HC Deb 14 June 1977 vol 933 cc218-20
20. Mr. Luce

asked the Secretary of State for Employment what plans he has to implement the commitment made at the recent Summit Conference in London to help the young unemployed.

Mr. Booth

It was agreed that there would be an exchange of experience and ideas on providing the young with job opportunities, and we are exploring how this can best be arranged.

Mr. Luce

As so many of the job creation schemes are of a temporary nature, will the right hon. Gentleman tell the House what action he is taking to provide more long-term employment by, for example, facilitating the provision of small-scale enterprises in inner city areas, where youth unemployment is so very high?

Mr. Booth

The industrial strategy is the greatest long-term scheme that any Government have backed to create jobs in this country. During the 12 months from March 1976 to March 1977 there was an increase of 80,000 jobs in British manufacturing industry. That has had a considerable bearing on employment opportunities for young people. In the short run, of course, it is necessary to work with our European partners. In March the European Council asked the Commission to focus attention on measures to deal with specific unemployment problems, especially for young people, and to report on progress at the next meeting of the Council in June. By that stage I hope to be in a position to say what we are able to do to meet the major proposal of the Manpower Services Commission—namely, to increase by about 130,000 the number of training and work experience places for young people.

Mr. Flannery

Does my right hon. Friend agree that, helpful and well meaning as the job creation programme and other programmes to help the young unemployed may be, they are merely palliatives? Does he agree that the time has come for reflation of the economy, for further import controls and for consideration being given to a complete alternative strategy, the social contract and phase 3 going for a burton?

Mr. Booth

I cannot agree with my hon. Friend that the measures that we are considering with the MSC, or the existing job creation and work experience and training programmes, are palliatives. One of the features of the recession is that unemployment among younger people has risen very much faster than among adults. Any steps we can take that will improve their respective chances of obtaining jobs are of importance, even where we can bring about, as we must, a considerable improvement in the total number of jobs available. Unless we do that we could have a considerable reduction in unemployment and still have a large youth unemployment problem.

Mr. Prior

Is it not a fact, taking into account all the answers this afternoon, that the complacency of the right hon. Gentleman is equalled only by the complacency of Labour Back Benchers?

Mr. Booth

How the right hon. Gentleman can reconcile talk of complacency with announcements of measures planned to double what is the greatest provision there has ever been for the problems of young people eludes me.