HC Deb 22 April 1983 vol 41 cc556-73

Order for Second Reading read.

12.49 pm
Mr. Tom Clarke (Coatbridge and Airdrie)

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

In presenting this important Bill, I am aware, as is the House, of the enormous problems facing young people today. Many of us believe them to be the greatest problems of the 1980s. I am sure that the House would wish to address itself to those problems.

If the measures proposed in the Bill are approved. Parliament will, as stated in clause 1(1),

  1. "(a) ensure opportunities for work, or training for work, for all persons aged between sixteen and nineteen years;
  2. (b) ensure educational facilities for all persons below the age of nineteen years; and
  3. (c) provide a cost of living allowance net of essential expenses for all such persons."
The proposals are made at a time when the high national level of unemployment is extremely unpleasant and represents a challenge to the House. I know that there is much discussion nowadays—and rightly so—about the role of the family within our community, but when the Prime Minister refers to those matters she might usefully recall that it cannot be helpful to a family if there are within it one or more young persons who find no prospect whatever of a job or of any industrial or commercial future. In that context, youth unemployment is a great blow to the family, and I invite the House to consider the problem in that way.

In Britain today, 287,757 young people are unemployed, and 250,000 young people are involved in youth opportunities programmes, so that in reality over 500,000 young people are not in real jobs.

The prestigious publication "Social Trends" recently said that youth unemployment in the United Kingdom had reached a staggering 25 per cent. For 16-year-olds it is nearer 50 per cent. Young people leaving school at 16 make one job application after another, the chances of getting an interview are few and far between, and they think that they have no future whatever. Even if, in later years, they manage to find job opportunities, the earlier years of unemployment will be a scar on their lives, and upon our community. This the Bill seeks to remove.

In pockets of the United Kingdom there are very great problems. In some areas, such as Liverpool and Northern Ireland, unemployment is in the region of 80 per cent. That is an appalling picture and a social challenge. I know that the House will want to consider it and respond to it.

In my constituency the decline in employment opportunities has been very noticeable since the Government were elected. In March 1980, 642 people were unemployed. The figure is now 967. The interesting feature is the increase in the number of people involved in youth opportunities programmes. In March 1980 in my constituency the number was 705. The most recent figure is 1,022. Therefore, the problem is almost evenly divided between those young people who cannot find jobs and those young people who are involved in youth opportunities programmes as a substitute for jobs.

What are we doing as a nation and as a society to provide better opportunities? The figures that were recently made available to the House in a parliamentary reply about young persons entering apprenticeships do not represent the kind of hope that we want to see but a very steady decline, which is a sad reflection on the Government and their policies. In 1977–78, 110,000 young people entered apprenticeships. In 1978–79, the figure was 113,000. After that we saw a steady decline. In 1979–80, the figure was down to 90,000; in 1980–81, it went down to 60,000; and in 1982–83, it went down to 45,000. That is hardly a sign that training for skills and preparing skilled workers for the upturn that we are promised so frequently are really in the Government's mind.

In Scotland, we have severe problems in terms of apprenticeship opportunities. The number of persons entering craft and technical apprenticeships approved by the construction, engineering, road transport and shipbuilding industries training boards in Scotland dropped from 8,607 in 1979 to 5,295 in 1982.

Given that position not just in Scotland but in one part of the country after another, it is astonishing that young people are so profoundly patient. We should congratulate them on their forbearance given the problems that they face and the lack of hope that Government policies represent. We hear much talk of the youth problem, but youth is not the problem. It is society that gives young people problems. Young people want the status, income and choice to which they are entitled.

I have no desire, Mr. Deputy Speaker, to interfere too much in your leisure time and that of the House, but I recommend as a sign of the views of young people a recent pop record entitled "Mad World", which was recorded by a group whose name, Tears for Fears, is perhaps significant. The words of the song are: I find it hard to take When people run in circles. It's a mad world, a mad world. Is it surprising that young people take that view?

The number of young people in various youth training schemes, however adequate or inadequate they may be, is cloaking the real figures and the underlying frustration and resentment among Britain's young people. The Government's scheme is not what the MSC described as a permanent bridge between education and employment. Instead it is a gangplank into the shark-infested waters of life on the dole. None of these young people entering the various Government schemes has the slightest assurance that the time spent on the scheme will be meaningful and that real jobs will result from it.

Frances Traynor, a young lady of 17 from Ayrshire, wrote to the Glasgow Herald recently, and I thought that her letter spoke volumes. She said: I left school in May 1982, with six 'O' grades and four Highers expecting to have a better chance than most in the job stakes. Two months later … I was at the end of my tether, desperate to work and to prove my worth to an employer. I wrote letters by the dozen, haunted the Jobcentre, and still nothing. Finally I gave in and went on the Youth Opportunities, surely one of the worst schemes ever devised. I have worked a 40-hour week for £25 alongside people who earn three and four times that. Nine times out of 10 another person is needed, but the employer is content to have free labour for six months, dump you and employ another gullible school leaver who thinks £25 is a great wage. She was not alone in her criticism. An article in The Scotsman on 28 February stated: The Government's Youth Training Scheme was accused at the weekend of giving 60 per cent. of school leavers a year's training and then putting them back on the scrapheap without a job. The claim was made at the weekend by Mr. James Thomson, past president of the Educational Institute of Scotland, when he addressed the institute's Lanarkshire Association. Mr. Thomson said that the future for young people had never been so bleak. He said that the Youth Training Scheme would provide employers with a vast pool of labour paid for by the taxpayer and renewable annually. 'The opportunities for abuse by unscrupulous employers of young people could create a threat to the existing employment structure,' Mr. Thomson said. Those are important opinions, and I hope that the Government will give them due regard. The Secretary of State for Defence announced recently in the House the new "lads' army." Again, I am compelled to say that this is no substitute—nor will the country regard it as a substitute — for a buoyant economy that gives hope and opportunity to Britain's youngsters. I go a step further and say that to many young people it is a sign of the exploitation to which they rightly take grave exception. The Government will be saving £19 a week for each recruit by asking trainees to work like young soldiers. They will not pay £44 a week, however, but an allowance of £25. The introduction of what has been called "Heseltine's dole queue squaddies" is a monstrous waste of millions of pounds that could be better spent on creating jobs and flexible, broadly-based training in the community.

It is deplorable that the British Youth Council, which does sterling work in this area and in others, and the Youth Training Board were not consulted on those proposals. The British Youth Council issued an interesting statement which I draw to the House's attention: As is now usual with announcements on the subject of youth training, this one is based on no consultation whatsoever with the bodies, such as the BYC and the TUC, who devised the Youth Training Scheme. It is outrageous that on a matter of such controversy, the Youth Training Board was not even informed, far less consulted. Is the prospect of 16 year old YTS trainees patrolling the streets of Ulster or doing garrison duty in the Falklands what the Youth Task Group had in mind when it made its proposals for the Youth Training Scheme? There has got to be more to YTS than just getting the unemployment statistics down. Even the youngsters who have had the good fortune to find a place in a youth opportunities programme scheme have great difficulty in paying their expenses. It is a disgrace and a scandal that for £25 a week many young people work in jobs that are temporary, boring and repetitive, lacking in challenge and offering no promotion prospects. If their travel costs are just less than £4 a week, they cannot claim for any of them, so they take home £21 a week. They must reflect on the thought that if they were receiving supplementary benefit, they would get £18.90 a week—a mere £2.10 less—for not working at all. But, of course, they do want to work, and the Governement should be offering opportunities for jobs. Not only that, they should be encouraging public bodies of all kinds to be doing exactly the same. I include under that heading the Civil Service. I know that the Prime Minister made an announcement the other day to the effect that she will be taking a trainee into the Cabinet Office. Many people wondered which Minister she was going to demote. But Britain must look for something more tangible and lasting than another cosmetic effect.

It is disgraceful that young people are being denied entry into the Civil Service and other public bodies when almost every right hon. and hon. Member knows that DHSS and Department of Employment offices are bursting at the seams because they do not have the necessary staff to deal with the problems. The number of jobs lost in the Civil Service has been represented as a triumph from the Dispatch Box time after time. The Prime Minister and her right hon. and hon. Friends should have another look at the Civil Service and give young people, not the prospect of blatant job substitution—which I regard the trainee's post in the Prime Minister's Office to be — but the chance to enter the Civil Service, to develop careers, and to become in time HEOs, SEOs, principals and so on. In my time in the House I have not seen many people in posts at those levels who come from comprehensive schools. We in the Labour Party have no doubt won the argument about comprehensive education but we have to go a step further and ensure that young people who have been educated at comprehensive schools are given the same opportunities in the Civil Service, public service, banking and so on, that is given to those in the private sector.

There is a growing conviction that we have not properly planned for changing employment patterns; for micro-development; for the changing role of employment and its relation to leisure. There has been no obvious and acceptable strategy in Britain's social and educational fabric. We have allowed cuts in local authority expenditure on education; industrial boards to be axed; university places to disappear; and apprenticeships to collapse. We have also seen a chaotic system of benefits, awards and bursaries for training and education. Above all, as many of Britain's young people believe, we have seen a tax on the wage levels of our young workers. The Guardian recently said: While the Government fails to tackle this problem, rather than aggravate it by abolishing many of the industrial training boards, there will remain the sad suspicion that it is rather more interested in cosmetic effects on the dole queues than in remedying long-standing deficiencies". Young people will ask — training for what? Young people on these schemes are not protected by the law. They have no legal status, as a trainee is neither a student nor a worker. Thus, race relations, health and safety and equality of opportunity legislation does not apply. It is not enough to do as the Manpower Services Commission does and make the agency responsible for the scheme sign a contract to act as if the law did apply. The case of Daily v. Allied Supplies demonstrated that it is legal for an employer to prevent a young black trainee from operating her cash register just because she is black.

The slogan of the Jobs for Youth campaign is: "Give us a future." That is a polite request, given the problems that young people are facing and the challenge to the Government and the House, and who are we to deny that future to Britain's young people? If we leave young people with nothing to do they will have nothing to do with us and many will not blame them for that.

The problems that I have outlined for the most part invite their own solutions. My Bill represents a contribution towards solving those problems. Young people, recognising that the next decade and beyond can be a tremendous challenge— a decade of opportunity, not gloom—will seek, if the Government assist them, the type of future that they want and deserve.

1.11 pm
Mr. John Blackburn (Dudley, West)

I warmly and sincerely congratulate the hon. Member for Coatbridge and Airdrie (Mr. Clarke) on introducing the Bill. The Bill reflects great credit upon him and he is wise to bring such a relevant measure to the Floor of the House, because the subject affects all constituents.

This is one of those rare occasions upon which hon. Members can say, "I have read and re-read the Bill", because it is a small Bill—almost a pearl of wisdom. It is appropriate that the House should debate the Bill now. The hon. Gentleman painted too gloomy a picture, but he has given the Government a wonderful touch of inspiration. The fact that the Cabinet is to take on a trainee will prove to be a great source of encouragement. There are 320 trainees on the Government side of the House. After the general election, there will be 350 waiting to serve in the Cabinet.

I was interested in the hon. Gentleman's comments about the background to the Bill. It is important that the House should examine historically how young people's opportunities begin. My research reveals that in 1978 the Labour Government introduced the youth opportunities programme, which gained the universal support of the House and of the country. I applaud, without shame, the measures that were taken. They were sound, sensible, responsible and, more importantly, compassionate for those in difficulties.

The Conservative Government took upon themselves the mantle of those responsibilities. The concept was to focus firmly on young people who would be unlikely to get jobs without help. The initial concept of the scheme was that, by acquiring experience of work and a range of basic skills, young people would be assured of a better start to their working lives. All hon. Members would applaud that.

It is interesting to reflect how compassionate the Government have been in following the lead which, as I have readily acknowledged, was given by the Labour Government. A total of 1.5 million young people have benefited from the programme. That is a staggering figure.

The hon. Member for Coatbridge and Airdrie outlined some of the problems and difficulties. He used press cuttings and the experiences of individuals who had gone into the scheme and come out disillusioned to support his case. Every hon. Member will take that very seriously. It is a reflection of the Government's serious intent that there should be a Minister on the Front Bench to reply to this debate.

The hon. Member for Coatbridge and Airdrie has correctly and honourably outlined the financial implications— which have been accepted—of helping young people. In my work in my constituency I have always tried to help and to show a sense of dedication. In 1978–79, when the scheme was first introduced, expenditure was £63 million. It is projected that the Government are spending £500 million in the current financial year on support for the programme. The programme is important, and it is money well spent. However, more importantly, the House has a moral responsibility to care for those young people who leave school and cannot find jobs.

What are the chances for someone on the youth training scheme? It would be foolish beyond belief to take isolated cases. We have a responsibility to paint a global picture, with the qualification that the situation may be different in individual constituencies. The hon. Member for Coatbridge and Airdrie made a quite horrific statement. I had great sympathy with what he said about 80 per cent. youth unemployment. No hon. Member would condone that. If that is the situation in his constituency, it gives rise to great alarm and concern. By introducing the Bill, he has accepted his constituency responsibilities in a most honourable way. Out of every 10 young people who go on to the scheme, five will find employment within six months, two will be on educational programmes and, within another three months, another one of the 10 will have gained employment through his own initiative. Given the national figures, which cannot be challenged, it is reasonable to assume that, for every 10 young people who go on the scheme, eight will be in employment after nine months and two will still be unemployed.

Mr. John Golding (Newcastle-under-Lyme)

What is the date for those figures? Do those who find jobs after the scheme always keep them?

Mr. Blackburn

I am most happy to respond to the hon. Gentleman, because I know from his service in the House that he takes his duties responsibly, particularly when it comes to caring for young people. The figures that I have cited relate to the period from June 1980 to July 1981. However, I cannot say how many jobs subsequently go by the board.

Mr. Golding

Does the hon. Gentleman accept that there has been a tremendous deterioration in the situation facing young people since those figures were collected? The figures were much higher in 1978–79 and still higher in 1979–80. The position has deteriorated. The hon. Gentleman misleads himself if he thinks that those figues relate to the current position.

Mr. Blackburn

I am obliged to the hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Mr. Golding). I always have the highest regard for his comments. If he will exercise some kindness towards me, I shall deal with the current position and explain what is happening in my constituency.

It is unwise to say that people on the scheme have no chance. An expression used a few minutes ago could be the motto for this small measure. The expression was, "Give us a future." If that is the cry from young people in Britain, I for one am prepared to support it. I want to hear young people say, "The Government and politicians should give us a future." I want young people to have a future, but I want it to be real. I do not want their future to be propped up by Government aids and subsidies. I want young people to have a real opportunity to do a real job with real training and real career prospects.

We were elected to act for our constituents and to represent their views in the House. I hope that it can be said of me that I represent my people. My constituency is in the west midlands, in the centre of the black country and at the heart of the engineering industry. In October 1982 over 9,000 16 to 19-year-olds were unemployed in the local travel-to-work area. That was out of a total of 49,000 unemployed. As the result of the depression a steelworks in my constituency was closed with the loss of 3,500 jobs. The north of my constituency has been torn to shreds by the closure of the Bilston steelworks. In the centre of the constituency the Cookley steelworks was closed before 1979. The blackest day in the history of my constituency was 17 November last year when the finest steelworks in the country, Round Oak, was closed with the loss of 3,500 jobs.

Let no one point a finger at me and say that I do not understand unemployment. I live in my constituency and I worked in the engineering industry there for 22 years before being elected to the House. My constituents are my people and I represent them here. The young people are equally my responsibility. I accept my responsibilities.

By January 1983 the total of 9,000 young unemployed had dropped by 5 per cent. Let us not be prophets of doom, because in the past three months in my constituency unemployment has dropped consistently, but only marginally. It is now under 11 per cent. How does that affect young people? On 10 March 1,900 school leavers were registered as unemployed in the travel-to-work area in my constituency. Many of these young people should find their way into the youth opportunities programme. That is why I applaud the fact that we are to spend £500 million instead of £63 million on the programme. The Government have a solemn responsibility.

I believe that the Manpower Services Commission, especially in the west midlands, has already identified the problem. I commend the MSC—it is unusual for me to start paying it compliments—on its recent publication drawing attention to labour market trends during 1983–85. If any fair, reasonable and responsible person reads it, he will realise that there is a real sign of hope. This bears directly on the cry of young people to be given a future. The area manpower board has already introduced two schemes. By the grace of God it has a further 10 schemes, which I hope will be implemented quickly.

I say without shame that I cannot in any circumstances challenge clause 1(1)(a). The Bill is a lasting tribute to the hon. Member for Coatbridge and Airdrie. I shall always associate myself with clause 1(1)(a).

Are the Government compassionate?

Mr. Golding


Mr. Blackburn

Do they have a feeling for our young people?

Mr. William Pitt (Croydon, North-West)


Mr. Blackburn

There are cries of no from the packed Opposition Benches. I say that they do their young people a great disservice.

Mr. Golding

That is right. That is what the Government do.

Mr. Blackburn

The Government are accepting their responsibilities with honour and at great financial cost. We do not shirk the battle when young people say, "Give us a job, give us a future."

I am delighted to announce that on 4 May my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Employment is to visit my constituency. It is a sign of the Government's concern and responsibility for the region in which I serve. My hon. Friend will tour youth opportunities programmes and see the problem at first hand. I could never ask anything more of a Minister than to see the situation at first hand.

Mr. Golding

That will please the Under-Secretary of State.

Mr. Blackburn

We shall give my hon. Friend a cordial welcome. Following his visit he may feel disposed to consider the problems in my constituency with an even greater sense of compassion.

The Government have wisely appointed a Minister with special responsibilities for the west midlands. This is the first public opportunity that I have had to pay a warm and sincere tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, South-West (Mr. Butcher), the Under-Secretary of State for Industry. My hon. Friend served in the area as a councillor and he has worked in the engineering industry. He will certainly be welcomed.

If the Bill has served no other purpose, it has gently prodded Her Majesty's Government to respond to the situation. In that spirit I look forward to my hon. Friend's reply. The Government will respond to the people who say, "Give us a future." The Government will give them a positive future and career prospects. In that spirit I support clause 1(1)(a), but the other provisions of the Bill are adequately covered. They have proved to be acceptable to Her Majesty's Government, because so many of those aspects are being implemented.

Again, I sincerely congratulate the hon. Member for Coatbridge and Airdrie on drawing the attention of the House to his interesting, worthwhile, relevant and well thought out Bill. In view of the importance of tomorrow, perhaps I may say that it has certainly been a Scottish day today, because the Diseases of Fish Bill has been introduced by my hon. Friend the Member for Bute and North Ayrshire (Mr. Corrie) and the Young Persons' Rights Bill by the hon. Member for Coatbridge and Airdrie.

1.30 pm
Mr. William Pitt (Croydon, North-West)

I should like to add my warm and heartfelt congratulations to the hon. Member for Coatbridge and Airdrie (Mr. Clarke) on a short, sharp, precise and necessary Bill. I believe that the Bill will be of far greater use to the country, and in particular to young people, than the short, sharp shock treatments that have failed, by and large, to stem the rise in youth crime figures. I believe that, if the Bill were implemented, the youth crime figures would fall. It is clear that the devil gives work to idle hands.

Unemployment among young people is staggering. I am surprised that the hon. Member for Dudley, West (Mr. Blackburn) said that the hon. Member for Coatbridge and Airdrie painted a picture gloomier than the reality. The hon. Member for Dudley, West comes from the west midlands and eloquently described to us the economic position in the west midlands. I come from a more fortunate area, the south-east, but even in the south-east the unemployment figures have doubled since the Government took office.

We should also consider the attitude of Governments to youth. With exceptions, the failure of politicians of all parties and, again with exceptions, the failure of large parts of the trade union movement and society in general, have alienated young people from the social, cultural, political and economic life of the country. I believe that specific action must be taken now to remedy that. Again, that is why I welcome the hon. Gentleman's Bill.

We should consider two points. At 16, young people should have, as of right, a real opportunity and the economic independence to choose between work, education, training, work experience and community service. There should he no element of compulsion. We should ensure closer contact between the schools and the community. In the multiracial society of the United Kingdom there should be greater provision for mother tongue teaching and the teaching of English as a second language.

The hon. Member for Dudley mentioned the youth opportunities programme. Its original concept—to help young people without training to get a start in life—has been left so far behind as to be almost out of sight. I believe that the youth training scheme will do likewise. I should like briefly to remind the House of a story told by my hon. Friend the Member for Truro (Mr. Penhaligon) and, respecting his roots, I will not attempt to go into character. My hon. Friend received a letter from a farmer who was angry about a number of matters. He said that he wanted his free boy. He had been down to the local employment exchange where he was told that he could not have one. He said, "Well, if I cannot have a free boy, I want a free maid. Farmer Jones up the road has one and Farmer Brown down the road has one. I want my free boy." What he meant was that he wanted someone from the youth opportunities scheme. While we continue to have schemes that put young people into work for a limited time on wages that are even lower in some circumstances that sweat shop wages, the training and education of young people will fall into disrepute.

Any money spent on YOP, YTS or any other scheme will count for naught if it cannot be sustainable over the long term and provide a permanent base from which a young person can work. The Government's approach to training is inadequate. First, it does not cover those who enter employment; secondly, it is not long enough; and thirdly, it does nothing for the retraining of adults—and let us remember that the young people about whom we are speaking will be adults before we know where we are.

Consideration should be given to combining the training functions of the Department of Education and Science and the Manpower Services Commission. The first task should be to reform and rationalise the whole area of youth training so that provision is available for the whole age range 16 to 19, offering all l6-year-olds who want it a two-year course leading to a certificate of training. There should be a complete reform of the apprenticeship system so that it is based on the attainment of well-delivered standards of performance and not on the time-serving craftsman status, and it should be open to people of all ages who can demonstrate those attainments. People who have obtained a certificate of training or been on the youth training scheme should be able to go on, as of right, to an apprenticeship scheme. There should be increasing use of the sandwich principle for college courses with an investigation into the possibility of an open tech based on the Open University.

Mr. Golding

The hon. Gentleman is saying that if someone has a qualification, he should as of right be able to get apprentice training. What if it is known that there will not be jobs in that trade when the youngster has finished training? There is no open sesame. Should not apprenticeships be geared to the possibility of work at the end of training?

Mr. Pitt

The hon. Gentleman is right. In addition, all training should be geared as an ongoing concept. I am proud of my polytechnic training. I was trained along certain lines and I qualified in a certain profession. We have geared our training hitherto to a specific job for life. We must now be looking at the whole system of training in terms of a person doing a job for a number of years —perhaps for life, but riot necessarily so—so I accept the point the hon. Gentleman makes.

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

Perhaps I misunderstood the hon. Gentleman or did not hear him properly. Did he say he wanted an open tech? If so, he should be aware that we have an open tech based on the Open University.

Mr. Pitt

I am grateful to the Minister for that intervention. I was not aware that there was an open tech, and if I was not aware of it, it must be keeping a very low profile. The concept of the open tech I see is the same concept as the Open University, and I look forward to the Minister enlightening us further on that when he replies to the debate.

The Government are disposed to provide neither proper and long-lasting job opportunities nor adequate training facilities to fit this generation of young people to be the skilled technicians, designers, innovators and managers of the future. That is disgusting. We must face the fact that we may have a lost generation. If we have much more Toryism, the silver spoon will count for more than real ability. More dangerously, the Government are, I believe, in many ways deliberately creating a lost generation by their policy of splitting society in two between the haves and have-nots. If we have such a lost generation, we shall have people with no proper skills, no effective experience and no likelihood of any. If that occurs, it will be a recipe for anarchy.

1.39 pm
Mr. John Golding (Newcastle-under-Lyme)

I join those who have warmly thanked my hon. Friend the Member for Coatbridge and Airdrie (Mr. Clarke) for introducing the Bill. It is a great initiative.

It is difficult to follow the hon. Member for Dudley, West (Mr. Blackburn), who seemed to wish to support the Government by destroying them at every turn, or the Liberal spokesman, the hon. Member for Croydon, North-West (Mr. Pitt), who called for an open tech, which already exists and is probably the only initiative of value that the Government have taken. I suggest that the Liberal party should follow the developments in manpower planning in this country rather than going into a cave somewhere and trying to draw up ideal systems that do not relate to what is happening.

The problem of youth unemployment is massive and it is becoming worse month by month. The hon. Member for Dudley, West is wrong. There is no room for complacency. The situation that will be faced by any Government in September, October or November this year is grim indeed — and if it will be grim for the Government it will be far more so for the young people.

In January, 1,226,000 young people under the age of 24 were unemployed, and 285,500 of them had been unemployed for more than a year. The situation among school leavers is grim. There seems to be no way in which the target of 400,000 places needed for the youth training scheme will be reached by September. The Government have antagonised employers and unions alike by their general economic policies, so that it is difficult to obtain full co-operation at local level. Not even Saatchi and Saatchi can persuade employers and unions to provide the necessary places. I regret that very much indeed.

I do not share the negative approach of the Liberal party. I believe that we need a strong youth training scheme. The Labour party is committed to developing the youth training scheme into a two-year student traineeship. The youth training scheme is not an unemployment scheme. I hope that the Minister will emphasise that today. Its aim is to provide what we have lacked in this country for many generations — a scheme whereby all school leavers receive both training and education—and to get away from the situation in which only those whom society regards as the brightest and best receive further education and training. That is why there has been common agreement among trade unions, employers and Government that a youth training scheme is needed.

I do not wish any of my criticisms of the Government to make it harder for them to implement the scheme. The TUC supports the scheme. The Labour party wishes to improve it, but supports the principle of it. It is very important indeed that we have such a scheme.

Other schemes have not been so successful. Indeed, other schemes that the Government have dreamt up are half baked. For example, the young workers scheme which was Professor Walters' brainchild—brain damage would be more apt — was designed to cut young people's wages and, therefore, according to the Government's logic, create jobs. So far, at the enormous cost of £59 million, it has been estimated that only 16,300 jobs have created for young people and that 6,500 jobs have been taken from older workers. That is what I call throwing money at the problem without getting value for money. Therefore, Professor Walters' crackpot scheme has turned out to be another flop. If Ministers in the Department of Employment had had the strength to face up to the Cabinet Office and had had the backing to say of Professor Walters' scheme, "It will not work," we should have avoided the waste of that money which could have been better spent.

It would be better to use the money on post-youth training scheme subsidies to ensure that 18 to 19-year-olds — perhaps even 20 to 24-year-olds — also get work. Young adults are having it rough. The Minister and the hon. Member for Dudley, West should be aware that, in my experience, the placement rate from the scheme is getting worse. I should like the Minister to produce current figures that relate to 1982–83 rather than those for 1980–81. If he did, the hon. Member for Dudley, West would have a shock because the placement rate is far too low. Almost three out of 10, or 29.4 per cent., of 18 and 19-year-old men are out of work and on the dole. They should take note of that. It is an astonishing figure. There is no grant scheme for them. Nor is there any youth opportunities programme or youth training scheme for them.

The Government's record of neglect is despicable. They have wasted time with a hare-brained scheme to get the unemployed to work for dole money plus expenses. That completely unacceptable scheme has delayed relief for the young unemployed for months. The Government then abandoned a successful but minute community enterprise programme and introduced a community programme which is utterly inadequate.

The Government should have built on success rather than wasted time introducing a less effective scheme which did not have the same support and will not win the same support. The community programme, which was introduced last October, should provide 130,000 places a year. By February, of the 61,623 approved places, only 38,000 had been filled. Those 38,000 places are to provide for over 1 million long-term unemployed—people who have been unemployed for a year or more. The Government's provision is 38,000 places on the community programme plus some places still left on the community enterprise programme.

It is not surprising that there are difficulties in making progress. First, the design of the scheme has fundamental faults. Sponsors—mainly local authorities and voluntary organisations — have been shackled by complications. Not only are they forced to combine part-time and full-time jobs; the restrictive £60 a week average wage puts them into a financial straitjacket. Secondly, it fails to provide an adequate training element, especially for the highly trainable young adults, and for that reason it has been unattractive to many sponsors. It makes no sense whatever not to link employment and training programmes, especially for young adults who could benefit from skills and training grafted on to getting paid in a temporary job.

The Government should now admit that they have got it wrong in trying to deliver immediate and constructive help to the long-term unemployed. There are better methods than those that the Government have adopted. The whole programme should be recast so that the current weaknesses are overcome and the long-term unemployed, especially young adults, get a better deal.

First, the £60 average wage cost restriction should be abolished to bring it into line with the average wage cost of the real community enterprise programme. Secondly, the number of full-time places should be boosted so that all should have the choice of full-time places paid at the rate for the job. Thirdly, there should be a proper training element and budget to promote adequate training opportunities for long-term unemployed people who are in the programme.

Incidentally, the job-splitting scheme, which is also supposed to help the unemployed, is a wasteful flop. By 25 March the Government had spent £338,000 on advertising the job-splitting scheme. By 8 April only 199 applications had been approved, creating 398 part-time jobs. That is another example of the Government pursuing ideology and throwing money away on a scheme without any reference to getting value for money. One thing is certain; the Government are not getting value for money from the job-splitting scheme.

The levels of unemployment, mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Coatbridge and Airdie and underlined by the hon. Member for Dudley, West, are heartbreaking. So, too, are the long periods of unemployment being suffered. As I have said, 285,500 under-25s have been unemployed for more than a year. Through time, the length of unemployment being suffered by people is increasing. That is a grave problem which the Government must face.

As I have said on several occasions, there is an enormous difference between being unemployed for a month or six weeks and being unemployed for 12 months or two years. My preoccupation for many years has been with the long-term unemployed, and their numbers are growing considerably. Have the Government weighed up what the growth of long-term unemployment means in personal terms? Have they any idea of the misery and desolation being caused among this vulnerable group?

I doubt whether Ministers understand that. I doubt whether day trips to Dudley will bring them this understanding. I used to go to Dudley to visit the zoo, but my day trips to Dudley brought me about as much understanding of the lives of the animals in the zoo as a day trip to Dudley will bring the Under-Secretary of State an understanding of what it is like to be unemployed for one or two years at a stretch and to be living in families where often several members are unemployed at the same time. Do the Secretary of State and the Under-Secretary understand the financial and social plight of young jobless adults? After 12 months' unemployment, few have any savings. How can they have? After 12 months' unemployment, they receive no unemployment benefit. They receive only supplementary benefit which for them is a pittance.

Let us consider the facts. Anyone in that position who is living at home receives only £23.65 a week. I ask the Under-Secretary of State how anyone can marry on that sort of money. That is an important question for the 18 to 25-year-olds. By their policies, the Government are breaking not only people's spirits but their hearts. When the Government deal with the young unemployed—the 18, 19 and 20-year-olds—they are totally heartless.

I ask the Government, as I have asked them before, how young adults can get a decent start in married life on such an income. If the girl is working, the man loses all benefits when he marries. We must consider the enormity of the situation for many young couples, not just those in the west midlands, which has suffered more than any other region, and where the appointment of a Minister to save the west midlands is regarded as a sick electoral joke.

The hon. Member for Dudley, West, in his election speech earlier, did not say that the Under-Secretary of State for Industry who has been appointed Minister for the west midlands, during proceedings on the Telecommunications Bill, had so little regard for jobs in the west midlands that he was prepared to allow jobs in telecommunications equipment manufacturing to go to Japan in the name of ideology. I did not wish to discuss that subject, but I was provoked by the hon. Member for Dudley.

Mr. Blackburn

I am completely unaware of what went on in Committee with the Telecommunications Bill. During my speech I said that the fact that the Government have appointed a Minister with responsibility for the west midlands should be applauded. It is a little unfair for the hon. Gentleman to say that my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Employment will learn nothing about Dudley from a day trip. My hon. Friend has taken a keen interest in the affairs of the west midlands, has received deputations and has gained knowledge of the problem. A visit to Dudley is a further step to see the problems at first hand.

Mr. Golding

If the Minister has taken an interest, that probably means that the position will become worse. Unemployment in the west midlands has trebled since 1979, and the hon. Member for Dudley, West said that the greatest disaster in the history of Dudley happened last year. What response to that disaster did the hon. Gentleman get from the Under-Secretary of State who is, it is said, taking such an interest? Did he say that he would help the people of Dudley? If the hon. Gentleman had been a member of the Committee that discussed the Telecommunications Bill. he would have realised that Ministers are prepared to destroy the British engineering industry in defence of their theories and ideology. I regret that the hon. Gentleman did not have that salutary experience.

Young adults cannot get a decent start in married life. Until the position is changed in November, the girl cannot even claim family income supplement. Love on the dole is as rough in the 1980s as it was in the 1930s. The only real hope for those youngsters lies in the election of a Labour Government who would be dedicated to the creation rather than the destruction of jobs, and who would restore the pride and initiative of young men and women by giving them work, training and education. Young people say, "Give us a future," but only a Labour Government will do that. Only the Labour party has said that it will provide an allowance to all those who attend school. Only the Labour party has said that it will provide effective student training, and only the Labour party can provide Ministers who will know what can be implemented to give all our young people hope and a better future.

2.5 pm

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

As the Bill relates specifically to 16 to 19-year-olds, I intend to devote my remarks to them. I hope that the hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Mr. Golding) will understand if I do not immediately address my remarks to the schemes to help long-term unemployment. If I have time, I shall do so at the end.

Mr. Golding

Will the Minister give us the assurance that he will talk this afternoon not only about 16 and 17-year-olds but about the plight of 18-year-olds?

Mr. Morrison

I can give the hon. Gentleman the assurance that I intend to talk about the Bill. However, he will not expect me to agree with his remarks about the schemes that have been developed to help long-term unemployment, nor, indeed, do I. His remarks about the community programme were rather misplaced because substantially more people will be able to benefit from that than were able to benefit from the community enterprise programme.

My hon. Friend the Member for Dudley, West (Mr. Blackburn) applauded, as did all the hon. Members who have spoken in this short debate, the hon. Member for Coatbridge and Airdrie (Mr. Clarke) for introducing the Bill because it gives the House the opportunity to discuss a vital subject—young people, their employment and training. I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for allowing me the opportunity to reply to what has been an interesting debate. I assure the House, in particular the hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme, that I am in no way complacent. He said that there was no room for complacency, and I am sure that my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley, West was not, and indeed is not, complacent about the problem.

The hon. Member for Coatbridge and Airdrie said that youth is not the problem, and I agree. But I was somewhat bamboozled—I use the word advisedly—by certain parts of his speech. He attacked the youth opportunities programme and the youth training scheme, yet in the opening clause he refers to "training for work". The aims and objects of the Bill are somewhat different from what he said in his speech.

Mr. Tom Clarke

I was saying that I am not in favour of a cosmetic exercise. I suggested that the various youth training schemes are substitutes for real jobs. By giving the figure of the appalling decline in apprenticeships for engineering, shipbuilding and so on, I tried to suggest that young people in Britain want a Government policy which will lead to real jobs.

Mr. Morrison

The hon. Gentleman draws me on a subject which I had intended to deal with later, but I can assure him that the Government see the youth training scheme as a training measure and not, as the hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme asked me to say, as a special employment measure. It will succeed or fail according to the training that it offers.

I am also extremely grateful to the hon. Member for Coatbridge and Airdrie because the Bill is so short and not difficult to read through. The hon. Gentleman referred to costs, but then went on to the £25 allowance. However, on its face, the Bill would appear to demand a large increase in public expenditure, which in turn would create inflationary pressures. It would lead to higher interest rates, which would make it more difficult for companies to make profits, and would lead to fewer jobs.

Mr. Tom Clarke


Mr. Morrison

I wish to develop my speech a little more.

The Bill must be seen in the context of what the Government are doing. The Government have a significant set of programmes for young people. They range from the vast youth training scheme—vast in terms of numbers and budget—to the relatively small community industry scheme. The Government acknowledge that young people and school leavers face a problem.

School leavers are in special difficulties. The obvious answer, with which hon. Members would not disagree, is that they should find a job with related training. Jobs arise only in companies that produce goods and services of a quality and at a price that consumers wish to buy.

I listened carefully to what the hon. Member for Croydon, North-West (Mr. Pitt) said. I may be wrong, but I thought that he entirely missed that straight economic fact of life. Jobs do not grow out of thin air. They grow and survive in flourishing companies.

Britain has exported jobs during the past 10 to 20 years, as I am sure hon. Members will agree. We no longer produce manual typewriters because they are imported from the far east. There are no United Kingdom manufacturers of combine harvesters or motor cycles. When they were manufactured in Britain, jobs and apprenticeships were available to youngsters.

Mr. Tom Clarke

The Minister has raised an important point about costing. The Bill states: The Secretary of State shall, within six months of the passing of this Act, lay before Parliament a scheme". The Minister must inform the House of the costs of the Government scheme. Furthermore, there is an obligation on him to tell the House how much it costs this country to keep so many young people unemployed and to pay for so many shoddy jobs that produce nothing for those young people or the country.

Mr. Morrison

I find the hon. Gentleman's remarks about costs, and the cost related to the passing of this Bill, absolutely incredible. The hon. Gentleman is the promoter of the Bill, yet he is not able to tell the House how much his scheme is likely to cost! If any Minister proposed a Bill on that basis and could not answer the question that I am putting to the hon. Gentleman, that Minister would not survive in office for long. The position is the same when dealing with a private Member's Bill. The House is entitled to know the answer.

Mr. Tom Clarke

Will the Minister answer my question? How much does it cost to keep young people on the dole?

Mr. Morrison

I listened to the speech of the hon. Gentleman quietly and with interest. I am entitled, as the Minister replying, to put my points to him.

Britain has been extremely good at exporting jobs. The problem is not one of new industries emerging and old industries going but of existing industries having to change. Employment in the railways during the past 20 years has halved whereas employment in air transport has nearly doubled.

Therefore, we must train youngsters for change and flexibility in the future. The purpose of the youth training scheme and other Government measures related to the objectives of the new training initiative are exactly that. It is not a party political point that in the past Britain's record on training has not been good enough. For example, more than one in three youngsters has had, until now, no training or further education. By comparison, more than eight out of 10 youngsters in France and Germany have received further training or education since leaving school. That is bad for Britain, and that is why the Government have acted quickly.

The youth training scheme is an enormous programme to remedy the situation at a vast cost to the taxpayer of about £1,000 million a year—a little less in the first year, and a little more in the second year. It is a genuine training scheme that tries to give youngsters something positive to offer the changing job market at the end of the year. It will also give employers a better equipped and more adaptable work force.

The hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme, as a Minister in the Department of Employment when the youth opportunities programme was introduced, will know that the youth training scheme was inevitably born out of that programme. I agree that it has been a great success and I am sorry that the hon. Member for Coatbridge and Airdrie read out a letter classing it as one of the worst schemes ever devised". The Labour Government introduced a good scheme and we have built substantially on it.

The hon. Member for Coatbridge and Airdrie is a little out of touch with what youngsters who have been on the scheme think of it. According to the most recent survey, three out of four youth opportunities programme trainees felt that the scheme had been useful. By any stretch of the imagination, that is a pretty good rating. The hon. Gentleman will be aware that the youngsters voted with their feet and joined up quite willingly in vast numbers. According to the latest available figures, 485,000 youngsters joined the youth opportunities programme between April 1982 and January 1983. That demonstrates clearly that, whatever the hon. Member for Coatbridge and Airdrie may think, they think that the scheme is good.

Mr. Pitt

Does not the Minister agree that, if there were an opportunity for regular and sustained employment in the foreseeable future, youngsters would prefer that to any youth opportunities programme that lasted for only a short time?

Mr. Morrison

As I said earlier, it would be better if more permanent jobs were available. However, the hon. Gentleman apparently refuses to accept the reality that jobs exist only in certain conditions. The Government's economic policy is directed towards creating those conditions and I am happy to say that we have achieved some success.

The £25 allowance has been mentioned. If that was not sufficient, I have no doubt that youngsters would not be joining as they are. I do not wish to be critical of the youth opportunities programme because it has served a good purpose, but it was never meant to be permanent. It is time to move on. We must have a better equipped and better trained work force. That is why the youth training scheme is being developed.

The hon. Member for Croydon, North-West called for the introduction of an open tech for training. I am sorry that his party does not realise that such a programme has already been developed following the recommendation of a task group in 1982. I am sorry that he does not realise that this year we have approved spending of about £3.7 million, but I am glad that we have the support of at least one half of the alliance.

Mr. Pitt

Obviously the open tech is adopting a low profile. How many open tech schemes have been introduced and how many students have enrolled this year?

Mr. Morrison

Ten schemes have been approved, with two further support schemes. I cannot say how many students have enrolled. The programme is satisfactory and we shall watch it carefully because we think that it has exciting potential.

The youth training scheme has the support of all interested parties. Political parties of all shades support it, although some individuals may not. It has the support of employers and trade unions, although in some localities some trade unions find it difficult to support. It certainly has national trade union support, for which I am grateful. It has the support of local authorities, education services and many voluntary organisations.

The hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme referred to the Saatchi and Saatchi advertising campaign. We have advertised on a significant scale. I am happy to say that, because of that advertising campaign, and much else besides, we are on the road to achieving our ambitious 460,000 target. There is still some time to go, so I do not wish to sound complacent because efforts might be relaxed a little. Both the hon. Gentleman and I want to achieve the target.

We are talking about a training programme. It will be more comprehensive than the youth opportunities programme. It will be of higher quality and be more constructive than anything that has gone before. It will provide each youngster with a certificate which will show prospective employers what a youngster can achieve. Youngsters will have a record of achievement with a real meaning in the world of work.

The scheme will guarantee an early offer of a place. We have undertaken to offer a suitable place by Christmas this year to every youngster leaving school at the minimum age who remains unemployed. In addition, the scheme will cater for unemployed 16 and 17-year-old school leavers and some unemployed 18-year-old school leavers. We have set ambitious targets. We have allocated enormous resources to the scheme.

Perhaps most important of all, literally thousands of committed people in the Manpower Services Commission and potential managing agents are working enormously hard to get the scheme off the ground and to make it work properly. As I travel around the country, I am delighted by the reaction from those who are involved in ensuring that the scheme has the right quality of training and is wholly appropriate to the youngsters who will join. Delivery is our goal and, for the sake of our youngsters, we cannot afford to relax in any way on delivery. A great deal of work must still be done in a relatively short time because 460,000 places is a big target.

Mr. Golding

Will there be 460,000 places, or 400,000 places for 460,000 people? I think that our debate will confuse the people outside.

Mr. Morrison

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving me the opportunity to put the record straight. There will be 460,000 entrants to the scheme, but about 400,000 places.

As the House is aware, the Government are playing their part through the Civil Service and the armed forces. In the Civil Service, there will be an as yet undefined number of places in the Royal Mint, the royal dockyards, the royal ordnance factories, the Procurement Executive, Her Majesty's Stationery Office, the ordnance survey, the Export Credits Guarantee Department, the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food commodities division, the Offshore Supplies Office at Glasgow, the Forestry Commission, Customs and Excise, particularly at Southend, some common services including computers, in Government research activities, in museums and galleries, at No. 10 Downing Street, and of course in the Manpower Services Commission itself.

The armed forces scheme will be run by the Ministry of Defence and will not be under the wing of the Manpower Services Commission and the youth training board. In the Royal Navy, there will be places for 500 people; in the Army, there will be places for 3,700; and in the Royal Air Force, there will be places for 1,000 people.

The hon. Member for Coatbridge and Airdrie attacked the scheme. I wish to make it clear to him that the scheme is completely voluntary. There will be no coercion and no conscription. The hon. Gentleman will find that, when the scheme is open to applicants, the 5,200 places will be well over-subscribed. I shall be amazed if they are not. A great many families throughout the country realise the training potential of the armed forces for their 16 and 17-year-olds. Of course, at this stage it is a debating point, but I shall be amazed if there are not many more applications than places available. The trainees in the armed forces scheme will be subject to normal service discipline and the same basic training as regulars.

We are taking other measures for the 16 to 18-yearolds, the most exciting of which is the pilot scheme—the new technical and vocational education initiative. This is being developed by the MSC in conjunction with the Department of Education and Science. Fourteen pilot projects are being developed in association with local education authorities and locally based industry.

Contrary to what some have predicted, I am happy to say that we have had a fantastic response to this initiative. About 64 proposals have been put to us by local education authorities and 14 of them have been accepted provisionally. If it proves to be a successful pilot scheme—

It being half past Two o'oclock, the debate stood adjourned.

Debate to be resumed on Friday 29 April.