HC Deb 03 May 1983 vol 42 cc3-4
2. Mr. Canavan

asked the Secretary of State for Defence whether he will list the organisations he consulted before making his statement to the House on 14 April about the armed forces participation in the youth training scheme.

The Under-Secretary of State for the Armed Forces (Mr. Jerry Wiggin)

As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence made clear in questions following his statement on 14 April, his consultations were with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment.

Mr. Canavan

Is the Minister aware of the widespread concern that exists about the deliberate use of mass unemployment as an economic weapon to persuade young people to undertake a term of military training? Is the Minister not ashamed that the Government have reduced the freedom of choice for young people so that they can now choose only between joining the Army and joining the dole queue? When will the Government give unemployed young people real jobs and real training instead of insulting them with a uniform and £15 a week?

Mr. Wiggin

There is no question of conscription. The scheme is voluntary to those who take part. Contrary to the hon. Gentleman's view, many people believe that the scheme provides a wonderful opportunity to join our excellent armed services, experience what they can contribute and have a good start in life.

Mr. Buck

Does my hon. Friend agree that most people in Britain will think that the hon. Member for West Stirlingshire (Mr. Canavan) is wrong? Does my hon. Friend agree that our armed forces have unique facilities and unique personnel to undertake the role that they are given?

Mr. Wiggin

I am sure that my hon. and learned Friend is absolutely right.

Mr. Moyle

Will the young people be trained exclusively in military subjects? If so, would it not be better to call the programme a recruitment scheme rather than a youth employment scheme? If the young people are to be taught trades, what proportion of military resources will be devoted to the scheme and taken away from training our soldiers? Why did the Minister not consult the trade unions to discover their views?

Mr. Wiggin

I congratulate the right hon. Member for Lewisham, East (Mr. Moyle) on his first appearance in his new capacity.

A number of the young people will learn technical trades, but it is too early to say exactly how many or where. We must fit the scheme into our existing training programme.