HC Deb 08 March 1983 vol 38 cc692-3
4. Miss Joan Lestor

asked the Secretary of State for Employment whether he is satisfied that girls will have access to equal opportunities on the youth training scheme; and if he will make a statement.

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

I am satisfied that girls will have equal access to the scheme.

Miss Lestor

The right hon. Gentleman may well be satisfied, but is he aware that there is great concern that most members of the Manpower Services Commission's boards both regionally and nationally are male, as are the lecturers in the youth opportunities programme? Is the right hon. Gentleman further aware that traditional skills that are rapidly dying out—partly due to technology—are being offered to girls? [Interruption.] Will the right hon. Gentleman try to keep his Back Benchers in order? Will he bear in mind that many of those young girls are likely to be discouraged from participating in the courses because they feel that they do not have any link with what they are likely to be offered later in life?

Mr. Alison

I am satisfied that there will be no prejudice against girls or women because the majority of the members of the commission are male. Indeed, the reverse is no doubt true. I believe that those involved will bend over backwards to take girls' needs properly into account. The youth training board has issued a statement requesting all parties involved in preparing and delivering the scheme to accept the principle of equality of opportunity, and the board will shortly be considering more fully how that can be achieved.

Mr. Myles

Is my right hon. Friend aware that there is an alarming lack of employment for girls in the countryside? Will he introduce training so that girls can obtain jobs in the countryside and so stop the drift away from rural areas?

Mr. Alison

I take note of that point, but there will be equality of opportunity in the youth training scheme. However, girls must be allowed to choose the courses that they wish to pursue.

Mr. Christopher Price

Will the Minister explain what Mr. David Young meant when he told the Select Committee that although there would be equal opportunities for girls in the technical and vocational educational initiative scheme, he could not guarantee that an equal number of girls would be catered for? Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there are approximately equal numbers of boys and girls in most schools? How can he offer girls equal opportunities if there are so few of them in the scheme?

Mr. Alison

The hon. Gentleman, who is a great educationist, will know that we cannot predetermine the proportions of girls and boys who will want to stay on at school, the number who will be on the labour market, the number who will find jobs or which girls will choose which courses on the training scheme.