HC Deb 24 February 1981 vol 999 cc732-3
6. Mr Marlow

asked the Secretary of State for Employment if he will make a statement on the progress of the youth opportunities programme.

Mr. Peter Morrison

In the first nine months of this financial year, some 230,000 young people had entered YOP and over 320,000 are expected to have entered by the end of March.

It is too early to say whether the present undertakings to young people will be met. However, every effort is being made to satisfy those young people who have yet to receive an offer of a place on the programme.

Mr. Marlow

Will my hon. Friend consider changing the role of the YOP and moving more towards some kind of one-year citizenship programme incorporating community service and the availability of Outward Bound type training? Will he detach the YOP from the MSC and reestablish it as a body distinct from the Civil Service, capable of self-promotion and under the leadership of some excellent person such as Geoffrey Holland?

Mr. Morrison

I know that my hon. Friend visited YOP for a week last year and that people there were very interested to talk to him and to show him round. He has asked me to give a definitive answer to an idea that he has been floating for some time. As he will be aware, YOP is on a voluntary basis, but certainly the MSC is prepared to be flexible and to look at ideas as and when they are put forward.

Mr. Alton

Is the Minister aware that at one Liverpool employment office where more than 11,000 people under the age of 19 were registered as unemployed, only 24 vacancies had been notified by the Liverpool careers officer? Will he tell the people of Liverpool whether he believes that youth opportunities programmes and all the rest are any substitute for long-term employment prospects? Will he say whether he is prepared to go on perpetuating a situation in which the best-educated kids are on the dole queue?

Mr. Morrison

As the hon. Gentleman may know, one of the first places to which I went when I became a Minister in the Department of Employment was Liverpool, as I have exactly the same kind of concern as the hon. Gentleman has for his constituents and for the city. Of course there is no substitute for real jobs, but that is what the Government's economic strategy is directed towards and will succeed in achieving.

Mr. Bagier

Does the Minister agree that in many of these schemes, although they are welcome, the miserable pay of £23.50 makes it little short of slave labour? Does he accept that many of the youngsters in these schemes want to work in them but feel that they are being exploited in view of the miserable amount of money that they are paid? When will the Minister look at the scheme again?

Mr. Morrison

The hon. Gentleman uses rather emotive language in referring to slave labour. As both he and I know, it is a voluntary scheme. Already, 230,000 young people have entered it this year. I do not believe that they consider themselves to be slave labour.

Mr. Peter Fraser

In view of the fact that young people under the age of 18, quite properly, cannot take advantage of the employment opportunities which exist on offshore oil rigs, will my hon. Friend, together with the MSC and the oil companies consider providing opportunities for those youngsters so that, as soon as they reach the age of 18, they are in a position to take advantage of those opportunities?

Mr. Morrison

I am certainly prepared to look at this point. I cannot give any commitment this afternoon, but I shall be delighted to look, and I shall let my hon. Friend know the outcome of my search.