HC Deb 07 July 1980 vol 988 cc47-109 4.12 pm
Mr. T. H. H. Skeet (Bedford)

I beg to move, That this House, aware of the special problems facing young people in contemporary society, affirms the need of the Government to pursue a positive and realistic policy towards youth, to review the provisions of the Education Act 1944 in regard to youth provision, better to co-ordinate all departments' efforts in this field, and to provide suitable financial resources within its expenditure plans through Rate Support Grants and departments' grants for the youth service to discharge its proper role and purpose. There are several categories of youth. There are those who aim at self-realisation and an embellishment of their own talents. I regard those as the motivated. They are the broadest group and they will tend to evolve under the pressures and strains of life as they move through their teens into manhood and woman-hood. Problems seldom centre there, though they represent the majority of youth.

There are those who are subject to some disadvantage not of their own choice—the inadequate, the unmotivated, the physically incapacitated, those lacking shelter following, say, their discharge from prison, the unemployed during a cruel turn of the economic cycle and those belonging to ethnic groups who are subject to prejudice emanating from insensitive or hostile people. There are also those who suffer voluntary afflictions—drugs, alcohol and crime. All 17 million or so of them under 21 form a composite—British youth.

It is not what we make of them or allow them to make of themselves that counts. Society cannot afford to increase the size of the human scrap-heap. On the other hand, it may rejoice if it has managed, by its ingenuity or its provision, to realise much latent talent. In a myriad of cases, society must condition, encourage, stimulate, motivate and mature those within its charge to promote a real harvest.

The post-war era has not shown that we have been particularly adept at meeting the challenge of the age. In the United Kingdom there is a lack of co-ordinated effort. The generality of youth is faced by too many Departments involved in various aspects of its life. As my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Education told a seminar on youth and young people at the University of London Union on 3 March last year, when he was the Opposition spokesman: Many of the current problems with provisions for young people stem from lack of co-ordination—between one central Government Department and another, between central and local Government and between statutory and voluntary bodies. I regret that my right hon. and learned Friend is not here today, because I feel that he is a great supporter of the young people of this country.

The Under-Secretary of State for Education and Science (Mr. Neil Macfarlane)

It may be convenient if I tell the House now that my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State had looked forward to taking part in the debate, but unfortunately he has fallen victim to influenza. It remains to be seen whether he will be able to return to London and take his place in the House tomorrow. I know that he greatly wanted to take part in the debate. It may set the scene if I make that clear at this stage.

Mr. Skeet

I am obliged to my hon. Friend for that information.

The lead Department is the Department of Education and Science, which appears to treat youth over 16 as of purely peripheral interest. In my judgment, its tutelage over the past 35 years has revealed that youth's dependence on the DES is open to serious question.

There are, at least five other Departments that may claim responsibility. The Department of Health and Social Security provides social services for the young and the disadvantaged, administering, for example, the Children Acts of 1948 to 1975, the Children and Young Persons Acts of 1933 to 1969 and the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act 1970.

The Home Office is concerned with delinquent children and community development programmes, especially community service orders, the Children and Young Persons Act 1969 and the crucial Powers of Criminal Courts Act 1973. The Department of Employment is concerned with careers service, which offers vocational guidance to the young under the Employment and Training Act 1973.

The Department of the Environment provides housing and support and youth activities towards conservation and environmental improvement. It is responsible for miscellaneous Acts, including the Housing Act 1957 and the Housing (Homeless Persons) Act 1977. Finally, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office concerns itself with youth exchanges abroad.

In my judgment, the demarcation lines between unions are nothing like the demarcation lines between Government Departments. For example, social workers from the DHSS vie with youth workers of the DES. Proper co-ordination need not prove expensive; it could be managed simply through a shift of resources between Departments at both national and local levels.

Abroad, several countries have tackled their problems more realistically. The Federal Republic of Germany has a Ministry of Youth, Family Affairs and Health. France has a Ministry of Youth, Sports and Leisure. The Netherlands has a Ministry of Cultural Affairs, Recreation and Social Welfare, and Australia has a Federal Ministry of Youth and Employment.

The options available to the House are either a tight, education-based service or a wider, community-based service. I would opt to combine youth with the responsibilities of the Minister with responsibility for sport, much along the lines of the composite Ministries in the EEC.

In past years the DES has failed to provide both an education system that is suitable for a modern industrial State and a youth service to meet the challenge of our times. If investment has to be made in men or in institutions there is no doubt in my mind that it should be made in the former, because man may shape institutions and he may act as a catalyst to produce change.

The success of a nation rests on the ability and talents of its people, but what frequently happens is that their abilities are stultified by bureaucracy, enthusiasm becomes misdirected, and rich energies are spent on purposeless ventures. The new generation will not be ignored. It is more likely to embrace the democratic purpose if it is practised in the art and if it is involved and participates in society, if the habit is actively inculcated in earlier years.

I mention one or two facts about finance, since finance appears to be at the heart of most problems today. In 1978 the number of young people under 21 was 17½ million. In 1978–79 expenditure on education worked out at £8,316 million and £95 million was spent on youth and related services. That works out at 1.14 per cent. For every pound spent on education a penny is spent on the youth service. It is estimated that the cost of vandalism—£100 million per annum, of which £50 million is in schools—is, oddly enough, equivalent to what was spent on youth and related services in 1978–79.

Among young people over 16 years of age, 32 per cent. of expenditure goes on the top 10 per cent. of the youth population and about 1 per cent. on the remaining 90 per cent. That is grossly unfair. The Secretary of State—who is not here this afternoon, for reasons that have been given—foresaw the problem in his "Cinderella" speech on 3 March 1979. It may be right for me to quote precisely what he said: The Youth Service must surely be the cinderella service of education. More than three decades after the 1944 Education Act, it is still a malformed creature. Indeed, I doubt whether many people realise that the Secretary of State for Education and Science has any responsibility for it at all. And the response of local authorities to the need to provide services and recreational facilities for young people varies enormously. I am whole-heartedly committed to the ideal of a flourishing Youth Service in every part of the country. This must mean allocating adequate funds within the education budget for local authorities to strengthen their youth services in particular by giving support to voluntary bodies, who do so much voluntary work in this field. The Secretary of State indicated that he truly recognised the problem of youth and intended to tackle all the problems before him. In May 1980 he said that the Government's expenditure plans assumed that current expenditure on youth and community projects will be held at about the present level both in the case of spending by local authorities and of central support for voluntary organisations. Capital expenditure is planned to fall in both cases."—[Official Report. 13 May 1980; Vol. 984, c. 434] The House might be interested to know what has happened. Fortunately, we have the report produced by Youth Service Partners, which said: In these authorities "— it surveyed about 75 per cent. of local education authorities— the statutory sector of the Youth Service is being reduced by an average of 9.9 per cent. whilst support for the voluntary sector is being reduced by 13.8 per cent. It went on to indicate: The highest spending authority spent 14 times as much as the lowest spending authority on each young person in their area. The lowest spending authority spent approximately 5 pence a week on each young person. I emphasise that there is no common standard of provision for young people and that the range of variation in expenditure appears to reflect a different commitment to the youth service by different local authorities. I think that every hon. Member will recognise that the voluntary organisations have made the greatest contribution in the past and that they are the most inexpensive organisations working in conjunction with the youth service. Yet it is that area of activity that is being cut back much more than the statutory sector.

In the area of social and environmental services about 5 million people undertake voluntary work during the year and about 16 million hours are worked each week. That is equivalent to 400,000 full-time staff jobs, which, in turn, is equivalent to exactly twice the number now employed full-time in the statutory social services.

That may all appear to be rather technical, involving many figures. I cap my case by saying that I calculate that the grants by the Department of Education and Science for 1979–80, including capital grants, work out at approximately £5.8 million. That is equivalent to the cost of building about two miles of three-lane motorway. Another illustration is that tax revenue forgone due to the extra-statutory concession on the taxation of coal miners' free coal in 1979–80 is estimated at £20 million. That is not far short of the grants made to youth services by the Ministry of Defence, the Department of Education and Science, the Department of Health and Social Security, the Home Office and the Department of Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs.

Local authorities are obliged to make the greatest contribution of all, but it is a severe indictment of them that they do not recognise that while they are pre- pared to cut down provision for youth their expenditure on other matters has gone up significantly, as in their dealings with vandalism and juvenile crime. It is a great pity that the Youth and Community Bill was lost last Friday because of lack of time. That Bill was designed to deal with exactly this situation.

There are three areas of concern that I wish to mention to the Minister. The total of unemployed young people under 19 is roughly 172,000. That is 11.9 per cent. of all those unemployed. When we compare these figures with those for the higher age bracket we find that the position in January 1980 was as follows: in the age group 25–49 the number of unemployed men was 5.6 per cent., not 11.9 per cent., and the figure for the 50–59 age group was 5.5 per cent. The percentage figure begins to rise significantly among the over-60s. I believe that the House understands the reason for that.

Special employment and training measures exist and they help youth significantly. The youth opportunities programme, the special temporary employment programme, training in industry and community industry provide 109,000 places out of a total of 314,000 places, which is about one-third.

I wish to ask the Minister a few questions. Is the YOP programme big enough, in view of unemployment trends, particularly as unemployment affects young people more significantly than other age groups? What happens within 12 months after a young person has emerged from the youth opportunities programme? We had guidance the other day when it was indicated that the percentage of young people entering normal employment on leaving that programme in Scotland was 64 per cent. The remainder had no jobs. They must remain unemployed. The figure in 1978 was higher, at 68 per cent., but in Wales, for example, the figure in 1978 was 67 per cent.—significantly better than the figure of 53 per cent. in 1979.

The problem therefore arises that, while a part-time palliative is created and young people can go into industry and learn all about work, after they have completed the maximum of 12 months, if unemployment is still high, what will be the next move? Do they go back on the dole, or is further provision to be made? I must ask the Minister whether the Government will now unfold further plans to cope with this specific, difficult and urgent task.

Another point of concern is that the Home Office working party report on fires caused by vandalism indicated that vandalism accounts for the largest percentage of the cost of fire losses. Losses in 1977—the most recent year for which figures are available—was between £80 million and £100 million. That represented about one-third of the cost of fire losses. The number of recorded cases of arson increased from 2,500 in 1970 to 9,400 in 1977. The conviction rate, as one would expect, was between 25 per cent. and 33 per cent. Two-thirds of those who were convicted were children between the ages of 10 and 17. On a more parochial note, the number of detected cases of vandalism in Bedfordshire was more than 1,000, 38 per cent. of which were committed by juveniles.

I was rather impressed by an observation made by the chief constable of Cleveland, Mr. Christopher Payne, who advocated that the expansion of community service orders under the 1973 Act was probably the way round this situation. Delinquents would, in effect, be making reparation, not in financial terms but in physical effort, and it might make them realise the time and effort required to rectify damage perpetrated in seconds. Prevention of vandalism costs money, and local authorities should recognise that fact.

If we do not go for prevention of trouble, which we could do by youth provision, we must face two significant things. The cost of keeping a person in local prisons or remand centres is more than £5,400 a year. If he is detained under the security category provisions it costs more than £12,000 a year. On the other hand, he may be kept in a home. There was a significant answer on 3 July this year, which showed that: In the year ended 31 March 1979 the cost to local authorities in England of maintaining juveniles aged sixteen and under in community homes was £166.9 million, exclusive of administrative and field social work costs"— [Official Report, 3 July 1980; Vol. 987, c. 655.] Those figures should bring back to the House the importance of the preventive route, that is, more youth provision than that generally adopted by magistrates. Young people should be put out on community service orders, which I recommend above all else. At the same time, custodial treatment is likely to be expensive for the State, and I am not certain whether it will do youth very much good.

The final concern relates to drugs and alcohol. The average age of drug offenders tends to increase, although many younger people continue to be involved. In 1978, the figures were 24 per cent. under 21, and 17 per cent. over 30. The age of notified addicts is increasing. There were 13,394 convictions in 1978, of which 85 per cent. related to cannabis. However, that represented only the tip of the iceberg. The number of people who have tried cannabis is probably about 5 million.

In England and Wales in 1978, the number of young people found guilty of or cautioned for drunkenness in the 17 to 21-year-old group was 19,871. In my opinion, the best antidote to drugs and alcohol is youth provision and youth involvement.

I apologise for adducing a lot of figures. It would probably be better if they were read rather than used in the way that I have used them this afternoon. But one is primarily concerned with the future of young people and the way. I mentioned earlier that the House could either make provision for them or make it possible for them to reach their own stature by their own right. That is the preferable course. Once boys or girls are motivated, very little will go wrong with them. On the other hand, if they stray or become detached from society the results are inclined to be totally unsatisfactory.

Recently, there was a fourth attempt to introduce legislation to reform the Education Act 1944. That failed last Friday. We are faced with a new challenge. What step do we now take? The Minister may have something to say about that. This matter cannot be left where it is. I have a feeling that the Government will do something—because they must—to face the challenge. The situation is getting worse throughout the country. It is no good referring to the many millions of young people who have made their mark in the universities, State schools and elsewhere. We are concerned with the many young people who have not succeeded. They could succeed. The material in them is good. All that they need is the encouragement and persuasion, and perhaps the drive, which they could pick up from youth provision.

I congratulate the statutory workers who are engaged in this sphere as well as the many voluntary organisations throughout the country. They have made a splendid effort. They could do more, but over the course of time we discover that they are receiving less encouragement than they should. Let us hope that the Chancellor of the Exchequer will take the view that if anyone gives money for youth it shall be regarded as a charity that will not attract tax, so that it can be used for that purpose.

This country is not short of money or ideas, but youth is short of protection. Youth wants a stimulus, and it is for this House to give it.

4.36 pm
Mr. Neil Kinnock (Bedwellty)

I have the unfortunate task of offering my commiserations to the Secretary of State, who cannot be with us this afternoon. His misfortune is doubled, because not only could he not be here to hear the speech of his hon. Friend the Member for Bedford (Mr. Skeet), but it is the right hon. and learned Gentleman's birthday today, a distinction that he shares with Mr. Ringo Starr and my wife. Consequently, today I have more than my usual sympathy with the right hon. and learned Gentleman.

We have just listened to a fine and well-informed speech. The hon. Member for Bedford did not have to apologise for the use of statistics. The best way of illustrating many of his arguments was to use the kind of figures that he used. We must congratulate him not only on his speech, perspicacity, foresight and luck in coming first in the ballot for Private Members' motions but on the tenacious way in which he sought to get his Youth and Community Bill on to the statute book. Sadly, that came to naught on Friday afternoon.

Because of the absence of the Secretary of State, we have with us the Under-Secretary, who I understand was largely responsible for the demise of the Youth and Community Bill. However, we acknowledge that he was only fulfilling his duty. Despite the fact that that Bill commanded widespread support among Conservative Members, the Government treated it as a means of avoiding any financial implications that might have arisen as a consequence of its enactment. We on the Opposition Benches felt it to be a necessary measure to improve the youth services of this country and a means of taking advantage of the zeal and enthusiasm of young people and those associated with them, including those in the voluntary sector.

The Government's act in not allowing the hon. Member for Bedford to proceed with the Youth and Community Bill was in some way an Act of infanticide, because I understand that the measure was conceived in the Conservative Central Office and that in many ways it was the product of the Young Conservatives, an organisation which I hold in the greatest possible respect. I hope that Conservative Members understand what I mean. It is a measure of their utter harmlessness that I should hold them in respect.

It was a well-intentioned Bill, which had remarkable antecedents. It is unfortunate that the Government have sought to use the objections of local authorities to the implementation of the measure which the hon. Gentleman proposed. We all know that the local authorities did not object at all in principle to that Bill but, rather, were fearful of the financial consequences that might arise from it. Therefore, they were caught in the pincers of wanting to implement the sensible proposals made in that Bill and, unfortunately, of being unable to contemplate doing so because of the way in which the Government have treated them by refusing to allocate finances even to enable them to maintain their statutory services in a way that they would like, let alone provide additional services that would be of benefit to youth and many others in the community.

The motion speaks of the problems of youth in contemporary society, which are many and varied. There are the eternal problems of youth which arise simply from the fact that they are the youngest people in society, and throughout the ages youth's response to those problems has been criticised. They are newcomers to the labour market, and they are new entrants to the consumer market. That is a permanent and natural fact which is exacerbated as a problem in any society where the expense of consumption is inflated and where the access to the labour market is constricted. In our contemporary society, with its giddy inflation and accelerating, menacing levels of unemployment, the problems of youth today are greatly compounded by the economic difficulties that are suffered by the whole of society, including youth.

Added to those problems of consumption and employment is the fact that youth today is the target, as at no time before, of a merciless commercial onslaught by those who seek to dictate fads for profit, who dictate fashions as an indiscriminating part of our consumer force. That means that youngsters with money are exploited, and those without money become disappointed, resentful and alienated. The problems extend well beyond those that are obvious in terms of unemployment into problems of low pay, inadequate and bad housing, and extremely expensive housing, whether it is rented or whether it is acquired on a mortgage by newly married couples. Further problems are compounded for them by the fact that they are, without inviting the problem, at the frontier of the law and order initiatives of the Government. They therefore suffer disproportionately as a consequence of the zealotry that the Government seek to encourage in some areas.

Whatever the financial background of those youngsters, whether they are in or out of work, whether they have money in their pockets or whether they do not, they have several common needs. They need guidance in order to ensure their personal development, and in this age of advancing technology, where attendance at places of work—even when it is possible—is becoming increasingly less necessary, it should include assistance in the use of extended leisure as well as in the advancement of understanding of the functions, duties and rights of citizenship.

These young people need improvements in the provision of their education, including the provision of education in post-school years. The record in Britain in that respect is far from glorious in comparison with other advanced economies. These youngsters need training in various forms, and in the light of our economic and technological realities, preferably training that is increasingly broad and flexible so that they are not incarcerated in one trade or skill for the remainder of their working lives. Without that, their insecurity during part of their working lives will be increased by the nature of the industrial and structural changes that take place. Above all, these youngsters have a need for work. That is not a stark or Dickensian prospect. I am not trying to play Mr. Gradgrind to the Under-Secretary's Mr. Chokumchild.

Repeatedly, in every investigation of opinion, whether on a personal level, in conversations with youngsters, in opinion polls, or in studies of the youth papers produced by the various political or voluntary bodies, again and again the proposition is made that youth wants to work as much as it ever wanted to work. It wants interesting work as much as it ever wanted interesting work. It wants training, education, preparation and help to get that work as much as it ever wanted it. I wish to concentrate on that aspect of the problems of youth in contemporary society.

According to the latest figures, 245,600 young people under the age of 20 are unemployed. That figure includes 187,000 school leavers, and in the latest figures available that total had risen by 137,000.Those young people under the age of 20 constitute 6.4 per cent. of the total labour force, and 16.9 per cent. of all those unemployed. Therefore, there is a massive disproportionate effect of unemployment among the under-20s, as the hon. Member for Bedford pointed out. One in 14 of all young people aged between 16 and 19 is without work. That is an immense proportion of young people who should be able to look forward during this period of their lives, if at no other, with a certain eagerness and a spring in their step as they move from childhood through adolescence into all the responsibilities, adventures and opportunities of adulthood. But for that significant proportion of youngsters, those opportunities are denied and there is no spring in their step as they trudge from potential employer to potential employer, from jobcentre to jobcentre and from employment office to employment office.

Other problems are obscured by the figures. We are not talking about what the American sociologists call a self-perpetuating culture of poverty. Admittedly, among those youngsters are those with the lowest ability, those from family backgrounds that are of little assistance, and those who live in slums in our inner cities or in remote rural areas, but, increasingly and worryingly, youngsters of above average ability and with academic qualifications are forming a larger and larger part of youth unemployment. We have only to look at the catastrophic fall in opportunities for apprenticeships in industry and commerce that are now taking place to measure the change in the nature of youth unemployment. That is as sad, tragic and alarming for the rest of society as the sheer size of the increase in youth unemployment in our time.

There are also regional variations in those figures that are frightening. In Merseyside, Scotland, the North-East and South Wales, we are talking about proportions not of 16 per cent. but of 20 and 25 per cent. of young people who are unemployed. The consequence for those areas is a future that is a grotesque mirror of the past. Unless something dramatic is done to change the situation, we shall see in the next generation a mirror of what happened in two previous generations—mass desertion, depopulation and industrial refugees of young ages streaming out of Scotland, Merseyside, the North-East, South Wales and other afflicted parts of the country.

The figures also disguise the fact that within that general large army of unemployed youth there are sections that are particularly badly afflicted. For instance, we know that girls will suffer worse than boys. We know that blacks suffer worse than whites. We know that handicapped and disabled youngsters suffer much worse than their fit contemporaries. Bad as things are for the fit, white boy, they are immeasurably worse for any of those other groups. The prospects of securing the succour of secure and satisfactory employment for youngsters who are disabled, for girls and for blacks in our society, are extremely remote—so much so that it is not exaggerating to talk of them as young people of the abyss in our time, in the 1980s. When we are talking of figures of 16, 18, 20 and 25 per cent., it is no exaggeration to talk of mass unemploy- ment among the youngsters of this country.

Those are awful facts. Had they been mentioned two or three years ago they would have brought jeers about exaggeration from hon. Members in this House and from people outside. The sad fact is that we are not talking in exaggerated terms as we described the position on 7 July 1980.

No one can fail to recognise, either, that apart from those huge figures, for every boy and girl appearing in them probably another one will have taken on an unsatisfactory job as an act of economic panic. The inclination, quite understandable and natural in many ways, is not to try to prolong the time spent in school and not to try to delay the jump from education into the labour market by trying to remain in education for the purposes of training or of trying to seek and negotiate a better start in life. The inclination instead is to take the first job that comes along.

The consequences of that, in terms of dissatisfaction, of alienation, of irresponsibility at work and of industrial delinquency are easy to foresee, but they are difficult to measure in advance. If a young person begins his working life in such unsatisfactory circumstances, and does not take a particular job or seek a profession or occupation by choice, the chances of his being an undesirable or unsatisfactory worker, having accepted undesirable or unsatisfactory work, are that much stronger.

What have the Government done about it? Given that short, sharp shocks provide no refuge and constitute no adequate policy for dealing with youth unemployment, youth dissatisfaction and the effects of both, what approach have the Government taken?

The first thing that we have seen is the Manpower Services Commission chopped up and the youth opportunities programme jeopardised in the process. Some frightening figures are being produced in this respect. The Manpower Services Commission's manpower review for 1980, published recently, said: We will be unable to meet the demands on some of our major services"— that apparently includes the youth opportunities programme— at a level we consider to be necessary. That is a bland and direct statement. It is backed by a close treatment in the survey itself.

However, even more fearful is the evidence given to the Select Committee on employment last Wednesday by Mr. Geoffrey Holland, head of the MSC's special programmes, division. It was reported in only one paper, yesterday's Observer. The article by Robert Taylor begins: Only one in four of Britain's unemployed youngsters can expect any help from the Government's youth opportunities programme. This was the startling admission from Geoffrey Holland, head of the Manpower Services Commission's special employment programmes, before an unreported session of the Commons Select Committee on Employment last Wednesday. I draw the attention of the House to these figures.

The article continues: He estimates that there will be 190,000 school leavers still in the dole queue by the first quarter of next year, along with another 237,000 young people under 18, making a grand total of around 427,000. But at the same time only around 100,000 youngsters will be on YOP, 6,000 in community industry, and up to 20,000 in employment as a result of 64-year-olds leaving employment under the job release scheme. Those figures are bad enough—indeed, they are the figures that I intended to use in the course of the debate, giving them as an illustration of the fact that the Manpower Services Commission has striven, is striving and will strive manfully to deal with the problem—but the commission knows that it is impossible, on the resources that it has—even though I acknowledge that the Government have met the commission's demand for resources on the basis of forecasts of unemployment—to begin to deal effectively with the dimensions of the problem that it will face, for in addition to those figures—all of them for youngsters under 18—it is estimated that at the beginning of next year there will be over one-third of a million young people aged between 19 and 24 unemployed, in addition to most of those who are in the figure of 427,000 expected by the MSC.

The prospect of there being well over half a million young people under the age of 24 unemployed in this country at the beginning of next year must horrify hon. Members, no matter on which side of the House they are, on which side of the argument about monetarism, Keynesianism, reflation or deflation, they are, or whether they are wet or dry. They must share the horror that generally exists about the prospect of a whole generation being afflicted to that degree. That should call for the most immediate and effective action. So far, it has not. I understand that appeals are being made within the Government, but nothing has come forward so far in response.

The Manpower Services Commission had some effective schemes for the youth opportunities programme, which achieved a 68 per cent. placement rate in the spring of 1979. The commission can see that placement rate falling to possibly as low as 50 per cent. or even lower. This programme, which has never promised to provide every youngster with a job on leaving school, has, nevertheless, been able to provide about two-thirds of youngsters with a job, but now it will be able to offer the possibility of youngsters moving out of YOP into jobs to a smaller proportion. These factors will have to be taken into account as the negotiations go on and the urgings take place inside the Government for additional resources for the Manpower Services Commission and the youth opportunities programme.

Apart from that, the degree to which there has been a falling off by the Government in their commitment to youth is marked by the treatment of the other programmes—the special measures in addition to the youth opportunities programme. Community industry, the longest established, in many ways, of the attempts to meet the needs of the young unemployed, will, in the words of the Secretary of State for Scotland, be maintained at 6,000 places per year. That is in the face of enormously rising youth unemployment.

The same policy applies to the special temporary employment programme. It will be maintained, to use the Minister's words again, at 12,000. In giving that information the Minister was misleading the House of Commons, for to maintain it at 12,000 is to cut it by a minimum of 2,000, and by as much as 7,000. Indeed, it will fall 18,000 short of the announced target of the previous Labour Government of 30,000 places by this time. That kind of shortfall is dramatic, especially as it is the kind of programme that is especially intended to help unemployed youngsters of 19 to 24 who are at the absolute cutting edge of unemployment or in the most exposed position. It means that only about 1 per cent. of the long-term unemployed in that age group will be assisted by the special temporary employment programme.

Figures of that sort are bad enough in themselves, but if we add together all the special measures and put them into the training for skills programme for action—known as TSPA, and another of the collection of initials that the Manpower Services Commission seems to spawn—we find that the provision of all those special measures in 1977–78 amounted to 33,414 places, and to 37,225 places in 1978–79. The Government's proposition is that all those programmes added together and the TSPA will provide 24,500 places. That is against a background of massively rising unemployment.

I am drawing these figures to the attention of the House because I am talking to hon. Members—I include the Minister—who want a major increase in the commitment to youth employment programmes of various kinds and back the demands made by one or two members of the Cabinet for the Treasury to come to its senses and acknowledge the pressure to meet the needs of youth, to develop the youth employment initiatives already taken and to double, if not treble, that provision so that youngsters, who are in no way to blame for our current economic and industrial difficulties, shall not bear the brunt of the consequences of Government action or the condition of the economy. I wish them god-speed in their endeavours, but they will have to get greater numbers and force and a greater sense of urgency and impetus into their efforts before they can persuade the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, the Secretary of State for Industry or the Prime Minister to their view.

In other spheres we have had undertakings from the Government, either in their manifesto or in subsequent announcements, to secure the expansion of vocational training. We have not seen anything in 14 months. We do not have an infant Government now. They are moving on in their second year. The product of the promise on vocational training is nil. The product of the promise to review the institutional financing for youth provision is also nil. We need an additional Government commitment on a major scale to meet the needs of youth. That is vital.

I hope that the Government understand that the youth opportunities programme cannot be, and is not, a replacement for youth and community services or for the careers service. The two should run hand in hand, gaining increasingly from the support of the Government in the light of the enormous task facing the MSC and local authority-based and voluntary provision in meeting the needs of unemployed youth.

It is no use the Government robbing the local authorities and hypothecating the finances thus saved into the Manpower Services Commission in one form or another when the total effect is no better and probably even worse. Nor is it any good, as the British Youth Council has pointed out, the Government increasing the throughput of youngsters in various programmes with no additional expenditure, because most of the value of the youth opportunities programme and similar programmes will be lost if it is shortened any further than it is now. Greater use would be made and a greater return would be secured on the financial outlay if those programmes were extended in terms of the experience and opportunities provided for those youngsters.

One of the worst acts of the Government, indicating their lack of commitment to the cause of youth, was the axeing of the youth service forum. I know that that was in the programme of the killing of the innocents—the mass murder of quangos. I am not a great supporter of quangos. I do not hold them in any particular affection, but this institution could have been increasingly useful. The view of many, of all political persuasions, who have been engaged in the youth service over many years is that for the youth service forum to be erased for no particular purpose seems an unnecessary and wanton act of destruction. It means that we have had no serious commitment from the Government in either an institutional or financial form to the voluntary youth sector, despite their election promises. In many ways the youth service has been at the brunt of the cuts imposed by the Govenment on local government. A paper produced for the Youth Service Partners—it was referred to by the hon. Member for Bedford—showed that 24.3 per cent. of authorities are maintaining or increasing their expenditure—good luck to them—that 44.2 per cent. are cutting spending by between 0.1 per cent. and 10 per cent. and that 31.4 per cent. are cutting spending on youth services by more than 10 per cent.

I understand why authorities are cutting spending, but I quarrel with the zeal with which some are doing it. I understand that it is because of the impositions and the cuts forced upon them by the Government. If we were not facing a crisis of youth unemployment, with all its social consequences, perhaps that would be tolerable in terms of the good husbandry of local authority expenditure. But, faced with a crisis of these dimensions, with reverberations that go through society, and with the increasing needs of youth for guidance, training, entertainment and leisure, it is intolerable that there should be major cuts in the provision of youth services.

Perhaps the Under-Secretary will be able to give us some further details of the Government's attitude to the document "Better Start in Working Life". We have had a certain amount of lip-service and the establishment of a committee under the chairmanship of the Under-Secretary of State. However, because it is sitting in secret and, as far as I know, will not publish anything for some months—certainly not until the autumn—it is difficult to make any charitable assessment or analysis of the importance that we should attach to that activity.

We need an expansion of the special measures and an extension of the unified vocational programme. That is among the most intelligent of the initiatives taken for mixing together all the services and improvements in provision for meeting the needs of youth, taking into account the modern dimension of changes in the nature of our employment market, employment needs and technology in a way that neither the employment service generally nor the education service has hitherto been able to do satisfactorily. We need an additional commitment so that local education authorities are not required to make cuts in essential services to youth.

I offer two warnings to the Government. First, their reliance on private sector provision to meet the need for youth employment is entirely ill-founded. I say this with regret, but it is a fact that 60 per cent. of the youth employment programme is in the so-called WEEP—work experience on employers' premises—scheme. That is altogether healthy, especially as a useful contact is established and often youth opportunities programme youngsters are able to continue with the firm with which they undertook their WEEP experience. But, as the Under-Secretary of State will know, industry is in a state of collapse. Many firms are contracting their labour forces. The realities of depression, with high interest rates, inflation, an overvalued pound and all the other problems affecting both private and public industry, mean that it will be increasingly less likely that industry will be able to take on youngsters either as full-time employees or under any kind of full-time opportunities programme.

That is a tragic position, but it arises in large part from the Government's decision to "squeeze" inflation out of the economy. In the process of that squeezing the Government are throttling employment opportunities and the greatest sufferers are young workers, young would-be workers and older workers, as the hon. Member for Bedford showed in his profile on the problems of unemployment.

One answer was offered by the Secretary of State for Industry. A week last Sunday he said on the radio that people can price themselves into jobs. That is an old story for the young unemployed. There have been frequent periods in our history when, to relieve pressure from wage demands and rising costs, employers have offered youngsters jobs and displaced older workers. The maxim for it is "men's work for boys' pay". Of course, vicious indenture and apprenticeship systems have been built upon the fact that youth labour has always been cheaper than adult labour. I hope that the Under-Secretary will say this afternoon that the Government will not make any attempt to encourage the development of that attitude, because that would only increase the already substantial bridge between the young people of Britain and the remainder of our society.

What it all means is that the Manpower Services Commission's desire to secure a trebling of employers' offerings to take people on the WEEP schemes has no hope whatsoever of fulfilment. The MSC has already set its hand to the task of trying to find alternative means of generating employment opportunities for youngsters, but unless and until there is stimulation of the economy, a substantial measure of reflation and a substantial measure of recovery, the possibility of young workers, just like old workers, getting the jobs that they should be getting is remote.

To think that local authorities can make up the difference and replace the private sector as the major sponsor of WEEP schemes is nonsense. There is no possibility of that being done, because here again they are caught in the tentacles of the Secretary of State for the Environment and are denied both the resources and the permission to raise additional funds to undertake their own schemes for work provision for youngsters.

There are many dangers that develop as a result of the system which the hon. Member for Bedford has described and the problems to which I have tried to draw attention and to which other hon. Members will draw attention during this debate. When we advocate an educational maintenance allowance so that we encourage youngsters to stay in education to improve their qualifications and to serve the country by being better equipped and better qualified for our new technological and industrial demands, and when we advertise that as a means of counteracting unemployment, I do not think that we are featherbedding or mollicoddling youngsters. I think that we are simply trying to come into line with the provisions that exist in so many other countries of similar industrial and economic status.

It is a horrifying fact that barely 50 per cent. of our 16 to 19-year-olds are in any form of systematic training, whether in school, university, advanced further education or further education, apprenticeships, day-release schemes or the MSC schemes, and we compare hideously badly with competitor countries in terms of the provision for those young people. Obviously, that must change.

As Mr. Holland pointed out in a speech in Cambridge on Saturday, summing up the choice before the country: Whilst it may be possible for industry and commerce to survive in the short term without young people, in the long term they cannot do so unless the people they employ have increasingly technical skills, welcome change and can readily adapt to new methods. Employers will get none of these things unless they are prepared to offer a very much better deal to young people. The same goes for the Government because of the problems of alienation, of uproar, of social dislocation and of resentment on a mass scale that we face if we do not make proper provision for our youngsters in terms of employment, youth services and careers, and in terms of preparing them in every dimension for their lives as adults, citizens and workers.

Mr. David Hunt (Wirral)

Will the hon. Gentleman turn his mind to what many consider to be the most important part of the motion, namely, that part which deals with the youth service? I accept that he should comment on youth unemployment and those problems, but there are many outside the House in the youth world who were sadly disappointed at the lack of any initiatives from the previous Government. Indeed, some of them saw the hon. Gentleman's appointment as an indication that they could expect some new policies. As yet, he has not announced them. Are we to be disappointed?

Mr. Kinnock

I have been trying not to follow the mistake of the Conservative Party when in opposition, of making flippant promises about future policy which there is no intention of fulfilling. That is why I have not offered any details. But one of the working groups that we have is that of the education and science sub-committee of the home policy committee of the national executive committee of the Labour Party. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] It is a direct form of democracy, which means that members of the national executive committee and those practised and expert in the youth service can join in a working group and others can tender evidence to that group for the purposes of providing a conclusive policy, which will give us the force and the impetus, one hopes, for getting the kind of resources without which manifesto promises are just words on a piece of paper.

I hope that the hon. Gentleman will bear with us a little longer. I hope that when we produce the policy we shall enjoy his support in Divisions in the House, which we shall cheerfully force, on the difference between the youth service policy that we shall then have and the one which his Government so sadly lack. I am aware of the hon. Gentleman's expertise and commitment in these areas, and I only wish that his influence was extended and rewarded by the attentions of the Government Front Bench. He is possibly in a better position to achieve that than I am. Perhaps that position may change at some time in the future.

The remainder of the motion, as the hon. Member for Bedford says, offers any amount of room for consideration of the real problems of youth. Indeed, the way in which it asks for an advance on the provisions of the Education Act 1944 provides scope for a debate in itself. The hon. Gentleman will understand that, in trying to choose objectives, I had to pick just one or two areas to cover. I believe that I am entirely justified, because of the grave situation facing the youth of this country, in choosing to give most attention to the problems of unemployment. I hope that the hon. Gentleman, in his earnestness and in his attention to the problems of youth, will get the reward that he deserves, which is effective and urgent action by the Government to deal with the major problem looming before youth in our contemporary society through the absence of satisfactory jobs, the absence of jobs, and the absence of necessary and satisfactory training and education. If he gets that reward, he will deserve the thanks of the whole country.

5.17 pm
Mr. John Lee (Nelson and Colne)

No debate on this subject in the 1980s can fail to be dominated by the grim realities of youth unemployment on a scale unknown in this country, probably, since the 1930s. The hon. Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Kinnock) has referred in some depth to this matter. It is a sterile and pointless exercise to look back and apportion blame as between previous Governments, management and the trade unions, and I have no intention of doing that.

There are, however, four new factors which must now be considered, as compared with the situation during earlier debates on this subject some decades ago. First, we in this country have no conscription. Secondly, we have welfare provision on a greater scale than has existed hitherto. Thirdly, in our inner city areas we have a second generation of ethnic minorities, who are amongst our most disadvantaged. Fourthly, we have a younger generation that is likely to be better educated and more socially aware than in the past. In totality, therefore, we are dealing with a whole new dimension.

Too often, initials and phrases used in the House have no meaning to the mass of young people. Initials such as "PSBR", frequently used here, are most likely to stand for poverty, sorrow, boredom and restlessness—or, perhaps, rebellion—to unemployed youth.

The social and political dangers of substantial numbers of unemployed young people cannot be overestimated. Extremists of the Left or of the Right are gathering like vultures. It is true that society has a number of safety nets, ranging from youth groups designed to cater for particular interests, be they sporting, religious, special interests or political interests, to professional youth bodies such as the National Youth Bureau, of which I have the honour to be chairman, through to Government-sponsored industrial training boards via the youth opportunities programme and similar schemes.

Are those schemes on a sufficient scale to deal with the whirlwind which now approaches? Let us not delude ourselves that British industry, now going through the equivalent of open-heart surgery, will be able to generate the necessary job opportunities in the short to medium term.

What is required? The Government should establish immediately as a matter of the highest priority a new youth commission to examine the problems, the resources available and the possible course of action open to the Government. The commission should take evidence from all interested bodies—for example, from both sides of industry and from those involved in youth work at all levels. It should accept representations from Government ministries, from local authorities and from the education profession. The commission must report with speed, as time is not on our side. Government action must follow swiftly.

I personally would favour a three-year Young Britons'-type scheme. I respectfully suggest that something of that nature—a national commitment—is required. It should be launched under the aegis of someone like His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales. The scheme that I have in mind would be very much voluntary in its nature. I suggest that the first year should consist of basic military training with limited annual training thereafter on lines operated so successfully by the Swiss. I know that the Armed Fores would not be too keen, but they have the embryo facilities and the cadre of instructors.

I suggest that in the second year there should be more community involvement and training with, for example, a choice extending to the fire service, the ambulance service, hospitals, possibly mental hospitals, old people's homes, and especially a new and growing civil defence body, which we should have sooner rather than later.

In the third year there should be industrial or craft training geared to certain industries. I recognise that that happens now to some extent. I hope that firms would provide facilities if such a scheme were adopted, and that colleges and schools would allow their facilities to be utilised to a greater extent as part of their participation in the training programme.

I accept that such a scheme would be expensive, but so is youth unemployment. It is expensive in financial terms and even more expensive in human terms. The question is whether we can afford not to embark on a programme of such scale. Young people have many fine qualities, and we in the House have a duty to point the way, to restore pride and a sense of purpose to so many demoralised young people, to provide a ladder from the trough of despair and, above all, to lead the nation in holding out a hand to our youth and saying to them "Your future is our future. We are together, one people."

5.24 pm
Mr. Alfred Dubs (Battersea, South)

Over the past 20 years there has been a threefold increase in the number of young offenders. The increase in the number of young girl offenders has been greater than that for young boy offenders. There has been a great increase in the number of young people going to penal institutions. In 1961, 62,000 young people were taken into local authority care. By 1978 the figure had increased to 101,000. It is known that the majority of young offenders have previously been in local authority care before coming before the courts and getting into further trouble, if they have not been in trouble before going into care.

Anyone who visits penal institutions and who meets and talks to young people in custody will realise that they are very much like young people who are not in custody, young people who perhaps have not committed any offences. There is a thin line between a young person's becoming an offender and his staying out of trouble. The nature of that thin line must give great cause for concern.

The number of young people in trouble may still be relatively low. However, it must cause us all concern that the numbers are increasing and that for many young people in inner city areas a crisis is developing. Why is that? There are more pressures on young people in our society now than in the past. Young people have to survive difficulties, strains and stresses which our generation did not have to endure. Schools are finding it hard to cope. Some children become truants and drop out of the school system. That is only part of the difficulty.

What are the reasons for the genuine crisis facing many young people in our inner cities? The principle reason is unemployment. Many of those who leave school cannot find jobs, or they cannot find jobs related to their skills and achievements. The unemployment figures are bad enough, but there is much evidence that they are an underestimate of the true nature of unemployment among young people. Kids who hang about the streets because they are unemployed are liable to get into trouble. That is more likely to happen if they are on the streets than if they are at work or doing other things. It is also known that the level of unemployment for young kids underestimates the difficulties facing black youngsters, who may find it two or three times more difficult to get work than their white contemporaries.

Another reason why our youth is in crisis is that boys and girls are maturing earlier. Their needs and aspirations may be very different from the constrained and confined school environment in which they find themselves in their mid-teens. Some of them under-achieve. They enter the adult world at a disadvantage when seeking the more limited job opportunities that are available.

There is the difficulty of the transition from school to work. It is a factor that must be considered in more detail. Some of the difficulties facing young people arise from the difficult step of moving from their school into work, into a work place for which they are not as well prepared as they might have been.

Young people feel an alienation from their environment. That is sometimes expressed in vandalism or outbreaks of antisocial and sometimes criminal behaviour. There are perhaps changing parental values and attitudes. Young people fall out with their parents. They leave home because they have rows with their parents and they do not feel able to stay in the parental home. Grandparents and other members of the family are often further away because of housing difficulty, and parents are facing a burden that a generation or two ago grandparents and others were able to share.

There is a break-up of whole communities consequent upon the way in which we have redeveloped inner city areas. Some years ago a block of slums was being cleared. A brand-new council estate was nearby, but the housing department of the local authority refused to move the slum dwellers in one community onto the new estate. As a result, the community was broken up. That must have been disturbing for the individuals within it.

Mr. Robert Atkins (Preston, North)

I ask a question of the hon. Gentleman in all sincerity. It is a genuine inquiry. I do not dissent from the view that he is advancing about the difficulties of under-privileged young people in inner city areas and the pressures that they have to bear. However, will he comment on some of the reports that, where there has been vandalism, or apparently senseless violence on football grounds, for example, many of the children involved come from normal middle class homes and good backgrounds? They seem to contribute just as forcefully as some of those from deprived areas of inner cities, although in some instances working-class standards are much stronger in their effect on children than middle class standards? Will the hon. Gentleman explore that factor?

Mr. Dubs

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his intervention. I agree that it is a difficulty. I accept that there is no simple answer. I shall turn to some of the reasons why children from advantaged homes get into difficulties. As I have said, there is no simple solution. It would be facile to suggest that there is one problem that causes young people to get into difficulty and that if it is removed they will not continue to get into difficulties. The situation is much more complicated than that. It is much more difficult and not nearly so susceptible of solution.

Many council estates contain communities that have been broken up. They sadly lack the facilities that keep young people occupied. Idle young people are more likely to get into difficulties than those who have things to do, and youth clubs and other activities to enjoy. The council estate comes first. All too often facilities are tagged on several years later, if at all. That is another cause of tension.

During the last 20 or 30 years society has exhibited ostentatious affluence. There has been great emphasis on material goods, which in turn have offered temptation to young people. We have seen a pop culture. The advertising world has blasted at young people. There has been a general commercial exploitation of the young. The more susceptible have been too easily carried away and have got themselves into trouble. It is little wonder that various cults have proliferated, such as those of the punks, skinheads, suedeheads, mods, rockers, rockerbillies, teds, soul cats, rastas and rebels, to name but a few. Such cults are symbols of rebellion and are sometimes worthy and sometimes anti-social and damaging.

There is a tendency among the young to become involved in heavy alcohol consumption and drug taking. Solutions are difficult. I am convinced that the solution does not lie in penal institutions. By the time young people are taken into custody it is difficult to help them. We must help them before they get into trouble. Only a labour- or person-intensive means of helping them will work. However, we may not have the resources to do that, even if we become more affluent. We must help as many young people as possible and ensure that they get through the difficult years of their teens. We must prevent them from getting into trouble, so that they achieve a more mature outlook without a criminal record and without the difficulties that such a record involves.

Some hon. Members have already said that we must keep young people busy, interested and active. The responsibility lies on the Government and local authorities to ensure that there is plenty to occupy them. Those who have nothing to do and who hang about will get into greater difficulties.

I am not satisfied that we deal satisfactorily with the transition from school to work, and its effect on 15- to 16-year-olds. Teachers are aware that society has not managed to do the best for those in their last year. Young people are often alienated during that last year at school. They drop out, and are more damaged than they would have been if they had left school earlier.

Mr. Skeet

If we raised the standard of school teachers in the United Kingdom and the way in which they conduct classes, might we not find a solution to the problem? A boy or girl will spend much of his or her time at home but much at school. Should we not place greater emphasis on young persons' preparation for life?

Mr. Dubs

I do not accept that, if we improve the standard of teaching, we shall solve such problems. We ask too much if we expect teachers to tackle and solve problems that go wider and deeper than the hours that young people spend in particular classrooms with particular teachers.

Mr. Tony Marlow (Northampton, North)

Although there is a philosophical divide between the two parties. I have great respect for the hon. Gentleman. I would be interested to hear his views on the subject put forward by my hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Lee). All other countries in Europe have some form of national service. We do not wish to put people in the Army, and so on, but does the hon. Gentleman believe that there is scope for a form of national community service? That service would consist of a voluntary organisation whereby young people could be brought forward on a voluntary basis to work and contribute to society. At that age, young people want to commit themselves, to do things, and to help. Does the hon. Gentleman believe that some centralised, national voluntary organisation could be proposed that had his support as well as ours?

Mr. Dubs

I am not sure that I have understood the hon. Gentleman's argument. A case can be made for harnessing the energy and enthusiasm of young people. Many young people work on voluntary projects in Third world countries. However, I am not sure that arrangements similar to those involved in national service are the best means of harnessing such energy. Such arrangements might attract those who are already managing and who are not in the difficulties that others face. They might represent a nice option for those who are not in trouble, but they would not tackle the difficulties facing the young offender, or potential young offender.

There are advantages in tackling differently the last year that 15- to 16-year-olds spend at school, in achieving better links between schools and work, in devising vocational links and in using the last year as a preparation for the step into work. I appreciate the difficulty that some teachers have expressed. Children might be classified as academic or non-academic and that would prove disadvantageous. However, I believe that teachers can make sensitive judgments about whether a young person needs greater vocational than academic preparation. Several European countries, including Germany, Switzerland and Austria have tackled this problem. If we do so too, it will be to the good. We need a wider concept of apprenticeship. At present, our ideas of apprenticeship are confined to a narrow range of occupations. The transition from school to work would be enhanced if apprenticeships were applied to a wider range of occupations. That would give young people a better start in the first and difficult transition into work.

5.37 pm
Mr. David Hunt (Wirral)

I congratulate the hon. Member for Battersea, South (Mr. Dubs), as he has proposed a range of imaginative solutions to the problems facing youth in contemporary society. I agree with many of his solutions. I also congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Bedford (Mr. Skeet). As I said on Friday, on Second Reading of his excellent Bill, he has leapt into the youth scene from other pastures, undaunted and undeterred by personal injury. In those other pastures he had a reputation for specialising. He has now shown a great deal of imagination, and has held extensive consultations with the group working in the youth sector. Such groups have always felt neglected. He has given the House an opportunity to review the problems facing the youth service. Many of those outside the House are deeply grateful to him. He has already acquired an expertise that many have spent a lifetime in achieving. He deserves our thanks.

My hon. Friend's excellent Youth and Community Bill was not only foreshadowed in the Conservative manifesto in October 1974 but had been introduced previously by three other Conservative Members. When I was national chairman of the Young Conservatives—many years ago—I took a pride in recommending the measure to Members of Parliament. I was deeply sad that the Bill did not manage to reach the statute book last Friday. I pay the same tribute to my hon. Friend the Minister as I paid him on Second Reading. He excited anticipation in the youth world because he made a series of visits to youth organisations in situ. Many of those involved had never seen a Minister before he came knocking on their doors. He has aroused the expectations of those youth organisations, and I hope that he will be able to put forward today a series of imaginative proposals to justify the hopes which have been raised.

I was speaking just now of the Youth and Community Bill. I happen to have piloted a Bill through the House. It became the Minibus Act. I had Government help in so doing, and I was promised Government time if I could not get it through. The measure had been urged upon me by the youth service, amongst others. This has happened to other Bills: the Estate Agents Bill, the Insurance Brokers (Registration) Bill, the Unfair Contract Terms Bill and many others have had Government support. It does not take much to put a Bill of that nature on to the Order Paper for consideration last thing at night. I hope that we shall have an assurance from my hon. Friend the Minister that, as the Youth and Community Bill is such an important measure and as my hon. Friend the Member for Bedford has acknowledged the right of the Minister to have a commencement clause in the Bill so that it can be implemented at a time when we can afford the provision, the Minister will urge the Leader of the House to make time available for this vital and crucial Bill.

We are looking on a youth service which is sadly neglected. The Secretary of State, in that famous speech at the University of London Union, described it as the Cinderella service. It has been known as that for far too long. It has facilities which vary considerably between different localities and different local authorities. The Bill promoted by my hon. Friend the Member for Bedford sought to remedy that. But it is a paradox that, at a time when the MSC is receiving increasing funding, the youth service should be getting decreasing provision. I happen to believe that money spent in the youth service is the finest investment that we can have.

The Minister acknowledged this in a letter to me dated 31 March. He wrote: Within the financial constraints that exist we are doing our utmost to support the Youth Service and, so far as the Government's overall expenditure plans for 1980–81 are concerned, we have not assumed any reductions in local authority expenditure on the Service. Against that background, many of us are very worried about the increasing trend of reductions. The British Youth Council sent to many hon. Members before this debate a briefing paper from Youth Service Partners. At a time when 75.6 per cent. of our local authorities are reducing their expenditure on the youth service, it has become alarmingly and urgently necessary for the Government to say something on that vital subject.

The overall reductions over the whole country are now 6.7 per cent. In many areas—nearly a third of our authorities—the decrease is more than 10 per cent. That is very alarming at a time when provision should surely be increased in line with the MSC's increases, because both have a vital part to play in dealing with the major problems of youth unemployment which were highlighted by my hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colen (Mr. Lee). I support what he said.

Many of us feel that the time has come for a major review of the youth service.

It is now 20 years since the Albemarle report was published in 1960. The terms of reference are remarkably relevant to the difficulties today. They were To review the contribution which the Youth Service…can make in assisting young people to play their part in the life of the community, in the light of changing social and industrial conditions and of current trends in other branches of the education service; and to advise according to what priorities best value can be obtained for the money spent. The report spoke in terms of a buildings-based youth service. Of course, times have changed. I think that we now need a wide-ranging inquiry very much on the lines of Albermarle, for a number of reasons. First, there is the background of youth unemployment. In my constituency it has reached appalling and unacceptable levels. In the Woodchurch estate, where I was on Saturday unemployment amongst young people has reached nearly 50 per cent. That is a frightening figure. I am very glad to see that the Under-Secretary of State for Employment, my hon. Friend the Member for Beeston (Mr. Lester), is listening to the debate. He has demonstrated a remarkable concern for the Merseyside area. I welcome his participation here and I know that, like many of us, he cares about the present alarming situation.

Youth unemployment in my constituency is returning to the level where it peaked during the period in office of the Labour Government. Therefore, there is a need urgently to find wider solutions, and some of those wider solutions must lie in the need for a community-based youth service rather than a buildings-based youth service. Those working in the youth service have skills, experience and knowledge which are underused, especially in the varying schemes to alleviate youth unemployment.

There is a need, for instance, for a wider age range. The age group covered by the youth service was last defined in the 1944 Act as young people from the then compulsory school leaving age to the age of majority—in those days, 14 to 21. This has never been redefined, and there is an urgent need to do so. Much youth service provision now deals with the under-14s, especially in the voluntary sector.

Mr. Skeet

My hon. Friend will appreciate that in the Bill which I presented to the House I redefined the age as being from 12 to 21 and that the Government accepted that.

Mr. Hunt

Yes. If an inquiry is set up, I shall urge that it should consider whether the age should go even lower, perhaps to the age of 10. I had a meeting with Wirral part-time youth leaders recently, and they argued strongly that they were working extremely constructively with the 10 to 14 age group and that that work was a vital part of their service which they saw as a vital part of the youth service.

I agree with my hon. Friend. Social trends have shown that provision should start at an earlier age. But there are also grounds for extension at the other end of the scale. The high incidence of youth unemployment places a heavy demand on services. This underlines the need for good leadership, which is more readily found amongst young people who have moved into their twenties. I should like to see the upper age limit at 25. This could be done by having three different groups, probably identified as 10 to 14, 14 to 19 and 19 to 25. But that should be reviewed by any commission which is set up.

My second reason for wishing to see established such a wide-ranging inquiry is the argument put forward by the hon. Member for Battersea, South. It concerns the last year at school. Here the community and the youth service have a vital part to play. The careers service has failed in many vital respects in preparing youngsters for the real world outside. It is a horrifying prospect that over the past five years we have been having to think of preparing youngsters for unemployment. They have been taught in school that to succeed is to get a job and that to fail is to be unemployed. We have been conditioning them for failure, and that has caused its strains in the community.

We have to look now at a much wider scale of provision, not just for the last year at school but from the age of 14 onwards, preparing youngsters for a range of options, whether it be in the community—I wish that we could move away from putting so much emphasis on community service for the young; it should be a universal community service—or for much longer-term training and opportunities generally.

This again ties in with the problem of overlapping Government Departments. We have almost reached the state of affairs where the nation's youth policy is not to have a policy for youth. Surely that is wrong. We have many different Government Departments overlapping, with waste occurring dramatically in many different areas.

Thirdly, radical new approaches are urgently required to meet the problems caused by the increasing number of alienated and at-risk young blacks. As President of the British Youth Council, I led a delegation earlier this year to see the Home Secretary to warn about the deteriorating situation among youth blacks. It was not a pleasure to see our words come true a few weeks later in Bristol. The greatest problems facing young people are to be found in the inner cities. Those with the greatest problems are the young blacks at risk of alienation, or already alienated.

My last reason for suggesting that a committee should be established with wide terms of reference is that the time is right. There is no immediate prospect of increasing funds and, although we must take steps to stop the deteriorating situation, now is the most appropriate time to review the whole area about which I have been speaking. Albemarle took 15 months in its review. Perhaps an inquiry lasting a similar period would then be able to report at a time when the Government's economic policies will have worked and provided the funds that will be necessary to implement what I am sure will be a series of imaginative recommendations.

There are a large number of gifted people in the youth service, indeed, in the whole youth sphere. Many have much to contribute. It is vital that we tap those resources at this time. Many good ideas have been brought forward that should be seen in their true context. In my constituency, the Birkenhead Council for Voluntary Service has produced a discussion paper entitled "National Service by Choice" which deserves closer scrutiny. A number of other interesting ideas have been put forward. Some have been mentioned in the debate.

I hope that the Minister will come forward with some imaginative policies. He should seek to support the Youth and Community Bill and to urge that Government time should be made available. He should set up an Albemarle type inquiry and, in addition, produce some imaginative policies that can immediately start using properly the real resources of the youth service. We look to the Minister to bring about a constructive conclusion to what I have already described as a most imaginative debate initiated by my hon. Friend the Member for Bedford.

5.53 pm
Mr. Eric Deakins (Waltham Forest)

The hon. Member for Wirral (Mr. Hunt) made some constructive suggestions. I endorse his remarks about the under-use of the resources that exist in the statutory and voluntary youth service—a service which, unfortunately, must be feeling very annoyed and frustrated as a result of the events in the House last Friday. I was present but did not contribute owing to the shortage of time. It is worth stating for the record that the Bill was killed not by the rather subtle filibustering of one or two Tory Back Benchers but by the Government. One looks forward to hearing the Minister's excuses and explanations of how the Government see the way ahead.

There was wide support on both sides of the House for the Youth and Community Bill. In the one vote on the Bill, on a Government amendment to clause 1, which would have castrated a vital part of the Bill, the Government were defeated by 56 votes to 22. With more time, which I do not think the Government will allow, I have no doubt that hon. Members on both sides will ensure that the Bill gets through more or less in the form in which it came out of Committee.

A number of problems have been mentioned, and I want to allude briefly to four. My hon. Friend the Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Kinnock) and others have dealt with these matters in much more detail than will be possible in the time available for my speech. The first problem is the serious employment situation for school leavers and the estimate by the Manpower Services Commission that in the next two years the number of school leavers facing unemployment, as soon as they leave school, will increase by 125 per cent. As the hon. Member for Wirral and my hon. Friend the Member for Battersea, South (Mr. Dubs) have indicated, the situation will be far worse for young blacks in inner city areas. They will get the thick end of the deal.

The second problem is that of the cutbacks by the Manpower Services Commission as part of the public expenditure cuts forced on it by the Government. I realise that the Prime Minister, only last week in a written answer, said that the youth opportunities programme would be expanded. There are, however, still serious doubts about whether that expansion may not be at the expense of the quality of the programme. I look forward to the Minister giving assurances that the quality will not be diluted in order to finance the increased numbers.

The third problem which has been mentioned on a number of occasions in the House in recent months is the wide variety in local authority provision for youth services. I shall not go into detail, but the lack of facilities in many parts of the country—I do not make any party political point, as this applies to backward authorities of all sort of political complexions—is a disgrace to a civilised country. Our youth service, as a result of the failure of the Bill on Friday, has no firm statutory basis. It is disgraceful that 110 years after the education service was put on a statutory basis the youth service is still not on such a basis.

In dealing with the last problem, I follow the remarks of the hon. Member for Wirral and my hon. Friend the Member for Battersea, South. This concerns the education of teenagers, not in their last year at school, but in their last two years at school, at a stage when it is becoming apparent that some will not stand any chance in CSE or O-level examinations. Their teachers will make this fact clear to them, possibly at the age of 14-plus. It has been left to schools to cope with the consequences of teenagers who have no prospects academically and increasingly no prospects of finding a job when they leave school. They are increasingly bored. They are increasingly frustrated. They are, nevertheless, extremely energetic. They are moving increasingly towards forms of rebellion—one can sympathise with the need for rebellion in these circumstances—that often take anti-social forms.

Hon. Members are aware of the problems of vandalism, delinquency and crime. There is also a growing problem in inner city areas where young whites aged 16 to 17 are turning to racism. They are a potent recruiting ground for the young National Front and the National Front itself. It is tragic that young people should be dragged down these paths of racism as a result of the failure of the education system.

Mr. Donald Thompson (Sowerby)

Does not the hon. Gentleman think that the anti-National Front that is emerging, composed of extreme Left-wing blacks, will prove an equally potent breeding ground?

Mr. Deakins

I am opposed to racism wherever it exists. I hope that all Members, or at least most of them, share that view.

In view of the lack of time I should like to put forward four suggestions for the way ahead. I do not expect the Government to agree with all of them, since some at least must involve a modest increase in resources. The first goes back to an idea put forward by the Labour Party—there is no monopoly in good ideas—to provide a guarantee to young people of 16 to 18 of education, training or a job during that time. That would do a great deal to resolve some of the problems.

Secondly, there must be a bigger increase in resources for inner city areas, especially those housing ethnic minorities, with all the problems involved for teenagers.

Mr. Kenneth Marks (Manchester, Gorton)

There should be, not only education, training or jobs, but some sort of guaranteed income. The trouble is that it pays to be unemployed, in many senses. One receives supplementary benefit if one is doing nothing but not if one is following an educational course.

Mr. Deakins

That would add to the resources. I am not advancing my hon. Friend's proposal here and now, since a Conservative Government are in power and are committed to cutting Government expenditure. However, some additional resources will be needed for this age group, whether distributed in terms of facilities, teaching or training. We need more facilities and resources.

In inner city areas where local authorities face problems of disaffection among unemployed young people, the youth service and the community relations councils are producing all sorts of imaginative solutions. The schemes, however short-term, need financing, and it is becoming increasingly difficult to get such finance under the urban aid programme, which is also being affected by Government restrictions on expenditure. Even if the Government can do nothing themselves in the immediate future, they should provide more generous facilities for the inner city areas through the urban aid programme.

The third way ahead that I see is one with which I am sure every hon. Member present—apart, perhaps, from the Minister—will agree. I mention it for the sake of the record. There must be statutory provision for the youth service. The fact that the Youth and Community Bill fell does not mean that a similar Bill will not return next year or the year after if one of us is lucky in the ballot. The Government, whichever party is in power, will have to face the problem and agree to give that Bill the facilities necessary to get it through the House.

My last suggestion is that we need an inquiry into the education of young people in their last two years at school. I do not know whether there has been a report by Her Majesty's Inspectorate in recent years on the 14 to 16-year-old group, but the problems are becoming more intense, particularly in inner city areas.

An inquiry would show to what extent the present education and curriculum of those young people are relevant to their needs, concerns and interests and would give details of the financial provision that is made. After all, there are teachers, buildings and facilities. The spending per head on this age group must be at least as much as on any other. What value for money are we getting for that expenditure? If we reorganised the system after an inquiry, would we not get better value for money and better schooling for those teenagers, thus leading to much less disaffection?

I have no proof—no one can offer proof—of the cost effectiveness of any of these solutions, but can anyone with common sense doubt that vandalism, delinquency and racism will increase among young people as their outlook becomes bleaker? Their needs are being overlooked. Fortunately, they have not been overlooked in this House over the past couple of years, because the youth affairs lobby has done great work in presenting the problems to interested Members.

Young people are basically our greatest natural resource. If that natural resource is wasted, the fault is ours, here in Parliament. The buck stops here. Let us at least ensure that we live up to our responsibilities.

6.3 pm

Mr. John Watson (Skipton)

I congratulate the hon. Member for Waltham Forest (Mr. Deakins) on a speech the majority of which I agreed with. He said that it was impossible to measure the cost-effectiveness of his ideas. Of course it is, but, in this age when we are cutting spending wherever possible, the yardstick of cost-effectiveness should be applied whenever it even dimly appears. If one applies it to the youth service in particular, that service emerges as one of the best bargains for Government action.

We know with relative precision that it costs £175 a week to keep a young offender in secure care. We know that that sum must be augmented by the cost of clearing up the vandalism which has often landed him there. We do not know and never can know how much it will cost to keep a young offender out of secure care, but there is increasing evidence that less than £175 a week spent on additional youth facilities in the average British town will guarantee that at least one fewer young person will go into secure care.

Recent evidence from Devon suggests that increased expenditure in a small town of perhaps £75 a week can reduce by one over a year the number of young people who go into secure care. In those circumstances, it must make questionable sense to cut expenditure on the youth service.

Yet local authorities are on average cutting that expenditure by 11 per cent. in real terms this year and a third are cutting it by more than 11 per cent. In Cumbria, which takes in part of my constituency, the full-time youth staff are being reduced from 41 to 18. Most of the reductions in percentage terms are being made in the voluntary rather than the statutory sector, in spite of all the compliments paid from time to time to the concept of voluntarism.

Why are these the priorities? I concede that in the past, at least until the advent of the youth affairs lobby, the youth world was not among the most sophisticated political lobbies. There is also a natural reluctance to talk in the simple and crude terms of cost-effectiveness. It is distinctly more fashionable to talk about "personal development", about "assisted maturity", about "community responsibility" and about other undoubtedly worthy sentiments, which, distressingly, cannot be measured.

But there is another reason—the fact that these reductions are being made by local authorities. It is they which achieve any savings. However, if the result is that more juveniles go into secure care, it is not the local authorities but the Government who pick up the bill.

I find the local authorities' view understandable. If they are leaned on to save money, they do so. Less understandable is the attitude of a Government who are concerned to save money and who take a small amount from one pocket only to put more into another.

In 1973, 14,000 school leavers were unemployed; in 1978, there were 140,000 and the figure now is almost 180,000. School leaver unemployment has risen six times as fast as the general rate of unemployment. The Manpower Services Commission forecasts over the next two years a 30 per cent. rise in general unem- ployment but a 125 per cent. rise in school leaver unemployment.

That dismal picture has been ameliorated slightly by one undeniable success story—the youth opportunities programme. The guarantee that a school leaver can find at least some occupation by the Easter after leaving school has done a great deal for the morale and general sentiment of young people who have been unemployed for months. One is worried by the rumours that constraints on cash and administrative resources may make it necessary for that guarantee no longer to be given.

I say that for two reasons. First, the YOP is a cost-effective programme. Every extra 1,000 school leavers in the dole queue costs about £5 million a year. Secondly, if there are genuine wider economic reasons why unemployment must increase, let us at least remember that we are dealing with human beings and not simply with statistics. Let us remember the colossal human dignity which is being lost when we talk of 1½ million or 2 million people unemployed.

A sentiment occasionally articulated in the country—it is sometimes reflected in the House—seeks to blame people who are unemployed for their own predicament and for the economic problems which have led to the loss of their jobs. I doubt whether it is true in any but a small minority of cases, but I am sure that it can never be true of young people who have never even had the opportunity to lose a job.

Thirdly, I shall recount a simple but Instructive tale about a factory near my constituency in the North-East. It employs 200 people and depends on the skills of printing and engineering. In spite of the fact that in the surrounding areas the unemployment level is more than 10 per cent., the management find it practically impossible to recruit skilled engineers and printers. The firm has to pay them a fortune, bring them in from a long way away and even give then assisted housing. A few weeks ago the fork lift truck driver left, and an advert was placed in the local newspaper. There were 35 applicants for that unskilled job, of whom seven held university degrees—three in sociology, and two applicants had been through teacher-training college. When we hear such a tale, which I have reason to believe is true, it is an indictment both of our careers guidance system and—

Mr. Marks

What sort of apprentice system has the firm had in the past that it has to look outside the factory for its skilled workers?

Mr. Watson

I concede the point that the hon. Gentleman is trying to make. It is a reflection upon the attitudes towards apprenticeships both by the trade union and the management concerned. Overall, it is an indication that the allocation of our education resources is completely out of kilter with our industrial needs.

This has been a valuable debate. I look forward to listening to my hon.Friend the Minister when he replies. I hope that he will address himself to the points that I have raised.

6.12 pm
Mr. A. J. Beith (Berwick-upon-Tweed)

The hon. Member for Bedford (Mr. Skeet) has done the House a service by bringing this matter before it. He has come back fighting after watching his Bill blocked effectively both by Conservative Back Benchers and by the Government. He has come back today with serious and specific proposals, and we welcome that.

The debate takes place against the sombre background of a record number of youngsters out of work and an appalling forecast from the Manpower Services Commission about the huge disproportionate increase in youth unemployment in future. The hon. Member for Skipton (Mr. Watson) quoted a figure of 125 per cent. for the predicted increase in school-leaver unemployment between 1980 and 1982. The Government could do no better service for youth in the short term than to change the main economic policies upon which they are embarked. They should reduce their reliance on unemployment as a tool of economic policy, reduce their reliance on high interest rates that deter employers from taking on extra labour, and reduce their reliance on heavy cuts in public expenditure that affect so many of the areas in which young people work—not only the public bodies but all the contracting and other firms that depend on public sector work for employment.

If the Government changed the direction of their policies, using, for example, an incomes policy as one of their tools, they would have the freedom to improve employment for youngsters—without which almost anything else would be of little or no consequence to them. As other hon. Members pointed out, while we have these high levels of youth unemployment the youth opportunities programme is of special importance. We are bound to be alarmed and despondent about the forecast given by the Manpower Services Commission about the inadequacy of that programme to meet the mounting scale of youth unemployment. We look to the Minister, in his reply, to indicate what he proposes to do to ensure that there are some alternative opportunities for the youngsters who will be out of work in the coming two or three years.

I speak as a Member for a rural area, where the problems are particularly acute. Traditionally, many of our youngsters went away to find work. They now find that they cannot even do that, and that the access to other opportunities to train and improve themselves for work is so much less in rural areas that they are especially disadvantaged. The problems of youngsters looking for work for which they have some qualification are even greater.

I remind the Government of the problems that they are creating for themselves. I shall quote an example from my constituency, where the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food intends to transfer its divisional organisation from Alnwick to Newcastle, thus depriving a small town of about 50 jobs, many of which provide opportunities for qualified school leavers and for which there are no alternatives in rural centres. I ask the Minister to remind other Departments about the importance of considering the employment position in the towns in which their offices and centres are situated. The review of the Civil Service must continue, and in some cases reductions must be made, but I ask the Government to change their general approach so that Departments make local employment conditions effective in any review that they undertake. The Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food is not doing that in its departmental review.

In his motion the hon. Member for Bedford pointed to wider issues than youth unemployment itself. He spoke about youth in contemporary society, which is a much wider issue. There is so much that one could say about that, but there is not time to say it in a debate of only two hours. I make the general comment that it is not a desirable object to shunt youth and youth problems into a siding, and to suggest that they are wholly distinct from the problems of the remainder of society and have to be solved in distinct ways.

An objective of our policies should be to encourage youngsters to recognise our society as one in which they have a place and one in which their future lies. They may wish to change it, but it is theirs. They should not be shunted into a separate series of organisations and societies. I say that despite my great admiration and respect for the work of youth organisations. They are very important. That is why I supported the Youth and Community Bill on Friday and why I support my local authority in Northumberland, which has tried to maintain its youth service and to support the voluntary youth services in many of the ways that the Bill sought to establish more widely throughout the country.

We must encourage youngsters to accept that our society is theirs to derive some benefit from and to change when they see fit. We must give them the opportunity and the encouragement to participate in democracy and to realise that it is a society in which we expect people to be able to make changes by democratic and non-violent means. If we do not give them the opportunity to do that we invite them to go into channels that will destroy the values that we have sought to defend.

Mr. Marlow


Mr. Beith

I should be unhappy to give way, because I have given an undertaking to the Front Bench that I will conclude my remarks in a few moments. Youngsters should be given the opportunity to participate in decision-making in schools, colleges, work and youth organisations so that they develop an ability to present their point of view and a recognition that change can be achieved by democratic processes. That is important to the future of our society. That is why, as well as giving youngsters the right to vote at 18, we should give them the right to stand for election to public bodies. I do not think that that would mean the election of many 18-year-old Members of Parliament, but we might get a few 20-, 21- and 22-year-old Members of Parliament, and even more as representatives of our local authorities. We might become closer to youngsters through their representation on public bodies. It is important that we convey to them that this society can be changed and improved by democratic means and that we shall give them the opportunity to play their full part in doing so.

As I said at the outset of my remarks, all those matters will seem remote from the youngster who does not have a job. His lack of work is the immediate concern of the Government. It is a concern that the Government cannot effectively show unless they modify the economic policies that are creating such high unemployment.

6.19 pm
The Under-Secretary of State for Education and Science (Mr. Neil Macfarlane)

It might be for the convenience of the House if I intervene now to respond to the many points that have been raised in this useful debate. The House is grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Bedford (Mr. Skeet). We have a certain amount of admiration for his capacity to come first in the Private Members' ballot. It enables some of the problems that were raised last week to be put in a different context. I must tell my hon. Friend of the regret felt by my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State, who is unable to be here because of an unpleasant bout of influenza. There is some doubt about whether he will be back in London within the next 48 hours. I am sure that the House wishes him a speedy return. He was most anxious to participate in the debate. I know that he will read the proceedings fully.

Both the House and youth organisations throughout the length and breadth of the land have every good reason to acknowledge the commitment made by my hon. Friend the Member for Bedford to the young people of Britain over the past year or so and to thank him for initiating the debate. Most of his work has been carried out while he has been the victim of a particularly painful injury—a fact that seemed to generate a degree of levity among Back Benchers. We wish him a speedy rejection of the walking stick and crutches and a return to good health.

My right hon. and learned Friend wants me to make clear that he supports the terms of the motion. Hon. Members on both sides have made important contributions. Important points have been made about the MSC, the YOP and Department of Employment responsibilities. I shall answer some and try to answer others, and my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Employment will answer various points in correspondence.

No one has underestimated the grave problems that young people have faced for many years—the difficulties of obtaining a job, the adjustment to the change from school to adulthood, and the growing pace of change. All involved in education have to ask whether education and training over the past 10 to 20 years have matched the national need. All of us have a view on that matter, and I want to cover some of the key areas embraced by Government policy.

The Government have been proceeding with work on the school curriculum. We have been considering the development of unified vocational preparation and have set in hand a detailed examination, with local education authorities, of the educational provision for the 16 to 19-year-old group. The hon. Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Kinnock), who was kind enough to indicate that he had another meeting to attend, raised that point, but he seemed to indicate that the review was carried out in secret.

We are not conducting the review in front of television cameras and microphones, but the review group was acknowledged in a written answer some months ago. I am grateful to the 20 or so colleagues throughout the country who serve on the group, and particularly to the two Labour education leaders from Sheffield and Wakefield. There is no secrecy. It is an important group, and we are hoping to reach conclusions by the late autumn or early winter. We should have liked to complete the report by now, but everyone who has been associated with provision for this age group will understand the problems involved.

I was particularly interested in the speech of the hon. Member for Batter- sea, South (Mr. Dubs). He confirmed a view that I have held for many years, namely, that we need greater flexibility in our school system up to the age of 16 and in the transfer to other education institutions as well as to the work place. That requires the elimination of the barriers that have grown up over the years and a commitment by all involved to understand some of the complexities that those barriers represent.

The hon. Members for Battersea, South and for Bedwellty also mentioned apprenticeship training. Employers and trade union leaders have an important role to play in that matter. We are actively pursuing a co-ordinating role in preparing an initiative between schools and industry, and the first of 10 regional conferences will take place in the autumn.

We have a regular dialogue with our colleagues in other Departments. Hon. Members will recognise that the problem is wider than the responsibilities of one Department. Regular links with my colleagues at the Department of Industry, the Department of Employment and the Home Office are an integral part of my Department's policy, and I am glad to see that the motion specifically refers to better co-ordination in all Departments. My hon. Friend had every right not to be apologetic for the interesting statistics that he produced and the information that he gave about the way in which other Commonwealth and EEC countries organise their provision for youth, leisure and recreation.

Hon. Members will understand that I am reluctant to stray into other Ministers' territory. I shall try to confine my comments to the realistic policies that we have adopted in the DES and to touch on some aspects of the YOP. I am the last to deny that there is an overlap between Departments. There is a considerable overlap, but there is much good will between Departments and we are trying to grapple with many of the problems.

The role that education departments are playing in terms of the curriculum is important. We are faced with shortages of mathematics and science teachers and shortages in craft design and technology. There has been a glare of publicity on problems of literacy and numeracy. I add to those categories that of dexterity, which seems to be missing from the curriculum.

We have responded, as have education departments throughout the country, to public concern about the standards and content of school education. In January we published our consultative proposals for a framework for the curriculum and we intend in due course to publish guidance to LEAs and schools. Our proposals are based on the place that each subject should have in the education of each pupil and on the balance and coherence of the curriculum in relation to the aims of education. Of particular relevance to the debate is the role of school education as a preparation for working life.

I hope that the conferences later this year, which will involve teachers, unions and the CBI throughout all the regions, will play a great part in bringing a new cohesion to the role of school-industry links, and that we shall find industry marching well over 50 per cent. of the way to tell schools what it thinks they should be producing.

The number of youngsters in the 16–19 age bracket will fall from its 1980–81 peak by 25 per cent. over the next 10 years. That is bound to concentrate our minds on the organisation of the education provision to meet their needs, because it has such clear and direct implications for the institutions that teach that age group. The aim must be to offer young people as full a range of education possibilities as they can benefit from. One thing is certain; there will have to be much more co-operation between schools and colleges of further education. We are approaching an era of great change over the next decade and we need open minds and flexibility.

We have learnt much from discussions on the consultation documents "A Better Start in Working Life" and "Providing Educational Opportunities for 16–18 Year Olds". I am the first to acknowledge that we inherited that initiative from the previous Administration, and one of our first acts last year was to announce the continuation of the investigations.

I preside over the group that has, alas, come to be known by my name, whether I wanted it or not. I hasten to tell hon. Members that I did not call it the Macfarlane review group. I think that that was done by the media. It was set up at the suggestion of the local authority associations and it brings the DES and representative,s of the associations together to discuss those matters. I hope that we shall achieve our objective of producing a report by the end of the autumn or the early winter.

I turn to unified vocational preparation. There remains the major problem that large numbers of young people who stand to benefit most from continued education and training on leaving school will have none of it. They need further preparation for work, but they are not attracted by the education system's traditional offerings.

The concept of unified vocational preparation was developed to bridge that gap. The pilot programme of UVP courses has been an outstanding example of collaboration between education departments and the MSC and between colleges of further education and the training system. It confutes the critics who deny that such collaboration is possible. We are seeing encouraging signs and are continuing with the experiment until September 1981.

By vocational preparation—a theme that the hon. Member for Waltham Forest (Mr. Deakins) mentioned—we mean a combination of education and training based directly on work and covering learning on and off the job. It embraces the acquisition of skills needed to carry out specific tasks at work and the development of attitudes and knowledge that will enable young employees to play their part more effectively in the working community. It also aims, where possible, to lay foundations for further education and training later in life.

We believe that the teaching methods used in UVP have broken new ground. The trainees have been actively involved in the process of learning and they have learnt to enjoy the process. Employers who have taken part have also been enthusiastic.

On our visits to Birmingham and Merseyside my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Employment and I have been impressed by the progress of the schemes. The programme has been a success, which has been hard-won, because the full integration of the education and training elements in UVP needs great skill and effort.

Mr. Marlow

The burden of my hon. Friend's remarks so far, though he may say something different later on, seems to be that people should go from education prepared to go into work, as if our children must leave school at 16 and continue a working life from the age of 16 to 65.

To expect children to work from the age of 16 is almost barbaric. That is the only concept that we have. There was a time when we had National Service. I am not suggesting that we should have a similar form of National Service now, but it was in many ways educational; it was broadening, and it was great experience for our young people before they went into a full-time job. If there were a scheme of national community service more appropriate to today's needs I wonder whether my hon. Friend would feel that this would be something worth pursuing.

Mr. Macfarlane

I know that my hon. Friend has deployed this argument in Adjournment debates and that my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Employment has replied in some detail. I know that my hon. Friend has his rose-tinted spectacles on when looking at his national service days and his Regular Army days. He says that it was rewarding and enlightening. There are some who might have a more jaundiced view of precisely what it was.

I take the point that my hon. Friend makes about the community context, but I am not sure that he carries me all the way with his argument. He must be allowed to develop that argument himself and I know that given his diligence he will continue to do so.

Where do we go from here? Inevitably we must reckon with the costs if we are to proceed beyond the pilot stage. We are now analysing the experience of that stage and completing our study of the responses to the proposals for extending the scheme that were canvassed in "A Better Start in Working Life".

I turn to the youth opportunities programme. What of those who cannot get jobs? That important point has been raised by hon. Members on both sides of the House. I apologise to hon. Members if I am unable to highlight them and their constituencies by name, but I must get on.

The news media have recently been full of the very serious problems that our young people are facing in getting work. The Government have never pretended that these problems are anything but serious, and I note with deep regret that the numbers of unemployed school leavers have risen so markedly. But the rise in youth and school-leaver unemployment has only recently started after many months of continuous decline when compared with the same months of the year before.

In January this year, the most recent month for which comparable youth unemployment figures are available over a number of years, the total of young people unemployed was still lower than in any January since 1976. The problem of youth unemployment has been with with us for some years, with a five-fold increase in school-leaver unemployment between the early months of 1975 and 1980. So it is important, first of all, to get the headlines and the problem in perspective.

Mr. Barry Sheerman (Huddersfield, East)

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Macfarlane

I know that the hon. Member for Huddersfield, East (Mr. Sheerman) comes from an education background, but if he will permit me I feel that I must get on. He has not been present at any stage during the debate. I would willingly have given way on any other occasion. I hope that he will let me get on.

The problem can be solved in the longer term only by the Government's wider economic measures designed to slow down inflation and restore our international competitiveness—from which increased employment opportunity for all age groups will flow. Opportunities under the programme can increase their self-confidence and improve their skills and their prospects of finding a job. Even in the present economic situation, the record shows that seven out of 10 work experience trainees have found work after completing their period of training.

The Government and the MSC have renewed for 1980–81 the undertakings given last year to offer places in the programme to all unemployed school leavers and young people unemployed for over 12 months. This is a major commitment at a time of high unemployment and when Government spending needs to be contained. The number of places provided under YOP this year is about 60 per cent. more than was provided in 1978–79, and although there is now an upward turn in youth unemployment the size of YOP more than matches it. This is a measure of the Government's concern for the employment future of our young people.

I am certainly happy to tell the House that YOP has been expanded by about 30 per cent. since May last year. That is an increase of 25 per cent. in the year 1980–81. The point made by hon. Members about the programme pinpoints the fact that quality is still the watchword of that programme.

I have spoken about the education policies that we are pursuing, but I want to turn to youth service provision in view of the wording of the motion and the reference that my hon. Friend made in his remarks. I refer to the voluntary sector of the youth service. Hon. Members have paid their tributes. I value very highly, and pay tribute to, the work done for young people by the voluntary sector of the youth service. I find it remarkable how well the youth organisations, with their long histories and strong traditions, are responding to the challenges of our modern society; how they are seeking to give young people a greater say in shaping and organising their activities within each organisation, and how they are encouraging an interest in the institutions of our society and the democratic process, social and political education, and participation in a developing community. These are major themes of the modem youth service, as they were of my hon. Friend's Bill. They are the particular concerns of the British Youth Council, which speaks for all young people in voluntary youth organisations.

My hon. Friend the Member for Wirral (Mr. Hunt) was kind enough to refer to my reputation and my start in the youth world last year. I know that his own years as president of the British Youth Council were rewarding and I pay tribute to what he has done for that youth movement in bringing it closer to the minds of politicians at national level.

My hon. Friend may know of the major projects that the council has in hand. One is to develop and disseminate political and social education material and the other is to study local youth councils and assist in their development. Did my hon. Friend know that these projects are funded by my Department? I dare say he did. Our estimate of grant to the BYC in the present year is £62,500. This is £10,000 more than last year and provides for the appointment of two new staff to expand the council's social and political education programme, and a project to promote participation in the Commonwealth youth programme.

My Department also meets the major part of the cost of the National Youth Bureau, which is the major support agency for the development of youth work. Our grant this year is expected to be in the region of £280,000.

I pay tribute to the work achieved by the hon. Member for Lewisham, West (Mr. Price) who was the NYB chairman until January this year and I recognise the fruitful work that he accomplished in bringing the importance of the work that that excellent body does in Leicester to the minds of politicians at Westminster. I wish his successor, my hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Lee), good fortune. I know that he will enjoy his dealings with the NYB. We are grateful for his speech today.

I have found over the years, as has my right hon. and learned Friend, great enthusiasm and commitment with all the youth bodies. I have had about 26 meetings inside 12 months with these organisations and associated bodies. I visited the BYC headquarters, and council members visited me. I visited the NCVYS, the National Youth Bureau, and the youth affairs lobby. They have had talks with me in my office. I have also had talks with the National Association of Youth and Community Education officers and I have spoken at annual general meetings of NAYC and other organisations. I was proud to address a joint national council for voluntary youth services and the Industrial Society seminar earlier this year. I wish to place on record, alongside that of my right hon. and learned Friend, my admiration for the work of these bodies and to guarantee them our continued support and interest throughout the next few years.

I turn to the issue of youth service provision, because my hon. Friend the Member for Bedford referred to it. How encouraged we were that he kept his remarks down to about 24 minutes to enable me to give a full reply. I have promised to let him have 10 minutes to conclude.

I have spoken about the education policies that we are pursuing. I must insist, first, that the Government have not only affirmed their commitment to the youth service but have lived up to that pledge both in their manifesto and since. Our expenditure plans allow for current expenditure on the youth service to be maintained at a constant level both in the case of spending by local authorities and central support for voluntary organisations.

I have listened to the comments of hon. Gentlemen who have expressed concern about the reduction in certain areas, and I am aware of that. In addition, in our public expenditure plans we have provided for expenditure on non-advanced further education to increase this year and next and then remain at the higher level. This means that increased resources will enable enrolments to grow by about 10 per cent. by 1983–84.

I must not go over the ground covered in last Friday's debate, and I have digressed from the question of expenditure. My hon. Friend referred at length to £80 million or so that is identified as youth service expenditure. I put it that way because many resources feeding into the youth service go unidentified. I think that my hon. Friend would agree with that. It is difficult to identify precisely what the youth service is and to identify what the percentage is of the £8 billion of the total education budget.

Nearly all of that larger budget is directly relevant to the needs and problems of young people. There is also, of course, the budget of the MSC's youth opportunities programme, which is about £140 million in 1979–80. There are many other subventions from public funds that go to the benefit of the young.

Many of us get into a certain amount of difficulty when we try to define what we mean by "young" or "youth". My hon. Friend the Member for Wirral referred to the age group 10 to 25. In Committee, we discussed the age groups 14 to 25 and 12 to 25. I think that everybody would have a different opinion if we conducted a poll on it. Possibly there would be a tremendous amount of variety. When we talk about youth, I tend to think that we are talking about someone from the age of 14. That is a critical area in our curriculum survey, because while we talk about the 16 to 19 age group, it is the question of 14 to 19 preparation and the overlap that is of paramount importance. It is something that Ministers in the Department are assessing very swiftly.

But what I am anxious to see—and, indeed, if I can, to promote—is a much greater contribution to the needs of young people from the private sector. The hon. Member for Battersea, South thought that we would not get too much of a contribution from the private sector. Indeed, the hon. Member for Bedwellty also mentioned that. The Budget announced measures to encourage charitable contributions to voluntary organisations —and that was mentioned by one hon. Member. I am thinking not so much of the private benefactor as of the possibility of tapping the resources of industry and commerce. I believe that there is a potential contribution from private enterprise, which the youth movement has hardly begun to tap.

I have had discussions with the CBI and the Association of British Chambers of Commerce, because I think that we tend to deal far too much with the multinationals and major corporations. I believe that there must be a dialogue with the smaller organisations to find out what facilities and amenities they can provide, and whether or not they will release their personnel free of any financial penalty if they work in the youth arena and the voluntary sector.

From my discussions already I believe that the good will is there. The Government have played their part by providing tangible support for the voluntary sector through a variety of measures announced by the Chancellor in his Budget Statement in March. These included doubling the capital transfer tax exemption for bequests to charities, reimbursement of the higher income tax rates on deeds of covenants subject to a ceiling of £3,000 a year, some easement of stamp duty, and reducing the period for tax relief on deeds of covenant from seven years to four years. We think that those measures will cost £30 million in a full year. They are designed to provide the right conditions for substantial growth in the important partnership between voluntary service and the rest of the community.

Mr. Marks

The tax concessions that the Minister is talking about will help Eton College, which is a charity, but I doubt whether many of the voluntary youth organisations will receive much benefit. Is not their problem that their income lags a long way behind inflation and that people who gave £5 in past years still tend to give £5? Is not the Minister aware that the voluntary organisations are suffering considerably from the cuts imposed by local authorities and because they lag behind the rate of inflation?

Mr. Macfarlane

Let us hope that anyone from Eton who reads the report of the debate will increase the amount that he perhaps already gives to voluntary organisations in the area. I understand the point that the hon. Gentleman is making, but I hope that he will forgive me if I do not comment in detail now.

Many more hon. Members wish to speak in this debate, so I want to bring my remarks to a conclusion. I should like to have said more about Government support for young people—for example, the assistance given by the voluntary services unit of the Home Office to community service volunteers and Task Force—and their sponsorship of the young volunteer resources unit at the National Youth Bureau. Support in a financial way has come from the private sector, too. We certainly need more, and it is my objective at the Department of Education and Science, in conjunction with colleagues, to make the private sector infinitely more aware of what its commitment should be to the community in which it is located.

We believe that we have adopted a realistic co-ordinating role within the confines of existing legislation. The youth organisations know that they can talk with us. I was taken to task by the hon. Member for Bedwellty for winding up the Youth Service Forum, which he seemed to identify as a quango of major proportions. It was created in the mid-1970s. I shall not bother to say why, because I am not certain of the reasons and I was not privy to it at the time. It was certainly just a talking shop, and I far prefer individual dialogue with the individual organisations. On balance, I believe that those organisations know that my door is ever open if they want to come and talk about some of these points.

We know that the figures for youth unemployment are gravely high. That is no new problem. Difficulties are created by the birth bulge, but the long-term strategy must be an economic one. We all know the problems in the various regions of the United Kingdom that we represent. We know that there will be an impact of the new technology on young people. The education system alone cannot predict the future, but I do believe that the system is well seized of the implications of technological change and is responding appropriately. We have been able to find resources for a national development programme in microelectronics, and we have also allowed for growth in the budget for non-advanced further education. That is another contribution in helping our young people.

A series of actions are needed by all responsible for youth, but Government acknowledge the part that they have to play. I acknowledge fully the part that my hon. Friend has played over the past year. I know that he feels disappointment that this Youth and Community Bill was lost last week, but he knows my reservations about statutory legislation. He has done a great deal to further the awareness of youth, at all political levels, and we are grateful. For all the reservation that the Government expressed, my right hon. and learned Friend has asked me to say that he in. tends to pursue a review of provision for youth which will include an assessment of the need for legislation during the lifetime of this Parliament—a Bill having regard to the framework of my hon. Friend's Youth and Community Bill, embracing amendments tabled by the Government on Report. Should changes be recommended, discussion with LEAs would be an integral part of the programme, but my hon. Friend knows that I cannot predict the outcome.

I conclude by congratulating my hon. Friend not only on coming first in the ballot but on his commitment to our young people. It is of enormous benefit to all those involved in the welfare of young people. It is a fact that those involved number many thousands. It is not one person or one Department who can help the youth service to progress. It has to involve all the representatives of education at both national and local level, employers, trade unions, the voluntary sector and private enterprise. I believe that my hon. Friend the Member for Bedford has gone a long way to helping that partnership by his diligent efforts over the past year and the Government are prepared to accept his motion to the extent that I have indicated.

6.47 pm
Mr. Skeet

I listened with considerable interest to the Minister. Only a few days ago we saw the demise of a very important Bill. The hon. Member for Waltham Forest (Mr. Deakins) said that what this country and youth require is a Bill in the nature of that which was presented to Parliament. Not merely did we indicate our views in Committee, when we rejected the proposal put forward by the Government, but last Friday, when the Government put down their own new clause, we rejected it on that occasion, too.

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for saying that within the lifetime of this Parliament the Government will review all the circumstances of this matter. I hope that at the end of the day they will legislate to deal with the problem. The youth of this country will keep them to that. We do not intend to see the demise of good legislation which would affect more than 20 million people, bearing in mind that since 1944–35 years ago—there have been no new and important provisions on this subject.

In order to reach that point, other decisions will have to be taken. What about the Wolfenden report on voluntary provision? People have been sitting on that report for some years, but so far there has been no result. What about the departmental review on the Housing (Homeless Persons) Act 1977? A lot will also depend upon that.

I remember that when I toured the country a gentleman from Bradford said "If local authorities continue to cut, and if the Government do not make pro- vision, they will pay the price 10 times over later on". I feel that many people in the coming generation will be disappointed at what has happened. The present economic cycle is not the fault of the Government. It is world wide, and it would have happened to the Labour Party had it been in government at the present time.

Some of these young people will be disappointed and disaffected. They want an opportunity in life. They have attended courses, they have been to university to learn in order to be able to work, and they now find that there is no work for them. I put the point to the Minister that the percentage of young people entering normal employment in Wales after having completed the programme was 67 per cent. in 1978, and in 1979 the figure had dropped to 53 per cent. Therefore, it is evident that many young people are leaving the programme and going back on the dole. That is not good for youth. The Department of Education and Science and the Department of Employment must work more closely together to provide a satisfactory solution. Youth is looking for a way ahead, and something must be done about it.

The Minister indicated the immense sums that are being provided. The Department of Education and Science has provided about £5 million, including capital arrangements, but the totality of expenditure by the DES is no more than would be spent on building about two miles of a three-lane motorway. Therefore, we equate two miles of motorway with a provision for over 20 million people. But people count, not things.

I was interested in an observation that was made recently by a probation officer, who said that he was interested not in statistics but in people, because he worked with them. Educationists must realise that they have to prepare people to enter life and to live life for the rest of their years—to the age of 60, 65 or 70. They must also prepare their students to enter industry and to make their contribution there. That is why I said earlier that the education system in Britain has failed, particularly in its provision for youth.

At least the supporters of the Bill have done something. People throughout the country who have done something for youth have brought to the attention of the Cabinet and the Prime Minister the fact that something is essential and urgent. Time is not on our side. It was wisely said that we should look at what happened at Bristol and at Scarborough, with the skinheads and so on. Those things occur, but they need not occur. There can be prevention, and if we take the appropriate steps at the appropriate moment, all will be well.

The Minister mentioned the work that his Department has done for the youth service, but I retaliate by saying that the youth service department has produced evidence to the National Youth Bureau which refutes much of what he said. A recent survey carried out on behalf of the youth service department found that 55 per cent. of local education authorities are planning to reduce their real expenditure on the youth service during 1980–81. Has the Minister been talking about the current year, or the following year? Is he not saying that the youth service departments have done well up to date but that there will be cuts next year? Will more departments be like that in Cumbria? Will some departments be a little better than Cambridgshire? The Minister rightly indicated that local authorities act differently throughout the country. The supporters of the Bill have sought, and I now implore the Minister, to provide a certain standard of provision throughout the country. If the expenditure that can be provided on education is 1 per cent. of total expenditure, why does he not say that 1.5 per cent. or 2 per cent. is a consistent figure, whatever happens?

Mr. Marks

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that the real culprit is not the Department of Education and Science or the Department of Employment but the Department of the Environment? The Secretary of State for the Environment is forcing local authorities to make these cuts in the youth service. In a crisis such as this, non-statutory powers will enable cuts to be made.

Mr. Skeet

I appreciate what the hon. Gentleman is saying. That happened many years ago, even when the previous Labour Government were in power. I cannot push two heads together, because I may make an ass of them.

My hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Lee) spoke about a youth commission. We have had youth commissions, papers and inquiries. We have had the lot. What we want now is action. Because of the demise of the Bill, and because this problem has been drawn to the attention of the Cabinet, I believe that something will be done. In other spheres of operation, something must be done to win the confidence of youth. The suggestion of a commission is a good one, if we have the time, but we must prescribe the solutions quickly. The Albemarle report made one or two remarkable suggestions. Following that report a body was established, but, unfortunately, it was terminated by the Prime Minister when she was Secretary of State for Education and Science. She may have done so for good reasons. Other bodies have also been brought into being, but they, too, have been terminated.

In order to reach an appropriate conclusion we need a report on Wolfenden to decide what part the voluntary effort should play in the provision of youth services and whether the emphasis should be on the statutory or the voluntary side. My recommendation is that it should be on the voluntary side. Much information has been provided by youth groups, youth organisations, outside seminars and erudite bodies throughout the country, and it is important that some action should be taken.

The hon. Member for Battersea, South (Mr. Dubs) mentioned the transition from school to work. That is extremely important, and it was mentioned in the Bill. It is remarkable that at 16 a youth slides into life and is on his own. That is the great cut-off point. But if he enters higher education, the education service looks after him for a few more years. I said earlier that 33 per cent. of expenditure on education would be allocated to those who go on to higher education, but the remaining 90 per cent. of the population are not considered in that category.

I am bearing in mind that I must be careful not to talk out my motion. I hope that the House will support it. I stress that it is essential that youth should be recognised. It is determined in its course. Those who are prepared to advocate its case will not be dealt a final blow simply because the Government brought about the demise of certain legislation last Friday.

6.59 pm
Mr. Marks

The Government's decision to support this motion suggests that they will support motions but that they will defeat any Bill that tries to do anything about the youth service. The Government have taken a hypocritical attitude to youth in defeating the Bill on Friday, and in supposedly supporting this motion today.

Young people live an insecure and worrying life, even if there is full employment and a sound economic situation. The Government are making things worse for youth. Youth, especially black youth, is having to bear more than its fair share of unemployment. The Government are creating a major crisis for the future. If they expect young people to respect this House and the nation, they must give them the opportunity to attain self-respect.

Question resolved and agreed to.

Resolved, That this House, aware of the special problems facing young people in contemporary society, affirms the need of the Government to pursue a positive and realistic policy towards youth, to review the provisions of the Education Act 1944 in regard to youth provision, better to co-ordinate all departments' efforts in this field, and to provide suitable financial resources within its expenditure plans through Rate Support Grants and departments' grants for the youth service to discharge its proper role and purpose.

Forward to