HC Deb 18 May 1976 vol 911 cc1196-8
7. Mr. Peter Morrison

asked the Secretary of State for Employment how many school-leavers are at present unemployed in the Chester area.

The Under-Secretary of State for Employment (Mr. John Golding)

As at 8th April the last count there were 63 school leavers unemployed in the Chester area.

Mr. Morrison

That is 63 too many. Does the Minister agree that many school leavers get their first jobs in small businesses, but that this incompetent Socialist Government are forcing small businesses to close down or to cut their work forces? Hence, it is not surprising that 63 school leavers are without a job in Chester.

Mr. Golding

The situation in Chester is far from satisfactory, but I do not accept the hon. Member's explanation. In Chester the TSA has provided two training courses for retailing and one for office procedures, and these provide 48 places for young people. More than 130 applications for the recruitment subsidy scheme for school leavers have been approved in Chester, along with two job creation schemes.

10. Mr. Hunt

asked the Secretary of State for Employment how many young people, having attained the age of 16 years and having left school prior to the end of the academic year, are currently drawing unemployment benefit.

Mr. Harold Walker

I regret that this information is not available. However, it would be exceptional for any such school leavers to qualify for unemployment benefit in the limited time up to the end of the academic year.

Mr. Hunt

I accept that in this regard the numbers may be very small, but will the Minister, in conjunction with the Department of Health and Social Security, examine the closely-related problems of those who leave school and, instead of taking up work, claim supplementary rather than unemployment benefit? Is he aware that in some areas young people are claiming this benefit and no questions are being asked about their efforts to find work? Does this not represent a serious abuse of the social security system?

Mr. Walker

The hon. Gentleman fairly recognises that supplementary benefit and its administration are matters for the Department of Health and Social Security. Quite honestly, I am sceptical about the point that the hon. Gentleman has made, but none the less I shall draw it to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services.

Mr. Greville Janner

Bearing in mind the large number of young people who are or will be drawing unemployment benefit, would it not be much better to allow people to retire at 60, so that those who are older can be on pensions and those who are younger can be at work?

Mr. Walker

I know the interest that my hon. and learned Friend has sustained in this question, and he will recognise that, again, this is a matter for the Department of Health and Social Security and not for me.

Mr. Henderson

Is the Minister of State aware that at the end of June many thousands of young people will be leaving school in Scotland? Will he take this opportunity to tell them of the prospects they will have of obtaining a job?

Mr. Walker

The hon. Gentleman and the House should recognise that the problem of unemployment among young people is common to all the EEC countries. I hope that he will recognise that the Government have introduced a number of contingency measures to try to help find employment for these young people.

Mr. Corbett

Bearing in mind that about 500,000 school-leavers will be look- ing for jobs later this summer, will my hon. Friend consider making a special approach to the CBI, asking it to encourage its individual members to see what they can do to help with the creation of new jobs through the Job Creation Programme, by lending staff, making materials available, or making money available?

Mr. Walker

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his very constructive and helpful suggestion. I hope that private industry—there have been some helpful responses so far—will show greater interest in and provide greater support for the Job Creation Programme in the way suggested.

Mr. Lawson

Does the Minister agree that the purpose of unemployment benefit is not to provide students with an additional vacation grant? What steps does he or his Department propose to take to reduce the eligibility of students for unemployment benefit during the vacations?

Mr. Walker

The hon. Gentleman will understand that this is a matter for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science. I assure him that this problem is under active consideration at the present time and will be the subject of a statement in due course.