HC Deb 07 April 1981 vol 2 cc819-64
Mr. Speaker

I have selected the amendment in the name of the Prime Minister. I remind the House that this is an abbreviated debate. I hope that hon. Members who are called to speak will remember their colleagues.

3.45 pm
Mr. John Grant (Islington, Central)

I beg to move, That this House condemns Her Majesty's Government for creating unprecedented youth unemployment, continuing anxiety to school leavers and their parents and frustration to educationists and for wasting the human resources vital to the regeneration of the economy. A debate centring on the employment problems of young people is long overdue. I say that not because of a lack of concern for older people who are out of work. Indeed, I hope that in the months ahead we shall be able to deal with the employment problems of other disadvantaged groups, including the disabled, ethnic minorities, the long-term unemployed, and women. Of course, all those groups contain young people who are directly relevant to the debate. I hope to refer to some of their special difficulties.

Hundreds of thousands of young people, especially school leavers, face the traumatic experience of constant rejection for jobs at a time when they are at their most immature and most emotionally unstable. The effect on them is immeasurable, but it is no exaggeration to say that many will carry the scars of that bitter experience throughout their lives, and we shall all have to bear our share of the social strain.

For all the brave words that we hear, the Government's efforts are increasingly exposed as utterly inadequate to deal with the problems that Government policies have done so much to create. The message that Ministers offer to our young people is a message not of hope but of despair and despondency.

The Secretary of State for Employment wrings his hands regularly once a month when the unemployment figures are announced. He describes the situation as appalling, or finds another unhappy adjective or phrase. I am sorry that the right hon. Gentleman cannot be with us. He was kind enough to tell us that he has had to go overseas on Government business. We understand that, but it is a great pity that he is not here, because he needs to be held as personally accountable as possible.

I hope that the Under-Secretary will offer us more than the pious prayers that we get so often from the Secretary of State. If the hon. and learned Gentleman can be positive I shall be delighted, though I shall also be astonished, because whatever the wishes of the Secretary of State and his Ministers, and however much they talk of their good intentions, they share collective responsibility in a Government who are governing not with guts but with guilt. The Government know what they are doing to the country but they lack the guts to own up and to take the right sort of action. The Secretary of State is unable to put his money where his mouth is, because the Prime Minister and the Chancellor of the Exchequer will not permit him to do so.

I shall concentrate mainly on the youth opportunities programme. Time and again the Secretary of State and the Prime Minister boast of the extra cash that they are pouring in to the Manpower Services Commission's special programmes, and particularly into the YOP. The amendment refers to the programme and the Prime Minister mentioned it at Question Time earlier.

The Secretary of State told us that he has doubled the number of YOP places this year, speeded up the offer of places and put a new emphasis on quality training for work. He added that "as resources permit" the Government would work towards the point where every 16 and 17-year-old not in education or a job would be assured of vocational preparation up to his or her eighteenth birthday. He was talking about all youngsters and not just the unemployed. That was a worthy objective.

The Manpower Services Commission will agree with the right hon. Gentleman. Its chairman has said publicly very much the same thing. The TUC will agree with him. It has called for that kind of approach. So will the CBI. Part of its six-point plan is to relieve unemployment and to increase training, as shown in the recently published document "The Will to Win". I see that even the Duke of Edinburgh made the same point yesterday. They will all back him. However, most of those to whom I refer also agreed about the Budget. That is where the major obstacle to implementing these ideas lies. It lies in the Government's economic strategy—if it can still be called a strategy.

The Secretary of State for Employment and his Ministers have not a clue about how or when they can hit their target. Will resources permit them to do so this year, next year, some time, never? While they fiddle and fail to persuade their colleagues there is a grave danger that the existing youth opportunities programme will come to grief.

I am sure that a number of my hon. Friends will want to make specific points about the programme. The most explicit version of the fears about YOP are contained in the recent Youth Aid review. My hon. Friend the Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Foster) was chairman of the working group that drew up that valuable document. It stresses the growing concern over job substitution and the abuse of the scheme by some employers. About 30 per cent. of the places are now reckoned to come into that category. This has caused considerable and understandable anxiety among trade unionists.

The review emphasises, as does the Manpower Services Commission, the inadequate level of the current allowance. I hope that the Minister will be able to comment on reports of Government plans for a flat rate allowance for all young people aged 16 to 19. I hope that he will say something about the potential effect, if such a proposition were carried through, on employment schemes such as YOP, and the reported conflict within the Government and the opposition of the Secretary of State to that course of action. The review points to an increasing inability to find jobs for YOP trainees when they have passed through the scheme. We are talking about real jobs. Conservative Members used to sneer and ask "Where are the real jobs?" when referring to the youth opportunities programme. That sort of remark is no longer heard from the Conservative Benches.

The review also underlines the difficulty for employers in making work experience places available. That is hardly surprising when one considers the record number of bankruptcies in the private sector and the vicious squeeze on public sector employment. All these matters are vital to the continued credibility of the scheme. The Opposition certainly want it to remain credible.

The biggest difficulty is the sheer weight of numbers which the youth opportunities programme is now expected to carry. Its original purpose is being undermined. The jam is being spread more thinly. More young people are now taught how to compete against each other for fewer jobs. That cannot be the right approach. It is no wonder that Youth aid called its report "Quality or collapse". That was not a question; it was a statement, or a demand.

Rising unemployment now threatens to swamp the expansion of YOP which was announced by the Secretary of State in November with such gusto. There is a widespread belief that we are heading for the worst ever year for teenage unemployment. Within the Manpower Services Commission there is now a belief that funding for 440,000 places this year will be decidedly inadequate and that it may need to find at least another 50,000 places without even taking account of the effect of the Budget on unemployment.

Two weeks ago The Times Educational Supplement reported: Manpower Services Commission officials fear that the programme may have to cope with close to 500,000 youngsters. The commission has been given enough money to provide for a maximum of 440,000 entrants in the financial year which begins next month. But its area boards and regional directors say that they need room for at least another 43,000 in the light of the latest unemployment trends. The commission's senior officials have told its special programmes board that even that may be a conservative estimate". Our young people today face a bleak future. In disaster areas such as Merseyside and the North-East—it would be possible to mention others—most youngsters leaving school now expect to go on the dole. Even in once prosperous areas like the West Midlands the problem is acute. In inner London, at least 10 school leavers are chasing every job, three times the comparable figure a year ago.

I was talking last week to a major employer in the City. He told me that his firm's labour turnover was virtually nil, because everyone was hanging on to his job and that this meant that the firm would take on very few young people, including graduates, in the autumn, contrary to usual practice. The firm would be taking 50 compared with a normal intake of 350. The situation will get far worse. In my borough of Islington one-fifth of manufacturing jobs have been lost in a year. It is no wonder that the school leaver programme has grown sevenfold in a year.

It is the admission of a desperate situation for the Government to turn to military training, albeit voluntary, as an answer. Irrespective of the merits or the demerits of the idea, it is likely, if pursued, to damage the credibility of the YOP, certainly if the MSC is involved. It can only be a drop in the ocean and can do nothing to tackle the real problems faced by young people.

Mr. Frank Allaun (Salford, East)

I agree with my hon. Friend; it is a drop in the ocean. However, the Minister, speaking in an Adjournment debate a few days ago, suggested that this was a pilot scheme. I suggest, therefore, that if the Government get away with this proposal it will be a matter not of 1,000 but of 100,000 young men involved in what could become compulsory military service.

Mr. Grant

I understand my hon. Friend's point. It is a matter that we shall have to watch and examine with care. I hope that before any proposal is implemented it will be brought before the House for careful scrutiny.

The Manpower Services Commission is rightly anxious to introduce short-term changes to improve the quality of youth opportunity training. Those changes should be supported, but there are deeper implications. The lasting solution, as our motion suggests, lies in the regeneration of the British economy and in a change of course by this hidebound Government. If, however, the Prime Minister continues to have her way, one feels that young people will grow old in the dole queues. She will still be saying that she has got it all right. Even with a different Prime Minister and a different Government, which we need, a changed approach to the youth opportunities programme will be required. It has to be built on to produce, preferably, a full-scale 12 month programme of vocational preparation and further education for all 16 to 18-year-olds who want to take it. Much less is done in this country than in other Western industrialised nations. We have every reason to do far more.

There are other important matters with which I can deal only briefly. The acute cutback in apprentice training is one such issue. Apprentices are being laid off by some firms. Other firms which have taken on apprentices in the past are not now doing so. As a consequence, the skill shortages of the future are being ensured. The Manpower Services Commission warned the Government recently that the recession threatens a collapse of this provision in some areas. It shows how short-sighted the Government have become if that can happen. It is time for the Government to set out their views. We should know what the Government intend to do to try to relieve the situation.

A whole range of problems for young people arise from the Employment and Training Bill; I do not intend to dwell on them. That piece of dogmatic nonsense is being taken apart by my right hon. and hon. Friends in Committee. I wish, however, to refer to the great difficulties for physically and mentally handicapped school leavers. All the voluntary bodies involved with these youngsters express great concern. They believe that these young people face a critical situation. I hope that the Minister will explain the Government's plans for coping with the problem.

A specific area to which I want to refer is unemployment among young blacks, which is growing faster than unemployment generally. These young people, like the disabled, are particularly vulnerable. There is no doubt that they face discrimination in the job market. The Commission for Racial Equality believes that there is a serious upward trend in this respect. It is perhaps inevitable with high unemployment. These young people have other disadvantages. Yet there have been no worthwhile Government initiatives in this area since the general election.

Last July the Commission for Racial Equality put forward specific proposals. It suggested more preparatory courses for youngsters with a poor knowledge of English and said that special efforts should be made, particularly in regions with high ethnic minority communities, to promote black self-help groups. It made other similar proposals. I hope that the Minister can tell us whether progress has been made in that connection.

The code of practice on discrimination in employment has been kicking around for months. All that it needs is ministerial approval, but that is being denied. It is time that the House knew when the code of practice is to be made available. There seems to be a dangerous complacency among Ministers in what is a potentially volatile if not explosive sphere. A clear Government lead and commitment are needed.

We are letting our young people down. I do not pretend that the answers are easy, but I charge the Government with failing miserably to measure up to the size of the problem.

The chairman of the Manpower Services Commission, Sir Richard O'Brien, summed up the commission's aims and objectives after its meeting on 25 March. He said: This is a critical time for training. Our traditional approach is inadequate and faces dislocation and failure. The needs of the 1980s are very different from those of the past. The Commission has spelled out the objectives we must pursue. We now need commitment to achieving them and that means a commitment to ensuring that we have effective machinery and adequate means to enable the national training system to deliver what is required of it. The future of Britain as a competitive nation is at stake. So too are the job prospects of millions of workers". I agree with Sir Richard. Those aims and objectives must now be backed by the Government with more than empty rhetoric, because we are dealing with the question of investment in our nation's future. The refusal to act, the price of neglect, will leave a tragic and indelible mark on our society, particularly on a whole generation of young people that is being cast aside without hope. It is for that reason that we shall vote for our motion in the Lobby tonight.

4.4 pm

The Under-Secretary of State for Employment (Mr. David Waddington)

I beg to move, to leave out from "That" to the end of the Question and to add instead thereof: `this House regrets the high level of unemployment amongst young people during the present economic recession, but welcomes the Government's massive expansion of the Youth Opportunities Programme and the new undertakings given by the Manpower Services Commission to provide young people with opportunities on the Programme; and strongly reaffirms that only through the Government's economic strategy can a lasting improvement in the economy be achieved and much-needed new and secure jobs be provided for young people.'. I am grateful to the hon. Member for Islington, Central (Mr. Grant) for having explained why my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State is not present today. As the United Kingdom is to assume the Presidency of the Community in July this year, it was important that he should attend today a meeting of Employment Ministers at The Hague.

It is proper for us to debate youth unemployment. No one can doubt the importance of the subject. To be out of work is always a great misfortune, and although the penalties which flow from being unemployed may not be as great financially as they used to be—though severe hardship can occur even today—the condition is as soul-destroying as ever.

For young people it is far worse. Greater bitterness must arise from thwarted ambition. Great frustration must result from youthful energies unexpended. There must be crushing boredom, and there is the humiliation of not being able to bring home a wage to help one's family—something that most young people look forward to doing, as their school days end. Clearly, it is the Government's duty to do what they can to help these young people. In a moment I shall outline what steps we are taking.

First, I shall make some general points—more in sorrow than in anger. We have had several debates on unemployment. Not long ago the Leader of the Opposition threatened us with repeated debates on the subject. However, it has become more and more clear as the months have passed that there is not much enthusiasm on the Opposition Benches for these great occasions. When the hon. Member for Islington, Central started to speak there were eight Labour Back Benchers in the Chamber. Yet the Opposition have chosen to debate this matter today. They allege that it is causing much bitterness and hostility in their ranks, and that is why they have chosen to debate this subect on a Supply day. I do not think much of it, if the best that they can do is to produce eight supporters.

Mr. John Golding (Newcastle-under-Lyme)

The Under-Secretary should note that my hon. Friends are not in the Chamber because most of them are listening to the representations of people from the North-East who have come here today to protest about Government policies. They are not here because they are meeting constituents and organisations from other areas.

Mr. Waddington

At least my hon. friend the Member for Newcastle upon Tyne, North (Sir W. Elliott) is here because he believes that what happens in this Chamber should take precedence over other matters. I repeat that there is a pretty low ratio of Labour Members to the number of people unemployed—one Labour Member to every 312,000 unemployed at the beginning of the debate, and now one Labour Member to every 200,000 unemployed. That is a poor coefficient of compassion.

Mr. Robert C. Brown (Newcastle upon Tyne, West)

The Under-Secretary is being less than fair. Every hon. Member from the Northern region, with the exception of my hon. Friend the Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Foster) and myself, are in Westminster Hall at a mass meeting of TUC representatives, or in the Central Lobby, or in other parts of the building talking to people who are unemployed. It is not fair to say that the hon. Member for Newcastle upon Tyne, North (Sir W. Elliott), is the only person here who represents the unemployed in the North.

Mr. Waddington

The hon. Member for Newcastle upon Tyne, West (Mr. Brown) has exercised his right to explain the absence of those from the Northern region, but that is not the only region in the country.

Mr. Nicholas Scott (Chelsea)

Perhaps Opposition protests would ring more true if last week, having had a three-line Whip on the Forestry Bill, they had mustered enough people on Monday night to vote on unemployment in the Midlands. Their record today is in tune with their record on that occasion.

Mr. Waddington

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for making that clear to the country, because some of the remarks in the press are giving an entirely false impression.

I pay the hon. Member for Islington, Central the compliment of believing that he cares deeply about youth unemployment. I am sure that he acknowledges that others, too, care. If there were an easy cure for youth unemployment, surely no Government would fail to write the prescription. The waste is tragic, and youth unemployment is hated by all thinking people. The political disadvantages of refusing to take steps when steps can be taken are obvious.

The hon. Gentleman knows the scale of the problem and the history of its growth. However, I shall say a brief word about the history. In July 1974 there were 80,000 under-20s unemployed. By July 1976—two years later, after just over two years of Labour Government—the number of young people under 20 who were unemployed had risen from 80,000 to 390,000.

There was an increase of no less than 380 per cent. in those two years of Labour Government. By July 1978 the figure had risen even higher, to 441,000. By July 1980 it had risen to 532,000—the peak.

The figure of 532,000 cannot be wholly the result of the present Government's policies. The hon. Member for Islington, Central certainly knows that the Labour Government cannot take the credit for youth unemployment being down to 80,000 in 1974. He knows that the Labour Government must take a large share of the responsibility for the figure of 390,000 unemployed in July 1976.

Was there not then—to quote the motion— unprecedented youth unemployment, continual anxiety to school leavers and their parents and frustration to educationists"? Incidentally, I find the last phrase rather odd. The object is not to put young people into work to stop educationists being frustrated. I cannot think of any educationists who are not frustrated. All who had anything to do with my education were frustrated. The object is to look after young people and to ensure that they can find work.

I am tempted to say that the last Administration served at least one useful purpose—as a bad example to us all. I am tired of being lectured. The trouble with Opposition Members is that they treat the public like fools. The British people know that there is no easy way out. They know that no soft option is available. They know that one cannot lower the duty on petrol by putting up the dog licence, as one of my Socialist constituents argued the other day. They know that the laws of mathematics operate in Government as much as in the corner shop and the pub. They know that if the productivity of a country's industry rises by 15 per cent. while earnings increase by 300 per cent.—which is our record in the last 10 years—that country is living on borrowed time as well as borrowed money and that it had better sort itself out.

Mr. Frank Allaun

Is the Minister aware that people who have canvassed for the May elections do not find that reaction? They find that former Conservative voters are bitterly hostile to the Government for increasing unemployment. Many of them say that their children who have left school are taken on for six months and then sacked so that a fresh crop of cheap labour can be taken on. If the Government really want to do something about that, instead of creating phoney jobs, why do they not cause reflation through a vast house building and improvement programme, which would bring real jobs and satisfy real needs?

Mr. Waddington

The hon. Gentleman is right. A few people always say "Stop the world, I want to get off." That is the reason for the rise of the Social Democrats. I am talking about the majority of people who keep their heads and know that no such soft options exist.

We are suffering from a world recession. The level of youth unemployment here is comparable with that in some other industrialised countries, such as the United States of America, France and Australia. But the self-inflicted wounds hurt the most; they are the least excusable. One is sickened by some people, even now, making wholly unrealistic pay claims which, if granted, can only postpone economic recovery and increase the unemployment for which they are only too ready to hold others responsible.

The answer to the hon. Member for Salford, East (Mr. Allaun) is that we must emerge from the recession in a position to compete in the world's markets. If we exercise restraint now, if we master inflation, if we cure some of the deep-seated ills in our economy, we shall succeed and youth unemployment will drop dramatically. If we do not, it will not.

An important job has to be done now. To do them credit, the last Administration responded properly to rising youth unemployment by accepting the proposals in the Holland report and introducing the youth opportunities programme. In Opposition we backed that report, and since coming to office we have backed YOP to the hilt. It has grown into an excellent scheme.

Of course criticisms are voiced from time to time. I pay tribute to the TUC for remaining solidly committed to the scheme, in spite of natural fears of substitution. I am sure that the TUC is right to give its support because YOP is not just a way of cushioning young people against the hopelessness of prolonged unemployment. By providing opportunities for training and work experience it gives young people a real chance to improve their prospects of obtaining a satisfactory permanent job at the earliest possible moment.

Mr. James Dempsey (Coatbridge and Airdrie)

The Minister said that the Government were backing YOP to the hilt. Is he aware that the training services division of the Manpower Services Commission is not backing it to the hilt? Some training establishments still have vacancies. My constituency has one of the highest unemployment rates in the United Kingdom but there are 40 vacant training places for short industrial courses because the MSC will not allocate young boys and girls for training. Will the Minister look into that?

Mr. Waddington

Obviously that is an important matter. I am sure that my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State—the hon. Member for City of Chester (Mr. Morrison)—will investigate it. I was saying that generally the total resources committed to the YOP have increased dramatically since we came to office.

Work experience, work preparation and basic training help young people to develop confidence, maturity and basic skills. The programme has enabled many young people to obtain work. It will enable many others to help both themselves and the country when the upswing comes. We recognise that there is plenty of room for improvement, as there always is. Efforts are constantly being made to increase the range of opportunities open to the trainees by giving them as broad a range of experience as possible.

Most sponsoring employers allow trainees to try their hands at a number of tasks so that the work options open to the individual may be increased. When the sponsor is a small employer with little varied work experience to offer, efforts are made to link schemes so that a person placed with such a small employer has the chance to experience more than one job.

I acknowledge that the YOP can be abused. Entrants can wrongly be regarded as cheap, temporary labour. The MSC is constantly on the watch to ensure that sponsors do their duty. I am glad to say that the evidence shows that the majority do that. A few bad sponsors have been got rid of and others, at the insistence of the MSC, have provided new arrangements.

The problem is not all training on the job. Two years ago only 17 per cent. of work experience trainees received off-the-job training. Now the figure is about 40 per cent. and is increasing. Off-the-job training is often important to cope with the problems of numeracy and literacy and other work-related basic skills. The MSC is constantly concerned to improve the quality of training and to fit the opportunities to young persons' needs and capabilities. That means that as more qualified people become unemployed placements are being made with professional, commercial and scientifically based sponsors who are prepared to relate on-the-job learning to relevant technical and specialist further education. The aim is as much to encourage the young person to maximise his or her potential in further or higher education as it is to obtain work. We believe that the YOP is doing a good job.

Mr. David Alton (Liverpool, Edge Hill)

Is it not a matter for concern that the number of people going back into full-time employment from these schemes is falling? About 41 per cent. now go on to the dole instead of continuing in employment. Indeed, the figure of those continuing in employment fell to 59 per cent. from 80 per cent. last September. Is that not a matter for concern?

Mr. Waddington

Of course it is a matter for concern if anybody who has done a YOP course does not find employment immediately thereafter. My case, which I thought would be conceded by all hon. Members, is that having done a YOP course those people are better able to seize work opportunities when they arise. The point that the hon. Gentleman was making is the general economic point but I cannot, in a debate of this nature, go further than I have gone in that regard and point to the Government's commitment to squeeze inflation out of the system, which in the long run is the only way of ensuring full employment.

Mr. Golding

The Government have given the undertaking that those 16-year-olds and 17-year-olds who have been unemployed for three months by October 1981 should have an offer of a place by Easter 1982. There is confusion in the minds of the careers officers as to whether this includes those who have previously been on a YOP scheme. Could the Minister clarify what the undertaking means?

Mr. Waddington

I was going to deal with the two prime undertakings, of which I am sure the hon. Member knows—one being that school leavers will have a YOP opportunity by the following Christmas rather than the following Easter, as is the position now; the other being that all other 16- and 17-year-olds who have been out of work for three months will get a YOP opportunity within three months of that period. But my hon. Friend the Member for City of Chester has the prime responsibility for this field and I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will excuse me if it is dealt with later this evening. I have no ready answer to that problem, but inquiries will be made.

Mr. John Grant

Before the hon. and learned Gentleman leaves this point, can he give the House the up-to-date figure for the number of YOP trainees who are actually placed in employment at the end of their training now, as compared with, say, a year ago?

Mr. Waddington

I can give some figures—I shall come to that shortly—for the number of school leavers and related matters. If the hon. Gentleman will forgive me, I think that I had better stick to the statistics that I have. If they do not meet the points which he wishes us to cover I will certainly have investigations made and try to get the figures by later this evening.

The YOP, to our mind, must be doing a good job when seven out of 10 of those who went on courses which finished during the year ended last autumn either got a job or entered another YOP course or full-time educational training. As a result of all these matters, we have decided to increase the size of the programme for 1981–82 so that it will be able to offer up to 450,000 places.

The hon. Member for Islington, Central mentioned the total number of places which would be available. The position is that the Manpower Services Commission has not asked the Government to revise the originally agreed figure of 450,000, but naturally the matter will be kept continually under review. At the moment, however, the figure remains as it was at the end of last year, at 450,000 places—a 40 per cent. increase over last year—with 160,000 young people involved at any one time. It means an increase in spending from £209 million in 1980–81 to £320 million in 1981–82. These figures are remarkable when the Government are for ever being painted as lacking compassion and unable to bring themselves to spend money even when it is needed for social purposes of this kind.

Mr. Alton

Although I accept that the amount of money being put into statutory programmes is increasing and that the Government are trying to respond in that direction, does the hon. and learned Gentleman seriously want the House to believe that that is a substitute for the 10,000 apprenticeships which have been lost over the last 12 months alone in private industry?

Mr. Waddington

I really do not think that I can be expected to go further than I have. The hon. Gentleman may have his panacea. He may have some brillant new Liberal policy which would, if put into effect, remove youth unemployment tomorrow. If he has such a policy, we have heard nothing of it yet. We are not really concerned with panaceas; we are concerned with what should be done here and now to alleviate a present problem.

Mr. Clinton Davis (Hackney, Central)

My hon. Friend the Member for Islington, Central (Mr. Grant) raised a matter which is highly pertinent to his area and mine—the accelerating problem of unemployment among black youths. Can the hon. and learned Gentleman offer any words of encouragement, or optimism, to this group of young people who are becoming disenchanted with the political system, which represents a real danger to all of us?

Mr. Waddington

The hon. Gentleman is entirely right to raise the matter, but I would not be on good terms any longer with my hon. Friend if I were now to deliver his speech as well as my own. I promise the hon. Gentleman that my hon. Friend will deal with that particular matter when he winds up.

I dealt with the present undertakings to the young unemployed in answer to the hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Mr. Golding). I concede, of course, that we should not be too proud about an expansion in the programme which has come about following an increase in the number of those out of work. But an increase in the cost of YOP to the extent that I have mentioned is certainly nothing to be ashamed of. Furthermore, I believe that the impact made by this programme will be not only transitory but perhaps of lasting benefit. It may go a long way towards meeting the needs of our country for a better motivated and better trained young work force.

One matter that is all too often forgotten is that even in these times of recession the great majority of school leavers find jobs. Of the 700,000 young people leaving school for work last summer, only 20 per cent. remained on the register at the end of the year as unemployed school leavers. We must see that those in work also receive suitable vocational preparation. Many hon. Members will know about the pilot programme of unified vocational preparation which has been running since 1976 and which aims to provide training for young entrants into work. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State announced on 21 November 1980 that we were continuing and developing the programme so that by 1983–84 it will cover 10 per cent. of all young people who currently enter jobs in which they receive no further vocational preparation. We believe that this is of key importance. The need for the country to have a better trained work force at every level cannot be overestimated. There certainly must be a more flexible system of training for skills and we hope that within a few weeks now the MSC's proposals for a new initiative will be published.

The Government are fighting the causes of unemployment and youth unemployment and they are also fighting the effects. We need to raise the vocational skills of those most clearly in need of help—the young unemployed. We also need, however, to provide for those with jobs so that they are more likely to keep employment or, if they lose it, to regain it. We need the help of employers, unions, voluntary bodies—everyone—in this task. It cannot be a job for Government alone. I believe that the Government are playing their part and dealing properly with a serious problem.

I therefore ask the House to reject the motion and to vote for the amendment.

4.30 pm
Sir William Elliott (Newcastle upon Tyne, North)

I am extremely grateful to be called in this debate, particularly—as was made clear during Prime Minister's questions and since the beginning of the debate—because there is at this time a lobby from the North-East of England on unemployment.

With regard to unemployment generally—

Mr. Robert C. Brown

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Although I am not seeking to challenge your conduct of the debate, it is, to say the least, singularly unusual for the occupant of the Chair to select a further Conservative Member immediately after a Conservative Minister.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bryant Godman Irvine)

I apologise to the hon. Member for Newcastle upon Tyne, West (Mr. Brown). I assure him that he will find that the matter will be rectified very speedily.

Mr. Anthony Fell (Yarmouth)

Further to the point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. There are hardly an) Labour Members left in the Chamber.

Sir William Elliott

I return to the point that I was about to make. Unemployment troubles us all. 'There is nothing more certain than that. The hon. Member for Newcastle upon Tyne, West (Mr. Brown), who has just raised a point of order, suggested a little while ago that I was sitting here seeking to represent the unemployed of the Northern region. I do not presume to do that, but with him and others from the region I do my best for them. I certainly feel strongly for them, and I seek in successive debates in this House and at all other times to do what I can for them.

I agree very much with what my hon. and learned Friend the Under-Secretary of State said. If there were a magic answer that could rid this country of unemployment in general and of youth unemployment in particular we would rejoice and introduce it, whichever party was in office. But there is no magic answer; therefore we must do our best, particularly for young people. If we do not feel strongly about young people being unemployed we do not understand young people in general, because the vast majority of them loathe it.

I try to understand the problem. In recent weeks I have visited two comprehensive schools in Newcastle upon Tyne and the polytechnic college there to talk to young people about to emerge into the working world. It is a matter of giving them encouragement. There is too much despondency. We should try to suggest to able young people that they will be needed, if not at the moment certainly in the foreseeable future.

Training and qualifications are therefore all-important. I welcomed the Holland report and the eventual youth opportunities programme. I pay tribute to the youth opportunities programme as it has worked in the North-East of England. The objective of the Manpower Services Commission in the Northern region was that 41,000 school leavers should participate in the youth opportunities programme from Easter—in other words, from approximately a year ago. The achievement is that 42,000 school leavers have participated, thanks not least to the massive expansion of the programme by the Government.

As a result, there are fewer than 400 young people without any experience of training in the Northern region. Of those who have known work experience, a recent count shows that approximately 50 per cent. are now employed.

I appreciate that several Labour Members, the spokesman for the Liberal Party, and others have suggested that that percentage is falling. That may well be so, but it is even more necessary to emphasise the importance of training. I appeal to those who have been through work experience and who are not yet employed to accept the immediate position and to have great hope for the future, because work experience is in itself a qualification.

When the economy revives we shall have in the Northern region more qualified young people than ever before. I agree with my hon. and learned Friend that what we have lacked in the past, in regions such as the North-East of England, is skill. It used to be said that we had two great disadvantages as an area. One was location. Often in debates there has been reference to the long haul for our goods. The other disadvantage was lack of skill, which arose from our great basic industries having been such enormous employers in the past.

Mr. Robert C. Brown

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that one of the problems that we face, in terms of lack of skills, particularly in the North-East, is that the very dire circumstances in which our people live result in our exporting skills every week by migration?

Sir William Elliott

I accept that there has been migration, but there is considerable hope for the future. More and more of the people with greater skill—and the much more extensively skilled young people in particular—will find employment.

Earlier this afternoon, during Prime Minister's questions, I suggested that there were more factories opening than closing in our region. That is the case. The figures produced recently by English Industrial Estates suggest that there is a considerable new interest in trading estates in the region.

We have known in the Northern region—the hon. Member for Newcastle upon Tyne, West is as well aware of this as I am—the enormous problem of the closure of the Consett steelworks. It would be a substantial problem for any region. Yet in Derwentside, in the Consett area, there are 57 factory units now under construction. Twelve are already reserved. There is considerable interest in the balance. There are already an assured 700 future jobs.

Mr. Alton

Can the hon. Gentleman tell the House what numbers of jobs are involved in the Consett example that he gave us—the number of jobs displaced through the closure of the steelworks and the number likely to be created by the new factories?

Sir William Elliott

The approximate number of jobs lost through the closure of Consett steelworks was 3,500. But already there has been a considerable very refreshing initiative from many people in Consett. A good many of those who have been made redundant are seeking to set up small businesses. Some of them have already done so successfully. That will help to reduce the figure of 3,500. So will the new units. These units are being funded by resources specially allocated by the Government for the steel closure areas of Scunthorpe and Consett, and between £4 million and £5 million will be available annually for the next three years. That will do a great deal to create new employment to replace the old.

In addition to the 700 jobs that will come from those units there is a good deal of industrial activity elsewhere. Findus Foods—a firm that we welcome to the Northern region—will provide 1,000 new jobs when it opens in September.

I say all this in the name of optimism. We need a bit of optimism. The optimism is well-founded. New industry has come into the region. There will be work for many young people who are now unemployed.

Training availability under the youth opportunities programme is greater than it has ever been in the Northern region or anywhere else. There can be a 13-week short training course, which can be associated with 26 weeks with an employer for work experience, and then there can be a further six weeks' training. The results are already there to see. We have more skilled and able young people for the take-up in the economy, ready for the new industrial expansion, than we have ever had before in the region.

As my hon. and learned Friend said, youth opportunities are not an end in themselves but they provide very valuable training, and industry will benefit. I congratulate the Manpower Services Commission, particularly that section of it which is in the Northern region. I also congratulate and pay tribute to co-operative employers for their help. Lastly, I pay tribute, in his absence, to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment, who understands very well the enormous problems of regions such as mine.

The overall aim of the YOP is to obtain the maximum benefit for the individual youngster. It is pleasing to learn that in the last week the Manpower Services Commission in the North-East of England is to allocate some of the best of its staff to see how the quality of training can be further improved.

I wholeheartedly support the amendment. Only—in the words of that amendment—through the Government's economic strategy can a lasting improvement in the economy be achieved, and with it a reasonable level of employment for all.

4.40 pm
Mr. Robert C. Brown (Newcastle upon Tyne, West)

I shall not follow entirely the speech made by the hon. Member for Newcastle upon Tyne, North (Sir W. Elliott), but I will take him up on one matter. It is accepted that Government Back Benchers support the Prime Minister at Question Time, and I do not criticise the hon. Gentleman for that, but I certainly object to his offering the Prime Minister an opportunity to give a misleading slant by saying that things are not so bad in the North-East because, after all, more factories are opening than are closing.

I do not have to hand the number of factories that are opening, and I entirely accept what the hon. Gentleman said, but if 100 small factory units are opening it does not compensate for the loss of 750 jobs at Vickers, Scotswood, in one fell swoop, or the loss of 350 jobs at Tress, Newburn, at one fell swoop and the hundreds of jobs lost in the shipyards. It is not good enough for the Prime Minister, in response to her hon. Friend, to make this sound like a success story.

I make no apology for talking this afternoon only about the city of Newcastle. I want to give the figures for unemployed young people in Newcastle in January 1980 and January 1981. In January 1980 2,645 under-twenties were unemployed. In January 1981 the figure had increased to 3,342. In January 1980 2,391 people aged between 20 and 24 years were unemployed. By January 1981 the figure had increased to 3,121.

All told, 5,036 young people of 25 years of age or under were unemployed in January 1980, and 6,463 were unemployed in January 1981—a 28.3 per cent. increase in 12 months. In 1980 the number who had been unemployed for over 26 weeks was 1,862. In 1981 the number was 3,184. That means that 37 per cent. of the unemployed in the city were under 25 years of age in January 1980, whereas in 1981 the figure was 49 per cent.

In January 1980 just over one-third of the unemployed under-twenty-fives had been out of work for over six months. In January this year almost half the under- twenty-fives had been unemployed for more than 26 weeks.

The conclusions are that unemployment among young people in Newcastle rose by 28 per cent. in 12 months and that the proportion of young people out of work for over six months rose to almost half of all unemployed young people. That is a damning indictment of the Government, and for that reason, if for no other, I shall support the motion.

The problems of youth unemployment in the Northern region are serious, and are worsening month by month. Many traditional Newcastle employers have drastically reduced their work forces, and small firms in the inner city have been closing down. Young people have felt the impact of these events.

In addition, reductions in public spending have meant a sharp fall in the number of young people gaining employment in the public sector. In various departments of the city council at the civic centre in Newcastle graduates are applying for what 10 years ago were regarded as office boys' jobs. Several scores of jobs which would have been regarded as juniors' jobs four or five years ago are now going to graduates. Hundreds of young people with two, three or four A-levels are applying for office-boy-type jobs with local authorities. Again, that is a dreadful indictment of the Government.

There has been a noticeable reduction in the number of apprenticeships and training courses offered by large firms in recent years. This trend over the area is showing every sign of continuing. Office employment can be expected to continue to decline as public expenditure restraint and the introduction of new technology have a continuing impact over the years.

The Manpower Services Commission advises that at least a 50 per cent. increase in school leaver unemployment will occur this year. That is in addition to the devastating figures that I have already quoted.

The youth opportunities programme was originally intended as a temporary expedient to provide a bridge between school and permanent employment. In the North-East, and in Newcastle particularly, it has become a major component of the job market for young people. Thank goodness that we have the youth opportunities programme. I fear to think what would be the situation without it. My hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Mr. Golding) deserves credit for the work he did on the youth opportunities programme in the Labour Government.

Youth unemployment is a national problem. I compliment the Newcastle city council and the Tyne and Wear county council on their efforts to alleviate the effects of unemployment in the area. This they have done by creating permanent employment opportunities within the local community and subsidising temporary jobs whenever and wherever possible. They have also accepted, regretfully, that youth unemployment is an unfortunate fact of life and have tried to make the situation for the young unemployed more tolerable by opening youth centres at various times during the day and organising worthwhile opportunities to give the unemployed youngsters some interests.

Mr. Gary Waller (Brighouse and Spenborough)

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that one of the major reasons why small firms especially have not been able to employ more young people has been the high level of rates imposed, particularly by Labour local authorities, which at the margin have so eroded their profits that it has been not worth while to take on new people and to invest in the future in that way?

Mr. Brown

The hon. Gentleman trots out that Tory hack stuff that no one believes any more. The hon. Member for Chelsea (Mr. Scott) is in his place. The hon. Gentleman should have a word with him about the incidence of high rates. High rates are not confined to wicked Labour-controlled authorities. They are to be found throughout the country. I see no prospect of improvement in the near future.

The burden of job loss is not falling equally on all sections of the community. There are three groups that have suffered more than their share—women workers, young people and elderly workers. In Newcastle in July 1979 there were 9,651 men unemployed and 4,059 women, a total of 13,710. In July 1980 those figures increased to 11,502 men and 4,948 women, a total of 16,450. That represents an increase of 19 per cent. in male unemployment and a 22 per cent. increase for women. There was an overall increase of 20 per cent. Over the past six years male unemployment has doubled, while among women there has been a fourfold increase.

Unemployment is not a simple problem. It is one that must be considered group by group. At the beginning of 1980 slightly more than 5,000 young people aged 16 to 24 years were unemployed in Newcastle. That was about 40 per cent. of total unemployment. In July 1980 the number had increased to 7,200 with the addition of school leavers. That was over 47 per cent. of total unemployment.

The operation of the labour market is such that young people in areas such as Newcastle, where unemployment is high among all age groups, form an increasing proportion of the total unemployed. Many of the traditional employers in the city have been reducing their work forces while small firms in the inner city have been closing down.

We have the hope that is provided by the small factory units that the Tyne and Wear county council and the city council have been energetic in developing.

Sir William Elliott

Hear, hear.

Mr. Brown

I am glad to know that I have the agreement of the hon. Member for Newcastle upon. Tyne, North.

On the Bells Close site only one factory unit remains to be let. As the site is in the much vaunted enterprise zone I hope that that one factory will be let quickly.

The reason why 600 people have travelled from Newcastle today to lobby the House of Commons is so that they can express their concern for a generation of young people in our area and throughout the country that has never had the opportunity and privilege of working full time. That is the indictment of the Government.

4.55 pm
Mr. David Young (Bolton, East)

I speak for the 1,500 young people in Bolton who are without work and are Bolton's investment in the future. I recognise that Britain is not the only country with a recession, or with unemployment. I welcome the youth unemployment programme and any programme of like effect that may be introduced, but is not the present programme geared to the present escalating unemployment? We are fighting long-term unemployment which has affected young people and every other section of the community. I pay tribute to the local authority in my area, which happens to be Labour-controlled. It has used all its available resources to provide employment for young people. However, the only question that counts in the end is whether there is a meaningful job. It appears that what was intended as a short-term, stop-gap measure is being used on a permanent basis.

We cannot talk about youth unemployment without considering the economic situation generally. Unemployment in the North-West increased to 12.4 per cent. compared with 7.7 per cent. a year ago. In Bolton unemployment increased to 12.3 per cent., whereas it was 6.3 per cent. a year ago. Youth unemployment increased during the year by 137 per cent. Bad though these figures are, the worry is that Government policy is eroding Bolton's industrial base. No matter what schemes are evolved to deal with youth unemployment, we shall never find meaningful jobs for our youth if the industries disappear that should provide the jobs.

One of the Government's first actions was to remove development area status from Bolton. That is a good example of their attitude towards the town. That status was given to Bolton in 1972, when the unemployment rate was 4.7 per cent. When it was removed in 1979 the rate was 5.9 per cent. It is now 12.3 per cent. The Government's policy for Bolton appears to be to provide less aid as unemployment increases. Their policy takes firms away from an area of escalating unemployment while other firms are not attracted in. As industries move out of Bolton, close down or go bankrupt, no other industries are attracted in and obviously jobs are not available for young people.

We talk glibly about when the upturn will come. I am unaware of any prophecies or estimates of when that will be. However, when the upturn comes, the skill of the apprentice will be required. As industries close now, apprentices are not being taken on. In many industries in my town apprentices are being declared redundant with the rest of the workers. Last year, only one firm in Bolton—British Aerospace—was taking its full allocation of apprentices. Now, British Aerospace is declaring almost 300 redundancies. That is the present situation.

I ask the Government to ensure that the measures which are being and which will be put forward will deal with the long-term problem. As for youth opportunities proposals and schemes, a circular from my local jobs centre contains the following paragraph: Some resistance is being experienced by youngsters advised to consider YOP, due to the failure to increase the £23.50 allowance in line with the increases in unemployment and social security benefits. There is also a growing feeling that youth opportunities schemes are being used as a means of cheap labour. In many cases youngsters can see no meaningful job at the end of six months' training. That means that, gradually but surely, resistance is building up among this generation, in whose hands our future lies.

The House would do well to regard with concern the position of our young people. At our peril will we neglect that, because members of this generation, so many of whom find themselves on the scrap heap on leaving school, will not support the democratic institutions which find no solution to their problems. They are young people and will not regard themselves as a lost generation and not be prepared to do something about it. If the House does not find a solution we shall pay the price in social unrest and disillusionment with the very democratic institution for which we stand as Members of Parliament.

Therefore, let us not be so self-congratulatory. Let us recognise that we have a problem and that we have in our hands the responsibility for the future of a generation which will decide Britain's destiny.

5.5 pm

Mr. Alan Haselhurst (Saffron Walden)

No hon. Member can deny that unemployment amongst young people is a serious and worsening problem. It causes great anxiety amongst all hon. Members, whatever political party they support.

We do not help to solve the problem of youth unemployment by a whole series of set-piece party barrackings in the House. We should acknowledge that the problem has been growing for some years and that it will probably continue to grow, for reasons which are almost outside our control.

Many of the speeches which can be made now from Opposition Benches echo the remarks which could have been made when Conservative Members sat on those Benches a few years ago—and those remarks were made. Those speeches reflected the concern which anyone feels about growing unemployment. However, to start blaming each other for what is happening is not conducive to finding the right results. Therefore, there must be common understanding between both sides of the House about the nature of the problem before it will be possible to find a solution.

Having studied the matter for some time, I sincerly believe that what is needed as a solution is something more drastic, imaginative and wide-ranging than anything that has been devised so far. Many things which have been done have made a contribution. Initiatives were taken by the previous Government. They hoped that what they were experiencing was a temporary phenomenon which could be dealt with by introducing measures which were called temporary and which were designed to be so. Experience has shown that those measures have had to be considerably extended. I pay credit to the Government for extending them and for considering many new ideas and ways in which we can deal with the problem.

However, there is still some wishful thinking that when the so-called upturn in the economy comes the vast numbers of unemployed young people will melt away into jobs. Two things are wrong with that. The first is that even if the economy could expand at such a rate that those young people would be absorbed into jobs, I would not be too happy if I felt that they were being absorbed into jobs without the amount of training and preparation for work which is necessary for them to be good workers and for them to obtain satisfaction at work. Secondly, worse than that consideration is the realisation that if we are to achieve a reasonable amount of economic expansion and industrial investment, and if it is to be in the country's interest it will be in forms in which there will be little extra employment for people.

The other day I saw the opening of a new plant in the flavours and fragrances division of the chemical industry. It represented a considerable investment and has enormous potential in sales for this country. I asked how many people were needed to look after the plant. The answer was "Two". That pattern is occurring much more in this country and must occur if our productivity is to be comparable with that of the nations with which we are bound to compete.

If we try to organise industry on the basis of simply absorbing people into jobs without regard to industry's ability to sell a product at the price people will pay, we are doomed to disaster. We must have a reasonable level of productivity and, therefore, we must recognise that the expansion of industry will not lead to an enormous increase in the number of jobs. Such increases as we can look forward to are likely to take place in the service sector.

The problem of unemployment amongst young people will remain with us in some shape or form, however well the economy performs. If we recognise that, we must look for a scheme for dealing with that problem which is more comprehensive and more permanent than anything which has been attained up to now.

We must consider something as dramatic as delaying the entry into full-time work—in the sense in which that has been previously accepted—to the age of 18 or 19 years. If we consider the period up to the age of 19 as one in which there must be a combination of education and training in forms yet to be determined—many varieties have been considered—we shall start to come to grips with the numbers game.

We must be positive about preparation for work, which will in turn affect the labour market. It will provide a worthwhile and dignified occupation in training and education before people expect to embark on full-time work for the next 40 years or so of their lives. We must reach that dramatic conclusion to avoid the number of young unemployed people growing out of control and to prevent public anger engulfing us. It requires a change of attitude, but it is not an impossible dream. We have edged towards the position in the schemes proposed. We are starting to see in the Manpower Services Commission the hazy formation of an overall scheme for people between the ages of 16 and 19.

To get on top of the problem we must have the political will in the House to grasp three nettles, the first of which is finance. The Treasury tells us that to have someone unemployed costs between £4,000 and £5,000, yet the money cannot simply be transferred in order to keep a person in employment. I believe that it is a little easier than we are led to believe. The money available can be used for a constructive programme if only we can find the right scheme.

The second nettle is trade union resistance. Trade unions must abandon their cherished ideas about training young people and the ways in which they should be occupied. I understand their fears, but they are no longer relevant in the vastly changing labour market.

Mr. Golding

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Haselhurst

I understand the hon. Gentleman's interest, but I have promised to be brief.

The third nettle is the connection between education and training. The problem is viewed from both sides of the fence, but we need to shake hands across the fence to bring the two aspects together. We must not allow traditional educationist attitudes, combined with traditional industrial attitudes, to prevent us from reaching a coherent solution. We must avoid party disputes, recognise the size of scheme needed and work with a joint political will. Unless we do so we may have another generation scarred for life by the memory of unemployment, which will also have a traumatic effect on our social development.

People look to the Government for action. Initiatives are being taken, but they should be brought together. We should move forward, using experience, and show that we are capable of facing the challenge.

5.13 pm
Mr. David Alton (Liverpool, Edge Hill)

The Government have measured the success of the youth opportunities programme by the number of people who have gone on to full-time employment. It is of grave concern that the number is diminishing. By September last year the figure had fallen from 80 per cent. to 59 per cent. About 41 per cent. of our youngsters return to the dole queue once they are supposedly trained. What point is there in having the best educated or trained youngsters if they end up on the dole?

Many of my young constituents complain about inadequate remuneration on the schemes. The allowance of £23.50 has not been adequately increased in line with inflation. Once travel expenses are taken out, it leaves little more than would be received on supplementary benefit, so the incentive for school leavers to become involved in such programmes is not great.

Industry's annual take-up of apprenticeships has dropped by 10,000 since 1979–80, which is alarming. Whilst it is better to pump money into the programmes than to have people on the dole, if the number of real jobs and apprenticeships is falling there is little hope for the unemployed. The 10,000 drop is a cut of 10 per cent., which exemplifies Government waste in failing to get adequate training opportunities through private industry.

The Secretary of State for Employment is keen to introduce a voluntary option of military training as part of the YOP, but that would damage the intent of the programme. In many depressed areas, a person would be forced to take the option. Six months is not sufficient time for training of real value, which makes the option ludicrous, as well as damaging. Local headmasters have written to me expressing concern.

There is also the correlation between youth unemployment and crime. The Merseyside chief constable has warned that if youth unemployment increases it will mean a corresponding increase in crime.

Ethnic minorities suffer especially from unemployment. Between 1973 and 1977 unemployment doubled, but for black people it quadrupled. Black youth is disproportionately affected by unemployment.

In Liverpool, 47 per cent. of youngsters under 18, 34 per cent. of young people between 18 and 19 and 27 per cent. between 20 and 24 are out of work. About 11,000 people under 20 are out of work. Recently only 20 or 30 job vacancies were notified to one local careers office. That is appalling, and the Government must wrestle with the problem. If they do not, others will prey on the disadvantages of the young.

A group called "Youth Training" is circulating in Liverpool a letter is signed by Vanessa Redgrave, the chairman, which concerns courses available in a local youth training centre. The courses include hairdressing, drama, cookery, electrical work, dressmaking, boxing and judo. The centre has a tea bar offering soft drinks and soups. It states: Youth Training is open to all youth between 16 and 22, There is a form attached to enrol for dressmaking, hairdressing, cooking, catering, music and drama. Nowhere is it stated that the Workers Revolutionary Party, a very Left-wing group, is involved.

However, on 20 March the Workers Revolutionary Party newspaper, News Line, stated: A call for youth everywhere to build the Young Socialists as a mass revolutionary youth movement and to build the Youth Training Movement was issued by the Young Socialists national secretary Claire Dixon, moving the main resolution"— at its conference in Southport.

The article states: The Youth Training centres will concentrate on training youth in all the up-to-date techniques and technology … We must mobilise a massive youth movement—a revolutionary youth movement. We must take our message to youth everywhere. We warn that you can have no illusions that there is going to be an upturn in this slump. The ruling class have no answers to this crisis … There is no peaceful road to socialism—we are building a revolutionary socialist youth movement to lead the struggle.". It continues: Vanessa Redgrave of the Workers Revolutionary Party, Central Committee, appealed to the conference to throw its full support behind the Youth Training programme.' This is a serious matter. One centre has been opened in Liverpool and, according to another edition of News Line, another has been opened in Brixton, in South London. These people are preying on the disadvantages of youngsters and unemployed people.

It is not just people on the far Left who are preying on the disadvantages of youngsters and the unemployed in this way. In the same area, as the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) will know, a group called "Viking Youth" on the far Right is trying to do the same kind of thing. Unless we take measures to try to tackle their problems, unemployed youngsters will be more and more susceptible to organisations of that kind. The cynicism, bitterness, anger and frustration of young people will be used to pull them into these extreme Left- and Right-wing organisations. In this respect, we should heed the warning of the hon. Member for Bolton, East (Mr. Young) earlier in the debate.

I accept that there are no simple or easy solutions. I do not believe anyone who says that there are, whether they be monetarists or Marxists. It is right to remind the House that when the present Leader of the Opposition was Secretary of State for Employment, unemployment rose—including unemployment among young people. When he was Secretary of State, unemployment in Britain rose from 579,000 to 1.2 million. In Wales it rose from 3 per cent. to 7 per cent., and in his own constituency from 3.9 per cent. to 11.4 per cent. The right hon. Gentleman said: I am not prepared to sit in this place and preside over mass unemployment. I do not hold the right hon. Gentleman personally responsible for what happened after that but I find it difficult to take that kind of sentiment and statement seriously when I see the same right hon. Gentleman walking through the streets of my city waving a stick and shaking his fists, especially when people participating in the march that he led stayed at the Adelphi hotel, the most prestigious in town.

When I hear the Prime Minister talking about the problems of unemployment and about her sympathy for the unemployed, I remind the House that she has not set foot in Liverpool since the election of May 1979

Mr. Eric S. Heffer (Liverpool, Walton)

I remind the hon. Gentleman of his claim that the unemployment demonstration in Liverpool would or could lead to violence. Some of us pointed out that it was a Labour Party unemployment demonstration involving trade unionists in this country as well as people from Merseyside and elsewhere. It did not lead to violence. It was a most peaceful demonstration. Indeed, ours is the only party at present doing anything about rousing the people of this country to activity against unemployment.

Mr. Alton

The House will recall that only a week or so ago my right hon. and hon. Friends and I presented a massive petition, with more than a quarter of a million signatures, from people concerned about unemployment in this country, because we believed that that was a way of bringing the concern of the nation to the attention of the House. We do not believe that rabble-rousing or dazzling rhetoric is an answer to the nation's problems. That is why we do not lead marches. We do not believe that that sort of protest would lead to a solution. We are modest enough to accept that we have no simple solution. I was making the point to the hon. Member for Walton and others that those leading the march had themselves been in jobs in which they had responsibility to try to tackle the problem. They failed before, and I believe that they will fail again.

Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover)


Mr. Alton

I shall not give way. I wish to make progress. The hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) has only just arrived. He has not been present for the rest of the debate.

Mr. Skinner

I was at the youth unemployment committee.

Mr. Alton

The Prime Minister seems to subscribe to the view that if two wrongs do not make a right, one should try a third. We seem to be treated to the same old formula as before. She is regarded by many young people in the North of England as being rather like the wicked witch of the South, except that she has got the words of the spell wrong and the incantation is going sadly awry.

We have had enough of here-today-gone-tomorrow politicians who march through our cities, staying in the most prestigious hotels. Their policies have failed and they will fail again. They are swooping and preying on those unfortunate enough to be unemployed. They are dishonest and deceitful in raising false hopes in communities that have suffered long enough. Indeed, they are behaving in a downright criminal way. There are 2½ million people out of work, and it will soon be 3 million.

Mr. Skinner

Let the hon. Member explain about the Lib-Lab pact. That was when unemployment rose.

Mr. Heffer

Will the hon. Member explain what the Liberal-controlled council in Liverpool is doing?

Mr. Alton

One person becomes unemployed every 30 seconds. Our entire industrial base is being eroded. Factories close and businesses go bankrupt. Productivity and profitability decline. The entire economic policy of the Government is a disaster. Twenty five per cent. of our people have now been out of work for more than a year. Half a million are said to be unemployable because they lack essential skills, and 77 per cent. have no formal qualifications whatever.

We Liberals have positive and sensible solutions to offer. We would get rid of the pretence that there is an easy solution to unemployment. We would create the climate for new jobs by increasing incentive, by introducing a prices and incomes policy and by giving workers a say in the running of their firms and a stake in the profits. By doing that we would remove much of the confrontation at the workplace—the kind of mindless militancy which in Liverpool, as the hon. Member for Walton knows, has led to the loss of many jobs. By reducing the working week and allowing much earlier retirement we would create the possibility of many new jobs.

Mr. Heffer


Mr. Skinner

What about the Lib-Lab pact?

Mr. John Lee (Nelson and Colne)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. With the greatest respect, the hon. Member for Liverpool, Edge Hill (Mr. Alton), endeavouring to make his contribution, has been present since the debate began. He is now being hounded by hon. Members who have appeared relatively recently. That is monstrous. Many hon. Members have sat here throughout the debate hoping to participate later.

Mr. Heffer

I shall explain to the House exactly what the Liberal-controlled city council has done to deal with unemployment in Liverpool. As a result of Liberal policies, backing the Government's policies, the unemployment situation in some parts of Liverpool has worsened. In housing, in maintenance departments and in other sectors, the Liberals have been responsible for putting people out of work in Liverpool. Let the hon. Gentleman answer that.

Mr. Alton

I hope that the hon. Member for Walton will at some time place before the House any evidence that he may have. The Liberal-controlled council in Liverpool has not made a single person unemployed. There has not been a single redundancy as a result of Liberal policy on the city council. I refute any allegation to that effect. The reason why there has been a decline in the construction industry, with 300,000 people out of work, is that we have the worst public sector house building figures since 1924. That is hardly the fault of the Liberal-controlled council in Liverpool.

I shall not detain the House much longer, as I know that other hon. Members wish to speak. I return to other constructive suggestions that we would use to tackle unemployment. At present, £9 billion or £10 billion per year is being raised in revenue from North Sea oil. We should like to see some of that channelled into many youth opportunities and apprenticeship training schemes. In West Germany, more than 400 occupations are covered by apprenticeship schemes. We would offer firms new youth training allowances and insist by law that new apprenticeships be created.

We believe that many other useful schemes could he promoted. Insulation programmes, for example are socially useful and also employ people. They also save energy. That would be far more useful than having young people on YOP schemes going around counting the number of lamp posts.

In conclusion, I wish to speak of the climate that we should create for British industry. As long ago as 1879, John Stuart Mill wrote: There is a far more complete remedy for the disadvantages of hired labour …—the admission of the whole body of labourers to a participation in the profits, by distributing among all who share the work, in the the form of a percentage on their earnings, the whole or a fixed portion of the gains. It was in that tradition that my right hon. Friend the Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) wrote in his excellent and inspiring book "The Common Welfare": From the stand point of economic efficiency, as a means of increasing the opportunities of the less well-off, and certainly as a cure for inflation and unemployment, corporatism as it has been increasingly practised in the last 40 years is a failure. A free society must be a libertarian society and that libertarian society must incorporate a free market and voluntary cooperation. My right hon. Friend then goes on to describe various succesful producer co-operatives throughout the world, and it was in an attempt to try to strengthen that tradition that my right hon. Friend the leader of the Liberal Party, and my hon. Friend the Member for Rochdale (Mr. Smith) forced the last Government to establish the Co-operative Development Agency, to foster the creation and maintenance of industrial partnerships.

We should never forget that it was the Liberals, not the Labour Party or those members of it who belong to the self-styled Institute for Workers Control of Industry, who forced that policy through. That is why this country needs the sort of ideas that I have been outlining today. We shall vote with the Opposition tonight because we are not satisfied that the Government are doing what they should be doing about youth unemployment. I should like to see much more done, and I hope that the Government will therefore take into account some of the things that I have said.

5.21 pm
Mr. John Lee (Nelson and Colne)

In part the background to this debate has been set by earlier speakers. Currently about 38 per cent. of the unemployed are under 25 years of age. In January 1981 425,000 young people were registered as unemployed, and 136,000 were participating in the youth opportunities programme. By the end of March that figure had reached 156,000. In my area of Pendle, in North-East Lancashire, 500 youngsters under the age of 20 years are unemployed, and only a handful of vacancies are available for them. In January 1981 there were only 3,800 vacancies at careers offices throughout the country, and the MSC estimates that there will be about 600,000 young unemployed school leavers in the 1982–83 period—nearly 80 per cent. of those who will be leaving school in those years.

I have the honour of being the chairman of the National Youth Bureau. It and other youth bodies are finding that their work is almost totally dominated by youth unemployment. At the NYB we are experiencing about a fivefold increase in the number of inquiries from youth service organisations throughout the country about schemes for alleviating the plight of the young unemployed.

I pay tribute to the expansion of the youth opportunities programme, undertaken by the Government, to which my hon. and learned Friend the Minister referred. However, there must be genuine doubt whether the 450,000 pledged places can be provided, so awesome is the scale of the problem. Only 50 to 60 per cent. of those completing YOP schemes are going into permanent jobs. An article in the evening paper in my part of North-East Lancashire said that of those in the area who were completing YOP schemes only 20 per cent. were going into permanent employment. That compared with about 70 per cent. when the scheme first started. It is not surprising that youngsters are therefore losing faith in the scheme. That feeling is permeating back to schools, and a mood of depression and disillusionment is creeping in. It is particularly hard hitting for ethnic minority youth groups, for the handicapped and for the disadvantaged.

So much of what has happened was fairly predictable. Last July, in our debate on young persons, I asked: Are these schemes on a sufficient scale to deal with the whirlwind which now approaches? I said: 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."—[Official Report, 7 July 1980; Vol. 988, c. 70.] The hon. Member for Liverpool, Edge Hill (Mr. Alton) referred to that aspect. Nine months later it is apparent that the schemes that were in operation were inadequate to deal with the size of the problem, and the rise of extremist racist youth movements must make all those who believe in a tolerant and decent society shudder.

It is accepted by all, irrespective of political persuasion, that the traditionally high levels of employment of the past will not be reached for some time. We are living with a fairly high permanent level of unemployment. My hon. Friend the Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. Haselhurst) referred to that. He at least has started to think about a radical approach and radical alternatives. We have to face the realities. We cannot be ostrich-like and bury our heads in the sand.

What, then, can the Government and society do for our young people? There is no one answer. My hon. and learned Friend the Minister agreed with that. We must tackle the problem in a number of ways. First, let us think about broadening the youth opportunities programme to embrace many more voluntary and community-based organisations. For example, the Scouts have been doing an enormous amount of work recently in examining their role to see how they can help in solving present difficult problems.

Secondly, we must examine the financial differentials that exist between young people—those who are continuing in sixth form courses and colleges of further education and who are effectively receiving no wage, the unemployed youngster, who receives about £15.50, and the YOP participant, who receives about £23.50. We must consider how those differentials affect overall youth employment prospects. There has been some talk recently of the Government considering a flat £5 a week payment to almost all 16-year-olds. Perhaps the Minister will respond to that point when he replies to the debate.

Thirdly, we must re-examine the whole question of early retirement and the scope for work sharing and perhaps reducing overtime. I should like to think that the trade unions would play their full part in those discussions. Fourthly, we must examine the on-costs, such as national insurance, which inhibit employers from taking on young people permanently. Could we devise incentives to encourage firms to take on more apprentices?

Fifthly, there is the whole area of voluntary involvement with the military and Outward Bound organisations. I raised this aspect in the debate last July. The National Youth Bureau and the majority of those in the youth services are opposed to the military option for a variety of reasons, and I accept that it is far better to keep that option outside the youth opportunities programme. But, given the size of the problem, it is unrealistic to discard the option. Already the Ministry of Defence is providing certain non-military courses, and these are well regarded by those who operate in youth activities. Perhaps we should consider extending the pre-recruitment period for those who wish to undertake a more permanent military career, or perhaps we should consider expanding the cadet forces—the sea cadets and the air training corps, perhaps with an enlargement of the TAVR.

Sixthly, we should consider a degree of privatisation or contracting out by letting youth bodies or commercial undertakings produce alternative packages of training, perhaps on some form of tender basis. In short, we must examine all the options with open minds.

There is a danger that if we fail to rise to the challenge of providing stimulation, motivation, involvement and opportunity for young people a whole generation may be blighted. The suffering will be not only on the part of individuals directly involved. A disinterested generation will pose a threat to the cohesiveness of our society. I know that the Government are aware of the problem and that they care, as do hon. Members on the Opposition Benches, as has been demonstrated by their speeches. It is particularly pleasing that so many of my hon. Friends participate in the youth lobby and in national and youth affairs, and genuinely care. In the longer term our economic policies, which will produce greater efficiency in British industry, will benefit all the nation. In the meantime, it is vital that the Government should make available the necessary resources, continue to take initiatives, and rise to the challenge.

5.39 pm
Mr. John Golding (Newcastle-under-Lyme)

I should tell the hon. Member for Liverpool, Edge Hill (Mr. Alton) that I marched proudly in Liverpool and did not stay in a posh hotel. On one occasion when I stopped in that posh hotel I found that it could not provide any black pudding for breakfast, which was a blow. I am also willing to defend my record in the Department of Employment on youth unemployment.

The Minister said that the Labour Government accepted the report of the Holland committee. We did more than that. We added an essential element to it, namely, the guarantee—the MSC more timidly called it an undertaking—that youngsters who left school one year would be provided with a job opportunity by the following Easter. Why did we insist on that guarantee? It stemmed not from any theoretical writings or Civil Service briefs, but from my experience of visiting the South-West. I visited a site at which the training services division was teaching youngsters to lay kerbstones. I spoke to some of the youngsters, who greatly impressed me. Afterwards I expressed surprise that the youngsters were of such high quality and that there were no rough ones on the course. The training services division solemnly assured me that it had weeded out the roughest youngsters and had ensured that those on the course were of the best quality.

A question popped into my mind: What had happened to the rough ones? I went to the careers office and asked what had happened to them. I was told that they were unemployed. I asked when they would find work. The careers office said that it did not expect them to find work. When I asked why, I was told that in a little while, at Easter, other youngsters would leave school and that employers preferred school leavers to those who had been unemployed for 12 months. Those youngsters will remain unemployed. They will probably be unemployed next year.

My attitude was "It ain't on". It is intolerable that youngsters should witness kids from the class after them getting work while they are out of work. As a result of that experience the youth guarantee was introduced. I thought of the kids that I went to school with and found the situation impossible to accept. When the report of the Holland committee was presented to us it did not include that guarantee. The scheme was of a high quality. It proposed to provide so many youngsters with a place each year.

When the Manpower Services Commission presented that report something else popped into my mind, namely, that those involved in placing youngsters tend first to find jobs for the brightest youngsters. That pleases employers, and is the easiest thing to do. Even under the original Holland proposals youngsters who were not particularly bright—there is nothing wrong with that—could get written off by the numbers game. A youngster might not be bright, or might not have got on well at school. He might become demoralised and find himself on the wrong side of his teachers. That youngster could be written off. That is why we insisted on the guarantee, or—as the more timid MSC might say—the undertaking.

We introduced a school-leaver undertaking and then an undertaking for the long-term unemployed. The Government have built on those undertakings. I appeal to them to maintain the guarantees. I appeal to them not to go along the path that Youth Aid would like everyone to go along. I appeal to them not to provide opportunities for only a limited number of youngsters. They should ensure that opportunites are open to all. If, as Youth Aid states, it is a choice of quality or collapse, the Government must solve the dilemma by dealing with each and every problem.

They should not reduce the size of the programme. If the number of unemployed youngsters increases, they should increase the size of the programme in order to meet the needs of every youngster. They should not give way to anyone who asks them to abandon the guarantees.

Will the guarantees be met this year? They may not be. If the Government admit that they have not met the guarantees the Opposition Front Bench should not make too much of it. Let us tell them merely to do better next year. The careers service and the MSC have put in an enormous amount of effort in order to meet those guarantees, but they need more resources. Let this year's failure help us to do better next year. Let us ensure that any shortfall this year is met next year.

I have one serious criticism to make. The Government should not have allowed the community industry scheme to slip in the way that it has done during the past year. There should not be fewer people in that scheme. Despite all the effort that has been put into the youth opportunities programme, the Government have not been sympathetic, as they say. Youth unemployment increased from 170,000 in January 1980 to 305,000 in 1981. There is a desperate need to help youngsters. Against that background, the Government have created enormous problems for careers officers and others by changing the rules on supplementary benefit. Youngsters are being encouraged to leave school at Easter and to draw supplementary benefit instead of staying on to take their examinations in the summer. It is nonsense to pay kids not to take their examinations. What has such action got to do with the quality of education and the quality of school life?

In addition, it costs money to find work. If a youngster's mum and dad are unemployed and things are tight at home, he will not be given the money to go the careers office or to run around looking for work. H the Government are getting shot of supplementary benefit they should replace it with an allowance that would help youngsters to find work. They must think again about supplementary benefit.

In my constituency questions are being asked about the pressure that the DHSS puts on youngsters not to take advantage of the rule that enables them to study for 21 hours per week at a technical college and to draw supplementary benefit. DHSS officials ask how such youngsters can be looking for work if they are in class. The Government should tell the DHSS that they prefer the youngsters to be in college for 21 hours a week while drawing supplementary benefit rather than on the streets. The Government must know what is going on, and they must do something about it.

The Government should take a more tolerant attitude generally to youngsters who, if it were not for the recession, would be in work making money, with all that that implies. We need to expand the youth opportunities programme.

First, we must tackle the problem that I did not properly tackle—I am the first to adrnit—of creating better schemes in big firms and nationalised industries. There is an imperative need for that to be done now. We have to do everything that we can to avoid substitution. The way in which the media have latched on to substitution is criminal. They have tried to discredit the youth opportunities programme. Many media men snatch at one stick to beat with. They do not consider the value of YOP as a whole. The Secretary of State for Employment used the same sort of stick when he was shouting about counting lamp posts, which was a media stunt to discredit job creation.

We should invite the media to consider the picture as a whole. But there is a problem, as the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Lee) knows, in that some employers see the youth opportunities programme as a way of getting cheap labour. The Manpower Services Commission has continually suggested that one of the first things that the Government should do is to increase the allowance to at least £27. Perhaps it should be more, but I have always been a moderate negotiator. Allowance should also be made for travelling costs to make them more applicable to present circumstances.

Secondly, we need greater supervision. The trade unions made a mistake on the introduction of YOP by not insisting that youngsters join trade unions. There should be greater trade union supervision of the youth opportunities programme. The Government have had to condone that in agriculture.

Mr. John Townend (Bridlington)

Is the hon. Gentleman saying that non-trade union firms would not be allowed to take advantage of the youth opportunities scheme under his suggestion?

Mr. Golding

I think that the quality of the schemes would increase if that were so, because non-union employers generally have the most stingy and exploiting attitude to their employees.

The Institute of Careers Officers made a good suggestion that the Government should bring together careers officers, the MSC, the CBI and the TUC to discuss the problem. We do not want the scheme to be soured because of exploitation by a small minority of employers. We must do more for those leaving the youth opportunities programme without a regular job.

I criticise the Government strongly for constantly using figures that are a year out of date. It does no good for the Government to claim that the placement rate is 60 per cent. We all know that the figures have dropped dramatically in the past 12 months. It is history to be told what the placement rate was in the autumn, or 12 or 18 months ago. The Government should admit freely that the placement rate is dropping fast. The youth opportunities programme can be defended on other grounds than by placing youngsters all the time into regular work. The Government must be honest. If they are not, the youngsters who do not get work will think that there is something wrong with them. What is certain is that there is nothing wrong with the youngsters; what is wrong is the economic situation, for which we are responsible, which is leaving the youngsters without jobs.

The youth opportunities programme was designed as a 12 months-plus scheme, yet the MSC is providing, on average, one placing or opportunity lasting 23 weeks. We must have second, third and fourth placings. There must be a continuing involvement of the youngsters. One cannot finish them at 23 weeks and say "That is it".

I speak for too long, as ever, but the problem now is spreading faster and faster to the older youngsters. The Minister seems to have narrowed the provision for the 16, 17 and 18-year-olds to provision only for 16 and 17-yearolds. Yet now, unlike the situation when Labour was in office, there is a growing problem of the placement of 18-year-old school leavers. Does the Government's school leaving undertaking apply to 18-year-olds as well as to the 16 and 17-year-olds? If it does not, it is a scandal. The Government will say that those youngsters can take part in the work experience programme, but that contains only 25,000 places for half a million-plus long-term unemployed. It is virtually impossible for them to find adequate and satisfactory places.

The under-twenties long-term unemployment, of which my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle upon Tyne, West (Mr. Brown) spoke so eloquently, is now 96,000, and is growing rapidly. The Government could quickly increase the placing rate from the youth opportunities programme by reintroducing the youth employment subsidy, so that employers were given a financial incentive to employ youngsters rather than an older person or no one.

I hope that the Government will continue to build on and expand the youth opportunities programme; that they will rectify its difficulties but never abandon it.

5.59 pm
Mr. Nicholas Scott (Chelsea)

He which hath no stomach to this fight, Let him depart". Thus Henry V before the Battle of Agincourt, according to Shakespeare. While honourably exempting members of the Labour Party who are present for the debate, I believe that the founding fathers of the Labour Party must be turning in their graves at the fact that when unemployment stands at 2½ million their parliamentary representatives in two successive weeks have barely been able to fill the rota of speakers and but a handful of them are present. What is more, our friends from the Social Democrats have not made one appearance for the debate.

I want not to pursue that partisan line but to reinforce the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. Haselhurst) about the appalling cost that unemployment now presents. If, as seems inevitable, unemployment tops 3 million in the coming winter, the impact on our economy in terms of transfer payments and loss of revenue will be more than £12 billion, to which we must add the costs of broken homes, physical and mental ill health, vandalism and crime. It will not have escaped the attention of, for example, my right hon. Friend the Financial Secretary to the Treasury that such payments must, by definition, be inflationary because they are paid into the economy and no goods or services are produced in return.

We face a gigantic problem, which seems to have grown relentlessly under successive Governments since 1965 when Lord George-Brown produced a national plan which forecast a shortage of manpower of about ½ million by the end of the 1970s. Almost from the day that he produced his report things changed for the worse.

Within the overall picture the young have suffered disproportionately and will continue to do so, whatever we do, because for at least the next couple of years more will be coming on to the job market, because many are sadly ill equipped by our education system to compete in that market and because many firms seeking to reduce their workforce do so, for the best of reasons, by natural wastage and ceasing recruitment. All the surveys suggest that even if later this year the economy bottoms out or begins a mild upturn it will not be reflected in extra demand for labour, because employers will be looking for a 15 per cent., 20 per cent. or even 25 per cent. increase in production before they begin to increase their workforce. The prospects facing young people are grim and those youngsters are in direct competition with women in many areas. The problem will not go away.

I pay tribute to Ministers at the Department of Employment and to the MSC for their work, but they are taking only small steps, albeit in the right direction. I wish to outline what we could begin to do, but I wish first to stress what we should not do.

First, we should not abandon the battle against inflation. However, in fighting that battle we should have particular care for the inevitable casualties and should look ahead to ensure that our economy will be fit to fight future battles.

Secondly, we should not promise the moon, as the previous Labour Government did. Outlining his industrial strategy in 1978, the right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) promised an extra 60,000 jobs in manufacturing industry, but before that Government went to the country there was a net loss of 96,000 jobs in manufacturing. Whatever we propose, we should be realistic about what we can achieve.

Action is possible under three headings. The first is constructive capital investment. I do not want to abandon the battle against inflation, but even this year my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer has a contingency reserve of £2½ billion in the Budget. He has a choice: he can either fund substantial capital investment projects or spend that money on increased unemployment pay before the end of the year.

It is urgent—indeed, it is almost too late—to consider capital projects such as the Channel tunnel, investment in British Telecommunications and British Rail, and housing improvements and insulation. Those projects could have an immediate impact on unemployment and would begin to create demand in the economy, which would benefit all of us.

Secondly, since the problems of unemployment, particularly youth unemployment, will be with us for a long time, we should improve the job release scheme and reduce the qualifying age progressively from 64 to 60. Even that expensive measure should be only the first stage of a progressive reduction in the retirement age for the national pension to 60 for men.

That cannot be done overnight, but there is no reason why we should not commit ourselves to such a programme over, say, eight or 10 years, starting with the job release scheme and going on to a progressive reduction in the national retirement age, which would have a dramatic effect on employment opportunities elsewhere.

Thirdly, too many YOP schemes do not provide the essential training element. We have heard how many employers are having to cut apprenticeship schemes in order to survive. The training boards should step in and support those apprentices. I have urged Ministers to bear in mind, when the MSC sector-by-sector review is considered, the importance of keeping apprenticeship schemes running at a high level over the next 18 months or two years and the important part that ITBs can play. If we do not do that we shall be eating the seed corn of future industrial expansion.

The Army, the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force are probably our three best training organisations. I understand the worries expressed by some Members—I exclude the hon. Member for Salford, East (Mr. Allaun), because he reacts instinctively whenever the Armed Forces are mentioned—when it is suggested that the Armed Forces could help with training. However, they could play an extra part in training young people. We ask employers in the private and the public sectors to help and I believe that the Services could help, with training not in military skills, but in catering, motoring and all the other skills that form part of the modern Armed Forces. They could offer short courses that would benefit young people.

I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Saffron Walden that we must quickly reach a view about an overall "citizens-in-training" approach to all 16 to 18-year-olds.

My headings for action are a determined effort to get an investment-led recovery, a planned move to earlier retirement, and training, training and still more training for our young people. Action under those headings can make a great impact on our problems.

I agree with the hon. Member for Liverpool, Edge Hill (Mr. Alton) that if we do not take the necessary action we shall be sowing the dragon's teeth of social unrest in future. The National Front, the Socialist Workers Party and their allies are recruiting young people. An immensely dangerous problem could emerge on our streets if we do not take early action.

6.8 pm

Mr. Derek Foster (Bishop Auckland)

The hon. Member for Beeston (Mr. Lester) invited us on Friday to congratulate the Secretary of State for Employment on his guarantees and on delivering sufficient finance for 440,000 YOP places in 1981–82. Labour Members would be more inclined to congratulate the right hon. Gentleman but for two things.

First, it is feared that the 440,000 places will be inadequate to meet the need in the coming year. The Times Educational Supplement reported a fortnight ago: Manpower Services Commission officials fear that the programme may have to cope with close to 500,000 youngsters. The article added: But its area boards and regional directors say that they need room for at least another 43,000 in the light of the latest unemployment trends". The second and more fundamental reason why I am sceptical about congratulating the Secretary of State is that it was this Government that brought about the torrent of job destruction in the first place. A total of 1 million jobs—800,000 in manufacturing industry alone—has been lost since May 1979. Nowhere else in Europe has manufacturing industry lost 15 per cent. of its output in just over 12 months. Nowhere else in Europe has unemployment increased by 77 per cent. Yet, although we are told that the Secretary of State is not enthusiastic about Government policies, he defends them as stoutly as the remnant of true believers. In my view he and his Government stand condemned as incompetent and immoral.

The blighting of hundreds of thousands of teenagers' lives will not be lightly forgotten. Nor will the reaping time long be delayed, when the bitter harvest of disillusionment and despair will stand rotting in the Secretary of State's barns. Yet the right hon. Gentleman expects our congratulations. I tell him that his 440,000 places and his guarantees are the minimum with which a civilised community can salve its conscience. Our young people deserve and will expect much more.

Nowhere has youth unemployment been more damaging than in the North-East. I understand that there are only 200 vacacies for the young unemployed. That is why, along with many of my hon. Friends, I marched from King's Cross to Westminster this afternoon. The march explains why so many of my hon. Friends have not attended the debate. They have been talking to representatives of the TUC and between 600 and 700 people from the North-East about unemployment.

I will, however, congratulate the Secretary of State for his statement in November 1980, when he said: We are trying, as resources permit, to work towards the point where every 16 and 17-year-old not in education or a job will be assured of vocational preparation lasting as necessary up to his or her eighteenth birthday. We see this development of the youth opportunities programme in the wider context of improving preparation for and training in work for all young people, and not just the unemployed."—[Official Report, 21 November 1980; Vol. 994, c. 205.] That is a statement of the profoundest significance, which has not yet received the acclaim that it deserves. YOP will cater for one in three of our young people, and possibly one in two. I must, however, warn the Secretary of State that he should not assume that a greatly improved youth opportunities programme or his one-year traineeship is the best solution for all young people, even in the short term. The best solution for many young people, especially in working-class areas, is to stay on in full-time education. In the North-East about 17 per cent. stay on, whereas in the South-East about 30 per cent. do so. This has little connection with ablility. The right hon. Gentleman should therefore persuade the Secretary of State for Education and Science to give top priority to strategies for increasing participation. He will find a proper educational maintenance allowance an indispensable tool for this purpose.

In better times, many youngsters would have gone into craft apprenticeships, but many companies have severely cut recruitment, sometimes by as much as 25 per cent. About 10,000 apprentices have been sacked in mid-training. The construction industry is already warning that future growth will be constricted by a shortage of skilled men. If industry will not, or cannot, see beyond its nose, the Government must fund at least the first year of apprentice training for many more thousands of young people.

I turn now to the youth opportunities programme itself. Those of us who have been involved since 1977 thought that we were pioneering a new transition from school to work, a new work-based education service and an integrated scheme of opportunities within which there would be progression—all designed to meet the individual needs of young people. If YOP has not always fulfilled those high expectations, it is still a good scheme, and potentially a great scheme. But the need to expand the programme so rapidly has been to the detriment of quality. The reduction in placement rates is straining the scheme's credibility to breaking point. The Under-Secretary of State has told me that the placement rate in the Northern region is 51 per cent. I want to tell him that in certain parts of the North-East it is as low as 18 per cent. and 25 per cent.

The programme must be relaunched as a one-year vocational training programme for all 16 and 17-year-olds. Secondly, 20 to 30 per cent. substitution, especially in work experience on employers' premises, is unacceptable and must be rectified if trade union support is to continue. Thirdly, off-the-job training and education of about 40 per cent. of entrants must be substantially increased. Fourthly, the bureaucratic behaviour of the Manpower Services Commission, which is souring the higherto good relationships with voluntary organisations and other sponsors, must be dealt with.

Fifthly, small work experience and employers' premises placements should be combined in group schemes. Sixthly, the base of information about individual young people must be greatly improved in order to develop individualised programmes with hard education and training content. The early weeks of the initial placement should be used to compile profiles of competence and qualities. Seventhly, progression from module to module of the programme must increase, but this will highlight the inadequacy of the administrative arrangements for achieving co-ordination and integration. Eighthly, in many cases it is still impossible to know whether what was planned for individual young people is being delivered. Ninthly, every young person should be given a profile of assessment and experience, which is kept throughout the programme and can be shown to prospective employers. Tenthly, the youth opportunities programme and the unified vocational preparation programme should be seen as complementary, sharing the same objectives and designed for the same client group. Young people should be able to move smoothly from one to the other, as appropriate.

The YOP should be designed on a local educational authority area basis with the full participation and co-operation of the Manpower Services Commission, the careers service, colleges of further education, the youth service, voluntary organisations, employers and trade unions. Nothwithstanding what we describe as an education and training programme based on work experience, and notwithstanding the substantial contribution of the various arms of the local education authority, the programme should continue to be administered as a partnership, with the money flowing through the Manpower Services Commission. That money is the lever for achieving change in the education service and for achieving co-operation until we have an education and training department.

The YOP should not only be an integrated programme itself; it should be integrated with all other educational and training arrangements for the 16–19 age group, so enabling young people to move smoothly from education to training and to work, as appropriate. Of course, the financial allowances are unbalanced and must be rationalised, but I warn the Cabinet that if the plan for a single youth benefit involves substantial losses for participants in the youth opportunities programme—as is widely rumoured—it will be rejected by the Labour Party and the TUC, and subsequently the youth opportunities programme will be rejected by young people.

Proper jobs are infinitely preferable to the YOP. We must not accept too readily that there is no better way. The return of a Labour Government, committed to full employment, is infinitely preferable to further monetarist madness. None the less, with the prospect of 3 million unemployed, a Labour Government committed to full employment would do well to get unemployment below 1 million in four years. So we are stuck with high youth unemployment for the foreseeable future. The YOP can be the forerunner of a superb programme of education and training based on work experience.

If the Secretary of State, having made the right noises, uses all his energies to deliver such a high-quality programme, he will richly deserve our congratulations. If not, let him seek his congratulations from the young themselves in the North-East, Merseyside, Scotland and Wales, and among the ethnic minorities of our inner cities. I predict that he will not be congratulated but will be swept, along with many of his hon. Friends, into electoral oblivion.

6.22 pm
Mr. David Madel (Bedfordshire, South)

All those who have spoken in the debate have referred to the scale of the problem and to the fact that during the past 10 to 15 years the number of jobs in productive industry has dropped dramatically. However, we must remember that it is not only a British problem. Other countries are battling with youth unemployment. The French President has just announced a crash scheme of craft training for 100,000 people each year. So the problem does not affect only Great Britain.

It has been said that the devastating effect of youth unemployment is even worse in homes where someone is already out of work or where there is no history of further education or staying longer at school. The hon. Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Foster) hinted that even an extra year at school would help.

We cannot expect an early upswing in manufacturing industry. All the automation during the past 10 years shows that while production and productivity can go up in Britain it does not necessarily result in an increase in the total number of people employed. I was glad to see the announcement from the Construction Industry Training Board that this year an extra £2 million in grants for training will be given to employers. I hope that that will restore some confidence to the industry.

In the Budget the Chancellor rightly stressed the importance of small businesses. He talked about the startup scheme. It should be remembered that it is a matter not just of cash or loan guarantees but of management expertise. That is required on a much greater scale than hitherto. More commercial courses in adult education are needed, because without an improvement in management education, cash loans and loan guarantees will not necessarily get a small business off the ground.

It will take time for our economy to adjust to its changed circumstances, and the education service must carry us through this difficult period and help to protect young people from the effects of unemployment.

Two documents were recently published by the Government. One is entitled Education for 16–19 year olds and the other "The School Curriculum". In those documents the Government say that they want to extend and improve education. I hope that they heed the advice that they give themselves in those documents. In paragraph 50 of the document "Education for 16–19 year olds", the Government say that more professionalism is needed in the training of careers officers. They say that there is a need for more and better training for careers teachers, lecturers and officers, through initial and in-service programmes". The document mentions the difficulties of employers in supporting the part-time education service. They say that stability of direction is needed before it is decided how many people are to be trained. I hope that the Government will follow the advice in the document.

The document "The School Curriculum" is of equal importance. If we do not get the curriculum right—and, of course, adequate specialist teachers—we shall be unable to train people properly for adult and working life. In the foreword to the document the Government state that everyone should be appropriately trained to cope with the demands of adult and working life.

A few sentences from the document make clear the Government's intention. It is only a matter of carrying out that intention. They say in paragraph 21 that the effect of technology on employment patterns sets a new premium on adaptability, self reliance". In other words, more specialist teachers are ugently needed. In paragraph 32, the Government say: each teacher should, wherever possible, be deployed where his professional strong points can be fully used to promote the quality of the pupils' education". If that means keeping good teachers in the classroom, rather than using them as administrators, that will help.

In paragraph 41, the Government say: Pupils should not drop potentially valuable subjects before they are mature enough to understand their importance or to have mastered their elementary ideas and skills". That is another hint that more specialist teachers are urgently needed. Paragraph 53(c) says: The Secretary of State for Education and Science has accordingly commissioned a study from a senior industrialist of the nature and coverage of these activities, their effectiveness, and ways in which it might be enhanced". That is a reference to the need for the links between education and industry to be improved.

Finally, paragraph 57 says: The Secretaries of State will themselves he responsible for taking further the work which is now required on science and on modern languages". The Government then say that they will act on the recommendations of the Cockcroft committee's report on the shortage of mathematics teachers.

The Government have given many hints that teaching has to be improved. They recognise that the shortage of skilled and specialist teachers is not improving education. They realise that people will be better prepared for adult life if those problems can be overcome. If what the Government recommend in the documents is done and is done effectively, we shall do much to shield young people from the hardships of unemployment. It will take some years yet for our economy to reshape itself and adjust to the most rapid changes in industrial techniques this century. Meanwhile, we must rely on an improved and extended education service to rescue young people from the despair of unemployment. All the hints are in those Government documents. I urge the Government to act quickly on them.

6.28 pm
Mr. Eric S. Heffer (Liverpool, Walton)

The problems of the underlying economic situation have been left out of this debate. We cannot talk about youth unemployment in isolation. It is part and parcel of overall unemployment. Unemployment has increased because of the recession, undoubtedly fostered by certain Government policies. We must get young people back to work by job creation by means of a change in the economic policy pursued by the Government during their period of office.

My second point is the effect of unemployment on young people. During the 1930s I was an apprentice carpenter and joiner. I was lucky, I learnt a craft. I can think of youngsters—particularly in Merseyside, but also elsewhere—who were employed and thought that they had an apprenticeship, until their factory or firm closed. The unions have often been helpful. They have done their best to place youngsters in other jobs so that they can complete their apprenticeships. However, many hundreds of young workers, particularly in areas such as Merseyside, whose jobs have finished, will not complete their apprenticeships. That is a criminal waste. Schemes created by the Government or anybody else do not compensate such young people for not completing their time and becoming skilled workers and craftsmen. That aspect must be examined.

The key is training, which is a vital part of any future upturn. Because more and more youngsters are being thrown out of work with other sections of the community, when the upturn comes the skilled craftsmen will not be available. I do not say that the upturn will come under this Government, but it will come. Bottlenecks will be caused and thousands of unskilled workers will be out of work who would have been in work if there had been sufficient training. All Governments must have a policy for training and retraining. My Government did much better than most, but no Government have really dealt with training and retraining.

I have disagreed with the hon. Member for Liverpool, Edge Hill (Mr. Alton) about many matters. That is inevitable since we represent the same city and disagree about local issues. However, I did not disagree with everything that he said today. I agree with him about the military option. It should not be considered; we should rule it out.

I was amazed that some hon. Members whom I believed to be enlightened should have said that we should consider that option. It is our job to create a nation not of militarists but of people employed in decent civilian jobs. They should indulge in military activities only if they wish to, as volunteers, or when there is a crisis, in which we must all join.

The way to deal with youth unemployment, as with all unemployment, is to change the Government's economic policies. My hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Mr. Golding) outlined the nitty-gritty of what we should do. We must change the Government's economic policy. The way to do that is to ensure that the next Labour Government operate their alternative economic strategy to put our people back to work.

6.33 pm
Mr. Eric G. Varley (Chesterfield)

It is a pity that the Secretary of State for Employment is not able to take part in the debate. We accept and understand the reasons. We hope that he will read the contributions. He will see that hon. Members from both sides have described how youth unemployment is spreading and deepening throughout the country.

Sympathy has been expressed along with indignation and anger. However, hon. Members have not been able to put themselves in the place of the young people who for years have been protected from the harshest impact of life by their families and school environments. Suddenly, when their confidence should be bolstered by that step out of the school and home, when they should be able to count as breadwinners in their own right, they find that in the eyes of society they count for nothing. The school door has been closed, but no other door has opened to let them in.

The demoralisation must be devastating. One youngster told me that because he could not get a job he felt that he had failed his parents, that he was not able to contribute to society, and that society could not find a place for him. That was a heartrending statement.

In the long days that the young unemployed must get through somehow, some will find a useful way to occupy their time. Others will become listless and apathetic, while others will hang around street corners, turn to vandalism and perhaps to petty crime. Some may even qualify for the Home Secretary's short, sharp shock treatment.

Recent studies show that there is a connection between delinquency or criminal activity and unemployment. The true guilt must be laid at the door of policies which cause youngsters to be out of work instead of finding the jobs that they desperately need. One horrifying feature of the record post-war unemployment affects the country more than any other—the record number of young people who do not have a job and who are unlikely to have one for some time.

Parents are desperately worried about the prospects for their children. As their children approach their sixteenth birthday parents are desperately anxious to know whether they will obtain a job. That anxiety permeates the whole family, from brothers and sisters to grandparents.

Even the parts of the country which used to be regarded as prosperous are unable to provide jobs for youngsters. The chances of getting a job depend not on qualifications but on where one lives. The difficulties are most acute in the weaker economic regions. The tragedy is that if the Government do not act quickly—and there is no evidence that they intend to act urgently—the position will become a great deal worse.

The Government predict that unemployment will rise to nearly 3 million by the end of this year and stay at that level to the end of this Parliament. That forecast was made in the public expenditure White Paper, published on 10 March. Many forecasters regard that figure as hopelessly conservative. Even on the Government's own figures there will be a disproportionate rise in young unemployment, as the hon. Member for Chelsea (Mr. Scott) said. That is not just because of the bulge in the number of school leavers. The Department of Employment's studies show that youth unemployment will continue to rise faster than the general rate of unemployment.

Last November the Secretary of State told the House of his plans to expand the youth opportunities programme to provide 440,000 places in 1981–82.

It is now abundantly clear that this figure is inadequate. Indeed, it is a serious underestimate of the need.

The Under-Secretary said that they had received no further requests from the Manpower Services Commission about expanding on the 440,000 jobs, but I understand that the special programmes board of the MSC predicts that another 40,000 places will be required and that even this new target may prove insufficient. So we expect that very shortly now the MSC will be getting in touch with the Secretary of State and asking for that 440,000 to be increased to something like 500,000. I therefore want to put these general questions to the Minister who will be replying to this debate.

When the MSC accepted the 440,000 target of places for the youth opportunities programme for 1981–82 it said that it reserved the right to return to the Government and seek additional resources if that should prove necessary. It is as plain as a pikestaff that additional funds are necessary. I should like the hon. Gentleman to give the House an unequivocal assurance that additional funds will be provided if the MSC tells the Department that it has to increase the programme.

That is not a difficult task for the Under-Secretary. It is something that he can do. He does not need to consult anyone about that. He should chance his arm and be quite adventurous this evening.

Secondly, is it not now time for the allowance of the youth opportunities programme trainee, as my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-Under-Lyme (Mr. Golding) said, to be raised from £23.50 to a figure that will restore the original purchasing power? The MSC has recommended an increase, and if the figure is raised now it will help to maintain the interest of young people and the widespread support it enjoys.

Above all, we need to know when the fine words used by the Secretary of State for Employment on 21 November 1980 will be translated into action. I want to refresh the memories of hon. Members as to what he said when introducing the special measures: We see this development of the youth opportunities programme in the wider context of improving preparation for and training in work for all young people, and not just the unemployed … What we are trying to build up in these days is a system whereby 16 and 17-year-olds will be better equipped for working life, and this is being further considered within our review of industrial training." [Official Report, 21 November 1980; Vol. 994, c. 205.] The Opposition continue to support all the schemes currently in operation, but we want to go further. We want to go along the road laid down by the Secretary of State in November of last year. We support the youth opportunities programme, the community industry programme and the community enterprise programme, although that is woefully inadequate. If we are now thinking of long-term unemployment of something like 500,000, it is clear that 25,000 places in the community enterprise programme will not make much of an impact.

A great deal more could be done by the Department itself in addition to the Manpower Services Commission. We could see a restoration of the small firms subsidy and a greatly expanded job release scheme. Most of those who have taken part in the debate know of the ambitious plans of the special programmes board of the Manpower Services Commission for what it calls a quality improvement of the youth opportunities programme. It, too, has our 11111 support. If it is planned to develop the youth opportunities programme to provide for a better quality of education and training this will deserve the support not only of the House but of the whole nation. My hon. Friend the Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Foster) touched on this subject.

The MSC is to be congratulated on the initiatives that it is taking but the Government must back up its efforts, because it is now absolutely clear that the problems of youth unemployment cannot be solved by the existing schemes. There are two reasons for this. First, youth unemployment is getting too big to be handled by the existing arrangements. More young people than ever are coming into the labour market and unemployment now is beyond the scope of the present schemes which aim to assist the unemployed.

The youth opportunities programme has a very creditable record so far, certainly in the early stages of placings. Initially, the figure was between 70 per cent. and 80 per cent. but there has been a dramatic reduction over the last few months. With total unemployment getting worse and with such increased numbers of young people, more and more will return to the dole queue.

For example, when YOP started in 1978–79 it was called on to assist one in eight young people. In 1979–80 it was 1 in 6, in 1980–81 it was one in four and in the current year 1981–82 it is likely to have to assist one in two school leavers. That is an increase and a measure of the deterioration of job prospects for the young. So what was intended to be relief for short-term problems is now unable to carry the burden of the deepening crisis.

That crisis will persist for as long as the Government pursue policies which deliberately use the creation of unemployment as an instrument of economic policy. It is tragic that bright-eyed youngsters are being given the impression that once their formal education is over society has no use for them. The expenditure cuts, which are helping to bring about youth unemployment, save far less money than the material cost to society of that same youth unemployment—the cost that can be quantified directly and the indirect cost, which can never be properly counted. That cost is quite apart from the price paid by the young people themselves whom society now disheartens and demoralises.

If this problem is not tackled urgently the social and psychological impact on our way of life will be devastating. The only way to solve this problem of youth unemployment is by a complete change of economic policy, and it is about time that this Government had the courage and the decency make that change.

6.47 pm
The Under-Secretary of State for Employment (Mr. Peter Morrison)

I will try in the limited time available to answer most of the points which have been made by right hon. and hon. Members in all parts of the House. I was flattered that the right hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Varley) should suggest that I chance my arm. As an ex-pairing-Whip I am surprised that he gave another ex-pairing-Whip the advice to chance his arm. I cannot believe that the leader of his party or the leader of my party would have given that advice to either of us when we occupied the position that we did.

The right hon. Gentleman said that nobody in the House or in the debate had been able to put himself into the place of those youngsters who have been without a job, some of them for some time. Perhaps that is true; for the vast majority of us it probably is. Therefore it is difficult for us to see from a personal angle the despair which some of those youngsters must feel.

For all that, hon. Members in all parts of the House have shown how strongly the House of Commons feels about the plight of school leavers and their difficulty in getting a job during a recession, especially a job which they want to do.

Both the hon. Member for Islington, Central (Mr. Grant) and his right hon. Friend the Member for Chesterfield noted that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State was not here. As they both readily acknowledged, nobody would want to be here more than he, but he had a prior engagement. As I hope right hon. and hon. Gentlemen will appreciate, despite what the hon. Member for Islington, Central said, my right hon. Friend has done a tremendous amount to help young people and school leavers.

Mr. Arthur Lewis (Newham, North-West)


Mr. Morrison

No, I will not give way to the hon. Gentleman. He has not been here for the whole debate and I do not see why I should give way to him. There has been some banter about who has and who has not been here. I do not wish to pursue that line except to say that I was very sad that, despite the fact that two members of the Social Democratic Party are here, there was no contribution from that party on this important matter. I should have thought that Labour Members would agree that this is a matter with which Social Democrat Members would be concerned, but once more they have not told us what they would do.

It was depressing to hear nothing constructive from the Opposition. The hon. Members for Bolton, East (Mr. Young) and for Newcastle upon Tyne, West (Mr. Brown) described the problems in their areas. The Government are also concerned about the problems, but the hon. Members said nothing very constructive.

By contrast, my hon. Friend the Member for Chelsea (Mr. Scott) proposed that the Government should look again at the job release scheme. Obviously, if we could achieve what he suggested it would help the employment of school leavers.

The hon. Member for Newcastle upon Tyne, West was concerned that too many graduates in his area were taking clerical jobs. In America, many people take clerical jobs after graduation, and there is nothing unusual or regrettable about it.

I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. Haselhurst) about the importance of satisfaction at work.

My hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle upon Tyne, North (Sir W. Elliott) made one of the most important points in the debate when he said that all was not gloom and doom for the school leavers and the youngsters. We should be betraying them if we suggested that all was gloom and doom. By Christmas of last year more than 80 per cent. of last year's school leavers had found jobs. It would be better if the figures were 90 per cent. or 95 per cent., but the great majority of school leavers can find jobs.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Bedfordshire, South (Mr. Madel) said, the international experience has been bad, and this country—

Mr. Golding

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Morrison

I shall not give way to the hon. Gentleman. I have sat quietly through the debate and have much to say in the remaining few minutes.

As hon. Members in all parts of the House have said, youth unemployment has been an increasing trend over recent years. There was an increase of 380 per cent. in 1976 over 1974. [Interruption.] No, I am not making a party political point. The increase in 1978 over 1976 was 13 per cent. The increase in 1980 over 1978 was 21 per cent.

The hon. Member for Hackney, Central (Mr. Davis) and the hon. Member for Islington, Central were understandably concerned about unemployment among the ethnic minorities in their constituencies. The draft of the code that they mentioned has not yet been formally presented to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment, but work is being done on it and it will be presented as soon as possible.

Mr. Clinton Davis

When is that likely to be?

Mr. Morrison

I ask myself whether, in regard to the young unemployed, there has not been an erosion of differentials. That is a question which all hon. Members should ask themselves. I meet some employers who say that if they did not have to pay quite so much they would take on more young people.

I also ask myself whether the links between schools, employers and unions have been as effective as they could have been over the years. Perhaps the lack of an effective link is one of the reasons for our present predicament.

The hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Mr. Golding) has had an enormous amount to do with the youth opportunities programme. As he said, he was responsible for the launch and for doing things slightly different from those mentioned in the Holland report. He suggested that the press had blown up the problem of substitution. Of course, we must take that seriously to some extent—expansion of the programme, which the hon. Gentleman launched, will inevitably result in some slippage—but I was grateful for his comments.

The hon. Gentleman suggested that opportunities under the programme should be open to all and that we should meet the needs of every youngster. That is the intention of the Manpower Services Commission, via the Government.

I do not agree with the hon. Member for Islington, Central that the credibility of the scheme is under flack—if that is the right way of putting it—because the vast majority of youngsters who go through the scheme are very grateful for it and believe that it has something to offer which otherwise they would not have. As my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle upon Tyne, North said, work experience as a result of the scheme creates potentially more skilled people than would otherwise be the case.

The hon. Member for Liverpool, Edge Hill (Mr. Alton)—supported by the hon. Member for Newcastleunder-Lyme—talked about the increase of the YOP allowance from £23.50 to £27. I was in Liverpool two weeks ago and met many youngsters who seemed to be quite happy with the £23.50. I remind those hon. Gentleman that this year, in 1981–82, we shall be spending on the youth opportunities programme £100 million more than we did in 1980–81. Perhaps some of my hon. Friends think that that is too much, but the Government believe that the money is well spent. If we were to increase the allowance there the public sector borrowing requirement would be affected. The Liberal Party, of course, is not concerned with that.

The hon. Member for Edge Hill said that 41 per cent. of those who go through the youth opportunities scheme go into unemployment. That is his figure, not ours; we do not have the figures. But even if he is correct—I do not suggest that he is—the fact remains that 59 per cent. go into employment. I hope that he is grateful for that.

The analysis for 1980–81, for which the hon. Gentleman asked, is not quite complete. If there is a shortfall it will be very small. For 1981–82, which has only just started, we are fairly certain that we shall be all right, but at this stage we cannot know.

Many hon. Members referred to the training element. Under the Employment and Training Bill there is a much more flexible attitude and approach to training. We are talking here about standards and not about time-serving. We believe that it will have a great effect on youth employment.

Several hon. Members mentioned military training. It is extraordinary that Opposition Members seem to imagine that we want to bring back compulsory military training. That is not so. If, under a pilot scheme, 1,000 people went into the Army on a voluntary basis and were told exactly what their obligations would be, employers would, in my opinion, want to take them on afterwards. I have met many school leavers who would like the opportunity to do that voluntarily.

The trouble with the Opposition is that all they want to do is to buy their way out. They just want to throw money at the problem. They are not concerned about inflation. They are not concerned that if we inflate the economy young people will have fewer opportunities. That is sad for the young people. They know that the Government are doing the best for them.

Question put, That the original words stand part of the Question:—

The House divided: Ayes 238, Noes 288.

Division No. 147] [7 pm
Abse, Leo English, Michael
Adams, Allen Evans, loan (Aberdare)
Allaun, Frank Evans, John (Newton)
Alton, David Field, Frank
Anderson, Donald Fitch, Alan
Archer, Rt Hon Peter Flannery, Martin
Ashley, Rt Hon Jack Fletcher, Raymond (llkeston)
Ashton, Joe Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)
Atkinson, H. (H'gey,) Foot, Rt Hon Michael
Barnett, Guy (Greenwich) Ford, Ben
Barnett, Rt Hon Joel (H'wd) Forrester, John
Bennett, Andrew (St'kp't N) Foster, Derek
Bidwell, Sydney Foulkes, George
Booth, Rt Hon Albert Fraser, J. (Lamb'th, N'w'd)
Bradley, Tom Freeson, Rt Hon Reginald
Bray, Dr Jeremy Freud, Clement
Brocklebank-Fowler, C. Garrett, John (Norwich S)
Brown, Hugh D. (Provan) Garrett, W. E. (Wallsend)
Brown, R. C. (N'castle W) George, Bruce
Brown, Ron (E'burgh, Leith) Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John
Callaghan, Rt Hon J. Ginsburg, David
Callaghan, Jim (Midd't'n & P) Golding, John
Campbell, lan Gourlay, Harry
Campbell-Savours, Dale Graham, Ted
Canavan, Dennis Grant, George (Morpeth)
Cant, R. B. Grant, John (Islington C)
Carmichael, Neil Grimond, Rt Hon J.
Cartwright, John Hamilton, James (Bothwell)
Clark, Dr David (S Shields) Hamilton, W. W. (C'tral Fife)
Cocks, Rt Hon M. (B'stol S) Harrison, Rt Hon Walter
Cohen, Stanley Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy
Concannon, Rt Hon J. D. Haynes, Frank
Conlan, Bernard Healey, Rt Hon Denis
Cook, Robin F. Heffer, Eric S.
Cowans, Harry Hogg, N. (E Dunb't'nshire)
Craigen, J. M. Holland, S. (L'b'th, Vauxh'll)
Crawshaw, Richard Home Robertson, John
Crowther, J. S. Homewood, William
Cryer, Bob Horam, John
Cunliffe, Lawrence Howell, Rt Hon D.
Cunningham, G. (lslington S) Howells, Geraint
Cunningham, Dr J. (W'h'n) Huckfield, Les
Dalyell, Tam Hudson Davies, Gwilym E.
Davidson, Arthur Hughes, Mark (Durham)
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (L'lli) Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)
Davies, lfor (Gower) Hughes, Roy (Newport)
Davis, Clinton (Hackney C) Janner, Hon Greville
Davis, T. (B'ham, Stechf'd) Jay, Rt Hon Douglas
Dean, Joseph (Leeds West) Johnson, Walter (Derby S)
Dempsey, James Johnston, Russell (Inverness)
Dewar, Donald Jones, Barry (East Flint)
Dixon, Donald Jones, Dan (Burnley)
Dobson, Frank Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald
Dormand, Jack Kerr, Russell
Douglas, Dick Kilfedder, James A.
Douglas-Mann, Bruce Kilroy-Silk, Robert
Dubs, Alfred Lambie, David
Dunn, James A. Lamborn, Harry
Dunnett, Jack Lamond, James
Dunwoody, Hon Mrs G. Leadbitter, Ted
Eadie, Alex Lestor, Miss Joan
Eastham, Ken Lewis, Arthur (N'ham NW)
Edwards, R. (Whampt'n S E) Litherland, Robert
Ellis, R. (NE D'bysh're) Lofthouse, Geoffrey
Ellis, Tom (Wrexham) Lyon, Alexander (York)
Lyons, Edward (Bradf'd W) Roper, John
Mabon, Rt Hon Dr J. Dickson Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)
McDonald, Dr Oonagh Rowlands, Ted
McElhone, Frank Ryman, John
McKay, Allen (Penistone) Sandelson, Neville
McKelvey, William Sever, John
MacKenzie, Rt Hon Gregor Sheerman, Barry
Maclennan, Robert Sheldon, Rt Hon R.
McMahon, Andrew Shore, Rt Hon Peter
McNally, Thomas Silkin, Rt Hon J. (Deptford)
McTaggart, Robert Skinner, Dennis
McWilliam, John Smith, Rt Hon J. (N Lanark)
Magee, Bryan Snape, Peter
Marks, Kenneth Soley, Clive
Marshall, D (G'gow S'ton) Spearing, Nigel
Marshall, Dr Edmund (Goole) Spriggs, Leslie
Marshall, Jim (Leicester S) Stallard, A. W.
Martin, M (G'gow S'burn) Steel, Rt Hon David
Maxton, John Stewart, Rt Hon D. (W Isles)
Meacher, Michael Stoddart, David
Mikardo, Ian Stott, Roger
Millan, Rt Hon Bruce Strang, Gavin
Miller, Dr M. S. (E Kilbride) Straw, Jack
Mitchell, Austin (Grimsby) Summerskill, Hon Dr Shirley
Mitchell, R. C. (Soton Itchen) Taylor, Mrs Ann (Bolton W)
Morris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe) Thomas, Jeffrey (Abertillery)
Morris, Rt Hon C. (O'shaw) Thomas, Mike (Newcastle E)
Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon) Thomas, Dr R. (Carmarthen)
Morton, George Thorne, Stan (Preston South)
Moyle, Rt Hon Roland Tilley, John
Mulley, Rt Hon Frederick Tinn, James
Newens, Stanley Torney, Tom
Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon Urwin, Rt Hon Tom
Ogden, Eric Varley, Rt Hon Eric G.
O'Halloran, Michael Wainwright, E. (Dearne V)
O'Neill, Martin Weetch, Ken
Orme, Rt Hon Stanley Welsh, Michael
Owen, Rt Hon Dr David White, Frank R.
Palmer, Arthur White, J. (G'gow Pollok)
Parker, John Whitehead, Phillip
Pavitt, Laurie Whitlock, William
Pendry, Tom Wigley, Dafydd
Powell, Raymond (Ogmore) Willey, Rt Hon Frederick
Prescott, John Williams, Sir T. (W'ton)
Race, Reg Wilson, Rt Hon Sir H. (H'ton)
Radice, Giles Wilson, William (C'try SE)
Rees, Rt Hon M (Leeds S) Winnick, David
Richardson, Jo Woodall, Alec
Roberts, Albert (Normanton) Woolmer, Kenneth
Roberts, Allan (Bootle) Wrigglesworth, lan
Roberts, Ernest (Hackney N) Wright, Sheila
Roberts, Gwilym (Cannock) Young, David (Bolton E)
Robertson, George
Robinson, G. (Coventry NW) Tellers for the Ayes:
Rodgers, Rt Hon William Mr. Donald Coleman and Mr. Hugh McCartney
Rooker, J. W.
Adley, Robert Body, Richard
Aitken, Jonathan Bonsor, Sir Nicholas
Alexander, Richard Boscawen, Hon Robert
Amery, Rt Hon Julian Bottomley, Peter (W'wich W)
Ancram, Michael Bowden, Andrew
Arnold, Tom Boyson, Dr Rhodes
Aspinwall, Jack Braine, Sir Bernard
Atkins, Robert (Preston N) Bright, Graham
Atkinson, David (B'm'th, E) Brinton, Tim
Baker, Nicholas (N Dorset) Brittan, Leon
Banks, Robert Brooke, Hon Peter
Beaumont-Dark, Anthony Brotherton, Michael
Bell, Sir Ronald Brown, Michael (Brigg & Sc'n)
Bendall, Vivian Bruce-Gardyne, John
Benyon, Thomas (A'don) Bryan, Sir Paul
Benyon, W. (Buckingham) Buchanan-Smith, Alick
Best, Keith Buck, Antony
Bevan, David Gilroy Budgen, Nick
Biffen, Rt Hon John Burden, Sir Frederick
Biggs-Davison, John Butcher, John
Blackburn, John Cadbury, Jocelyn
Blaker, Peter Carlisle, John (Luton West)
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln) Hawksley, Warren
Carlisle, Rt Hon M. (R'c'n) Hayhoe, Barney
Chalker, Mrs. Lynda Heddle, John
Channon, Rt. Hon. Paul Henderson, Barry
Chapman, Sydney Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael
Churchill, W. S. Hicks, Robert
Clark, Hon A. (Plym'th, S'n) Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L.
Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S) Hill, James
Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe) Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm)
Clegg, Sir Walter Holland, Philip (Carlton)
Cockeram, Eric Hooson, Tom
Colvin, Michael Hordern, Peter
Cope, John Howe, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey
Cormack, Patrick Howell, Rt Hon D. (G'ldf'd)
Costain, Sir Albert Howell, Ralph (N Norfolk)
Cranborne, Viscount Hunt, David (Wirral)
Critchley, Julian Hunt, John (Ravensbourne)
Crouch, David Hurd, Hon Douglas
Dickens, Geoffrey Irving, Charles (Cheltenham)
Dorrell, Stephen Jenkin, Rt Hon Patrick
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord J. Jessel, Toby
Dover, Denshore Johnson Smith, Geoffrey
du Cann, Rt Hon Edward Jopling, Rt Hon Michael
Dunn, Robert (Dartford) Joseph, Rt Hon Sir Keith
Durant, Tony Kaberry, Sir Donald
Dykes, Hugh Kimball, Marcus
Eden, Rt Hon Sir John King, Rt Hon Tom
Edwards, Rt Hon N. (P'broke) Kitson, Sir Timothy
Eggar, Tim Knox, David
Elliott, Sir William Lamont, Norman
Emery, Peter Lang, Ian
Eyre, Reginald Langford-Holt, Sir John
Fairbairn, Nicholas Latham, Michael
Fairgrieve, Russell Lawrence, Ivan
Farr, John Lawson, Rt Hon Nigel
Fell, Anthony Lee, John
Finsberg, Geoffrey Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark
Fisher, Sir Nigel Lester, Jim (Beeston)
Fletcher, A. (Ed'nb'gh N) Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)
Fletcher-Cooke, Sir Charles Lloyd, Ian (Havant & W'loo)
Fookes, Miss Janet Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)
Forman, Nigel Loveridge, John
Fowler, Rt Hon Norman Luce, Richard
Fox, Marcus Lyell, Nicholas
Fraser, Rt Hon Sir Hugh McCrindle, Robert
Fraser, Peter (South Angus) Macfarlane, Neil
Fry, Peter MacKay, John (Argyll)
Galbraith, Hon T. G. D. Macmillan, Rt Hon M.
Gardiner, George (Reigate) McNair-Wilson, M. (N'bury)
Gardner, Edward (S Fylde) McNair-Wilson, P. (New F'st)
Garel-Jones, Tristan McQuarrie, Albert
Gilmour, Rt Hon Sir Ian Madel, David
Glyn, Dr Alan Major, John
Goodhart, Philip Marland, Paul
Goodlad, Alastair Marshall, Michael (Arundel)
Gorst, John Mates, Michael
Gow, Ian Mather, Carol
Gower, Sir Raymond Mawby, Ray
Grant, Anthony (Harrow C) Mawhinney, Dr Brian
Gray, Hamish Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin
Greenway, Harry Mayhew, Patrick
Grieve, Percy Meyer, Sir Anthony
Griffiths, E. (B'ySt. Edm'ds) Miller, Hal (B'grove)
Griffiths, Peter Portsm'th N) Mills, Iain (Meriden)
Grist, Ian Miscampbell, Norman
Grylls, Michael Moate, Roger
Gummer, John Selwyn Montgomery, Fergus
Hamilton, Hon A. Moore, John
Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury) Morris, M. (N'hampton S)
Hampson, Dr Keith Morrison, Hon C. (Devizes)
Haselhurst, Alan Morrison, Hon P. (Chester)
Havers, Rt Hon Sir Michael Mudd, David
Murphy, Christopher Spence, John
Myles, David Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)
Neale, Gerrard Sproat, Iain
Needham, Richard Squire, Robin
Neubert, Michael Stainton, Keith
Newton, Tony Stanbrook, Ivor
Onslow, Cranley Stanley, John
Oppenheim, Rt Hon Mrs S. Steen, Anthony
Osborn, John Stevens, Martin
Page, Rt Hon Sir G. (Crosby) Stewart, Ian (Hitchin)
Page, Richard (SW Herts) Stewart, A.(E Renfrewshire)
Parris, Matthew Stokes, John
Patten, Christopher (Bath) Stradling Thomas, J.
Pattie, Geoffrey Tapsell, Peter
Pawsey, James Taylor, Robert (Croydon NW)
Percival, Sir Ian Temple-Morris, Peter
Peyton, Rt Hon John Thatcher, Rt Hon Mrs M.
Pink, R. Bonner Thomas, Rt Hon Peter
Porter, Barry Thompson, Donald
Powell, Rt Hon J. E. (S Down) Thorne, Neil (Ilford South)
Prentice, Rt Hon Reg Thornton, Malcolm
Price, Sir David (Eastleigh) Townend, John (Bridlington)
Proctor, K. Harvey Townsend, Cyril D, (B'heath)
Pym, Rt Hon Francis Trippier, David
Raison, Timothy Trotter, Neville
Rathbone, Tim van Straubenzee, W. R.
Rees, Peter (Dover and Deal) Vaughan, Dr Gerard
Renton, Tim Viggers, Peter
Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon Waddington, David
Ridley, Hon Nicholas Wakeham, John
Ridsdale, Sir Julian Waldegrave, Hon William
Rifkind, Malcolm Walker, Rt Hon P.(W'cester)
Rippon, Rt Hon Geoffrey Walker, B. (Perth)
Roberts, M. (Cardiff NW) Walker-Smith, Rt Hon Sir D.
Roberts, Wyn (Conway) Waller, Gary
Rossi, Hugh Walters, Dennis
Rost, Peter Warren, Kenneth
Royle, Sir Anthony Watson, John
Sainsbury, Hon Timothy Wells, John (Maidstone)
St. John-Stevas, Rt Hon N. Wells, Bowen
Scott, Nicholas Wheeler, John
Shaw, Giles (Pudsey) Whitney, Raymond
Shaw, Michael (Scarborough) Wickenden, Keith
Shelton, William (Streatham) Wilkinson, John
Shepherd, Colin (Hereford) Williams, D.(Montgomery)
Shepherd, Richard Wolfson, Mark
Shersby, Michael Young, Sir George (Acton)
Silvester, Fred Younger, Rt Hon George
Sims, Roger
Skeet, T. H. H. Tellers for the Noes:
Speed, Keith Mr. Spencer le Marchant and Mr. Anthony Berry.
Speller, Tony

Question accordingly negatived.

Question, That the proposed words be there added, put forthwith pursuant to Standing Order No. 32 (Questions on amendments), and agreed to.

MR. SPEAKER forthwith declared the main Question, as amended, to be agreed to.

Resolved, That this House regrets the high level of unemployment amongst young people during the present economic recession, but welcomes the Government's massive expansion of the Youth Opportunities Programme and the new undertakings given by the Manpower Services Commission to provide young people with opportunities on the Programme; and strongly reaffirms that only through the Government's economic strategy can a lasting improvement in the economy be achieved and much-needed new and secure jobs be provided for young people.

Back to