HC Deb 02 February 1982 vol 17 cc116-7
5. Mrs. Faith

asked the Secretary of State for Employment what discussions he has had with the chairman of the Manpower Services Commission on the implementation of the proposed youth training scheme.

Mr. Tebbit

I meet the chairman of the MSC from time to time to discuss matters such as the proposed youth training scheme; the Government's White Paper drew substantially upon recommendations made by the commission.

Mrs. Faith

In his deliberations with the Manpower Services Commission, will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that people expect the new youth training scheme to give young people real training, so that they can acquire skills that will stand them in good stead when they look for jobs at the end of the year?

Mr. Tebbit

My hon. Friend is right. It is important that the training content of the youth training scheme is of a sufficiently high quality and of a nature best suited to the local employment prospects of the young people

Mr. Marks

Does the Secretary of State regard such schemes as adequate substitutes for the many thousands of apprenticeships that have been lost, including the many apprenticeships that the Government have destroyed for their employees?

Mr. Tebbit

No, Sir. The scheme is not intended to be a substitute for apprenticeships. It lasts for one year. II is important that the Government should continue to support the same number of apprentices, at a cost of about £50 million per annum. It is also important that trade unions should collaborate with the Government, employers and the MSC in reforming apprenticeships, so that we get rid of the old-fashioned age restrictions on entry and reach a system in which apprentices gain qualifications on the basis of their skills, rather than on how long they have served.

Mr. Haselhurst

Have my right hon. Friend's discussions covered the amount of the allowance to be paid under the scheme? Has any evidence reached him to suggest that that will be a crucial factor in the take-up?

Mr. Tebbit

It is too early to say whether that will be a crucial factor. It is unlikely to be so, because the evidence shows that youngsters would be glad to accept good quality training, even if there were no pay. After all, their brothers and sisters often do so in the sixth form at school. However, I have asked the MSC to consider that point and it will give me its views some time, I 5elieve, in April.

Mr. Barry Jones

Is there not a sharp and worrying divide between the great resources spent on the young unemployed and the virtual standstill on training for young people in employment? Will the right hon. Gentleman concede that the element of compulsion and the disqualification from benefit are repulsive, and that the £750 allowance is niggardly and provocative to potential recruits and trade unionists alike?

Mr. Tebbit

I am sorry that the hon. Gentleman should put it that way. He should consider the amount of training given to young people in industry. The great majority of industrial training is carried on in industry. Of course there should be more and better training, but I hope that the hon. Gentleman will not write off what is being done.

The hon. Gentleman will have heard my answer about the allowance. How can he speak about "compulsion"? There is no compulsion on youngsters to join the scheme. When it is open to a youngster to take a place on the scheme and to receive an allowance, I fail to see why he should have the option of sitting at home and receiving money from taxpayers—his fellows—for doing so.