HC Deb 15 December 1981 vol 15 cc153-65 3.30 pm
The Secretary of State for Employment (Mr. Norman Tebbit)

With permission, Mr. Speaker, I should like to make a statement on training and special employment measures, further to the measures announced on 27 July by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister.

We have decided to extend the special job release scheme, open to disabled men of 60 and over, until March 1984. Job release allowances will be increased next April by 9 per cent. At the same time, the conditions of the scheme in the public and private sectors will be brought into line. The temporary short-time working compensation scheme will also be extended by two years and will then close, with the last application being taken in March 1984. From July 1982, the maximum period of support will be six months. Provision for the community enterprise programme will be increased to 30,000 places in 1982–83.

The total provision for these three special employment measures in 1982–83 has now been increased this year by £140 million to over 520 million, with an additional £61 million for the young workers' scheme which starts on 4 January 1982.

I deal next with training. We have today published a White Paper on the action needed to bring our system of industrial training up to date. We have drawn substantially upon the recommendations made by the Manpower Services Commission in its report, also published today, on the response to the consultative document "A New Training Initiative." The White Paper provides a framework for action by all concerned in industry and education, and sets out the lead that the Government are giving in a 10-point agenda. I should draw to the attention of the House three of those points in particular.

First, there will be a new £1 billion a year programme for unemployed young people, which will guarantee a full year's foundation training to all those leaving school at the minimum age who find themselves without jobs. Over the next 18 months this entirely new youth training scheme will progressively replace the youth opportunities programme and will give these young people training in basic skills which employers will need in the future. We are determined to lose no time in reaching the position where every 16-year-old school leaver is in work, or in further education, or has a genuine opportunity of a year's training. By taking the decisions now, we are able to ask the Manpower Services Commission to ensure that this new youth training scheme is in full operation by the autumn of 1983.

Meanwhile, the youth opportunities programme will be expanded and developed to provide about 100,000 of the new-style training places in 1982–83 and the allowance under it will be increased to £25 a week from next January.

Young people in the new youth training scheme in their first year after leaving school at 16 will have "trainee" status. From 1983 they will cease to have eligibility of their own for supplementary benefit, except for the special groups, and so will be treated like those who remain in full-time education. While on the scheme they will, however, receive a training allowance from the Government. [HON. MEMBERS: "How much?"] It will reflect the value of the training and relevant further education they receive and their learning role, and, although its precise level will be decided nearer the time, it is likely to be something over £750 a year. For older trainees who remain eligible for supplementary benefit, the allowance will be higher, probably around £1,250 a year. These allowances will not apply before 1983, when the scheme comes into full operation, and I am asking the Manpower Services Commission, in working out the detailed implementation of the scheme, to advise on the level of allowances which is appropriate within the resources available for the scheme as set out in the White Paper.

Employers, trade unions and educationists have all rightly expressed concern for the young unemployed. The Government therefore trust that we can now depend upon their wholehearted support in making this new scheme a success. The new scheme breaks entirely new ground in the training of young people in this country, and it is directed to young unemployed people as a first priority. But our ultimate objective is proper training for all young people, whether employed or unemployed, and to bring more young people into jobs with proper training. For those in jobs, we are increasing the financial encouragement to employers to provide foundation training and release for education so as to cover some 50,000 trainees in 1984–85. We are also continuing into 1982–83 our support for some 35,000 apprenticeships

The new scheme that I have announced will now go ahead quickly to ensure that there will be universal provision for unemployed school leavers. But the Government hope that the further study of youth training to be undertaken by the MSC will identify fresh ways in which to help get many more of the young unemployed into paid jobs with proper training. To the extent that their training needs can be met in such ways, we should be willing to transfer resources proportionately from the new scheme.

Secondly, we wholeheartedly support the MSC proposal that employers and unions should accept, and implement, the objective that by 1985 all training should be to standards without regard to age. We shall make Government assistance for skill training increasingly conditional upon steps towards that objective and the removal of unnecessary restrictions.

Thirdly, we have asked the Manpower Services Commission to develop an Open Tech programme to make technical training more accessible to all with the necessary ability. Other points of action are set out in the White Paper, including steps to improve preparation for working life in schools and colleges.

In pursuit of all these commitments we have during this year increased the provision for training expenditure in 1982–83 by £399 million to a total of over £1.1 billion, in 1983–84 by an extra £517 million to a total of nearly;£l.3 billion and in 1984–85 by an extra £648 million to a total of nearly £1.5 billion, incluing over £1 billion on the new youth training scheme. The provision for 1982–83 is included on the expenditure plans for that year announced by my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer on 2 December. The amounts for later years will be accommodated within the totals to be announced in due course.

We are therefore providing resources totalling nearly £4 billion over the next three years to bring our training arrangements up to date. With the assistance of the Manpower Services Commission, we have now set out a clear framework within which employers, unions, local authorities, education services and trainees themselves can play their part to modernise our training system. These steps are long overdue. Let us set out to provide training fit for a great industrial and trading nation.

Mr. Eric G. Varley (Chesterfield)

Is the Secretary of State aware that we greatly welcome any proposals to provide additional comprehensive training, particularly for the young? Is he further aware that the MSC is to be heartily congratulated on bringing forward its document "New Training Initiatives—Agenda for Action" which has been published today together with the Secretary of State's White Paper? However, the White Paper and the MSC's document raise complex issues. Will the right hon. Gentleman arrange for the proposals to be debated in the House in the near future? Does he accept that we welcome the improvement in the provision of the job release scheme, the temporary short-time working compensation scheme and the community enterprise programme?

Will the Secretary of State outline how he intends to fulfil the objectives of the Manpower Services Commission, which, I understand, will be the main agency to carry through the Government's new arrangement? Will he give a specific commitent that the MSC will have the financial resources to monitor the proposals and to engage people to supervise the scheme, in view of what has happened to that body over the past two and a half years?

There is a part of the statement which needs clarification and which will be regarded as controversial. Is the Secretary of State trying to launch the new youth training scheme on the basis of allowances in 1983 of perhaps only £15 a week? Most people will regard that figure as miserly and will greet it with derision. Even the increased allowance in the youth opportunity programme of £25 for next year is nowhere near adequate, because most young people on that scheme expected the allowance to go up to the £28 recommended by the MSC some time ago.

Will the right hon. Gentleman confirm that those who go on the youth opportunities scheme next year will receive the new but inadequate £25 a week allowance but that a brother or sister going on the new scheme in 1983 will get only £15 or £16 a week? What justification is there for that? In the new scheme, most of the work and training will be on the employer's premises, just as it is under the existing YOP scheme.

Will the Secretary of State accept that youth employment is the most desperately urgent problem facing our nation? To try to launch this scheme on the basis of some compulsion but inadequate allowances will bring dismay to those working in the careers service and may anger the young unemployed. the MSC brought forward imaginative and far-reaching proposals and the Secretary of State is in danger of wrecking its initiative by a completely inadequate response.

Mr. Tebbit

That statement was characteristic of the right hon. Gentleman. He chose not to offer any word of credit to the Government for taking the decision, in these hard days, to allocate to a training scheme more than 1 per cent. of the total of public expenditure. It is something which the Labour Government toyed with and failed to introduce. There was no reason for the failure except that they could not find the resources. The Opposition are simply jealous of the fact that we now have the resources.

The right hon. Gentleman talks of the contrast between brother and sister, but he might care to ask how much most parents give to their children in the sixth form at school. He could then compare it with the amounts which the Government are willing to offer in training allowances for the youngsters who will be in a full-time training scheme. I remind the right hon. Gentleman—in case he has not yet been able to work it out—that the amount of money devoted per youngster on the training scheme, as opposed to the youth opportunities programme, and excluding the allowance, is almost four times as great. If the right hon. Gentleman wishes to dilute the value of the training only to give the youngster more money that is for him. Equally, if he thinks that the Government ought to find more money, it is up to him to suggest where it should come from.

Mr. William Hamilton (Fife, Central)

Does the Minister agree that by the time the scheme comes into operation there will be nigh on 4 million unemployed, if not more? Viewed in that context, is not the scheme wholly inadequate to meet the challenges which will face us in the next decade or two?

Does the Minister recognise the enormous anger that there will be among ordinary people about the element of compulsion? It is a form of compulsory national service, and if people do not accept it they will not even get supplementary benefit. Does the Minister recognise that he is playing with fire if he believes that the proposals will go through unscathed?

Will the Minister give an assurance that the sum of £15 will be entirely flexible and will be increased if the trade unions and others agree that it is inadequate?

Mr. Tebbit

Since I do not agree that there will be 4 million unemployed by 1983, the adequacy of the measure, in the sense of the hon. Gentleman's question, does not arise. It is changing the meaning of words to describe the scheme as compulsory; it is not compulsory. The hon. Gentleman is staking a claim for those who do not choose to take advantage of a suitable training place to be eternally granted support by the taxpayer at large. I do not believe that that is a proposition that appeals to most people in this country.

I have made it plain that within these expenditure figures I have provisionally allocated sufficient money for an allowance of £750 and £1,250 a year respectively. If it emerges that it is possible, for example, for employers participating in the scheme to contribute more than that, well and good. Alternatively, if the trade union movement can be made without either diluting the training content or increasing the cost, I shall be delighted to hear of it.

Mr. Michael Latham (Melton)

Despite the carping and niggling attitude of Labour Members, is my right hon. Friend aware that on the Conservative Benches there will be a warm welcome for the statement and for the steps he is taking to deal with the giant social evil of unemployment? Will he particularly ensure that the 12 month's training will lead to certification, and will he look at the 18 months' phase-in period to see whether it can be speeded up?

Mr. Tebbit

As for my hon. Friend's second point, it will be a formidable task for the MSC and the others concerned to ensure that the scheme is available by September 1983 to every youngster who needs it and desires it. We shall increase the number of places available under this type of scheme, as opposed to the YOP, from the autumn of next year, and we shall at any rate aim at 100,000 places.

With regard to certification, we are aiming to have national standards but local delivery. We shall do our best to ensure that every trainee, at the end of his year, will have a certificate setting out what he has achieved during that time and what standards of training he has managed to maintain.

Mr. David Alton (Liverpool, Edge Hill)

I welcome the fact that we are now moving away from the youth opportunities programme, which many young people regard as highly unsatisfactory. I also welcome the fact that there will be more training built into the scheme, but does the Secretary of State agree that there will be profound disappointment among many young people that the opportunity to introduce statutory apprenticeships—such as those covering over 400 occupations in West Germany—has been lost on this occasion? Does the Secretary of State believe that it is realistic for people to be paid £15 a week, bearing in mind the enormous commuting cost that many people have in travelling to their place of occupation?

Mr. Tebbit

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his general remarks about the scheme. We have not lost the opportunity that he referred to, because it was never found, and could not yet realistically be found, within the possible resources available.

The step that we are taking is one step towards ensuring that the young work force will be as well trained and prepared for work as those of many of our overseas rivals. I emphasise to the hon. Gentleman that the allowances are not pay. The youngsters will not be at work in the conventional sense; they will be receiving training. In that sense, their position is perhaps more comparable to their brothers and sisters who are at school or in colleges of further education.

Mr. Bill Walker (Perth and East Perthshire)

My constituents will be very pleased with this imaginative scheme, particularly the parents whose children are seeking work. Such a scheme is long overdue. However, would my right hon. Friend consider that it is only the first step in the massive job that we face of bringing about the training requirements for the next century? We must consider ways of using this imaginative scheme—I believe that it will be very successful—to bring about changes in the salary scales of all trainees up to the age of 20, so that a period of training can be seen for what it is, and so that allowances will be paid rather than wages.

Mr. Tebbit

I thank my hon. Friend for his remarks. If we contrast Britain's youngsters with those in Germany, it is true that German youngsters are willing to accept a lower proportion of the skilled men's wages, but as a consequence of the extra training that that makes it possible to carry out, as they become skilled men they are capable of earning higher wages than we are able to pay.

Mr. John Golding (Newcastle-under-Lyme)

Will the Secretary of State confirm that the maximum period for the short-time working compensation scheme is being cut, as his statement said, from nine months to six months? Is he aware that the withdrawal of that scheme in two years' time will bring great hardship to British firms and to workers and their families?

Mr. Tebbit

The hon. Gentleman should remember that I have extended the scheme by two years. In the rundown of the scheme, as he correctly said, I have cut the maximum period of benefit from nine to six months from next summer. The amount of short-time working is now falling very rapidly and, therefore that scheme— [Interruption.] I am sorry if the Opposition do not like good news, but it happens to be true—short-time working is falling. [Interruption.] I shall say it three times in the hope that the Opposition will understand the point. Short-time working is falling and, therefore, there is less need for the scheme.

Mr. Alan Haselhurst (Saffron Walden)

The Government deserve congratulations for elevating the importance of training in the way that my right hon. Friend has outlined. Does he agree that for such a scheme to be fully relevant it should carry the full commitment of employers and the unions? Does he believe that, for the package to be balanced, we must, over the course of time, see further steps on the pre-vocational side of education?

Mr. Tebbit

I thank my hon. Friend for what he has said. He is right in saying that the scheme must carry the full commitment of educationists. Indeed, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science is ensuring that the curriculum in schools will be increasingly adjusted to ensure that youngsters are fully prepared for work.

Mr. David Watkins (Consett)

How soon will the scheme be introduced in a constituency such as Consett, where there are more than 100 unemployed school leavers for every available job and where the Government's policies have destroyed the local economy?

Mr. Tebbit

There may be long-term causes for the weakness of the local economy in Consett, and it would be only fair if the hon. Gentleman accepted that. Those causes were showing during the Labour Government's term of office, and even before that. The new scheme will work in the same way as the YOP scheme has worked—seeking employers as sponsors—but it will also bring in the resources of the colleges of further education, Government training centres and private sector training centres, if they are available, to train youngsters so that they will have a better opportunity of finding jobs when they finish the scheme.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

Order. I propose to call questions until 4.15 pm, which is in 20 minutes' time. If hon. Gentlemen are brief, most of those rising should be called.

Mr. David Madel (Bedfordshire, South)

In the many improvements that my right hon. Friend is seeking, can he confirm that there must be much greater co-operation between careers officers and local education authorities and that local education authorities should substantially step up in-service training for teachers, so that when the curriculum for 14 to 16-year-olds becomes more vocational there will be adequate teachers to do the job?

Mr. Tebbit

Yes, my hon. Friend is right; there is a crying need for local education authorities, schools and teachers to get much more closely aligned with employers so that the teachers understand more about the world of work that will face the average school leaver.

Mr. Robert Hughes (Aberdeen, North)

Is the Secretary of State aware that the Select Committee on Scottish Affairs yesterday published a unanimous report signed by many of his own Back Benchers? That report advanced the concept of the training year, and to that extent the training year is welcome. Is he aware also that the Committee made it clear that any element of compulsion in the system would destroy the efforts to get people to participate in the scheme?

Is the Secretary of State saying that if youngsters do not go into the training year they will lose their eligibility for social security benefits? Is that not compulsion? Secondly, if the suggested new scheme is to replace the YOP scheme, what is the justification for increasing the YOP allowance to £25 a week, only to reduce it to £16 a week per trainee in later years? Is that not flying in the face of reason: paying £25 a week for the training, but reducing it to £16? Why is that being done?

Mr. Tebbit

First, I noted the Select Committee's report and, as the hon. Gentleman fairly said, what I have announced is much in line with the Committee's recommendations, except for what he calls "compulsion". I do not accept that it is compulsion.

Mr. Frank Allaun (Salford, East)

Of course it is.

Mr. Tebbit

If the hon. Member for Salford, East (Mr. Allaun) wishes to change the meaning of words, would he mind doing so on his own and not try to play the "1984" game of changing the meaning of words in order to distort them? The reasoning behind increasing the YOP allowance to £25 is to maintain an adequate differential between that and the levels of supplementary benefit available to 16 and 17-year-olds. That is why the allowance for the 17-year-olds on the youth training scheme will also be higher—in order to maintain that sort of differential, because the 17-year-olds will remain in receipt of supplementary benefit.

As to the logic of the whole scheme, I again feel that what is being offered in the youth training scheme is so different from that available under the YOP that the youngsters concerned should put more value on it. Secondly, it will be available to every youngster of 16 who presents himself for training.

Mr. Gordon Wilson (Dundee, East)

The level of payment will be a disincentive under the scheme, but does the Secretary of State realise that the quality of training being offered will decide whether the scheme is a success or not? Does he think that one year is adequate to give the training that young people require, and what type of improved training in basic skills has he in mind to avoid the scheme becoming a souped-up version of the previous scheme?

Mr. Tebbit

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his comments. I am sure that he is right when he says that the quality of training will either make or break the scheme. Of course it would be possible to have a two-year scheme, but that would cost £2 billion instead of £1 billion a year and I frankly do not know where I would find the extra £1 billion. It would be best if I referred the hon. Gentleman to the White Paper on the question of the construction of the training, which will be of a modular nature. Perhaps he will be kind enough to offer us his thoughts on what should be included, because I am certain that the decision on which modules should be conducted in any place must rest on the local labour market and not be dictated from the centre.

Mr. Tim Renton (Mid-Sussex)

I warmly welcome the new training initiative, particularly as all that the Labour Government were able to do was to introduce three consultation documents. What financial contribution might the Government make to the employer for his training element, and will it be in order for the employer to top up the Government allowance of £750 a year by his own payments to the trainee once he has got to know and like him or her?

Mr. Tebbit

Of course there would not be anything to prevent employers from topping up. Indeed, they may think that that is desirable. I recollect that that was part of the scheme put forward by some of my hon. Friends in the Lifeline group. That would be fair enough.

On the transfer of resources, if the MSC and employers can devise a scheme under which we could get more youngsters as normal paid employees of firms, though with a clear, unbreakable commitment to a year's training contract, I should be willing to transfer a proportion of the resources, since such a scheme would reduce the amount of expenditure required under what we call the Government-MSC scheme.

Mr. Allan Roberts (Bootle)

Is the Secretary of State aware that the DHSS pays what it considers a basic minimum subsistence living allowance, and that it is more than the £15 a week allowance that is to be paid to young people on the training scheme? Is he also aware that young people will view the scheme as nothing less than enforced slave labour? Bearing in mind the Government's cynical way of reducing DHSS expenditure and taking young people out of the unemployment figures in election year, have we not reached a pretty pass when the Government have to introduce civil national service?

Mr. Tebbit

I suggest that the hon. Gentleman should talk to some of those east of the Iron Curtain in countries on which he is an expert and ask whether they would regard the scheme as enforced slave labour—in contrast to the enforced slave labour that exists in some of the countries that he admires.

Mr. Jim Lester (Beeston)

I congratulate my right hon. Friend on the introduction of a much-needed White Paper and the sense of urgency that he has shown in providing the right number of places for 1983 when the number of young people leaving school will reach its peak. Does my right hon. Friend realise that in order to achieve that number of places he will need the maximum good will of those in local areas who will have to work together to provide the places?

One of the key issues is the rate of allowance that will be finally settled in 1983. My right hon. Friend welcomed the suggestion that employers should top up the allowance to make it more realistic. The whole proposal will stand or fall on whether we have a sensible scheme with the right training element and the right allowance so that people want to join it and the question of supplementary benefit will become irrelevant.

Mr. Tebbit

I am grateful for my hon. Friend's comments and for the immense amount of work that he and some of his colleagues have done in developing such ideas. I hope that his ambitions for the scheme, which I share, will come to fruition. I believe that a sensible arrangement will arise over the allowances. I was even encouraged by the fact that when the hon. Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Radice) was asked on the radio this morning whether he would have increased the allowance, as some have advocated, he said that he would not have cut it in that way. That left me wondering in which way he would have cut it.

Mr. Andrew Faulds (Warley, East)

What specifically does the term "foundation training" mean as far as qualifications are concerned? Does the right hon. Gentleman understand that the gravity of the situation is such that the delay in the implementation of the scheme until the end of 1983 is far too tardy?

Mr. Tebbit

Before accusing me of delay, the hon. Gentleman should ask the MSC whether it believes that it could have prepared a scheme any earlier than September 1983.

Mr. Faulds

You tell us.

Mr. Tebbit

I can tell the hon. Gentleman that the MSC could not do that, and that is why I have chosen the schedule that I have.

Mr. Faulds

I do not believe it.

Mr. Tebbit

The hon. Gentleman says that he does not believe it, but I suspect that he is only acting up as usual and that he knows that what I am saying is the truth.

Mr. Faulds

What about my other question?

Mr. Richard Needham (Chippenham)

I am sure that my right hon. Friend is aware that in Germany no training allowances are provided by the Government. I congratulate my right hon. Friend on introducing a scheme which puts the main emphasis on training. He is absolutely right to ensure that most of the money for the scheme goes to the training section, because young people want a proper traineeship that will give them a proper skill and the opportunity of a proper job. I was interested in and glad to hear my right hon. Friend's comments about the allowance. Surely he accepts that there must be a commitment by the employer to the youngster, which means that, wherever possible, the employer should pay a contribution to increase the allowance, which my right hon. Friend rightly sets at a level which the Government can afford. Will my right hon. Friend say that he looks forward to employers contributing something on top of the allowance to get the necessary commitment from the company and from the youngster to the company?

Mr. Tebbit

My hon. Friend is right to draw the House's attention to the fact that in Germany employers carry the burden of training, but, as has been pointed out, there is in Germany a much more realistic attitude to the wages that should be paid to trainees, which, no doubt, helps to get the right attitude on the part of employers as well. I assure my hon. Friend that, as I said in my statement, I have asked the MSC to advise me on the level of allowance that it thinks would be right, and I have made plain how much I believe the Government can make available for that purpose. Like my hon. Friend, I look forward to anything that employers can do to contribute towards covering the costs of training and ensuring that the scheme is the success that my hon. Friend and I want it to be.

Mr. John Grant (Islington, Central)

Will the right hon. Gentleman agree that the MSC deserves considerable credit for paving the way for the Government to make what may be a major breakthrough in training? Does he accept that, however welcome his statement may be, it raises serious doubts and reservations, particularly about the quality of training and the resources that will be made available for monitoring it?

As for the inadequacy of the allowance and the compulsory element, will the right hon. Gentleman confirm that they were not proposed by the MSC and will he accept that it would be a tragedy if such a mean and penny-pinching attitude jeopardised and undermined the whole scheme?

Mr. Tebbit

Even at this time of the year, I hardly expected the hon. Gentleman to welcome me as Santa Claus, but trying to cast me in the role of Scrooge when I have found £4 billion over three years is a bit much. It is characteristic of the way that the hon. Gentleman wants to point in all directions at once and to offer everything to please everybody. Of course, we are deeply grateful for the work that the MSC has done in developing ideas for the training scheme. I have adopted much of what it asked for, but it is one thing when one is not responsible for finding the resources to suggest how much—

Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover)

It is not new money.

Mr. Tebbit

The hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) clearly did not hear or did not understand my statement. Perhaps he would allow me to answer the hon. Member for Islington, Central (Mr. Grant).

Mr. Varley

That is how the right hon. Gentleman used to behave.

Mr. Tebbit

If I may say so, I have proved a very good teacher because now the right hon. Gentleman is behaving like that. It is much easier if one is not responsible for finding the resources to suggest ways of spending. We have found resources and made them available. That is the best way in which we can go forward.

Mr. Frank Allaun

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that I received an hour ago a phone call from a lady in Salford who administers a scheme for the young unemployed and who is very close to them? She was in tears because she had read in this morning's newspapers two accurate prophecies of what the Secretary of State has stated—first, that the young people she is looking after will come down from £23 a week to £15 a week, and, secondly, and much more seriously, that this is a compulsory scheme and that otherwise the young unemployed receive nothing. She said to me that these young people will riot and will regard themselves as Hitler Youth.

Mr. Tebbit

I think that the hon. Gentleman has a responsibility to explain to the lady the extent to which this scheme produces a training opportunity that is not available under the present YOP scheme, the extent of its value, and the extent to which extra money will be spent on these youngsters. If the hon. Gentleman believes that the appropriate response of youngsters offered a year's valuable industrial and vocational training is to riot, it speaks volumes for his line of thought.

Mr. Nigel Forman (Carshalton)

Is it not clear that the £4 billion programme over three years is a sizeable and timely response to one of the nation's primary needs? Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind two important points? First, it is possible that the education system is not yet sufficiently well equipped on the vocational side to back up this splendid programme. Secondly, it is vital that the content of training should be highlighted through accent on standards rather than time served.

Mr. Tebbit

I agree completely with my hon. Friend. It is important to understand that we aim to achieve this concentration upon standards not only in this first year's training scheme but also in what until now have been the traditional apprenticeships. We should be concerned not with the age of a man or the length of time he has spent in training but with the standards that he has achieved. That must be the right way forward. The achievement of those objectives, particularly through this one year training scheme, when youngsters will have spent upon them no less than £55 a week in total, would be the first and most important step towards catching up with our Continental rivals that we have taken.

Mr. Jim Craigen (Glasgow, Maryhill)

Since the Secretary of State has told hon. Members the proportion of public expenditure that is going towards training, will he also tell us the proportion of public expenditure that is going towards sustaining unemployment?

As one who listens to young people on youth opportunities programmes, I can say that there is a considerable degree of frustration among them. Has it really taken the Government almost a year to come up with a State indentured training scheme that appears to conscript young people off the dole queue and pay them less than the present inadequate YOP allowance? Does not the right hon. Gentleman fear that this will completely distort the traditional idea of training in this country?

Mr. Tebbit

It is not only because I am conscious of the need to improve training that I have brought forward this scheme. I am also conscious of the criticisms that have been made of the YOP schemes. Some are very good; some are less than good. In no case is the YOP programme fundamentally a training programme. It was never intended to be one. My scheme is intended to be a full one year's vocational training scheme. That is why the allowance is different. That is the whole argument for it.

The hon. Gentleman says that it has taken the Government almost a year to come up with the scheme. He should be a little more reasonable. It was in February that the MSC published its consultation document. It is only today that it is publishing its conclusions as a result of those consultations, and I am ready to meet what the MSC has asked for with this massive injection of Government funds.

Mr. Barry Jones (Flint, East)

As for coercion or otherwise, will the right hon. Gentleman say whether there is to be a change in the law affecting eligibility for supplementary benefit for 16-year-olds? Is he able to say now, after talking at great length about the value of training, whether entrance to the young workers' scheme will affect eligibility for training?

Mr. Tebbit

Yes. There is to be a change in eligibility for supplementary benefit of 16-year-olds.

Mr. Christopher Price (Lewisham, West)

Even if they are not at home?

Mr. Tebbit

If the hon. Gentleman will allow me to finish, I may be able to answer the question that he has not had the courtesy to ask except from a sedentary position.

The change rests on the assumption that youngsters of 16 years of age will be primarily dependent on their families while on a training scheme in the same way as if they were still at school. All the special groups retain their entitlement to supplementary benefit. In the event that the family itself is receiving supplementary benefit and therefore not in a position to sustain the youngster at home, the family's supplementary benefit will remain as it is at present and the youngster will receive the training allowance in addition. It is possible for an employer to take advantage of the young workers' scheme and to give training to the young man or woman he takes on to the pay roll. I hope that we shall be able to devise something more far-reaching than that alongside the scheme that I have outlined.

Mr. Nigel Spearing (Newham, South)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Hon. Members will recall that in answer to question 1, the Minister asked me to await the statement. The answer to my question was not contained in the statement. It is to be found only in paragraph 33 of the White Paper which was not published until 4 pm. I was therefore unable to ask a supplementary question of the Secretary of State, quite apart from the fact, Mr. Speaker, that other hon. Members were seeking to catch your eye. Is there anything that you can do to encourage Ministers to stop delaying the publication of documents in order effectively to dodge answering questions?

Mr. Speaker

I am sure that what the hon. Gentleman says will have been heard. I do not know the circumstances.

Mr. Faulds

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Is there some way in which the House can prevail upon the deeply-concealed decency of the Secretary of State to answer the question I put about the qualifications that would stem—

Mr. Speaker

Order. The House knows when its rules are being abused. They are being abused now.

Mr. Alexander W. Lyon (York)

It is within the privilege of the Secretary of State to determine at what time he will issue papers such as White Papers. Many Departments make White Papers available in the Vote Office at 2.30 pm. The Secretary of State for Employment has failed to do that until 4 pm. Is there not a rule which the House can enforce to ensure that papers are available at 2.30 pm so that we can look at them before Question Time?

Mr. Speaker

I shall see whether there is anything I can do, but I doubt it as it is not my concern. It is the concern of the Minister.

Mr. Christopher Price


Mr. Speaker

Order. I have said previously that I take a very poor view if hon. Members who have been rising repeatedly but have not been called then submit to me a series of points of order. However, I understand their frustration, and we shall try it.

Mr. Christopher Price

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. Are you aware that since the proliferation of parties in this House a wide range of Members have copies of statements in advance? It is enormously frustrating if Ministers insist on delaying putting papers into the Vote Office for half an hour so that they are not available until the end of the statement, especially if one is squashed next to someone on the Front Bench who has the statement. May we have a more even-handed approach to hon. Members?

Mr. Speaker

The hon. Member knows the custom as well as I do. It is a courtesy, which Governments have always extended to other parties, to provide copies of statements on certain occasions. That is a courtesy which has nothing to do with me. However, the hon. Gentleman's argument will have been heard.