HC Deb 21 October 1981 vol 10 cc376-402

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn—[Mr. Newton.]

8.27 pm
Mr. Jim Craigen (Glasgow, Maryhill)

I applied for permission to raise this Adjournment debate because I felt that the young people on youth opportunities programme schemes deserved a fairer deal. At present, our school leavers and young people are getting a pretty raw deal as a result of the Government's economic policies. When one looks in detail at this month's unemployment figures, it is interesting to note the extent to which the numbers entering the youth opportunities programme have increased. In Scotland, the figure has risen from 28,000 for last month to 35,000. The overall figure has increased from 215,000 to 270,000. That reflects the extent to which the youth opportunities programme is taking young people out of the official unemployment statistics.

I need hardly tell the Minister that more than 1 million young people have passed through the youth opportunities programme since its launch in April 1978. A programme that was originally designed to have about 25,000 places has grown almost tenfold and now faces serious criticism. The Minister knows full well that anxiety about certain aspects of YOP schemes is growing not only among trade unions but among employers' associations and, not least, among the young people themselves. I should like the Minister to spell out precisely Government thinking on youth employment. To help the Minister with his reply, I shall put three initial points to him before I mention the more general problems facing young people who seek to enter the work force.

First, I should like to see an immediate increase in the training allowance from £23.50 to a far more realistic figure. The Manpower Services Commission has recommended to the Department of Employment that the allowance should be increased to £28 a week as from 1 November.

Before the Summer Recess I asked the Minister what the allowance would be if it had been uprated in line with cost of living increases. The allowance was last raised in November 1979. I know that the Government do not believe in indexation, but I was told that in those circumstances the allowance would be £30.

Since the present youth opportunities programme will continue to operate in the next year or two the Minister should consider increasing the training period from six months to 12 months. He should also ensure that there is an adequate training element within all the current programmes. Moreover, some recognition should be given to the degree of training as a component of the youth opportunities programme. The Minister is looking a little bemused. Some credit should be given to the young person later if he happens to be fortunate and gain an apprenticeship.

I am disturbed to learn that only about 30 per cent. of young people completing YOP schemes are now entering employment. There has been a considerable drop since the scheme was introduced.

The Minister might be even more puzzled by my third point. The Government should be more explicit about when YOP will be replaced by a national system of training with employment for our school leavers and young people. There is a major commitment. It cannot properly be financed entirely by employers or, indeed, by local authorities. The State accepts the responsibility for the financing of secondary schooling and higher education. It is about time that the State accepted that it has a responsibility for post-school training for young people in the 16 to 18 age group.

We cannot divorce unemployment among young people from the general mishandling of the United Kingdom economy by the Government. The job opportunities for young people reflect the depressing economic situation. Let us consider, for example, the latest October figures for unfilled vacancies in the Glasgow area. The Glasgow city total at the jobcenters is 2,171 and at the careers offices 14. Those are the job vacancies in a city where, according to the monthly unemployment figures, 73,756 people are out of work. In general, 54 youngsters are chasing each job.

During the Summer Recess I visited my local careers offices and jobcenters. Careers office staff are becoming demoralised. Careers offices are becoming placement bureaux for the special programmes, particularly for YOP. Although my remarks are directed primarily at YOP, I pay tribute to the achievements of the community industry scheme. Young people seeking job opportunities are disillusioned. I do not want the Minister to give us the usual Conservative Party Central Office bluff about the great international recession. The Government are inflating the impact of the global recession by cutting more deeply and more savagely into the domestic economy than is required. We see this in terms of the country's output and particularly in the drop in manufacturing output in the past 12 months, to the extent that it almost compares with the fall in output between 1929 and 1931.

Moreover, the Government threw away a marvellous opportunity by their decision to jettison the plans for a gas-gathering pipeline—I note that my hon. Friend the Member for Bothwell (Mr. Hamilton), is in his place which would have given jobs not only to the steel industry but to the construction industry and service industries. More particularly, I think that it would have raised the confidence that is so lacking when one talks to the managers and trade union officers in industry. That would have been especially significant. It is no wonder that more and more fellow Scotsmen look abroad for a future. The number of people seeking to emigrate from the United Kingdom is on the increase and it is no small wonder.

Young people have every right to expect far more than a taste of work when they leave school. We know that, unfortunately, there have been abuses in the operation of the present programmes. I concede readily that the Manpower Services Commission is doing its best to weed out employers who are not measuring up in some instances to the objectives and purposes of the youth opportunities programme. We have the madness, when we know that the number of young people aged 17 and 18 years is on the increase and coming to a peak, that the Government's policy for higher education is to cut back on the opportunities that might otherwise be available in our universities and advanced colleges. This contrasts curiously with the policy in the United States and Japan, where a far higher percentage of young people obtain university and higher education opportunities. The 18-year-olds are at the end of the queue for the youth opportunities programme. They are also at the bottom of the pack for the community enterprise programme. In other words, they are no one's priority. They lose to the 16 and 17-year-olds and they do not really have the same chances as older adults. The Minister must realise that some school leavers stayed on at school a little longer in the hope of acquiring additional qualifications and thereby enhancing their employment prospects.

What is the number of 16 and 17-year-olds who have held a full-time permanent job? The YOP figures mask the true position because it takes them out of the monthly unemployment barometer. Will the Minister—the civil servant in the Box can occupy himself with this—tell me the number of 16 and 17-year-olds who have never held down a permanent job? They may have been in and out of a YOP scheme but they have never held down a permanent job.

I wrote to about six companies in my constituency about the Prime Minister's much-lauded young worker scheme. It was a sample grouping. My constituency is not especially industrial. The Government have done their best to reduce the number of firms within it. I wanted to know whether the young worker scheme would encourage firms to recruit more young people. The firms almost all replied to the effect that the scheme that the Department hopes to launch next January will make not one whit of difference. They all agreed with me that it would be simpler if the Government chose to remove the employers' national insurance surcharge for those under 18 years of age. They thought that that would be more conducive to their recruitment.

Moreover, we know that the young worker scheme is designed not so much to bring more young people into the employment market but to lower the wages of young people in industry generally. I hope that the Minister will be impressing on his Treasury colleagues, hard-faced men that they are now, that there is a case for removing the surcharge.

I ask the Minister to comment on the report that appeared in The Sunday Times of 18 October about the CBI's estimate that there will be 800,000 young people on the dole in two years' time. We are getting perilously near that figure already. The feature that strikes me about the tables that appear in the MSC's forecasts of growth and decline areas within the economy between 1978 and 1985 is that most of the increases that the commission expects are in the public sector, or are to be largely fuelled by public expenditure in areas such as construction. Even private employers in the building industry are glad these days to get public contracts. The declining sector to which the MSC was pointing was manufacturing industry. We have already seen a substantial avalanche in the decline in manufacturing.

The Times is not the most widely read newspaper north of the Tweed but my attention was drawn to its editorial of 9 October, which was rightly entitled A generation at risk". It is more than a generation that is at risk. Britain's future will be at risk if we persist in this fashion. Ministers are rather like rabbits that become paralysed in front of a stoat when it comes to taking positive action to reduce unemployment. On Friday one rather unwanted meeting that I shall be attending in Glasgow will involve meeting the chief constable. My hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Queen's Park (Mr. McElhone) has co-ordinated the arrangements for some of us to meet him.

We are going to see the chief constable about the growing incidence of drug taking and drug abuse, a problem that is by no means confined to the West of Scotland, and is growing in most parts of the country. Part of the problem is that more and more people have far too much time on their hands because they find it easier to get hold of heroin than a job. We know that some sinister people are making sizeable profits in that process, but the fact remains that the Ministers in the Department of Employment have a responsibility in that area because it seems that the up and coming generation prefers the world of hallucination to the realities of living under Mrs. Thatcher.

8.46 pm
Mr. James Hamilton (Bothwell)

I make no apology for continuing the debate. One of the greatest scourges to hit the country is that of unemployment. I know that it is not new. It was apparent during the Labour Government's term of office. However, it has now reached such gigantic proportions that the people are becoming restless as they see no light at the end of the tunnel. Every day of every week large redundancies in some of the major industries are revealed to us, and they are having an adverse effect on the economy.

In Bothwell, one company has made it known that 800 people will become redundant within the next few months. Another company has intimated to me that 220 people will become redundant. That may have happened already. The tragedy is that many people who have never been unemployed are signing on for the first time at the Department of Employment.

In such a situation our young people must suffer. This is one of the greatest tragedies to hit our nation. It is an even greater tragedy when young people leave school with no hope of employment. It can be said that the youth opportunities programme will give employment for six months to some of our young people, but I want to bring to the Minister's notice that in far too many instances many of those young people are being exploited by employers who should know better.

Those young people are being paid £23.15 a week, which is a mere pittance compared with the work which they are asked to do. I am aware that the MSC has suggested that the figure should be increased to £28 from 1 November. However, that is still insufficient. I suggest that many young people are continuing with further education not because they are desirous of doing it, but because they know that there will be no work for them when they leave school.

My hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Maryhill (Mr. Craigen) said that with the cuts in further education, there is still no hope for young people continuing their education. Those who are prepared to continue their higher education at secondary school should be paid the equivalent amount paid under the youth opportunities programme. That could go a long way towards solving this pernicious problem.

There was a television programme about Jarrow last night. One doctor said that, in his opinion, some of the suicides being committed are due to the unemployment scourge which now prevails. Those are not words which make me feel overjoyed. They make me feel very sad. We have cajoled the Government. We have attempted to persuade them. We have tried everything within our power to get them to change their policies so as to give not only young people but all the people in the country the opportunity to get back to work.

Every Tuesday and Thursday, and in every big debate on the economy, the Prime Minister states that her main objective is to bring down inflation. I am sure that the Minister is aware that she has not yet brought down inflation to the figure which she inherited when she became Prime Minister in 1979. That is indeed an indictment of the Government's policy.

It is farcical to use the money that is coming from North Sea oil to keep people on social security and unemployment benefit. It would be far better if the money were used to get people back to work. Our young people will never forgive the present Government, and in many instances they will not forgive us as Members of Parliament, because they feel frustrated, rejected and disillusioned. They feel that no one wants to do anything for them. We, as Members, are under criticism because nothing is happening in this House to end the sinister situation in which young people find themselves.

During the recess I visited the careers offices, the jobcenters and the various factories in my constituency. It was the most dismal recess that I have encountered during my 17 years in Parliament.

Before I came to this House I was in the construction industry. That industry, of course, is always one of the first casualties of any cuts. This, in turn, has a serious and adverse effect on the economy of the country. In such a situation our young people have no hope whatever.

It is important to note that many of our best craftsmen and tradesmen are emigrating. Therefore, unless young people are properly trained, on a national basis, to fill the jobs which will arise if and when the economy changes for the better, the country is bound to suffer.

I know that the Minister is not a member of the Cabinet but, knowing him as I do, I think that he is one of the wets. It is time that the wets got together and did something about the Goverment's policy. They know that the Opposition can do nothing about it. The wets should get together and tell the Prime Minister to change her policy. If she refuses to change her policy, she should resign and have a general election. If there were to be a general election now, there is no doubt that there would a change of Government and a change of policy.

8.53 pm
Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover)

I am pleased that my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Maryhill (Mr. Craigen) has taken the opportunity to raise this important matter in the House tonight. My hon. Friend the Member for Bothwell (Mr. Hamilton) spoke of his visits, during the long recess, to areas in his constituency. He was able to witness what was happening in the factories, the job centers, and so on. He was able to observe the misery, the desolation and the despair which are apparent now in all parts of Britain.

There are thousands of young people without work in the East and West Midlands where, for two or three decades after the war, unemployment among young people and adults was at a relatively low level. But the West Midlands has seen a massive increase in unemployment—even higher than in Scotland, which bore the brunt of unemployment in the 1950s and 1960s. Scotland usually leads the way for the rest of Britain, and the trends that are first seen there are usually repeated elsewhere at a later date. That is also true in political terms. That is why we look forward to the demise of the Government and to the next general election, based upon the way in which Scotland has reacted since the East election and beyond.

When the YOP was first introduced, the Labour Government spoke of the need to introduce it to deal with matters at the margin. It was a kind of cosmetic to deal with a few youngsters who were unable to find jobs. That was the idea. No one in his wildest dreams imagined that it would stretch across the whole of Great Britain and that so many thousands of young people would have to take part in the scheme for a few miserly months, only to be thrown back on the scrap heap. I have no doubt that what my hon. Friends from Scotland have said can be repeated throughout the country.

Just a few days ago, at the Tory Party conference, the Minister for unemployment had the audacity to suggest that those on the dole, young and old alike, should get on their bikes and go looking for work. I do not know whether they would reach Scotland, but, from the evidence of my hon. Friends, it is clear that there is no possibility of any respite there, nor in Wales, nor indeed anywhere in Great Britain. It is clear what the Government are really up to when their spokesman at the Tory Party conference tells people to get on their bikes and search for jobs. Those people have searched the jobcenters throughout their communities in the hope of finding jobs, but in many parts of the country 600 to 700 people are going after one job.

This is no accident. It is not because the recession is some kind of act of God, as Ministers like to suggest. It was deliberately planned, well before the election, with a view to throwing people out of work. The dole queue was deliberately increased to shift the so-called balance of power away from those in work to those in the Establishment. That is the truth of the matter. Indeed, the Tories, in Opposition, said that they wished to shift the ratchet back towards the ruling class, so they are quite happy. The Minister may tell us today how sorry he is that all this has happened, but every policy of the Tory Government has been oriented towards ensuring that the misery and despair continue.

The Government had no pay policy when they came to power, but they have one now. It is the policy of putting 3 million to 4 million people out of work, including 1 million under the age of 25, so that the rest have to work for peanuts. That is why Michael Edwardes can say that he has a 3.8 per cent. pay policy for British Leyland. I am glad that young and older people there are standing up to this. If we are to have jobs in Scotland, in the East Midlands and in the rest of the country, purchasing power must increase. It cannot be done except by more money circulating in the pockets of those at work and those who wish to work, so that they can buy more goods and other people can have jobs in Scotland and elsewhere.

The same applies to the taxation argument. We remember all the stories before the election about cutting taxes. We need a real reduction in taxation, not a bogus one which cuts taxation by 3p and then refuses to raise personal allowances in line with inflation. We need to cut taxation by massively raising personal allowances in the next Budget, so that those living at the margin and below the poverty line can push more money back into the economy to produce more jobs for other people.

There is also the interdependence of the various industries in the United Kingdom which feed upon one another. The Government have systematically run down first one industry, upon which another has relied to some extent for jobs, and then another industry. All those industries—engineering, shipbuilding, textiles, even fishing—are interdependent and live upon one another. As a result, a massive number of job opportunities have been lost.

Is it any wonder that we had the type of disturbances seen during the summer? That was bound to happen. Britain's social fabric will break down if young people are told that they have no jobs or no hope and that they must stick with this policy until the Prime Minister decides to change it. I doubt whether it will be changed, because the right hon. Lady is likely to be forced to go the country on the basis of 4 million people out of work.

I used to work in the mines. For nearly 30 years it was generally reckoned that young people in Nottinghamshire or Derbyshire would be able to go down a mine, if nothing else. But because many factories that used coal no longer exist, young people are now being sifted by the National Coal Board. There are now queues at the so-called prosperous Midlands coalfields that were crying out for labour throughout the 1950s, 1960s and early 1970s. Only by feeding money into the economy to help our various industries shall we be able to get people back to work—people who are now receiving this miserly £23 a week.

That is why a few weeks ago at the Labour Party conference our alternative strategy called for full trade union rights and rates of pay for those on the youth opportunities programme. That would give those young people the ability to push more money into the economy. That is why our alternative strategy also talked about earlier retirement, similar to the scheme introduced in the mining industry.

What is wrong with giving people the opportunity voluntarily to retire at 60, or over, and giving them the extra £23 a week on top of their old age pension? That would provide an inducement for them to retire, thus giving young people the opportunity to move into their jobs. That is a more realistic programme, because the kids receiving this miserly sum of money are being exploited by these so-called entrepreneurs up and down the country.

My hon. Friends referred to the suffering that has been caused. During the past 12 months, there have been many examples of young people in various parts of the country committing suicide. Documents have been produced by experts who have carefully analysed the figures showing how the number of suicides has increased among not only young people but older people who have been thrown out of work. Without doubt, there is a strict correlation between the suicide rate and the stress and other factors allied to unemployment.

Yesterday, the Minister for Health said that he was worried about the correlation between unemployment and the matters that I have described. But what does he intend to do about it? He is now part of a Government who yesterday, and supposedly next week, discussed in Cabinet the possibility of cutting back even more. By further reducing our purchasing power, they will throw even more young people and others out of work. They will deny to those people the chance to obtain work.

I jotted down a note as I came into the Chamber. I noticed that the smoked salmon specialists were not present to talk about this real and central issue in our economy. Where are they? Not one SDP or Liberal Party Member is here. They are all eating their smoked salmon and drinking their claret at Croydon, in the hope that some people might support them tomorrow. But this is where the argument is. They should be here tonight to voice their opinions on this important subject that has been brought to our attention by my hon. Friend the Member for Maryhill.

My hon. Friend the Member for Bothwell spoke about restoring cuts in public expenditure being essential. There are about 500 million bricks stored at the London Brick Company and at various other places. About 300,000 construction workers are unable to get jobs. There are probably about 1 million people who could be described as homeless or on the verge of being homeless. It does not need a Pythagoras to get the bricks laid by construction workers in order to put roofs over the heads of people who want houses. It does not need a Pythagoras to sort that lot out. It needs the intention of a Government who are prepared to do it, but this Government are determined to cause even more misery.

Electrification of the railways could provide additional jobs for young people. Sewers are falling into disrepair all over the country. We hear daily of the repairs needed in the major conurbations. Here is an opportunity to put young people to work instead of having them racing about on some of these nonsense schemes and being exploited by Marks and Spencer and other employers who take them on for £23 a week and push other workers, who would be getting a proper wage, out of jobs.

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

Is the hon. Gentleman saying that he is opposed to the scheme?

Mr. Skinner

Although the Minister may be looking at the problem—and it is a mighty problem—within a cocoon of its own, I am saying that it is part and parcel of a greater malaise deliberately brought about by the Government continually attempting to increase the number of places on the youth opportunities programme, the work experience programme and various other schemes. The Government are not tackling the real problem—the need to change the whole economy, restore the cuts, build more houses, and get people engaged on railway maintenance and on the sewers and canals which have fallen into disrepair. That is what I am trying to illustrate.

The youth opportunities programme was introduced to alleviate at the margin, but it is becoming a central feature of the Government's programme. That is why the Prime Minister declared that it would be a good idea to have an addition to the YOP whereby employers would be given so many pounds per week to employ young people as long as they did not earn more than £40 a week. That is another variation of the YOP. It has become an essential feature of the Government's programme. The idea is to depress wages more and more to ensure that the trade unions' bargaining power is weakened ever more. While young people are searching for jobs, what do they see on the other side, in the green pastures? They read about those who are managing to get by very nicely in the casino economy. Last year Ladbroke announced profits of 71 per cent. The banks made £3,000 million in the first two years of the Government's term of office. When interest rates are at 17 per cent. for most of the time£they are not much lower than that now£it gives the banks and financial institutions the ability to operate within wide margins, They are able to make a lot more money because the chance of failing with interest rates at that level is very small. For the industrial base, the returns are down to the miserly levels of 2 per cent., 3 per cent. and 4 per cent.

This Government, who came to power on the basis of helping small businesses, have made sure that there are small businesses. They have got smaller and smaller. About 15,000 have disappeared during the two and a half years that the Government have been in power.

The Tories said that small businesses were weighed down by the paraphernalia forced on them by the Labour Government. Some employers in my constituency and in other areas would welcome the opportunity to fill in forms for some of the schemes introduced by the Labour Government. About 15,000 do not even have a letterbox for the forms to go through. They would welcome the chance to be back in business and to employ more young people.

The casino economy is proliferating under this Government, but they are not looking after our youngsters. Some are using heroin and God knows what else. That is the market force State that we now have. There is a market for heroin in the free world of the Tory Party. The market forces set the price for heroin. In Glasgow, it can be up one week and down another, according to supply and demand. That is the testament of this Government. It is a matter not of getting out bikes, but of getting people back to work manufacturing bikes and all the other things that are necessary.

I am not against the YOP being used at the margin, but it is being used as part of the base of the Tory Government's economy. The only way that they will get these hundreds of thousands of young people back to work is to change the whole system, increase purchasing power and restore the cuts in public expenditure, which will enable people to take part in the various areas of construction that are absolutely necessary.

The headmaster who appeared recently on television said it all. We have to consider not only the 1 million youngsters under 25 who do not have jobs. He said that he did not know what to tell his fourth and fifth form pupils. There is no incentive for them to get more O-levels and A-levels. Their brothers, sisters and friends have no jobs, and some of them have O-and A-levels. They do not see why they should bother to further their education and do their homework.

That is the legacy of this rotten Government in two and a half years. The Minister is part of it. He can weep crocodile tears. He may say that he is a wet, although he would not dare to do so from the Dispatch Box. The Government's strategy has caused misery and despair, and they will reap the harvest when an election is called.

9.13 pm
Mr. Bob Cryer (Keighley)

I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Maryhill (Mr. Craigen) for giving us an opportunity to discuss the scourge of unemployment at the beginning of this spillover period—the time when we deal with the odds and sods that are left over. However, unemployment is not a leftover item. It is a main and continuing cause of anxiety to the House and the people outside.

In Keighley unemployment stands at 13 per cent. In May 1979 it was only 4.2 per cent. The increase is entirely the responsibility of the Government. In comparison with other areas 13 per cent. may be modest. It is still a scourge in Keighley. People in Keighley are apprehensive about the develoment of an industrial desert in the area. They see little prospect of an upturn in the economy whatever the Chancellor of the Exchequer says from time to time about the signs of coming rescue.

Only recently the People's Campaign for Jobs passed through Keighley. We entertained those taking part in the march which took them from Sheffield to Blackpool. Many of the marchers had been involved in a YOP scheme. When they got to Blackpool they demonstrated their strength of feeling in a forceful but disciplined manner. What happened inside the Conservative Party conference? Various Conservative Members were interviewed on television. They sneered. There were sneers from the rostrum, suggesting that those taking part in the march were engaged in a bit of a dodge. That attitude was symbolised by the cheap, nasty and sneering speech from one of the cheapest, nastiest and most sneering Ministers of the Tory Government, the right hon. Member for Chingford (Mr. Tebbit). Opposition Members have not forgotten the day when the right hon. Gentleman, sitting on these Benches, told the late Tom Litterick to go and have another heart attack. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman is satisfied.

That vicious attitude was demonstrated to all and sundry at the Conservative Party conference. The right hon. Gentleman departed from his prepared speech. He went off into vicious Right-wing flights of fancy, telling the unemployed that they should follow his father's example, get on a bike and find work. I invite the Minister who will be replying to say where the unemployed can go when they get on their bikes to search for work. Some young people are already going all over the place. They are desperate for jobs. Some would not mind the jobs that Tory Members have on the side. It would be a nice gesture if some Tory Members with directorships in addition to receiving public assistance as hon. Members gave up a few of those jobs as a gesture. That would amount to a few hundred jobs for a start.

His cynical vicious sneer at the unemployed exposed the Secretary of State for Employment for what he is—a man with a heart of iron. He does not give a damn about the unemployed. His answer is for the unemployed to get on a bike and look for jobs, even though he knows that the reality is that 4 million, not 3 million, face the dole if those who are not registered are included. This situation is ruining whatever notion the Government might have entertained about reducing the public sector borrowing requirement. It actually forms a major part of the PSBR. About £10 billion is involved in unemployment benefit, schemes such as YOPs and loss of tax revenue. This is going out of control. Indeed, it is inflationary. It is demand without production.

The Tories must realise that they are reaching a watershed. They must either get rid of the Prime Minister and switch their policies or recognise that they are drifting to an almighty electoral disaster. They are now characterised as the party of unemployment. Not only that; after the Secretary of State's speech at the Conservative Party conference, they are characterised as the party that does not care about the unemployed. The Prime Minister can appear on television, putting on her Saatchi and Saatchi voice, or go on the Jimmy Young Show and say, "I am terribly concerned, Jimmy, about unemployment." The fact is that she has appointed a Secretary of State for Employment as part of the hard attitude that she displays in her selection of Ministers. It is a shift to the Right.

The Conservative Party is beginning to realise that the only way that it can change the policy is to change the leadership. For the sake of the unemployed I hope that that happens. The Prime Minister and her policies will clearly be a disaster for the Tories at the next election, but I would gain no satisfaction from a Tory electoral disaster at the expense of millions of people experiencing misery and degradation in the dole queues.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) said, the YOP was introduced by the Labour Government to assist a tiny minority. It was one of a number of schemes, most of which were cut as soon as the Conservatives got into office. The grants for small businesses were abolished, the job retirement scheme was cut and has only recently been restored to the level at which it stood when the Conservatives came to power. The temporary short-time working scheme was immediately cut from 12 months to six months and was subsequently extended to nine months as the extent of the employment disaster hit the Government.

It is worth reflecting on why all those schemes were cut. The Conservatives said that they would unleash entrepreneurial ability and give tax concessions to the wealthy so that the capitalists in our society could clamber into their Rolls-Royces, Bentleys or Jaguars, go to areas of high unemployment and create jobs. I know that it sounds lunatic and we said in 1979 that it was lunatic, but the Conservatives believed it.

But it has not worked out that way. The entrepreneurs have shown a striking lack of patriotism. They are putting their money anywhere except in this country and they have been assisted by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who removed all exchange controls shortly after taking office. The Government believe in the rights of capital over the rights of labour. They knock the trade unions through legislation, but they give freedom to those who own capital.

It is not working. Capitalism is tottering. Entrepreneurs are not entrepreneuring or producing all the jobs that we were promised or making the high quality decisions that tax concessions and high incomes apparently give them the right to make.

The YOP scheme, which was designed by the Labour Government to assist a relatively small number of young people, has become a central pillar of the Government's strategy. When the Government are taxed with that, the Prime Minister puts on her Saatchi and Saatchi voice and tells us how many thousands of young people have places on the extended scheme. That is the Elastoplast on the bleeding sore of unemployment.

Current Department of Employment statistics show that there are 270,000 young people on the YOP scheme. They stay on the scheme for only six months, so an enormous section of our youth has been involved in the scheme. They must feel desperate when, after being given a nominal job, they are discarded after six months and have to go back in the dole queues.

It is worth remembering that before the general election the Tories said that YOP jobs and others were fake jobs and not real jobs. They said that they would provide the real jobs, but they now use the very system that they criticised so vehemently in 1979 as an example of their care and concern for the unemployed.

I emphasise that many of the youngsters involved in the YOP scheme believe that they are being exploited in some instances, that the wage is relatively low, that they are not paid trade union rates, and that they are not encouraged to have trade union rights. The industrial injuries position is somewhat hazy and hazardous.

I am impressed by the turnout of Labour Members tonight. It is obviously an expression of the Labour Party's worry about the level of unemployment among the population at large and particularly the young. There is concern on the Opposition Benches that YOP schemes are being used to replace full-time workers in full-time jobs. We want that to be stopped.

I emphasise that all the Government's crocodile tears about caring for the unemployed are belied by their attitude to their own workers in the public sector, because the Government are requiring cuts in Civil Service jobs. This is not as a result of productivity For example, in the Central Office of Information an instruction has been given that so many jobs must be cut. That means fewer opportunities for young people. It means a greater likelihood that the YOP scheme will have to be extended. It is directly as a result of Government action and decision to cut jobs in the Civil Service. It is nothing to do with productivity. The COI has told its members that it must now cut jobs as a result of Government decree and direction.

Mr. Robin F. Cook (Edinburgh, Central)

Will my hon. Friend also bear in mind the example of the Property Services Agency? In the two years in which the present Government have been in office, the number of apprentices recruited by the PSA has been cut from 518 to a mere 36, which represents 500 school leavers who this year will not have the opportunity of a training for a skill in a steady and secure job.

Mr. Cryer

My hon. Friend is absolutely right.

I shall bring my remarks quickly to a close because my hon. Friends are here to contribute to the debate to express their concern.

The Government must look at reflation. It is absurd to spend money on schemes such as the YOP and at the same time cut local authority expenditure, cut areas of Government activity and cut the nationalised industries, and so create longer dole queues which they have to spend more money propping up with Government schemes such as the YOP.

The Government must consider import controls. We have had a big lobby here today from the Transport and General Workers Union and the Amalgamated Union of Engineering Workers—mostly in the car industry—expressing their fears. It is not a question of cutting in relation to the developing countries. We can give them preferential treatment—but only if we plan our trade. If we have a free trade economy, we cannot do anything about them at all.

Lastly, I emphasise that for the future we have to reckon that we must switch from defence expenditure to expenditure for peaceful purposes. The Minister may say, "Public expenditure does not create jobs." That is not an argument that the Government use over defence. They say that defence expenditure cannot be cut because it creates jobs.

We must make sure that we put money into research and development for the goods and products that people need and want. We have the example of Japan, whose industry is thriving. Japanese products are all over the world. They are good, efficient products. One of Britain's problems is cutting imports of Japanese motor vehicles. That is because the Japanese put their ability and their investment into peaceful purposes. They do not soak up their resources in the wasteful way in which we do, on defence, for products that can only exterminate people and cannot benefit mankind.

There is a future provided that we get a Government who will implement Socialist policies, a Labour Government, to clear up the terrible, deteriorating and harmful mess created by the policies of the present Tory Government. The sooner we get a Labour Government, the better.

9.29 pm
Mr. Frank Haynes (Ashfield)

I feel proud to participate in this debate, along with some of my colleagues who have remained here to participate. It is one of the most important debates that we shall have for a long while, even though it will last for only a couple of hours. It has given us the opportunity to draw attention to the serious problem of finding work for young people.

Like many of my colleagues on these Benches, I worked hard in my constituency during the recess. I had the opportunity to get around and see the problems of unemployment.

I wrote to the Prime Minister two days ago, because before the recess she said that Members of Parliament could knock on the door of No. 10 and tell her whether firms in their constituencies were in serious difficulties. I seized that opportunity because of the unemployment situation and because of the way in which firms are collapsing in a way that has never happened before in my constituency in the East Midlands.

Many Labour Members have been saying for some time how the Government could overcome some of the unemployment problems—problems which affect the railways, the roads and water. Yes, I want to talk about sewerage. There is a firm in my constituency—

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bernard Weatherill)

Order. This is not a general debate on unemployment. It should relate to the youth opportunities programme, and that is what the Minister will reply to.

Mr. Haynes

I shall draw attention to that, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

This firm regularly took on youngsters from school to train them. In May 1979, there were 473 employees at this firm. Today there are 103. That is the sort of situation that exists in many constituencies, not just in mine. It means that the kids who leave school do not have a hope in hell of getting a job. About 635 children left school in my constituency this summmer, and few of them have got a job. They could have gone to this firm which regularly took on youngsters to train in concrete pipe making. The managing director has to go abroad, cap in hand, to Japan and Spain, to try to find work and keep adults as well as youngsters in employment.

I continually tell the Minister for Health that the National Health Service is going down the drain. He keeps telling me that waiting lists are dropping. It so happens, because of Government policy, that the waiting lists are going the other way. They are getting longer and longer.

There is a tragic situation in the training of young lads and lasses. Those who train as nurses are being turned away. The youngsters who are being trained at the moment and who finish in December have been told, after two years' training and all the public expenditure that that involves, that there is no job for them in the National Health Service in the locality. That is a shocking state of affairs. The Government should not be proud of that. They keep saying "We are winning through. Our policy will work, not yours. There is no alternative."

However, there is an alternative, and that is to plough money in the right direction, and not into the dole queue and into youngsters who are being paid £23.50 a week. Let us face the facts of life. People in the country are waking up. We woke up long ago. The Conservative Government are using the scheme as a racket. It was brought into being by a Labour Government for a purpose, but it is being abused. There are firms which are abusing the system with Government support—the big combines in the market place and along the high street. I can name them: Marks and Spencer, Littlewoods, British Home Stores. What are they doing? They are taking youngsters on at £23.50, at the expense of jobs for adults. In my locality, I find youngsters, not adults, working in the stores. Adults are on the dole, costing the nation a fortune. All the oil revenues from the North Sea are being spent on unemployment. That is a ridiculous state of affairs. We are paying people to be bone idle and to stay at home doing nothing.

I wrote to the Minister, but he told me to table a question if I wanted to know the answer. In my area, youngsters cannot even get hearing aids, because the work force that supplies them has been reduced. That relates to the cuts. The former Secretary of State for Social Services constantly told us that more and more money was being ploughed into the social services and into hospitals. The opposite is true. At the same time, the Government encourage the private sector. Those who can afford the services receive them. Poor youngsters and adults who had jobs 12 months ago, but who are without jobs now, cannot afford to pay. They must remain dependent on the National Health Service, which the Government are ruining. So it goes on.

I was surprised by a suggestion that the Government are now putting into operation. The Government are allowing people to retire at 60 and to take redundancy payments so that they can create positions for youngsters. That is fair enough. However, if we were not in such a situation, the Government would not take such action. Early retirement is a racket to cover up the state of unemployment. The sooner Conservative Members wake up to the actions of their Cabinet, the better off we shall all be.

Mr. Harry Greenway (Ealing, North) rose——

Mr. Haynes

We have a nation, not just——

Mr. Greenway rose——

Mr. Haynes

Sit down. We must look after the work force that provides the money. The hon. Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Greenway) has only just come into the Chamber. That is shocking. Some Conservative Member must have left the Chamber to tell his colleagues to come in and fill the Benches. They were empty a few minutes ago.

The sooner the Government and Conservative Members wake up, the sooner we shall move in the right direction and the sooner jobs will be created for the adults who have to look after youngsters who are themselves looking for work.

I made it a duty to check at the local courts about appearances. Since the last election in 1979, appearances among the 16 to 19-year-olds have doubled. Why? Youngsters have nothing to do. They hang round on street corners and at discos. They have nothing to do but to get into trouble. The Government's response is to suggest that someone should raise some money by holding a raffle somewhere. They want to entertain those youngsters and keep them active. That is not the answer. They are tomorrow's work force. If we do not deal with the situation, we shall go further and further downhill. The sooner the next election comes that will get the Conservative Party out of office the better off we shall all be.

9.38 pm
Mr. D. N. Campbell-Savours (Workington)

In debates such as this there is a danger of underestimating the role that the youth opportunities programme can play in resolving our problems. I endorse many of the comments made by my hon. Friends, but I should like to draw on the other side of the argument. Within British society, there is an institution—local government—that can play a very important role in the correct exercise of schemes under the Manpower Services Commission's programmes.

In the Lake District, Cumbria and Workington there is an important problem—escalating unemployment. Only in the last few hours it has been announced that a further 250 jobs might be lost in the next few months. They will be lost from an important employer—High Duty Alloys—which has operated in West Cumbria for 40 years. Officers in that company have been passionate in their attempt to steer the Manpower Services Commission and the Department of Employment in the direction of new and adventurous forms of employment opportunities for young people. Officers of the company sponsored the West Cumberland Training Association which, with only limited resources, has made a major contribution locally. The Under-Secretary of State has considered the company's position before. In the light of the most recent wave of announced redundancies by a company which has an important part to play in the provision of apprenticeships in West Cumbria, I hope that the Under-Secretary will give its position extra attention. Since last March 3,000 young people in the area have been placed in the youth opportunities programme However, 1,000 young people in Cumbria still need to be placed if we are to fulfil the Christmas guarantee of 1980 I agree with my hon. Friend's reservations about the operation of the youth opportunities programme in the private sector. Abuses have occurred, but they have not been wholesale. Many good employers in the private sector use the scheme carefully and I do not wish to undermine them, but abuses have occurred.

I believe that local government has a strong role to play in the provision of schemes which are acceptable, which do not abuse the Department's guidelines and which are acceptable not only to Government supporters but to many of my hon. Friends who are disturbed about the possibility of trade union rights being undermined. Some of my hon. Friends have faith in public institutions because they are more accountable and more responsible. Local authorities, as public institutions, can be used by the Government in the development of the type of schemes that we are discussing.

Earlier this year I spent some days in Blackburn examining schemes that the Blackburn district council had set up. The Blackburn MSC operation draws several million pounds of Government money. It is interesting in that the scheme has been set up in a special unit outside the town hall but it is totally accountable to the town hall. At the last count, in excess of 1,000 young people were being hired and that was biting into the problems of unemployment in the town. The MSC schemes that operate in Blackburn have the support not only of local community bodies but of the whole trade union movement in Blackburn. The trade unions there are directly involved in the selection and administration of the schemes.

After my visit to Blackburn I wrote a document for the Allerdale district authority entitled "Target 750", which suggested the construction of a unit within that district similar to that which operates in Blackburn. I suggested that the Allerdale district should set up a similar sponsored unit, operated and imaginatively backed by special appointments of young people and with professional expertise to ensure a responsible and sensible approach to the problems of youth unemployment.

My authority has not been as receptive as I should have liked, but I understand that some objections have been raised by councillors—not of my political persuasion—who believe that the materials allowance is insufficient to back up the sort of operation that Allerdale district council would wish to have if it were possible. The problem would be resolved if the materials allowance were increased and if the Government said to local authorities "You have a responsibility to set up schemes to resolve our problem of youth unemployment."

Perhaps the Minister will call a conference of representatives of all the local authorities in Britain to discuss the setting up of such schemes on the basis of the imaginative way that it has been done in Blackburn. If the Government do not respond in that way, we shall not resolve this problem. Increasing numbers of young people will find themselves obliged to enter into schemes which abuse the principle of the youth opportunities programme, The programme will become discredited and it will be difficult in future for any of us to stand up and demand that the necessary resources are expended and invested to solve the problem. The Manpower Services Commission's regional operations raise a problem that is not often reflected here. Some of the regional and district offices feel that they do not have the resources necessary to provide the sort of monitoring service that should be provided. The responsibility rests upon the Department of Employment and on the Manpower Services Commission to go out and examine the schemes being sponsored by the Department. Unless there are sufficient monitoring officers and unless the pressure on existing monitoring officers is relieved, there is a danger that further abuses will develop and the schemes will be further discredited.

I rose to speak tonight to draw the Minister into the argument and to suggest to him that local authorities, being publicly accountable bodies having traditional relationships with trade unions, should have it within their power to set up responsible programmes. The Minister can call on local authorities to take the initiative, but he must set the conditions to enable them to respond. At present they do not accept that they are in a position to respond, first, because £23.50 a week is insufficient and, secondly and more importantly, because the materials allowance is too low. Too often the allowance is spent on the provision of transport from the central site to the job that is being undertaken on any particular programme. We should like to see a greater materials allowance, if only to provoke a reaction from local authorities and to enable the Minister to get them round the table and bring them into the area of responsibility for resolving this problem.

We must resolve this problem. We cannot allow it to go on as it is. The whole machine that has been built up has become amateurish in many areas, and many people in the regions openly admit it. They feel that the programme is starved of the necessary resources to give it the professional polish that it needs if it is to attract and be given the kind of credit that young people wish it had when they apply for the posts. Many young people refuse to enter MSC schemes because they feel that they lack the extra finesse that full-time employment offers. The approach that I have outlined will further help young people to feel that this at least offers them some solution to their immediate problem.

9.50 pm
Mr. Peter Hardy (Rother Valley)

I shall not detain the House. I shall not express my agreement with my hon. Friend the Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours) at too great a length. I hope that the Minister will take note of my hon. Friend's remarks about the need to improve materials and allowances.

I can relate an experience in my constituency last Friday when I visited one work scheme. I discovered that while the allowances are sufficient if the youngsters help the elderly, if they are to embark upon an imaginative scheme, which I hope they shall do shortly, by de-silting the lake at the Firbeck hospital, the allowances will be scarcely sufficient. If inflation continues to rise—we have no reason to expect otherwise—the level of allowances will create problems.

I am delighted to have this brief opportunity to speak. I applied for an Adjournment debate this week, together with scores of Labour Members, many of whom are worried about unemployment. Only five Members could be satisfied.

I wish to raise the question of employment in the southeastern part of my constituency. I realise that if I put the general arguments about employment I shall be out of order. I shall concentrate on youngsters, who are affected by the general position. I remind the Minister that on 19 occasions by letter, five occasions at Question Time and four occasions in debate during the past two years I have pointed out that for both young and old people in the parishes of Dinnington, Anston, Firbeck, Woodsetts, Gildingwells, Letwell, Kiveton Park and Laughton Common unemployment averages more than 23 per cent. The towns are not part of an assisted area.

I read in The Star, the Morning Telegraph, and no doubt I shall read in the local weeklies on Friday, about the figures in the Sheffield travel-to-work area. They are above the national average. The figures for the Dinnington employment exchange will not be published. They are buried in the travel-to-work area as a whole. I have argued time and time again that it is the right time for the employment exchange area at Dinnington to be removed from the Sheffield travel-to-work area and placed within the other employment exchange areas in the metropolitan borough of Rotherham so that it may enjoy assisted area status.

It is absurd that youngsters in my constituency should be treated in a different manner. Maltby has intermediate status and Rotherham and Mexborough and Wombwell are development areas. It is quite right that they should be so categorised. Their unemployment level is ridiculously high. Dinnington is even higher, yet it is not assisted. I hope that the Minister will not accept that the patterns of neat bureaucracy must always be the only criterion upon which decisions are made.

I wish to pay tribute to the attitude and record of my local authority. Rotherham borough council has a splendid record. My hon. Friend the Member for Workington mentioned the reluctance to act of non-Labour councils in parts of Cumbria. We are fortunate in Rotherham because 63 of the 66 councillors are Labour, as are 18 of the 18 county councillors. All of them are determined to do their utmost to ensure that the maximum possible opportunity is given to our youngsters. Rotherham has a number of schemes. Perhaps my hon. Friend would care to come to Rotherham to look at some of the successful ventures.

There has been much anxiety about abuse. If the trade union movement is properly involved, as it should be, it is possible to stamp out much of the abuse and, in local authority schemes, to obliterate it altogether.

I am a trustee of the Rother Valley youth force. It is engaged in splendid and commendable work. Two of the trustees are officials of local trade union branches. I attended the last youth force meeting when those trustees played an active and prominent role. The Minister should seek to ensure that trade unions are fully involved. If that is to be done properly, he must do something about the rate of pay of £23.50 a week. No self-respecting trade unionist can expect people to work for a week for such a sum. I am not suggesting that youngsters should be paid enormous wages. There must be limits. However, the Minister must recognise that that sum has not kept pace with inflation and does not provide the incentive that will take our youngsters off the streets and prevent the troubles in Toxteth, Southall and many other places.

In addition to paying a slightly higher materials allowance it would be disirable to provide a substantially higher level of remuneration. However, none of those schemes, none of the good will and none of the dedication of the local authority will survive unless we have a different economic climate.

There is no way in which youth opportunities schemes or any of the other job creation schemes which we have in South Yorkshire can match the need. We need a different attitude from that displayed by the previous Minister of State with responsibilities for regional aid, who sent me a most arrogant and insensitive letter. I showed it to the local industrialist on whose experience my case was based. That industrialist will regard this Government for a long time with great contempt. That contempt will be deserved unless we have not merely an adjustment in our policies for youth employment but a dramatic change from the way in which our economic affairs are being mismanaged.

9.57 pm
Mr. Edwin Wainwright (Dearne Valley)

This is an important debate even though it is not concerned with the direct issue. The Government do not seem to understand he nation's position.

The economic situation is so grave that there is no hope for our young people. They cannot look to the future with hope. They know full well that they will be incapable of doing the jobs that will be demanded of them in this technological world. The Government are talking about alleviating unemployment by providing jobs for young people that are of no great value.

We have argued about conscription. It is said, "Take them into the Forces. Give them discipline. Occupy their time." What effect will that have? What will they have been trained to do in this highly technological period? How many young people of wealth are not free to earn their living in valid forms? Often it is not in industry but by some other means that they ensure that they are educated to earn a living in society.

Too often many of the working class join the Conservative Party and think that they are doing marvellously on behalf of themselves and others. They do that knowing full well that they are not guaranteeing a future to boys and girls from the same stock from which they came. We talk about engaging youth at £23.50 a week when many a labouring job for six months or 12 months would pay them more.

What about their training for the future? What about their education? What about their ability to earn a living in a system that applies throughout the world? Where would they be in Japan? Where would they be in the United States of America? Where would they be in Germany or France? They would not be capable of earning a living because they would not be trained. It is a shocking disgrace and a damnation to our society that we who are in control of this society tell our young people, "We will give you jobs doing all sorts of little things without any future for £23.50 a week to occupy your time."

I do not know how we dare to talk in that way in this place. We must try to place ourselves in the position of our young people. We must talk to them. We must ask them about their ambitions and how they see their future in life. Some will be able to tell us and some will not because they have lost heart. They are losing their faith in society and we are to blame. We are not giving them their future—

It being Ten o'clock, the Motion for the Adjournment the House lapsed, without Question put.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—[Mr. Brooke.]

Mr. Wainwright

That which we are offering young people is of no value to them and they are losing faith in society.

Why do we have so much trouble with our young people? Why do not we think back to our earlier lives? I think about mine on many occasions. I worked in the pits at 14 years of age. I had a terrible job. I would not wish such a job upon anybody. I became unemployed when I was 20 years of age. For nine months there was no hope. I was blacklisted in the district. My friends think that I am too moderate and too quiet. I drew 17 shillings a week for six months and then I was given nothing. There was no more. At first my father received nothing and then he watt given 10 shillings.

Why do the Government not look to our young people? Why do we not train them? Why do we not educate them? No boys or girls should be allowed to leave school until they are 21 or 22 years of age unless they are going to a trained occupation.

Why do we not give young people sandwich courses? Why do we not offer that sort of opportunity? Why do we not tell industry, "If you want this young boy or girl, you must put him or her on a sandwich course and provide a wage for six months. If you do that, we shall educate them for six months"? Why do not we plan for their future?

The Government should think about what is happening in Japan, France, Germany and the United States. When it comes to educating young people, Britain is at the bottom of the league. We are at the bottom of the league, too, when it comes to producing wealth. We have never ensured that our young people are educated for the future. In technological terms we still live in the days of the backwoodsmen.

In the area which I represent there has been unemployment ranging from 21 per cent. to 14 per cent. The Manvers coking plant was closed. The foundry is destined to close. Recently I received a letter from the Minister of State, Department of Industry. It referred to young people. One paragraph stated: The Manpower Services Commission is active in the area in trying to alleviate the unemployment problem by running youth opportunities programmes and training courses.

How many young boys and girls from the Manvers coking plant have been promised a job? How many will get a job after leaving the Wombwell foundry? We are letting down our young people.

We are also letting down the community as a whole because our young people are being taken advantage of and the system has been abused. If companies believe in private enterprise to the extent to which the Government believe in it and if, at every opportunity, they take advantage so that they can make money out of anything at all, many of them will employ young people in place of adults. Sometimes that principle is adopted.

Unless both Front Benches wake up to what is happening and to advanced technology in Japan, the United States, Germany and France in comparison with our technology, we cannot hope to compete. Technology is advancing so much that we need many educated young people. The middle-aged and the elderly realise what it means to be young and to be out of work, to be underpaid and to have no future. The sooner this Government get out and let in a Labour Government who have the foresight that the Conservatives have not yet achieved, the better. We must bring society to the realisation that we must care for our young people and make sure that they are so well trained that they can compete for the jobs and produce the wealth that this nation requires.

10.7 pm

Mr. John Lee (Nelson and Colne)

I welcome the opportunity of saying a few words. I am sorry that I have not been in the Chamber for all the debate. I was preparing a speech for the annual general meeting tomorrow of the National Youth Bureau of which I am chairman. The question of youth unemployment and the problems of YOP will dominate our session tomorrow.

I wish to make one or two national points and then some local points. The Government should be given credit for the money that they have made available to YOP. We should like much more to be made available, but significant funds have been made available. There are growing pains in the YOP schemes and people abuse them. There is no argument about that, but anything that has grown on such a scale and is now the size of YOP is bound to have anomalies.

The biggest worry of all is the number of young people who, when they come out of YOP schemes, do not go into permanent employment. In my area of north-east Lancashire the percentage of young people going into permanent employment is down to about 20 per cent., which is enormously depressing.

The Government should be given credit in one or two areas. There is a need for new technologies and for our young people to be trained for more modern skills. The Government are setting up about 20 new information technology centers specifically designed for young people throughout the country. They are sited particularly in our urban areas.

I have some interesting statistics about apprenticeships in Germany as compared with this country. At present about 70,000 or 80,000 people are going into apprenticeships in this country compared with about 600,000 in Germany. That problem is compounded. Whereas in this country those apprentices are going into only about 50 different training sectors, in Germany there is a range of about 450 to 500 different training sectors of opportunity and choice for young people, with an emphasis on the service sector and clerical jobs. That is not something that we have developed here to any extent.

Each Member of Parliament, irrespective of party, should do what he can in his own constituency. In my constituency, about six months ago, I formed a youth employment steering group. I brought together the representatives of the local careers office, the MSC, the local authority, Rotary, local industry, the minority communities, and so on, to see how we could tackle the problem at local level.

Mr. Walter Harrison (Wakefield)

How many jobs?

Mr. Lee

There is no doubt that we have succeeded in awakening the consciousness of employers. I also pay tribute to the efforts of our mayor. Perhaps other local authorities can take heart from this. Our mayor is not of my political persuasion. He called together in the town hall representatives of firms and industries in the constituency, and as a result of the meeting many of them came to the local MSC office with offers of jobs.

Mr. Harrison

How many jobs were created?

Mr. Lee

It is difficult to give a precise number, but in my area the MSC is hopeful of meeting its obligation to provide those who are leaving school this year with a job or with further training by the end of the year.

10.12 pm
Mr. Hugh D. Brown (Glasgow, Provan)

I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Maryhill (Mr. Craigen) for initiating the debate. I am sorry that I did not hear him. That was because the Scottish Members, in their wisdom, did not take as long as they usually take in the operation of their business. Perhaps for that reason we are now having a rather more useful debate.

We are indeed indebted to my hon. Friend. Those who know him are aware of his special interest in young people and of the work that he does in that connection. The Scottish Select Committee has also been looking at the problem.

I shall not embarrass the Minister by asking him whether he is a wet or a dry, but it is appropriate that, in discussing the youth opportunities programme, we should ask him to use his influence within the Department to ensure that youth problems are given priority over anti-trade union legislation, which would neither solve the economic problems of this country nor help to provide opportunities for youth.

I am not an economist, and I can never understand how, in all the big discussions about public expenditure, we can justify increased public expenditure to enable young people to do jobs that should be done by people who are properly employed by local government. That criticism applies also to my own party when in office.

I hope that the Minister will accept that many of us are genuinely worried about the operation and administration of the youth opportunities programme. In particular, when is the announcement likely to be made about the increase in the allowance? Is there likely to be any change in the arrangements for the travelling allowance? The inadequacy of the allowance adversely affects many youngsters who have to travel some distance in order to take advantage of the current youth opportunities programme.

I do not want to damn the Minister, who will have our good wishes if he can exercise a spirit of moderation within his Department and at the same time improve the opportunities that are available under the programme.

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

I, too, am most grateful to the hon. Member for Glasgow, Maryhill (Mr. Craigen) for raising this very important subject. I am also pleased that, unlike most Adjournment debates, we have been able to have about two hours' discussion.

I should make it clear at the outset that I am more than aware of the anxiety expressed by all Opposition Members. I hope that they will give me, as a Minister at the Department of Employment, a little credit for the fact that I might be just as interested as they are.

The youth opportunities programme is an important aspect of Government policy, not least because, for the school leavers concerned, it is their first experience of work and their reactions to it can and do colour their attitude to work for the rest of their lives.

The hon. Member for Maryhill said that the young people participating in the scheme were getting—I believe these were his words—a raw deal. He went on to cite the number of places, which was being substantially increased and, to give him his due, he gave the Government, the MSC and my Department credit for that. There seems to be a contradiction in terms, however, if he says in one breath that it is a raw deal and in the next that the number of places is being increased substantially, which I imagine that he, unlike one or two of his hon. Friends, welcomes.

I shall not, in the time left to me, go into the political points made by the hon. Gentleman about the economic situation, except to say this. The hon. Gentleman referred to the number of unfilled vacancies in Glasgow. I believe that he said that in the job centers there were 2,171 and in the careers offices 14. I do not have the specific figures for Glasgow —

Mr. Craigen: I have.

Mr. Morrison

Of course, I understand that. I am not contesting the hon. Gentleman's figures. I do not have the specific figures for Glasgow, but I am sure that the hon. Gentleman is aware that in the country as a whole at least 400,000 people per month actually find jobs. To take the number of jobs available on a day, therefore, is not an entirely correct analysis.

The hon. Gentleman asked how many 16 to 17-yearolds have never held down a permanent job. I do not know the answer to that, but I shall write to him as soon as I can with the reply.

The important subject of the allowance was raised by almost every Opposition hon. Member. All forcefully made the point that they believed that £23.50 was not enough. I believe that the hon. Member for Keighley (Mr. Cryer) thought that even the £28 that the MSC was seeking was too little. Another hon. Member thought that £30 might be appropriate, as that is what the figure would have been if inflation had been taken into account. I have to have regard, as does the MSC, to the resources available. If the allowance were increased enormously, the number of places available would inevitably be that much less. Moreover, if £23.50 were really so mean, do Opposition Members believe that school leavers would be applying to join the programme in the numbers that they are?

Mr. Harold Walker (Doncaster)

They have no alternative.

Mr. Morrison

What is more, a recent survey shows that 75 per cent. of them regard their stay on the programme as having been either fairly helpful or very helpful indeed.

Therefore, when we come to make the decision about the £23.50—

Mr. Walker: When?

Mr. Morrison

In all honesty, I cannot tell the right hon. Gentleman when, because I do not know. When we take the decision, we shall of course bear in mind what hon. Members have said, but we shall also bear in mind that the number of applications is substantial even at the level of £23.50, that the resources available are finite, and that we wish to give the opportunity to join the scheme to as many youngsters as possible.

The question of substitution was the second point of substance made by Labour Members, and I would be blind if I did not recognise that it represents a potential problem. I know of, and understand, the anxiety of the trade unions about it. I cannot estimate the level of substitution, but any substitution at all is of concern to me and the MSC as well as to the trade unions. The MSC has instituted stringent procedures to check schemes before approval. That is the best way to beat substitution—in other words, not to let it happen.

However, once a scheme has been approved, if there is a complaint of abuse, the MSC immediately investigates. Where the allegation is proved to be correct, the scheme is immediately closed down and the trainees on that scheme are moved to other schemes. In any case, I believe that as we improve the quality of the programme, the likelihood of substitution will become that much less.

Mr. Craigen

I am sure the Minister is aware that the MSC special programmes division submitted a paper to the Select Committee on Employment. It did calculations on job substitution, and I hope that the hon. Gentleman has read that paper.

Mr. Morrison

The hon. Gentleman flatters me. I try to read everything that I possibly can, and I was aware that that paper had been submitted.

I turn to improvements in the quality of the YOP. Many complaints have been made, although not in this debate, that not enough is being done to train young people within the programme. The hon. Member for Maryhill laid great emphasis on that, although some of his hon. Friends did not. We hope to improve the quality of the YOP schemes, and that will take different forms. First, we want to increase the number of trainees who receive off-the-job training. Secondly, we want to lengthen the period of time spent on the programme as a whole to provide a greater variety of work experience.

How fast can that be done? Unfortunately, it looks as if it will not be as fast as we would like because the scale of the programme is immense and change takes a substantial time. The MSC is preparing proposals, and if necessary we are prepared to look at how the YOP can be developed into some sort of training programme.

The hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner), in an extraordinary speech, maintained that the recession was deliberately planned before the general election. The hon. Gentleman is a highly astute politician. He is a senior member of his own party on the National Executive Committee. I would have thought that he would understand perfectly well that no Government plans a recession, because, for good reasons, all Governments wish to be returned to power. There was no planning of a recession. It has come about for a multitude of different reasons. The hon. Gentleman is arguing that we should spend our way out of it, but in my view the recession would be worse if there were a Socialist Government.

The hon. Member also referred to early retirement and argued that there should be early retirement on a greater scale. The hon. Member for Keighley referred to the job release scheme in respect of which we have just reduced the age limit. That is a form of early retirement that provides jobs as a result.

Mr. Skinner

I need to correct the Minister. He probably did not hear me correctly. I said that if it seems sensible to the Government to give £23.50 to these youngsters to be exploited, and in some circumstances to be doing work that is worthless—I am not saying that that is so in all cases—it would be more sensible for people who retire voluntarily to be given that £23.50 plus their old age pension. That would give people an incentive to retire early, like the miners. Miners do not retire early on the basis simply of receiving their old age pension, but on the basis of receiving the old age pension plus an incentive of an additional sum, which is equivalent to redundancy pay. If the Government gave people the £23.50 plus the old age pension it is likely that more people would retire early because they would have an incentive, and more young people would get jobs as a result.

Mr. Morrison

The fact is that the hon. Gentleman is again asking for a large increase in the amount of money to be spent—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."]—and he has not fitted his remarks into the criteria of the job release scheme, which ensure that when a person retires early he is replaced by a person who is, by definition, younger than himself.

Mr. Cryer

This is supplementary.

Mr. Morrison

I do not think that the earlier remarks of the hon. Member for Keighley about my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment are worthy of him or the House. They are not true and he knows it. He knows perfectly well that my right hon. Friend has made good from very humble beginnings. The tone of his remarks was not worthy of him or the House.

The hon. Gentleman talked about import controls and about cutting defence. Has he really worked out whether, if we went down that route, the net result would be a substantial loss of jobs? I can assure him that that would be the result.

The hon. Member for Ashfield (Mr. Haynes) slated Marks and Spencer as a sponsor of the youth opportunities programme. I hope that on consideration he will withdraw the personal remarks that he made.

Mr. Haynes

I shall not withdraw. It is true. It is a racket.

Mr. Morrison

Marks and Spencer is an exceptionally good sponsor of the scheme. It provides many opportunities for young people—probably in the hon. Gentleman's constituency too—who would not otherwise have that opportunity.

Mr. Haynes

That firm contributes to the hon. Gentleman's party. It is a racket.

Mr. Morrison

The hon. Gentleman is doing no service at all, either to the youth opportunities programme or to school leavers who benefit from it, by making those sorts of remarks about Marks and Spencer.

Mr. Haynes

It is true and I shall keep repeating it.

Mr. Morrison

I listened closely to the two points made by the hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours). He spoke about local authorities. I welcome anyone who wants to participate in the scheme. I shall speak to my right hon. Friend the Minister of State, who is responsible for the youth opportunities programme, and see whether there is some way in which we can make further improvements.

Mr. Craigen

I should like something positive to come out of this debate. When may we expect an announcement about an uprating in the present training allowance?

Mr. Morrison

I cannot give the hon. Gentleman an answer, not least because I do not know exactly when. I should imagine that it would be in the not too distant future, but I do not know when. It is a matter that we review on an annual basis, as did his right hon. Friend the Member for Doncaster (Mr. Walker), when he was Minister of State. I should not like to mislead the House by giving a date when, as the hon. Gentleman knows, it is impossible to give dates.

The hon. Member for Workington referred to the materials allowance. There is annual review and I shall make sure that his point is taken carefully into account by the Manpower Services Commission.

I could not agree more with the hon. Member for Dearne Valley (Mr. Wainwright) when he says that we must face up to technology and be competitive. With remarks such as that, he could easily join our Benches. I thought that that was a matter that his right hon. and hon. Friends—

The Question having been proposed at Ten o' clock and the debate having continued for half an hour, Mr. DEPUTY SPEAKER adjourned the House without Question put, pursuant to the Standing Order.

Adjourned accordingly at half-past Ten o'clock.