HC Deb 06 July 1977 vol 934 cc1219-22
1. Mr. Sillars

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what representations he has received about the problems young people are facing in seeking jobs in the Scottish economy.

4. Mr. Buchanan-Smith

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what plans he has to help school leavers to find employment; and if he will make a statement.

18. Mr. Henderson

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will make a statement on the latest employment prospects for school leavers in Scotland.

The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Bruce Millan)

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment made a comprehensive statement on 29th June, which demonstrated the Gov- ernment's determination to deal with the serious problem of unemployment among young people. The new programme of opportunities for young people which he then announced will be of particular value to Scotland.

Mr. Sillars

Does the Secretary of State recall the Secretary of State for Employment's statement that the work experience and training scheme was intended to prepare young people for permanent jobs at the earliest possible moment? Is not the earliest possible moment for many of the 75,000 unemployed young Scots a long way off, and perhaps even years away, unless there is a substantial and rapid reflation of the economy this year? Now that the reserves are in a far better position, is it not time to cut the shackles that the IMF has on us and to start to think about the interests of the Scottish working people for a change?

Mr. Millan

I note what the hon. Gentleman says. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment has said that the importance of the work experience scheme is that it gives experience of work and that one of the criticisms of the present schemes has been that there is not a sufficient link between those schemes and the actual world of work. The proposals that my right hon. Friend made last week remedied that criticism to a considerable extent.

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

I acknowledge the short-term and temporary benefit of the schemes that have been announced, but does not the Secretary of State acknowledge that, unless there is a permanent job available at the end of these schemes, it is simply disillusionment delayed for many young people? When can young people hope for a more permanent improvement in the economy that will mean that permanent jobs will be available for them?

Mr. Millan

I accept that the aim must be to have permanent employment, but we face a difficult situation now. All hon. Members have agreed that the proposals that my right hon. Friend announced last week made a substantial contribution to dealing with the temporary problem. With young people there is also a worry about structural unemployment. As I said in our debate on Monday, it is a problem faced not only by this country but by other countries. The schemes that were introduced last week are the most comprehensive set of proposals that, as far as I am aware, have been introduced by any country in Europe.

Mr. Henderson

I accept that the Government have taken steps to deal with the unemployment of young people, but is the Secretary of State aware that he has said nothing that will encourage young people to feel that there is a real future for them in Scotland? Is the right hon. Gentleman also aware that there is a great danger that many will seek jobs elsewhere, as many Scots have done in the past?

Mr. Canavan

Like the hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Millan

I accept that we want to reach as quickly as possible a situation in which jobs will be available on a permanent basis for all people in Scotland and not just for the young. However, this is a particular problem for young people and we have taken steps to deal with it.

Mr. Grimond

Is the Secretary of State aware that the Employment Protection Act deters employers from taking on new labour, and will he consult his colleagues on its amendment?

Mr. Millan

If the right hon. Gentleman were more specific, I should be willing to consider it, but I cannot accept what he has said as a general proposition.

Dr. M. S. Miller

To some extent the argument is about whether reflation should be in the autumn or early next year, but as this has already been decided will the Secretary of State make sure that the questions of the Scottish economy and jobs for young people in Scotland are in the van of that reflation, because of the high unemployment rate in Scotland.

Mr. Millan

I want to see Scotland take full advantage of any prospect that may be available. However, the number of rather unpleasant economic decisions that the Government have had to take during the last couple of years are now paying considerable dividends and it would be a pity and a tragedy if this country were to give them away. I have always accepted that the unemployment problem, in a now generally encourag- ing economic position, is a black spot. I have never disguised my view on that.

Mr. Teddy Taylor

Is the right hon. Gentleman not disturbed that after three years of his policies and despite the bonus to Scotland of oil-related jobs the number of unemployed has doubled in Scotland? Will he take seriously the point of the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) and discuss with employers in Scotland the fact that many of them have made representations to us that the Government's legislation, including the Employment Protection Act, and taxation policies discourage them from investing or employing people?

Mr. Millan

I frequently meet employers in Scotland and these points have not been put to me as being seriously disturbing to them. If there are specific difficulties about the Employment Protection Act, I and, no doubt, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment will be happy to consider them.

Back to