HC Deb 02 February 1982 vol 17 c117
6. Mr. Hooley

asked the Secretary of State for Employment what evidence his Department has received that employers are using young people in the youth opportunities programme as a substitute for full-time adult workers.

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

The Manpower Services Commission receives from time to time allegations of substitution, and evidence of it is sometimes found. The commission and the careers service make every effort to prevent all forms of abuse of the programme.

Mr. Hooley

Is the Minister aware that there is a widespread fear among the trade union movement, particularly in Sheffield, that more and more employers are using the youth opportunities programme as a source of cheap labour? Will the Minister carry out a serious investigation and publish figures to answer the allegations made?

Mr. Morrison

I am informed that in the past 12 months there have been five allegations of substitution on existing schemes in Sheffield. Upon investigation by the commission's staff, none of those allegations was proved. However, I understand the hon. Gentleman's point. As I have said, when allegations are made with the right type of evidence, we seek to ensure, by proper checks, that there is no substitution.

Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop

Is my hon. Friend aware that many mature people who have the good fortune to be employed welcome the opportunity that is given to young people to acquire useful industrial training and the habit of disciplined employment?

Mr. Morrison

I entirely agree with my hon. Friend. I hope that he will agree that the development from the youth opportunities programme to the new training scheme should be applauded.

Mr. James Lamond

Does the Minister realise that some Government employees, particularly in the Inland Revenue Department, believe that the Government are abusing the youth opportunities programme to obtain cheap labour? If those allegations are correct, would that not be disgraceful conduct for any Government Department?

Mr. Morrison

I have not heard that allegation before. However, if the hon. Gentleman writes to me about it, I shall be happy to look into it.