this score and we want to know that the Government are not just leaving it where it stands but are following the facts up and will report back to us on what is happening.
There are short-term measures that can be taken. I make no apology for saying that we in Scotland consider that 1181 the budget of the Scottish Development Agency should be substantially increased. In a recent Answer the Secretary of State for Scotland said that he had had no representations from the SDA to that effect. If that is so, perhaps he should make representations to the agency and ask it what it is doing about this matter since it has not come to his door asking for a more realistic budget to meet the needs of unemployment in Scotland.
§ Mr. Litterick
Will the hon. Member make clear whether he is advocating increased public expenditure? Will he answer "Yes" or "No"?
§ Mr. Henderson
I am grateful to the hon. Member for that intervention. Yes, we are advocating increased public expenditure on the SDA. We have said that repeatedly in the House. We want a realistic budget for the agency, and that becomes even more a matter for indignation in Scotland when we realise that last week we became self-sufficient in oil.
The Secretary of State must take another look at giving preference to Scottish manufacturers in meeting the needs of the oil companies and oil-related projects. Too many such contracts and sub-contracts are going to firms outside Scotland. Full advantage is not taken of the immense engineering and technical skills which exist in the board rooms and on the shop floors of firms in Scotland which are quite capable of handling much of the work. A great deal more Government muscle must be put behind this problem in order to get more work done in Scotland.
Opportunities for our people have been shrinking in both the private and public sectors of industry. Under the British Steel Corporation's organisational plan, there will be redundancies in Lanarkshire. Other redundancies are coming along in the private sector in the west of Scotland.
It is not good enough for the Government to put forward the excuse we heard today, because the people of Scotland are no longer prepared to put up with that. If troubles continue, the situation will arise in which young people will feel rejected by the society in which they have been brought up. They will become increasingly cynical.
1182 One hon. Member referred to the level of vandalism. Can we wonder at vandalism when young people are rejected and are told on leaving school that society has no use for them? All those people with glib answers about vandalism should ponder on that and upon what society has done to these young people.
I hope that when he winds up the debate the Secretary of State for Scotland will have a special word for the 65,000 school leavers who will be coming out within the next 10 days and that he will tell them honestly and frankly what prospect there is for them of getting a job.
§ 7.28 p.m.
§ Mr. Robert Kilroy-Silk (Ormskirk)
The hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, East (Mr. Henderson) was mistaken when he suggested that there was an air of defeatism in the debate. It was simply that he had the misfortune to be preceded by the hon. Member for Upminster (Mr. Loveridge) whose dozy speech would have engendered a sense of frustration and defeat in anyone. It may have been his whole purpose to defuse the debate.
This has been a strange debate. We have heard eloquent speeches from both sides of the House about the problems of unemployment in particular constituencies. The paradox of what I shall speak about was summed up in the speech by the right hon. Member for Lowestoft (Mr. Prior) who was so embarrassed by his speech that he spent half the evening away from the Front Bench and has now left the Chamber. He wanted to show the apparent concern for the unemployed and to shed the crocodile tears which are so often the pretence of the Opposition when they want to score political points. At the same time he is a member of the Shadow Cabinet of a party which wants to put up rents, cut social security, cut unemployment pay, cut public expenditure and—and the right hon. Gentleman even called for this in his own speech—see a reversion to the Samuel Smiles type of self-help philosophy. That is all we get from him. Even the manner in which he spoke showed that his heart was not in his speech. His speech appeared to have been cobbled together in a taxi on the way here this afternoon. There were no 1183 positive proposals. He had a bleeding heart one moment and was calling for cuts in public expenditure the next. He had no specific proposal for dealing with this serious and tragic situation.
In my constituency 2,000 school leavers are now unemployed in the area of the borough of Knowsley. The total for the United Kingdom is 37,000. A total of 5.5 per cent. of all the unemployed school leavers in the United Kingdom are in my constituency. That is the seriousness of the situation.
More than 2,000 school leavers in my constituency are unemployed. More than 770 of them come from the relatively small town of Kirkby and, of those, 235 left school last July. The right hon. Member for Lowestoft talked about 309 young people in his constituency who are unemployed after leaving school a couple of weeks ago. In a small area of my constituency there are 235 young people who have still not found jobs after leaving school nearly a year ago.
We have 2,000 already unemployed and a further 2,000 will be leaving schools in the borough of Knowsley next month and going on the register. They will all be competing for the three vacancies which I am told existed in the area on 25th May.
Of course we have received help, including the training award scheme, the community industry scheme and the school leaver recruitment subsidy. In spite of this assistance and the fact that Merseyside is a special development area, we still have these depressing figures and a very bleak and depressing overall picture. Prospects are very poor for the majority of my constituents, especially those who are about to leave school. The situation in the past week has been bleak and depressing. The prospect now is even worse.
It is a terrible and tragic waste of young people's lives, talents and abilities and of the nation's resources that so many of them should have nothing more to look forward to on leaving school than joining their fathers in the dole queues. It is not just that there are no jobs for them. Their whole future careers are blighted if they do not get the appropriate apprenticeship or training at the appropriate 1184 time. It is no good a young person getting a job at the age of 18 if he has not had training before that age.
When I was 14½ and at secondary modern school, I was concerned about whether I would get an apprenticeship. The anxiety I shared with my colleagues at school was not whether apprenticeships would be available but whether we would be good enough to get one. My constituents have no prospect of an apprenticeship and still less the prospect of a job.
It is not surprising that these circumstances ignite resentment against society or that young people feel alienated from society and indulge in anti-social activities. They see a society which is apparently uncaring. It is not unusual, in these circumstances, to find hostility and cynicism being bred.
Perhaps it is not a coincidence that Kirkby not only has the highest incidence of vandalism, petty theft and crime per head in the entire country but also suffers low pay, poverty and the highest rate of male and juvenile unemployment in Western Europe. Is it just a coincidence that all these things come together or are they, as I suspect, part of a vicious circle out of which the people there find it extremely difficult to break? They reject—in many cases quite rightly—the values of a society which defines them, by their idleness, as social rejects. I do not want to make too much of this, but there is something offensive about the junketings at Ascot and the like when they are contrasted with the opportunities available to my constitutents and with their life styles.
I wish to refer specifically to some of the proposals mentioned today and to the palliatives and temporary expedients introduced by the Government to allesviate unemployment, particularly among young people. We have the job creation scheme in my constituency, and I join other hon. Members in paying tribute to its value. I do not accept the strictures of the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, East. Of course it would be preferable if it included an element of training so that young people acquired skills which would give them greater opportunities of getting a better job, but it is preferable for a person to be usefully employed to the benefit of the community, even with- 1185 out acquiring skills, than to be socially wasted, in a criminal manner, in the dole queue to the benefit of no one.
We want more job creation schemes and on another occasion I shall be urging that the criteria should be loosened in order to enable more schemes to be approved. Several schemes in my constituency have failed to get through what appears to be a fairly tight set of criteria. Perhaps my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland could take the opportunity tonight of announcing that this scheme will become permanent, particularly in areas of special need.
Even when talking about temporary measures and palliatives, perhaps we should distinguish between those which are necessary now in response to the national crisis and those which may be necessary as a permanent feature of the economy, particularly in economically deprived regions. We want more training award schemes. Perhaps the Secretary of State could announce the allocation of new schemes tonight.
There is a great deal of uncertainty about the future of this scheme, just as there is about the future of the school leaver recruitment subsidy. I hope that my right hon. Friend will announce that the subsidy will continue and will apply to young people who left school last Easter or who will be leaving this summer. There has been great disquiet and concern in my constituency because we have had no announcement about the future of the subsidy, which applies only to those who left school last year.
I appreciate the Government's problems. They fear that if they made this announcement it might prohibit employers from offering jobs they would otherwise have offered, but this is such an important issue that an early announcement should be made.
I wish to reiterate what has been said by other hon. Members, particularly my hon. Friend for Thornaby (Mr. Wriggles-worth), about the need for a massive injection of resources into training and retraining. As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State pointed out, we are lagging behind most other countries in the provision of training for young people. A particularly gross disparity exists between the facilities at the disposal of the most able and talented—those in 1186 further and higher education—and the paucity of resources allocated to those who leave school at 16 and often go into dead-end jobs with no training or prospects for promotion or advancement. It is as if we decided to devote our National Health Service resources to the most healthy rather than to the sick.
We should have a reversal of priorities and a switch of resources away from universities and higher education to the 16–19 sector for day-release courses, apprenticeships and training. The palliatives will temporarily alleviate the situation, but we need a fundamental restructuring of our priorities, attitudes and, most of all, our economy.
We recognise that Merseyside is a special development area, but it has always had a bad record in terms of employment. Even when things were good in the rest of the country, things were bad on Merseyside. There has never been a good time on Merseyside. There has never been full employment there. There never will be full employment there unless we fundamentally alter our attitude to the way in which we exercise control and direction over the economy. We wanted those schemes a long time ago, and they are needed now.
Many people say "We shall wait for the upturn." That has been said again today. That is the real element of defeatism—wait for the upturn. This miracle may never take place. We have been waiting for it for a long time. It is like waiting for Godot. It has not always come, and it has not come on Merseyside where we have been waiting for generations. In the last few years Merseyside has had a net job loss of 80,000, despite all the paraphernalia of special development area status, advance factories, and all the rest of it.
What is to blame, despite protestations from the Opposition to the contrary, is the whole ethos of private enterprise. There is too much of a presumption, even in the Government, in favour of private enterprise. Our economic, political and parliamentary activity is still too largely confined to bailing out private enterprise when it is in trouble, to ironing out the temporary difficulties that occur, and to stimulating the economy when it flags. That is neither sensible nor Socialism.
1187 We should act not after the event, but in anticipation of it. We should be moulding that event to serve our purposes. We should be using more effectively now than we have done in the past our political power progressively to take into control the main streams of economic activity and to drive them in a public direction. We should be planning for the benefit of the community and for the regions in a way that private industry has shown itself to be incapable of doing in the past.
It is no use giving the response that that would destroy the free market. We do not have a free market now. It is governed by monopoly and by transnational companies. Hence, we have a choice between commercial authoritarianism or Socialist planning. To me, the latter is not only sensible but preferable and essential. Perhaps we shall soon have the courage to direct industry according to the criteria of social justice and need. Industry and capital should be directed where it is required. It should not be left to the vagaries and whims of a private enterprise market which has shown itself incapable of efficiently organising the economy and has shown no regard for the welfare of individual citizens.
The National Enterprise Board is a start, but it is not enough. Unless we get more positive intervention in industry on the grounds of socially determined criteria, my constituents will reject not only the society that they are already rejecting but the Government that they put into office.
§ 7.45 p.m.
§ Sir John Hall (Wycombe)
I hope that the hon. Member for Ormskirk (Mr. Kilroy-Silk) will forgive me if I do not follow what he said, but I have promised to be brief.
I want to concentrate on one aspect of the subject under discussion—namely, the problems facing immigrant school leavers. I can claim to have some understanding of the problems facing school leavers when trying to find work today, because when I started work, a long time ago, unemployment was running at about 10 per cent. as a national average, and within the following two years it went up to 15 per cent. Therefore, I 1188 know only too well what it is like for a school leaver to search for a job.
I have considerable sympathy with those school leavers who are looking for work today, but there is a particular problem, as the Secretary of State will know, facing immigrants. I am sorry that the right hon. Gentleman did not refer to this particular aspect of the problem in his long and interesting speech, although my right hon. Friend the Member for Lowestoft (Mr. Prior) dwelt on it for some little time.
In recent years Wycombe has been fortunate in two respects. First, until the last two years we have had full employment. Indeed, some people might say that we have had over-full employment. We have had about three to four times as many vacancies as there have been unemployed.
Secondly, on the immigrant front there have been good relations, despite the fact that in High Wycombe, the main town, the concentration of immigrants is between 10 per cent. and 12 per cent. Relations have been so good that, whereas in many areas with large concentrations of immigrants they tend to go into less skilled jobs, in Wycombe there has been a wide spread of jobs. Immigrants have gone into banks, offices and technical, highly skilled jobs.
Nevertheless, during the past two years the situation has changed dramatically. Whereas we used to have three to four times as many vacancies as unemployed, the situation has almost reversed itself. Today, a large number of school leavers have very little prospect of obtaining employment. A disquieting aspect is that the proportion of school leavers who are immigrants or of immigrant descent who are unable to find work is higher than the proportion of immigrants to the population in High Wycombe as a whole.
Between 2,000 and 2,300 young people will be eligible to leave school at the end of this current term. Of that number about 50 per cent. will be looking for work. The others will go on to higher education and so on. Of the 50 per cent. who will be looking for work, some hundreds will be unsuccessful, and and increasingly high percentage of that number will be immigrant school leavers.
If we break that figure down we shall find more West Indians than Asians. 1189 There are various reasons for that. One is that by and large Asian girls do not register for employment. It is traditional that Asian women do not go out to work. Although there are exceptions, that tradition is still generally observed in my constituency. Therefore, we have a certain number of school leavers who are taken off the labour market because of their family traditions.
There are many reasons why immigrants in my constituency—I talk only of my constituency, but I have a feeling that what I have to say applies to other areas with immigrant concentrations—find it more difficult than others to find work. In a town the size of High Wycombe, where there is still a great deal of local feeling, local employers tend to give the benefit of choice to the children of the families with which they have grown up. They know the children of those families and tend to give preference to them.
It is my experience that many immigrants, especially West Indians, tend to be over-ambitious in the jobs for which they apply. They go for the popular jobs at high wage rates—jobs for which they are not and perhaps never would be qualified without extra training. Therefore, they are rejected.
Inevitably—I must be frank—there is always a small element of racial prejudice in the choice among school leavers. The danger facing us is that immigrants, especially the second generation who have been born, brought up and educated in this country and who are already very sensitive—sometimes over-sensitive—to feelings of racial prejudice, still have chips on both shoulders about racial prejudice. They feel that they are being rejected purely on the ground of colour prejudice, not for other reasons.
The result could be the development of smouldering resentment in growing conditions of enforced idleness in the months and in some cases the years ahead. That could lead to the formation of gangs with an increase in hooliganism, the destruction of private property, violence against other racial groups and the indigenous population and the breakdown of the good community relations which have been built up with such care over a very long time. I fear that if 1190 unemployment amongst these youngsters continues, we shall have outbreaks of that kind of violence on the part of immigrant groups that will result in a growing anti-immigrant feeling as well.
The suggestions as to how one can deal with unemployment among school leavers and, indeed, unemployment generally have been many and varied. I am sure that the Secretary of State has taken them on board, and I am sure that other suggestions will be made, too. However, if we are to engage in training schemes for youngsters, it is absolutely necessary to be sure that we are training them for occupations that they will be able to fill. Time and again one finds courses run by the Government and even by local authorities that train people to become, for instance, engineers or fitters, but when they finish the courses there is no work for them.
One thing is essential. It is a survey of the demand for certain types of labour in order to ensure that there is training in that particular type of industry or calling, or at least that there are occupations for these people when they finish their training schemes. Many community schemes have been advanced. I shall not make further suggestions about such matters.
The only purpose of my intervention is to stress to the Secretary of State and to the Minister who is to wind up the debate the very special danger of racial unrest in areas of immigrant concentration and to impress upon the Secretary of State the need for the most energetic and constructive action. More imagination must be shown in dealing with this particular aspect of the problem than has been shown previously. If we fail in this we might find that the lack of employment among these youngsters will be the major cause of outbreaks of racial violence, which all of us have been trying to avoid for so long.
Personally, I should bitterly regret such outbreaks of violence. It would be a matter of considerable grief to me that they should occur in areas such as mine, where over the years people have endeavoured to ensure good relationships between people of all races—we have six or seven different racial groups in my constituency—and have ensured successful integration in the community—if that is the right phrase.
1191 To find that destroyed within a few months by the problems of unemployment would be a matter of great grief to all of us who have been concerned with improving race relations when we have had the opportunity. I hope that the Secretary of State will take on board this very special danger that applies in Britain as a result of unemployment among young people.
§ 7.54 p.m.
§ Mr. Neil Kinnock (Bedwellty)
I congratulate the hon. Member for Wycombe (Sir J. Hall) on an exceedingly sensible speech—without any condescension, because he is a much greater expert than I, representing, as he does, a seat that includes several nationalities and ethnic backgrounds. I should simply like to add this comment. We must, for this reason of racial harmony, if for no other—and there are many others—work for the full restoration of a resilient prosperity in Britain, so that we never have these continual cyclical dips again.
Secondly, we should work as hard as we can to create an atmosphere in which we undermine the paranoia of any racialist group, so that people cannot feel that there is a general atmosphere of resentment against them and cannot blame their misfortunes on the colour of their skins or on their religion.
Thirdly, we should take any opportunity, from either side of the House and on any occasion, to hit out at and stringently to control the activities of those in our country, in growing numbers, who have a vested interest in the economic decay of our country so that it will provide a boiling pot for racial hatred out of which they seek to secure political profit. I mean by that, of course, organisations such as the National Front, the National Movement and other Fascist organisations. Therefore, if for no other reason, we have a vested interest in the return of prosperity to take all the poison out of this situation.
§ Sir John Hall
I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will agree that the attitudes to which he is referring, and for the reasons he has mentioned, are not confined to extreme Right-wing groups.
§ Mr. Kinnock
I do not want to enter into a political debate on this matter. However, racial feelings obviously exist 1192 among all colours. What is noticeable now is the increasing voice, in both volume and the extent to which it is listened to, of white racialism and of Fascism in this country. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman is as fearful of that development as I am. He has been, in his way, very effectively seeking to combat that development. That does not excuse extremists on the other side, and I recognise the hon. Gentleman's effort to combat that kind of extremism. Obviously, for whatever reason, we have an interest in bringing about a return to prosperity.
In the area that I represent, and in Scotland and the North-East, with the present scale of unemployment among adults and school leavers and youngsters, we have come to think of the hon. Gentleman's area as the fat South-East, and the present scale of unemployment is a relatively novel experience there, at least in the period since the war. Indeed, it was in the years immediately before the war that towns such as Wycombe were populated by people from my valleys, so their experience is in many senses novel. The only people in those areas who have known unemployment on a chronic or a community scale have been those who have escaped from that kind of unemployment by going to places such as Wycombe.
However, as the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, East (Mr. Henderson) and some of my hon. Friends have mentioned, notably my hon. Friend the Member for Ormskirk (Mr. Kilroy-Silk), the fact is that there are many areas in Britain which, regardless of the level of prosperity, the rate of inflation, the value of the pound or any of the other variables that from time to time concern us to the point of total preoccupation, never know full employment. Year in, year out, whole classes of children throughout different parts of Great Britain have never been able to step out of school with a firm tread as children who know where they are going.
The hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, East mentioned that many Scottish schoolchildren were resigned to the prospect of leaving their home towns in order to secure employment elsewhere. He was just explaining what has become a traditional and quite normal, but 1193 nevertheless tragic, feature of the unemployment scene in Wales, in the North-East, the North-West and Scotland. Now that tide has crept into the communities of South-East England.
We obviously need not the policies of panic or some of the crankier ideas that we are hearing from all kinds of areas—including this House, and in this debate—to deal with the immediate problems. Nor do we need this annual exercise of self-righteousness and condescending compassion just to show how desperately concerned we are about youngsters in our constituencies. What we need is a firm systematic strategy for dealing with youth unemployment, because it is always with us.
We have had previous debates such as this. We had one last year. I think that we had one on, more or less, an annual basis under the previous Conservative Government. All the same speeches have been rehearsed. I am not saying that any hon. Member is being superficial, disingenuous or insincere in his approach. However, the very fact that this problem has been with us for so long and that our only response to it is continual gobbets of additional finance, the invention of new agencies on a temporary basis and the provision of instant jobs, without any guarantee of the output of a guaranteed future arising from them, is a very sad comment on the development of policy by Governments of both major parties over the years.
In order to try to meet the problems of regional unemployment over the years, we have tried regional policies. We are now falling into exactly the same trap when we identify the unemployment problem of a particular part of the whole population—the youngsters—and in that way we are making a sectional approach, and we are trying to offer additional preferments in cash terms and inducement terms rather than constructing a systematic policy in order to try to deal with the problem.
I have a great regard for the work undertaken by the hon. Member for Liverpool, Wavertree (Mr. Steen). Although he is not in the Chamber now, I told him that I would mention him. He has worked very hard over the last two years on the way in which youth employment policy is developing and, 1194 especially since the establishment of the job creation programme, has been asking Questions practically weekly about the way in which the job creation programme is being applied and what its development should be. When I heard him today I was amazed that someone who had undertaken such a deliberate, continuous and hardworking study of the problem could come up with ideas such as the creation for youth by youth of its own work and could regret the exclusion of the young from decision-making in the job creation programme. I say without condescension or without minimising the intelligence of these young people that the reason why many of them—these children—are in the situation of unemployment in which they find themselves is that they have become, or are, incapable of creating even access to employment, let alone taking the decision about creating a whole system for ridding themselves of unemployment.
It is not a false idea or superiority on my part that makes me recognise that the afflictions of illiteracy and innumeracy are the immediate reasons for disqualification from employment of many of the young people at present unemployed. It is therefore preposterous in our present situation, and needing the approach of a systematic policy for youth employment, to consider that the answer lies in some kind of self-creating job opportunity by young people for young people, however advantageous, exciting or enterprise-backed that might be.
The first thing that we have to do in trying to ccnstruct a policy is to recognise the nature of the problem, which is one of social disadvantage and domestic deprivation as well as economic difficulty. We should start work on that basis, and not try to produce with magic ideas about what, in ideal circumstances and given an ideal labour force, the most highly educated dole queue in the world, we would like to do. Let us start by recognising the realities of the situation.
I now move to another subject that has been touched on several times today, and that is how much we should pay those children who are in the job creation programmes. Arms have been thrown up at, and criticism has been expressed of, the £56 a week that some young people are said to be receiving. To start with, that is the adult rate, and the rate can 1195 drop to as low as £20, but the alternative has been suggested of paying them the equivalent, or more or less the equivalent, of unemployment benefit to work. Some of these children suffer from social disadvantage, and some have lower intelligence quotients, but very few are stupid enough to work for unemployment benefit, and it would be crazy to offer a prospect of employment to people and to pay them no more than they would get guaranteed—because we are a humane society—by not going to work.
That would be an idiotic prospect, and what we are talking about in these circumstances, however well-intentioned the proposition, is forced labour. We are saying to them "You must work for your unemployment benefit or you cannot get it". That is the situation in which we find ourselves. Otherwise, what is the point in offering people the same amount of money for working or not working? We might as well recognise the realities of the situation.
The present policy is redolent of the public works policies of the 1920s and early 1930s. I have no personal experience of those policies, but I know that members of my family were afflicted by them. My father spent 1931 building a swimming bath at Tredegar. He did not find that a particularly enjoyable experience, and the only reason he did it was that if he did not he would have received only 10s. 6d. a week. I had two uncles who were responsible in large part for digging the West London sewer. They did not think that that was a great idea, but that was a "work or starve" situation.
It has been said that in present circumstances there is no opportunity for initiative or displaying entrepreneurial ability, and that no inducement is offered by the Government for young people to become economic buccaneers and to seek their fortune. As my uncle explained, he could have used his enterprise and initiative back in 1931, but it was sheer bloody-mindedness that made him go down the pit! That is the kind of situation about which we are talking. It is not realistic to talk about a self-help situation when the problem can be counted in hundreds of thousands, when the people who are the victims of this situation are the 1196 product of social and domestic deprivation and educational disadvantage, and say that what we intend to do is to provide some kind of third world programme, some kind of programme lifted directly from "War on Want", as the right hon. Member for Lowestoft (Mr. Prior) said, to teach them to fish rather than feed them fish. One of the advantages of being unemployed is that one can get in a lot of fishing. The unemployed need little tuition in fishing—though I do not want to interpret too literally what was said by the right hon. Gentleman.
What ought we to do? Panic policies will not do, nor will one-off policies. Immediate reactions to the current politically intolerable level of unemployment amongst youngsters will not do. Palliatives will not do. The problem has been with us for a long time. The only difference now is that it is worse than it has been for a long time, but it will be with us for a long time into the future. It is not enough to create an answer to the current problem. We have to look at the initiatives that have been taken by the Government. Under the Conservative Government we had the establishment of the Community Industry Scheme and year by year, negotiation by negotiation, the budget for this scheme grew—and that was excellent—until it is an orthodox part of our approach to the problem of youth unemployment.
We now have a job creation programme with a much more generous budget of £75 million, and that is another beginning that we have made for dealing with the whole problem of youth unemployment. We have the special school leavers' recruitment subsidy. That is another new programme. But the danger in all this is that these schemes are administered from different governmental areas with different purposes and, rather than being part of a systematic approach to youth employment, they have just "grow'd" around the forlorn hope that the problem will simply go away so that we do not have to spend more than £75 million or keep the community industry scheme in permanent existence or keep the school leavers' subsidy. But for the sake of reality let us recognise that the problem of youth unemployment will be here for good. That being so, we should turn those schemes and others associated with 1197 them into a permanent part of our whole approach to the problem. They should be administered, ideally, by a Minister for Youth, but even if we cannot have that. by a co-ordinating body, by an Under-Secretary of State at the Department of Employment or a Minister of State who would have responsibility for the administration of this whole youth employment policy. Let us be clear that this is a particularly difficult and intolerable aspect of a general problem and recognise that it is here for a long time to come, and in smaller numbers is here permanently. Let us then have a permanent policy to meet that difficulty.
Secondly, in any policy that we use, having welded together all these policies, let us use the experts. Let us not rely on well-intentioned, well-meaning, local government officers scratching their heads when they receive a Government circular and asking what they can find for the youngsters to do and, if they have enormous initiative, phoning the local careers expert. Let us have a systemic procedure under which the careers officer is associated in the whole business of deciding what young people can do to spend the money that the Government are offering under the job creation programme. I think that we should draft in such experience to the system.
As to the question of supervision, even though the hon. Member for Liverpool, Wavertree has misinterpreted the scheme, I think the idea of 10 per cent. for this purpose is a nonsense. Either we fulfil all the capital requirements, all the supervision and managerial requirements, and administrative requirements, needed to run that scheme and make a job creation programme operate effectively or we are not in that game. The Government say that we are in that business but that we shall try to slice off financial quotas to a particular scheme in order to decide how it should be buttoned up. I prefer the idea of saying that the scheme will cost so much and that we shall take on such expert advice and supervision as we might require. It might be a redundant foreman or a redundant fitter or joiner or bricklayer but he would be more than glad to pass on his skills and industrial discipline to the children in his care. We have to take a much more comprehensive attitude to a scheme which is going 1198 through its birth pangs, and which shows every sign of development but which now needs much concentrated effort to turn it into a systematic policy to counter permanent youth unemployment.
One further idea that I would offer, which has been heralded by other hon. Members, relates to the question of the retirement age. The continual letters which every hon. Member of this House must have received over the years have been growing in volume and frequency in recent months. As unemployment has gone up, there have been more and more letters from men of 62, 63 or 64, and their wives, asking" Why can I not retire?" These men want to retire and to leave their jobs to younger men. They do not want to go on working because they have hypertension, heart trouble, bronchitis, pneumoconiosis, perhaps a weak knee or perhaps a broken toe. These men say that these things are getting worse in health as they get older and they want longer to enjoy their retirement.
Would it not be cheaper to pay, between the age of 60 and 65 in the initial period of voluntary retirement, £60 a week, the average industrial wage, rather than keep these men in employment that they do not want and, by keeping them at work, exclude people who want that employment? Obviously, we could not at this moment in time, immediately and overnight, introduce a five-year reduction in the statutory retirement age for men but obviously there are many hundreds of thousands of people in industry who would retire if we could offer them adequate compensation such as the week's wages in the form of pensions. We would achieve a dual benefit. We would have the benefit of guaranteeing those people longer retirement and the benefit of creating jobs for a young person. We would, in particular, gain the assent of a vast number of people who think that the inequality between the retirement ages of men and women has reached an intolerable level.
My plea is for a much more comprehensive and longer-term approach. I would like to see a much more incisive approach to the whole question of youth employment, which did not happen last year or start to occur this year. It has been with us for a long time. On the advantage side we have the development 1199 of policies over the last three or four years, from Community Industry, to start dealing with it. We need to build on those policies so that next time our economy takes a down-turn, and we hit crisis, as we surely will, we shall be able to turn to those other aspects of youth employment so as to shelter them and to divert the effects of the crisis which hits our young people. If we do not do that, the consequences for our society will be just as hon. Members have painted them in terms of disaffection for the youths of Glasgow, or the youngsters in my constituency, or racial tension, or the waste of human resources and the distortion of human minds. Surely, because of that, we have to provide a systematic policy. That is my plea tonight.
§ 8.16 p.m
§ Mr. Nicholas Scott (Chelsea)
I am conscious of the need for us to be brief but I want to spend a few minutes to reinforce the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Wycombe (Sir J. Hall) which has already received support from the hon. Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Kinnock) about the prospect which faces the immigrant minority in this country which is suffering disproportionately from the unemployment which presently exists.
It was already clear, before the recession came, that coloured youngsters were not getting the same opportunities as their white counterparts. That is why we took action, both legislative and executive, in order to try to make sure that they got the same opportunities. Now that those opportunities are declining, they are suffering disproportionately. The situation is accentuated because among the immigrant community, as an immigrant community and not just a coloured community, a high proportion is young and, therefore, it is part of the general problem which we are talking about.
Among the West Indians, in particular, there are many other problems which abound because of cultural background, the instability of some families and the comparatively high drop-out level from school. There is also a high level of homelessness—about one in five—among the West Indian community.
1200 My right hon. Friend the Member for Worcester (Mr. Walker) drew attention last week to many different aspects of this problem. I hope that his open letter to the Prime Minister will at least draw action from the Government on this front. My right hon. Friend summed up the problem in this way:The reality of the West Indian young is that they are frequently badly educated. They have little motivation. No skills. They ale homeless. They are devoid of guidance and more and more devoid of hope. In such conditions they are increasingly becoming positively hostile to the white population and to white authority.That is a generalisation and, like all generalisations, it is not the whole truth. However, it certainly outlines a problem which we shall ignore at our peril and about which we have to take positive action.
With respect to my right hon. Friend the Member for Lowestoft (Mr. Prior), who opened the debate, while I think we should make a specific assault on this problem, I hope that we shall not allow Community Industry to become a welfare ghetto type of operation. It should concentrate on both the indigenous communities and the immigrant communities so that we enable them to get into the job market. If we were to separate the young immigrant unemployed from the indigenous unemployed, we would create ill feeling and turn the Community Industry idea into a negation of its title.
§ Mr. Scott
On that basis I am absolutely in agreement with my right hon. Friend in respect of the methods he would like to see used in future in respect of Community Industry.
It is important that we understand what exactly has been happening in the last 30 years. For the first 20 years after the Second World War employment was rising and unemployment was at a low level. For the last 10 years not only have we experienced higher levels 1201 of unemployment but employment has been decreasing. These two things are not necessarily the same thing, and we have been suffering from both of them. I believe that today we are discussing a short-term crisis, but we should not forget that we also have a long-term problem about growing unemployment among less skilled members of the work force and among many minority groups, such as those over 50, who for one reason or another have had an interruption in their career. I very much agree with the hon. Member for Bedwellty that we ought to be looking at ways of reducing not simply the working life but also the working day and the working week.
I would take issue briefly with what the hon. Member for Thornaby (Mr. Wrigglesworth) said about training for skill at the beginning of life providing a meal ticket for the whole of a life. It no longer does. I have some doubts about the whole future of apprenticeship schemes which persuade youngsters to train for anything from four to seven years and lead them to expect a meal ticket, when increasingly ours is the type of industrial society in which people have to relearn skills several times during their working lives.
The size and scale of this problem is borne out by the unemployment figures and by the very fact that we have a job creation programme. Other hon. Members have raised many questions about the effectiveness of this programme and I do not want to go over them in detail. Of course it was set up in great haste and many early mistakes were made. But I should like to hear whether the Secretary of State is satisfied that the vast majority of youngsters taking part in these schemes are being fitted for long-term employment by the job they are doing. If they simply go back on the job market at the end of the scheme, having lost six or 12 months, we shall not have done them a favour and they will be very resentful of the trick which has been played upon them.
I also believe that we cannot continue on the present basis, with the life of the scheme being dealt with six or nine months ahead. We need to know that it will be an on-going scheme so that we can attract more of the sponsors from private industry and voluntary and statutory 1202 organisations to come up with projects. While clouds hang over the scheme's future, it will be impossible to attract that sort of sponsor. That may be one of the major reasons why local authorities are in such tremendous preponderance in putting forward projects at the moment.
The Secretary of State said that he was satisfied that the quality of projects was going up, but such information as is available can lead none of us to be satisfied that those projects are yet of a satisfactory level. I recognise the merits of the Government's efforts to tackle the problem, but the scale is too small. We are not yet making a coherent attack on the problem of transition from school to job. Very big problems arise about what happens when this scheme ends, if it does.
The main point is that there should be an on-going effort in regard to employment opportunities for young people. I want to examine the sort of guidelines which might operate in such a scheme, because at the moment we do not have that coherent policy. I want to draw attention to a pamphlet published this week called "Action against Youth Unemployment", produced by a group of mainly young people working in different fields from the Young Volunteer Force Foundation and other organisations active among young people and among the young unemployed.
That pamphlet not only analyses the present problem extremely skilfully but also puts forward some interesting suggestions for the future. The personal ones that I would advance are as follows. First, although we need a national coherent strategy for dealing with unemployment among young people, much of the real work and effectiveness will come at the local level. I should like to see us pulling together community groups, local industry, the trade unions, the voluntary and statutory agencies, the local authorities and the educational establishments in each area into making a concerted approach both in finidng projects and in identifying the youngsters who really need help.
Secondly, we must be much more conscious than we are at the moment of the need for a substantial training element in the schemes which are provided. While emergency cash schemes may do 1203 something, we need a permanent programme for the less skilled and the less motivated, and that means a substantial training element.
Thirdly, I am doubtful about the emphasis which is presently placed on socially useful work. Of course I am not against such work and I want to see a lot more of it, but if we want the job creation programme or a coherent strategy for young people to work, it should be as broad as possible. We are artificially narrowing it at the moment, for instance, by not allowing any job in the private sector which might conceivably create a profit to be included in the scheme. The more broadly we tackle this the better.
I do not know much about it, so perhaps I am on dangerous ground in mentioning it, but I understand that the British Steel Corporation has some interesting plans, in areas where it closes down plants, for trying to stimulate small enterprises to generate employment. Nationalised and other agencies might develop that idea.
We need a properly-thought-out manpower policy related to young people. The objective should be to place all young people, or as high a percentage as possible, in suitable jobs with relevant training. But failing that, it should be to provide them with a choice of further schooling, relevant training, suitable temporary work or some sort of special projects as we are beginning to offer under the job creation programme.
In this context, specially created permanent work has an important part to play and it is here that private industry can make its most substantial contribution. By setting up small enterprises which could supply vital goods and services, it could be making a contribution both to our economy and to the self-respect and employment of the young people who are involved in it. What we have to decide in running the sort of programme that we are discussing today is whether we are talking about finding ways of keeping young people out of the dole queue for as long as possible or whether we are trying to get them into the job market and provide them with a hopeful future. I hope that all the emphasis of policy from the Treasury Bench will be towards the latter.
§ 8.26 p.m.
§ Mr. Raphael Tuck (Watford)
I intend to make a very brief speech indeed—in contradistinction to no fewer than 10 Back Benchers out of 14 who apparently so love the sound of their own voices that, notwithstanding the appeal of the Chair, they have dilated at length, oblivious to and completely inconsiderate of other hon. Members who wish to speak. I hope that they will note what I have said and in future cease to be so crassly selfish. This place is getting to be nothing more than a gas chamber.
I was intrigued by the thesis of the right hon. Member for Lowestoft (Mr. Prior), which as I understand it was that if the Government drastically cut public expenditure that will increase employment or reduce unemployment and be some solution to the problem. I am reminded of the story of the young boy in a rowing boat with four others. I believe that the right hon. Gentleman must have been that little boy, because when the boat started to fill with water because there was a rough sea, he began to bore a hole in the bottom of the boat. When asked why, he said that he wanted to let the water out. That is exactly what the right hon. Member for Lowestoft is seeking to do. I am bound to inform him that if the Government drastically reduce their public expenditure, that will not reduce unemployment but enormously increase it, and I hope he will take note of what I have said.
I wish to deal with the recruitment subsidy. I was very grateful that the Secretary of State mentioned this. He said that there would be a review. I would inform him that there are 300 unemployed young people in my constituency, compared with the normal figure of 20—which is a huge increase. The bulk is among the less able, the so-called "unqualified" members of society. The routine jobs required for these people have more or less dried up. Apparently the recruitment subsidy of £5 stopped in March. It will therefore not be available for the Easter and summer leavers.
Watford is normally looked upon as an area of high employment, and therefore the increase from 20 to 300 of young people unemployed must be multiplied many times to get the figures for the whole country; for example, Watford 1205 is nothing compared with areas in the North such as Merseyside. This means that over the whole country an enormous number of young people who have just left school or are leaving school this summer face unemployment. I echo the words of my hon. Friend the Member for Thornaby (Mr. Wrigglesworth), but I go further and suggest that the Government reintroduce and increase the recruitment subsidy. It should be increased to £10, not £8 as my hon. Friend suggested. If we did that, employers would be much more likely to take on young people.
I ask my right hon. Friend to consider the point that I have made and to make his review of the subject as soon as possible so that we can reduce unemployment. I know that it is not a complete solution, but it goes some way towards reducing unemployment among young people. I ask my right hon. Friend to consider the matter seriously.
§ 8.32 p.m.
§ Sir Paul Bryan (Howden)
The Secretary of State said with some frankness that the short-term prospects for the young unemployed was not promising. However, he did not face us with the less obvious truth that nor is the long-term prospect promising. I do not think that it will be promising until such time as there is a considerable change of policy, not only in this country but in the Western world.
The trends have been all against a promising long-term prospect. Since 1967, general unemployment—namely, unemployment at all ages—has been rising all the time within economic cycles. At the bottom of each cycle unemployment has been more severe than in the previous trough. At the peak of each cycle the recovery has been less complete than at the previous peak. It is even more disturbing that unemployment among the young has grown in proportion during those years.
I do not accept what the Secretary of State said in his almost cheerful statement. In bad times unemployment among young people increases more quickly than among the elderly and it decreases less quickly on economic recovery. In a study recently undertaken by PEP on this subject it was stated:In Britain during 1966 the under 20s provided just under one-tenth of all employees. 1206 In that year they had … only fractionally over 10 per cent. of total unemployment.In other words, the proportion of unemployment and total employment was about the same. The study continues:By 1972 the situation had changed. Though the under 20s were something below 8 per cent. of the labour force in that year, they accounted for over 12 per cent. of the global total of unemployment. When the analysis is repeated for the age group below 24 years of age, there is a similar rise in the disproportionate incidence of unemployment. Preliminary investigation of data in several other Western European countries shows similar results.That was the very serious situation in 1972. I hope that the Secretary of State will be able to give us more modern figures or the present figures. I tried to get them from the Library, but they were not available. It is an important tendency if the tendency has continued.
Due to the shortage of time I shall concentrate my few remarks on the job creation programme as it happens to be one of the areas in which I was interested when I was Minister of State at the Department of Employment. Short-term job creation has always been a difficult task. I do not think that any Government have been especially successful in that respect. As the hon. Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Kinnock) said, in days gone by it used to be rather a pick and shovel affair. For example, road mending was one of the jobs provided. That sort of public work is now quite ineffective in this regard because it provides very few jobs. In any event, planning is required for several years ahead.
When the Conservative Party was in power, we produced "Operation Eyesore". It was a considerable success, although it was produced very quickly. It produced quite a lot of employment and left behind it a good residue. If we travel through the West Riding of Yorkshire we see how some of the old mills look now they have been brushed up. Much of that happened during "Operation Eyesore". It is fair to say that the scheme was effective. We also introduced the 75 per cent. improvement grants on building. This scheme was quickly switched on and it left a good aftermath. However, we were not satisfied with what we had done.
Foreseeing that further periods of unemployment would ensue, we devoted a lot of thought to job creation. That 1207 thought took the form of a booklet entitled "There's work to be done". This was a very intense study of the whole subject of unemployment and the type of job creation programme that could be evolved. Looking forward, the study said even in early 1974:Nobody knows how much unemployment there will be in 1974 and the two years hereafter.However, it is unlikely to be less than 600,000 and may be as much as 1 million.Whatever the eventual outcome something must be done to mitigate the consequences for the individuals involved.Even on the basis of an unemployment figure of 600,000, therefore, it was considered sufficiently serious to study the possibility of a job creation programme.
Following this investigation, a programme was produced for the Government in October 1974. In September 1975 the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced his first job creation programme. There was, therefore, a very long delay. That is why the job creation programme got off to a very bad start. It was rushed and it was a botched-up job.
As we watched it develop we gained the impression that it was produced belatedly. This was confirmed by the statements of Sir Denis Barnes. In my days he was the Permanent Secretary. Since then he has become Chairman of the Manpower Services Commission. He is reported as havingcriticised the Government for 'dragging its feet' over measures to reduce the number of workless.He suggested that the Labour Government had not proved responsive to early commission proposals until the rising tide of workless, now nearing 1½ million, had installed a sense of urgency.It is said that Sir Deniswas unable to conceal his disappointment that advance proposals by the commission had barely been heeded by the Government.Financial aid had been provided in 'dribs and drabs', but he was hopeful that growing concern over unemployment would encourage the Government to come up with an extra £90 million.As a result of getting off to such a bad start, the present schemes are not as good as they could be. There has not been the time to prepare them which there would have been had the Government taken earlier note of these studies.
1208 Nor are the schemes as well publicised. The lack of publicity is one of the reasons why 80 per cent. of job creation programmes are produced by local government and only 20 per cent. by other bodies. As I said in an intervention, nobody knows about them. In February I tabled a Question to the Secretary of State askinghow many job creation projects have been submitted by private firms, voluntary organisations, charities or community groups in Humberside".— [Official Report, 20th February 1976; Vol. 905, c. 892.]The reply was that none had been submitted. So in February nobody on Humberside had put forward a project. This was not because the people on Humberside were different from people anywhere else. It was because the scheme was not publicised.
The question might be posed—what should have been done? The answer is given by this admirable booklet, which was mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Chelsea (Mr. Scott)—"Action against Youth Unemployment" —and which was published only this week. I hope that the Minister will study it carefully, because it will help him in his cause. It can certainly help youth unemployment. This is a booklet created and produced by a group of people and organisations including the chief executive of the National Association of Youth Clubs, the Young Volunteer Force Foundation, the Youth Volunteer Resources Unit. It is addressed to anyone likely to produce projects—local authorities, national voluntary organisations, local community, neighbourhood or ad hocgroups, trade unions and industry. It says:This handbook is written for anyone who wants to make job opportunities for young unemployed people.This is exactly the document that should have been published by the Ministry a long time ago. It sets out, admirably and professionarlly, how to set up a project and how to apply. It gives examples of projects and provides useful contacts. It tells how to get premises, it supplies a model form for applying for finance, it shows how to get the help of the Training Services Agency, and so on. It could not be better. It should have come from the Ministry and not from people working on a shoestring. I 1209 advise the Minister to circulate this booklet on the widest scale.
It might be said that it could not have been produced earlier, but I do not accept that. The whole of the job creation programme is founded on the Canadian local initiatives programme, which is mentioned in the booklet. This is a highly successful programme about 80 per cent. of which is non-local government. It is dependent on voluntary forces. On that basis the Department could easily have produced the kind of booklet I have here.
I have one or two questions about the cost of the job creation project and unemployment. My fear is that one year hence unemployment will still he persistently high and we shall all he less optimistic about a recovery. At the same time I believe that the job creation programme will have recovered from its bad start and will be thriving in terms of projects presented. I do not believe that, as the Secretary of State said, there is always a shortage of original ideas. I think that there will be a mass of original ideas. The problem will be how to finance them.
We shall have found that it has become extremely costly. What should be thought out between now and then is how can we make the programme equally effective but more economical. We need to think a great deal about how much people should be paid, whether it is too much or too little. I believe that it is too little. I can see, as the hon. Member for Bedwelty has said, that we cannot pay people the same as they would receive in unemployment benefit. There must be a half-way house figure that can attract these young people into useful employment and at the same time enable the programme to operate more cheaply and be available to a greater number.
More thought should be given to how much unemployment costs as opposed to the cost of jobs created. Those who are employed in this way do not receive social service benefits and they are producing something. I do not believe that there has been a scientific evaluation of the costs of each job, taking into account what the Government save in terms of taxation and so on.
§ 8.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Dafydd Wigley (Caernarvon)
Unemployment is obscene and degrading and leaves a scar, not only on the persons affected by it, but on the community that is willing to suffer it. Since June 1973 unemployment in Wales has risen from 3.2 per cent. to 8.5 per cent. in January of this year It was mainly for this reason that we felt in our hearts that we had to declare that we had no confidence in the Government in the censure motion two weeks ago.
Unemployment among young people in Wales is particularly bad, with 19 per cent. of all the unemployed in the age range below 20. That means that an age range that accounts for one-tenth of the total population contains one-fifth of the unemployed. If people leaving school are told that they are surplus to requirements, there will be a high price to pay in future.
In mid-May there were 3,200 school leavers on the list for Wales compared with 1,600 in May 1975—double the number. In August 1975 there were 11,000 on the list, most of whom were school leavers. That figure may well be 25,000 in August this year. In May 1974 there were 3,200 vacancies in career offices. It is now down to under 700. In the next three or four weeks, 35,000 to 40,000 young people will leave school and there will not be work for the majority of them. We are in a crisis and it needs crisis action.
Unemployment in rural Wales is particularly bad. Thirty-five per cent. of the unemployment in Wales amongst those people in the 16-to-19-years age group is in rural areas which account for only 25 per cent. of the total population of Wales. In other words, the situation is significantly worse than in the industrial areas.
The civilian labour force in Wales is projected to increase in the next 10 years by 83,000 people, yet jobs are not forthcoming for them, This underlines what the hon. Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Kinnock) said—that there is a severe need for manpower planning in the community. Without it, we shall not solve the problem. Not only the young people but people on the employment fringes of society suffer. The disabled find it much more difficult to obtain work. Elderly 1211 people and women suffer. We have heard this afternoon that the coloured communities suffer.
Compared with South-East England, Wales is in a very poor situation. In South-East England there are three men chasing every two jobs. In Wales, there are five men chasing every job. In one exchange in my constituency at Penygroes, the ratio is infinite, with 231 people seeking work but not one job available. That indicates the seriousness of the situation.
May I outline some of the steps which I believe we should take and some which we should avoid? In taking measures immediately, we should avoid cutbacks in productivity schemes. Such schemes will be necessary in the long term. What we need to ensure is that jobs are available for people who may be moving because of the effects of productivity schemes.
We must not cut back on capital investment, because that will be necessary to create long-term jobs. We must not reduce the working week from 40 to 35 hours if it simply creates another five hours' overtime for the people employed. And the employee transfer scheme is no answer for areas such as Wales where we have suffered so much from employees having to move from the area to look for work.
There are, however, steps which can be taken and which need to be taken. We must consider seriously the possibility of making a concerted attempt to reduce overtime. An interesting study made in January showed that, taking the working week as being 40 hours, the overtime worked in a certain week in that month had generated in manufacturing industry 280,000 equivalent jobs compared with 350,000 people unemployed in those manufacturing sectors. I accept that we cannot do away with some categories of overtime because of the nature and structure of the industry concerned, but there may be room to consider this matter from the point of view of the short-term benefit which it may bring.
Another possibility which has been-mentioned is to reduce the age of retirement or to encourage people voluntarily to retire. There are nearly 1 million people over the age of 60 in work, 1212 and there is plainly a large potential here.
Another possibility is to introduce for young people a scheme of industrial familiarisation. When young people are out of work and on the dole, they should be permitted to work for three months or six months in an industry and still receive their unemployment benefit so that they may become aware of the careers available, which would also benefit the employer because he would then be able to select people for jobs.
I hope that the Government will be willing to consider broadening training schemes and particularly the possibility of introducing mid-term training. When a man is in his thirties or forties he should perhaps break off for six months or a year—take a sabbatical, if one likes—for training. That would make more jobs available in total.
There is a greater planning requirement beyond manpower planning. This is particularly true of job creation schemes. The job creation programme is a good thing as far as it goes, but it is a little random. As I said earlier the private sector has not grasped the potential which exists in it. Was the Written Answer which I was given recently stating that only 7,000 man-weeks had been created by job creation schemes by district councils in Wales so far valid? I believe that it was an under-estimate.
"Job creation" needs broader definition. For example, there was a proposal for a housing survey in Cardiff by Community Concern, but it was turned down. Yet that is the sort of thing that could bring benefit to the community.
Whatever the long-term dangers, in the short term we must look at the possibility of monitoring some imports and clamping down on dumping.
In a Welfare State, when many old, pre-Keynesian influences have gone out of the window, if there is a right to unemployment and welfare benefits we must acknowledge that there is also the right to work and that the State should not merely provide the cash conscience money for people who are not getting jobs under our present structure, but should provide jobs for them. This needs integrated and co-ordinated attempts to have available in each locality a pool 1213 of jobs that could be triggered off at short notice and into which unemployed young people could move.
We are told that to provide the wages for people coming into such pools would be expensive—£2,000 million to £2,500 million a year if we were to pay them the average industrial wage. But if we consider taking in three quarters of those now unemployed, on the lower quartile level of industrial earnings, about £35 a week, the sum would reduce to about £1,000 million. I believe that we should face the cost—after all, it is half the cost of the MRCA. If we do not face the cost, we shall pay a very heavy price in future.
§ 8.49 p.m.
§ Mr. Tom Litterick (Birmingham, Selly Oak)
I am the first West Midlands Member to speak in the debate and I regret that because of the time I must butcher the speech I had intended to make.
In Birmingham about 50,000 people are out of work of whom about 6,000 are under 20. Birmingham has been a beneficiary of most of the schemes which have been mentioned—the job creation programme, the Training Service Agency's activities, and so on. Hugely and famously and, I believe, in the long term, the people of Birmingham will be grateful to the Government because of the benefit that the city has received from the Government's intervention in the car industry, through Chrysler and British Leyland, and in the machine tool industry, through Alfred Herbert. That applies to the whole area of Birmingham and its hinterland. So, perhaps by accident, Birmingham has been a monumental beneficiary of the Government's massive first-aid to British industry. British Leyland, Chrysler and Alfred Herbert have had a very large proportion of that first-aid.
I do not belittle the Government's effort by calling it "first-aid", but I am trying to characterise it accurately. I believe that the Government's reactions to the British Leyland, Chrysler, Alfred Herbert and other such crises have been sensible, understandable, sympathetic and humane, but they do not fit into anything that can be called a long-term industrial strategy. As a Scotsman representing a Birmingham constituency I am painfully aware of the need for a longterm 1214 strategy and of the fact that in this very debate we are tending to be over-impresesd by this particular crisis. Indeed, even now we tend to be over-impressed by the fact of unemployment among young people.
It may sound callous, but morally I see very little difference between the unemployment of an 18-year-old and the unemployment of a man of 35 or 55. Each is damaged by the fact of being unable to use his talents and energies. Each is made futile. It may well be that the young person suffers a longer-term damage, but the point has already been made in the debate that the vast majority of the young people who are unemployed will also be the people who will be the unemployed adults in their young manhood and in their middle age and at the end of their working lives. It is unfortunately true that the untrained and unskilled are most likely also to be the unemployed.
With each succeeding collapse or downturn of the economic system, these people, who have nothing to sell but what one might call undifferentiated labour, suffer more than anybody else. It does not do the debate a great service to harp on whether they are coloured, whether they are immigrants, and so on. With as much profit we might as well consider whether they are disabled or, indeed, whether they are women.
Nobody so far has mentioned the possibility that women might suffer from unemployment even more than men. In fact, they do, but, as is so often the case with women, they do it discreetly, in that they simply do not register as being unemployed.
We make a mess of our debate about unemployment if we do not really know how many people are unemployed. We have to guess and to rely on academic research, which invariably tells us that the level of unemployment is in reality higher than the official figures. But the motion before us specifically refers to young people and therefore I shall try to restrict myself to that aspect.
This country has lagged behind most other advanced industrial countries in its ability to train people for industry, and particularly to train them for the technologist and technician type of job. We have for a long time lagged behind 1215 Germany, Belgium, and certainly the United States. We have not yet awakened to that fact.
Unfortunately, we are still burdened with an education system that is certificate-ridden and syllabus-ridden, and because of that history of selectivity, which is unfortunately culture-bound and culture-determined, we become hung up on strange notions about who should get which jobs. We apply this to adolescents in such a way that it affects working-class children for the rest of their existence.
We have a stratified society. The degree of vertical mobility is very much less than is to be found in most highly developed industrialised societies. The degree of equality of opportunity in Britain—to put it in fairly ordinary words—is very much less than is found elsewhere.
It is the children of the majority of my constituents who suffer most from this. There are all sorts of paradoxes built into this. For example, my constituents who live in hideous streets such as Harborne Road in Selly Oak are subsidising the children of far more affluent families who live in the comfortable houses of Edgbaston while they trundle off to the universities and polytechnics. The middle-class population of our universities and polytechnics vastly outnumbers that of the working class. So we find that people who are living in disgusting hovels, who are at the bottom of the job queue and, therefore, earning the lowest wages with the least hope of betterment are financing the expensive education of most of the population of the university system who come from a different and advantaged class.
I do not need to talk about people being immigrants, or women, or even disabled, to see the disadvantaged in our society. My constituency is made up predominantly of working-class people, and they are the disadvantaged. They are wholly disadvantaged in relation to the other classes of society, and they are being asked again and again to finance and to subsidise those other classes, whether it is in the form of their housing, their mortgage concessions, or the subsidies given to their children's education, or otherwise.
I suggest that if those working-class families realised fully the extent to which 1216 they are bailing out the middle-classes with their taxes, our political life in this House would be more turbulent than it is now. The little fracas about which we now hear and which allegedly concerns race would be made to seem like tea parties by comparison. The people's sense of justice would be truly outraged. Unfortunately, our system of government is not yet sufficiently open to ensure that the people are fully informed of these matters. Some day it will come.
In the course of an intervention earlier I made a point which I feel I must reiterate. It has been said that the responsibilities for dealing with the problems of youth employment and unemployment are scattered or fragmented among local authorities and various Government agencies. My concern in Birmingham is that we have the growing scandal of teacher unemployment. One of the causes seems to be the inability or perhaps the unwillingness of the local authority to spend money getting teachers to run courses of instruction for young people who might thereby become more employable.
The TSA disposes of Government funds, but it seems unable to find enough outlets for them. There is no liaison. There is no co-ordination. The result is that there is a sum in excess of £1 million, to my knowledge, that could be used to employ teachers to provide courses for young people—even those young people who might not have even a CSE qualification and who are destined for the back of the job queue. Even they could be helped if a few civil servants would get together.
I see that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment is present. I beg him to bang on the door of his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education, arouse him from his apparently catatonic state and get him to agree to approach local education authorities—and I suggest the Birmingham education authority first—to see whether the two functions cannot at least temporarily be merged. It surely will not cause embolisms amongst civil servants if two different Departments decide to get together to spend money on a cause in which they are supposed to have a common interest. I hope that we have some feedback from the Government on this matter, if not at 1217 the end of this debate, certainly in the very near future. I warn my right hon. and hon. Friends that I shall be tabling Questions about it.
I was extremely impressed by the fatalism of the right hon. Member for Lowestoft (Mr. Prior). As I understood him, he seemed to be saying that we should have to get used to this situation. He did not say who he meant by "we". As it happens, where I come from we are well used to this, if by "this" the right hon. Gentleman means the hellish level of unemployment.
I was born in the Clyde valley. We were obliged to flee from the Clyde valley and successive generations of people living in places like the Clyde valley have had to react to a situation where there were no employment prospects for them. A large proportion of the British people have this as a common experience going back three generations. It is not a situation which has just occurred. But, for people living in the Midlands or the South-East, mass unemployment is a new experience and everyone is wondering what is happening.
It is very likely that the Government's economic "boy scoutery" in the various "bob-a-job" type schemes that they have brought forward will impress people in the Midlands and the South-East for a short time. As yet the people in the Midlands and the South-East have not realised that something permanent has happened. I assume that is what the right hon. Member for Lowestoft meant. I am sure that he was not referring to himself, his colleagues or his social class.
It seems from the track record in the post-war years that this is permanent, and I must warn the Opposition that their frequently expressed faith in the free market system is ill-placed. If they look across the Atlantic, they will realise this, notwithstanding the fact that the leader of the Opposition, when she finished her ITCT package tour of the United States last year, prounced that country a success, even though its economy at the time was running at a level of 10 per cent. unemployment. If that is success, the Opposition can look forward to permanent rejection by the people of Birmingham. It is not success. It is abysmal failure.
1218 Even at the more modest level of our crisis, it is still a failure. We are different economically from the United States. It is no use harking after something which is impossible. We cannot emulate the United States economy or anyone else's economy. We are special and unique. We are a dynamic mixed economy in which the mix can be changed.
I say to my colleagues on the Front Bench that they should not forget that the mix can be changed. There is nothing immutable about it. If they feel that the State should intervene further to constrain the irresponsible behaviour of the private sector, so be it. They should not be inhibited, as they will have plenty of support on this side of the House for that approach.
§ 9.7 p.m.
§ Mrs. Elaine Kellett-Bowman (Lancaster)
I have a treble interest in the question of employment opportunities for young people. I have many hundreds of young people in my constituency who have left school with little hope of employment. I have a teacher training college and very few of the students there who have finished their training have been able to find jobs. I also have a university in which a similar situation arises.
At the end of May our local paper ran a story headlined:Hundreds of school-leavers face dole.Today we have 754 school leavers in the Lancaster area, of whom only 191 have obtained work. Some are awaiting the results of applications for the few jobs available. That is the rub. There are very few jobs of any shape, size or kind available for young or old, male or female.
My area is an intermediate area hemmed in by development areas. I urge the Minister to use his influence to see that this situation is changed and that we are given the chance which we need to develop our industry for the benefit of all concerned. But I realise that to change our status would take time, and what we need now is to give work to those children leaving school before the canker of unemployment warps them for life.
In many cases our housing stock is very old. As 60 per cent. of our unemployed last worked in the construction industry, 1219 the Government could kill two birds with one stone if they reverted to the 75 per cent. improvement grant on a temporary basis. This would provide jobs and offer an opportunity for improving our housing stock. The 75 per cent. improvement grant revitalised the economy under the previous Government, it could do so again.
My constituency also has a teacher training college, with an outstandingly good record. For the first time it is having a sit-in because the young people there are so frustrated and dismayed at the impossibility of finding jobs, and it seems a pity that when more youngsters may have to stay on at school because they cannot get jobs, the Government should require local authorities to cut down on the employment of teachers. It is such a pity that the teacher induction courses planned by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition to help the teachers and to improve the running of the schools should have been postponed. Surely the scheme could be brought forward to its orginal intended date, which is this September, to help our schools and the children in them.
These points are of desperate importance for those who are keen to get jobs and who do not wish to be on the dole. I know that the job creation programme helps. The village of Halton in my constituency hopes to get its community centre earlier than originally intended because some of the youngsters will be able to help with its building under the job creation scheme. But there is little training content in these temporary jobs.
These children must be better trained to give them the chance of employment at a crucial formative period in their lives. I beg the Secretary of State to give us the chance of providing these young people with work by persuading the Government to grant us development area status and to bring forward the teacher induction programme to give a chance of employment to those who are leaving our colleges.
§ 9.2 p.m.
§ Mr. Alick Buchanan-Smith (North Angus and Mearns)
The debate has been valuable for three broad reasons. First, with unemployment running at 1.25 million, it has laid low any question of 1220 the Conservative Party being the party of unemployment. Speeches from Conservative Members and demands from Labour Members have shown that in present circumstances the Labour Party is the party of unemployment.
The second reason is concerned with the timing of the debate. Hon. Members from all parts of the country have highlighted the problems facing young people at a time when the economy is in crisis. On so many other occasions we debate problems after they have occurred. The advantage of today's debate is that it has dealt with a problem which will arise when the main body of young people leave school and come on to the labour market at the end of the summer term. That is why we chose this subject for debate.
The third reason that the debate has been valuable is that it was marked by a considerable number of constructive suggestions from all sides of the House as to how the problem might be met. The problem has been discussed in its particular aspects. I mention particularly the aspect of immigrants to which my right hon. Friend the Member for Lowestoft (Mr. Prior) referred earlier. My hon. Friend the Member for Wycombe (Sir J. Hall), in a notable speech based on his experience in his constituency, suggested how this aspect of unemployment could be met. The hon. Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Kinnock) also acknowledged the problem and paid tribute to the ideas being put forward.
I hope that we may hear from the Secretary of State a constructive response to some of the solutions which have been offered. If there are any which he cannot deal with tonight from the Dispatch Box I hope we may see them coming into effect in the months ahead.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Lowestoft dealt with the problem in the United Kingdom as a whole. I should like to refer specifically to Scotland. In July 1974, Scotland went through one of its worst periods of industrial strife. Under a Labour Government, it had 50,000 people laid off as a result of a haulage strike and 24,000 people on strike in 24 disputes. The present situation is not a new problem for Scotland. We have had an unfortunately high number of people out of work under this Government. In March 1974, when the 1221 Conservative Government left office and at the peak of the crisis caused by the miners' strike, unemployment in Scotland was 89,700. In March this year, it was more than 140,000.
In contrast to the rest of the country, the seasonally-adjusted figures for the past three months show that unemployment in Scotland is continuing to rise—at a rate of 2,700 a month. More worrying still is the fact that 119,000 people have been out of work for more than four weeks.
That is the size of the problem we face. In March 1974, 800 young people were unemployed in Scotland. In March 1976, the figure was 4,900. These are youngsters who left school, some the previous summer and the majority at Christmas, and had been out of work for three months or more. There has been some improvement, which I am glad to acknowledge, but even in May—the latest date for which figures are available—there were still 2,871 young people out of work. This is serious.
I underline what the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, East (Mr. Henderson) said. In the next few weeks, we shall have 65,000 more young people coming on to the employment market in Scotland. The Euro-Scot Report indicated alarming attitudes among young people in Scotland towards work and the lack of opportunity. They compared very unfavourably with the attitude of young people in other European countries, and it is no wonder when we have such unemployment figures. We all want to see an improvement in these figures and in the attitude of these young people.
As my hon. Friend the Member for Harwich (Mr. Ridsdale) said, the Government's economic policies are at the root of this problem. The debate and the concern expressed from all sides are a measure of the Government's failure to manage the economy over the past two years. Even after two years in power and two General Elections, they still try to pass the blame on to us.
This has been particularly clearly shown in the past week in the almost schizophrenic attitude of the Secretary of State for Scotland towards unemployment and the economy. Not surprisingly, the Secretary of State has had to 1222 write to local authorities in Scotland asking them to reduce their expenditure. I am glad that at least one Government Department is attempting to try to bring about some economy. In the circular to local authorities in Scotland, which was sent out on Friday, there is the most extraordinary sentence:In considering what economies can be made local authorities should also continue to seek to avoid redundancies wherever possible.
§ Mr. Buchanan-Smith
Sir George Sharpe, Chairman of the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities and a member of the Labour Party, is reported in The Scotsman on Saturday as saying that local authoritieswere being put in an almost impossible situation".
§ Mr. Buchanan-Smith
I will give way to the hon. Gentleman later. This is where I describe the attitude of the Secretary of State as schizophrenic. The right hon. Gentleman sees no connection between the mismanagement of the economy that has led to all the problems that we have had to face and believing that where the economy is mismanaged we can still hope to keep up employment in the way that he tried to argue in the circular. This circular and the comments made on it by Government supporters simply demonstrate that the failure to manage the economy has led to the kind of redundancies that we now have and are likely to see in the weeks and months ahead.
§ Mr. Kinnock
I did not realise that schizophrenia was an epidemic condition. But what is more schizophrenic than that the Opposition should criticise the Government for creating and presiding over high unemployment and simultaneously demand an immediate cut in public expenditure of £5,000 million which, whatever its advocacy in general economic terms, will unquestionably push up unemployment to the dizziest heights?
§ Mr. Buchanan-Smith
The hon. Gentleman should look at the Government's programme—for example, £4 billion to be spent on nationalisation and £30 million on the dock labour scheme. The 1223 hon. Gentleman will see that out of that programme economies can be made.
But let me answer the question more precisely. This is where the hon. Gentleman and his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State show how little they understand the working of the economy. Every £1 more spent by the Government on their schemes is £1 less spent by productive industry. Right hon. and hon. Gentleman opposite pay lip service to the need for investment to create jobs. However, they forget that the Government, by investing in their own pet schemes which do not create wealth and extra jobs in industry are denying industry the opportunity to create jobs which would help the young people whose problems we are debating today.
Basically there are two main areas where we see the mismanagement of the economy. This applies not only to Scotland but to the United Kingdom. The first concerns the Government's policies regarding offshore oil. This industry is important not only to the United Kingdom but to the regeneration and rejuvenation of the Scottish economy in which we should all have a great interest.
What worries me is the relative complacency of the Minister of State, Department of Energy, who, on 14th June, in answer to a Question said:I am satisfied that 1976 will be another successful year for the development of our North Sea resources."—[Official Report, 14th June 1976; Vol. 913, c. 10.]Yet anyone who has anything to do with the North Sea oil industry will realise that, although the industry has created 55,000 new jobs in Scotland, there has been a slowing down. We see that from the Government's action. Two years ago they introduced measures to enable them to buy land for the building of platform construction sites. The Secretary of State, then Minister of State, said that public ownershipenables the maximum use to be made of sites and avoids proliferation.The right hon. Gentleman went on to say that he did not think that there wasa risk of having too many platform construction sites."—[Official Report, 19th November 1974; Vol. 881, c. 1110.]Yet two years later, having built two yards—one at Portavadie and the other at Hunterston—we do not have an order for 1224 the platforms being built. The worry at Nigg, Methil and Ardyne, and the worry south of the border at Hartlepool, demonstrates that in the one industry which could giving a boost to the Scottish economy, Government planning has gone wrong. Instead of opportunities for jobs in the platform construction yards, because the Government have got it wrong we have seen a lack of opportunity instead of new jobs.
Secondly, no one has any doubt—I represent a constituency in an oil area—that Government interference with the industry has been slowing down development. I quote from The Scotsman of 15th June, in which the United Kingdom Offshore Operators' Association is reported as saying in relation to the national energy conference due to be held tomorrow,Recent legislation reflected a 'disturbing shift of emphasis from stimulus to restriction' … The firms are' seriously concerned at the potentially stultifying effect of over regulation'.We have in Scotland an industry that could provide an opportunity for new jobs. Instead, we see it slowing down, the platform-building yards lying empty and the rate of build-up of jobs in the industry declining from what it was a year or two ago.
A second point of great concern in Scotland—concern has been expressed from areas right across the United Kingdom, by my hon. Friend the Member for Fareham (Dr. Bennett) and by the hon. Members for Isle of Ely (Mr. Freud) and Chorley (Mr. Rodgers)—is education. This moves into the area about which we are talking—young people. We are not talking only about those who have just left school. We are also talking about those who have undertaken several years of training but are yet now, at this stage, unable to get their first jobs.
The Secretary of State for Scotland has not yet answered our question as to how many of those leaving teacher training colleges this summer are likely to find themselves out of work. The figure with which we have been served so far—I ask the Secretary of State whether he can now give us a more up-to-date figure—is that 5,500 are expected to leave but only about 3,000 vacancies exist. Therefore, in Scotland alone there will be a shortfall of opportunities for about 2,500 1225 young people, in teaching alone, who will be unable to get jobs.
It is not good enough for the Secretary of State to try tonight, as he did at Question Time a couple of weeks ago, to pass the buck. It stops with him. It is no use trying to blame the previous Conservative Government for over-recruiting during the years in which we were in power. I ask the Secretary of State simply to look at the figures. Recruitment to the teacher training colleges was gradually reduced from 1972–73 until 1975–76. If the right hon. Gentleman cares to produce that kind of argument tonight, I ask him to tell us why he has failed to explain up to now why in 1975–76, when the figures of the school population were so much better known, over 300 additional student secondary school teachers were recruited to the training colleges and there was also an increase in the number of student primary school teachers.
I also ask the Secretary of State to explain—he failed to do so in the debate a fortnight ago—why, at a time when we have unparalleled opportunity in Scotland, as we have in the rest of the United Kingdom, to improve standards of education and the pupil-teacher ratio and to raise standards in our schools, the Government are spending money on schemes in education which have no relevance whatsoever to the quality of the education of our young people today.
In Scotland alone, if the Secretary of State was prepared to give up his scheme for extending the provision of free milk, which has cost £1 million, we could see at the beginning of the school year in August another 250 teachers employed in Scotland. If the Secretary of State were prepared, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Lowestoft said, to raise the price of school meals and not to forgo the income, we could see another 1,250 teachers in Scotland at the start of the school year.
A total of 1,500 additional teachers could be employed in Scotland within the existing educational budget if only the present Government had got their priorities right. In education in Scotland, as in the rest of the United Kingdom, all that we have seen is opportunity missed.
1226 We have spoken of a number of schemes. The Community Industry scheme is certainly all right and has been acknowledged on all sides of the House. We have spoken of the job creation programme. We welcome what has been achieved in Scotland and the extension of that programme that the Secretary of State is undertaking at Jordanhill concerning the employment of a relatively small but useful number of teachers. I believe that we have to look at that scheme in great detail. My hon. Friend the Member for Howden (Sir P. Bryant) drew attention to experience overseas in this kind of thing.
My hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Wavertree (Mr. Steen) looked at the problem of getting the co-operation of private industry and making sure that financial help is better geared to the number of jobs that can be provided. What we need in the job creation scheme, in the Community Industry scheme, and in all the other schemes, as was said by the hon. Members for Birmingham, Yardley (Mr. Tierney) and Thornaby (Mr. Wrigglesworth) and by my right hon. Friend the Member for Lowestoft is more leadership, more co-ordination and more effort to make sure that these schemes are more effective.
What worries me—and this is where I want to make a few suggestions about the longer term—is that many of the proposals put forward in the Community Industry programme and in the job creation schemes are basically short-term measures that deal with the manifestations of the problem usefully and helpfully but do not get to the deeper roots of our unemployment problem and the problem facing young people.
I propose to refer briefly to a few measures which could help in the longer term. First, as my hon. Friend the Member for Chelsea (Mr. Scott) said, we must show much more concern for the problem of the transition from school to work. The whole matter of preparation at at school and in the final years at school is of great importance in preparing young people for work. Here I refer to the report of the Scottish Education Department Inspectorate when it looked at what happened after the school leaving age was raised. The report said:The lack of resources, therefore, cannot explain why the schools in general rejected 1227 the curricular preparations which had been made",and it went on to say:The Inspectors found that many of the pupils following wholly non-SCE courses were 'disenchanted with school'. They considered what they were being taught as irrelevant and uninteresting and in many areas a high proportion of these pupils truanted or absented themselves from classes.That is a condemnation of our education system in Scotland. There is nothing political about it, and I beg the Secretary of State to ensure that the work of the committee dealing with curricula is soon completed and that, having been completed, its recommendations are carried forward as quickly as possible to help our young people and fit them for work thereafter.
Secondly, I raise a matter that has not been raised by anybody else in this debate, but one that is of tremendous importance for young people. I refer to the question of housing. Shelter and other organisations have raised the problem of housing for single people. Nowhere will this be more important that in Scotland because, when the upturn in the economy comes, jobs will not necessarily be in areas that are at present populated. The main boost to employment is on the East coast of Scotland, and I beg the Secretary of State to look at this question of providing housing for single people. I ask him to ensure that housing for them is provided so that if necessary they can move to areas where jobs are available. In addition, he should co-ordinate the employment transfer scheme and local housing policies so that when families move, houses are available for them.
Thirdly, there is a matter that has been dealt with at some length during this debate and I shall deal with it only briefly, and that is training. Under the job creation scheme we have not used all the money that has been made available to us in Scotland, and I ask the Secretary of State to consider whether more of this money ought to be used for longer-term training, because when the upturn occurs in the economy we shall need to make sure that we have available the necessary skilled labour. The tragedy in Scotland is that all the time unemployment has been higher than in the rest of the United Kingdom. We 1228 have also been faced with a shortage of skilled people to fill the vacancies, and I beg the right hon. Gentleman to make sure that we get right this matter of longer-term training.
Fourthly, there is the question of education. I ask the Secretary of State to get his priorities right. It is sheer folly for the right hon. Gentleman to spend his educational budget in the way in which he is spending it, and it will be a tragedy if we miss the opportunity to raise our standards.
Finally, the most significant area in which the Government stand condemned is that of the whole question of the management of the economy. The Government should get off the back of the oil industry.
In relation to the economy as a whole, it does not matter how good their ideas are in the short term. They will not work unless we have sound economic policies. Unfortunately, so far we have had misdirection, miscalculation and missed opportunity.
The Secretary of State for Employment this afternoon spoke about the current agreement with the TUC offering the best prospect. I beg of him to look at the other side of the coin. Was it not the abandonment of restraint in 1974 that caused the problems that we have today? I suppose we should show some joy over the sinner who has repented, but it is not much joy for the unemployed school-leaver.
Unfortunately, the price is being paid not by the Government but by the young people who this summer cannot find jobs, and it is for this that the Government stand condemned.
§ 9.37 p.m.
The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Bruce Milian)
The hon. Member for North Angus and Mearns (Mr. Buchanan-Smith) has ranged very widely—a good deal more widely than the subject of the debate. I do not intend to follow all his observations. It was a rather bold step for the hon. Gentleman to mention the offshore oil industry considering the record of complete mismanagement on the part of the Tory Government in dealing with the problem of North Sea oil. I am proud to stand on the record of the Labour Government over the last two years.
1229 To return to the main subject of the debate, I start right away by saying that of course the Government are extremely concerned about the unemployment situation. I do not find the unemployment figures at all tolerable and one of the major aims of the Government must be to have those figures reduced as soon as possible.
Serious concern has been expressed in all parts of the House today about the general unemployment situation and, particularly, about the problem of youth unemployment. If we are to discuss this subject we have to do it in the general economic context, as the hon. Member for North Angus and Mearns said. However, that context includes the world situation, and the world recession, arising from the quadrupling of oil prices. It is no good pretending that the problem we have in this country is unique because we know that every major industrial country in the world has suffered similar problems of unemployment over the last few years. That is also true in respect of the particular problem of youth unemployment which we are discussing today.
The fact is that youth unemployment is primarily a reflection of the depth of the current recession. There are, certainly, special aspects of youth unemployment which I shall come to in a moment, but it would be an illusion to believe that we could take particular steps which could somehow or other solve the youth unemployment situation if we were not, at the same time, getting the economy generally right and reducing unemployment generally.
Youth unemployment will come down, in the last analysis, as we are successful in reducing unemployment generally. In that context, of course, the recent agreement with the TUC about pay policy, and about economic policy generally over the next year or so, is in essence much more significant than all the particular schemes we have been talking about in the House today. If we can get the economy right, and bring inflation under control and reduce it further, then, at the same time, we will solve much of the problem of youth unemployment.
The right hon. Member for Lowestoft (Mr. Prior), and a number of other hon. Gentlemen, did not take that view. They took the view that we were facing certain 1230 changes which had continued over a period of years and in a sense, regardless of economic policies, would continue into the future. It is certainly true that the working party of the National Youth Employment Council's report, published in 1974, showed very strongly that from about 1965 onwards there is evidence of a progressive deterioration in the employment situation for young people. As each recovery has taken place, the recovery has gone up to a rather lesser level and we have been left with a residual problem which has been greater than before.
But it is certainly true that that report and others demonstrate that that is a feature of general unemployment. So again, my point that youth unemployment is a reflection of general unemployment remains valid despite the evidence of the NYEC and other reports.
The regional dimension is very important. Without running over all of this Government's initiatives on regional policy in the last two years—the doubling of the regional employment premium and the rest—I would simply say that we now have a stronger, a more flexible and effective regional policy than there has ever been in this country. We have that not only in terms of the general instruments of regional development in the Government's hands but also through the regional concern of the NEB and the work of the Scottish and Welsh Development Agencies. It is immensely important if we are to solve youth unemployment, as other unemployment, that those instruments are used to the full.
It is of considerable importance also that in a particular situation involving use of powers under the Industry Act, we should act as rapidly and generously in the circumstances as we can—we have a record of doing that over the last two years—because that is a direct way of providing jabs in sensitive areas.
I was surprised that the right hon. Member for Lowestoft should have been so disparaging about the temporary employment subsidy, asking whether it had saved any jobs. Speaking simply from the Scottish point of view, I can only say that the subsidy has already saved 7,500 jobs in Scotland. I know sufficient of many of the cases involved to be able to say that without it those jobs would have been irretrievably lost because the companies concerned would 1231 have closed down. That is a direct answer to the right hon. Gentleman.
My other general observation would be about the schizophrenia of Conservative Members about public expenditure. We have heard constant calls from hon. Members opposite today, either in the context of their own constituencies or generally, for the spending of more public money either on new schemes or on the development of existing schemes to save unemployment. Yet we know that the official policy of the official Opposition, as distinct from individual Members making constituency speeches, is to have immediate and indiscriminate savage cuts in public expenditure. We also know that, if that were to happen, the effect on unemployment would be considerable.
§ Mr. Prior
May I correct the right hon. Gentleman on two points? First of all, there has been no demand whatsoever from this Front Bench or from my colleagues on the Back Benches for any increase in public expenditure the whole day. Secondly, his words about savage and immediate cuts in public expenditure are total nonsense.
First, the last Conservative Back Bencher who spoke today, the hon. Member for Lancaster (Mrs. Kellett-Bowman), called, along with many other Conservative Members—
§ Mr. Millan
The right hon. Member for Lowestoft said that no one on his side had called for additional public expenditure. I am saying that the last Conservative Back Bencher to speak, as well as many others, called for additional public expenditure. On the general public expenditure policy of hon. Members opposite, we know that the Leader of the Opposition has called repeatedly for substantial and immediate cuts in public expenditure.
§ Mr. Millan
It is no use the right hon. Gentleman repudiating that simply because the headmistress happens to be away this evening.
If I do not accept that there is necessarily a Long-term problem of the kind 1232 that the right hon. Gentleman described, I do of course accept that there are particular problems which are likely to continue despite what happens to unemployment generally among certain groups in the community. First, I shall say a word about the problem of immigrants, which is thankfully not a serious problem in Scotland. However, I know that it is a problem in many areas in England. The hon. Member for Wycombe, among others, mentioned the matter. There is no denying that unemployment among young immigrants is much higher than among young white workers, but we have done a number of things to try to improve matters.
For example, Community Industry is very much directed towards young people who have never been able to get a job. There are many Community Industry units located in areas in which there are special problems in employing young immigrants—for example, Bradford, Nottingham, Newham, Camden, Islington, Lewisham and Birmingham. Similarly, under the Training Services Agency there are special arrangements for TOPS where the age can be lowered in dealing with particular problems among the immigrant community. Urban aid is available under the Local Government Act 1966. In the operation of the careers service my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment has drawn attention to the need for adequate and stronger staffing in areas of high immigrant concentration.
My hon. Friend has not been here all day. Although I do not pretend that we have found anything like a complete answer, we are aware of the problem.
Another problem area—
§ Mr. Arthur Lewis
My right hon. Friend mentioned Newham among the various areas that suffer stress. Is he aware that although we appreciate what the Government have done, it has not helped the position to any great extent? There are grave problems in Newham and only tonight the Home Secretary has refused to give any further aid or assistance. Will my right hon. Friend ask the Government to consider the problems of employment, education and housing, for 1233 example, which are causing trouble in the areas he has mentioned?
§ Mr. Millan
I dare say that my hon. Friend's words will have been heard, or will in due course be read, by my right hon. Friends who are concerned.
I was about to refer to less able young people generally. It is an area of youth unemployment where there is no doubt that over the years there has been a relative decline in job opportunities. I hope that the House will have welcomed the point that my right hon. Friend made today about the longer-term development of ideas for dealing with this section of the young population. As he said, we are preparing a Government statement on vocational preparation for young people.
The plans for the new development will be published in a matter of weeks. We hope that the experimental vocational preparation schemes envisaged will be operating by the autumn. I do not want to make too much of the preparations, as we are still at an early stage in dealing with what is a considerable number of young people who suffer especially in the employment cycle. However, I make the point that we are aware of the problem. I am hoping that from the announcement we shall be making there will eventually come the longer-term developments which will redress the balance.
As some of my hon. Friends have said, including my hon. Friend the Member for Thornaby (Mr. Wrigglesworth), we are at the minute spending considerable sums on training and education for the more able members of the young community but spending very little on those who, in a sense, need our help most of all, because without it they are often condemned to a long period of inadequate employment opportunities. The short industrial courses, the occupation selection courses and the experimental wider opportunities courses which my right hon. Friend mentioned have a special significance for the less able young people.
I turn to the problem of teacher unemployment. I will not go over this problem in any detail, because certainly from the Scottish viewpoint the matter has already been debated in the House. 1234 I made a statement on 26th May. I will make a few points only.
First, I want to disabuse anyone of the idea that what is happening about teacher recruitment this year involves a reduction in standards in schools. This is not so. We are maintaining general teaching standards and the general pupil-teacher ratio. Scotland's schools will be better staffed in the coming session than they have ever been and we should, for the first time for many years, be able to eliminate part-time education.
It is not possible, given the present constraints upon local authority expenditure, to ask local authorities to take on more teachers generally to improve pupilteacher ratios. I am sorry to say that both in Scotland and in England and Wales not all those coming from training colleges in the summer will be able immediately to get jobs in schools. The figure in Scotland is likely to be about 2,000.
§ Mr. Millan
I know that. I have just said that we are not asking local authorities to spend more. We are in the unfortunate position of having to ask local authorities to spend less, not more. I was going on to say that in Scotland projects have been approved already under the job creation scheme involving 143 teachers and there are further schemes for at least 450 other jobs in the pipeline. Therefore, the job creation scheme is making a significant impact on this problem as well as on many others.
§ Mr. Millan
With respect to my hon. Friend, I have a number of points still to answer and I cannot do that if I am not allowed to get on.
There has never been any claim by the Government that the job creation programme is a permanent solution to the unemployment problem. It can be called a palliative, but it is a palliative along with a number of other so-called palliatives which, taken together, have probably helped to save about 250,000 1235 jobs in the United Kingdom. These policy initiatives are greatly to be welcomed.
The job creation scheme itself has already provided more than 26,000 jobs. As complaints have been made about bureaucracy, I will say that the scheme has provided that number of jobs with a staff of fewer than 120 throughout the whole of the United Kingdom. I do not accept that this has been a bureaucratic scheme or that there has been inflexibility in the application of the rules. My experience has been the very opposite and many worthwhile schemes that have been of great importance not only to young people but to the community as a whole have been processed under the scheme.
§ Mr. Millan
No. On the subject of the payment of the rate for the job, let me say that the £56 per week is a maximum figure and not everyone involved in the scheme is paid anything like that. One of the principles was that this should not be looked upon as a way of encouraging cheap labour. That was why we decided that the payment would be the rate for the job. We shall continue to operate on that principle.
Nearly 30,000 jobs have been provided under the recruitment subsidy. To those of my hon. Friends who have asked whether we shall be making a further statement about the continuation of the subsidy I can only repeat what my right hon. Friend said, namely, that the matter is under review.
I take very much to heart the point made by some of my hon. Friends, that we are reaching a critical time. I will certainly bear that in mind. The Government as a whole will bear in mind the necessity for any further initiatives, whether in the community or in industry, and the need for further development in the careers service or in any other way. The various initiatives we have already taken over the past year in the
§ many areas of training and the rest are of more than temporary significance and the total expenditure of £135 million has made a considerable impact on what the Government have admitted to be an intractable problem.
§ I repudiate absolutely the suggestion of the right hon. Member for Lowestoft that the Government are using unemployment as a considered part of their economic policy. I must say, bearing in mind the history of the Conservative Party, that I consider it an impertinence of the right hon. Gentleman even to make such a suggestion. When we consider the history of employment-saving measures in this House over the past year, I feel it to be an even greater impertinence on the part of the right hon. Gentleman.
§ We remember the way in which the Tories fought tooth and nail to prevent the Chrysler rescue and how they fought against the British Leyland operation. We remember that on every occasion when the Government have attempted to save jobs in the past year or so we have met at the best with lukewarm support from Conservative Members and often with considerable hostility.
§ Unemployment in this country is not tolerable. We wish to see the position remedied as soon as we can. Within that general situation we consider it particularly offensive that we have this large youth unemployment problem. My right hon. Friend and I have described the steps already taken to reduce that unemployment. I repeat that if further steps are required, they will be taken. It is on that basis that I ask the House to support the Government.
§ Question put, That this House do now adjourn:—
§ The House divided: Ayes, 284, Noes, 289.1241
|Division No. 187.]||AYES||[10.00 p.m.|
|Adley, Robert||Awdry, Daniel||Bennett, Dr Reginald (Fareham)|
|Aitken, Jonathan||Bain, Mrs. Margaret||Benyon, W.|
|Alison, Michael||Baker, Kenneth||Berry, Hon Anthony|
|Arnold, Tom||Banks. Robert||Biffen, John|
|Atkins, Rt Hon H. (Spelthorne)||Bell, Ronald||Biggs-Davison, John|
|Blaker, Peter||Hall-Davis, A. G. F.||Neubert, Michael|
|Body, Richard||Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury)||Newton, Tony|
|Boscawen, Hon Robert||Hampson, Dr Keith||Normanton, Tom|
|Bottomley, Peter||Hannam, John||Nott, John|
|Bowden, A. (Brighton, Kemptown)||Harvie Anderson, Rt Hon Miss||Onslow, Cranley|
|Boyson, Dr Rhodes (Brent)||Hastings, Stephen||Oppenheim, Mrs Sally|
|Braine, Sir Bernard||Havers, Sir Michael||Osborn, John|
|Brittan, Leon||Hawkins, Paul||Page, John (Harrow West)|
|Brocklebank-Fowler, C.||Hayhoe, Barney||Page, Rt Hon R. Graham (Crosby)|
|Brotherton, Michael||Heath, Rt Hon Edward||Pardoe, John|
|Brown, Sir Edward (Bath)||Henderson, Douglas||Parkinson, Cecil|
|Bryan, Sir Paul||Heseltine, Michael||Pattie, Geoffrey|
|Buchanan-Smith, Alick||Hicks, Robert||Percival, Ian|
|Buck, Antony||Higgins, Terence L.||Peyton, Rt Hon John|
|Budgen, Nick||Holland, Philip||Pink, R. Bonner|
|Bulmer, Esmond||Hordern, Peter||Price, David (Eastleigh)|
|Burden, F. A.||Howe, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey||Prior, Rt Hon James|
|Butler, Adam (Bosworth)||Howell, David (Guildford)||Pym, Rt Hon Francis|
|Carlisle, Mark||Howells, Geraint (Cardigan)||Raison, Timothy|
|Chalker, Mrs Lynda||Hunt, David (Wirral)||Rathbone, Tim|
|Channon, Paul||Hunt, John||Rawlinson, Rt Hon Sir Peter|
|Churchill, W. S.||Hurd, Douglas||Rees, Peter (Dover & Deal)|
|Clark, Alan (Plymouth, Sutton)||Hutchison, Michael Clark||Rees-Davies, W. R.|
|Clark, William (Croydon S)||Irving, Charles (Cheltenham)||Renton, Rt Hon Sir D. (Hunts)|
|Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe)||James, David||Renton, Tim (Mid-Sussex)|
|Clegg, Walter||Jenkin, Rt Hon P.(Wanst'd & W'df'd)||Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon|
|Cockcroft, John||Jessel, Toby||Ridley, Hon Nicholas|
|Cooke, Robert (Bristol W)||Johnson Smith, G. (E Grinstead)||Ridsdale, Julian|
|Cope, John||Jones, Arthur (Daventry)||Rifkind, Malcolm|
|Cordle, John H.||Jopling, Michael||Rippon, Rt Hon Geoffrey|
|Cormack, Patrick||Joseph, Rt Hon Sir Keith||Roberts, Michael (Cardiff NW)|
|Corrie, John||Kaberry, Sir Donald||Roberts, Wyn (Conway)|
|Costain, A. P.||Kellett-Bowman, Mrs Elaine||Rodgers, Sir John (Sevenoaks)|
|Critchley, Julian||Kershaw, Anthony||Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)|
|Crouch, David||Kimball, Marcus||Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)|
|Crowder, F. P.||King, Evelyn (South Dorset)||Rost, Peter (SE Derbyshire)|
|Davies, Rt Hon J. (Knutsford)||King, Tom (Bridgwater)||Royle, Sir Anthony|
|Dean, Paul (N Somerset)||Kitson, Sir Timothy||Sainsbury, Tim|
|Dodsworth, Geoffrey||Knight, Mrs Jill||St. John-Stevas, Norman|
|Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James||Knox, David||Scott, Nicholas|
|Drayson, Burnaby||Lamont, Norman||Scott-Hopkins, James|
|du Cann, Rt Hon Edward||Lane, David||Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)|
|Dunlop, John||Langford-Holt, Sir John||Shaw, Michael (Scarborough)|
|Durant, Tony||Lawrence, Ivan||Shelton, William (Streatham)|
|Dykes, Hugh||Lawson, Nigel||Shepherd, Colin|
|Edwards, Nicholas (Pembroke)||Lester, Jim (Beeston)||Shersby, Michael|
|Elliott, Sir William||Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)||Silvester, Fred|
|Emery, Peter||Lloyd, Ian||Sims, Roger|
|Evans, Gwynfor (Carmarthen)||Loveridge, John||Sinclair, Sir George|
|Eyre, Reginald||Luce, Richard||Skeet, T. H. H.|
|Fairbairn, Nicholas||Latham, Michael (Melton)||Smith, Dudley (Warwick)|
|Fairgrieve, Russell||McAdden, Sir Stephen||Speed, Keith|
|Farr, John||MacCormick, Iain||Spence, John|
|Fell, Anthony||McCrindle, Robert||Spicer, Jim (W Dorset)|
|Fisher, Sir Nigel||Macfarlane, Neil||Spicer, Michael (S Worcester)|
|Fletcher, Alex (Edinburgh N)||MacGregor, John||Sproat, Iain|
|Fletcher-Cooke, Charles||Macmillan, Rt Hon M. (Farnham)||Stainton, Keith|
|Fookes, Miss Janet||McNair-Wilson, M. (Newbury)||Stanbrook, Ivor|
|Forman, Nige1||McNair-Wilson, P. (New Forest)||Stanley, John|
|Fowler, Norman (Sutton C'f'd)||Madel, David||Steen, Anthony (Wavertree)|
|Fox, Marcus||Marshall, Michael (Arundel)||Stewart, Donald (Western Isles)|
|Fraser, Rt Hon H. (Stafford & St)||Marten, Neil||Stewart, Ian (Hitchin)|
|Freud, Clement||Mates, Michael||Stokes, John|
|Fry, Peter||Maude, Angus||Stradling Thomas, J.|
|Galbraith, Hon. T. G. D.||Maudling, Rt Hon Reginald||Tapsell, Peter|
|Gardiner, George (Reigate)||Mawby, Ray||Taylor, R. (Croydon NW)|
|Gardner, Edward (S Fylde)||Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin||Taylor, Teddy (Cathcart)|
|Gilmour, Rt Hon Ian (Chesham)||Mayhew, Patrick||Tebbit, Norman|
|Gilmour, Sir John (East Fife)||Meyer, Sir Anthony||Temple-Morris, Peter|
|Glyn, Dr Alan||Miller, Hal (Bromsgrove)||Thatcher, Rt Hon Margaret|
|Godber, Rt Hon Joseph||Mills, Peter||Thomas, Dafydd (Merioneth)|
|Goodhart, Philip||Miscampbell, Norman||Thomas, Rt Hon P. (Hendon S)|
|Goodhew, Victor||Mitchell, David (Basingstoke)||Thompson, George|
|Goodlad, Alastair||Moate, Roger||Thorpe, Rt Hon Jeremy (N Devon)|
|Gorst, John||Monro, Hector||Townsend, Cyril D.|
|Gow, Ian (Eastbourne)||Montgomery, Fergus||Trotter, Neville|
|Gower, Sir Raymond (Barry)||Moore, John (Croydon C)||Tugendhat, Christopher|
|Grant, Anthony (Harrow C)||More, Jasper (Ludlow)||van Straubenzee, W. R.|
|Gray, Hamish||Morgan, Geraint||Vaughan, Dr Gerard|
|Grieve, Percy||Morgan-Giles, Rear-Admiral||Viggers, Peter|
|Griffiths, Eldon||Morris, Michael (Northampton S)||Wakeham, John|
|Grist, Ian||Morrison, Hon Peter (Chester)||Walder, David (Clitheroe)|
|Grylls, Michael||Mudd, David||Walker, Rt Hon P (Worcester)|
|Hall, Sir John||Neave, Airey||Walker-Smith, Rt Hon Sir Derek|
|Nelson, Anthony||Wall, Patrick|
|Walters, Dennis||Whitelaw, Rt Hon William||Young, Sir G. (Ealing, Acton)|
|Warren, Kenneth||Wiggin, Jerry||Younger, Hon George|
|Watt, Hamish||Wigley, Dafydd|
|Weatherill, Bernard||Wilson, Gordon (Dundee E)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Wells, John||Winterton, Nicholas||Mr. Spencer Le Marchant and|
|Welsh, Andrew||Wood, Rt Hon Richard||Mr. Carol Mather.|
|Abse, Leo||Ennals, David||Lever, Rt Hon Harold|
|Allaun, Frank||Evans, Fred (Caerphilly)||Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)|
|Anderson, Donald||Evans, Ioan (Aberdare)||Litterick, Tom|
|Archer, Peter||Evans, John (Newton)||Lomas, Kenneth|
|Armstrong, Ernest||Ewing Harry (Stirling)||Loyden, Eddie|
|Ashley, Jack||Faulds, Andrew||Luard, Evan|
|Ashton, Joe||Fernyhough, Rt Hon E.||Lyons, Edward (Bradford W)|
|Atkins, Ronald (Preston N)||Fitch, Alan (Wigan)||Mabon, Dr J. Dickson|
|Atkinson, Norman||Flannery, Martin||McCartney, Hugh|
|Bagier, Gordon A. T.||Fletcher, Raymond (Ilkeston)||McElhone, Frank|
|Barnett, Guy (Greenwich)||Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)||MacFarquhar, Roderick|
|Barnett, Rt Hon Joel (Heywood)||Foot, Fit Hon Michael||McGuire, Michael (Ince)|
|Bates, Alf||Ford, Ben||Mackenzie, Gregor|
|Bean, R. E.||Forrester, John||Mackintosh, John P.|
|Benn, Rt Hon Anthony Wedgwood||Fowler, Gerald (The Wrekin)||Maclennan, Robert|
|Bennett, Andrew (Stockport N)||Fraser, John (Lambeth, N'w'd)||McMillan, Tom (Glasgow C)|
|Bidwell, Sydney||Freeson, Reginald||McNamara, Kevin|
|Bishop, E. S.||Garrett, John (Norwich S)||Madden, Max|
|Blenkinsop, Arthur||Garrett, W. E. (Wallsend)||Magee, Bryan|
|Booth, Rt Hon Albert||George, Bruce||Mahon, Simon|
|Boothroyd, Miss Betty||Gilbert, Dr John||Mallalieu, J. P. W.|
|Bottomley, Rt Hon Arthur||Ginsburg, David||Marks, Kenneth|
|Boyden, James (Bish Auck)||Golding, John||Marquand, David|
|Bradley, Tom||Gould, Bryan||Marshall, Dr Edmund (Goole)|
|Bray, Dr Jeremy||Gourlay, Harry||Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)|
|Brown, Hugh D. (Provan)||Graham, Ted||Mason, Rt Hon Roy|
|Brown, Robert C. (Newcastle W)||Grant, George (Morpeth)||Maynard, Miss Joan|
|Brown, Ronald (Hackney S)||Grant, John (Islington C)||Meacher, Michael|
|Buchan, Norman||Grocott, Bruce||Mellish, Rt Hon Robert|
|Buchanan, Richard||Hamilton, James (Bothwell)||Mendelson, John|
|Butler, Mrs Joyce (Wood Green)||Hardy, Peter||Mikardo, Ian|
|Callaghan, Rt Hon J. (Cardiff SE)||Harper, Joseph||Millan, Bruce|
|Callaghan, Jim (Middleton & P)||Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)||Miller, Mrs Millie (Ilford N)|
|Campbell, Ian||Hart, Rt Hon Judith||Mitchell, R. C. (Soton, Itchen)|
|Canavan, Dennis||Hattersley Rt Hon Roy||Molloy, William|
|Cant, R. B.||Hatton, Frank||Moonman, Eric|
|Carmichael, Neil||Hayman, Mrs Helene||Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)|
|Carter, Ray||Heffer, Eric S.||Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)|
|Carter-Jones, Lewis||Hooley, Frank||Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)|
|Cartwright, John||Horam, John||Moyle, Roland|
|Castle, Rt Hon Barbara||Howell, Rt Hon Denis||Mulley, Rt Hon Frederick|
|Clemitson, Ivor||Hoyle, Doug (Nelson)||Murray, Rt Hon Ronald King|
|Cocks, Michael (Bristol S)||Huckfield, Les||Newens, Stanley|
|Cohen, Stanley||Hughes, Rt Hon C. (Anglesey)||Noble, Mike|
|Coleman, Donald||Hughes, Mark (Durham)||Oakes, Gordon|
|Colquhoun, Ms Maureen||Ogden, Eric|
|Concannon, J. D.||Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)||O'Halloran, Michael|
|Cook, Robin F. (Edin C)||Hughes, Roy (Newport)||Orme, Rt Hon Stanley|
|Corbett, Robin||Hunter, Adam||Ovenden, John|
|Craigen, J, M. (Maryhill)||Irvine, Rt Hon Sir A. (Edge Hill)||Owen, Dr David|
|Crawshaw, Richard||Irving, Rt Hon S. (Dartford)||Padley, Walter|
|Cronin, John||Jackson, Colin (Brighouse)||Palmer, Arthur|
|Crosland, Rt Hon Anthony||Jackson, Miss Margaret (Lincoln)||Park, George|
|Cryer, Bob||Janner, Greville||Parker, John|
|Cunningham, Dr J. (Whiteh)||Jay, Rt Hon Douglas||Parry, Robert|
|Dalyell, Tam||Jeger, Mrs Lena||Pavitt, Laurie|
|Davidson, Arthur||Jenkins, Hugh (Putney)||Pendry, Tom|
|Davies, Bryan (Enfield N)||Jenkins, Rt Hon Roy (Stechford)||Perry, Ernest|
|Davies, Denzil (Llanelli)||John, Brynmor||Phipps, Dr Colin|
|Davies, Ifor (Gower)||Johnson, James (Hull West)||Prentice, Rt Hon Reg|
|Davis, Clinton (Hackney C)||Johnson, Walter (Derby S)||Prescott, John|
|Deakins, Eric||Jones, Barry (East Flint)||Price, C. (Lewisham W)|
|Dean, Joseph (Leeds West)||Jones, Dan (Burnley)||Price, William (Rugby)|
|de Freitas, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey||Judd, Frank||Radice, Giles|
|Dempsey, James||Kaufman, Gerald||Richardson, Miss Jo|
|Doig, Peter||Kelley, Richard||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)|
|Dormand, J. D.||Kerr, Russell||Roberts, Gwilym (Cannock)|
|Douglas-Mann, Bruce||Kilroy-Silk, Robert||Robertson, John (Paisley)|
|Duffy, A. E. P.||Kinnock, Neil||Robinson, Geoffrey|
|Dunnett, Jack||Lambie, David||Roderick, Caerwyn|
|Eadie, Alex||Lamborn, Harry||Rodgers, George (Chorley)|
|Edge, Geoff||Lamond, James||Rodgers, William (Stockton)|
|Edwards, Robert (Wolv SE)||Latham, Arthur (Paddington)||Rooker, J. W.|
|Ellis, John (Brigg & Scun)||Leadbitter, Ted||Rose, Paul B.|
|Ellis, Tom (Wrexham)||Lee, John||Ross, Rt Hon W. (Kilmarnock)|
|English, Michael||Lestor, Miss Joan (Eton & Slough)||Rowlands, Ted|
|Sandelson, Neville||Summerskill, Hon Dr Shirley||Weitzman, David|
|Sedgemore, Brian||Swain, Thomas||Wellbeloved, James|
|Selby, Harry||Taylor, Mrs Ann (Bolton W)||White, Frank R. (Bury)|
|Shaw, Arnold (Ilford South)||Thomas, Jeffrey (Abertillery)||White, James (Pollok)|
|Sheldon, Robert (Ashton-u-Lyne)||Thomas, Mike (Newcastle E)||Whitehead, Phillip|
|Shore, Rt Hon Peter||Thomas, Ron (Bristol NW)||Whitlock, William|
|Short, Rt Hon E. (Newcastle C)||Thorne, Stan (Preston South)||Willey, Rt Hon Frederick|
|Short, Mrs Renée (Wolv NE)||Tierney, Sydney||Williams, Alan (Swansea W)|
|Silkin, Rt Hon John (Deptford)||Tomlinson, John||Williams, Alan Lee (Hornch'ch)|
|Silkin, Rt Hon S. C. (Dulwich)||Tomney, Frank||Williams, Rt Hon Shirley (Hertford)|
|Sillars, James||Torney, Tom||Williams, Sir Thomas|
|Silverman, Julius||Tuck, Raphael||Wilson, Alexander (Hamilton)|
|Skinner, Dennis||Urwin, T. W.||Wilson, William (Coventry SE)|
|Small, William||Varley, Rt Hon Eric G.||Wise, Mrs Audrey|
|Smith, John (N Lanarkshire)||Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne V)||Woodall, Alec|
|Snape, Peter||Walden, Brian (B'ham, L'dyw'd)||Woof, Robert|
|Spearing, Nigel||Walker, Harold (Doncaster)||Wrigglesworth, Ian|
|Stallard, A. W.||Walker, Terry (Kingswood)||Young, David (Bolton E)|
|Stewart, Rt Hon M. (Fulham)||Ward, Michael|
|Stoddart, David||Watkins, David||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Strang, Gavin||Watkinson, John||Mr. James Tinn and|
|Strauss, Rt Hn G. R.||Weetch, Ken||Mr. Thomas Cox.|
§ Question accordingly negatived.