HC Deb 02 February 1983 vol 36 cc308-50

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

3.57 pm
The Secretary of State for Employment (Mr. Norman Tebbit)

I am delighted that on this Adjournment motion the House has an opportunity to discuss the youth training scheme. I am only sorry that my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State, the hon. Member for City of Chester (Mr. Morrison), is not able to be present. He is unwell as a result of a slipped disc. I say that because my hon. Friend has been closely associated with much of the hard work involved in getting the scheme organised and on its way. He would have liked to open the debate. However, his absence gives me the pleasure of substituting for him.

The youth training scheme is a major reform of the greatest importance for youngsters leaving school for work—indeed, for our future as a trading nation—which the House has not yet had the opportunity fully to debate.

As hon. Members will recall, the origins of the scheme lie in the new training initiative, a consultative document issued by the Manpower Services Commission in May 1981 and backed by the Government. It proposed three interrelated objectives for training in the 1980s—to remove unnecessary restrictions on skill training; to open up widespread training opportunities for adults; and to move towards a position where all young people under the age of 18 should have the opportunity either of continuing in full-time education or of planned work experience coupled with work-related training and education.

The youth training scheme represents a means towards achieving the last of those objectives, but it will also help towards the other two as well.

The scheme has been launched at a time of distressingly high unemployment and, of course, to some extent it eases the problems of the young unemployed, but it is not a short-term expedient dreamt up to cope with unemployment. It has been built on the experience of the youth opportunities programme, and I am grateful to my predecessors, not least the right hon. Member for Doncaster (Mr. Walker), in the Labour Government, who pioneered that scheme. However, YTS is different. It is an integral part of our policies for improving our levels of industrial training and performance.

Britain's record on training is not good enough, and the deficiencies are most glaring in our provision for young people who do not go into further education after school. For many years the early school leaver—the 16 or perhaps 17-year-old—has not had a fair crack of the whip, either in his last years at school or, all too often, in the opportunities for training afterwards. While 80 or 90 per cent. of young people in France and West Germany get systematic vocational preparation, the proportion in this country is less than half.

The scheme has been developed with the support of all interested parties—employers, trade unions, local authorities, the education service, voluntary organisations and others. Without that backing it would not have been possible to reach agreement on the scheme in the first instance or to develop it with the speed that has been required. Now, seven months later, all systems are go for launching the first schemes at Easter and getting fully under way by September.

The scheme will provide a bridge between school and work. It will provide all the youngsters who take part with a better start to working and adult life, through an integrated programme of training, education and work experience. In due course, as we explained in the White Paper, we would like to be able to include every youngster under 18 in such a scheme, but Government resources that we can make available for training, although enormous, are not infinite. The scheme will therefore focus primarily on 16-year-olds and will guarantee an early offer of a place to all unemployed 16-year-old school leavers. That guarantee will effectively eliminate unemployment for 16-year-olds in their first year out of school. I cannot offer quite so strong a guarantee to 17-year-olds, but I expect that the resources will be sufficient to cover unemployed 17-year-old school leavers as well.

In the first year of operation of the scheme we shall make available £1 billion, which is about twice as much as we are spending on the youth opportunities programme this year and represents more than eight times the expenditure, in real terms, on the youth opportunities programme in the last year of the previous Administration.

Mr. Frank Dobson (Holborn and St. Pancras, South)

As the right hon. Gentleman tells us that the Government are providing so much more money than the Labour Government provided in 1979, will he tell us the cost per youth involved?

Mr. Tebbit

I do not have the figure here, but when my right hon. Friend the Minister of State replies to the debate he will be happy to provide it.

The increase in cost is very considerable. The increase is not just to cater for the increase in the numbers of youngsters in the scheme—on the contrary, numbers may be a little smaller—but to provide the improved quality of training that the new scheme is all about.

Employers have argued for a long time—certainly since the last century, and possibly earlier—that youngsters leave school ill-equipped to make their way in the world. Trade unions have complained that training has been inadequate and badly directed. Tragically, we have let those complaints go unheeded for far too long. The new scheme will be a major step towards meeting those basically well-founded criticisms.

The scheme, however, must be rigorously practical. Training is of no value just for its own sake. The scheme must be employer-based. I hope that 300,000 of the 460,000 youngsters in the first year of the scheme will receive training with employers. The closer they are to real commercial life, the better for them. Direct experience of the workplace and an understanding of its disciplines combined with a range of basic skills may not necessarily enable them to go off and earn their living straight away, although many of them will, but it will give them a foundation that their predecessors have mostly had to do without.

Here is a practical reform, on the verge of implementation, in an area in which every party has wished for reform but none was previously quite able to find the resources to turn that thinking into effective action.

Of course, the scheme has its critics. Miss Clare Short, for example, writes almost daily in The Guardian. Yesterday she wrote regretting that the scheme is the way it is, and said: Not that we should or can ignore YTS, but we should expose the scheme for what it is and demand something better. How should it be better? "Educators", she says, "must … get control". I wonder whether that is necessarily the best way forward.

Just the other day I noticed that there was criticism of the scheme in my local newspaper. The hon. Member for Waltham Forest (Mr. Deakins) will no doubt have seen it, as we share the same borough. There was criticism by prospective employers of the standard of preparation provided by schools in the borough. I suspect that some of the criticism was overstated. Certainly the headlines were somewhat sensational. Nevertheless, it is fair to say that the educators may not necessarily have done all that should have been done for youngsters leaving school.

I notice that Miss Clare Short also said of the YTS yesterday: In the days of full employment this would have been a great step forward, but in those days governments were unwilling to find the resources. Resources have now been released". I am very pleased that she has recognised that.

The right hon. Member for Crosby (Mrs. Williams) is a little more practical. She was generous enough to admit that she would have liked to do the same when she was in government but had rather less success with her Cabinet colleagues than I have had. Nevertheless, I am grateful to her for helping to prepare the way by arguing that this should be done. Even if she did not actually achieve it, her efforts made it easier for me to do so.

Some will say that the scheme does not go far enough and will ask for it to be extended to young people in higher age groups. To them I say that we must not try to run before we can walk. This is a massive step in the right direction and it will help those youngsters who are most in need.

A further initiative to help our young people prepare for employment is the scheme announced by the Prime Minister in November, giving financial support of about £25 million to technical and vocational education. Mr. David Young, chairman of the Manpower Services Commission, is presently preparing the way for 10 pilot projects, each catering for 1,000 youngsters of all abilities to receive, on a full-time basis, integrated courses of technical and vocational education starting at 14 years of age and continuing through to 18. I regard this as a most important and long overdue development in our secondary education system.

Mr. A. J. Beith (Berwick-upon-Tweed)

Does the right hon. Gentleman think that this, too, should be kept out of the control of educators?

Mr. Tebbit

I think that it would be best if control were broadly shared between those concerned with training and those concerned with education. The scheme, in the form in which it seems likely to proceed, will be within the education service, but I hope that there will be a very strong input from employers and others who have the closest interest in the standard of training and vocational preparation provided for the youngsters concerned. I hope that the education service and educators will benefit from that experience.

The hon. Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Kinnock) seemed to be tutting a little, if that is the right expression, when I referred to this development. I know that he does not altogether approve of it, but I hope that he will consider it on its merits and accept that it is perhaps something that should have been done years ago. We may not get it absolutely right at first, but I am sure that we should try to improve our standards of technical and vocational education.

Mr. Neil Kinnock (Bedwellty)

I concur with the Secretary of State's remark that he is in favour of improved standards of technical and vocational training for all youngsters. I was tutting while reflecting on the fact that if the Government had committed the resources that they are now willing to commit through the youth training scheme and the technical vocational initiative to the schools that are already practising proper vocational preparation for youngsters—by using teaching expertise that is under democratically accountable local education authorities—we might get even more value for the money that the Government are willing to spend, having stolen it from education.

Mr. Tebbit

I notice that the hon. Gentleman has his own views on what would be appropriate to be taught in such schools. In the magazine "Teaching London Kids", he said that every secondary school should have a teacher responsible for "peace studies". When he was asked if that amounted to political indoctrination, he replied: No head, as far as I know, has stormed into a history classroom and upbraided the teacher for teaching war". I am not sure what the hon. Gentleman meant, but presumably his ideal of a technical and vocational college would be one with teachers teaching peace studies rather than teaching subjects and skills that would be useful for youngsters in earning a living.

Mr. Kinnock

I shall not prolong the debate by talking at length on that point, as we shall have a future opportunity to discuss it, but we are used to distortion on that scale from the right hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Tebbit

I am sorry that the hon. Gentleman thinks that to be quoted is to be distorted.

The new initiatives build on the youth opportunities programme, which has grown from sound but modest beginnings, to show what work experience can do for youngsters. Between April and Christmas last year more than 300,000 school leavers took part in the programme and the target of providing a place for all last year's school leavers has been substantially met. That is a massive achievement and I congratulate the Manpower Services Commission and all others who contributed to it.

Of course, no Government can simply provide young people with jobs—[Interruption.] Only employers can do that. Governments can get in the way and Governments can create inflation, which puts the products of our industry and commerce out of the market, allows imported goods to be substituted and loses our export markets. Equally, the Government can help to control inflation—[Interruption.]—and help us to price our goods competitively and put our people back into jobs.

The Opposition Whip—the hon. Member for Newham, North-East (Mr. Leighton)—would like to turn the debate into one about economics rather than about the YTS, which is the debate which the House wishes to have. He must not be so naive as to think that customers who have been turned away for many years will suddenly be turned on again over night. Progress is being made and he must be content to wait a little longer for that progress to become substantial. In the meantime, I suggest that he concentrates on the debate on the YTS.

The recession has destroyed many tens of thousands of jobs and made the employment market for youngsters in particular much more uncertain. School leavers have been especially hard hit, and for two basic reasons. First, they have, in general, few skills to offer in an already highly competitive labour market. Secondly, they have been encouraged to price themselves out of jobs. Of course, that is not their fault, but they suffer for it none the less. I therefore believe that the youth training scheme will help, not just in the short term, but in the long term, by providing school leavers with a more secure position in the labour market.

Mr. Dobson

Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Tebbit

I hope that the hon. Gentleman will forgive me, but this is a short debate and he will wish to contribute before long.

The Manpower Services Commission has been hard at work getting its machinery geared up to deal with the scheme. It will begin on 1 April, and we are looking for 460,000 places by September. Some of the places needed by September will be achieved by building on existing places in the youth opportunities programme. We set ourselves a target of 100,000 such places by Christmas, and the target has now been reached. We intend the new scheme to be primarily employer-based and the Manpower Services Commission's advertising campaign to attract employers to come forward has only just begun. Even before the campaign started, we had lined up more than 50,000 places which had been offered by major employers.

The House may be interested to know reaction of the employers to the advertising scheme. I am glad to say that literally thousands of people have responded to the MSC's advertisement during the last few days, by telephone calls and letters. Doubtless the House will have noted one advertisement which could broadly be called the "hypocrisy" advert. It first appeared on 26 January, and in the following five working days more than 2,000 inquiries were received.

Mr. Dobson

What date?

Mr. Tebbit

It was on 26 January. Again I say that the hon. Gentleman must be patient. In addition, about a dozen anonymous or critical comments were received as well as three angry telephone calls from people who, after discussing the advertisement with MSC staff, asked to receive more information.

The first "city-gent" advertisement appeared on 18 January and is still attracting about 500 daily inquiries.

Mr. Barry Jones (Flint, East)

Which company handles the advertisement brief?

Mr. Tebbit

I do not mind advertising a good advertising agency. It is Saatchi and Saatchi. [Interruption.] I am not sure whether the hon. Gentleman knows a better agency, but it won in a competitive run-off under the normal terms by which contracts for Government services are placed.

The scheme begins on 1 April, but even before the advertisements appeared in the press we had lined up more than 50,000 places in addition to the 100,000 offered by major employers. The special programmes unit of the CBI has played a very important role in attracting the interest of industry, and I wish to record my thanks to it. The MSC has made a good start and, with continued help and cooperation, I am confident that targets will be reached.

Mr. Dobson

Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Tebbit

I hope that the hon. Gentleman will forgive me for not doing so.

This is a massive scheme, with ambitious targets, and we must develop administrative machinery of an entirely new kind to develop it. We have rejected the model of bureaucratic scheme controlled rigidly from the centre and are going for maximum local involvement and responsibility, both in putting together and operating the schemes. The great majority of schemes will be run, not by the MSC, but my managing agents, who will coordinate contributions by individual employers, colleges and others to enable groups to participate in the scheme without having to accept individual responsibility for the whole package.

The area manpower boards being set up by the MSC will approve and monitor schemes. Those boards will include representatives of employers, unions, local authorities, colleges and voluntary bodies, and will, I hope, develop into a forum for exchanging information and attitudes on the whole spectrum of local training needs and provision, and not just for young people.

The boundaries of the area manpower boards will follow those of local education authorities, though because of their greater size some boards will include more than one local education authority in their area. That means that for the first time it will be possible to consider together both training and education provision for young people. The MSC has reorganised itself so that a single division now deals with all training matters, with a new network of area offices to mesh with the area boards.

Most of the financial and other details of the schemes have now been cleared up and employers will know precisely what is involved. The CBI has negotiated with local education authorities rates for provision in colleges of further education which reflect a one third discount on normal rates. Private sector sponsors will be paid monthly in advance, which should help to overcome their cash flow problems. Employers can recruit young people direct if, having consulted the careers service or the jobcentre, they expect problems in finding suitable youngsters through those agencies. I urge employers who have been thinking about the scheme but have, perhaps, held back because of uncertainty about what is involved, to contact the MSC as soon as possible.

There remains the matter of the allowance paid to trainees. When the scheme was announced last June, we accepted that an allowance of about £25 would be appropriate for the introduction of the scheme, though we shall not reach a final decision on that, or the matter of excess travel costs, until the summer. In the meantime, I notice that in one area of industry a new form of apprenticeship has been agreed between the unions and the employers. First-year apprentices will be paid £28 a week as wages, which will be subject to the normal deductions.

We are not seeking to foist a Government scheme on employers and young people. The scheme was drawn up by all those with a stake in what happens to our school leavers. It will depend for its effectiveness mainly on those who implement it at local level in firms and colleges. I am happy to acknowledge the efforts that the CBI, the TUC, officials in my Department, the MSC and local authorities have made to get the scheme off the ground. It is now for individual employers, trade unions and trade unionists to back the scheme. It is an outline, not a blueprint or a boot print. None of us can afford to see the scheme falter at this stage. It must and will be a success. Indeed, our youngsters leaving school this year will not forgive us if we let them down by making anything other than a success of the scheme.

4.22 pm
Mr. Harold Walker (Doncaster)

We have seen a rather different Secretary of State this afternoon from the one to whom we have become accustomed. He gave an uncharacteristically emollient speech, and I wish that he would show that side of his personality more often—especially when we are debating industrial relations or changes in labour laws.

I share the right hon. Gentleman's sympathy for his Under-Secretary. I send my best wishes to him for a speedy recovery from what must be a painful and disabling condition.

During the past two or three years we have had a cascade of reports and reviews of our training arrangements. There was "Outlook on Training—Review of the Employment and Training Act 1973" in 1980, "A Framework for the Future" a year later and "A New Training Initiative: An Agenda for Action" published by the MSC in 1981. Last year, there was a report of the task group. All the reports have been lengthy and complex documents proliferating with jargon. None of them, as such, has been debated by the House. Together they provide a confusing and muddled background to the debate.

The Government's White Paper "A New Training Initiative" emerged in the wake of those documents. It must strike many people as extraordinarily odd that a policy statement that proposes £1 billion additional expenditure, which was produced more than a year ago and is now to be implemented, should not have been fully discussed in the House. Even today, we are having only a short debate on one section of the White Paper proposals. I admit that it is the most important section.

If the White Paper purports to be a comprehensive approach to the reform of industrial training, the House should discuss its proposals in a comprehensive manner, not piecemeal. The Secretary of State seeks to put up for debate only those parts of the White Paper that he thinks might have some political sex appeal. If the Government really believe that their policies are good and effective, they should not be afraid to put them before the House for debate.

Glad as I am that we have an opportunity to discuss the new training scheme, we cannot realistically do so in isolation and without reference to the wider training context and the general background. The Secretary of State properly and fairly touched upon a background of soaring unemployment which, in accordance with the public expenditure statement published only today in the Vote Office, is bound to rise by hundreds of thousands. A heavy responsibility for that must be borne by the Government for their deflationary policies and the enormous loss of productive potential involved. Those things are blighting the lives of an entire generation of youngsters.

At the same time, Britain has one of the least trained work forces in the industrial world. The position varies from sector to sector, but only slightly more than half our youngsters receive any systematic vocational or educational preparation for work, compared with 90 per cent. in West Germany and 80 per cent. in France. About 35 per cent. of 16-year-olds enter jobs that offer no training, and a further 18 per cent. receive hardly any training at all. Girls fare worse, as we all know.

When employment is available, it tends to be in the service industries, with less training and lower standards. As the Secretary of State acknowledged, the position has grown worse in recent years. Whereas in the 1960s, 40 per cent. of 16-year-olds obtained apprenticeships, in the 1980s only 20 per cent. entered jobs that provided systematic training.

The number of apprenticeships in manufacturing declined from a peak of 236,000 in 1968 to less than 150,000 in 1980, and has declined even further to about 100,000 now. The numbers of manufacturing employees receiving any form of training fell from 210,000 in 1968 to 90,000 in 1980, and fewer still in 1981.

Education and training opportunities for both youngsters and adults have been falling fast. Employers have cut back hard on training, investment and apprenticeships. The Government have hacked away at the education service and inflicted damaging cuts on the MSC's mainstream employment and training services. At a time when the employment, education and training needs of youngsters have been growing to meet the faster pace of industrial and technological change, the resources and investment necessary to meet it have declined.

Despite the intervention of special measures, notably the youth opportunities programme, unemployment among under-18s multiplied five times between 1975 and 1982. The immediate prospects are even worse. The MSC estimates that without policy interventions, 57 per cent. of 16-year-olds and 48 per cent. of 17-year-olds will be unemployed in September 1984.

In 1983–84, of slightly more than 500,000 16-year-olds leaving full-time education, a mere 200,000 are likely to find jobs. It is obvious that the immediate training and employment prospects of youngsters are grim. It is against that background that we must assess the White Paper and the youth training scheme.

The scheme has been presented jointly by Ministers and the MSC. They both addressed themselves to the same documents and to what are put forward as joint concepts. I wonder whether the underlying motives are the same in both cases. Is the scheme intended to help youngsters to fulfil their hopes, aims and ambitions? Is it intended to be a serious contribution to meeting the future skilled and trained manpower needs of industry and commerce to help capture Britain's lost markets? The MSC might modestly claim that, in its view, the scheme might help towards those ends.

Is the scheme born of some desperate need to be seen to be doing something, no matter what, in the present desperate climate to help the young unemployed? Is the reason for it the fact that, even though there will be no job at the end of the scheme, it is still better to spend a year learning something in a work environment, being subject to the disciplines of industry, than hanging around the discos or the streets? Perhaps the MSC and the Secretary of State share that view. I understand it, and share it also. But the Secretary of State will know that there are many who believe that his commitment to the scheme—as revealed in his speech—springs only from an anxiety to massage further the unemployment figures. Unhappily, it might yet be his track record—his lack of credibility in these matters—that proves to be the scheme's biggest handicap.

The real Secretary of State—the man whom we all know—was exposed in an interview last September with Mr. John Fryer, the labour editor of the Sunday Times, headed: Tebbit backs cheap youth labour Mr. Fryer wrote: Norman Tebbit, the Employment Secretary, is backing a controversial proposal by which jobless teenagers on his £1,000 million youth training scheme will make cheap products for sale. Tebbit has been having confidential discussions with one company which reckons that if it set up a special state-subsidised factory, in which youngsters were paid £25-a-week, it could undercut imports from the Far East. Tebbit describes the idea as 'super' and has asked officials at the Department of Employment to work out details. It is clear that once approval is given other firms will be encouraged to follow suit. Perhaps the Secretary of State will tell us whether his officials have fouled it up, whether he has given approval and whether other companies are following suit.

Mr. Tebbit

Perhaps I can enlighten the right hon. Gentleman straight away. A good deal too much was made of that particular case, where a company made the observation to me that it thought that it was tragic if youngsters were merely employed to make exhibition components which had no good use, and suggested that it had ample facilities where youngsters on this type of scheme could, as part of their work experience, make genuine components which could be sold into the main company and substitute for components which were bought from the far east.

I do not know if the right hon. Gentleman thinks that an immoral thing to do and that it would be better to throw those components into the sea or if this is a reasonable idea. In my view, most people would think it quite reasonable.

Mr. Walker

Doubtless the House will be grateful for that explanation, long overdue, from the Secretary of State, but I must tell him that it is rather different from what Mr. John Fryer said. Of course, we all learn in this House very quickly not to pay too much attention to what we read in the public prints, but in this case Mr. Fryer claimed that what he had reported was on the basis of a personal interview with the Secretary of State. The Secretary of State is nodding, confirming that it was an interview.

I am bound to say that what the right hon. Gentleman has said to the House now is different from what Mr. Fryer reported. I hope the Secretary of State is prepared to tell Mr. Fryer that the report was wrong. Otherwise the Secretary of State is misleading us, because the article went on to say: The employment secretary"— this is presumably what the Secretary of State told Mr. Fryer— has been having a series of top-level meetings with companies to secure backing for the youth training scheme. It goes on to talk about the reluctance but says: But setting up special factories"— plural— will give employers a fresh incentive. The Secretary of State is telling us that it was a particular, one-off case but here we are talking about factories in the plural.

Tebbit will not disclose the name of the company with whom he has been having discussions, but he says: 'At the moment it is buying components from Korea and Taiwan. It will now be able to make them itself at Korean and Taiwanese prices'. These are remarks attributed in quotation marks, by the way, not in direct reporting. The article goes on: 'Instead of trainees making things which are broken up after training exercises, the main company could actually buy components produced by the special factory. It is a sensible idea. You can't first go on training people without making a product.' The Secretary of State then said: I instance this as part of the ingenuity that is being devoted to finding new concepts. If the Secretary of State says he was misreported or that it was not like that, we will accept it, but I am bound to say that all that, no matter how much or how little truth there is in it, is a long way from what the director of the MSC is saying about the scheme. In an article in Industrial Society of December, Mr. Geoffrey Holland says that the new training scheme covers a time during which young people can move from dependence to independence with the soldering iron, making plug boards or whatever to compete with the people in Taiwan and learn and acquire a broad foundation of skills, knowledge and experience which will enable them and their future employers to survive in what will inevitably be an age of uncertainty … the foundation must be broad and must result in a young person acquiring and being able to use a range of practical and transferable skills, knowledge and experience. I very much hope that the scheme is the one that is being described by the director of the Manpower Services Commission and not the one Mr. John Fryer attributes to the Secretary of State, because they are not the same thing at all. If there was reason to believe that it was what the Secretary of State described to Mr. Fryer, I would be advising this House not to debate this matter and let it pass without a Division tonight but to vote against it. However, I am prepared to give the MSC the benefit of the doubt of my support in this matter.

If the Government themselves see the new training scheme, no matter what they say in the House or elsewhere, as primarily a device to reduce the number of young people registered as unemployed, there will inevitably be a temptation to accept standards lower than those at present described by the Manpower Services Commission. That is what happened with some of the youth opportunities programme schemes. If that happens, the new training scheme will inevitably and progressively fall into disrepute.

Mrs. Angela Rumbold (Mitcham and Morden)

Successive Governments have been trying to work through unified vocational programmes and so on, introducing work experience for young people from 16 to 19 and older. Certainly the previous Labour Government were interested in this. Can the right hon. Gentleman tell me how it would be possible to have work experience without young people actually going into manufacturing and service industries in order to acquire that basic experience?

Mr. Walker

Perhaps the hon. Lady has not been listening. I am saying that the new training scheme, as set up by the Manpower Services Commission, with its work experience and work discipline elements, deserves the support of the House. The point I was making is that it is very different in character and quality from the scheme describe by the Secretary of State to Mr. John Fryer of the Sunday Times. If the hon. Lady does not understand, I can only ask her to obtain a copy of the Sunday Times for 12 September 1982 and look at what the Secretary of State apparently said to Mr. Fryer, and then consider what the director of the MSC is saying. They are two different schemes.

Mr. Nicholas Lyell (Hemel Hempstead)

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman. He knows perfectly well, does he not, that the Manpower Services Commission reports to the Secretary of State and that the Secretary of State is the man who has been the impetus behind this scheme? Why is he wasting such a lot of this debate on one newspaper article which seems to be somewhat inaccurate?

Mr. Harold Walker

Perhaps the hon. and learned Gentleman was not in the House when the Manpower Services Commission was set up by a previous Conservative Government, who said the MSC in future would be the focus of manpower policy and would initiate policies of this kind. I deeply regret that the Secretary of State has sought to use the MSC as his poodle. If the hon. and learned Gentleman had listened to the list of documents I gave at the outset he would have known of the genesis of all these schemes and of their development from the days of the special measures introduced by the last Labour Government.

I have been describing the developments that may lead the scheme into disrepute. It is no less certain that if young people are persuaded to take part, in the belief that their job prospects will be enhanced, and if, despite that, the jobs continue to be unavailable, we will only have bred cynicism and disillusion. If hopes are raised, and reasonably raised, only to be cruelly dashed on completion of training, the scheme again runs the risk of becoming discredited.

We are told that the youth training scheme is a bridge between school and work, but if the work is not there at the other end of the bridge the bridge itself is turned into a pierhead going nowhere or, worse still, a gangplank into the dole queue. Obviously, hand in hand with the scheme, if it is to be meaningful, should go a positive economic strategy that justifies the investment in training and offers a real prospect of jobs in the end. Instead, under this Government, the real dole queue—not that created by Saatchi and Saatchi but the one already a thousand miles long—will get even longer and the hopes of young people will diminish even further.

As the Secretary of State admitted, the new training scheme has been received with some scepticism and criticism—not least, as he rightly said, from the educational interests. Because of the inevitable restrictions on our time, I shall leave it to others to pursue those criticisms. Despite my own reservations, I hope the scheme has a fair wind but I seek some assurances and answers from the Minister who is to wind up the debate.

Many of us were glad that the Secretary of State responded positively to the proposals of the task group. One recommendation on which the right hon. Gentleman has not made a statement is that contained in paragraph 20 of part 7, that the young workers scheme should be wound up and the money put to better use. I wonder whether the Secretary of State has now considered this matter and if he can now give his response. Will he also give a categorical assurance that the scheme will continue to be voluntary, as the task group recommended, and that he will not seek to reintroduce any element of coercion as he previously intended? Will he say that young people will be free to reject any course that does not accord with their wishes and career aims?

How many places have been offered by Government Departments? My attention has been drawn to an article in The Guardian of 18 January which refers to the reluctance of the Prime Minister to accept young people undertaking the new training scheme into Government Departments. The chairman of the Manpower Services Commission is quoted as saying: I know of no reason why the Government should not be coming into the scheme. I hope they will be able to. The article goes on: But Mrs. Thatcher is known to believe that training and work experience is better carried out in commerce and industry, if places can be found there, rather than in the Civil Service. The House is entitled to some explanation. It is extraordinary if the Minister, who advocates the scheme to the rest of the country, says that it would be inappropriate to allow young people into the Civil Service to gain work experience. I hope that the hon. Member for Mitcham and Morden (Mrs. Rumbold) and the hon. and learned Member for Hemel Hempstead (Mr. Lyell) will say something about this, in the light of their earlier comments. One would have thought that the Government would be trying to set an example.

I recognise that there have been difficulties because of the attitude of the Civil Service. I could have understood the position if the Prime Minister was saying that there would have to be discussions with the Civil Service in order to obtain agreement. She is apparently not saying that. The report states that the Prime Minister believes that training is better carried out in commerce and industry, if places can be found, than in the Civil Service. If that is a valid argument, it can be used by every local authority and every part of the public sector providing services. I hope that the Minister will say that the Government wish to set an example and that they want to help to make the scheme effective for young people.

Mr. Bernard Conlan (Gateshead, East)

Before my right hon. Friend reaches his peroration, if he is going to reach his peroration, I should like him to refer to the industry from which he and I come, the engineering industry. When the Government took office, there was an intake of between 30,000 and 40,000 apprentices a year. Now, only three and a half years later, it is down to less than 10,000.

Mr. Walker

My hon. Friend is right. I shall be referring to this aspect of the White Paper before I reach my peroration.

Mr. Tebbit

The right hon. Gentleman has stated that one should not believe everything one reads in the press. The right hon. Gentleman should not believe, every time he sees views attributed to a Minister or, indeed, to a member of the Opposition, in the press, that those views are the views of the person concerned. I hope that we shall be able to find suitable places within the Government service for these trainees. I believe, however, that the greater number of them who can be placed directly in industry and commerce the better. I hope that the Government will play their part, too.

Mr. Walker

With that denial, we have Mr. John Fryer knocked down and are told that Mr. John Ardill is misleading us. The heavy press is being discredited at a rapid rate this afternoon. Is the Secretary of State giving a categorical denial of the report? Is he saying that it is wrong? Is he saying that the Prime Minister has not expressed this view, that she does not hold this view and that the Government will be taking new training service trainees into the Civil Service?

Mr. Tebbit

The right hon. Gentleman is an old enough hand in this place to know that if Opposition spokesmen or Ministers were to spend their time confirming or denying everything that is written in the papers, we would never have time for any other business. I shall deny myself from time to time the privilege of asking the right hon. Gentleman whether everything I read in the papers about what goes on inside his party is true. The right hon. Gentleman may deny himself the opportunity of always assuming that what is written in the papers about the Government is true.

Mr. Walker

The House will make up its own mind. Hon. Members are entitled to know from the Minister what Government policy is. I have asked the right hon. Gentleman straight. Is it the Government's intention to take these trainees into the Government service? Is the Prime Minister incorrectly quoted? Is this not the Government's view? We are told that we cannot spend our time denying what appears in newspaper reports. The House will make up its own mind.

Mr. John Grant (Islington, Central)

The Secretary of State cannot deny that the reason behind the suspicion among some Civil Service unions about giving their cooperation is the decision taken by the Government on Civil Service manpower limits and especially the decision of the Cabinet—I have in my possession a document to which I shall refer if I am successful, Mr. Deputy Speaker, in catching your eye—on 16 December that Departments should aim to contract out much more of their work.

Mr. Walker

The House will take note of what the hon. Gentleman says.

I wish to deal now with another aspect of the White Paper. I should like the Minister of State in his reply to clarify the position of traditional apprenticeships in relation to the YTS. Will he clarify the co-existence of traditional apprenticeships with traineeships, because this is a potential source of tension? Many people have pointed out that there will be a strong temptation, especially where trade union organisation is weak or non-existent, for employers to evade national agreements on pay by substituting trainees under the scheme for apprentices.

Where the so-called "additionality principle" applies—the requirement that an employer, in addition to his normal apprentice intake, should take on trainees under the scheme in the ratio of 3:2—there may be difficulties about pay disparities. I hope that the Minister will explain what steps are being taken to eliminate possible friction. No less may there be tensions where trainees take educational courses alongside students still at school who receive no grants or allowances. These are difficulties to be overcome. They cannot be ignored. Hon. Members are enitled to hear from the Government what they have thought about these matters and the action they propose to take.

Ministers will know that, under the present youth opportunities programme, anxieties have been expressed about the non-eligibility of trainees for social security protections, particularly industrial injury and disability benefits. I understand that there are explanations but it would be helpful to have them on the record from the Minister's lips. It would also be helpful if the Minister were to say more about the level of allowances. What the Secretry of State has hinted at is welcome. I hope, however, that the Minister will be able to say that a periodic review will take place to ensure that the allowances maintain at least their real value. It is the Opposition's view that they should be enhanced.

The Minister may care to make some remarks about the rights of trade unions where trainees are taken on under the youth training scheme and about the rights of trainees to become members of trade unions. I am assuming that they will have the right to become members and to seek trade union protection. It would be useful to have the matter clarified and, I hope, confirmed by the Minister.

Equally, concern has been expressed about the status in law of trainees. Since they are, for legal purposes, neither workers nor employees, I wonder where they stand regarding the requirements and protections of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 or the Employment Protection Act 1975. This is not something new. The same must have arisen under the former youth opportunities programme.

Another problem to which I wish to draw the attention of the House faces local authorities which might wish to support the scheme actively. It is best illustrated by a letter of 1 February sent to one of my hon. Friends by the Association of Metropolitan Authorities: Local government is keen to be involved in the YTS both as a provider of off-the-job training in colleges and as a sponsor/managing agent. In many areas the local authority is the largest single employer, so it has duties in that role. Further, the local authority acting as sponsor/managing agent could co-ordinate the efforts of a large number of small employers in the area. Thirdly, local authorities feel they should set an example. I wish the Government would feel that way. The letter continues: But because of the system of Rate Support Grant—with its expenditure targets and grant penalties—participation in this Government initiative can cost ratepayers disproportionate sums. The letter then cites the case of Bradford: In Bradford, the Council estimates that to operate the YTS could require expenditure of 1.6 million. The cost to ratepayers does not end there. The system of grant penalties means that Bradford could suffer a reduction in grant of about £1.4 million to £1.6 million of expenditure which will cost Bradford £3 million on the rates. Bradford, together with many other authorities, is having to consider very hard whether to participate in YTS when faced with this sort of financial burden. This is not just a metropolitan problem but many authorities all over the country are faced with a similar dilemma. I must resist the temptation to speak about the stupidity of the Government in relation to local authority expenditure and the rate support grant. If that letter is correct, the Secretary of State will be concerned that local authorities should not be penalised when seeking to support the scheme which he and the Manpower Services Commission are commending. I hope that he will clarify that or seek to discuss the matter with the Secretary of State for the Environment to ensure that local authorities are not penalised if they want to spend money on supporting the scheme.

When does the Secretary of State expect to get the outcome of the Manpower Services Commission study on the future financing of industrial training?

A matter which relates to the new training scheme but has a wider relevance is the setting up and monitoring of standards. Last evening I had the pleasure of listening to the senior officer of the engineering industry training board explaining how it was responding to the scheme and integrating it into its programme. What he said was positive and, at least in regard to the YTS, encouraging. The employers and the unions together within the board are thrashing out a policy on standards and monitoring. That is how it should be.

What about the industries where there is not an industrial training board or anything comparable? This is a further example of the foolishness of abolishing the great majority of industrial training boards, the very bodies which would have had such a useful role in applying the scheme in the testing times ahead. The White Paper itself says: Better vocational preparation in school and in the first year of working life will lay the foundation for a more flexible workforce. But urgent reform is also needed of the arrangements for training in craft, technician and professional skills, both for young people and for adults. Yet the White Paper is silent on the means by which this reform might be achieved. In the engineering industry the training board is showing the way ahead but in many other industries the potential of the industrial training boards, not least as a forum for bipartisan discussion and decision, has been removed because the boards have been abandoned senselessly by the Government.

The Government have spelled out the need; what are they doing to satisfy it? While the White Paper rightly draws attention to the fact that increasingly job opportunities will be for the higher skilled and that the demand for the unskilled and lower skilled will diminish, it is silent about the decline in apprenticeships in the skilled trades and crafts whose services we shall need in future. Attention has already been drawn to the sac decline in engineering apprenticeships over the last few years. I do not know whether there is a similar decline in other industries which produce and use skilled labour. The Government seem to be paving the way for a shortage of skilled workers, which will be scandalous if the economy starts to recover.

The Secretary of State is cynical about what is printed in the press, but in a leading article on 18 January The Guardian, commenting on the decline in engineering apprenticeships, 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. The White Paper makes a vague acknowledgment of the long-term skill problems in paragraph 48 but then it pins its hopes on retraining the existing labour force as though it takes less time to train an unskilled adult than an apprentice. I have no doubt about the need to retrain adult workers and give them new opportunities. But when the Government say in the White Paper: This is primarily a matter for industry", it would be helpful if they were to tell the House what this means. Is it intended to be some kind of apology for continued cuts in the training opportunities programme and a justification for the threats that are hanging over some of the skill centres?

Before the Government took office in 1977–78 the throughput of the skill centres and colleges of further education that were participating in the training opportunities programme was 78,000 to 79,000. This year it has been reduced to about 61,000.

Given the facts of the present situation—the abysmal prospects for young people, the wasted potential, the latent social backlash that we have already seen erupt in places such as Brixton and Toxteth—there can be no doubt that we have to create a new deal for the nation's youth. The Government's proposals in the White Paper, seen in their totality, neither reflect the seriousness of the problems nor show much sign of understanding them.

My hon. Friends and I believe that the most urgent need is for a complete reversal of the Government's economic policies and the adoption of an alternative strategy that will give not only young people but all those who are unemployed and willing to work the hope and prospect of worthwhile and fulfilling employment. This should allow for the creation of a unified and comprehensive system of education and training for all in the 16-to-19 age group.

As I said earlier, we should give a fair wind to the new training scheme, as presented by the Manpower Services Commission. It should be strengthened and built upon to enable access for all 16 and 17-year-olds. It should be a broadened and reinforced two-year scheme, based on our concept of training for students with adequate allowances. I look forward to an early opportunity for the House to have a full debate and not a half-day debate on all the wider issues that stem from the White Paper. There should be a chance for us not only to expose all its inadequacies but to develop the positive proposals contained in the Labour party's discussion document "Learning for Life".

4.57 pm
Mr. Mark Wolfson (Sevenoaks)

I am pleased to have the opportunity to follow the right hon. Member for Doncaster (Mr. Walker). It is better when the House hears his virgin thoughts than long repetitions of reports from newspapers.

I wish to deal briefly with two points relative to the youth training scheme and its contribution to society. I welcome the scheme, and I was delighted to hear the right hon. Member for Doncaster say that the Opposition would give it a fair wind. It is important to the nation and to the young people who are the key to all this that that commitment is followed up.

The first point relates to preparing those on the youth training scheme for the difficult task of finding permanent work when the year is over. Some will continue to be employed in the places where they have done their year's work, but others will be on the job market. I hope that the Manpower Services Commission will give considerable thought to the matter and take action that will ensure that, as part of the off-the-job training that all young people will get on this course, time will be devoted to teaching them the skills of self-marketing.

That is not for one moment to denigrate or lessen the problem of finding a job. I am not suggesting that self-marketing can overcome that in full, but, as part of that training, young people must understand that they can no longer expect the opportunity of working always for the same employer. Therefore, the problem of finding their first job, and of self-marketing may recur during their later career.

Attention needs to be paid to how to get that training across. It needs a major change in the thinking that has been done up to now on this issue. Some of those agencies involved in the out-placement of people, and in the placing of large numbers of redundant workers when there have been closures, can bring to bear views, ideas and experience of these circumstances of which the MSC should make use. It should be responsive to getting those involved in the off-the-job training of young people to put over an effective package. It needs video and audio training schemes, and the people who are doing the training should have an understanding of marketing techniques.

This is new and, to many of us, somewhat un-British. The British are not always the best at selling themselves. Young people need even more assistance in equipping themselves to do that, so that they can think in terms not just of what jobs are available locally, but of how each of them, as young persons coming on to the labour market with one year's training behind them, can look for and identify the type of local need that might enable them to persuade a potential employer, who is not at that moment looking for somebody else, to take them on because they appear to have something to offer. I hope that that can be fed into the scheme.

My second point relates to the necessity to increase the present low level of apprenticeships—a point that has already been referred to by the right hon. Member for Doncaster. There is a major problem here, and I should like to discuss it from the point of view of a part of the country known to me—Kent. I shall talk about the experiences of the Kent industrial training association, which is a young people's training association servicing, as many of these associations do in different parts of the country, the needs of small firms.

Let me spell out the problem. There are about 110 small firms in the membership of this association. In 1979 there were 105 engineering apprentice places. In 1980 there were 61, in 1981 there were 30, and in 1982 only 25. There is no ducking that problem. It is my view, and that of most of the people to whom I talk in industry, that, when the upturn occurs, we shall be in the same bottleneck circumstances again, caused by lack of skilled workers.

Those circumstances cause a number of problems, but two in particular. First, they will prevent us as a nation from making the best use of new opportunities to sell at home and abroad. Secondly, they will produce wages pressures again because an employer who has orders that he wants to get out of the door, or a service that it is essential to give, will pay anything to get people to do the job.

Therefore—I say this as a supporter of the new training scheme—we are looking for ideas and possibilities of linking the new training scheme to additional sponsored skill training. The Department should pay close attention to that. We have a problem for the future. If we are to make the best use of the pain and grief that has occurred in industry over the past three years, we must not be short of people when the boom comes.

Mr. Conlan

Does the hon. Gentleman believe that the new engineering training scheme to which he has referred, is any substitute for a proper apprenticeship?

Mr. Wolfson

I am not suggesting that. If the hon. Gentleman will be patient, as I develop my point further, I hope to answer his question.

There are four distinct groups of young people to whom the new training scheme offers an opportunity. First, there are those young people who know what they want to do and where they are going, and who have the ability and qualifications to achieve their ambitions, if given the opportunity, but some in that group will not be able to get jobs.

Secondly, there are young people who, like those in the first group, know what they want and have the inherent ability to achieve it, but unfortunately have not obtained the most appropriate academic qualifications.

The third group consists of those who are well or appropriately qualified, have a high level of ability, but unfortunately are not sure what they want to do.

The fourth group consists of school leavers who have no worthwhile qualifications and have no ideas as to the work for which they would be suited, and whose opportunities are therefore limited.

Groups three and four—the less well qualified who are not clear about what they want to do—are well suited to the new training scheme. It will give them the broad-based training that has been required in this country for far too many years, which several Governments have had the opportunity of tackling but have not done so far.

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said that those groups have had a particularly raw deal in Britain up to now. However, in present circumstances, groups one and two—the better qualified who are clearer about what they want to do—are also unable to get work. Therefore, they are available as candidates for the new training scheme and will be going into it.

I suggest that in many cases the new training scheme will not adequately meet the needs of persons in that group because they can take more than the training offers. Therefore, for that group, I should like apprentice training to be incorporated in the new training scheme.

I hope that by describing how the Kent industrial training association sees this being done, I shall answer the question put to me by the hon. Member for Gateshead, East (Mr. Conlan). The association maintains that training places in companies and in technical colleges, are not fully used. The association can offer 25 apprenticeships this year on the basis that, in the first year, those 25 young people spend 46 weeks on off-the-job training at a training college. Those places will not be with the firm. It might be possible to double that figure and make it 50. The trainees would then alternate, spending six months with the company and six months at the college. That would continue for the three or four years of apprentice training—preferably, the shorter time, based on the skill standards reached, not the time served.

Is that feasible? One person would be a company employee, and the other would be a sponsored employee from Government funding. However, there is a problem, because the Government-sponsored employee gets £25, whereas the apprentice gets £45. Perhaps the answer would be for the apprentice rate to come down to a more realistic and comparable figure. I think that £28 was the figure, now agreed by one union, stated by the Secretary of State, but without reference to the particular skill training. The gap is now narrower. There are other ways round the problem. Perhaps the company could be persuaded to make up the difference between the two types of trainee—that for the company employee and that for the Government-sponsored trainee—if the difference were smaller. We surely need to use these under-utilised training places in both technical colleges and companies.

It may be argued that there will not be any unused training facilities by the time the new training scheme is under way, but I suggest that those training places will not be utilised for the skilled training that can and should be given if we are to overcome the long-term lack of skilled people in our increasingly skill-necessary industry. I hope that the MSC will give enlightened consideration to both those matters.

The Kent industrial training association, which, accepts that it is a small group, could offer a pilot opportunity. It has a very real national application, and it is accepted by the engineering union. The union's response to the director of this industrial training association is as follows: Having given careful consideration to your document we are satisfied that your scheme meets the principles which our organisation could support and therefore we will be pleased to endorse your suggestions". What about the EITB?

Mr. Conlan


Mr. Wolfson

Perhaps I may continue. Its reply was positive: You ask for the support of the EITB. We would be willing to work with you on the development of your programme if it proves acceptable in principle to the MSC. It is not for us to say whether your proposals meet the current MSC criteria Put if you are able to reach agreement with the commission we shall be very happy to participate with you in order to ensure that a pattern of training in engineering skills is developed which we can support". That support from both the engineering union and the EITB does not talk of the cost or of what people would be paid. It relates to the type of training offered, where two places would be provided instead of one.

Mr. Conlan

The hon. Gentleman mentioned the engineering union. He surely knows that there are many unions in the engineering industry. Which union is he talking about?

Mr. Wolfson

The Amalgamated Union of Engineering Workers.

Mr. Conlan

Which section?

Mr. Harold Walker

Who signed it?

Mr. Wolfson

Mr. Gavin Laird. I wish to make it clear that the support relates not to wages, but to the scheme. I welcome such a positive response from the union, because it gives priority to the needs of young people and of the nation. It is surely on that basis that, even in this House, we can go forward together.

5.15 pm
Mr. A. J. Beith (Berwick-upon-Tweed)

The House has benefited from the practical experience of the hon. Member for Sevenoaks (Mr. Wolfson) in trying to develop from the training initiative a scheme that is suited to employers and potential apprentices in his area. He underlined the fact that this scheme cannot possibly meet some of the skilled training needs of industry, and he stressed how much needs to be done.

The best illustration of how far behind Britain has fallen in training is provided by the tables at the end of the youth task force report, which show quite clearly how badly our record compares with those of all our European industrial competitors. We therefore welcome the fact that this scheme has been brought forward. It is a considerable improvement on everything that has gone before. I shall criticise it and draw attention to the problems that it involves, but that should not detract from the fact that I am glad that more resources are to go to training, because that has been necessary for a long time.

The scheme presents a number of problems to which we should give attention. One problem which has been widely discussed relates to the financial support and the relationship between trainees on this scheme and those undergoing other forms of training and education. In the absence of a system of education maintenance allowances, there is an inevitable element of "bribing" in the scheme. If the scheme continues on the present basis, without a system of education maintenance allowances, we are in effect saying to young people at school, "Why not come on this scheme, obtain a regular allowance, get an uncertain certificate or qualification at the end, instead of staying at school, knowing that you can get a formal qualification, but with no financial support?." That is not satisfactory.

Similarly, those who are on the scheme in colleges will find themselves alongside further education students who have no financial support because of the drying up of discretionary local authority awards.

The House of Lords Select Committee on Unemployment made that point, and I do not believe that the Government have yet grasped its implications. The pattern of young people's decisions about whether they go for training or stay for education will be distorted by the financial support that is available. That is likely to become more apparent as families feel more keenly the impact of the recession. The lack of financial support for youngsters becomes more relevant than ever before to decisions about whether young people will stay at school, go into training, or remain on supplementary benefit without going on a training programme. The Government should pay much more attention to that problem than they have in the past.

That brings me to one of the other fundamental problems of the scheme, and that is its relationship with the whole education system. It is lamentable that no Minister from the Department of Education and Science is here and has not been here from the start of the debate. Are we to take it that the Department of Education and Science has been told that it must have nothing to do with the whole operation? Is it, as so many commentators have said, a simple vote of no confidence in the education system and an underlining of the fact that the Prime Minister is prepared to grant resources through the Manpower Services Commission, but not to have anything to do with the development of some of the same things through the edcuation system? To do it in this way will not avoid problems, but create them.

I had expected Ministers from the Department of Education and Science to be in the Chamber to listen to some of the problems and to work out the implications for their Department. In the attitude implicit in the opening remarks of the Secretary of State for Employment, there is a considerable danger. He said something about educators not being in control, and it suggested to me that he regarded the influence of educators in training as malign and undesirable. I do not share that view. I believe—as the right hon. Gentleman later corrected himself and said when I intervened—that there is a partnership between those with experience of industrial training and those in education. There are strands that can be brought together.

This country has developed certain education values that should not be thrown out of the window because we have suddenly realised, belatedly, that we should step up our training commitment. Some of those values are beginning to be threatened.

The MSC is a large national body and is organised quite differently from the local education authorities which are traditionally involved, and have to be, in the local communities. They are an arm of the local authorities. To the extent that the Government still allow local authorities any power or responsibility, those bodies are responsible for a whole range of services and for the health of the community. Therefore, they can bring to educational activity a knowledge of the community and its needs. However much a national body such as the MSC evolves its activities, it cannot do that.

The MSC has not absorbed some of the educational values that are important. One of those values is particularly relevant at present. We cannot train people in skills on the assumption that there will always be a demand for those skills. We must educate young people to be able to adapt to what is likely to be a changing industrial and technological climate. One of the aims of education has always been to ensure that young people can adapt themselves and have the ability to apply themselves to different situations, instead of being trained for a skill for which the market may have disappeared almost before they are ready to present themselves for a job.

If training values push out educational values altogether, it will do a disservice to training. Young people will not have the adaptability that they need.

Mr. Richard Needham (Chippenham)

I am listening to the hon. Gentleman's speech with great interest. Does he agree that education may be successful for the top 30 or 40 per cent. of those who leave our school system but not for the bottom 30 or 40 per cent.? It is those at the bottom who leave without the necessary education and without any vocational training. How on earth can the hon. Gentleman believe that the education system can be changed so that those at the bottom end of the scale have the right education qualifications?

Mr. Beith

I share the hon. Gentleman's criticism of the way in which the education system has failed many children, such as those for whom the examination system was not designed. However, that is not an argument for removing those values. Those educational values are just as relevant to someone with limited academic attainments as to someone going to university. However, there is a strong argument for recasting the examination system and for ensuring that resources are invested in improving our educational provision for those who will not go to university and who perhaps will not even take A-levels, or whatever replaces them.

One can sense the MSC's attitude in other worrying ways. For example, the MSC clearly does not like political education. The Secretary of State spoke about peace studies. That may be a slightly controversial issue, but it has been accepted by the education system and by Her Majesty's inspectors, who published a report on the subject, saying that young people should understand how the democratic process works. That is why political education is given to young people. The MSC apparently does not think that its trainees should find that out, although it is a normal part of the curriculum in colleges of further education. That suggests a narrowness of outlook in equiping young people for life. Educational value is lost because the MSC has not been brought up with such things.

Mr. Harry Greenway (Ealing, North)

I think that I know what the hon. Gentleman means by educational values, but perhaps he could be a little more precise about how flexibility of mind, tenacity and all the other qualities in someone endowed with such values can be achieved?

Mr. Beith

To answer that question I should have to speak for far longer than hon. Members would wish.

Mr. Eric Deakins (Waltham Forest)

I share the concern expressed by the hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mr. Beith) about educational values, but he seems to be criticising the scheme because young people at 16 who take part in it will not be given the educational values that he considers to be essential. Surely they should have acquired those educational values—irrespective of academic attainment—by the time they leave school at 16.

Mr. Beith

I agree with that to some extent, but, between the ages of 16 and 18, a young person's widening knowledge, understanding and maturity allow him to appreciate things that he did not appreciate when he was 14 or 15. We should not stop imparting educational values at the age of 16. There is another aspect of which our schools have become more aware over the years, but of which the MSC has not become aware.

By the time young people reach the age of 16, they begin to think that they should have some say in what goes on around them. However, provision for that is not apparent in the way in which the scheme is structured. Schools are increasingly catering for the participation of young people, through schools councils and through the way in which the school is organised. The MSC does not understand or appreciate that, and no way seems to have been found to associate trainees with the decisions that are taken about their work and courses. The Government should talk to bodies such as the British Youth Council, which has developed the case for the involvement of young people in the planning of courses. They should find ways of establishing trainee councils or other bodies that would give the trainee a chance to play a part.

As yet there is no clear procedure for dealing with the rights, problems and grievances of trainees. I refer to such matters as sickness, time off and disputes in the workplace. The trainee is in a slightly different position from an employee, because he may not have joined a trade union, and his legal relationship is not the same as that of an employee. That, too, is an area of concern. The local authorities should have played a larger role in the process. My party would like local education authorities to be the sponsoring body for youth training, setting up youth training committees to do the work which the area boards will carry out for the MSC.

That brings me to the issue raised by the right hon. Member for Doncaster (Mr. Walker) and to the problem of the cost to local authorities. One of my hon. Friends was approached by the Association of Metropolitan Authorities, and the case of Bradford was cited in particular, although the same is true of other authorities. The Government have the power to exempt local authorities from rate penalties for particular subjects and could apply that power to the youth training scheme. In the Local Government Finance Act 1982 there are provisions to exempt categories of expenditure from the targets and penalties. The Minister should either get his colleague to do that or should at least ensure that grant-related expenditure takes account of all this. The development in youth training was not envisaged when the figures now applied to local authorities were devised.

Mr. Tebbit

The hon. Gentleman has spoken in a way that would lead those who are not as familiar with the subject as he no doubt is to believe that local authorities are being asked to carry the cost. If they take on trainees, their costs are reimbursed in exactly the same way as a private sector employer. None of that expenditure is in any way accounted against their expenditure limits. Indeed, those expenditure limits are extremely generous. As the hon. Member for Waltham Forest (Mr. Deakins) knows, the London borough of Waltham Forest was in penalty a year ago. As a result of good management the local authority has managed to make a spectacular cut in the rates and has got out of penalty, because it is managed far better than ever before and because a Conservative leadership has taken over, with the support of alliance councillors.

Mr. Beith

The right hon. Gentleman also knows that there are Conservative-controlled authorities that now face penalties under the scheme.

The right hon. Gentleman might be satisfied that local authorities will incur no expenditure that will bring them on the wrong side of the penalty clauses, because they are reimbursed for trainees, but the role that they exercise will be much wider than merely taking on trainees. They may have to take on a great deal of the sponsoring work which the right hon. Gentleman mentioned. The Association of Metropolitan Authorities is satisfied that a cost to local authorities will arise and it wants local authorities to take part in the scheme. I do not believe that those worries can be entirely unfounded. If the Minister can assure me that they are, I am sure that the Association of Metropolitan Authorities will regard that as good news and welcome it.

There is a problem about the certification of qualifications which young people will obtain at the end of their training. Little has been said about that today. We need to know more about the Government's thinking on the subject and where it relates to examination reform. We must take that seriously if we are to deal with the weakness of the education system for young people who do not go on to higher education. All these issues are closely interrelated. Many of us are not yet confident that the Government have found the answer to the type of qualification that young people can obtain at the end of their training and how it relates to potential reforms of the examination system.

Many people in education and local authorities and employers are putting a great deal of effort into making the scheme work. They are trying hard to get something out of it. For them to achieve the reward for young people for which they are striving, they must have co-operation and a commitment to go beyond this year. It is not possible to mount an operation on this scale for 12 months without implications for the future. They also require economic policies that give young people a fair chance of what the Prime Minister used to call real jobs. If they do not have that prospect soon, much of what we are discussing today will achieve very little.

At the beginning of my speech I said that Britain has lagged behind in its provision of industrial training. It is a criticism of us as a nation that it has taken high unemployment to generate the necessary heavy expenditure. We will have to do something about the level of unemployment if the scheme is to produce results, not cynicism and apathy among our young people.

5.32 pm
Mr. Richard Needham (Chippenham)

When the right hon. Member for Doncaster (Mr. Walker) was not quoting from The Sunday Times at great length and then requoting from The Sunday Times at even greater length, he gave the impression that the major cause of youth unemployment was the Government's economic policy. He said forcefully that only an alternative economic policy, which he did not spell out, would help to solve the problem. The right hon. Gentleman and his right hon. and hon. Friends represent a party that has long believed that a controlled economy, planned economic policy and a social policy combined is the best way to solve the problems facing the nation.

I invite the right hon. Member for Doncaster to consider youth unemployment not simply as a problem that comes about as a result of recession, although it would be foolish not to accept that recession plays some part in it, but as one that comes from two other sources. First, unemployment arises from demographic problems. The people who retired last year and those who will retire this year were born during the first world war. It is understandable that few people were born then. However, those people who are now coming on to the labour market are the result of the baby boom and the mini-skirts of the 1960s when men were not undertaking the same types of tasks as their parents had to undertake.

I am sure that the right hon. Member for Doncaster accepts that those factors were well known in his Department when he was a Minister. I am sure that the same is true of the right hon. Member for Crosby (Mrs. Williams). The baby boom could have been foreseen, as could the drop in the numbers of people retiring. For every one person retiring last year and this year, there are two people coming on to the labour market. Ten years ago, the figures balanced.

Why, when the right hon. Member for Doncaster and his colleagues were planning the economy, did they not foresee that demographic problem and do more about it? The right hon. Member for Crosby said that she lost battles when she was at the Department of Education and Science. No doubt her colleagues did, too. Nevertheless, that is not good enough. It is impossible for any Government of any political party suddenly to come in, in a complete vacuum and resolve the problems that faced the present Government when they came to office.

I hope that the right hon. Member for Doncaster will agree that youth unemployment arises not only from demographic changes, but from real changes in the basis of employment. It was possible to foresee that 16-year-olds who came on to the labour market with the qualifications that the hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mr. Beith) mentioned—the bottom 30 per cent.—would have the greatest difficulty in finding jobs in a changing economic climate. It was possible to foresee that the types of jobs that 16-year-olds have done hitherto would no longer exist.

It did not require an enormous forecasting ability by either party, especially the Labour party when it was in government during the 1970s, to see the scale of the problem that Britain would face, yet virtually nothing was done. It is therefore not good enough for the right hon. Member for Doncaster and his right hon. and hon. Friends to carp and complain about what the Government are doing. They had the chance, but they did virtually nothing.

The right hon. Member for Doncaster, the hon. Member for Flint, East (Mr. Jones) and I had the opportunity to visit Japan. The Japanese would have had exactly the same problems as we have if they had continued as we have done since the 1960s. However, in the 1960s they decided that they had to achieve a highly qualified and better educated work force. What did they do? They gradually expanded training and educational facilities so that whereas in 1960 about 60 per cent. of Japanese youngsters went straight on to the labour market, by 1982–83 94 per cent. of Japanese youngsters stayed at school until they were 18. Moreover, a further 45 per cent. go on from school to some form of university.

At a stroke, not only have the Japanese achieved a much larger and better educated work force, but they have dramatically reduced the size of the labour market. Because they have reduced the size of the labour market, they do not share our problems of youth unemployment. That is what the right hon. Member for Doncaster and his right hon. and hon. Friends could have foreseen but did nothing about.

Whatever faults the right hon. Member for Doncaster may say the Government have, they have applied their mind with a creativity and determination that has not been shown before. They have produced money and a system of training that, as my hon. Friend the Member for Sevenoaks (Mr. Wolfson) said, will bring into training three of the four groups that previously had no training. The Government deserve credit for that. Nor is it possible, as the right hon. Member for Doncaster said, just to increase that level of training from 16-year-olds to 17-year-olds. He knows how hard it will be to ensure that we achieve proper verification and adequate standards for the 16-year-olds. It is not possible to find overnight the thousands of trainers who will be required in addition and to train them so that they can ensure that the youngsters get the proper and complete benefit from the scheme that they deserve.

The right hon. Gentleman should consider one other factor. He talked about a gangplank to the dole queue. He said that if a Labour Government were returned to power their policy would be to ensure that adequate jobs were there for those who had finished their course. With respect, I believe that that is a terrible confidence trick to play on many young people. I defy any Government in the world, forgetting our structural and social problems, overnight or even within a few months, suddenly to be able to provide the massive number of employment opportunities that this generation will require. To say that there is some simple economic strategy that can suddenly be deployed, which will give those kids worthwhile employment for the remainder of their lives, is plain nonsense. It suggests to those youngsters a future which, unfortunately, many of them will not have.

Of course, the 16-year-olds must be taken out of the labour market. The Government are to be congratulated on doing this. I think that the right hon. Member for Doncaster will agree that we must go down the route that the Japanese and others have taken, and improve the quality of the education and training of not only of 16-year-olds, but of 17-year-olds.

Mr. Harold Walker

I also advocate that we should follow the Japanese road, because the Japanese have a policy of jobs for life, certainly in the public sector, on the part of major employers.

Mr. Needham

The jobs for life analogy between the public sector in Japan and the public sector in Britain is about the only analogy that we can draw. By and large, there are jobs for life in the public sector in Britain, as there are in Japan. I am not sure that that benefits the British or the Japanese in terms of overall efficiency. However, we must continue to work towards a longer period of training for young people so that we do not end up with a significant proportion of 16 and 17-year-olds who are incapable of finding work because of poor educational standards.

Therefore, we must support the scheme wholeheartedly. We must accept that it is of great advantage, compared with any scheme that has gone before it. We must build upon it. However, at no stage must Conservative Members suggest that it is the only answer. It is not. We appreciate that. We shall do what we can. What we will not do is promise that which we cannot deliver. That is what is being done by Opposition Members.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bernard Weatherill)

Order. This is an appropriate moment to remind the House that there is a great deal of interest in the debate on trade, which follows this debate. I understand that it is desired to bring this debate to an end at about 7 o'clock. Many hon. Members have been waiting all day to take part. Will those who speak tailor their speeches accordingly?

5.43 pm
Mr. Robert C. Brown (Newcastle upon Tyne, West)

The hon. Member for Chippenham (Mr. Needham) will forgive me if I do not follow him right through his speech. He sounded exactly like the Prime Minister when he described what has happened since May 1979 and implied, as the Prime Minister does regularly, that it is everybody's fault except the Government's.

The greatest of the many betrayals of the Government is without a doubt the betrayal of the nation's youth. Our youth are the nation's seed-corn. Many Conservative Members are farmers. I am sure that none of them would deny that the destruction of the seed-corn would be nothing short of unmitigated disaster.

The thoughts of a generation growing up deprived of a basic human right, the right to work for a living, worries me no end, because of what the future might bring as a direct result. In the county of Tyne and Wear, part of which I represent, 25,066 school leavers have never had the dignity of a full-time job. In the city of Newcastle the figure is 2,853. In Tyne and Wear, 14,500 are on the palliative of the youth opportunities programme or community enterprise schemes.

I have a copy of a letter from Mr. Terence Finley, the general secretary of the Newcastle upon Tyne Council for Voluntary Services. In it he complains bitterly about the lack of consultation by various Government Departments on initiatives such as the community programme, which I am sure the Minister will agree is closely connected with today's debate.

We badly need the co-operation of the voluntary organisations, because we all know that local government is very much hamstrung and faces manifestly difficult problems. It is not good enough for Government Departments and Ministers to take it for granted that voluntary bodies will co-operate automatically without being given the fullest opportunity for genuine and meaningful discussion before Ministers' minds are made up.

I shall not burden the House with long quotations from Mr. Finley's letter to the Secretary of State for Employment, except for the penultimate paragraph, which reads: While voluntary organisations wish to contribute in relation to unemployment and its social consequences, the effect of different departmental initiatives and differing approaches to, for example, consultation can be bewildering. This was particularly so last year. So far there is little evidence that the Voluntary Services Unit at the Home Office has been able to facilitate a more co-ordinated approach by Government Departments to voluntary organisations. I appeal to the Secretary of State to take Mr. Finley's letter seriously. Will the Government get their act together on this very important issue? It cannot be much of a show if the monkey is doing a tap dance on top of the organ without the organ grinder being present.

In essence, the youth training scheme is useful, if properly undertaken. However, there are serious reservations. The scheme is meant to be a bridge between school and work. It cannot be denied that as a principle it is useful. However whatever the good intentions of the scheme, the fact cannot be hidden that the Government are on the one hand committed to this form of training while on the other they are abolishing most of the industrial training boards. A suspicious soul, unlike me would suggest that it is yet another cosmetic powder-puff to cover the ever-growing problem of the numbers of the young unemployed.

The YTS sees the main problem of youth unemployment as lack of skill. If only there were the skills, the jobs would be there, goes the refrain. However, a glance at the numbers that the YTS is supposed to cover in its first year reveals that, whatever the merits of the scheme, it does no more than get 16-year-olds off the streets. I do not disagree with that.

The idea that by September 1984, somehow 500,000 jobs will be available for youngsters with only the broadest and most general training is nothing short of a chimera under the Government's policies. If 500,000 jobs for skilled or semi-skilled workers were to be available in the foreseeable future, the Government could claim that their policies were working. However, everyone, even the Government in their secret conflabs, knows that that is not true.

The engineering employers know that Government policies are failing their industry and, therefore, failing the nation. Engineering employers are deeply sceptical of the YTS. I have fact sheet No. 1 of the engineering industry training board dated January 1983. It makes utterly depressing reading. It states: Before the present recession redundancy was almost unknown for apprentices. Since September 1980 the situation has been very different. Large numbers of apprentices have been made redundant every month. In 1980–81 training year 2,959 were made redundant, an average of 246 per month. … In the next training year, 1981–82, although recruitment of apprentices was sharply reduced, there were another 1,468 redundant apprentices, an average of 122 a month. … In the current training year redundancies are running at around 150 a month despite an even greater cut in recruitment. It gives me no satisfaction to quote that passage. It is a most depressing catalogue of what is happening in the productive engineering industry.

The YTS recruits in engineering will be working alongside first-year apprentices. They will be wearing the same overalls and caps and will be instructed by the same instructors. However, there is one essential difference: the first-year apprentice will have £50 a week and the YTS recruit will have £25 a week. There is a grave danger that that might arise. I am not suggesting that the major employers would be a party to it, but questionable employers in the engineering industry might well exploit the scheme.

There is a simple equation. An employer might want 10 apprentices. If he took those 10 apprentices, he would have £500 per week to pay, which is about £26,000 a year. Will there not be a grave temptation for that employer to take 20 YTS recruits at no cost? At the end of the year he can throw out 10 and keep the best 10 at no cost. He will then have 10 first-year-trained engineering apprentices. Fortunately, the redeeming feature of the YTS is that it will outlive the Government. When the next Labour Government come to power they will have an opportunity to put right some of the scheme's imperfections.

There is a crying need for quality training which would be a real alternative and supplement to the apprenticeship scheme. If the quality of the YTS is right, it can be useful, not just as a bridge between school and work, but to educate and retrain and update skills. My union's experience is that the quality that is being produced is, to say the least, variable. Improvements are made after negotiations, but what of the failures which the unions do not spot?

Another cause for worry is that there appears to be no mechanism for checking that the legitimate complaints made about the YOP, particularly in relation to health and safety, will be resolved under the new scheme. It is not sufficient to say, as an MSC spokesperson did on Radio 4 two weeks ago that "some slip through." It is too late to make improvements when limbs and even lives are lost. We have no guarantee beyond a pious hope.

The trainees are not employees and it will be extremely difficult to protect their rights in that vital respect. Clearly, unions will insist on safety representatives, but they have no legal right to do so for trainees. The better schemes and employers will be satisfactory. It is the small ones that are the worry. The relationship between the employer and the trainee will remain a worry. The latter has few rights. He or she has no redress against discrimination. That is an important safeguard, given the insistence on the voluntary nature of the scheme. That lack of rights is reflected clearly in the training allowance. It is set at the absurdly low level of £25 a week. I believe that that figure should be indexed.

A more serious point is that the scheme creates a two-tier system of trainees with rates of pay that differ from person to person according to whether the person is a trainee or an employee. In almost all cases the training allowance is less than the statutory minimum laid down by wages councils, and that is anything but a living wage.

One major criticism of the scheme, which has its merits, is that it pays lip-service to continuing education for the post-18-year-olds in changing skills. There is little plan for development in that vital area.

I make one further criticism of the scheme. David Young of the MSC talks of 500,000 places and says that at present 150,000 are available. Two points emerge from that. I understand that the full operating guidelines will not emerge from the Institute of Manpower Studies until April. That is four months later than expected originally. It makes it nonsense to talk about quality training when we do not yet know what criteria will be applied. Although there is a pilot scheme already, it seems that there will be a severe shortage of places. What will the Government do to remedy that?

The YTS is not an answer to the problems facing today's youth, nor is it an alternative to a decent economic policy. It can have a vital role to play, but only as part of an alternative economic policy.

5.58 pm
Mr. John Grant (Islington, Central)

I want to deal with the scale of the problem. We have heard from the Secretary of State that the Government are spending on and doing far more for youth training than has been done before in an attempt to combat youth unemployment. We have heard comparisons of YOP with the new youth training scheme. I want to make it clear from the outset that I am not knocking YTS, but there is no real comparison to be made. The youth opportunities programme was designed to deal with a position very different from the one that we face today. The programme has been utterly swamped—as the Secretary of State must acknowledge—by the appalling rise in youth unemployment.

I am sorry that the hon. Member for Chippenham (Mr. Needham) is no longer in the Chamber, because I wish to comment on his remarks. The hon. Gentleman talked about demographic factors and gave disproportionate weight to them in his reasons for the increase in youth unemployment. No doubt he will read my remarks. I should have been more impressed by what he said had he and his right hon. and hon. Friends made those speeches before 1979, because those factors were apparent then.

Mr. Tebbit

My hon. Friend the Member for Chippenham (Mr. Needham) has had to leave the Chamber to attend a Committee. Perhaps my hon. Friend was a little harsh on the hon. Gentleman, who was a Minister in the Labour Government, and other Ministers in that Government, when he said that they should have done more and provided the money to set up a youth scheme such as the right hon. Member for Crosby (Mrs. Williams) wished. They were handicapped by the fact that the International Monetary Fund insisted that they made the most massive spending cuts that have been inflicted on Britain by any Government. Their economic policies landed them in the mess.

Mr. Grant

We could have a long debate about the economic policies of the Labour Government and the disastrous economic policies of this Government, but you would not encourage me, Mr. Deputy Speaker, to go further down that road in the short time at my disposal. However, that does not alter my assertion that before 1979 the Conservative party did not make those points about the reasons for the rise in unemployment. It was high then, but only about half what it is now.

I shall underline the scale of the problem with some figures that I extracted from the Department of Employment about a month ago. Although they are a month out of date, they show that the position has worsened, not improved. The figures show that in Greater London the number of unemployed school leavers aged under 18 has increased by 897 per cent. since May 1979. It is probably better to use percentages because they avoid the difficulties that we now face after the Secretary of State's decision to change the method of collecting and publishing statistics. In the London borough of Islington, part of which I represent, the increase was 528 per cent. The number of unemployed under-20s in Greater London increased by 371 per cent., and the figure for the same age group who were unemployed for more than a year increased by 963 per cent. The comparable figures for Islington were 268 per cent. and 700 per cent. The Islington figures are lower, because we start from a different base.

I use those figures to underline the urgency of the problem. The Government have taken much of the credit for the youth training scheme, but it was devised by the Manpower Services Commission, and at one stage the Government appeared to be dragging their feet. However, it is a major step towards securing training opportunities for youngsters. The TUC has described it as a mighty step in that direction. That is a generous description, and I hope that it will prove to be justified. It would be churlish not to welcome the scheme, but we are still entitled to ask whether it is enough to meet the needs of young people. Last year one in two school leavers had no job to go to. The position is becoming worse, not better, and youngsters have a bleak prospect. More than 1.25 million under-25s are unemployed, and long-term or hard-core unemployment among youngsters is clearly becoming worse.

The "Jobs for Youth" campaign has made some sensible suggestions—for example, that places on the new youth training scheme that starts in September should be available to all 16 and 17-year-olds who wish to join. The Secretary of State said that that is his aim but that he cannot give us such a guarantee now. The campaign mentions an increase in allowances and says that those with special needs should receive more attention. The campaigners argue that young workers must be given training and education as part of their jobs and that apprenticeships must be increased and modernised. Overall, the demands are modest in our present position. I emphasise the special needs of young blacks and of the disabled, who face a double handicap. I know that the Secretary of State recognises that, but I ask for more attention to be given to their problems.

The Secretary of State said that he is confident that places will be found. I question that confidence and ask him whether he believes that commerce and industry will find 460,000 jobs from September, bearing in mind the depressed state of British industry. I need only refer to the latest CBI survey—

Mr. Tebbit

I hope that 300,000 places will be found in commerce and industry and that the remaining 160,000 will be what we call mode B places.

Mr. Grant

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for underlining that point, but it does not alter the fact that, whichever figure is chosen, I question whether he will be on target in view of our increasingly depressed economy. If the target is not reached—the lower figure that he gave was for those who will be dealt with by the local education authorities—the hard-pressed authorities will presumably be under even more pressure to take up the slack, which will cause difficulty.

It seems that some Civil Service unions oppose the youth training scheme because they fear that it will be used to cover up the Government's arbitrary staff cuts. The Manpower Services Commission wishes to have Civil Service participation, and the Secretary of State agreed with that this afternoon, although he did not deny the suggestion that the Prime Minister does not wish it. Perhaps his right hon. Friend the Minister of State will deal with that point in reply. It is not surprising that there are such suspicions. I hope that the Civil Service unions can overcome those suspicions, but the right hon. Gentleman cannot blame them for being worried about job substitution and cheap labour when one examines the guidance notes to Departments from the Government on privatisation and arbitrary manpower targets. It explains the unions' attitude fairly well.

The allowances for training and administration are inadequate. That comes back to the old argument that if the jam is spread too thinly, the quality may suffer. That, in turn, raises the point made by the right hon. Member for Doncaster (Mr. Walker) relating to adequate monitoring. The Social Democratic party is calling for a special training inspectorate. Are the Government prepared to give serious consideration to that suggestion?

The problem that concerns the British Youth Council, among others, is that managing agents in the private sector can recruit direct from the youth training scheme without going to the careers service. They may cream off the better equipped youngsters and leave others at a disadvantage and without a fair crack of the whip. However, those youngsters are most in need of help from the scheme.

There must be more direct representation of youngsters or their organisations on the area manpower boards. That is causing some anxiety. Is the Minister satisfied that there is sufficient cross-section interest on those boards and does he believe that young people are adequately represented?

We need a training system that is flexible and responsive to needs. We must ensure that youngsters have the opportunity of full-time education and training on or off the job, and we must move—there is no dissent from this in the House—from the traditional arrangements for time-served apprenticeships towards national standards. The YTS should be expanded to include all unemployed 17-year-olds. The courses will have to be lengthened.

I hope that the YTS will be highly successful. It should be a platform to build upon. Young people need real jobs. The Conservative party talked about that and constantly reminded us of it during the run-up to the 1979 election. Otherwise, the efforts will be wasted, however good the training schemes are.

This is clearly not the time to discuss broad economic issues, but, in reply to the hon. Member for Chippenham, there is no suggestion of overnight or simplistic solutions from the Social Democratic party. Public investment, shorter working time and general economic regeneration must come. There must be a change of Government policy. Unless we get those things right, trained or untrained young people face the appalling prospect of growing old on the dole queue. That is the challenge that faces the Government, the House and the nation. I do not believe that the Government have measured up to that challenge.

6.12 pm
Mr. Eric Deakins (Waltham Forest)

I apologise to both Front Benches for the fact that I will have to leave the House at 6.30 pm for a constituency engagement. I will be unable to hear the winding-up speeches. I look forward with interest to reading the remainder of the debate.

I echo, briefly, some of the criticisms that have been made about the youth training scheme. Criticisms have been made of the fact that there is no guarantee of a job at the end of the scheme, of the differentials between the training salary and the wages paid to apprentices, of the lack of any information about trade union rights and responsibilities and of the fact that the scheme will be seen by some people as an expedient to try to reduce the unemployment figures.

There was a hint in the Minister's speech that some employers, if they were quick off the mark, might be able to choose some of the trainees for particular occupations. That is all well and good. Will the Minister or his right hon. Friend give a little more detail as to how the trainees are to be matched with particular occupations?

It would be a great advantage to an employer in the engineering or electrical contracting industry to have a fairly bright trainee who might well at the end of a year's course have acquired sufficient knowledge to go on to a full apprenticeship. That would count towards his apprenticeship and reduce its length.

For many other young people who might benefit from such skilled training during their one-year course, there may not be the opportunities even under the 3:2 arrangement. How will the selection be made? Will the MSC say to employers, "You have agreed to take a dozen young people. Please take this dozen young people," or will it say, "Here are 100 young people in the local area. We know you want a dozen people. We know you are a good employer. Would you like to come along, see them and take your pick?"? More information is needed about that.

Secondly, and more important, if 300,000 trainees go into commerce or industry—that is very good—how will they be selected as distinct from the 160,000? Will it be on the basis of qualifications? That is not clear. A more important question for the 300,000 trainees going into industry and commerce is that they will be going into the existing pattern of industry and commerce. That is unavoidable, by the nature of the scheme.

What worries me about this scheme is that of the young people who get skilled training during their year, a number will be lucky enough to have decent employers and trade unions to help them. However, a number may be trained in skills of the past, not in skills of the future. Will there be any direction in the scheme so that more of the trainees are guided towards a growth industry rather than to the existing patterns that might not necessarily meet the needs of industry over the next five to 10 years?

Representatives of the microcomputer industry, for example, visit schools. As a result, many young people coming out of schools and taking part in this training scheme in the next few years will have some knowledge of and interest in skills of the future. If, however, such opportunities are not present and they are trained in the retail trade, for example—there is nothing wrong with that—their skills will be wasted. We must ensure that the scheme is weighted towards industries of the future rather than industries of the past.

Mr. Tebbit

We shall do our best to push industries of the future and get young trainees into them. Geography will sometimes resolve some of these questions, as opportunities in some parts of the country will be better than in others. Above all, this will be a locally based scheme under which local employers, trade unionists and other interests can identify the skilled needs of their area in the next few years.

Mr. Deakins

I take that point. The Labour party and I would go further and say that the Government ought to be playing a greater part in planning the direction of the economy in the future. If we had a different Government, there might be more direction so that young people got better advice both at school and during the scheme, even if there was no local industry. However, some attempt should be made to provide skills locally, which the young people could then use, not necessarily by getting on their bikes but by going elsewhere to obtain suitable employment. The points I have made are important, and I hope that consideration is give to them.

6.18 pm
Mr. Raymond Whitney (Wycombe)

I accept, of course, that the hon. Member for Waltham Forest (Mr. Deakins) should approach the YTS in a critical and questioning manner. That is a reflection of the partisan way in which we tend to conduct our affairs in this place. It is also right to ask many questions about the complex issues arising from this inevitably new and ambitious scheme. I do not object in the slightest to the points that the hon. Gentleman made.

The hon. Gentleman and Opposition Members should accept that this is a genuine and sincere effort to deal with a long-standing problem. Reports came from Germany as long ago as the 1870s. The problem is more than a century old. We must be conscious that training in Britain has always been one of our weaker points.

In the past 10 or 20 years that realisation has been widespread throughout industry and, to a lesser extent than it might have been hoped, in the teaching profession and politics. The Labour party has issued a number of consultative documents about it. A document published in 1978 referred to the fact, that unless something was done, many workers in Britain would continue to be substantially less well paid than their counterparts abroad.

It is widely accepted that something new is needed. It is to the Government's credit that at such a difficult time in our economy they should embark on a scheme of this imagination and of cost. I hope that it will continue to receive the fair wind that it needs.

The country must be told again and again that the new scheme is not just another YOP. It offers at least 13 weeks of genuine high-quality training and the opportunity, whichever mode is used, of continuous work experience. We all accept that the most demoralising thing for young people of 16 and 17 is the lack of the regular discipline of work.

When the scheme was first announced, I was somewhat distressed at the timetable, which seemed to be on the slow side. As the months have gone by, I recognise that the Government and the Manpower Services Commission have got their skates on. There is much more to do, but the Secretary of State will not need me to tell him that.

I am concerned that, for example, in my own constituency, local authorities have only just begun to tell me about the YTS. My reaction has been to ask why they have not heard of it before. I therefore hope that the Secretary of State and the MSC will pull out all the stops to give all the assistance needed by the local education authorities, local authorities generally and commerce and industry, which will play such a major part in the scheme.

I am sure that all hon. Members are concerned that we should give this new start to our young people. It is up to us to heighten awareness both of what is available and of the immense resources that are being offered. This is a good deal for employers, and it ought to be a good deal for our young people.

It is easy to suggest the possibility, not of fiddling, but of sailing close to the wind. Such a suggestion should not be taken too seriously. Any possibility of creating more training opportunities and a better work force must be for the good of us all and certainly for British industry. I hope that this issue will not degenerate into a party political dog fight. It is what the country needs. On the whole, both the trade unions and the employers recognise that.

The Government must ensure the final push so that by September we have a scheme of which we can all be proud. We must ensure that no longer will we spend a century looking at our overseas competitors and admitting that the standard of training in Britain falls below that available in other countries.

6.22 pm
Mr. Ken Eastham (Manchester, Blackley)

I begin by referring to some of the Secretary of State's remarks. He said that training in Britain was not good enough. Labour Members have been saying that for many months. No more than 12 months ago we hotly contested the Government's proposal to curtail the activities of the industrial training boards in an attempt to save £50 million. During those debates we pleaded with the Government to recognise that the standard of training in Britain was not comparable with that of our European competitors. I am therefore encouraged to note that the Minister of State is now accepting that statement. My only regret is that he did not give voice to it some months ago when we tried to resist the curtailment in the activities of the training boards.

The concentration on 16-year-olds has aroused much suspicion, because some of our youth feel that that will be at the expense of 17, 18 and 19-year-olds. I seek an assurance that the funding for 16-year-olds will not be siphoned off from the funding of other age groups. Some clarification on that point is needed.

We must face the fact that many of our youth are cynical about the Government and do not trust some of the statements that are made. One Conservative Member referred to planning and said that Labour Members believed in it. We do indeed. He recognised that a lack of planning for the provision of skills would create manpower shortages with all its other consequences, and there are numerous examples of the consequences arising from the failure to make provision for any economic upturn.

I was delighted that another Conservative Member referred to Japan. He seemed to praise the Japanese education system. He said that Japanese youths were kept on for technical education and training, as a result of which Japan was better equipped to compete with the rest of the world.

To our great sorrow, the Government have consistently cut back on education. I have even heard it said that they might reduce the school leaving age to below 16. If Conservative Members really believe that the Japanese education system is so good, the ought to use their influence to persuade the Government to do likewise.

Mr. Greenway

The hon. Gentleman should bear in mind that it was the Prime Minister who, as Secretary of State for Education and Science, raised the school leaving age to 16. From my long and wide experience, I know of no school at which any pupil has been refused a place beyond the statutory school leaving age if that pupil has wanted one.

Mr. Eastham

I have no doubt that the raising of the school leaving age to 16 was a party obligation that had been entered into a number of years before the right hon. Lady took office as Secretary of State for Education and Science. It is hard to believe that the Prime Minister is so progressive that she wants to introduce advances in education, because if that were so she would be urging education Ministers to change the savage policies from which we are suffering at present.

Apart from the dreadful state of youth unemployment, another problem requires specialist attention. I am thinking about the many companies that have taken on apprentices and have then gone into liquidation. Many young people have begun four-year apprenticeships, but after two or three years have found themselves without a job. They have been unable to complete the full apprenticeship scheme. There are thousands of young people in that terrible dilemma. I assure the Minister that parents have written to me about this terrible predicament, and any special assistance to deal with that problem would be gratefully received.

The situation remains gloomy. I have read some of the glossy leaflets, but the White Paper makes three important references—to developing skilled training; to work-related training and education; and to updating skills and knowledge. Those are the three most fundamentally important aspects of training. I hope that those objectives will be achieved in some way or other.

There was much justifiable criticism of previous so-called training schemes, some of which were greatly abused. Young people said that they were being exploited as cheap labour, that there was no skill training and that they were being used to sweep floors and run errands. That is not training. I realise that a considerable amount of money—£1 billion—is washing around here. I sincerely hope that it will not be misused. We must be extremely cautious about unscrupulous agencies. It is important that skilled, trained, professional people in education should have a major say in these matters.

Employers sometimes criticise standards of education. When I was involved in education a few years before I came to the House, some employers were saying that the young people were doing badly in their entrance examinations and that standards were unsatisfactory. We investigated that complaint to discover what was going wrong. We found that although the metric system of measurement had been introduced into the schools, some of the employers were still using the imperial system. The education system had advanced but the employers—the critics—were not moving with the times. One cannot blame education for that. Employers have to tell educationists what they want. I am sure that educationists will then co-operate to try to meet employers' needs.

I should like to say more, but time is against me. I hope that the Minister will bear those points in mind, and I shall be grateful for any observations that he may make.

6.32 pm
Mr. Barry Jones (Flint, East)

I am glad to follow my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Blackley (Mr. Eastham), who has had a distinguished career as an engineer and was a distinguished lay educationist in Manchester for some years.

Overall, the Secretary of State's speech was low key, low profile, candid and frank, but it was also an apologia for the current youth unemployment figures. We were disappointed to hear that the Minister has engaged the diabolical smoothies who conned the British people into voting Conservative for supposed full employment after 1979—the advertising agency of Saatchi and Saatchi—to sell the scheme to employers and parents.

Mr. Tebbit


Mr. Jones

I shall give way to the right hon. Gentleman. I assume that he will now be the apologist for Saatchi and Saatchi.

Mr. Tebbit

Ministers do not engage advertising agents for the Manpower Services Commission.

Mr. Jones

I fully accept that, but I conclude that the right hon. Gentleman believes that the choice was a right and proper one. We would contest that fiercely.

Mr. Arthur Lewis (Newham, North-West)

My hon. Friend may be right to castigate the Minister who may or may not have been responsible, but surely it is better to give the account to a British firm than to an American firm? The pro-nuclear campaign is to be handled by an American firm, J. Walter Thompson. The Government are giving away £1 million. As the Prime Minister says, "Buy British, pay British."

Mr. Jones

I respect my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Lewis) for the patriot that he clearly is. Nevertheless, Saatchi and Saatchi is currently fulfilling the role of specialist cosmetician for the Conservatives in relation to unemployment figures that stink.

The Secretary of State in his approach and style today resembled a Samuel Smiles in a moral panic. His speech was that of a worried man with a sense of urgency and of a Cabinet Minister somewhat on the defensive.

Miss Clare Short was the subject of a studied attack by the Secretary of State. Clearly, her bulletin "Youthaid" and her correspondence in The Guardian have touched a raw departmental nerve, but committed, researched and informed criticism from a former member of the special programmes division may surely be helpful.

The critics of the scheme have had a hearing. They say that after 12 months' training one in two young people will return to unemployment and that that is not a better way to train people for work. The Government fanfare is that £1 billion is to be spent on the new training scheme and that £750 million has already been allocated this year for the YOP schemes. In the first year the YTS will cost about £900 million. The critics say that much of that would otherwise have been spent on supplementary benefit. They further argue that employers will recruit trainees rather then employ school leavers for wages so as to cut their wages bills. The critics also point out that the hours and holidays offered are inferior to those enjoyed by the average worker and that the allowance is declining in value. Others state that the advertising campaign for which Saatchi and Saatchi is being paid £1.5 million is in part being manipulated to help to allay public fears about youth unemployment.

Both sides of the House must agree that the debate takes place against a daunting backcloth of unemployment. Youngsters are told the truth that a job is the pivot of life, but in the next few years the number of long-term unemployed may rise to 1.5 million. If, as many forecasters expect, unemployment remains at about 3 million for some years, 35 to 40 per cent. of the total will be long-term unemployed.

As the hon. Member for Islington, Central (Mr. Grant) said, unemployment is increasingly hitting younger people and 60 per cent. of the total are under 45 years of age. Worse, the fastest growth in long-term unemployment is among the under-25s. At the last count 1,248,000 citizens in that age group were unemployed. Worse still, as recently as October 1982 the Under-Secretary of State for Employment, the hon. Member for City of Chester (Mr. Morrison), calculated that 263,000 16 and 17-year-olds had neither jobs nor training. That is the gaping hole in the Government's provision for youth. That deplorable statistic can incite only outrage and shame, and the Secretary of State openly conceded today that there was not so strong a guarantee in the scheme for the 17-year-olds.

Precisely how do the Government propose to help the great army of underprivileged youth? Will the new scheme come to the rescue of all unemployed 17-year-olds? The new community programme—supposedly the cheaper version of the old community enterprise programme—achieved only 40,000 places out of a possible 130,000 in November of last year. Ministers may bang the drum of departmental achievement, but they should hang their heads in shame about such statistics.

The hon. Member for Islington, Central referred to ethnic minorities. We want a clear statement on that issue from the Minister of State tonight. The Government should spell out their policy on the scheme as it relates to ethnic minorities. The new scheme should represent a new deal for them. As recently as November of last year the Commission for Racial Equality postulated that there was a 60 per cent. unemployment rate among black teenagers in our inner cities. The commission even alleged that discrimination existed. The Minister should tell us of his hopes in that sphere.

The Minister should also be aware that researchers have found evidence of a lack of equal opportunity for females on YOP courses. He should guarantee that the scheme's staff will not segregate girls into traditional roles. The new scheme should ensure a widening of opportunities for young women.

Other hon. Members have mentioned the physically handicapped. How genuine are the Government in their declared promise to guarantee training for all unemployed 16-year-olds? How will the scheme cater for the physically handicapped? Does the new scheme need to be amended to achieve that? Should places be offered on the new scheme to those handicapped young people who remain in full-time education until they are aged 18 or 19? So far the Department's attitude to the scheme has been vague and unconvincing. Perhaps the Minister of State will go on the record today and reassure some of us about that attitude, just as he might reassure us on the subject of vouchers.

We should have a categorical denial that the Department is preparing to ask workers and the unemployed to pay for part of their retraining when they wish to keep or obtain jobs. That query is of relevance and interest to every youngster who is soon to embark on the new scheme. In an article in The Guardian on 13 December, the newspaper's social services correspondent said that, according to a report that is being considered by the Government: Workers would be expected to raise bank loans with easy repayment terms if they wanted to retrain for new skills. I challenge the Minister to go on record today and kill that allegation and reassure the tens of thousands of youngsters who are about to embark on the scheme.

Last year the MSC urged the Government not to operate the £260 million young workers scheme, and especially not to operate it alongside the youth training scheme. The MSC pointed out bluntly that the young workers scheme did not encourage training for young people. It is disgraceful that the Government today seek praise and acclamation for their new scheme and for their public commitment to training, while at the same time they propose to pump £260 million into a widely advertised young workers scheme that is bereft of training provision. Arguably, that scheme is devoted to forcing down youngsters' wages.

The Minister should announce today that the moneys that are earmarked for the young workers scheme will be switched to the youth training scheme, as the MSC has urged the Department to do. There was a distressing catalogue of accidental deaths and amputations in last year's YOP scheme. How will the Department ensure that health and safety training and the protection of trainees in the new scheme can be enforced?

There has been some evidence of employers having a lack of faith in the new scheme. Indeed, it places too great a reliance on employers providing many of the facilities and much of the support for training. Sir Terence Beckett of the CBI commented that employers might find it difficult to give all the help they would like to give to the scheme unless company profitability improved and the economy showed greater signs of recovery. He made that statement early last year. Today, the front page of The Guardian surmises that the CBI sees that 90,000 jobs could be at risk, with no sign of the recession going away. On that basis, the Minister needs to assure us that the Government believe that they can obtain sufficient sponsors.

The Opposition's fundamental criticism of the scheme and of the Government centres on the Government's unwillingness to reflate the economy. In the immediate years ahead, the mass unemployment level will probably still approximate 3 million. Many of our boys and girls may thus be doomed to joining the dole queues after completing their training year.

We know that 250,000 under-18s are without work or training. It may be said that the scheme, given a fair wind, could be a golden bridge between school and meaningful, secure and fulfilling work. But it might also be said, sadly, that the scheme will for tens of thousands of youngsters, be a gangplank from school to the humiliation and frustration of the dole.

The Secretary of State tonight set out one of the Government's election stalls. Clearly, they envisage the scheme—warts and all—being a vote winner. We all want the scheme to be successful, but, in itself, it will be useless if those who complete it successfully find themselves high and dry on the dole. They will be the best qualified school leavers, but nevertheless part and parcel of the monetarist-induced mass unemployment statistics.

The House must not forget that since the Government took office one in five jobs in manufacturing industry has disappeared. Most companies have ruthlessly slimmed their manning levels to stay alive. If the present economic strategy continues, the eager trainees will become a generation at risk. To doom them to the dole will be for the Secretary of State and his Government to engage in a moral crime.

6.48 pm
The Minister of State, Department of Employment (Mr. Michael Alison)

The hon. Member for Flint, East (Mr. Jones) raised a number of points, some of which echoed those raised by his right hon. Friend the Member for Doncaster (Mr. Walker) at the start of the debate. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will allow me to cover the points in a cornucopian manner. He made one reference to the community programme. He was a little unfair in quoting the figures that we had reached by December. They were not bad figures, because the scheme only began in October. We have full expectation that we shall achieve the 130,000 target by the end of the year.

The right hon. Member for Doncaster made an odd speech, with a curious Pavlovian aspect to it. He was clearly taken aback by his own pet stereotype of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State. He was expecting a roaring lion prowling around seeking whom he could devour. Instead, my right hon. Friend performed like a dove. The right hon. Member came to the debate with a lion trap to trap my right hon. Friend, but he flew away. He made a constructive, entirely peaceful, informative, factual speech that was full of harmony. The right hon. Member for Doncaster was so surprised that all he could do was to wheel out the old blunderbuss with which one attacks lions. My right hon. Friend was not performing like a lion today, although he is a lion in Cabinet when it comes to getting money.

The right hon. Member for Crosby (Mrs. Williams) was quite right to say that she was unable to obtain the resources that have been given to my right hon. Friend. He has been able to do a job in securing resources for this programme which no former Minister on the Opposition side has come anywhere near doing.

The right hon. Member for Doncaster, after spending almost the whole of his speech trying to shoot my right hon. Friend as if he were a lion, but getting the wrong target, then produced the most ludicrous case by way of a weapon with which to attack my right hon. Friend—a Sunday Times article of June 1982 about a truncated report of some interview on a particular training scheme in a particular company. Obviously, because he was expecting my right hon. Friend to have attacked everyone indiscriminately, this was his studied riposte and he spent about 20 minutes on it. It was entirely irrelevant.

As for Guardian articles that have been ladled out like gruel in the poorhouse to the House this afternoon, we will not scrape a drop from the carpet. It is all rubbish. A Sunday Times article is one thing; these endless drips from The Guardian, alleging scandals, are not worth the time it takes to read them. So I am afraid there will be no response to them.

It was a pity that the right hon. Member for Doncaster also had to bang the old party drum about unemployment—that is to say, that it is monstrous that we have unemployment under a Conservative Government, the implication being that it is something, like strikes or inflation or shortages of resources, which never happens under a Labour Government. He forgets that, if unemployment has doubled in the 1980s—we do not pretend it has not—it also doubled in the 1970s and in the 1960s. In both the 1960s and the 1970s it did so under Labour Governments. This "holier than thou" attitude towards unemployment is therefore particularly uncon-vincing in the Labour party.

The right hon. Member for Doncaster's patronising and superior tone of condescension about the youth training scheme is particularly damaging not to the Government but to the Opposition, because it comes from a member of a party which, having presided over two lots of doubling of unemployment, managed to come up with nothing further in respect of training than three consultative papers, the first of which was produced as late as 1978. That is the record of the Labour party whose members try to lambast my right hon. Friend today for having done something real and substantial to come to grips with unemployment, which was presided over by the Labour party for far longer than by the Conservatives.

Mr. Dan Jones (Burnley)


Mr. Alison

Of course I will give way without hesitation to the hon. Gentleman in just a minute. I have carefully marked that he is to have a helping in this debate. I just want to point out that, to get the youth unemployment figures in perspective, it is worth reminding right hon. and hon. Gentlemen of a vivid and fair way of putting it which they may have seen in the extremely effective exhibition mounted in the Committee Corridor by the Manpower Services Commission.

Mr. Harold Walker

Where were you?

Mr. Alison

I was standing in for my right hon. Friend, who was sick.

As can be seen in the exhibition, for every 10 youngsters who reach the age of 16 at the present time, three continue at school and three find jobs. That is, the majority either find jobs or stay at school, and the minority—four out of the 10—are unemployed. That is the group we are seeking to garner and help by the youth training scheme. We expect that two of those four will get jobs at the conclusion so that eight out of ten school leavers either continue at school, get jobs straight away or get into the youth training scheme and only two at the end fail immediately to get work. That is not a bad record in relation to the real problem we have.

Mr. Dan Jones

Whatever might be said about the lions and the lambs, this is a constructive document. I am very pleased to tell the House that about two and a half years ago in Nelson, a neighbouring constituency to my own, I was asked to address a meeting of apprentices. I did so and found it a great pleasure because, having been in engineering for many years, I know that apprentices are the very basis of engineering. I am sure the Minister realises this as well. Out of politeness to him, I had to tell the resident Member, who is still a Member of the House, now on the Government side, that I had been there. We, seven Members from that area, collected nearly £400 which we gave to the people organising the apprentices. We asked them if they would tell the employers' federation that we had done it. We asked the employers if they would make a contribution as well. I wrote to the Minister in question, telling him what we had done.

Unless this is done, whatever money there may be in the next Parliament, without this type of personnel, not much will be achieved. I am very pleased that there is a place in north-east Lancashire for the people who began this on behelf of the engineering industry.

Mr. Alison

I have noted carefully the point made by the hon. Member for Burnley (Mr. Jones) about apprentices and I will try to say a word about them. The House will recall that he is the hon. Member who once said in the middle of one of his own speeches: "I pause, Mr. Deputy Speaker, to interrupt myself." I hope he will remember my support when he gets to heaven.

Turning to some specific points made by the right hon. Member for Doncaster after he had finished his abortive attempt to attack my peace-loving and right hon. Friend, the Secretary of State, he asked a question about the young worker scheme. The expectation is that it will run parallel with the youth training scheme—that is, at least throughout 1983–84. Beyond that, no decisions have been taken. There are 145,000 applicants approved on this scheme so far. That was the figure at the end of December 1982. That is a large number of youngsters being helped in jobs.

Local authority expenditure on the youth training scheme which is reimbursed by the Manpower Services Commission will not count towards expenditure limits. This is the same arrangement as the youth opportunities programme. While we would not wish to see local authorities penalised as a result of additional expenditure incurred through participation in the new scheme, we should not consider an exemption for additional expenditure justified.

The right hon. Member asked about apprenticeship schemes. I hope this is where I can say something to encourage the hon. Member for Burnley too. I can understand concern that the scheme should not undermine in any way the quality of apprenticeship training in at least its opening year of operation, 1983–84. I can assure the right hon. Member for Doncaster, the hon. Member for Burnley and others who talked about apprenticeship schemes that there is no intention at all of overturning existing good practices, but rather of building on them. Managing agents will be able to run schemes on which some youngsters are treated as apprentices while others receive training in different skills, provided the youth training scheme standards are met in both cases. We hope many more young people will be given the opportunity to go on to specific skills training as a result of entering the youth training scheme.

My hon. Friend the Member for Hertford and Stevenage (Mr. Wells) and I had the privilege of visiting the north of England not long ago when we saw an ICI scheme which the right hon. Gentleman and the hon. Member for Burnley may know about and my hon. Friend the Member for Sevenoaks (Mr. Wolfson) may have heard of, which is an interesting apprenticeship scheme. There is a common first year for youth training scheme entrants and apprentices. There is a common wage, to which the company contributes. It is a consolidated figure. All the unions have agreed the scheme. I have welcomed it myself, as has my right hon. Friend. Apprentices will be selected from the total intake at the end of the first year. The skill attainment of the trainees will determine the apprentices taken on after the first year.

I have also visited schemes—Carreras Rothman in the north-east is one example—where there are two separate streams. The YTS stream is separated from the apprentice stream. Within that spectrum, there is a good deal of scope for variation.

The hon. Member for Newham, North-East (Mr. Leighton) is interested in the wage factor. I cannot generalise. In the ICI scheme, there is a consolidated figure. In the Carreras scheme, the apprentice rate continues alongside the YTS rate. I cannot generalise. It depends upon the particular scheme.

I have been asked about the protection of trainees. The existing YOP arrangements, which are, in effect designed to ensure that trainees are as much protected as full employees, will continue under the youth training scheme. The MSC will take out the necessary insurance cover which it will fund. At the end of the day, trainees will effectively be as fully protected de facto as those who are legally and technically employees.

The right to join trade unions is under examination. The right of local trade unions to have some say in a local scheme is being studied. The likelihood is that they will be consulted on it.

A number of hon. Members have made other comments. My hon. Friend the Member for Sevenoaks (Mr. Wolfson) was concerned about the extent to which life and social skills aspect might be dealt with in some training schemes being developed. All youth training scheme programmes which have a life and social skills dimension to them, and some of those I have visited, make a considerable amount of that element. They are designed to teach skills relevant to obtaining and retaining a job. To the extent that political training is relevant to the objective of the scheme, it can be included in off-the-job training. It is not only a matter of political realities. The Carreras Rothman scheme includes visits to prisons and to the police service.

Mr. Wolfson

My point was more specific. It would be part of the life and social skills training, but training specifically designed to enable those taking part to market themselves in finding jobs.

Mr. Alison

I am certain that this is regarded by those devising the modules and programmes as a crucial element. The schemes that I have visited—the Carreras Rothman scheme is a good example—included as a major element the part played by the trainee in self-assessment and measuring his own progress. I have tried to cover the points made by the right hon. Member for Doncaster (Mr. Walker). If I have not covered every issue, in this short debate, I shall write to those hon. Members who have raised other points.

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