HC Deb 19 February 1980 vol 979 cc226-8
11. Mr. Roy Hughes

asked the Secretary of State for Employment if he has any specific proposals to assist young people with training opportunities in urban areas where there has been a rundown of existing industry.

Mr. Jim Lester

I am informed by the Manpower Services Commission that a wide range of training courses is already available under the youth opportunities programme to unemployed young people in urban areas. The programme, as my right hon. Friend announced on 14 February 1980, has been expanded to provide about a quarter of a million opportunities in 1980–81. Planned provision in the coming year will take account of changes in industrial structure.

Mr. Hughes

Do I need to remind the Minister of the critical situation obtaining in South Wales? Will he accept that, if the area is not to be turned into an industrial desert, we need more than an extension of the youth opportunities programme? Will he prevail on senior ministerial colleagues to intervene now, as a matter of urgency?

Mr. Lester

The hon. Gentleman's main question refers to training opportunities for young people. In South Wales, as in the rest of the United Kingdom, there is a commitment to give young people adequate training. The schemes are designed to fit young people for the areas in which there are job opportunities.

Mr. Madel

In looking at the role of skillcentres, will my hon. Friend consider not only the shortage of instructors but the age at which a young person may enter a skillcentre for training?

Mr. Lester

As my hon. Friend knows, we are undertaking a review of training generally, including skillcentres. The Departments of Employment and Education and Science are considering together how to encourage young people to work in the best way possible. In that context, we shall consider my hon. Friend's point.

Mr. Eastham

Does the Minister agree that it is time that we had a fresh look at the formula whereby the Department issues figures relating to the travelto-work areas? Does he accept that the formula distorts the real figures? Is the hon. Gentleman aware that in Manchester, where the overall unemployment figure is 6.1 per cent., in certain areas it is double that? Does he agree that it is time that we altered the travel-towork formula to show the true urban position?

Mr. Lester

It is not very long since the travel-to-work formula was arrived at. I shall be visiting Manchester on Thursday to look at the problems raised by the hon. Gentleman. However, he is quoting figures based on where people live and not where they work.

Mr. Haselhurst

Does my hon. Friend agree that we should concentrate on the enterprise workshop training programme? Will he accept that that gives the chance to found an enterprise that will have a permanent effect on an area?

Mr. Lester

We are delighted to concentrate on any scheme that is enterprising and makes a profit.

Mr. Harold Walker

Does the Minister agree that the review of the skil /centre programme is being carried out by the Manpower Services Commission as a result of his Department's proposal to close 20 skillcentres? Will he confirm that his Department is also proposing to cut the training opportunities programme from the 99,000 places of two years ago to 60,000 for next year? Will he accept that that is foolish at a time when unemployment is soaring and when we have skill shortages that training could, to some extent, remedy?

Mr. Lester

The review of the skill-centre programme was started under the right hon. Gentleman's Government. It was designed to try to make effective use of existing facilities. I do not accept that altering the numbers of the TOPS scheme will reduce overall training opportunities. The areas in which there is a proposed reduction can best be covered by industry.