HC Deb 21 July 1977 vol 935 cc1822-4
1. Mr. John Ellis

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what progress has been made with regard to the youth opportunities programme; and if he will make a statement.

8. Mr. Canavan

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what further steps he has taken to improve the employment prospects of young school leavers in Northern Ireland.

The Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office (Mr. J. D. Concannon)

I announced on 17th May a £13 million package of measures aimed at alleviating unemployment in Northern Ireland. This extra finance has enabled a number of measures specifically related to young people to be taken.

On 30th June my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State announced in the House that a youth opportunities programme would be established in Northern Ireland. The Department of Manpower Services will be responsible for co-ordinating the programme. Officials have had discussions with the Northern Ireland Region of the CBI and the Northern Ireland Committee of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions. Arrangements are in hand for a further meeting with interested bodies, including some who should be able to run schemes under the programme.

The Department will itself operate a number of schemes and action is being taken to ensure that the necessary training and careers staff will be available as the programme gains momentum. The programme's primary aim will be to provide effective training and experience to help young people into permanent employment, and it is expected to add some 2,000 places to those already provided in training and employment schemes.

Mr. Ellis

I thank my hon. Friend for that reply. Can he say how much this programme has cost and how it compares with schemes in this country?

Mr. Concannon

The Northern Ireland programme will provide about 6,000 places compared with 130,000 in Great Britain. If we use the multiplier of 40, the ratio in Northern Ireland is much higher than in the rest of the United Kingdom. It is too early to give any firm estimate of the cost of the programme but indications are that when it is fully operative it could be as much as £40 million.

Mr. Canavan

Will my hon. Friend urge the Northern Ireland Development Agency to help create better employment opportunities for young school leavers by assisting in manufacturing and industrial projects such as the crystal factory in Andersonstown, which some of us in the Parliamentary Labour Party visited earlier this year, which is making a meaningful contribution to creating jobs for young school leavers in Northern Ireland.

Mr. Concannon

I shall use every arm that I can in Northern Ireland. There are several opportunities that I can use. We do, of course, look hard at the employment of young school leavers and teenagers. The NIDA is one of the arms that help me very well indeed.

Mr. Powell

Is it not the case that another factor which has to be taken into account when judging the ratio of expenditure on youth opportunities is that the level of unemployment is higher in the Province than it is in any other part of the United Kingdom?

Mr. Concannon

Yes. I was only drawing comparisons to show how much we were doing in Northern Ireland compared with the rest of the United Kingdom. With the unemployment rate in Northern Ireland, that is just how it should be.

Forward to