§ Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—[Mr. Mather.]9.37 am
§ The Minister of State, Department of Employment (Mr. Peter Morrison)
This is the first time that I have had the opportunity to address the House since you, Mr. Speaker, were elected to the Chair, so may I add my congratulations to those of all other right hon. and hon. Members. I find it somewhat ironic to be in this position because I, as Minister for training, am well aware that I am sitting, as it were, beneath one of my original trainers, given that it was six or seven years ago when my right hon. Friend the Member for Blaby (Mr. Lawson), my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, Acton (Sir G. Young) and I entered the then Opposition Whips Office with you as the deputy Chief Whip. All three of us now find ourselves members of Her Majesty's Government. I cannot quite think what my right hon. Friend the member for Blaby got from you that I did not get, but I live in hopes of further training during the tenure of your office.
The youth training scheme is one of the most important steps that the Government have taken. Hence, it is entirely appropriate that we should discuss it early in this Parliament. It was conceived in the 1981 White Paper, it was born of the youth task group report, it was baptised by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State last June, and it is soon to come of age this September, when tens of thousands of youngsters join up between then and Christmas. I hope that hon. Gentleman will agree that it is accepted by all parties to a greater or lesser extent. Why? I think simply because the country has been aware for far too long that something must be done. Successive Governments, both Labour and Conservative, have talked about the need and the Government have not only recognised it but acted, too.
Britain's training record has not been good enough. More than one in three youngsters have no training or further education. If we compare that with our European counterparts, France and Germany, for example, train eight or more out of ten. Slowly—far too slowly—we have got to where we are. It is one thing for the great and the good members of the Liberal, Social Democratic and Labour parties to sit around in their grand drawing rooms, saying what should happen, but action, as I know to my cost as well as to my enormous satisfaction, is quite different. We have obtained agreement and we are on the way ahead. During the last year or so there has been action —and how.
It would be churlish for me to go on looking into the history books and I want to look to the future.
§ Mr. Harry Greenway (Ealing, North)
Is my hon. Friend aware that R. A. Butler, in his book "The Art of Memory" which was published last year shortly before he died, referred to the fact that he and Ernest Bevin attempted to set up such a scheme as long ago as 1943? He saw the need for it then and he commended the present scheme in that book.
§ Mr. Morrison
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for reminding the House of what Lord Butler said about the scheme that we have before us. He proves the point by stating that as long ago as 1943 such a scheme was in the minds of both parties. Sadly, it has taken 40 years to get to where we are.
514 The youth training scheme is now upon us and I assure the House that the Government have done, are doing and will do everything within their power to ensure that it is a great success. It is a training measure and will be judged as such. It is not a special employment measure, and I was glad to see that the first leader in The Times today made that point.
As the House will know, we have given an undertaking that by Christmas 1983 all 16-year-old school leavers who remain without a job will have been offered a place on the scheme. There will also be on the scheme many 17-year-olds as well as disabled 18-year-olds. There are many reasons why we are so committed to this scheme, but two are particularly important. First, there is the future of the competitive base of industry and commerce in the United Kingdom, and, secondly, the future of today's and tomorrow's 14, 15, 16 and 17-year-olds. I assure the House that our commitment to those youngsters is for the long term.
We shall not have a competitive base if we do not have the right people with the right skills. That is one reason why we have such high levels of unemployment at the moment. There can be no doubt that jobs arise when goods and services are produced and offered at the right price, at the right time and at the right quality which we, the consumers, want to buy. Unless we get the training of youngsters right the country's future is in jeopardy and the youngsters' prospects as wage and salary earners are diminished.
I underline the fact that the first year's training will serve as a foundation on which to build further, more specific skills. The majority of the schemes, although not all, will be based in the real world of industry and commerce where profit matters. Therefore, relevant training counts. It will be the employers as managing agents who will ensure that that training is relevant.
I am no economist but that seems to me to be common sense, whatever the reader of or writer in The Guardian may think. Luckily their views, and those of the limousine Liberals, are not shared by the real world—those who voted on 9 June. It is tragic that they should continue to live in the now outdated "with it" era of the 1960s and 1970s. They still believe that it is right to pontificate on how the country owes them a living. Britain owes no one a living and the youth training scheme is not about that. Rather, it is about training youngsters to buck the trend of "What can I take out of the system?" and to tell them that it is more fun and far more worthwhile to strive to put one's best into the system.
This is an agreed scheme and it is a training scheme, not an unemployment measure. Employers, the vast majority of trade unionists, trainers and many others have signed the agreement, not because anybody has forced them to do so but rather because they believe in it. The taxpayer has given around £1 billion for this year's expected 460,000 entrants, but still we have around us the pontificators whom, if I were a youngster with an offer on the scheme, I would need like a hole in the head. They are Weary Willies who are still sniping away.
There are cries that the allowance should be increased. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has decided that the allowance should be left at £25 per week simply because every pound on the allowance is one pound off the training element. It is fair to point out that the allowance must be seen in the context of the overall spending.
§ Ms. Clare Short (Birmingham, Ladywood)
To suggest that a pound on the allowance means a pound off training is to suggest that the Government cannot find more resources for the scheme. Every other unemployment benefit must be upgraded each year in line with inflation, for which the Government must find more money. The allowance is an unemployment benefit for the young and it has been cut already. For the Government to suggest that it is a matter of either training costs or allowance costs is to duck out of their responsibility to provide sufficient resources to provide young people on the scheme with a decent allowance.
§ Mr. Morrison
It seems that I have caught a writer for, as well as perhaps a reader of, The Guardian. As the hon. Lady will appreciate, this is not a social security measure but a training scheme. It is entirely appropriate that the lion's share of the money available should go to the trainer. The scheme, as the hon. Lady admitted in an article which she wrote in February in The Guardian, was a first time ever in terms of resources. If she were to come with me to visit some schemes—I know that she has visited many—she would find that the youngsters on them were by and large happy with the £25. The allowance must be seen in the context of the overall spending.
The average gross cost per youngster entering the youth opportunities programme was about £900, whereas the average cost for the youth training scheme is about £2,400. Whatever the hon. Lady may say, I do rot think that there is even a sniff of meanness there. The difference between those two average costs reflects both the length and the quality of training offered. As I have said, it seems entirely sensible that the bulk of provision should go towards training.
I could quote many other examples of negative thinking. There are, on the margin, some trade unionists who threaten to withdraw support from their local area manpower boards. There are some further education interests which should know better and which seem over-concerned with establishing their territorial rights in the off-the-job market. However, perhaps I am being negative in such comments. We need constructive thinking and action. Thank goodness, we have around us exactly that, and in abundance. Among some educational interests—but not those to which I have referred —there are influential voices saying, "You do not have a monopoly. Stop moaning and get on with it. If there is something you don't like, do something constructive to put it right."
My officials and those in the Manpower Services Commission have worked extremely long and hard because launching such a large scheme, with 460,000 entrants, does not happen by mistake. There are committed area manpower boards up and down the country that are conscientiously doing a good job, and thousands of employers have responded to the advertising campaign, run earlier this year, with offers of places.
I have visited some of the companies that will be running schemes, and it was a fascinating and most encouraging experience. For example, just before the election I visited part of a scheme run by the National Foundry and Engineering Training Association for its member employers. The scheme was started in October 1982 and is one of the seven pilots begun in advance of the youth training scheme launch proper. It is providing 516 training places for 150 youngsters in addition to its normal intake of 100, thus giving training to 250 people altogether.
The additional youngsters are being given a broad-based training, including skills that are interchangeable throughout the engineering industry, as well as perhaps other industries, such as welding, woodworking, office skills and keyboard technology. At the end of the course some trainees will be able to go on to further training and there are good prospects of placing many of them with member companies. Why is that encouraging? It is not only the training that is important, but the obvious commitment of the sponsors, trainers and, above all, the youngsters on the scheme. The scheme is well on its way towards our target.
As the hon. Member for Alyn and Deeside (Mr. Jones) will know, at this stage we expect 460,000 youngsters to enter the scheme. We have identified 437,000 places, 306,000 of which are mode A and 131,000 of which are mode B. Thus in total we have identified 95 pet cent. of our target. I must pay tribute to the speed at which the area manpower boards have been operating in the past two months. We have now approved just over 200,000 places. The figures for entrants to the scheme to the end of June are not yet available, but at the end of May 7,200 young people had entered the new scheme.
The scheme is not a social service. Its purpose is to teach youngsters what the real world of work is all about. That means arriving on time, giving of their best during the working day, and perhaps staying on a little longer to complete an unfinished task. The scheme will give those youngsters something that they have not always had—a real understanding that in the world of work we are all part of a team, and if we do not do our bit we let down the next man. If we achieve that understanding, and they achieve it, we shall have succeeded. If they do not, and we do not, we shall have failed.
The most recent survey of youngsters leaving the youth opportunities programme shows that 42 per cent. of those who had entered the programme a year earlier —between January and March 1982—were in employment at the time of the survey, and that a further 11 per cent. had gone into further education or training. I am confident that the youth training scheme will produce even better results. Surely the employer must regard the prospect of taking on someone who has trained for a year as better than that of taking on a raw recruit straight out of school.
I suggest to the hon. Member for Alyn and Deeside that with this scheme we are certainly on to a winner.
§ Mr. Barry Jones (Alyn and Deeside)
I join the Minister in sincerely congratulating you, Mr. Speaker, on your election to the Chair. I say that as one of those who is occasionally part of the unruly Celtic fringe, but I am on my best behaviour today. I also congratulate the Minister of State on his senior appointment. He has had to handle two of the most extraordinarily difficult measures: first the dismantling of the training boards, and then the setting up of the youth training scheme. Since appointment to his office he has been immersed in the most demanding and detailed work imaginable for his Department. I also congratulate the hon. Member for Plymouth, Sutton (Mr. Clark) on his appointment as Under-Secretary of State, and I look forward to debating with him in the months ahead.
517 Having said that, I might as well begin the war immediately. Notwithstanding the Minister's honeyed words, the verdict of his critics must be, at best, "not proven". Earlier this year, the Government threw out an EC memorandum urging that young people were entitled to a second period of training. Clearly they also used their diplomatic weight to throw out a proposal that throughout their working lives, adults would have a right to continued training. Those factors are a measure of the Government's sincerity.
Indeed, some of us even suspect that in part, the date of the general election was brought forward to avoid the publication date—late in June—of the politically highly embarrassing information that 128,000 school leavers were without jobs at a time when tens of thousands of youngsters under 19 — perhaps 500,000— were also without jobs or training. In 1984–85, 630,000 boys and girls will seek work, and that fact must send shivers down the Department's and the Minister's reconstructed spine.
The hon. Gentleman's fine words cannot disguise the fact that the youth training scheme—which we all want to see become a rattling good success, for the sake both of the youngsters involved and of the nation—is starting at the worst possible time. Indeed, 1.3 million people aged 25 and under are out of work. Special employment measures keep 607,000 citizens off the unemployed list. Nearly 500,000 men and women aged 55 or over are jobless. More than 1 million citizens have been jobless for more than a year. The official dole queue now stands at 3 million, but unofficial figures put the number at 4 million plus. The economy is stagnant, to say the least. Redundancies in manufacturing industry rain down upon us every day.
Jobcentres throughout Britain can offer only 150,000 vacancies. Apprenticeships have declined by 17 per cent. over the year, a reduction of 21,000. Britain has lost 2 million manufacturing jobs since 1979. This is the bleak and nightmarish reality of Britain's post-general election employment scene. Even the Treasury predicts increased unemployment. That prediction was contained in the last Budget.
Into this wretched scene of economic decline must step the graduates of the youth training scheme in 1984. I shall describe the re-entry problem of the YTS graduates by referring to my country of Wales. It can be predicted that father will be competing with son and daughter for very scarce work unless the economy is expanded.
In Wales the regional target for the scheme is 25,000 places. As recently as 31 May there were only 7,000 approved places and only 16,000 places in the pipeline. Negotiations were still continuing on 31 May and there were only 622 actual YTS places. I would have hoped for better progress than that.
In the Shotton travel-to-work area in my constituency 50 per cent. of those who are unemployed have been unemployed for one year, 27 per cent. have been unemployed for over two years and 11 per cent. have been unemployed for over three years. The statistics become worse because in the same travel-to-work area 8,000 are out of work. Throughout Clywd 22,000 are jobless while 162,000 are out of work throughout the Principality. The problem is that over the next five years identified new work in the pipeline will produce only 15,000 jobs. That is the tragic background against which the YTS will begin.
518 There is a litany of miserable statistics and the figures represent a graveyard for families and the community. It may not be known generally that in Birmingham unemployment stands at 16 per cent. while in Coventry it is 15 per cent. There are 88,000 jobless in Liverpool. In Hartlepool 23 per cent. are unemployed, in Holyhead 22 per cent., in Rhyl 19 per cent. and in Blaenau Festiniog 14 per cent. In Bristol there are 33,000 jobless. There is 16 per cent. unemployment in Chatham and 94,000 are jobless in Glasgow. In Londonderry 28 per cent. are unemployed. It is against these figures that the scheme must be measured.
Every hon. Member will wish the youngsters who graduate from the scheme to have every prospect of real jobs. On the figures that I have presented the prospect is that they will not have real jobs. Indeed, they may have no jobs. The Queen's Speech, which is supposedly the signpost for the future, offered little hope for the unemployed and the young men and women who are soon to graduate from the scheme. There was only a half sentence about policiesdesigned to increase economic prosperity and to reduce unemployment.That was complacent and the death knell to the hopes of youngsters entering the scheme and hoping for prospects of real work.
The Minister has given the House his view of the scheme's prospects and it is the Opposition's duty to probe and to criticise, and that we shall do. The president of the National Association of Teachers in Further and Higher Education recently predicted at his conference that the scheme will be a total and utter shambles. He said that only 5 per cent. of industrial places had been confirmed in schemes already approved and he feared that there would be poor quality training schemes. A spokesman for the prestigious Industrial Society — among its clients are blue chip companies such as Ford, British Aerospace, Cadbury Schweppes and Rowntree-Mackintosh— said last month that managers did not share the confidence expressed by the MSC in the future of the scheme. Senior officials of our local education authorities are pressing the Government to lift the scheme's spending limits. They figure that they cannot meet their commitments.
The TUC has been scandalised at the Minister's refusal to increase the weekly allowance. Some trade unions still believe that the scheme is merely a means of providing employers with cheap labour. The Opposition say that there is no smoke without fire. As recently as the end of June the Minister was forced, in effect, to make a statement in an attempt to allay growing fears.
The Minister referred to money levels and so shall I. The Opposition say that the Secretary of State was precipitate to reject overnight and out of hand the MSC's proposal to increase the weekly allowance for the YTS from £25 to only £26.45. We claim that that was mean and mistaken. To the eternal credit of the three TUC commissioners, a determined stand was taken on the board of the MSC for a substantial increase. After protracted discussion it supported the £1.45 a week increase. It may not be known generally that the CBI torpedoed even that modest increase. The CBI's puppet master, its director general, Sir Terence Beckett, said in The Times last week when talking about the increase that it was "out of the question".
Such Scrooge-like certainty is foolish and insensitive. We know that the CBI is the Tory Government's stooge.
519 It appears to us that it held back the news of thousands of redundancies throughout the United Kingdom before the general election. When the election campaign was concluded, the CBI commissioners on the MSC pounced upon a vulnerable youthful segment of our society, the school leavers, and behaved like Dickensian workhouse masters. How out of touch can they get? By the time the youngsters pay their parents for their board and lodging they are left with not very much. They have been refused inflation-based annual upratings, which other recipients of state moneys receive.
It is nauseating for Ministers to become apologists for some of the meanest, sneakiest and spiteful of politically motivated post-election decisions. The youth training scheme has been damaged by these parsimonious acts. The MSC has been demeaned and the Department of Employment, arguably, has been dishonoured. It must be said that in May 1982 the youth task group report proposed an uprating of the allowance before September 1983. It proposed an uprating to £28 a week to be maintained in real terms. It was the 1982 report that the CBI commissioners on the MSC reneged upon. We think that they should be ashamed of themselves.
When the Minister replies, will he say whether the Government are in any way contemplating a new split of the cost of training between employers, the individual and the state? For how long will the Government continue to stump up their current financial support for the scheme? The House will be glad to hear the Government's latest thinking.
The Minister made a brief, passing reference to the disabled. There is mounting frustration and very real anger among the disabled about the scheme. Under the youth opportunities programme, the maximum age of entry was 24. The maximum age at which disabled youngsters can enter the youth training scheme is 18. The National Bureau for Handicapped Students is especially angry. It sees the youth training scheme as inflexible and inadequately financed. It believes that it contains scant provision for monitoring the quality of training.
Many friends of the disabled angrily state that for them it is a miserable progression from school to scrap heap. Will the Minister think again on that issue? What compassionate initiative will he take? Has he read the article in yesterday's edition of The Times written by my right hon. Friend the Member fcr Manchester, Wythenshawe (Mr. Morris), a previous Labour Minister with responsibility for the disabled? It showed the crux of the disabled people's discontent with the training scheme.
Is the training scheme voluntary or compulsory? The Government have cut the benefit entitlement of youngsters from £18.90 to £15.80 if they live with their parents. As the youth training scheme has recently been designated as approved training for the purposes of section 20 of the Social Security Act 1975, it appears that should a youngster refuse a place on the grounds that it is unsuitable, he could lose his supplementary benefit entitlement.
Will the careers service offices be expected to supply unemployment benefit offices with the names of youngsters who do not accept places on the scheme? That arguably might be construed as blackmail of school leavers, to take places or else. There are :128,433 young jobless school leavers who will be nervous of refusing a place. With their supplementary benefit at risk they will think the offer of a place to be truly an offer that they dare 520 not refuse. They will be justifiably scared. The state appears to be able unjustifiably to put pressure on the youngsters. I want the Minister to reassure me on that point.
In the Minister's speech I detected an irritation—to put it mildly—with some of the views of educationists. I wish to raise some points of concern. To a degree the youth opportunities scheme became discredited, partially at least because it provided poor quality education and training. It is important that the lessons gained from the operation of that programme—and some of them were at the expense of the opportunities of many of our youngsters—are not lost or ignored. To put it bluntly, the Minister should guarantee that the 13-week off-the-job component is properly organised, planned, staffed and resourced to meet the needs of our youngsters. That 13-week training away from the works premises must be effective. If it is not, our youngsters will become cynical and the whole scheme will lose credibility.
My fear is that the arrangements for quality control are inadequate. I understand that there is to be a quality control office at each area manpower board. But as an educationist, I must tell the Minister that that could be a wholly inadequate level of monitoring and assessment. The best professional expertise available to evaluate the training may not be consulted. The Minister will battle for the scheme's success, and it is necessary for him to tell us what thought and consideration he has given to the imposition of sanctions against those employers who abuse their position and the trust placed in them as managing agents. The Minister must ensure that he does not sacrifice quality for quantity.
We know that it is politically expedient for the Minister to attain his targets, but his prime obligation is to the great army of vulnerable and bewildered school leavers who are entitled to the best training and the prospect of a worthwhile job at the end of it.
§ Mr. Peter Morrison
I agree with everything that the hon. Gentleman says. In my opening remarks I was at pains to point out that whether or not the scheme was considered a success by the youngsters and the country, the quality of the training was essential.
§ Mr. Jones
I am grateful to the Minister for his intervention. But he will understand that as the scheme is not yet off the ground I must say that, in the best sense, his protestation is pious. It is for him to deliver and for the Opposition to emphasise that if he does not he will come before the House and take the consequences.
§ Mr. Jones
I wish to deal briefly with the careers service. We do not want the youth training scheme to become a terminal course for the youngsters unable to find full employment or further education. Following a place on the scheme a youngster should progress to other vocational or educational courses. Candidates entering the scheme should be offered a place that meets their needs, not one that is administratively convenient for the MSC or the manpower board. It is clear that the careers service has a pivotal role. Neither the MSC nor the Government have made money available to expand the service. Should it not receive a major financial injection? It is amost inconceivable that the needs of other youngsters, not on the scheme, will not be met.
521 Are the Government complacent about the availability of sufficient tutors for the scheme? To animate and co-ordinate the learning experiences of 460,000 young trainees is a mighty challenge, as the Minister knows. If there are sufficient tutors, can they meet the tremendous challenge of providing a style of learning and training that hitherto has been available only to a few?
What will happen to the large numbers of youngsters who complete the youth training scheme and inevitably, under the current economic regime, find themselves without jobs? Has the Minister begun to anticipate—and he should—those problems? A variety of courses could be made available at schools, colleges or in higher education institutions. They could be full-time, part-time, formal or informal, award or non-award bearing. Some go-ahead local education authorities are already experimenting with the so-called "21 hour courses", where the unemployed can study for up to 21 hours a week without losing their right to draw supplementary benefit. Does the Minister envisage "unemployed centres" being attached to schools and teachers becoming "outreach educators" or "community tutors"?
The Government should tell us their thinking on the problems of former youth training scheme students who return to the dole queue. That event is a certainty under the Government's current economic policies.
There are now 247,000 jobless school leavers. Two million jobs have been lost in manufacturing since 1979. We believe that the Government's policies have come dangerously close to turning away from the problems of the under-privileged and the unemployed. We want the youth training scheme to succeed. We know there are major problems to overcome. Given the damage that the Government have wrought in British society—they have divided society, created a poorer northern Britain compared to the south of Britain, they have abolished the fair wages resolution and now propose the abolition of the wages council—it should not surprise the Government that the younger generation is cynical and rebellious.
There are 800,000 18-year-olds in this country, many of whom are without jobs. They constitute a social and political tinder box. They could get out of hand; it is arguable that Brixton and Toxteth rioted for lack of opportunities for young people. We say that the Government must get the scheme moving successfully but we emphasise today that, on the Government's current policies, even the successful youth training scheme graduates will graduate only to the dole queue.
§ Mr. Lewis Stevens (Nuneaton)
I am grateful for the opportunity to address the House for the first time, and I am conscious of the privilege.
My constituency is in the centre of England. Formerly it was in the centre of the rail network; today it is in the centre of the motorway network—a convenient place in which to live. It is a revised constituency. A large part of the constituency was previously represented by Leslie Huckfield, who did not stand at the general election. Leslie Huckfield was elected in 1967 at a by-election and at that time he was the youngest member of the House. He applied himself with considerable effort and quickly learnt his trade. He quickly gained a reputation as an enthusiastic and energetic Member of Parliament. Despite his youth, 522 or perhaps because of it, he rose to positions of responsibility. In all, he served Nuneaton for 16 years. I should like to express my thanks and the thanks of the people of Nuneaton for the work he did over those 16 years.
A smaller part of the former Nuneaton constituency is represented by my hon. Friend the Member for Rugby and Kenilworth (Mr. Pawsey), a lively and energetic Member of Parliament who chases around and has set me an example to live up to. I was grateful on my first day here to grab his coat tails and find my way around the House.
The new constituency now has a rural area — a typical Warwickshire farming area. The town itself is old, its industries having been based on mining, quarrying, railway workshops and some textiles. However, there has not been a pit in the constituency for some time. The railway workshops closed many years ago. Those industries were taken over, largely due to our proximity to Coventry, by manufacturing industry and light engineering companies.
We are a dormitory town in part for Coventry and to a lesser extent for Birmingham and Leicester. Our town has expanded over the past 25 years with new estates. However, it still retains its old character and independence. It is easy to consider Nuneaton as part of Coventry and the west midlands but it is surprising how independent it considers itself to be. Strangely, those, like myself, who come in from outside are soon swallowed up and soon embrace the independence demands for Nuneaton—not that I suggest we should declare UDI but there certainly is a definite independence.
Today, there are a good few small companies in Nuneaton. We are not dominated by a particular company and have not been for many years. We reflect very much the west midlands and Coventry area in terms of our needs, demands and what we suffer. The unemployment rate in Nuneaton is roughly the same as that for the west midlands. After many years of prosperity, after changing from one industry to another and still retaining that prosperity, today we suffer like much of the west midlands. There are signs of improvement. As we are in the centre of the motorway network, distribution industries and a few industries of the electronic age are now coming to the town. Strangely enough, we may soon have mining back, but this time it will be opencast mining.
Despite the way in which industries have come and gone, we have managed to cope with change over the years. Perhaps we shall be helped by the youth training scheme to cope with that change. It is a tremendous opportunity for the young people of our country and of my area to advance. Like many other areas, we cope well with the 16 to 19-year-olds. We have sixth form colleges for those studying for A-levels and a college of technology for those studying more technical subjects. We have good provision, but it is essentially for those who can take advantage of the formal training that is available.
We all know that many of the young people at school have no great interest in carrying on a straight academic pursuit. Many youngsters have found great difficulty in coping with the present position. Even when employment was higher, many such youngsters tended to drift in and out of jobs. That led to a great deal of frustration and cynicism, with pegs in wrong shaped holes. There was a tremendous amount of drift. The youth training scheme bridges that gap. The rather haphazard approach to our young people will be helped tremendously by their having 523 an opportunity to go into training before they go to work. It is very much a visionary extension of education and training as it tries to give young people what they need in a form that they want.
Whatever investment we make in this type of scheme, training people for work must pay high dividends at the end of the day. There are various other schemes which take people's interest but, whatever type of scheme they use, the great advantage of them all is that they are different. They are not stereotyped and it is clear from the guidelines that that must be the case. After all, considering the amount of time that people spend in various companies, they need variety in their training, for each company is different.
That brings me to the important question of selection, of identifying people and their skills as individuals before they are allocated places. We must do everything possible to ensure that people and their aptitudes are fitted into the right areas. That will ensure that they go into the companies and organisations where their talents will be best used. It is not easy from the school point of view to recognise those talents. After all, mnny people are not interested in history, geography and various other subjects; they are looking forward to doing other things. At that stage, there is not the same certainty, and when asked, "What do you want to do?" youngsters cannot be sure.
Preselection—help given by careers people and so on — is most important, but there is an onus on the managers of the various schemes, in industry and elsewhere, to look at the potential of the people in the schemes. We have a wonderful opportunity to put people into the right slots.
The way in which people are trained is very much an individual matter so it is vital for those managing the various schemes to respond to the trainees as individuals. While we must have a base curriculum, it must not be rigid. That means that people running the courses must respond to the trainees as individuals. That is what work is all about—each person as an individual doing a job. It is the response to him and from him that makes the system work. It is about people learning discipline and the fact that they have a responsibility for what they are doing.
On the teaching side, people must be managers of learning—a phrase which sums it all up—rather than instructors. From their point of view, it will be mainly a question of response—managing what is going on and giving people the opportunity to develop their skills. I particularly welcome the opportunity to let youngsters have experience of a wide range of industries. In that way their potential can be channelled into the right activities, and in that connection the monitoring of courses is vital.
We must remember, however, that what we are doing is new. For that reason, the youth training scheme must be flexible and allowed to evolve. Like everything in learning, it must be an evolutionary process. As the scheme develops it will improve and that evolutionary approach will result in its success.
We must evolve a system of training which will create for youngsters the sort of opportunities that they would otherwise have been denied, even in times of higher employment, so that we find the best slots at work for them. Our aim should be to show our youngsters that they are capable of learning and that it is not so bad to learn 524 skills which can enable them to work. By that means we shall train and retrain people in a much better way and create a motivated work force for the future.
§ Mr. Jack Thompson (Wansbeck)
I listened carefully to the maiden speech of the hon. Member for Nuneaton (Mr. Stevens) and agreed with much of what he said. My knowledge of his area is sparse, though somewhat better now, following his remarks.
Youth training has concerned me for some time. Until recently I was leader of Northumberland county council and I was chairman of its employment committee until elected to this House. Youth training and unemployment were then, and remain, two of my principal concerns. The opportunity for young people to gain skills has reduced dramatically in recent years. Having myself been a product of the apprenticeship system—an area of youth training on which I shall concentrate—I can claim to be well versed in the problems that the apprenticeship tradition has caused and is still causing.
My constituency of Wansbeck includes the major centre for youth training in the county of Northumberland. It is located in the south-east corner and is renowned for producing quality coal and quality soccer players, the best known of the latter being Jack and Bobby Charlton and Jack Milburn. There have been added to those achievements the skills of producing quality aluminium, chemicals, pharmaceuticals and electrical components.
The constituency has been altered by boundary changes, and if I remind hon. Members that the major geographical part of my constituency was named Morpeth, they might find it easier to identify. Since I have been in the House many hon. Members have asked from where I come, and when I have replied, "Wansbeck", they have clearly looked puzzled, but when I have then said, "It is Morpeth," their immediate response has been, "Now we know where you come from." The constituency consists of the four towns of Ashington, Bedlington, Morpeth and Newbiggin. Each has its own unique character and the constituency is now named after the river that flows past those towns and binds them together.
To the west is the beautiful, quiet market town of Morpeth, the historic centre for agricultural activity in the area. The waters then flow past the old mining village of Pegswood — its mine now sadly closed — and past Ashington, the centre of mining in Northumberland and reputed to be the biggest mining village in the world. It also boasts more working men's social clubs than any other village in Britain, with 22 of them.
The river, flowing through the attractive riverside park, continues past the shire of Bedlington, a town steeped in mining and railway history and the home of the famous Bedlington terrier. Finally it reaches the sea at Newbiggin, a quiet seaside town noted for its hospitality, but also a village which lost its mine in the mid-1960s.
The House will remember my predecessor, George Grant, who served the constituency of Morpeth with honour and distinction from 1970 to the Dissolution of the last Parliament. His interests were wide-ranging, but his principal concern was with the mining industry, and he was secretary of the miners' group in the House. He has suffered a long, painful illness, for which he is still receiving treatment. I am sure that the House will wish him a speedy recovery and a long and happy retirement.
525 Like George Grant, I follow a long and illustrious line of miner representatives for the constituency, beginning with Thomas Burt in 1874, who was the first coalminer Member of this House. I hope that I can serve with the same dedication and distinction as my mining predecessors. Although for more than 30 years my experience has been in the electrical engineering side of the industry I can claim to have a wide knowledge of the industry's problems and prospects. The one remaining colliery in my constituency, Ashington, still has a reasonable future, providing that sufficient regard is paid to the planning of the extraction of the remaining coal reserves.
As the long-established centre of mining activity in Northumberland, the constituency is the home of many mining employees working in adjacent parts of the Northumberland coalfield. They have proved their ability by breaking productivity records in Britain and Europe. Although there are prospects of further, large, as yet untapped, coal reserves in the county, which could maintain a healthy and viable industry for the future, a dark cloud hangs over the horizon in the shape of a proposal by the CEGB to build a pressurised water reactor nuclear power station on a particularly beautiful part of the coast adjacent to those new coal reserves.
That proposal is causing great concern among my constituents for environmental, safety and economic reasons. It is thought that it will mean more pit closures and the possible phasing out of the coal-fired power station at Cambois which is also in my constituency.
The logic of building a nuclear power station on that site is being challenged by our district and county councils at the Sizewell inquiry in Suffolk. As a leading challenger of that proposal in my recent role as leader of Northumberland county council, I hope that good sense will prevail and that the CEGB will withdraw its project. With my parliamentary colleagues who feel as strongly as I do, I shall continue to challenge that proposal with, I am sure, the full support of my constituents.
I should now like to mention the prospects for youth training and the problems that arise for the younger generation from the lack of opportunity to obtain the skills that are so necessary for the future economic well-being of my constituency and the country. Because of the present economic situation, employers in the private and public sectors are being pressed into reducing their work force dramatically. The first to suffer are young people who would normally expect to enter industry and spend the first four or five years learning skills as trainees or apprentices. Those opportunities have almost entirely disappeared.
The mining industry's intake of apprentices in the north-east has fallen from about 500 in the mid-1960s to about 50 today. It is apparent in all sections of industry that such reductions in full training opportunities will leave a huge gap in the country's requirements in the next decade.
I recently had the opportunity to learn a little about the attitudes of some of our European Community neighbours. They appear to be well ahead of us in their concept of youth training. The Minister referred to that. It now appears that we shall remain in that organisation, so we must try to keep ourselves competitive in the development of skills among our young work force. I can visualise that, as and when there is once again a demand for old and new skills in British industry, we shall suffer from a dire 526 shortage of trained personnel. That will create an upsurge in wage levels to attract the better trained and, under EC regulations, encourage young people from other EC countries to come to Britain to work. I do not object to that provided that our young people have the same opportunity. Apparently, that is not the case at the moment.
The proposals for the youth training scheme are a very small step in the right direction. They do not go far or fast enough. We require a radical and more realistic examination of our youngsters' development potential and a substantial investment in a properly devised full training system that will produce a work force capable of holding its ground in terms of skills with its contemporaries in the EC and the rest of the world.
However, time does not stand still and many young people have already lost the chance of vocational training because no jobs are available. They are therefore left with an utterly inadequate youth training scheme, which is of little or no benefit to them. New attitudes and new ideas are required—not patched-up programmes of unmanageable schemes. If the Government's policies do not allow an improvement in employment prospects, a full and progressive training scheme with reasonable pay is urgently needed.
§ Mr. Alan Haselhurst (Saffron Walden)
I congratulate the hon. Member for Wansbeck (Mr. Thompson) on his maiden speech. To judge from the thoughtfulness and quality of what he said, I am sure that we look forward to hearing from him again. We wish him well. I hope that he will forgive us if just occasionally he is mistaken for my hon. Friend the Member for Wansdyke (Mr. Aspinwall). We might have as much difficulty in remembering where Wansdyke is as we have in recalling the location of Wansbeck.
I also congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Nuneaton (Mr. Stevens) on his excellent speech. He also will have commended himself to the House with his thoughtful, useful and knowledgeable speech. We look forward to hearing from him often.
I hope that the debate will be characterised by the interest, knowledge and experience demonstrated by the two speeches from the Back Benches so far and that it will not be marred by a catalogue of carping and complaining. We should recognise that we are entering an exciting new phase in training. We should accept that as our theme, although there might remain legitimate room for questioning details and pressing the Government on some issues. We should recognise that we are at a turning point.
I wholeheartedly welcome the development of the youth training scheme. My right hon. and hon. Friends on the Front Bench are no doubt aware of that because of my long-term interest that some such scheme be devised.
Of course there will be problems. I cannot think of any undertaking, let alone one by Government, that will not be attended by difficulties. To begin a programme that involves 460,000 places and imagine that there will be no difficulties is ludicrous. I simply hope that people will not be carried away by the fact that such difficulties might crop up. Because an employer might have difficulty with the Manpower Services Commission he should not write off the whole scheme. The MSC might not be the most perfectly fashioned bureaucracy in the world, but it has shown considerable imagination and skill in putting the scheme together with the help of employers, trade unions 527 and voluntary organisations. It should be commended for that and not used as a whipping boy for the minor difficulties that occur.
The hon. Member for Alyn and Deeside (Mr. Jones) has said that the training scheme is not proven. How could it be? It does not come fully into effect until September. It will need to settle down for at least one year before we can assess whether it is fulfilling all ow expectations of it. Hon. Members have a duty to talk the youth training scheme up, not down. It is a profound mistake to encourage the Jonahs who undoubtedly exist. We should encourage everyone to make the best of the scheme and not magnify the difficulties that must occur when something of this scale is launched.
I welcome what my hon. Friend the Minister said about the Government making a long-term commitment. I hope that it will become clear that the new training scheme will be permanent and not a temporary expedient to deal with a peak of unemployment. By making it clear that it is permanent, we should overcome the possible belief of some trainees and employers that it is an expedient. The more that we make it plain that that is not so, the more advantage we shall get from the scheme. It will be a major means of increasing the volume of training. I hope that it will also be a means of improving the quality of training. We should recognise that it already requires a generous contribution by employers of resources, time and experience. It could be the means by which they demonstrate more commitment to training than they have under the statutory training boards.
Although relevant industries have put together excellent voluntary schemes to replace the dismantled statutory training boards, there are still some employers who are not prepared to make a proper contribution. They might be persuaded to help youngsters to train in their industry by training them through the new scheme. Once companies recognise that that is the way in which to improve the flow of skills into industry, it will be willing to play a part in the scheme soon, if not at the beginning.
I hope, too, that we shall maintain the long-term commitment by moving gradually, as resources permit, to a two-year programme. That would be sensible not only for the content of the programme put together during such a period, but because such a period is necessary when one considers the demographic problem.
My hon. Friend the Member for Wiltshire, North (Mr. Needham) dealt clearly with the problem of the increasing number of unemployed in our debate on 2 February this year. One example of that is the last bulge in the birth rate coming through to school leaving age. My hon. Friend also demonstrated the extent to which :youngsters in other countries remain in education and training for far longer than they do in Britain. We should use the experience of other countries to measure the time required for a proper training programme. If that helps us to overcome the numbers problem, well and good, but our main aim must be to give youngsters the right quality of training.
I hope that an element of community service could be provided in a two-year programme. It is right that the present programme is industry-oriented, but we must recognise that not all youngsters will have the aptitude for jobs in industry and that they may benefit from the broadening experience of community service. Even those who will work in industry for the rest of their lives would benefit from such experience. Although it might raise excitement elsewhere in the House, I would not be worried 528 if a few weeks out of a two-year programme were spent with the armed forces, linking with the scheme announced by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence a few weeks ago. If there is some difficulty about resources — which there would be if we extended the scheme to two years—I hope that we shall not forget, as the hon. Member for Alyn and Deeside said in March, the cash being poured into the young workers scheme. In future it may be appropriate to use that money in an enlarged youth training scheme, but that is no complaint about the scheme that will be launched this year.
If there are great advantages in such a scheme, as I believe there are, why can it be unleashed only on youngsters aged 16? I worry about the number of youngsters who do not benefit from the latter part of their statutory education, and I worry even more about the many youngsters who absent themselves from our formal education system. Perhaps through increased flexibility between education and training we can start to bridge the gap between school and work more effectively than we have been able to do under our present laws.
§ Mr. Peter Morrison
May I draw my hon. Friend's attention to the small experiment in the technical education initiative, which goes a long way to covering the point that he has made. My right hon. Friends and I consider it to be an exciting experiment.
§ Mr. Haselhurst
I am grateful to my hon. Friend, who anticipated my next sentence. I endorse what he said about the technical education initiative because I detect in it the means by which we can break down the over-rigid barrier between education and training. Ultimately there may be some fusion. If we are to bring about greater flexibility and fusion, we must think about it in Whitehall terms as well as in terms of practical schemes on the ground.
This year a training scheme will start which I hope will become a permanent part of our training arrangements. I hope that employers will wish to contribute to it because they see the advantages to themselves and to their industries, and I hope that trainees will think themselves mad not to participate in such schemes, from which the nation and its industry will benefit greatly. Against that background, every hon. Member, whatever doubts there may be, should afford a complete and enthusiastic welcome to the scheme as it comes into full operation later this year.
§ Mr. Paddy Ashdown (Yeovil)
Thank you for calling me, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for the first time. I hope that this is the first of many occasions that I shall catch your eye. Thirty years ago my distinguished predecessor, Mr. John Peyton, referred in his maiden speech to the problems confronting the farming and rural areas of Yeovil. Just as I would wish to follow him in his distinguished service to my constituency, and in the length of that service, so I choose as the subject of my maiden speech the problems of the young unemployed in rural areas. Those problems today are no less—and are probably greater—than they were 20 or 30 years ago, because there has been a progressive withdrawal of services and amenities in rural areas which, despite their claim to represent rural Britain, has accelerated under this Government.
It is insufficiently recognised by many people, especially by many members of the Government, that 529 there is a differential of misery between the unemployed in rural areas and the unemployed in towns. The unemployed in country villages are not only psychologically separated from other members of society, but physically separated from the facilities and amenities enjoyed by those who live in towns, such as jobcentres, social services departments, unemployment benefit offices, sources of advice and counselling, and recreational facilities. There may be more unemployed people in our cities, but the misery of being young and unemployed is far greater in rural areas.
To demonstrate my point, I shall use the example of the typical procedures that a school leaver aged 16 must go through in a small village in my constituency called Hinton St. George. He left school in June last year and spent three or four months trying to find a job. In common with so many others, he failed. In September he wished to sign on for his dole, so he had to travel six or seven miles by inadequate public transport to the careers office in Yeovil. I pay tribute to careers officers, who wrestle with appalling problems and with growing difficulties on diminished resources. The staff of Yeovil careers office especially has managed to cope with splendid skill and ability.
The careers officer told that youngster, "I am sorry. You cannot claim your dole here, but you must register with us. Please go to the unemployment benefit office." That youngster was more fortunate than many others in rural areas, because in my constituency the unemployment benefit office and the careers office are at least in the same town. In many other rural constituencies he would have had to go somewhere else to sign on for his unemployment benefit. The youngster waited for two to three hours in disgraceful conditions, because our unemployment benefit office is small, miserable, ill-equipped and has few facilities, among a crowd of many others, to register in the hope of getting his dole. However, when he got to the window he was told, "I am sorry. You must register with us and fill in form UB1, but as you have paid no contributions you will receive supplementary benefit. Please go the Department of Health and Social Security." At that stage he must have thought that we were giving him the runaround. I would have felt that, let alone a young man of 16 who has just left school and gone into the world.
However, there is worse to come. He then went to the supplementary benefit office in Yeovil and waited another two or three hours in rather better conditions. When he arrived at the counter he was told, "I am awfully sorry, but although you live only six or seven miles from Yeovil, we do not deal with you here. You must have your interview at the DHSS office in Taunton"—about 38 miles in the opposite direction. There are villages in my constituency from which one cannot get to Taunton and back by public transport in the same week. That is the kind of experience that we ask 16-year-old people to go through.
This year circumstances are different, A person must still go to the unemployment benefit office but he may now register by post with the DHSS. I do not know how many hon. Members have seen the form on which a person registers for benefit. It is three or four pages long. Some unemployed adults have come to me asking for help to fill in the form.
My hon. Friend the Member for Truro (Mr. Penhaligon) has commented that if one can fill in the form one will probably not be unemployed anyway. Certainly, 530 the bewilderment and confusion that will confront young people this year will not be significantly different from last year.
Four or five months ago I met a young girl who had been through the youth opportunities programme. She lived not in my constituency but in that of the hon. Member for Dorset, West (Mr. Spicer). Nevertheless, she was using the jobcentre at Crewkerne because it was the most convenient one. She was keen to get a job. She perceived that, to get that job, she had to go to the jobcentre and ask what jobs were available. That involved a walk of three miles and two bus journeys—a journey of an hour and a half. She told me that she did that 15 times, for an average time in the jobcentre of no more than 30 seconds. I pay tribute to her determination. I suspect that most of us would have given up after two or three times. The Government are to consider closing down the jobcentre in Crewkerne, so that girl will have to take a further bus journey, another seven or eight miles, to Yeovil. We are expecting an answer on that matter in the near future. Many of us are suspicious that the answer sems to have been delayed until after the general election. We regard it is a probability that the small and inadequate service provided by that jobcentre may now vanish as well. It is a growing problem not just for those who are 16 to 18 but for those beyond 18.
Although adult unemployment in my constituency is very low at 7.6 per cent.—it is 580th in the country—for those under 21 it is 25 per cent. In Somerset the unemployment level for those under the age of 25 is no less than 33 per cent. Unemployment does not just end at 18. In the face of a growing problem, the Government are proud to propose their new youth training initiative. Contrary to the rosy picture that the Minister has painted about how the youth training scheme has got off the ground, in the county of Somerset it has staggered to its feet, with industrialists not knowing what will happen next and with members of the career services and the Manpower Services Commission unclear about what will happen in the next year or two.
It must strike many of us that the youth training scheme seems to be more a hasty response by the Government to rid themselves of the political thorn of youth unemployment than a co-ordinated programme to meet the needs of young unemployed people. The scheme is insufficiently thought out and fails completely to take account of the needs of young people as a whole. It concentrates the total available resource on the 16 to 17 age group. There is little or nothing for anyone beyond that age.
The scheme concentrates resources on the towns, not the countryside. Publicity, particularly in the south-west, has said that the scheme has been a success. The launching of the scheme may prove to be a considerable success in our towns. However, it is not a success in the rural areas. Firms are keen, but the funding has been designed to suit the running of the scheme in urban rather than rural areas. It is not sufficient to cover the operating costs, especially transport, and the greater burdens that smaller firms in the rural areas must carry if they are to act as sponsors for the scheme. Several consortia of small firms in the rural areas of my constituency, which are keen to act as sponsors, have now withdrawn because Government funding is not adequate to meet the special costs, particularly transportation, that they will have to bear. On present 531 signs, there may be no provision of a youth training scheme for those who happen to live outside towns in the Yeovil constituency, and in Dorset and other counties.
Another question that I have heard, about the infamous youth opportunities programme is, "Is there life after YOP?" We must now ask, will there be life after YTS? I think that there will not be. I have a great fear that, at the end of the year, youngsters' expectations of the future may well have been raised, but there will be nothing to supply them with a job. In many ways, it is not, as the Government would have us believe, a bridge from school to work but a stepping stone into the oblivion and misery of the adult dole queue.
The scheme is inflexible. As has been mentioned, it does not account for many who fall outside its rather tight criteria. A letter sent to me by a prospective employer — Mr. Jeanes of Chard— said:I write to you as I have reached a dead end through other avenues tried.We have at present a 16 year old youth on the Work Experience Scheme whom we wish to employ as a Apprentice Bricklayer as we have a vacancy for this position. I have personally spoken to the youth and he appears to be extremely keen to become apprenticed as a Bricklayer with our Company. Our Site Manager like myself consider this young man to have great potential in this field.At this point one would consider the situation ideal— on the one hand a lad keen to be a bricklayer and, on the other, an employer keen for him to be trained as one— but not so. The N.F.B.T.E., CITB and Manpower Services Commission all say it cannot be done. The Manpower Services Commission will not introduce him to the Youth Training Scheme because he has been on the Work Experience Scheme and the CITB will not give him an apprenticeship unless he is on the Youth Training Scheme.A 16-year-old with exceptional ability, because he happens to have passed through some element of YOP already, is now denied the possibility of gaining an apprenticeship.
I mention also the co-ordination of the scheme. Conservative Members have mentioned the young workers scheme. It is wrong that the young workers scheme should operate in parallel with the youth training scheme. There are many who are now being tempted to take jobs under the young workers scheme, sometimes on very low pay. There is no minimum pay for the young workers scheme. I am told that there is even one case where an employer made a profit on the £ 15 that is paid under the young workers scheme. I am unable to substantiate that.
The Government's chosen instrument for running the youth training scheme is the Manpower Services Commission. I have been connected with the commission as one who has been paid a salary by it and who has had to work with it to initiate schemes for young people. I regard the Manpower Services Commission as an instrument insufficiently equipped to cope with some of the problems. I have been plagued by employers who have said that they have sent letters to the MSC that have remained unanswered months later. I heard recently of an instance where a local group that got together to seek to launch a local initiative for young people is being completely ignored by the Manpower Services Commission. I have noted the moves of office that the MSC has been through in my area in the past 18 months. The administrative office that has dealt with my area both for the youth training programme and special programme provisions has moved in the last 18 months from Exeter to Bristol, to Exeter, to Taunton, to Bristol, to Exeter, and 532 to Taunton. It is little wonder that it is unable to cope with the administrative burdens and problems of launching such a major scheme.
I am aware that I have been critical, but I should like to end on a positive note by setting out what the alliance regards as being necessary. First, there is a need to recognise the special problems of the rural areas, and particularly the rural young unemployed, and the special costs and factors involved in making the scheme work in those areas. Secondly, we regard it necessary to have a single co-ordinated body that assists young unemployed. That body should be the local education authority, and not the MSC. In particular, the role of the youth service is crucial. We are sorry that the Government have not yet said what they will do about the Thompson report because the youth service has a particular part to play in doing anything worthwhile for young people. Many initiatives can be taken in the rural areas provided that there is more emphasis and freedom for local bodies to be able to run and operate these courses. In short, we need a decent youth training scheme.
I welcome the comment of the hon. Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. Haselhurst) that that scheme should last for two years. We need a real bridge between school and work, and not, as the youth training scheme seems to be, a short-term political expedient, whose primary aim is more to get the Government off an uncomfortable political hook than to do something of real importance and value for our young people.
§ Mr. Patrick Thompson (Norwich, North)
I am grateful to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for giving me the opportunity to take part in this debate on the new Government initiatives to help the 16-year-old school leaver. I share with the hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Ashdown) this opportunity to make a maiden speech. I congratulate him on his maiden speech. I was interested in what he had to say about the rural areas— there are some problems in those areas that need to be discussed further in the House— and to hear the way in which he discussed in some detail the problems of his constituency.
There are two special reasons why I wish to take part in this debate. First, many years ago I was an electrical engineering apprentice— admittedly a graduate apprentice— in the engineering industry. I had experience then that I have never forgotten and I learnt many lessons that will enable me to take a long-term interest in what is happening in the youth training scheme. Secondly, I have more recently been teaching physics and mathematics to young people in the 16 to 18-year-old age group. For that reason, I am interested in the way that the scheme develops because I am personally interested in our young people of that age group.
Like my hon. Friend the Minister, I read The Times this morning and was encouraged by the leading article which described the way that the scheme is to develop. I share the sentiments expressed in that article. However, I was horrified to read on the previous page the attack made by a distinguished academic on my profession of physics teaching in which we were described as ignorant and parochial. I assure the House, from my experience, that this is not true.
In my constituency of Norwich, North, young people will benefit from the youth training scheme. Of the 460,000 places, 1,600 will go to Norwich and the 533 immediate surrounding area. I am told that, of those places, 888 are already in the pipeline and 135 young people have already been placed on the scheme. What is more, I am told that there is no shortage of sponsors or agents to run the scheme. In other words, the outlook in Norwich is good and there will be opportunities, for example, in the shoe industry and in engineering, and, through Norwich city college, 15 places in electronics will be made available.
Norwich is a fine city. It has a fascinating history, a wealth of architectural interest, and the canaries. It is set in rich and attractive countryside and has — I am enthusiastic about this— strong links with the Continent. It is twinned with the city of Rouen, in France, and Koblenz, in West Germany. I am sure that other hon. Members are aware that there are strong links between east Anglia and Europe.
My constituency differs in character from the original seat held by my predecessor, Mr. David Ennals, since February 1974. In this, my first speech, I should particularly like to pay tribute to Mr. Ennals. His work on both Front Benches, particularly in health and social services, is well known. He took tremendous interest, as I know, in many other spheres of public life, in particular in homeless children, mental health, the Ockenden Venture and the United Nations— and that list is by no means complete. In addition, in Norwich he was, as I recognised in my speech after the election, well liked as a diligent and hard-working constituency Member. He was quick to react in any situation in which he judged that he could help his constituents. It is a pleasure for me to pay tribute to him in my maiden speech.
As a result of the boundary changes, three wards of the original Norwich, North constituency have moved over to the Norwich, South constituency. My hon. Friend the Member for Norwich, South (Mr. Powley) and I are conscious of the tradition of good service that has been given to the city of Norwich by a succession of hon. Members, and we hope to follow this tradition.
My constituency has changed in another respect. We have taken in about 32,000 new electors from two other constituencies in the surrounding broadland areas. The Thorpe St. Andrew area is derived from the old constituency of Great Yarmouth, whose distinguished Member, Sir Anthony Fell, retired at the Dissolution. The suburban areas of Sprowston, Hellesdon and Old Catton were formerly in the care of my hon. Friend the Member for Norfolk, North (Mr. Howell), a constituency with which I have close association. I shall continue to offer the dedicated service which those areas have consistently received from him.
I referred earlier to my experience in industry. In the late 1950s there was a great deal wrong with industry, in industrial relations, training and apprenticeship schemes. This was a time when many young qualified men and women left industry, disillusioned, for other careers. We are still witnessing some of the repercussions of that today. Before I was in industry, I was fortunate enough to be able to serve my country doing national service in the Army. Any of us who have had experience of the armed services will agree that when it comes to training, and particularly technical training, the armed services have an excellent record and a great deal to teach people in industry or education. Therefore, I hope that the Government will 534 press ahead with the modest and interesting scheme to give some of our young people the opportunity to spend a year in the Army, Navy or Royal Air Force.
The success of the youth training scheme will, in my judgment, depend mainly upon the commitment and the quality of the input into the scheme and the leadership and expertise of the people involved. The scheme, if it is about anything, is about people. Success will not depend on the output of glossy brochures, extravagant expenditure or burgeoning bureaucratic expansion. Its success will be judged by standards of performance. I understand and hope that the MSC will monitor standards of performance closely. Success will depend also on the morale of the young people taking part in the scheme who do not live in easy times.
The Government are to be congratulated on taking this initiative and on removing the threat of unemployment from young people for one year. It is a good thing that the scheme has been welcomed by leaders of the other political parties, the TUC and the CBI, as was pointed out by Sir Terence Beckett in his article in The Times on Tuesday.
There will be problems with the scheme. In discussions I have had in my constituency, it has been suggested that there may be a risk that the scheme is open to exploitation and that some of the courses are not as broadly based as they could be. There is some anxiety about the life-skills element of the courses which may need looking at again, and about travel problems in rural areas. There is, therefore, no room for complacency. We have only just begun to get grips with youth unemployment and training. The scheme, as is admitted freely, is a start only.
We are in the throes of a revolution in employment and self-employment. It was good to read in the local Norwich newspaper about the young girl of 16 who had started her own business of running a market stall. That is a piece of good news that should encourage us all. There is a revolution also in leisure, job sharing and the concept of early retirement, all of which need to be discussed a great deal in the House.
The Manpower Services Commission and the people involved in education will need to work together to find the best way forward. There is a great deal to discuss about youth training.
I welcome the new technical and vocational training initiatives announced by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister last November. We must encourage also craft and creative skills and the skills which will help those who wish to embark on self-employment.
There is talk about education for capability. It is a subject which will need to be discussed further. My constituents believe that outdated attitudes and party slogans about employment, and particularly youth employment, are worse than useless. They expect the House to respond to the challenge, reject the extreme and extravagant and to get on with the job. We owe them no less.
§ Mr. Robin Corbett (Birmingham, Erdington)
I congratulate the Hon. Member for Norwich, North (Mr.Thompson) on a thoughtful and interesting speech, and associate all of us on the Labour side of the House with his kind and generous remarks about our former colleague David Ennals. The hon. Member for Norwich, North and 535 his colleagues in Norwich will find that David Ennals' diligence in attending to matters in the House and in his constituency will be difficult to follow.
I am on a retraining scheme, having followed my well-respected predecessor, Julius Silverman, into the House. He served the Erdington district of Birmingham for 38 years with enormous distinction and was diligent in the services that he rendered to the House. He is, and will remain, my mentor. I hope that before long he will be able to tell me that I have completed my training to his satisfaction with full pass marks.
Before I returned to the House I was involved with the preparatory work for a youth training scheme for a managing agency dedicated to the delivery of quality training places in the service sector. The service sector provides hope for real jobs for a majority of youngsters who go on that scheme.
The Secretary of State is master of the black art— the Argentine art, perhaps I should say— of making people disappear from the unemployment register. If a person is 60 he vanishes; if he is 16 or 17 he never appears. Many of us in the House are in favour of early retirement and equality of retirement age, but the Secretary of State and the Government have enabled young people to go straight from school to retirement without a period of work intervening.
It is my judgment that there is no chance of the scheme fulfilling its aim of providing 460,000 training places this year. I say that without any joy. The scheme was approved far too late, against a background of staff cuts and turmoil. The MSC was expected to deliver the scheme against the Secretary of State's threats to cut its throat after exiling it to Sheffield.
Successive Governments have looked to the MSC as a public and accountable agency from which they send out the lifeboats when the ship of state is heading for the employment rocks. This Government did even more. They sacked the admiral, torpedoed the ship and then demanded that the MSC come to their rescue to help them massage the youth unemployment figures. What a lesson in man management, but it is what we have come to expect from the Secretary of State.
The Government decided earlier, as a contribution to training and as evidence of their true commitment to training, to wring the necks of the industrial training boards, which they had created earlier. The Government will live to regret that decision. There were experienced and dedicated people within the industrial training boards who could and should have been used to deliver this youth training scheme. I mention only the distributive industry training board, which had excellent relations with most of the service sector and was also in the forefront of the work of the unified vocational preparation— I am not sure who dreams up such titles— which was a great success largely through the efforts of that board. In many ways the UVP is the precursor of the YTS.
An example of the Secretary of State's achievements is that only one in 10 of last year's school leavers in Birmingham has yet found work. That is in a city which was renowned for having 1,001 trades. The pride has been ripped out of Birmingham and more damage has been done to its industry by the Government than the Luftwaffe managed to achieve. [Interruption] The hon. Gentleman may sneer, but perhaps he will listen to me.
One in five of my constituents is out of work. In one comprehensive school in my constituency more than half 536 its students have both parents out of work. What hope do those students have of finding jobs? There are skilled and semi-skilled men and women who at 30 or 40 have had their jobs taken from them and who never expect to work again. That is the evidence of the despair and hopelessness that this wretched Government have handed out. That is what the Opposition must counter and reform.
It is not surprising, with firms being forced out of business in Birmingham and the west midlands, that it is difficult to find enough employers to take up the number of places allocated under YTS. The challenge to the Government is to get more people back to work in Birmingham, so that firms have more room to provide proper training places for our young people. The two things go together: we cannot have one without the other.
The youth training scheme has some good features, and it is important to say that. Why the Government should seek to take credit for that I do not know. It was not their baby. The development that I think has special significance for young people is the requirement for the 65 days off-the-job mandatory training. I hope that the managing agents who are concerned with YTS will ensure that, wherever possible, youngsters can have ore week's residential training. The experience of UVP has resulted in a fantastic blossoming and development of the young people who go away and collectively set about tasks, while looking after themselves and learning what living together and doing tasks together are all about. It is critical to have careful supervision of both on-the-job training and off-the-job training.
If the Minister believes that an emasculated Manpower Services Commission will be able properly to monitor what happens in the training components of the scheme, he is a bigger optimist than I believe him to be. The responsibility for this rests heavily with the employer who is providing the place, and with the managing agent. It is a partnership. That aspect needs to be underlined because, as hon. Members on both sides have said this morning, what concern us here are the lives and futures of the young people who come on this scheme full of hope, wanting to learn, and willing to get a taste of the real working environment.
The Government have not understood the real purpose of the task group report on youth training. That is fundamental to this debate. There can be little argument either here or in the country about the need to develop a national scheme of vocational training to bridge the gap between the world of education and the world of work. We are one of the few industrialised countries which, after branding many of our 16-year-olds as educational failures, expect them to go into jobs— if jobs are available— and make a success of them. Other competing countries have vocational training schemes lasting for one, two, and in some cases even three years, to assist young people in this important transition. I profoundly believe that we have neglected that problem at our national peril, both socially and economically. Young people who are denied work and relevant and properly supervised training, at proper rates of pay, will opt out and become the tinder from which destructive social fires will start.
There is no evidence that this Government have yet understood the way in which they are wasting— in every sense of the word— the resources of our nation. We cannot afford to play around with the latent talents, skills and hopes of our young people. If more money can be found to destroy— as it is found for defence spending— 537 how much more important is it to harness the energy and enthusiasm of our young people and to ensure that they get decent training to lead them into worthwhile and fulfilling jobs? Wealth, its creation and proper distribution, is what this debate is all about. The youth training scheme alone is no answer. Of course training is needed, and of course it needs to be properly funded and adequately supervised, but young people demand proper jobs at the end of the youth training scheme, and that is what this Government will deny them.
§ Mr. Richard Holt (Langbaurgh)
The hon. Member for Wansbeck (Mr. Thompson) made a maiden speech this morning, and spoke of the difficulty he has with the name of his constituency. I think that the name of my constituency is unique, in that it is spelt "Langbaurgh" and pronounced "Langbart".
Having got that off my chest, I pay tribute to my two predecessors. Langbaurgh did not suddenly drop out of the sky. It has been redrawn from Cleveland and Whitby and Middlesbrough. First, I pay tribute to Mr. Arthur Bottomley who represented Middlesbrough and who sat on the Opposition Benches with great distinction for many years. I cannot add much to the contribution that has been made by the hon. Member for Middlesbrough (Mr. Bell) in his maiden speech, but I wish to associate myself with his remarks. I have inherited two thirds of my constituency from my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Richmond, Yorks (Mr. Brittan). He has already shown great pace, having been appointed Home Secretary. Who knows how far he will finally go?
In their maiden speeches, hon. Members talk about their constituencies in depth and with great knowledge and feeling. I shall do likewise. Langbaurgh is a strange constituency in some ways, because it is a microcosm of much that exists in the area. We have a beautiful coastal strip. We have a large rural part with the lovely town of Guisborough. We also have Middlesbrough and the conurbations close to the Teesside area. So in a debate on youth and opportunities for the future I can express the concern of an area that has a wide range of urban and rural interests.
I have noticed that there is little self-imposed modesty in maiden speeches. Hon: Members enumerate the credentials that they have for making a contribution on the subject that is being debated. I shall not break that tradition, and I shall, perhaps, be no less immodest.
I have worked in industry for a long time. My principal occupation has been an involvement in training, with young people in particular. I have the honour of being a fellow of the Institute of Personnel Management. I have also served for 20 years in local government— 10 years on a London borough, and 10 years on Wycombe district council, six of those years as leader— until I was elected to this place. I also have the pleasure of being a member of the Buckinghamshire county council. I have a third and important reason for believing that my contribution may add a little to this debate: I have a daughter of 17, who left school last week.
So on three fronts I have watched education and training for many years. I have been extremely disappointed that this House continues to have what I regard as an artificial divide between education and 538 training, as if they were two non-coexisting ideas. I have been thumping drums outside the House for a long time arguing for a radical approach to the manner in which we educate young people. We must live in this age and look forward, and not be so concerned with the past.
The hon. Member for Wansbeck spoke this morning about apprenticeships. I should like to describe my experiences as someone who had respnsibility for apprenticeships. I was the chairman of the London area training scheme for the furniture trade jointly with my trade union colleague. We signed indentures when people started their training in that trade. Young people used to come to us and spend five years learning their trade, becoming craftsmen and women. Then along came the raising of the school leaving age and away went one year's training at a stroke. That was followed by a steady move towards young people attaining their majority at 18 years of age, at which point they want full pay. Therefore, the period of training became shortened from five years to about 18 months in practical and realistic terms. The industry has had to bear that. It has had to cope with training young people in 18 months when only a few years earlier the same training had taken five years. Everyone knows that that is the minimum period that it takes someone to become a fully skilled craftsman, making a real contriution to the life and well being of his company. Can hon. Members understand why industrialists are so reluctant in many instances to engage young people as apprentices, when, as employers, they are no longer able to give them the training that they woud have received under the old apprenticeship scheme?
My hon. Friend the Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. Haselhurst) referred to one of the problems of the YTS. It is geared to a one-year period, and a two-year period has been suggested. We should really be considering how long it takes to train someone to become an adequate baker, typist, furniture maker or even Member of Parliament. I do not know whether that can be quantified without going out and asking those who are responsible for such training and for employment thereafter, in order to gear a scheme accordingly. If it takes only six months to train a young lady adequately in the working of a computer terminal, why not have a flexible scheme? If it takes 18 months, two years or longer to train someone for a more sophisticated job, why not gear the scheme accordingly?
I can speak with feeling about the Manpower Services Commission because I served on the Buckinghamshire MSC until I resigned in utter frustration. Very little progress was made at the grass roots, where it really mattered. On one occasion I proposed that there should be a school teacher on the board and that was politely but firmly turned down.
I come back to the artificial divide between education and training. For many happy months I served with the City and Guilds of London Institute in drawing up programmes for technicians' education courses in my industry, which is in a sad state today. Sufficient trained people must be available when the recession recedes. No one on the TEC programme committees came from a school. There were people from further education, but they were jealous of their position and would not open the portals. Even if the portals were to open, it is doubtful whether many teachers would want to serve anyway.
City and Guilds, a marvellous and learned institute which has formed the basis of apprentice training for over 100 years in Britain, used to be able to take young people 539 straight from school for its courses. Because of the decline in standards of many young people leaving school, City and Guilds has had to introduce a foundation course to improve numeracy and literacy. That course can now be found in some British schools, but there is still far too great an emphasis on CSE and 0-levels when it would be better to have an education system that allowed the young people to start their training on the City and Guilds technicians education courses while they are still at school. That could then be carried on through the auspices of the YTS and any other scheme that the Government cared to bring along later.
I want to see a radical and fundamental rethink of the way in which we treat young people in education and in training. Those are not mutually exclusive areas; they are the same. We are trying to train young people from the earliest age so that they can live happily in society with a job and the pride that that brings.
I am one of a growing band of Conservative Members representing constituencies in the north-east of England. One reason for that is that the Opposition parties have lost much, if not all, credibility. The Government were re-elected, although not quite by a landslide. However, we are moving that way and we shall have greater numbers next time— because the people of the north-east trusted the Government. We have a further five years of that trust. It is the young people of today who are our future and we must ensure that the youth training scheme works. I wholeheartedly commend it to the House. We must not carp about it and snipe at it; we must make it work.
During this Parliament we must take the opportunity to look more fundamentally at how we go about training and educating young people, training teachers and people in colleges of further education. I find it pretty nauseating that people receive high salaries when they have 12 or 13 contact hours a week with holidays nearly as long as those of hon. Members. I shall be judged in Langbaurgh at the next election on how young people react. I know that the Government have that very much at heart. The people of Langbaurgh also have it very much at heart. There is no issue on which I have had more approaches than what the Government will do for our young people.
I welcome the YTS and this opportunity to speak on it. However, I reserve my judgment so that, at any stage in the future, I can speak again on the subject and perhaps motivate the Front Bench to direct some of their thinking towards more fundamental and radical issues than whether the scheme should last 12 months or be associated with the services. As an ex-naval man, I think that the latter idea is rather stupid. I am completely opposed to it. The Front Bench should not listen to that too carefully. However, I hope that it has listened to what I have had to say about talking with City and Guilds, TEC and educationists, and about coming together in a great debate, undivided by party, to look to the future.
§ Mr. Ted Garrett (Wallsend)
The House will join me in congratulating the hon. Member for Langbaurgh (Mr. Holt) on his informative and enjoyable speech. It was informative and enjoyable but for one aspect. The northeast is one area of Britain in which the Conservatives made no gains.
§ Mr. Garrett
Yes, but we do not classify Langbaurgh as part of the north-east. It is in Yorkshire or thereabouts. Except for that geographical error, I agree with much of what he said.
The debate has gradually taught us much about the background of those who have made their maiden speeches. Contrary to the general belief that the new Parliament is composed of journalists, financiers and those who can make money in the City, it has emerged that quite a few hon. Members have the expertise and technical and educational background to bode well for the future of this Parliament and for the debates that will have to be held to meet the undoubted challenges of the next few years.
Like you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I have an engineering background. I am sure that you will not be embarrassed if I tell the House that you and I are both long-serving members of the Amalgamated Union of Engineering Workers and time-served apprentices. The House may be interested to know that a person must have seven years' adult membership of the union before he can even be considered suitable to enter this House. As we are talking about training, I wonder whether that qualification should apply to everybody else.
We have debated training several times. In the 1960s and 1970s we suggested many schemes. Successive Governments started schemes with the same optimism that the Minister expressed earlier, but regrettably they foundered for a variety of reasons. However, I shall not detain the House by giving the details. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Erdington (Mr. Corbett) — who is not in his place — because the Government made an error in abolishing the industrial training boards. There were 23 industrial training boards but the number has been reduced to eight. I shall not say that all 23 boards should have been retained. I agree that some could have been amalgamated and that some could have been strengthened. But instead, some boards were weakened. Indeed, the engineering industrial training board was weakened, and that causes me the most concern. We lost many skilled staff and, above all, the training facilities upon which the country depends were emasculated.
Despite the Government's efforts to destroy the manufacturing base, Britain's industry is still based on engineering and allied products. The nation depends on its export potential, but regrettably the decline continues, together with a failure to provide the necessary skills. The scheme before us will not provide the answer, for some of the reasons outlined by the hon. Member for Langbaurgh. We are from an area of the north that produced George and Robert Stephenson, who were engineers; Charles Parsons, who invented the steam turbine; and Swan, who invented the electric lamp. The present generation of those at the top in British industry were once apprentices. I refer to such people as Sir Robert Duncan, who was known as Bob Duncan at ICI, and is a time-served apprentice. He is now chairman of Rolls-Royce. Sir Robert Atkinson, the chairman of British Shipbuilders, is a time-served shipbuilding apprentice. I could cite many other names. Not all have reached such high echelons of management, but they have been recruited through the apprenticeship system that this country has built up.
We must ask ourselves how the scheme before us can meet the country's requirements towards the end of the century, provided that we still want a manufacturing base. If we do not want a manufacturing base, the Government 541 should tell us, so that we can forget about the idea. In the 1960s and 1970s, voluntary training groups were formed by employers, and with Government encouragement the North Tyne engineering training group was formed in 1968. There were then 15 companies in the group and 49 trainees, who were young apprentices in those companies. In 1976 it accepted the first 20 trainees from the MSC. In 1982–83 the number of trainees was 77 and the number of companies in the group 62. The Government should encourage such companies. After all, the Conservative party has declared its belief in small enterprise and business, and those engineering companies have got together to provide the necessary supplementary training for the completing of four years apprenticeship.
Regrettably, the scheme is beginning to founder because of lack of finance. It is a good scheme, because it brings together young people from different companies and widens their experience and knowledge of their role within the engineering industry. Much effort has been put into the training scheme by the north Tyneside borough council and it is entitled to take much of the credit. However, it is foundering because the sum allocated for one year by the MSC is £ 1,850 of which £ 1,300 goes towards the apprentices' earnings.
The group's management committee submits that that sum is inadequate. It readily argues that the sum would be adequate for training typists or those who want to enter the service or distributive industries, but if we want to have the background and equipment with which to further their engineering and allied skills we must think in terms of topping up that £ 1,850 by another £ 500. I hope that the Minister will consider that proposition carefully to see whether there is any merit in it.
I am sorry to be parochial in constantly referring to the engineering industry, but it has now been proved that there is a weakness in the scheme. At the end of a year, an enthusiasm, desire and will to learn is burning quite brightly in the young person. However, if his training is cut short after a year and he, unlike his fellow workers, faces unemployment, cynicism, fear and dismay will become uppermost in his mind, and will undoubtedly affect his outlook. The Minister must seriously consider funding some of the youngsters, although not all, as some will make better progress than others in their engineering courses. We should think in terms of funding them for perhaps two or two and a half years. That will provide a breathing space, so that the youngster comes into the industry at 19 when he is steadying up a bit and wants to learn, for example, an electrical, engineering, plumbing or welding trade. After all, it is they who will set the pace for the high standard of technology required in future.
I ask the Minister to push hard at the door of the Treasury. I hope that he will seek the support of Ministers who are close to the Chancellor of the Exchequer in an endeavour to get the funding advanced. I do not share the fear of the hon. Member for Erdington that widespread disturbances and troubles could arise because of frustration. He may be right to have those forebodings, but I have an inherent belief that our young people will respond if they are shown that they have a future. Let us give them that hope and strengthen the scheme, despite all its warts and weaknesses. I hope that the Under-Secretary of State will take up my remarks when he replies.
§ 12 noon
§ Mr. Charles Wardle (Bexhill and Battle)
First, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I thank you for calling me to participate in this debate. It is an honour to address the House. I congratulate those who have made their maiden speeches today.
My constituency is largely made up by the part of east Sussex that was covered by the former parliamentary division of Rye and Bexhill. Following the boundary changes, Rye has joined Hastings. There have been various alterations to the western side of the constituency, the most important of which has been the inclusion of Pevensey. It is now possible to trace within the constituency much of the fateful progress in October 1066 of William Duke of Normandy from his landing until his historic encounter with King Harold. I am happy to report that, even though there was some of the usual cut and thrust during the election campaign, there was no conflict of that magnitude.
As the name implies, Bexhill and Battle consists of a well-known seaside resort in which many retired people have made their homes. It also supports a number of small businesses and contains a lively younger generation. There are also the villages, farms and woodlands surrounding Battle, where the mainstay is agriculture. This makes for an invigorating blend of political and economic interests, which I am proud to serve on behalf of all my constituents.
For the past 28 years Rye and Bexhill were ably represented by my distinguished predecessor, the right hon. Bryant Godman Irvine, a man whose quiet charm and ready humour won him many friends in this place and secured him a considerable following in the constituency. As a barrister and as a farmer who played a prominent part in the regional NFU, his career in the House spanned a variety of interests. His involvement in the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association and his contribution to the British Resorts Association were distinguished. However, he will be best remembered as Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means and Deputy Speaker from 1976 to 1982. I am grateful to him for his support and encouragement. Like all his many friends in this place, I look forward to keeping in close touch with him.
I am glad to be called in this debate because I know that the youth training scheme will be welcomed by many young people in Bexhill and Battle who need the sort of foundation that the programme offers. I know, too, that it will have great significance in the west midlands. For many years I have been closely involved with a black country engineering group that is based in Oldhill, an area that is represented by the right hon. and learned Member for Warley, West (Mr. Archer), whose careful attention to his constituency I have long respected.
From where I have stood, at the sharp end of an old established and traditionally successful engineering business struggling, like all its competitors, during the worldwide recession, one message has come across time and again. It is a message that is just as important to Sussex farmers and growers in coping with their European rivals as it is to manufacturers.
The message, which has vital significance to our young people, is that we must all become much more competitive. Throughout the recession, after the shock of falling demand, the squeeze on profit margins and the loss of jobs, the reality that has sunk home is as old as human 543 nature itself. It is the awareness that we must compete successfully if the nation is to maintain a high standard of living and afford the social services to which we all aspire.
Today's world is full of uncertainties. The captive customers of yesterday's empire are now, quite rightly, our competitors. Rapidly changing technology makes for a constantly shifting advantage in the market place among those who are prepared to innovate. Inflation merely disguises and then exacerbates the problems that we face. In spite of these uncertainties, or rather because of them, we must compete so that we can build lasting jobs.
If we are to become more competitive, the most valuable resource that we can deploy is that of our human skills. Every advance and breakthrough in our economic history has stemmed from personal initiative, effort and ingenuity. Where better to begin building the foundations of future prosperity than with today's school leavers? It is remarkable that as a country with a long record of industrial achievement it is only now that we are launching a programme that provides all young people of 16 or 17 years who do not stay on at school with a year's bridgehead to adult life in the form of planned work experience, work related training and relevant off-the-job training. As was said in the debate in February, France, Germany and certainly Japan are far in advance of us n the way in which they draw their youngsters into the world of work.
It is true that the idea of youth training has received broad support across party political lines from employers, trade unionists, educationists and local authorities. However, the credit for reassessing the youth opportunities programme and ensuring that a practical scheme open to all young people was launched, and far bringing about a fundamental change in attitudes towards training and school leavers, must go to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment. It is an immense step forward towards the creation of a more involved and more purposeful work force that can compete in its own best interests in the world market.
My own practical observations of the YTS in its early stages suggest that things are going well. The area boards are made up of people of diverse interests who share the common goal of helping youngsters. There is great cooperation and in most areas the targeted number of places looks like being met. Employers have been encouraged by the high practical content of the training. I say that without disrespect to the valuable contribution that is being made by those in further education. Employers have also been impressed by the way in which managing agents approved by the area boards have organised the programmes. Undoubtedly there will be some hiccups in the pilot schemes. That is only to be expected in such a vast administrative undertaking. There will also be some carping.
It is not for me in my maiden speech to enter into undue controversy, so I shall make only three comments. First, it is hopelessly shortsighted to regard the £ 25 allowance as a wage to be subjected to the process of collective bargaining. That would undermine the very spirit of the training. It is to be hoped that the youngsters on the scheme will he there to learn about the real world and not to be drawn into the dinosaur fashion of wage claims that wilfully ignore the importance to jobs of competitiveness.
Secondly, it is essential that trainees are required to observe the provisions of the health and safety at work legislation in their own interests and in the interests of the employees who work with them.
544 Thirdly, those who lay the charge that the scheme does not guarantee continuing jobs are those, I suspect, who would willingly resort to the old reflationary nostrums of spending money that the country does not have and making promises that cannot be kept. In marked contrast to their unreality, the youth training scheme provide; a sound beginning for all youngsters, on which they will have a better opportunity to build a future for themselves than anything provided hitherto. We must monitor its progress carefully. We must give it the wholehearted support: of the House because it will contribute eventually to greater prosperity in manufacturing and greater competitiveness in agriculture. It is a course that we simply must follow.
§ Mr. Dave Nellist (Coventry, South-East)
Thank you for calling me to make my maiden speech, Mr. Deputy Speaker. It is especially appropriate for me to speak about youth and unemployment because in the city of Coventry, once the richest working-class city in the country with two thirds of the work force in manufacturing industry, the prospects for our school leavers are now bleak. Only one in 10 of those leaving the fifth form last summer have found work. In a city that was built on engineering, only 243 out of 5,000 who left school this summer have found apprenticeships. For the vast majority there is no prospect of real work under this Government. There is no way out of the dole queue.
Such a prediction of a national spectre of mass unemployment, stretching for five years or more in front of our school leavers, is not in any sense an invention of Labour Members— it is admitted by the leading advisers to the Prime Minister. Speaking on 3 March 1982, Professor Sir Douglas Hague predicted that there would be no significant upturn in western economies before the 1990s, and possibly not before the end of the century. Another leading Government supporter, Sir Terence Beckett, the director general of the CBI, wrote in The Times on 5 July admitting that only about one quarter of this year's school leavers would find a job. What a crushing indictment of the profit system that the Government defend that mass unemployment is stretching towards the end of the century.
I speak today as the youngest Labour Member elected in last month's general election. That gives me a special responsibility in this place to champion the rights, and to give voice to the hopes and aspirations of millions of young workers as they face the mid-1980s and that spectre of mass unemployment. I willingly shoulder that responsibility.
Who would have thought four years ago, when the Tories won the general election, that a party supposedly standing for classic Friedmanite views, supposedly resolutely opposed to intervention by the state, a party whose motto is, "Leave it to the market," would today be weeks away from implementing a scheme costing £ 1,000 million specifically designed for the state to attempt to regulate the transition from school to work? Yet that £ 1,000 million is a paltry amount compared to the costs of the avalanche of redundancies over which the Government have presided— £ 17,000 million is spent annually to maintain the victims of Tory monetarism. Now, a further £ 1,000 million is to be spent to remove 500,000 teenagers from the dole figures.
Yet so serious is the position facing those 500,000 school leavers, that the Government have been forced to 545 recognise the total failure of their much vaunted "private market mechanism" to supply real jobs to our youth. The youth training scheme is proof of that recognition. The establishment of a second generation YOP scheme— the misnamed youth training scheme— is admission in deed — which counts far more than words — that mass unemployment is projected to be with us for a decade or more under the present way that society is organised. It is an admission that British capitalism, the system of private profit and market forces, so loudly defended by the Government cannot organise society to take advantage of the productive forces of the factories, the industries, the science and the techniques that are available to provide the goods and services that people need and to use all the talents of working people to produce them. The Government have recognised that market forces can no longer supply sufficient jobs.
What changed the attitude of the Tory party during the past four years? What changed it from a party which, in 1979, in one of its first measures as a Government, announced a cut of £ 28 million in YOP financing, to a party today forced against its will to spend £ 1,000 million in additional funding for youth unemployment? The principal answer is the events of the summer of 1981— the riots on the streets of Liverpool, London, Manchester and other major cities— a desperate action by tens of thousands of teenagers to draw attention to the poverty, despair, demoralisation, harassment and anger of being young and unemployed under a Tory Government.
That statement does not condone rioting. Such actions do not provide a solution to the problems of unemployment. But unlike the real organisers of those riots, who sit on the Government Benches, the Opposition understand the cause of such frustration. The problems facing youth, which prompted tens of thousands on to the streets two years ago, can be solved only by a fundamental reorganisation of society along socialist lines.
Despite the introduction of the scheme, the problems of unemploment, bad housing and falling living standards remain. Under the Government we shall see a repeat of the explosions of 1981. The scheme was not born out of an altruistic gesture by the political representatives of the ruling class— it was conceived as a policing measure to keep the youth off the streets and out of the dole figures. It has nothing whatsoever to do with giving young workers the opportunity to make a genuine contribution to society.
The training content of the scheme is negligible. The prospect of a job for two thirds of its entrants remains a cruel myth. The allowance paid to YOP and now to YTS trainees has been frozen since January 1982 at a paltry £ 25 a week. That is only £ 1. 50 a week greater than the members of the Cabinet each spent in one night on dinner when they sat down on the eve of the Gracious Speech. Allowances set at such a low level are a calculated and cynical attempt to drive down the general level of young workers' wages. Refusing to raise YTS allowances, as the Secretary of State and the Minister have done, and the speculation emanating from the Prime Minister and the Chancellor of the Exchequer that cuts in unemployment benefit have been discussed, are despicable attacks on the poorest section of the working class. In recent years, the Government have told us that workers were pricing themselves out of jobs. Now, they intend to attempt to price workers out of the dole queue.
546 Only 10,300 youths began apprenticeships in engineering in 1982 compared with 14,000 in 1981 and 25,000 in the peak years of the 1960s and 1970s. The total number of apprenticeships in manufacturing industry has slumped from 242,000 in 1967 to 123,000 in 1982. Similarly, the number of youth trainees who went through an industrial training for semi-skilled or unskilled jobs in manufacturing has fallen from 201,000 in 1967 to only 56,000 in 1982. As apprenticeships and industrial training places disappear, the Government hope that YTS will emerge as the norm for school leavers sounds the death knell for genuine apprenticeships.
Whereas apprenticeships usually gave a good prospect of a steady job in years gone by, if the YTS scheme remains in its present form it will lead straight back to the dole for the majority who participate.
There are many well documented cases of employers scrapping first-year apprenticeships. Instead of taking on one first-year apprentice at £ 40 a week plus the national insurance contribution, an employer can take on four, five or even 10 YOP or YTS trainees who will cost him next to nothing because the MSC pays their allowances. Then, at the end of the year, the boss picks the best trainee, offers him or her a second-year apprenticeship at reduced rates of pay and takes on 10 more "freebies". That is slave labour. Despite the pleas of Sir Terence Beckett in The Times that such descriptions are "malicious" and thatEmployers are putting a lot into the scheme, and it is costing them money",I am not the only one to consider that analysis to be false. It was stated blatantly by David Young, chairman of the Manpower Services Commission, in the October 1982 edition of the big business magazine, The Director:You now have the opportunity to take on young men and women, train them and let them work for you almost entirely at our expense, and then decide whether or not to employ them".There are always plenty of unscrupulous employers eager to take that opportunity, such as a Mr. Birks from Braintree who, in a letter to the Financial Times of 12 April 1983, described how, after losing his driving licence, he needed a chauffeur. He said:The problem, however, was severe … how to afford one? Enter stage right, a fairy godmother in the form of the Manpower Services Commission. One can employ a school leaver on the Youth Opportunities Scheme Youth Opportunities the cost of whom is reimbursed by the Manpower Services Commission. All I had to do was to take on a YOP as a personal assistant who could drive and my problems were solved.This individual admits that he is open to cries of exploitation or abuse of the system. Yet after describing in his letter how his own YOP learnt how business is run, he said:Consequently, if I picked a reasonably bright YOP to start with, I should end up with a very useful person indeed.Presumably, if he had not picked a reasonably bright one, he could have got rid of him because there are thousands more where that one came from. At the end of Mr. Birk's letter, the message becomes plain. He said:I would suggest to all business men who cover a considerable annual mileage that they seriously consider taking on a chauffeur. Even if they don't get a YOP, the employment of a suitable school leaver at today's labour prices must pay for itself in productivity terms alone, without considering the benefits of health that the removal of the strain of driving can bring. The incidental benefit at a national level in the reduction of unemployment, and the creation of a useful group of young people with an overview of business can only be to the advantage of all of us.I quoted that example at length to show that the quest for profit will exploit the YOP and in future the YTS. Far 547 from being an isolated example, the YOP has been used to replace existing workers and jobs, to lower the wages of young workers and to pave the way for the abolition of time-served apprenticeships. This Tory Government inflict the deep wound of mass unemployment on youth and then offer a sticking plaster in the form of YTS. They offer no future for the 500.000 unemployed under the age of 19.
The Government's attempt to mask the inability of this system to offer jobs to this generation of school leavers will be seen as a vain attempt at camouflage. In the YTS they have created a scheme of educational dustbins for dumping this generation of youth, but their attempts will not remain unchallenged. Some trade .unions have already announced their opposition and will fight to maintain their existing training arrangements and trade union rates for the job. The organisation of hundreds of thousands of young people on these schemes into the trade union movement is beginning.
When in January 1982 the Secretary of State for Unemployment was arguing for a £ 15 a week scheme and the loss of supplementary benefit for any 16-year-old who refused a YTS place, within one month the youth trade union rights campaign, alongside the Labour party Young Socialists, organised a mass rally of 3,000 young people on a Wednesday at the Festival Hall in London. I was privileged to take part in that event, and on the same day more than 1,300 youngsters lobbied the House. A delegation met the Secretary of State and the MSC director of special programmes to warn of youth anger at these proposals. The Secretary of State's answer to the demands of that lobby for decent allowances, holidays, travel concessions and so on was to castigate the organisers as guilty of raising wild expectations among youth.
What were those wild expectations, which have gained tremendous support among YOP workers? They were a 35-hour week, trade union rates of pay starting at about £ 55 a week, free travel to work, five weeks' paid holiday a year and a guaranteed job at the end. Those are minimal expectations compared to the lifestyle of hon. Members, certainly compared to the lifestyle of the hon. Member for Hove (Mr. Sainsbury) and the two other members of his family who run Sainsburys and receive more in one week from shares and other income— approximately £ 160,000 — than a YTS trainee would receive in 130 years. Surely it is a minimal expectation to ask for decent working allowances, for decent hours of work and so on.
That campaign will gain increasing support as trade unions begin the process of unionisation drives amongst the young people on the YTS. Thousands of YOPsters have been recruited by Labour Party Young Socialists into membership of the Transport and General Workers Union, the General, Municipal, Boilermakers and Allied Workers Union, the National Union of Public Employees and other non-general trade unions. A renewed and public commitment by the Labour party to organise the unionisation of those young exploited workers would be a major factor in winning the enthusiastic support of young people for Socialism.
The Minister's contribution to today's debate leaves unresolved the question, "What comes after YTS?" What prospects are there for trainees at the end of a 12-month course? There are already 5 million people on the dole. Investment fell by 36 per cent. under the Tory Government. Yet money is not in short supply. For every pound employers invested in Britain they found £2.50 to 548 invest in South Africa, Korea, Argentina, Braz:1 and other countries where super profits can be made through the enforced absence of trade unions and where wage levels can be kept low at the barrel of a gun. For British industry to regain its competitiveness against the capitalist countries of Europe, Japan and America would take an investment of £ 150 billion. With profit rates at one seventh of the value of three decades ago, big business will not invest to create jobs or to produce goods that the low living standards of workers will not permit them to buy. The leaders of the Tory party know this. They are aware of the gigantic battles that loom ahead as they attempt to drive down the wages even further in a vain attempt to restore the profits of their big business backers. They have invented the YTS to cheapen the labour of workers, not to provide decent training for jobs their system has no intention of offering.
Accusations will no doubt follow that there is no money to pay for a programme of real jobs for unemployed workers and for youth. Such accusations will be rubbish. In Britain today 400,000 building workers are without jobs but millions of homes need repair and modernisation. Sufficient materials are stockpiled to build a city at least the size of Derby. Capitalism keeps those needs, those materials and the skills of the working people apart . That story could be repeated for every industry in the country.
The political representatives of the capitalist class, the Tory party, are the real Luddites of the 20th century. They have destroyed steel plants, car plants and engineering facilities, because their society cannot use the production that those plants would generate. Their method of organising society wastes 30 per cent. of industrial capacity and keeps 20 per cent. of workers on the dole.
Reorganising society along Socialist lines, with democratic control and management by millions of working people over a planned economy, would release undreamt of potential, bringing into play the lost 30 per cent. of production that is destroyed by Conservative policies and mass unemployment.
That 30 per cent. of production would be worth an estimated £ 65 billion, sufficient to guarantee a national minimum wage of £ 100 and a 35-hour week for all workers, a 50 per cent. increase in all pensions and supplementary benefits, a 25 per cent. increase in NHS and education spending and a doubling of house building.
All that could come about just from the lost wealth from production that is being destroyed by unemployment under the Tories. That would be only the beginning of the wealth that Socialism and the rational planning of the economy would bring once the chaos of private ownership was transformed into a society that organised for need and not for profit.
In conclusion, I issue an appeal and a warning. The appeal is to the hundreds of thousands of young people in Britain whose statistics show that they are disillusioned because of the lack of hope of any change in their prospects. Abstentions from voting at the general election increased among the youth, particularly among unemployed youth, and were probably the highest among unemployed black youth.
The responsibility for regaining the confidence of young workers rests on the shoulders of the Labour and trade union movement and the campaigns that we organise to defend the conditions, wages and jobs of young workers. I appeal to youth not to despair, not to be cynical and imagine that democratic politics is a waste of time. 549 Join us in the struggle to transform society along Socialist lines so that the needs of people can be supplied by the fair allocation of resources.
I issue a warning to the Government. Do not be misled by the siren voices of the media into believing that somehow in the 1980s we are witnessing the creation of a Right-wing generation of youth or that the Labour movement is demoralised or weak when faced with another term of Tory rule. Membership of the trade unions still stands at over 10 million. With the families of those members, we have an army of 35 million people. Our labour produces the wealth, which the Govenment's capitalist society squanders on useless weapons of nuclear destruction, on tax cuts to the super-rich, on stockpiles of food at a time of growing poverty and on keeping 5 million people unemployed. As, in the 1980s, society approaches a crossroads, the Socialist programme will gain significant support.
In the beginning, the Government having invented various schemes, there may be a few who will feel grateful for £ 25 a week on YTS, faced with the choice of a little on YTS or nothing but the dole. But as the realisation grows that the vast majority are being trained for the dole, the cynicism and resentment of youth on YTS will increase. Through those schemes the Government will create a new youthful army of trade unionists and Socialists who will fight to transform society along Socialist lines, who will fight for a future that will give them dignity and hope and allow them to develop their talents to the full. Our future lies with the youth.
The creation by the Tories of YTS will lead to the basic ideas of trade unionism and Socialism being re-sown and germinating in this generation. The Labour movement will organise among YTS. We shall fight for a guaranteed job for each and every trainee. To guarantee and maintain those reforms we need rationally to plan production in society, producing for need and not for profit. Campaigning for that goal remains our overriding priority.
§ Mr. Jim Lester (Broxtowe)
It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Coventry, South-East (Mr. Nellist), who fervently believes in what he told the House. I remind him that John Stuart Mill spoke of the deep slumber of long-held prejudices. I welcome the fact that the hon. Gentleman claims to speak for young people— it is right that in this place those who share his views should have a voice— and I congratulate him on his fluency and the way in which he expressed those views. I suspect that a majority do not see society being organised in the way that he would seek as a means of solving the problems that we are addressing today. From my observations it appears that societies that organise themselves as the hon. Gentleman suggests do not create more resources for themselves or for the Third world, which has a chronic aid problem and needs that are even greater than ours.
I congratulate the 11 new hon. Members who have spoken or intend to speak today. There could not be a more important subject on which to make a maiden speech. It is a great credit to each of those hon. Members, whatever their point of view, that they want to take part in this debate. It is clear from the speeches that we have heard so far that the House now has a varied and valuable fund of additional experience of the subject. That is welcome 550 to those of us who have spoken on the subject for so long that we feel that we are in a rut. It is necessary to have fresh voices to enliven the debate and move it forward. I pay tribute to those hon. Members who have spoken— to mention names would be invidious— for the worthwhile contributions that they have made to our debate.
One theme that has come through many speeches is that people look to the youth training scheme to solve problems that have existed for a long time. The hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Ashdown) mentioned the problems of rural deprivation. That has not been around just since the youth opportunities programme was invented. We must look further back to the attitudes of rural communities and their willingness to accept small industries and businesses that will provide the opportunities that the hon. Gentleman and I want. My hon. Friend the Minister will know exactly how many young people cannot be covered by the guarantee that the Government have given to all school leavers. I suspect that their number is small, whether they come from rural or urban areas. Moreover, it has been agreed to pay transport costs, because we want to help people in constituencies such as that of the hon. Member for Yeovil.
§ Mr. Ashdown
My point was that YTS is not just another burden on the rural young unemployed. As the Government have not accounted for the special funding requirements of rural areas, they will be discriminated against because YTS will not be successful there. That is not part of the drift that has caused rural areas to be isolated.
§ Mr. Lester
I understand the hon. Gentleman's point well. Mine is that it is difficult to provide training in rural areas if, in the first place, there is no small industrial infrastructure to replace agriculture in small communities. That is a long-term problem and a reason why there are difficulties in rural areas. I speak with some experience because my eldest son has just developed a factory in a barn and is providing YTS places. That is one of the ways in which to bring about the changes that we should all like.
I class debates such as this as "coats off" sessions, not because of the heat or aggression from hon. Members but because the House is able to think out loud and discuss issues, such as YTS, and to help improve them. When one dispenses with the rhetoric, there is more consensus on this issue than on any other. That is valuable.
When one examines the way in which youth unemployment has developed— the figures were shown well before 1979— one must give the Government credit for adapting schemes and moving ahead of time. The Government developed YOP, which they inherited from the Labour Government, and improved it. The Government recognised that YOP no longer fulfilled the needs of the massive number of young people leaving school who could not be provided with jobs, so they developed it into the youth training scheme. The scheme cannot be perfect, and we cannot make a major change in the way that we introduce youngsters to the world of work without many problems, but we must put the matter in context. The Government found the resources and supported the Manpower Services Commission and other organisations to meet the challenge. No other Government faced with similar problems have done that.
I shall develop some ideas for the future, which my hon. Friend the Minister will recognise as coming from a 551 group of Members called Lifeline, which invented a scheme just before the youth training scheme was introduced. My hon. Friend the Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. Haselhurst) was a member of the group. The youth training scheme is just beginning and proposals are still on the table. We must all try to develop it until it becomes more efficient and helpful in the way that we see society developing. It must develop because of the changing demands of modern industry and commerce.
I define politics as the art of making change acceptable, because change is inevitable and is with us all the time. The radical changes that we envisage in working practices mean that the labour market must also change. In 1961 there were 9.3 million non-manual workers, but now there are more than 11 million, and by 1985 the number of non-manual workers will equal and then exceed manual workers. More than 650,000 unskilled jobs disappeared between 1971 and 1978, and a further 1 million will probably disappear by 1985. That has nothing to do with the world recession; it is caused by the changing work force. In future, industry will demand people with transferable skills and experience that cross industrial boundaries. We shall need a flexible, multi-skilled and versatile work force.
How, during the next decade, can we provide work for all those who wish it? Technological development is inevitable. It has changed from pushing the frontiers of knowledge to replacing manpower not only in manufacturing but in service industries. The style and length of training that we provide will help to solve the major problem of how to provide sufficient jobs to ensure that the vast majority of those who want work can get it. There is no doubt about the commitment, both oral and practical, of most hon. Members on both sides of the House in working to solve the problem.
The main difference between the youth training scheme and previous schemes, such as the youth opportunities programme, is the Government's commitment to it. The youth opportunities programme was subject to yearly review, but today my hon. Friend made clear the Government's long-term commitment to developing the youth training scheme. The changing nature of the organisation is also important. An important fact that Lifeline tried to get over was that if we wished to solve the problems of employing and training youngsters, we must involve the locality closest to them. That is important.
The changes which were mentioned by the hon. Member for Yeovil occurred because the Manpower Services Commission faced a major reorganisation—an amalgamation of the special programmes division and the training services division and a devolution of some areas into smaller constituency bodies, which is essential if the scheme is to work. We now have in place local area boards which, as my hon. Friend the Member for Bexhill and Battle (Mr. Wardle) said, are comprised of local people who talk about their own children in a given context.
The third element is industrial involvement. We have heard tirades against British industry, capitalists and their profits, and all the rest, but I have never known a time when more people have committed their time and energy to youth training, not seeking profit but genuinely recognising that 68 per cent. of our young people will not have jobs at all if we are not able to work together. The Nottingham chamber of commerce has, for the first time, 552 become involved in the scheme. It has become the major agent for it, involving all its members. That is another very welcome improvement.
The hon. Member for Yeovil spoke about bricklayers. It is reasonable to assume that some schemes will not work. However, we have seen a major step forward with the construction industry training board integrating 21,000 YTS trainees within its training system as a preliminary tool. That is significant. It enables more young people, before they settle down to permanent training in the construction industry, to find out which section they are interested in and where their aptitudes lie. I should have thought that Labour Members, particularly the hon. Member for Wallsend (Mr. Garrett), who have special qualifications in that area, would have helped the engineering industry, which is trying, step by step, to help people to get apprenticeships, to adopt the YTS as a basic part of training.
§ Mr. Bowen Wells (Hertford and Stortford)
Would my right hon. Friend pay tribute to the Union of Construction, Allied Trades and Technicians which supported wholeheartedly the youth training scheme and wants many of its members to take part?
§ Mr. Lester
That is the other side of the industrial contribution that I want to mention. Not only the CBI and the chambers of commerce, but many trade union members are committed to the scheme. I welcome the genuine endeavours of Labour Members to ensure that the scheme becomes an integral part of skill training.
It is essential to have a recognised qualification completion of the scheme. We may have to start with a first-year qualification that counts in a locality. It is essential, as my hon. Friend the Member for Langbaurgh (Mr. Holt) said, to introduce technical qualifications into youth training schemes. In the past we called for a national drive to identify qualifications and integrate them in training schemes. I welcome the Minister's comments on the Government's progress and the efforts that the Government and the MSC are putting into that essential element.
There are variations in training in industries. I support, to some extent, what the hon. Member for Wallsend said. In the first instance, it is right to keep the scheme as simple and straightforward as possible with a single grant to get it off the ground, but there is a difference between training a young person to work in a supermarket or a retail store and to work in engineering. In one case there is an added value to the employer and in the other an added cost. The scheme, by one means or another, should recognise the element and degree of training.
I can suggest means of doing this to the Minister. One would be to have an industrial training board structure. Of young people who go into industry, 50 per cent. are covered by the training boards, which still cover the high training element industries. It is not beyond the wit of man to see how the boards might supplement the £18.50 to employers to reflect and acknowledge the fact that some industries require a great deal more on-cost training. That must be taken on board over the next year as we see how the scheme develops.
We also need to look at the contribution that the YTS can make to overall employment in the economy. I mentioned this earlier, as I take it seriously. Many of us envisaged the development of YTS with a second year not 553 just to mop up or train people already trained, but to give young people the opportunity to change, having had their first year's experience, before settling down. If we are thinking in terms of social engineering — I use the phrase advisedly; if Lord Weinstock can use it, so can I —and of trying to reconcile 27 million people seeking work in an economy that will probably provide between 22 million and 23 million jobs, a further year's training will represent another 500,000 jobs.
We should seek to ensure that the YTS develops into a second year. I recognise the problem of financing, but it is not beyond the wit of the Government to negotiate, industry by industry, for a second year by extending their scheme and the subsidies they provide to those employers prepared to take on trainees for a second year.
With some temerity, I suggest that my hon. Friend should establish another working party to look at the development of YTS, on the same basis as the task group before, planning its progress from 1985. In 1985 the school leaving population will start to drop. There will therefore be an opportunity to look at where we are going and how much more we need to integrate YTS into our training pattern.
We recognise the importance of this scheme. It is the first step on the way, and there has to be progress as time goes on. However, we must not forget those who have slipped the net so far. We must start looking urgently at those in the 19 to 24-year-old age group who have been unemployed for a year or longer. Society cannot afford to discard them. We need schemes that will provide them with a skill that will bring them back into the labour market.
I am sure that if we have a clear vision of the need and a commitment to action and can motivate a degree of unselfishness in society, this and other schemes will play their part in solving our major problems.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Paul Dean)
Before I call the next hon. Member, it may be helpful if I tell the House that there are nine hon. Members still wishing to catch my eye, including four who wish to make their maiden speeches. I should very much like to call all of them. I appeal for the co-operation of the House. If hon. Members felt able to restrict themselves to about 10 minutes, it should be possible to call all.
§ Ms. Clare Short (Birmingham, Ladywood)
I am grateful for the opportunity to discuss the youth training scheme almost immediately after my entry to the House, as it has been one of my major obsessions for the past four years. Its development involved a great deal of work by the organisation with which I was involved previously. I visited many schemes up and down the country and talked to many people who were involved in its development, and I am grateful for the opportunity to put some of my conclusions before the House.
I pay tribute to the hon. Member for Broxtowe (Mr. Lester), whose efforts on behalf of the young unemployed are second to none among Conservative Members. I pay tribute also to my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, South-East (Mr. Nellist), whose powerful and moving speech touched us all and should particularly have touched 554 Conservative Members. They talk as though the youth training scheme is some grand new offer to the country's youth for which they should be grateful. They are a million miles away from reality. They will ignore what my hon. Friend said at their peril.
It is impossible to discuss YTS without facing up to the massively high level of youth unemployment. The Government cannot have it both ways. When we say that there will be no jobs for the young people at the end of their training, the Government say constantly that it is a training scheme and nothing to do with unemployment. When we ask what the Government are doing for the young unemployed, they reply, "We have the youth training scheme." They cannot keep saying both things. The youth training scheme is the policy for the young unemployed and we are entitled to examine it in that context.
The position facing the young is devastating. Two out of three of all school leavers will be unemployed this year. That means that during the last year of school they are worrying about being unemployed, seeing the careers service, applying for jobs, getting nowhere, leaving school, applying for jobs, and rushing around. The family worries and tries to find something for them. They have to wait and then they get places on what used to be called the YOP scheme but is now YTS. At the end of 12 months the majority are unemployed again. We are talking about a destructive experience for the majority of school leavers. One cannot claim that the YTS will wipe out that destruction.
One in four 20-year-olds and one in six 25-year-olds are unemployed. There are 250,000 young people under the age of 25 who have been out of work for a year or more. They left school, took part in a YOP scheme and then experienced ever-extending periods of unemployment. That is destructive. Long-term unemployment is at a frightening level and is rising faster for young people than for any other age group.
We talk about the new training scheme and the country's need for an expansion of training and suggest that YTS provides it. However, we must face up to the fact that the apprentice system is collapsing. It is not good enough to talk of more YTS places in the construction industry when it is impossible to get jobs in the industry. A YTS placement does not provide the kind of craft training that formerly went on in all industries. There was room for modernisation in our apprentice training, but it was a proper craft training which produced people with skills who went into permanent jobs and could make a contribution to the country. That is being wiped away and we get second-rate YTS. To call that a gain is a contradiction in terms.
I want to stress the damage being done to this generation. The harm is enormous. We know from research evidence that there is a rising incidence of mental illness among our young people because of the effects of unemployment. The study is authoritative. It compared two groups with the same potential for mental health wellbeing, some of whom were unemployed and some not.
The crime rate is rising in Britain. We know from study after study all over the world that when unemployment rises crime increases. If we want to do something about crime, we must do something about unemployment, and not just look for punitive remedies, because they will not work. The remedy lies in eradicating the social ills that create crime, violence and bitterness. We are damaging a 555 whole generation. It hurts that generation and it hurts us. That generation is our future. They are the people of tomorrow. They are the ones who will contribute to society and make it finer. They have been bruised and battered. They have not been enabled to make o contribution. That is destructive, frightening and enormously sad.
We are told that the youth training scheme is a major part of the solution to the problems. It is clear to me that it is an attempt to solve the wrong problems. The first and overwhelming purpose of the youth training scheme is to remove young people from normal employment and normal wage levels to a lower wage level. That is clear to those who have watched the development of the youth training scheme from the youth opportunities programme.
Among all the leaks during the election campaign was the Think Tank report, which leaked in Time Out. It showed clearly that the Government planned what they then called the training year to get young people out of normal employment and to get a low level allowance to lever down youth wages. Part of the Government's whole strategy is to try to cut wages and use young people in their desperation for work to lever down the wages of other people. That is the overwhelming purpose of the youth training scheme. It is the ulterior motive behind it that is destroying some of the finer things that could have been developed by it. The suggestion that youth unemployment is caused by youth wages being too high is false. It is constantly repeated by Government spokesmen and has been proved false. The Department's own research shows it to be false, and a recent OECD study, comparing the situation here with that in France and the United States, also shows it to be false, and my organisation has produced detailed statistics and figures on youth wages that show it to be false.
First, therefore, high wages do not cause youth unemployment. Cutting them will not solve the problem. The fact that the youth training scheme is now dominated by the objective of getting youth wages down has destroyed its potential as a training advance. That is a tragedy.
The second suggestion that there is something wrong with our young people that causes them to be unemployed and need to learn discipline to get to work on time and to leave on time is insulting to a generation that has tramped the streets of our country, desperate to find work. There is nothing wrong with attitude of our young people. That is not why they are unemployed. They are unemployed because there are not enough jobs. They are new entrants to the labour market, and they are therefore the ones who are squeezed out first.
The third suggestion, that it is a matter of a lack of skills and a failure in our education system, is clearly nonsense. Until 1970 young people were snapped up in jobs in this country. There cannot have been a sudden collapse in our education system to explain youth unemployment. Certainly there is room for improvement in our education system, but the improvements that we reed are to make it require fewer failures. We have a highly competitive system whereby some pass exams, and that means that others will get no qualifications. That has negative effects. To make the system more competitive or more vocational is no part of the solution to the problems in education and there is no explanation of youth unemployment in anything that happens in our schools.
The cause of youth unemployment is, of course, the economic policies of this Government, which create 556 unemployment and which are deliberately designed to create unemployment so as to restructure our society and economy. I have enough respect for Government Members to know that they believe sincerely that that is the best way forward, but they must not pretend that they are not doing it deliberately. They have adopted policies that they know will create unemployment, they think that out of that they can cut wages, break trade unions and make society more unequal and more uncompetitive, and that that will lead to more investment and the production of more economic wealth.
The Government have deliberately created unemployment and the suffering that it means for the younger generation.
In common sense, morality and justice the Government's policies are unacceptable I cannot understand Conservative Members who say that they are the only way to solve our problems and that in the past everything else failed. I was born in 1946 and I have never seen anything like the present destruction in Britain. No Government's economic policy since the war has been as bad as this. How the Government can say that every other policy has failed and that theirs is succeeding, I do not know. We are suffering more under the Government's policies than ever before and there are no signs of success; rather, the failure is deep.
I am convinced that the YTS will be very much like the youth opportunities programme and will come to be written off in a year or two by most young people and by those who operate the scheme. It has exactly the same blemishes as the youth opportunities programme did.
Let us be clear that the Government are not being fully honest in claiming that they found the resources for the scheme. They say that it is a brand new scheme and that they are the first Government since the war to fir .d £1 billion. In fact, it was unemployment that found that £1 billion and the only reason for this move is that the resources had to be released to young people because of unemployment and the Government thought that they might as well make a virtue out of necessity.
Last year the youth opportunities programme cost £750 million. In its first year the youth training scheme will cost £950 million. There is not a massive new input of resources. There were 640,000 young people on the youth opportunities programme last year, staying an average of six months. There will be 460,000 places on the youth training scheme in the first year. Of those, 100,000 are young people who would have had jobs anyway. This leaves 360,000 who will stay for 12 months. The increased provision is minimal but it is there. If the figures are added up, taking in the extra young people who will be on the youth training scheme as opposed to the youth opportunities programme and taking inflation into account, the additional resources are marginal. It is misleading and false to pretend that £1 billion has been found. It is the youth opportunities programme and unemployment money. When policies to get rid of unemployment fail and special measures for the unemployed fall into disrepute — we see the same pattern year after year—another scheme is started.
§ Mr. Peter Morrison
I am listening closely to the hon. Lady's argument, but I cannot understand why, if the youth opportunities programme was so unbelievably unpopular, 650,000 joined up voluntarily. Presumably 557 they must have thought that it was a good programme and they will join the youth training scheme because they think that it is a better programme.
§ Ms. Short
I have talked to many young people on the youth opportunities programme and most are rather disgruntled about it. They say repeatedly that it is better than nothing; that they cannot bear hanging around having nothing to do or staying in bed all day; that they are no better off on this scheme than they would be unemployed by the time that they have paid their fares and bought their lunch; that at least they see their mates. Such people go voluntarily on to the youth opportunities programme, but the Minister and other Government spokesmen are critical of it. They say that it was not good enough and to that extent they share the criticism of many young people. The same criticisms will be made in a year or so of the youth training scheme.
The Minister says that young people went voluntarily on to the scheme, so why does the Secretary of State want a compulsory youth training scheme? Why do we have a semi-compulsory scheme now? The Government have adopted a system whereby the refusal of a place on the scheme will lead to benefits being cut for six weeks. If it is so popular, why did the Government have to move on to compulsion? I hope that the Minister will answer that question when he replies.
Like the youth opportunities programme, the scheme is cheap labour, from two points of view. First, £25 is not enough money for young people, and they resent the fact that the sum is so low. For employers, the labour is free. All the talk about there not being enough money for employers leaves out of account the productiveness of those young people. They are only released for three months in 12. For nine months they are producing. Figures were provided for the task group report suggesting that they produced at least £20 worth of value added per week. Where is that going? Which jobs are they replacing?
Those youngsters are productive and are being used to substitute for those who would otherwise have to be employed. Thus, employers are getting free labour. That is part of the scheme, just as it was part of YOP and part of the element that led to allegations of cheap labour and job substitution. It is built in to the youth training scheme.
The second major factor to bring YOP into disrepute was that it started to lead nowhere. Young people are not that fussy, and are desperate to get on and to get started. They did not mind being exploited for six months on YOP when they obtained jobs afterwards. In the first year of YOP, 72 per cent. obtained permanent jobs and 8 per cent. went into full-time education. Ministers have confirmed that at least one in two of the young people going through the youth training scheme will afterwards be unemployed. Therefore, it is not a bridge between school and work. It is not yet 1984, so let us not have this doublespeak. When a scheme is designed in the knowledge that at least one in two of the young people will be unemployed at the end of it, it is to mislead people to call it a bridge between school and work and to pay Saatchi and Saatchi a lot of money to run advertisements on television suggesting that that is so.
§ Mr. Peter Morrison
The hon. Lady is putting words into my mouth. I never said that only one out of two would 558 come out of the youth training scheme and obtain jobs. I referred to the figures in the youth opportunities programme.
§ Ms. Short
I am not suggesting that the hon. Gentleman said that, but one of his colleagues in the Department of Employment said it in a previous debate in the House, and I shall find the reference for him afterwards. The fact that at least one in two youngsters will be unemployed will bring the scheme into disrepute. Of course, that ratio is an average, and in some areas, such as in my constituency, the figures will be much worse.
The Government are determined to use the scheme to cut youth wages and are paying more attention to that than to the training objective. Therefore, we shall not achieve the thing that many of us cared about most and hoped for most from this replacement of the youth opportunities programme. Training is not being well funded. There are no systems to monitor it and to ensure that it is effectively provided. The training will be minimal. The Government's main purpose is to cut wages, but their other purposes are to massage the unemployment figures, to park the young and to remove young people from the labour market.
This shambles of a scheme is not even working as well as is pretended. The chairman of the MSC suggested, in evidence to the Select Committee on Employment before the election, that in the west midlands, for example, 100 per cent. of the places needed for the youth training scheme had been provided. I represent a constituency in the west midlands, and I know from local reports that that is not so. Local MSC staff, let alone those on area boards and in the careers service, cannot believe such statements. In Birmingham, only 10 per cent. of young people found jobs last year. This year the position will be worse, so the youth training scheme is the only thing for them to look forward to. The careers service is saying that at least 70 per cent. of the youngsters will be unemployed afterwards. However, the West Midlands county council estimates that in the employer-based parts of the youth training scheme only 17 per cent. of places have been approved. Despite the targeting of many places, only 17 per cent. of places have been approved out of the 62,900 required. Therefore, there is a problem about finding places, before we even think about whether they will be any good.
Although the scheme has such blemishes and ulterior motives, and although we cannot talk about a fine new training scheme when there is a sea of unemployment that leads nowhere, many of our young people will go on it. It is the task of all of us to work to protect and advance their interests and to help them to get the best out of it. It is not a contradiction to criticise the scheme and the economic policies that make it a nonsense, or the ulterior motive of trying to cut youth wages, and then to say that we shall stand alongside our young people on those schemes, and fight to improve them, to get the young people into trade unions, and to have the allowance topped up by employers from the value added of £20 a week or more put in by those youngsters.
If the Government continue to tell us that there is no alternative to their economic policies, more and more of the people will conclude that it is necessary to seek another economic system. If the present system can provide only the policies that are now being pursued, which create the levels of unemployment that Britain is now suffering, let us take the skills of our people and the wealth of the nation 559 and re-order the system so that all our people can make a contribution, can have good training and can help to make a finer country for us all.
§ Mr. Roger Freeman (Kettering)
I appreciate being called to make my maiden speech in this important debate. I listened with great care to the hon. Member for Birmingham, Ladywood (Ms. Short). Our common theme is the great concern of the parents and schoolchildren in our constituencies for youth training.
The county constituency of Kettering consists of about 400 square miles of central Northamptonshire. It has the same name as a former constituency that was changed substantially in the boundary changes earlier this year. The old seat lost Corby and the borough of Kettering has added to it the eastern part of the old Daventty constituency. I pay tribute to Mr. William Homewood who represented the old constituency comprising the Kettering and Corby boroughs on the Labour Benches in the previous Parliament. He was assiduous in his efforts, especially on the part of Corby, which now falls into a new seat and which is represented by my hon. Friend the Member for Corby (Mr. Powell), who is as new to this place as I am. I wish also to thank my right hon. Friend the Member for Daventry (Mr. Prentice). His kind help and advice are much appreciated. I look forward to serving the interests of those in the rural community of Northamptonshire and to take up their problems, particularly the proposed A1-M1 link road.
The major industry in my constituency, after agriculture, is men's footwear manufacturing. I look forward to referring to the problems of the industry on a suitable occasion. The community has a good labour relations record. It has excellent rail services. I know that both those factors will persuade more companies to locate in Kettering. The two local authorities in the constituency, the Kettering borough council and the Daventry district council, which are both Conservative-controlled, have made great progress in controlling and reducing rates while maintaining services. I look forward to working with both councils to serve the entire community.
According to some, Charles Dickens had Kettering in mind when he wrote about disorderly election scenes at Eatanswill. I can assure the House that those literary scenes of disorder were not repeated on 9 June. I am honoured to serve all the sober citizens of my constituency, whatever their political persuassions may be.
I am pleased, also, to join my fellow accountants in the House, who I believe number 20. I aim to follow the motto of my profession—recte numerare—in the proceedings of the House or, for the benefit of the Whips, more particularly on the Finance Bill.
The youth training scheme has been widely welcomed in my constituency by the employers and the local authorities as a way of improving the basic skills and motivations of youngsters in a world in which technological change has made jobs more difficult. I do not regard the scheme as merely a means of occupying the time of unemployed youngsters. The Government's intentions are much more honourable than that and should be applauded. They are applauded by my constituents. My right hon. Friend the Member for Cambridgeshire, South-East (Mr. Pym), in the debate on the Queen's Speech, asked us to acknowledge the present technological 560 revolution and remarked that we need completely new attitudes towards employment. I share his view. The YTS is a step in the right direction at one end of the age spectrum. On a more suitable occasion I shall return to the point raised by other hon. Members about reducing the present retirement age of 65.
Although resources are limited, I hope that during this Parliament the Government can make real progress towards better technical training for all 16 to 18-year-olds in non-academic education. I wish briefly to describe four ways in which the youth training scheme can be improved. First, youngsters must be encouraged to make themselves indispensable to their employers. It is not sufficient for the MSC, in its literature, simply to advise youngsters to keep in touch with jobcentres. The MSC should be in direct contact with the trainees three months after the start of the course to draw their attention to the need to sell their enthusiasm and skills to their prospective employers. The MSC should tell them, of course, that there can be no guarantee of a permanent job. However, a high placement rate next summer will be vital to the way in which youngsters view the scheme next autumn. The first intake has a great responsibility to help make the scheme work.
Secondly, the next priority must be to widen the scheme to take in unemployed school leavers not only aged 17, but 18. An 18-year-old leaving school is sometimes as much in need of a planned transition to work as a 16-year-old.
Thirdly, the qualifying period for the community programme of six months unemployment, or a minimum age of 18, should be changed in its relationship with the YTS. If those on the YTS cannot find a permanent job at the end of their training, with their enthusiasm greatly enhanced by the scheme, they should be found places in the community programme when they are available. I know that there will be places available in my constituency and I want youngsters to move straight from the YTS to the community programme. Although that is not as satisfactory as a permanent job, it is better than nothing. Will the Minister consider the technical changes necessary to implement that suggestion?
Fourthly, the MSC must have prompt and sensitive means to stop any exploitation by employers. I hope that that will not happen, but if it does it will greatly demoralise the trainees. The MSC should check directly with the trainees after three months of the course to ascertain their views.
There is all-party support in the House for the scheme. It has been an appropriate subject for a maiden speech. The scheme needs the support of the whole community. It is certainly supported in my constituency, where I am confident that places will be available. Above all, the scheme needs the support of youngsters in both numbers and enthusiasm.
Opposition Members mentioned that the financial incentives were not overwhelming and I know that some of the programmes will not be thrilling. But the message of the Government to the youngsters of Britain this summer should be, "We have done our part; now you do yours."
§ Mr. Roland Boyes (Houghton and Washington)
I congratulate the hon. Member for Kettering (Mr. Freeman) on his maiden speech. Like many of us, I am 561 sure that he is pleased to have it out of the way, and will in future make many powerful speeches in the House. I noted carefully what he said.
There are two evils in society, both destructive in their own way. One is the growth of nuclear weapons, and the other the growth of mass unemployment. After only a short time in this House, I am convinced that the Tories have no intention of finding solutions to either of them.
Today's debate is concerned fundamentally with unemployment. From my first day here listening to the Gracious Speech, to hearing yesterday about cuts in the public sector, it is clear to me that the Government are hell bent on increasing unemployment. As my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Ladywood (Ms Short) said, the Government are deliberately creating unemployment so as to create fear in the work force and so enable them to get through many of their policies, and the figures justify that statement.
In 1979, Britain's unemployment was about the same as the average for the EC and the European OECD countries, and about 0.4 per cent. above the figure for the OECD as a whole. By December last year, Britain's unemployment was about one third higher than the average for Europe and 50 per cent. higher than the average for the OECD as a whole. Douglas Jones, writing in The Observer Business Section, concluded that there had to be special factors at work peculiar to this country to have resulted in 1 million more people being unemployed than one would have expected.
The region in which my constituency is located, in the north-east, has suffered drastically from Conservative policies. Many people in the Houghton and Washington constituency work in the shipyards and coal mines, and both industries have recently been threatened by the present Administration; 75,000 redundancies have been threatened in coal mining. As my hon. Friend the Member for Jarrow (Mr. Dixon) stressed yesterday, a further 1,800 jobs will be lost in the north-east in shipbuilding—this, as he went on to point out, in an area in which unemployment is already far too high.
I am reluctant to quote figures because they seem to pass from one ear to the other on the Conservative Benches without ever engaging the brain. But I shall reiterate time and again the magnitude of the problem in the north-east until it gets through to at least some of them.
My constituency is part of Wearside, where 25 per cent. of the work force is unemployed. About 100,000 jobs are needed in the Tyne and Wear area, yet there are only 2,000 vacancies. That makes it disgusting for the Chancellor to say that some people are opting for unemployment pay. One need only deduct 2,000 from 100,000 to be left with 98,000 people in my area who could not work even if they wished to. In my constituency, more than 40 per cent. of the unemployed are under 25. This is a ridiculous situation and I am convinced that either Conservative Members do not understand or they simply do not care. But, whatever the reason, they are guilty of neglecting the area I represent.
When preparing a grand tour during the election campaign, the Prime Minister deliberately missed my area. She found 16 hours, eight hours each way, to fly to America, but she could not be bothered to spend an hour 562 or two in my part of the world to try to begin to understand what the destruction she is carrying out means to the folk who live there.
We have heard today that the only hope is the youth training scheme. Even those who give it critical support take tremendous risks in doing so. Clearly there are advantages to the Government. The scheme will reduce the numbers of youth unemployed. Youngsters will be taken off the streets and the wage expectations of workers will be greatly reduced.
Before anyone suggests that I have no experience of these matters, may I say that I have two sons, one aged 17 and one aged 20, both of whom have been through what they call "guvvies"—a colloquialism for the schemes—and are now back on the dole. Between them, my two lads, who are as strong as oxen, receive £40 a week. I am sure that some Conservative Members spend that amount on a round of drinks. I can tell hon. Members that it does not even pay for my lads' suppers. The schemes mean short-term working experience and then a return to the dole.
We must take seriously the problems connected with the YTS. I can understand the arguments of those who consider unemployment to be dispiriting for our young people. For the next four or five years under this Government we shall have high unemployment. We have already seen £500 million taken from the public sector to give £400 million in tax cuts.
I have studied the works of Dr. Harvey Brenner on the social and medical consequences of high unemployment. I can understand the feelings of those who say that it is better to have any job than to suffer such consequences especially when some people see the ultimate solution of unemployment as suicide. I can understand why some of my hon. Friends think that it is better to have a job, even if it is only for a short time, but the trade union movement must ensure that conditions are satisfied in return for continued support for and co-operation with the Manpower Services Commission on the YTS.
That distinguished union, the National Union of Teachers, of which I was at one time a member, has produced a booklet called "Schools, the MSC and YTS" which is worthy of study. I do not agree with all it says but it spells out many of the dangers of the YTS while giving it general support. The booklet is concerned about the disincentive to stay on at school. In the north-east, relatively low numbers of youngsters stay on at school for sixth-form courses or go on to colleges or universities. But if they can see that it is a choice between leaving school and receiving £25 a week—they might come from a poor family where the father and mother are also unemployed— some youngsters may opt for £25. The Government should consider this issue seriously and introduce measures so that children who opt to stay on at school for further education are not penalised.
I am also concerned that the 13-week off-the-job component should be properly organised, planned, staffed and resourced to meet the needs of young people. If that does not happen, the NUT believes that the YTS will quickly lose credibility. It is very important that this componenat should be well run. If it is not, we might as well dig big holes and compulsorily make unemployed youngsters tend them, without special training, for so many hours a day. Bad training is worse than no training at all. What does the Minister understand to be the difference between education and training, in view of what David Young has said about the necessity of training 563 people on the job? I have had experience of the youth opportunities programme. It is vital not simply to push kids into any job that happens to be available. The job must suit that person's needs, as must the environment in which he works. Far too often there was no choice on YOP and kids took jobs for a short time that bore little relevance to their needs.
There is a problem associated with whether the Government will provide cash to ensure that people who have been on a scheme and wish to continue their education can get on to a course. Our experience is that further education has been rationalised and its funds cut rather than the service being expanded. I must praise the NUT's booklet. I hope that hon. Members will find time to study it. I shall try to limit my speech to 10 minutes as you have requested, Mr. Deputy Speaker, but I cannot do it justice in that time. The 14 points in it are important. I shall quote just one:What is most worrying about YTS is the fact that direct lines of accountability and responsibility are confused. It is very difficult to discern where ultimate authority lies, but it is apparent that the MSC is not accountable to Parliament, to the local authorities, or to the electorate. This has disturbing implicatons for a democracy".I can cite the case of Jean Daley, aged 18, who, allegedly, was removed from a job serving customers at a Lipton's store because she was black. When she sought justice in the courts it was ruled that she had no legal contract with Lipton's and that she was not employed by the MSC either. Therefore, protection under race relations legislation did not apply.
There are many problems to be solved, safeguards to be negotiated and conditions to be pestered for. As a former educationist, I am always attracted by measures that give youngsters more opportunities to broaden their outlook, increase their knowledge and investigate new work such as the rapidly changing world of new technology. As a member of the Labour party and a Socialist, I utterly oppose a Government who create a special world that leads to mass frustration, more unemployment and poverty.
The YTS makes sense if there are jobs at the end of it. Conservative Members talk of real jobs. My two lads want a job. They do not care how it is defined as long as they have the dignity of earning a living. Putting people through Government schemes and then back on the dole is dispiriting and frustrating and has serious social and political consequences.
On 2 February, my right hon. Friend the Member for Doncaster, Central (Mr. Walker) who is now the Chairman of Ways and Means, said:We are told 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."—[Official Report, 2 February 1983; Vol. 36, c. 322.]I am sure that he would reiterate those sentiments if he were able to speak today. In the same debate, my hon. Friend the Member for Alyn and Deeside (Mr. Jones) said: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 Governrnent to engage in a moral crime."—[Official Report, 2 February 1983; Vol. 36, c. 350.]I hope that he still feels that way.
I was immediately suspicious of YTS. I am suspicious of anything that the Secretary of State for Education and Science, the Secretary of State for Employment and David 564 Young are involved in because, unlike them, I am not interested in short-term statistical gymnastics. I want a society in which youngsters are well trained and well prepared for work, but with this Government's policies we shall have the best-trained, best-educated dole queue in Europe, which is unsatisfactory.
As several hon. Members have said today, if we do not provide work for those youngsters, they will cause serious trouble in society. When that happens, the blame must be put squarely at the door of those responsible. The youngsters are not responsible for creating such a society. They have had no chance to play a part in it because they have left school and gone straight into the dole queue. The responsibility lies at the door of No. 10 Downing street.
§ Mr. Tony Baldry (Banbury)
I have the privilege to represent in the House the constituency of Banbury. It has been said that there is no more thoroughly beautiful part of the English landscape. Apart from being a beautiful area of countryside, my constituency is independent, being far enough away from Oxford, London and Birmingham to feel free of them, yet near enough to sell our goods in their markets. There has been a single-member constituency called Banbury since 1554, and I am its 44th Member of Parliament. Among my predecessors were Sir Henry Walsingham and the ill-fated Lord North, the Prime Minister who lost the colonies. With the exception of one Member who, anxious to get out of this Chamber and into the Upper House, murdered his brother in a duel, the other 43 Members of Parliament for Banbury have served it with great distinction. Many of its representatives carne from families with local connections, such as the Copes of Hanwell and the Fynes of Broughton, and it is difficult to enter any parish church in the constituency without seeing a memorial to a former Member of Parliament. It is an awesome reminder of the responsibility that one carries on entering the House of Commons.
If I wished to have an example of what is expected of a Member of Parliament, I need look no further than my immediate predecessor, Sir Neil Marten. He is a man of great courage and conviction, who always did what he believed was best for his country and for his constituency, although occasionally it brought him into conflict with the Whips. I was especially grateful to him for the kindness and courtesy that he showed to me. I shall always remember that kindness and courtesy. I hope that I shall always live up to the example that he set, and never let down the constituents who sent me here. The most telling tribute to Sir Neil is not that he is a privy councillor and a knight, which is a recognition of his services to the House, but the love and affection with which he is remembered by the people of north Oxfordshire.
All new Members bring to the House different backgrounds and experiences. For the past 10 years I have been the director of a small publishing house that specialises in books on careers and jobs, so I have had a special interest in the youth training scheme, the youth opportunities programme and the history of youth training. Before Opposition Members are led into believing that Banbury is an affluent corner of a pleasant county, I must tell them that unemployment in north Oxfordshire is now 11.5 per cent.
I listened with some sadness to the maiden tirade of the hon. Member for Coventry, South-East (Mr. Nellist). I was sad because we both come from the same part of the 565 country — the west midlands — because we entered Parliament at the same time and because we are the same age. I was especially sad because no one outside the House will understand or appreciate anything that he said. We are here to help the best interests of all the community. The youth training scheme is a fine example of how the community can be united in trying to solve the problems that face it.
As I am interested in the youth training service I spent a day last August with the north Oxfordshire careers service. The principal topic of discussion was the new training initiative and the youth training scheme. Frankly, the atmosphere was gloomy. The careers officers did not know who was to sit on the area manpower boards, when many companies in Banbury, Bicester and the surrounding areas were faced with greater difficulties because of the recession. They did not know where they could find the managing agents for these schemes. They were concerned that, having got local employers used to the youth opportunities programme, the introduction of a new system would cause local employers to throw up their hands in horror and say, "Enough is enough."
I am glad to tell the Minister that the message from the careers service is that provision locally has far exceeded what they dreamt at the beginning of the year. In some areas there is anxiety about the overprovision of places. I cannot believe that Banbury, with 11.5 per cent. unemployed, is much different from areas further into the west midlands, such as Birmingham. I should have thought that the community in the rest of the west midlands could achieve what has been done in Banbury. However, it needs a little initiative and a coming together of the whole community.
We have a largesse of riches in some areas. The local community worked out how many places it could find locally in the retail sector. Only now has it been told of the national schemes and companies that will provide places for the scheme. Those hiccups notwithstanding, it is now clear that in north Oxfordshire—as, I suspect, in the vast majority of the rest of the country —we we are trying to ensure that every school leaver has the benefit of a year's training. The target set locally will be met. Unless anyone thinks that that sort of training scheme is merely a sop, a way of hiding the numbers, I give an illustration of the value of the youth training scheme.
In Banbury we already have a project called "Banbury Young Industry", which was set up six or seven years ago and operates very much as the youth training scheme is expected to operate. It was brought about by the principal of the north Oxfordshire technical college, local employers and trade unionists. It consists of a workshop factory on a light industrial estate outside Banbury where 30 young people each year are given skill training on day release.
A short while ago I met the project manager in Banbury high street. He asked, "Do you know how many of our trainees we managed last year to get into full-time employment?" When people accost me with that sort of question, my heart sinks. I thought he was about to give a very low number. However, of the 30 trainees who participated in the scheme last year, 100 per cent. have now found full-time employment. It can be done. Any young person with the benefit of skill training is in a far better position to take advantage of what is being offered. 566 Let us not be pessimistic but see the scheme for what it is. For the first time we have a proper national training scheme.
I appreciate that there are difficulties. There may be difficulties with the control of the quality of the product, and there were considerable difficulties in the YOP. That was why the TUC in 1981 called for an education and training programme to replace the YOP. Now that there is an education and training programme, Labour Members do nothing other than carp at it. We now have an opportunity within our individual communities of taking the lead and coming together to provide real training opportunities for young people.
A number of employers in north Oxfordshire want to participate, and are participating, in this scheme because they see that they can make a contribution by providing training programmes. One of the problems about the YOP was that companies did not know what was expected of them, but they understand what is expected of them for training. The first local company to register for the youth training scheme was General Foods Ltd., a large American multinational not interested in low wages. It did not participate in the YOP because it did not understand it, but it is participating in the youth training scheme. There are a number of other such companies. Their quality control will be that they will want to be seen to be providing decent training to young people within the local community.
Inevitably some projects will be better than others, and some will be better thought out in some regards. After the scheme has been working for a while, it will be beneficial if a note of those schemes that are working well is made up and sent around to careers officers and MSC offices in other areas so that there can be a shared experience of which projects have worked and which have run into difficulties.
As has been apparent from today's speeches, there will be a number of criticisms of the scheme and a number of difficulties as the scheme comes to be implemented. However, never let it be forgotten that the youth training scheme is a major step forward to a more systematic approach to, and a recognition of, the need for skilled training. If it does nothing else, in coming into being the scheme has got away from work experience and such things to a systematic approach for youth skill training. As my hon. Friend the Member for Broxtowe (Mr. Lester) said earlier, there is a long way to go, but this is still a major step forward and as such must be welcomed. If north Oxfordshire is a typical example, although there will be difficulties from time to time, there is also enormous potential.
§ Mr. Michael Colvin (Romsey and Waterside)
I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Banbury (Mr. Baldry) will forgive me if, in the interests of saving time for those who also want to make maiden speeches this afternoon, I limit my congratulations to him on his maiden speech. He has taken a great interest, both locally and nationally, in training, and we look forward to his future participation in our debates on this and other subjects. He is a welcome addition to these Benches and a worthy successor to Sir Neil Marten.
I shall concentrate on one aspect of the scheme—the fixed training allowance of £25 a week and its effect on future education. I know that after much argument the Government's original £15 has been raised to £25. There 567 is still pressure for more, but this must be resisted. Otherwise the problems to which I shall be referring will become greater.
I am sorry not to see a Minister from the Department of Education and Science here this afternoon to listen to this debate, and perhaps even to take part in it. I say that for two reasons. First, the use of colleges for the training and education elements in YTS reinforces the argument that a Department of education and training should shoulder responsibility for training rather than the Department of Employment.
Secondly, if YTS places are available paying £25 a week, there will be less incentive to enter or to stay in further education, unpaid, or, if one is lucky, with a derisory education maintenance allowance. It will make life difficult for further education colleges, which have to plan long term. They will find it difficult to maintain viable courses if there are big fluctuations in demand, which are likely if young people participate in the YTS.
The problem has given new impetus to a national campaign for a grant for those staying in further education after the age of 16. It was identified by us and by no less a person than my right hon. Friend the then Member for Banbury, Sir Neil Marten, in 1974 when we recommended a means-tested national scheme rather than the present hotchpotch of discretionary education maintenance allowance schemes run by some local education authorities.
Further education colleges will be involved mainly in mode B2 YTS schemes. There is a potential problem about the effect of YTS trainees receiving a £25 allowance working alongside youngsters on similar or perhaps the same further education courses who receive nothing. I suggest that the effect on the morale of those in further education is predictable.
My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said that there had been a significant increase in recent years in the number of 16-year-olds staying in education. That is good news. It happened while the YOP and the dole were alternatives. It will be different with YTS as a competitor. Further education enrolments are bound to suffer.
One solution is to pay further education students a similar £25 weekly allowance. As that would cost about £400 million, the Government are unlikely to agree to it. If the YTS allowance were reduced to the original £15 that the Government had in mind, that would save £250 million a year, which would be sufficient to pay all further education students £15 a week. My hon. Friend the Minister might like to comment on that thought.
I have raised the subject of further education colleges because I have some experience of it. I was a member of the team that set up the country's first tertiary college in my home town— Andover. My constituency, Romsey and Waterside, just down the road, contains the Totton sixth form college, which is about to go tertiary. At the same time it will prepare to participate in YTS. The college has expressed doubts about the effects of allowances for trainees and the lack of them for students. It would be tragic if such a shortcoming were to weaken an excellent scheme which has universal support and has made such a good start. I hope that it will become a permanent feature of our training provision and an example to the rest of the world.
§ 1.58 p.m.
§ Mr. Patrick Nicholls (Teignbridge)
I am grateful to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for calling me today to make my maiden speech. I have listened to many speeches since the election brought me here. Some of those contributions were made with considerable force, and at times have departed from the time-honoured convention of not being controversial. At times that departure was deliberate. It is an approach that I reject entirely. I was not sent here to flout the traditions of the House. Parliament, and in particular the House of Commons, has given us a system of government which makes us still the envy of less happy lands. As newcomers to this place, we do it no service by ignoring its traditions and rules.
The new constituency of Teignbridge, which I have the honour to represent, is made up of the former parliamentary constituencies of Totnes and Tiverton. I pay tribute to my two predecessors in those seats. The constituency of Totnes disappeared on reorganisation, but for nearly 30 years — indeed, since 1955 — it was represented by Ray Mawby. I know that there are Members on both sides of the House who remember him with great affection. He held ministerial office in the early 1960s as Assistant Postmaster General, and he was the first Conservative trade unionist to enter the House. It will not be taken amiss, I think, if I say that on account of his trade union origins he was subjected to great pressure when he first arrived, but it was a pressure that he bore with great fortitude.
Tiverton, of course, still exists as a parliamentary seat. My hon. Friend the Member for Tiverton (Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop) needs no exposition from me. If I can discharge my obligations and duties towards the former Tiverton constituents in the same way as my hon. Friend did, I shall not go far wrong.
The Boundary Commission is to be congratulated on its work of late, but its choice of constituency names has left much to be desired at times. In Teignbridge, at least, we have a name that stretches back into history. It was known as the Teignbridge area certainly before the Domesday Book was written. Indeed, in the 13th century it was touch and go whether what is now Newton Abbot would be known as Newton Bushall, after the developers, or whether it would be known as the borough of Teignbridge. Needless to say, the developers won.
Even in a region that is fabled for its natural beauty, Teignbridge has a unique charm and variety. It has an extraordinary beauty that stretches from the rugged grandeur of Dartmoor to the tranquillity of the seaside resorts of Dawlish, Shaldon and Teignmouth. In Newton Abbot we have an industrial and market town which sits side by side with rural areas. Its people, too, as one would expect in the west country, have a tradition of fairness and reasonableness, and in general elections they always give a respectful and courteous hearing to people of all political persuasions, while at the same time invariably returning an appropriate Member.
For all its great advantages, Teignbridge is not immune to the problems that beset the country as a whole. Unemployment in Devon has consistently exceeded national and regional percentages since 1971. Joblessness and the unremitting misery that it can bring in its train are a scourge to people of any age, but they have a particular poignancy in their effect on the young. Those who leave school to go straight into the dole queue soon find out that 569 they are in a Catch 22 situation. Because they are unemployed, they cannot find a job, but because they are unemployed they are less attractive to a potential employer. I am not speaking now of the youngster who leaves school to go into some form of higher education. Even in today's world, qualifications make a vast difference in the labour market. The fundamental problem lies with those young people who leave without qualifications. After all, they are in the majority. They see an apparently endless vista of joblessness stretching ahead of them, and that prospect can deprive them of hope itself.
What can we say to young peple who are in that position? As an employer, I have often found that those who have little to offer have the greatest expectations of what is owed to them. The right to work is often asserted as if the fact that something is desirable automatically secures its existence. However, rights are only of use when they are within someone's gift, and the economic fact of life of which more and more people are becoming aware is that in this day and age the Government can no more create jobs than they can promise sunshine in spring.
The youth training scheme is a bold and ambitious project to provide a year's work experience to all school leavers, but it does not guarantee them a job afterwards. Nothing could do that. However, it can instil into them the basic disciplines of a working life which will stand them in good stead for the rest of their working lives. It will also ensure that, at the end of a year of training, the trainee has something at last to offer an employer other than a sullen statement of his disillusion.
One criticism of the scheme is that it will provide cheap labour. It would be dishonest to deny that earlier schemes allowed themselves to be used for such exploitation, but we have learnt from our mistakes. Much care has gone into the setting up of the scheme. While the risk exists, it must be a great deal less than it was.
It would be a mistake if we were to abandon in-house training for placement training. There is a category of young people for whom placement training cannot be a realistic alternative. There is a type of young person who has rejected the formal apparatus of state education and who, to put it bluntly, would not last five minutes if they simply had to be placed with an employer.
Just how successful such in-house training can be is well illustrated by the work-train programme in Newton Abbot. That is funded by the Manpower Services Commission but sponsored by the Newton Abbot town council. It operated a pilot scheme for the youth training programme. Of the 68 trainees who have undergone training there, 36 went on to or subsequently obtained employment, five went into further training schemes, one married and is now bringing up a family, and three were offered full-time employment but declined to accept. Such an achievement speaks for itself. It would be a mistake to think that the same or better results could be obtained simply by placement training. In many cases it would not. To end all in-house training infavour of placement training would, if it were proposed by the Government, be a grievous mistake.
I have borne in mind what you said, Mr. Deputy Speaker, about short speeches. I also said that I would try to be non-controversial and I hope that I have succeeded in that. Whether the present rate of unemployment is due to this or previous Governments and whether too much or 570 too little is being spent on a youth training scheme are subjects for legitimate debate. However, there is surely one objective which ought to unite all hon. Members. If there is any measure which gives young people the prospect of lasting employment, it is surely something that we can all support. Whatever its deficiencies and limitations in practice might be, the youth training scheme is a measure which should give real hope to young people for the future. For that reason, if no other, it should command the support of all hon. Members.
§ 2.7 pm
§ Mr. John Watts (Slough)
I am sure that my hon. Friend the Member for Teignbridge (Mr. Nicholls) will not take it amiss if, in the interests of brevity, I restrict my contratulations to him on his maiden speech. I hope that I can emulate his clarity, brevity and eloquence.
It is a great privilege to be the first Member for Slough. It is the first time that the boundaries of the borough and of the constituency have been coterminus, having relinquished Eton to the care of my hon. Friend the Member for Windsor and Maidenhead (Dr. Glyn) and gained the areas of Britwell and Wexham Lea from my hon. Friend the Member for Beaconsfield (Mr. Smith).
Slough has a strong identity, a strong local pride and a tremendous community spirit. It may reasonably be described as diverse in every sense. My constituents come from a variety of racial, cultural and religious backgrounds. I have within my constituency industry of every size and of wide range. We claim to have the largest industrial estate in Europe, and we are at the hub of the motorway network. Our communications will be greatly improved by the completion of the M25. The range of industry stretches from paint to a well-known chocolate confection which helps us to work, rest and play. We also have more than 30 companies engaged in the supply of defence equipment. Slough is one of those rare educational oases where good grammar and secondary modern schools have been retained.
I suspect that most hon. Members will know Slough mainly for the way in which it was unfairly immortalised by the poet laureate in the words:Come friendly bombs and fall on Slough.I must tell Sir John that that is out of date. No bombs, friendly or otherwise, will ever fall on Slough because it has been declared a nuclear-free zone. Indeed, my Labour-controlled council is at this moment erecting signs—although I understand that they are in English, not Russian —which will have the magical effect of deflecting any bombs away from Slough. My constituents can sleep soundly in their beds, because of my local council's farsighted decision, or so it would like to think. However, my constituents are a little more sensible than that. More than 52 per cent. of them voted in the general election for candidates who believe in maintaining strong defences to provide for their security both from attack and in employment. After all, 3,000 or more jobs in my constituency depend on defence industries.
I am sure that hon. Members will understand when I say that I find that I have little in common politically with my immediate predecessor, Miss Lestor. However, I admire at least one of her qualities. She had firm views, which she held consistently, and she did not budge from her principles, even when political expediency might have dictated that that was the politic course of action. In that 571 respect, I hope to follow in her footsteps, as well as in holding on to my constituency in at least five general elections.
Sticking to principles is a characteristic of my three immediate predecessors. My hon. Friend the Member for Clwyd, North-West (Sir A. Meyer) is still remembered with great affection in the constituency, together with Lord Brockway, who visited it during the recent campaign. I hope to continue in their tradition of leadership and service to the constituency.
I am glad to make my first contribution to debate in the House on the subject of the youth training scheme, because it is vital to this country's future and to my constituents' well-being. Slough remains prosperous. It has the 17th lowest level of unemployment in the United Kingdom. Nevertheless, the young people I visited in schools and met in the streets and on doorsteps during the election campaign were apprehensive about their future. Our education system has been too slow to adapt to matching the needs of modern industry and to provide our young people with the skills that they require to meet them.
Local firms in my constituency are already experiencing shortages of skilled labour, despite unemployment of 7.5 per cent. Proper training for work would meet both the needs of industry and the aspirations of school leavers.
We have heard much scepticism from Opposition Members about what lies at the end of a youth training scheme course. Like my hon. Friend the Member for Banbury (Mr. Baldry), I can bring words of comfort to Opposition Members. The London borough of Hillingdon, of which I am leader, set up a training workshop three years ago. We took over a derelict factory which the first intake of trainees was required to put into good order, carrying out bricklaying, plumbing, electrical work and so on. After three years of operation we have a proud record, although perhaps not quite as proud at; that of my hon. Friend. More than 90 per cent. of all those who have undertaken courses there have found full-time employment before the end of their training period. It is not insulting young people to say that they need to become accustomed to the disciplines of work. That is one of the skills that they need to learn if they are tc make themselves acceptable to employers.
I have been encouraged by the good response of employers in my constituency to the youth training scheme. Indeed, one of my earliest constituency engagements was to visit the local chamber of commerce, which is arranging the supply of 200 places for the youth training scheme. That is a very encouraging start, but it is not enough in itself. I look upon it as a foundation, on which I hope to help industry in my constituency to build.
However, one point has been put to me strongly from the point of view of small business. There is a fear that the scheme's administration could deter small businesses from playing as full a part in the scheme as they might otherwise do. It is essential that we ensure that small businesses are not deterred from playing the fullest possible part. Without their contribution, YTS will not have the success that I believe we all wish for it. I ask my hon. Friend the Minister carefully to consider whether, after a few months of operation, the scheme should be reviewed to ensure that there is no bar within its administrative arrangements to small businesses playing as full a part as they would wish and as we need.
In the justified desire to spread computer literacy and to provide training in the high technology skills that are 572 now required, we should not effectively exclude from the youth training scheme youngsters who are capable of developing valuable manual skills but do not necessarily have the potential for developing high technology skills. I hope that we shall not lose sight of what they have to offer.
I believe that the youth training scheme is the beet that Britain has ever seen, and I strongly support it. I shall do everything that I can to promote it within my constituency. However, there is no room for us to be complacent: The scheme cannot be perfect at its outset. All hon. Members must ensure that it is adaptable to changing needs and provides the foundation for successful and valuable careers for our young people for many decades.
§ Mr. Peter Morrison
With the leave of the House, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I shall seek, in the few remaining minutes, to reply to as many of the points as possible that were made in this long and interesting debate. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Broxtowe (Mr. Lester) that it is delightful that so many right hon. and hon. Members should have participated in the debate. I am glad, too, that so many of those who are new to this place should have done so. It is an area in which we shall need much informed interest during the next few years.
I congratulate hon. Members on both sides of the House who have made their maiden speeches today. I wish that I were as articulate as some of them already are. I wish, too, that when I arrived in the House nine years ago I had been half as articulate as they have proved to be. The hon. Member for Coventry, South-East (Mr. Nellist) may not like what I am about to say. However, I made my maiden speech from exactly the same position in the Chamber as he made his. He told us that he is the youngest member of the parliamentary Labour party. When I made my maiden speech I was the youngest member of the parliamentary Conservative party in England. My maiden speech was about the introduction of local lotteries. They were introduced but that did not solve the problem of rates. I hope that the hon. Gentleman has more success if his proposals are implemented. He will not, of course, expect me necessarily to agree with everything that he said.
This has been as much a debate on economics as one on training. As an economics debate it was a re-run of the general election. I hope that the House will forgive me if I devote my remarks to training. I was delighted when the hon. Member for Alyn and Deeside (Mr. Jones) said that he wanted the youth training scheme to succeed. He said that with great conviction. I agree with the hon. Gentleman that this is not a partisan issue. There are differences of opinion and I understand that on the margins Labour Members will not agree with what is being done. However, I am delighted that the hon. Gentleman welcomed the scheme as he did. He expressed his concern about unemployment figures in Wales. We have identified 111 per cent. of target of mode A places in Wales and have identified 90 per cent. mode B places. On mode A places, we have approved 41 per cent., and 42 per cent. on mode B. We are confident that opportunities under these schemes will be available.
The hon. Gentleman raised a point about local government and whether more cash would be available. He will remember that there is a voluntary agreement about the cost of places in colleges of further education. 573 Local government will be funded one month in arrears, as opposed to three months in arrears for the YOP. The capital cost grant has risen from £50,000 to £100,000.
I listened carefully to what the hon. Gentleman said about the disabled. I read the article by the right hon. Member for Manchester, Wythenshawe (Mr. Morris). We have made special provision for 18-year-olds, and the community programme is also available for the disabled. We have 1,063 additional directly funded places in the careers service, so it is not as though we are not paying attention to that.
My hon. Friend the Member for Broxtowe rightly called the debate a "coats-off' session, and that is how I like to think of the debate. It will be a continuing debate and as long as I hold my position I shall be interested to hear any constructive suggestions. I agree that there is more consensus on this issue than on most—that is, of course, once we have removed the rhetoric.
I accept and agree with my hon. Friend's point about the changing nature of work from manual to non-manual. He wanted me to give an undertaking about certification. I hope that we both understand the same by that. He also asked me to recognise the differences in the industrial sectors. He made the reasonable point that an engineering scheme is more expensive than a retail scheme. We can certainly examine that matter, but I hope that he will appreciate that the bureaucracy involved in drawing lines is quite enormous. In the interests of getting the scheme properly launched, we cannot go down that road this year.
I have heard both my hon. Friend the Member for Broxtowe and my hon. Friend the Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. Haselhurst) previously make their points about the second year of the scheme. I was asked whether I would establish another working party. My hon. Friend the Member for Banbury (Mr. Baldry) made the same point. It would be unreasonable and idiotic not to keep the scheme, given that it is a brand new scheme, permanently under review. I doubt whether it would be sensible to establish a working party before the scheme is up and running, but I listened carefully to the suggestion.
I was grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Saffron Walden for acknowledging the size of the task. It is an enormous task, by any stretch of the imagination, to provide places for 460,000 entrants. As I said earlier, I am grateful to all those who participated, whether local authorities, the MSC, employers, trade unions or voluntary organisations. Thousands and thousands of people have made the scheme possible. I listened carefuly to what my hon. Friend said about the element of community service. He will not be surprised to hear that I angle myself in that direction, too.
The hon. Member for Wallsend (Mr. Garrett) spoke immediately after me when I made my maiden speech nine years ago. He asked me to raise the £1,850, especially for the engineering industry. We must take the additionality point into account in the mode A schemes. The hon. Gentleman will appreciate that if we are playing the additionality game, the £1,850 becomes between £3,000 and £3,100.
The hon. Gentleman's second point is to be dealt with by the engineering industry itself. I appreciate that the scheme is for one year. It is best for the industry itself to sort out how it will build its traditional craft skill training on the basic first year's training provided by the YTS.
§ Mr. Morrison
Talks are already taking place in the industry among trade unions, employers and the engineering industry training board. It is best that they sort out the way ahead rather than for me to interfere at this stage.
The hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Ashdown) said that the scheme was town-based and not country-based. I must refute that suggestion. Opportunities will be avilable just as much in the country areas as in the town areas. In Dorset and Somerset the area manpower board has already approved 56 per cent. of the mode A schemes and in total we are up to 99 per cent. identified mode A and mode B schemes. We will probably manage to exceed our targets in the rural areas.
The hon. Gentleman also asked about the Crewkerne jobcentre. He will, perhaps, know that I wrote to his predecessor on that point. The cost per placing—there were only two placings at the Crewkerne jobcentre last year—was £978 as opposed to an average throughout the jobcentre network in the nation as a whole of £90. It is somewhat extravagant and a great burden to the taxpayers of his constituency.
My hon. Friend the Member for Norwich, North (Mr. Thompson) said that he hoped that we would press ahead with the armed services scheme. I can assure my hon. Friend that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence is doing exactly that, and 5,200 places will be available from the autumn.
My hon. Friend the Member for Nuneaton (Mr. Stevens) said— I could not agree more— that it was important for the youngsters that we get round pegs in round holes. The flexibility of the scheme and the fact that we have had so many mode A sponsors coming forward from a variety of industries will ensure that, by and large, the opportunities available for the applicants will be sufficiently varied for them to fit the scheme. I hope that that will be the case.
The hon. Member for Wansbeck (Mr. Thompson) was concerned about the fall in the number of apprentices. One of the other objectives of the new training initiative is to move away from the traditional apprenticeship system—to move away from time-serving and on to standards. That fits well with the broad concept of the youth training scheme. I should like to say through you, Mr. Speaker, that I wish the hon. Gentleman's predecessor, Mr. George Grant, well in his recovery from ill-health.
I was interested to hear from my hon. Friend the Member for Bexhill and Battle (Mr. Wardle) who has experience in the manufacturing sector. I agree that we must all become more competitive and that people are the key. The youth training scheme will help in improving competitiveness and achieving a better trained work force.
My hon. Friend the Member for Langbaurgh (Mr. Holt) said that he thought it was impossible to separate education and training. Perhaps my hon. Friend should put that point to educationists. I tend to agree with my hon. Friend—it is a continuing process. But educationists tend to be somewhat territorial in their views.
The hon. Member for Birmingham, Erdington (Mr. Corbett), whom I am pleased to see back in the House, was critical of the abolition of the industrial training boards which, as a junior Minister in the previous Parliament, I carried through. I am sure that the voluntary arrangements 575 that the industries have managed to set up will lead to a more satisfactory way of doing things than has hitherto been the case, as the industrial training boards had lost the confidence of their industries.
My hon. Friend the Member for Kettering (Mr. Freeman) asked me to answer four specific questions. In the interests of time, I shall answer his point about exploitation or substitution. I am as much opposed to substitution as any right hon. or hon. Member or, indeed, as any member of the trade union movement. It is not in my interest to have substitution because money is being used by an employer which I could use on another unemployed person or indeed on an employed person who would receive the training. Therefore. I agree with that point.
The hon. Member for Birmingham, Ladywood (Ms. Short) made what I thought was an interestingly predictable speech. It is not a compulsory scheme, as she knows. I have already made the point about substitution. She gave the impression that there were no schemes available in her area, but that is not true. We are looking for a total in Birmingham of 15,500 places and we have identified all but a few hundred of those. The MSC is confident that its targets can be achieved in the Birmingham area. I hope therefore that when she has another opportunity to speak in the House she will give a better informed impression of what is happening in her area.
The hon. Member for Houghton and Washington (Mr. Boyes)—
§ It being half-past Two o'clock, the motion for the Adjournment of the House lapsed, without Question put.