HC Deb 13 April 1978 vol 947 cc1639-41
2. Mr. Canavan

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what recent initiatives have been taken to deal with the problem of youth unemployment in Northern Ireland.

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

On 30th June 1977, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State announced the youth opportunities programme for Northern Ireland, which parallels provision in Great Britain. The Northern Ireland programme will involve a significant expansion and development of the wide range of schemes already built up over the years to cope with the chronic unemployment problem in the Province. Under the programme, the number of Government-funded training and work experience places will increase from 4,000 to 6,000. A significant part of the expansion is being sought through the participation of community groups in areas which have particularly high levels of unemployment.

Mr. Canavan

As about one-sixth of the 60,000 unemployed in Northern Ireland are young people under the age of 20, does my right hon. Friend agree that there could be long-term damaging social consequences if so many young people in Northern Ireland continue to be denied the right to work? Therefore, will he continue to encourage new schemes of employment and training, such as the Derry youth and community workshop, which was launched earlier this week?

Mr. Concannon

The problems in Northern Ireland are and have consistently been bigger than in the rest of the United Kingdom. My hon. Friend has his figures absolutely right when he says that those under 20 form about one-sixth of the unemployed. But I would not say that the social problems of unemployment, including youth unemployment, are any different from those in the rest of the United Kingdom. I have pledged, and I think that my right hon. Friend has also pledged, that one of the planks of our policy in Northern Ireland is to do something about the economic situation.

Mr. Bradford

We welcome the concern evidenced by the Minister in this regard, but can he tell us what percentage of young people from the Government apprenticeship training centres are absorbed by industry in Northern Ireland and whether he feels that resources should be used to widen the scope of these training centres or should be applied immediately to job creation?

Mr. Concannon

I am looking at all sorts of areas in Northern Ireland. We have a fairly good battery of other schemes. The number of places was at about the 4,000 level until we expanded it. We are now up to about 4,500 places and are still increasing them. In three-quarters of the trades, most if not all of the people concerned were found jobs.