§ [2ND ALLOTTED DAY]
§ Mr. Speaker
I remind the House that this is an Opposition day and the subject for debate has been chosen by the alliance parties.
§ Mr. David Penhaligon (Truro)
I beg to move,That this House is concerned at the lack of employment opportunities for young people, including those completing the Youth Training Scheme next year; believes that continuing youth unemployment will create dangerous disillusionment; and calls on the Government to undertake an immediate public investment programme to renew Britain's economic infrastructure, and to reverse the cuts in house improvement and repair grant, so as to provide useful employment for thousands of people.The irony of a Liberal Member moving the main motion cannot but strike the House, bearing in mind the argument that it has just heard. I am sure that hon. Members on both sides of the House will welcome this opportunity to discuss the employment opportunities of young people in Britain. It is an extremely important issue.
In the past five years, the traditional methods of youth employment and training have virtually collapsed. My hon. Friend the Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Wainwright) was told recently in a parliamentary answer that the number of young people enjoying apprenticeships in manufacturing industry has dropped from 150,000 to 90,000 in the past six years. Hon. Members cannot fail to be struck by the sheer numbers involved if they examine unemployment statistics among the younger generation. For the under-18s, the number of unemployed has increased from 62,000 to 188,000 since 1979. Corresponding figures for the same period for 18 to 19-year-olds show an increase from 66,000 to 355,000. For 20 to 24-year-olds, unemployment rose from 139,000 to 652,000. The grand total of under-25s unemployed is now 1.19 million. That is not far short of the total level of unemployment in 1979. Indeed, making an adjustment for the fact that unemployment figures are now calculated differently, the difference between the number of under-25s currently unemployed and the national figure in 1979 is very small. Total unemployment has increased by about 230 per cent. and in the age groups that I have mentioned, by 450 per cent.
This year and last are the first years since records have been kept which show that less than 50 per cent. of those who are aged up to 18 and seeking work have found paid work. In 1979, the figure was 75 per cent. I am sure that most hon. Members would recognise that that is bad. The level of long-term unemployment in the under-25 age group is even worse. In 1978, 55,000 under-25-year-olds had been unemployed for a year; today, there are 312,000.
We are providing the untrained generation. We may even be producing youth who are nearly unemployable in the long term. The social effects are obvious—at least, to almost everyone, although the Government deny their significance. Half the indictable crimes in London are thought to have been committed by those who are under 25. All who have fought elections must realise how 436 disaffected large numbers of youth are. Hon. Members cannot help but be struck by the greater pessimism in schools compared with a few years ago.
Some statistics show that the health of young people has been affected. I despair about the unemployment problem. If Britain is to do its duty and is to have the economy that can achieve the wishes of hon. Members, during the next 20 or 30 years, or even a century, it must do more to improve the ability and skills of its people. This is the most important factor.
There is no easy way for this country to make a living. Britain must deliver goods and services to people when and where they want them. There is no future in basing the British economy on oil, which, at best, has a short-term effect. Britain does not have the raw materials needed in the long term; it has only the skills of its young people.
§ Sir Peter Mills (Torridge and Devon, West)
Although I do not disagree with some of the things that the hon. Gentleman says, will he explain why, especially in my area, despite the many youth training schemes, only 40 young people applied to take part when there were more than 400 vacancies? Is this because of the parents, the children or the Government?
§ Mr. Penhaligon
I am delighted that the hon. Member for Torridge and Devon, West (Sir P. Mills) mentioned that point, because I gave some time to it. Many people on both sides of the House recognise that the Government's general response has been to introduce a series of schemes, dominated by the youth training scheme, to alleviate the unemployment problem. Unionists, employers and hon. Members regard this scheme as an improvement. I no longer believe that the youth training scheme is a satisfactory Government response to criticism of the level of youth unemployment. Better conditions do not mean that we are on the way to a satisfactory situation. The Government aim to provide 460,000 places in the youth training scheme, but an answer to an oral question on Tuesday revealed that about 250,000 young people have taken advantage of the scheme. If one were an optimist, one would have to describe the response as a disappointment; if one were a realist, one would have to describe it as poor.
Even more worrying are statistics that unemployment is highest where the take-up of the scheme is lowest. We must face the difficulties that this is creating. Managing agents responded to the Government's advertising schemes and set up these arrangements. Some are threatening to withdraw. Many have told me that they have suffered considerable financial loss. They set up schemes, assuming that young people would come forward. Some found that fewer than half of the anticipated numbers joined the schemes. The managing agents had based their commitments on the difference between the cost of taking on skilled personnel and the cost of taking on young people—about £600 a head. Government compensation for the loss suffered because pledges were not taken up will not be sufficient to save them from serious financial loss. Some have claimed that their schemes are nearly ruined.
Have the Government seriously underspent in this programme?
§ The Minister of State, Department of Employment (Mr. Peter Morrison)
I am interested in the hon. Gentleman's reference to the management agents. Will he give me some examples?
§ Mr. Penhaligon
I could give some names in correspondence, but I do not believe that this is the place to list the schemes, because the management agencies are in serious financial difficulties and are thinking of closing. Many young people are involved. They believe that the schemes are long term, viable and credible. I am prepared to advance information if the Minister wishes.
Unfortunately, the Minister did not answer my question about whether we had seriously underspent. If we have, I suggest that some of the unspent money could be used to deal with this difficulty. I am told that some colleges of further education are in a similar position—that is a general comment that has been made to me, I cannot provide names.
The Government concentrated originally on advertising this scheme, and received a marvellous response to their call for work placement sponsorships. They have spent insufficient time explaining the scheme's benefits to young people and their parents. Sadly, many regard this scheme as a second or third-best option for young people who wish to leave school. The talk of cutting the dole if people do not participate in the scheme reinforces the view that this is not a marvellous training opportunity but, in some ways, a second or third-class scheme for those who cannot find something else to do. To be fair to the Minister, I do not believe that that is the Government's attitude, but they must improve the scheme's image.
We need firm decisions on certification. What does certification mean? What will its value be? I feel for the plight of those who participate in these courses and are not taken on by an employer. They suffer worst. It is clear that many employers see the scheme as an opportunity for an extended interview with young people to whom they wish to offer, subsequently, a full training scheme. In a small community like mine or that of the hon. Member for Torridge and Devon, West, people know when a young person is taken on in one of these courses and subsequently rejected by an employer. Young people need some certification of their achievements or they will regret having participated in the course.
Concern has been expressed about the monitoring of the schemes. I have some knowledge of the agents who are running them. I suspect there are such agents in other constituencies. I do not doubt that some schemes are well run, but people have little confidence in others. The youth opportunities programme is suffering badly from what I once described in the House as the free boy, free maid, syndrome. People regard it as a last resort. The Government have not applied their mind to selling the scheme. They have certainly not worked physically hard enough to sell it to the youngsters.
Let us apply our minds to the future. What percentage of those on a youth opportunities programme scheme will immediately find full-time employment at the end of the scheme? I heard the Government mention 70 per cent. The figure is a little optimistic — indeed, some say it is ludicrously optimistic. However, if even 70 per cent. is correct, what opportunities will the remaining 30 per cent. have to continue training if they cannot find a job?
We believe that Britain is a massively undertrained nation. If the great upturn—to which the Government 438 have so often referred during the past three years—ever comes, we know that the old British problem of lack of skill will immediately impinge itself on the market. Just where in the present scenario do the Government see the next generation of skilled workers for the manufacturing industry? Where are the next generation of building operatives—whether carpenters, masons or plasterers?
I find it amazing that, of the three million unemployed, few have obvious proveable skills to offer prospective employers. I accept that the figure is not zero, but it is a small percentage of the total. The present atmosphere will extend that problem.
The House is aware of the skill-qualification inflation of the past 15 to 20 years. The Manpower Services Commission report states that in 1985 more than half the jobs in Britain will be white collar rather than blue collar. Yet there is evidence throughout the country that, because of short-term financial considerations, youngsters are leaving school and refusing to accept the educational opportunities available to them. We all accept that there are monetary arguments for turning down full-time education. Youngsters feel that they would do better on the dole or in a training programme. We cannot allow that to continue.
When the Minister next meets those who run the youth opportunities programme, will he ask them how many youngsters on the programme could have taken advantage of full-time advanced education? The answer will be considerably more than zero. Jobs will require more rather than fewer qualifications as time goes on. A greater skill input will be required. For example, three quarters of accountants in Britain have attended university, whereas the figure was once less than a quarter. I am a chartered engineer and I know that it is no longer possible to enter that profession except from university. That skill-qualification inflation must be reflected in our attitude and in our willingness to spend money on training.
We must embark upon a two-year traineeship which is a mixture of work, training and education. The mix will vary depending on the skills being acquired. The European Commission's Directorate-General recently called upon all members of the EC to guarantee a two-year training scheme for youngsters. If Benelux, Denmark and France said yes to that, why did our Government say no? Why can our European colleagues offer such skills to their youngsters if we cannot? Britain must follow suit. If the Government will not do that, they owe the House an explanation.
Traineeship needs to be clearly structured. Recognised skills should be acquired over a period in modular form. We all know that West Germany already does that. Let us have skill examinations to prove competence rather than time served. Let us have a form of certification in craft skills for those building up their skill profile.
What youngsters need most of all is jobs. We suspect that they do not readily take up YOP sponsorship because there may be no job at the end of their training. I have no wish to extend the debate into a general discussion of Government economic policy, but is worth noting that is real terms the Government's current investment in capital works and infrastructure is 35 per cent. less than it was in 1978–79. We argued during the election, and will continue to argue until the Government are fed up with hearing it, that there must be investment in housing, water, sewerage, 439 transport and the environment generally to provide many of the jobs and much of the hope needed by our youngsters.
Our motion makes specific reference to the recent cuts in housing improvement grants. That is typical of the Government's attitude towards investment. However, to be fair, that has been one of their better areas until now. We are disappointed at the Government's attitude. They are not preparing Britain for the future. They are not investing in infrastructure or industry. Most important of all, they are not investing sufficient energy and attention in the problems of our youngsters. Without them, Britain has no economic future. We hope that the House will accept the motion.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Ernest Armstrong)
Mr. Speaker has selected the amendment in the name of the Prime Minister.
§ 5.8 pm
§ The Minister of State, Department of Employment (Mr. Peter Morrison)
I beg to move, leave out from "House" to the end of the Question and to add instead thereof:`fully endorses the Government's industrial and economic policies in tackling the root causes of unemployment through the control of inflation and public expenditure, thereby creating the conditions for lasting increases in prosperity and jobs; and, in particular, congratulates the Government 3n the successful launching of the Youth Training Scheme.'.I always enjoy listening to the hon. Member for Truro (Mr. Penhaligon). I listened carefully to his analysis of the current position. He made a statistical statement. In his position as the Liberal spokesman on employment he has both a difficult and an easy task. It is difficult because he has taken on the mantle of the hon. Member for Rochdale (Mr. Smith), who was and remains a highly respected spokesman on employment matters, and he has an easy task because he has the freedom to daydream without any responsibility. Several of his remarks reminded me of Oliver Twist, "Please sir, I want some more." That is the constant theme of those who stand on the sidelines. The Labour party is at least consistent in its approach, much as I disagree with it. The Liberal-Social Democratic party alliance is not consistent.
The hon. Gentleman insinuated that the Government did not care about unemployment, especially among youngsters. I suggest to both him and the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) that, on the contrary, the Government have devoted large sums of taxpayers' money to schemes to help prepare youngsters for work and to promote employment opportunities for them. During the next few minutes I shall demonstrate how we have done that.
Interesting though the hon. Gentleman's analysis was, lasting employment opportunities, not just for young people, but across the board, depend — the hon. Gentleman did not mention this—on British industry being competitive. [Interruption.] If I misquoted the hon. Gentleman, I apologise. He will appreciate that jobs exist only when a product or a service is provided at a price and of a quality which he and I, and hundreds of thousands of other consumers, wish to purchase. As our amendment says, our economic and industrial policies are creating conditions in which industry can achieve that. The signs of success are there. The hon. Member for Bolsover may not like it, but they are there.
§ Mr. Skinner
The Minister goes on about the need for Britain to be competitive to get these young people and other people jobs, but is there not another factor? When public utilities, local authorities and the rest are starved of money to do many of the things mentioned in the debate, that reduces economic demand and therefore puts more people out of work, thus reducing the prospects of those on YTS getting a job when they have finished the 12 months scheme.
The Government managed to find buckets of money to look after their pet projects, such as the Falklands buying Trident, and defence generally and £17,000 million to finance the dole queue. Last week they were prepared to spend £24 per square yard on a carpet for the House of Commons. The Government have plenty of money to spend if they want to.
§ Mr. Morrison
Mr. Deputy Speaker, you would not be grateful if I pursued that line. A country is in a far better and healthier economic position if it is living within its means rather than the reverse, which is what the Labour party wishes.
There are signs of success. Inflation is firmly under control, cost competitiveness in manufacturing is up by 15 to 20 per cent. since early 1981, growth in the United Kingdom's gross domestic product is the highest among European Community states, and in the third quarter of this year retail sales were up by 5.5 per cent. while consumer expenditure was up by 3.5 per cent. on a year earlier. I do not wish to sound complacent, because there is still a long way to go. The hon. Member for Truro and, I hope, all hon. Members will appreciate that, with such signs, we are on our way back from the precipice.
There are also encouraging signs in the labour market. It remains dynamic, contrary to what the hon. Member for Truro was saying. Over 300,000 people leave unemployment every month and about 25,000 people find a job every working day. That is not reported all that often—perhaps the news is too good. The stock of vacancies continues to rise steadily, as it has been doing since mid-1981. Prospects for young people are better and we have evidence that there has been an improvement in job opportunities for school leavers in some areas.
§ Mr. Alfred Morris (Manchester, Wythenshawe)
'The hon. Gentleman will be aware of my concern, and that of other right hon. and hon. Members, over the cruel effects of the youth training scheme on the employment prospects of disabled young people. I gave the House the facts, chapter and verse, as long ago as 25 July. Can the Minister make a more helpful response than he has so far to what is a real and genuine grievance?
§ Mr. Morrison
I am aware of the right hon. Gentleman's concern for the disabled, as are all hon. Members. I am coming to that point in my speech, and when I do I shall reply to the right hon. Gentleman's point.
As I said, the prospects for young people are better and at 7 October there were 29 per cent. more unfilled vacancies than at the corresponding date a year earlier. Between May and September of this year the careers service placed 20 per cent. more school leavers under 18 into jobs than during the same period last year. These are good signs, but I do not wish to sound complacent.
§ Mr. Robert Jackson (Wantage)
As we are dealing with statistics, may I ask whether my hon. Friend is aware 441 that in my constituency, in south Oxfordshire, out of 1,500 school leavers at the beginning of this month, only 68 did not find either a job or a YTS place and it is confidently expected that all will find places by Christmas? Is that not proof of success?
§ Mr. Morrison
I am glad to hear that the scheme is going so well in my hon. Friend's part of the country. It reflects what is happening in many other parts as well.
The hon. Member for Truro spoke of the youth training scheme. He said that we had an untrained work force, and he referred to the decreasing number of apprenticeships. I accept that point. However, for the first time ever we have a training scheme for all 16-year-old, and many 17-year-old, unemployed school leavers. To suggest, as the hon. Gentleman did, that we are not interested in training is not proven by the facts available to him. He said that the new scheme was a great improvement on what went before, and I am grateful that he was not grudging in that respect.
This scheme is an enormous step forward in preparing young people for work. The former right hon. Member for Crosby, the president of the Social Democratic party, Mrs. Shirley Williams, is a great supporter of a scheme such as this, and has been for some time. However, when she was Secretary of State for Education and Science she failed to convince her colleagues in the Labour Administration that the scheme was worth while. To suggest that the Liberal party and the SDP have the answers is not borne out by the president of one of the two partners in the alliance.
§ Mr. Morrison
The hon. Gentleman's right hon. Friend was unable to do better.
This is a massive commitment of taxpayer's money. It will cost about £1 billion, together with enormous resources from employers, trade unions, local authorities and voluntary organisations. It is first and foremost a training scheme, not a temporary measure against youth unemployment. The Government are committed to the long-term future of youth training. The YTS is an investment in trainees on behalf of the nation, so that we can become more competitive. It is the first time that any Government have given a guarantee of an early offer of a place on a high quality training scheme to every 16-year-old school leaver without a job.
The hon. Member for Truro did not refer to this, but it has been a major task to find, examine and approve the places required this year. However, since the formal announcement of the scheme in the House on 21 June of last year, just 16 months ago, all the places needed this year have been identified, and all but a few have been approved. The hon. Gentleman said that we were planning for 460,000 entrants. That was the maximum number that we saw as likely to need the scheme. As the hon. Gentleman knows, on the latest figures that we have—those of 3 November—over 250,000 youngsters have joined, and over 75,000 joined during October, which was greater than the original prediction.
The scheme is about employability and helping young people to be more effective and efficient workers.
§ Mr. Penhaligon
Is the Minister telling the House that the 250,000 young people in YOP is what the Government expected by this time? If that is so, why did they tell the managing agents that they could set up 460,000 places?
§ Mr. Morrison
The hon. Gentleman has consistently talked about the youth opportunities programme. That has gone. He may not realise that it is called the youth training scheme. Perhaps his remarks were based on what was, rather than on what is, which is an enormous improvement. If he is referring to the youth training scheme, I can tell him that we expected more than 250,000 youngsters to be on the scheme at this stage. During October 75,000 young people joined the scheme. That was greater than the number we expected.
As I said, the scheme is about employability, helping young people to be more effective and efficient workers and thus better able to compete in the labour market. If the hon. Gentleman were to come with me to all the schemes that I visit, he would see for himself that the youngsters on the scheme appreciate that fact.
The right hon. Member for Manchester, Wythenshawe (Mr. Morris) asked about the disabled. As he knows, we have made special provision for 18-year-old disabled people, and we are studying the matter to see whether we can raise the eligibility age. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will accept what I say. That is the present position for the disabled. Within the constraints of the demand-led programme, but with a cash-limited amount of money, we are anxious to do what we can to help disabled youngsters, who must have the same rights as other youngsters to take part in the scheme.
The hon. Member for Truro did not refer to another scheme which the Government are running to improve the employability of youngsters, and that is the young workers scheme. The signs are that the Government's policy is working and that young people who had been priced out of jobs are pricing themselves into jobs now. Figures from the New Earnings Survey show that average earnings per week for boys under 18 in non-manual occupations, as a proportion of male adult earnings, have declined by about 10 per cent. since 1979. For girls under 18 in non-manual occupations the decline has been marginally more. It is a clear sign that young people are increasingly prepared to be realistic in accepting lower initial wages in order to secure employment.
§ Mr. Barry Sheerman (Huddersfield)
Will the Minister comment on the recent report from Youth Aid, which shows that, with all the expense of the scheme, only 6 per cent. of the new jobs are really new jobs?
§ Mr. Morrison
The hon. Gentleman may have seen some other research that was done by independent academics, Messrs. Lynch and Richardson, which shows that youngsters have been priced out of work by having too high wages. That is a different point of view and one that I tend to believe.
To back this thesis, the Government introduced the young workers scheme three years ago as a means of getting young people back into jobs by encouraging employers to recruit more young people into permanent full-time jobs at realistic wages which properly reflect their age, inexperience and lack of training. It is a popular scheme. To date, over 250,000 applications for support under the scheme have been approved.
443 We have taken other measures too. We have the community programme, which is available for 18 to 24-year-olds who have been unemployed for six of the past nine months. Also, we have the enterprise allowance scheme. I am happy to say that a goodly proportion of those who have taken advantage of that scheme are under the age of 25.
The hon. Gentleman referred to 'cuts' in the housing improvement and repair grants. As he will know, that is part of the motion in the name of his right hon. Friend. I assume that he was talking about the special measures that were originally announced in the 1982 Budget as an encouragement to take up local authority underspending. Those measures were always seen as temporary, and the 90 per cent. grants have been extended once already. We hope that local authorities will continue to give a high priority to the improvement and repair of private sector housing, but for 1984–85, as was the case until the last couple of years, it will be up to them entirely to decide what proportion of the resources available to them to use for that purpose.
With the leave of the House, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I hope to catch your eye again at the end of the debate to respond to many hon. Members who want to raise important points.
§ Mr. Stephen Ross (Isle of Wight)
I hope that the Minister is aware of the financial problems that many local authorities are now facing—including, I am sure, many Conservative-controlled authorities. They are frightened to death over how they are to find all the money for the applications that they have received. Moreover, they will probably have nil building programmes next year.
That brings me to the point made by the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner). Local authorities know quite a lot about what is going on in their own areas and the problems of young people there. It seems to be the policy of the Government to hammer them at every turn. Perhaps the Minister could bring some influence to bear on the Department of the Environment to help local authorities to finance such things as call-in centres for the unemployed 18 to 23-year-olds. We run several of them on the Isle of Wight. It would help enormously if local authorities had a little money—£1,000 or £2,000—to help with equipment and so on, which at present has to come out of the rate support grant. The local authorities are so penalised that they cannot do these things.
§ Mr. Morrison
Some of the Left-wing Labour-controlled local authorities, whose rate expenditure is high, are driving out potential employers. This debate is about youth employment, and I am amazed that the hon. Gentleman should make the point in the way that he does.
I conclude with one or two general remarks. Last week, in another place, there was a debate on this subject, which I read very carefully. Lord Byers made certain remarks about the youth training scheme which, compared with the speech of the hon. Member for Truro, seemed far more enthusiastic. It might be sensible in future if the hon. Gentleman's party walked forward on one plank rather than on two. In the same debate, Lord McCarthy made certain remarks which, interestingly enough, suggested that he was not looking for a general reflationary policy. I therefore look forward to the maiden speech at the Dispatch Box of the hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr. Sheerman) on this subject, so that I can contrast what he has to say with what was said by his noble Friend.
444 I am sure that the House will welcome the fact that the Liberal party and the Social Democratic party have initiated this debate. All of us, in whichever part of the House we sit, feel strongly about the prospects of employment for young people and their training. I look forward to hearing what hon. Members have to say, and I hope, Mr. Deputy Speaker, with the leave of the House, to catch your eye to wind up the debate.
§ Mr. Gregor MacKenzie (Glasgow, Rutherglen)
I listened with considerable interest today to the speech of the hon. Member for Truro (Mr. Penhaligon) and to that of the Minister of State. With great respect to them both, although I found the discussion about the training schemes and the like to be exceptionally interesting, I think that they are missing the main point, which was mentioned only at the end of the speech of the hon. Member for Truro in two or three sentences. The real problem that we are discussing today is that there are just not enough jobs for young people. That point must be hammered home in all these debates.
During the past four years — and before — I have listened to numerous people talking about various schemes. We have to get at the core of the problem, which is the whole economic policy of this Government. They have failed to produce the jobs and opportunities for these kids. That is what this debate is about.
In Scotland—I hesitate to introduce a parochial note — about 24,000 young people are currently without jobs. About the same number again are doing jobs on one of the schemes. There is not much joy in that. About 50,000 or 60,000 young people in Scotland do not have the opportunity of a real job. Although these figures are pretty bad, when one breaks them down one discovers that about one-third of the kids have been unemployed for about six months, another third have been unemployed for about a year, and the remaining third have been unemployed for more than a year. That is a damning indictment of the Government's policy over the past four years.
I know many such young people. My children are in their early twenties. I know a great many of their young friends, many of whom cannot find jobs. They have good groups of O-grades, they have good groups of highers, and some have good university degrees, yet a great many of them still cannot find jobs commensurate with their qualifications. It is sad that those youngsters who have worked hard to achieve their qualifications are not able to use their skills and talents. A great many of those young people are beginning to wonder whether it was worth their while to study so hard at school and college to achieve those qualifications when they have nothing to show for it at the end of the day. They become frustrated and embittered. I have seen it in my own home. My daughter is in her twenties. She achieved good O-grades, six highers and a degree from Glasgow university. She was unemployed for a year before she got a job washing tables in a local restaurant.
Young people become even more embittered when they go to be interviewed for jobs and are told that one of the reasons that they are not getting jobs is that they are far too well qualified. It is happening in the Civil Service at the moment. The Minister should tell civil servants to stop saying that to applicants.
445 If it is sad for those youngsters who have qualifications, it is absolutely tragic for youngsters in our community who cannot pass examinations. I have a special concern for them because, while the first group that I have mentioned become frustrated, the latter group, who do not have qualifications, just give up altogether. They feel completely deserted by society. I have genuine fears about them. They do not blame this Government or the previous Labour Government. They have no time for a democratic process and parliamentary system that has failed to provide them with opportunities for their energies and talents. I fear that if they do not get some Government support they will do what was done in Brixton and Toxteth and take to the streets. I hope that no hon. Member wishes to see that.
In the 1970s the Labour Government introduced schemes that we hoped would help some young people. I take some pride in the fact that I helped to introduce the youth opportunities programme and other such schemes. I did not think when I introduced those schemes with my right hon. and hon. Friends that they would be abused by so many firms which have used them over the past few years as a form of job substitution. I know that the Minister is concerned about the operation of the youth training scheme, but he should bear in mind that many youngsters are cynical about schemes. They feel that they are being used for one year and then thrown on to the scrap-heap and forgotten. I say now what I said when I helped introduce the schemes, that, good though the YOP and other schemes may be, they are no substitute for real jobs. That should be in the mind of every Minister in every Administration. A training scheme is no substitute for a real job at this or at any other time.
§ Mr. Peter Morrison
Does the right hon. Gentleman accept that the YTS is quite different from the YOP and is a quality training? Does he agree that in some respects both youngsters and, indeed, parents would be well-advised to consider the scheme as an investment in the future? I met a youngster the other day who had given up a job paying £55 a week to go on to the scheme with an allowance of £25 a week for the simple reason that he thought that that was the best way ahead.
§ Mr. MacKenzie
I accept that the Minister is enthusiastic for the scheme, but I am not so enthusiastic. Young people are cynical about the scheme because it offers training for only a year. That is the lesson that Ministers must learn. Young people become angry when they cannot get a proper apprenticeship or place at college. They become even angrier when they hear supposedly responsible people saying, "Why bother to train them or give them an education"—we have heard this said in Scotland about teacher-training colleges—"when we do not need their skills in the immediate future?" That is a counsel of despair. We may not need their skills now, but one day we certainly shall. We shall find to our cost that, through neglect, we have lost an entire generation, as the hon. Member for Truro said. It is true that young men and women who would be a national asset if only they were properly trained are being neglected.
Steelworks in my area and shipyards all along the Clyde are closing. Apprenticeships are not being offered in steelworks or shipyards, and it behoves the Government to make every effort to ensure that there is not a further 446 rundown in our basic older industries. If they do not make that effort, we will not have a place in the industrialised world of the future.
When I was Minister of State, Department of Industry, I used to say that if only every small firm in the country would take on one employee there would be a substantial difference in the unemployment figures. I am flattered to think that that is still in Department of Industry briefs for Ministers of State, because they still say it. If the Minister were to go to every industrial, professional and commercial concern and ask them to take on one apprentice or one trainee, a great deal of hope would be given to our young people.
Although some companies have a good record in this respect, others—I include the nationalised industries—are a disgrace. They have a short-sighted and stupid approach to apprenticeships. The president of the CBI is not often quoted from the Opposition Benches, but I was interested to hear his closing comments to the CBI conference in Glasgow the other day. He said:For unemployment is the worst of it. Be damned with the conventional wisdom that the country will only know high levels of unemployment until the end of the decade. Who stays in the dole queue? Your son? Your daughter? The calm acceptance of more than 3 million people out of work just isn't good enough. Other countries have gone through the recession too and only Belgium has a higher rate of unemployment than we have.He also said:Other people, other groups—Government, the schools and universities, the trade unions have their part to play, but at the end of the day the responsibility for what happens rests with us.Industrialists should heed that. When we tell them that they are not employing enough apprentices they sometimes reply that apprentices can be a drain on their resources. For example, it is said that an apprentice who attends day release college for one day a week costs the firm more than a real craftsman. That betrays a short-sighted attitude, but in case many employers believe it, Ministers should discuss the matter with employers, because it would be a better use of public money to spend more on real apprenticeships than we are spending on various schemes.
For the sake of the nation and its young, there must be a more positive attitude and approach towards real training and opportunities for youngsters. If we deny them that right, we shall have lost the talent of an entire generation.
§ Mr. Lewis Stevens (Nuneaton)
The plight of the young unemployed is of great concern to us all, but the motion shows a degree of pessimism to which we are becoming accustomed. Its call for investment in the public sector is considered by some to be the major solution to all our problems. In reality, that is an old approach to a modern problem.
The changes that have occurred in industry in recent years have been dramatic but I fear that, right across the board, in commerce and in the public sector too, we have not been over-clever in our management of change. We have not concentrated on initiating change and then ensuring that it is properly managed and accepted. The private sector has been forced by the recession to introduce many changes, but the public sector still needs to initiate various changes that in many instances it is reluctant to make.
The Government have introduced some positive economic measures to encourage change, especially 447 training and educational schemes, in an effort to prepare people for the changes that must come. After all, people must be prepared not just for change now but for change in the future, and I was disappointed with the pessimism of the hon. Member for Truro (Mr. Penhaligon) and his claim that everything that is being done is not good enough. He must accept that we have started on major schemes to fill the gap between school and work.
Some schemes that have been available for some time are beginning to show results. The opportunities available under the youth training scheme will enable people to be flexible, for many firms are anxious to employ people who will be able to cope with the changes that are yet to come. We must get away from what happened under the old apprenticeship arrangements. Some apprenticeships were good and others were bad. The same fears have been expressed about youth training—that schemes can vary, like apprenticeships, from the very good to the almost useless—but the new schemes will make people more flexible so that they can move into jobs as they occur.
Even in certain highly specialised areas, new technology calls for flexibility and many jobs today require a short, sharp course of training to enable people to learn new techniques. In other words, they can be trained quickly, even if they must adhere strictly to the tenets of that training. That is different from the approach we adopted years ago when we required a youngster to sit alongside somebody else and learn the job in the process.
I appeal to people in industry and commerce not to pay lip service to training. They must ensure that the people concerned recognise the importance of training, and that applies to all levels. It may be company policy to provide training that is excellent, but low-level supervision can result in that training being watered down. It is the responsibility of those actually doing the job to train and encourage the youngsters coming to them to learn.
There is no need for the sort of despondency expressed by the hon. Member for Glasgow, Rutherglen (Mr. Mackenzie). People undergoing training need not think that at the end of the day they will find themselves on the scrap-heap again. We must accept that youngsters on and off schemes will often go into jobs that will last for a time and then finish—temporary jobs—so that they must retrain again. The advantage of the schemes we are now introducing is that people will know that they can learn new skills. Especially will they be able to learn quickly the simpler tasks that must be performed.
We have gone a long way towards encouraging firms, especially small businesses, to appreciate how important it is for people to learn new skills quickly so that they are flexible. I hope that all industrialists will see the importance of training people for the future. That will provide us with a flexible work force, able to move into new disciplines as they arise, and that applies not only to high technology but to the comparatively lesser skills.
Many people are reluctant to change jobs, especially as they get older. One frequently hears people between 35 and 40 saying, "I have worked here all ray life. I cannot change at my time of life." I appreciate that there are exceptions, but people can change, and the schemes that we have introduced are designed to show people that change is possible.
I hope that the trade unions, which in general have not placed any restrants on training, will willingly and enthusiastically accept the schemes as they are introduced into firms. Some people may be despondent about the 448 opportunities that exist for youth, but the signs are better. The Institute of Directors, according to a press release, said today that firms were optimistic. That is correct because things are improving.
I regret the use of the word "disillusionment" in the motion. People in industry and commerce in years gone by were disillusioned, especially by some of the Jobs that they had to undertake. But at least some people taking part in our modern training schemes will have the skill to look constructively in advance at the jobs that they finally settle into.
Perhaps people were most disillusioned when they woke up to the fact that they could not go on increasing their standard of living without increasing the nation's wealth. The realisation of that came as a nasty shock. Only the Government's economic measures and the encouragement being given to commerce and industry to change will enable us to meet the future with confidence.
§ Mr. Dave Nellist (Coventry, South-East)
In which of the past eight years has anybody earning less than £150 a week experienced an improvement in his standard of living?
§ Mr. Stevens
There are people in different industries in different areas who have improved their standard of living. It depends on the individual company.
§ Mr. Barry Sheerman (Huddersfield)
I rise to speak in, I hope, a positive spirit. No hon. Member can look at Britain today without recognising the disaster that unemployment has brought to our people, especially our young people. No one would want to crow about our terrible unemployment problem. That said, I must put: the record straight. We heard the Minister selecting statistics that he thought would put the Government in a favourable light. However, the House should consider the record of the four years since the Conservative victory in the 1979 general election as a disaster—it represents a terrible national decline in our economy. Only this Government are responsible for that. We must look at the record over the four years, not the selective statistics for a particularly good quarter or month.
I remind the House of the question put by the Leader of the Opposition to the Prime Minister last week. He said that, on the basis of last month's figures which showed a drop of 10,000 in those unemployed, it would take 16 years to return to the level of employment that we enjoyed in May 1979. We must also bear in mind that the gross domestic product for those four years is down 4 per cent.; manufacturing investment is down by a third; industrial production is down 20 per cent.; unemployment has risen by two million; employment in manufacturing—at the heart of the problem that we are discussing today—has fallen by over 20 per cent.; manufacturing exports are down by 10 per cent. and business liquidations have increased by 65 per cent. since 1979. That is the real context in which we must put the problem of unemployment, particularly youth unemployment, today.
We must consider the Government's efforts to come to terms with youth unemployment in this general context before we can debate the subject intelligently. The Government want to have their cake and eat it. We welcome the youth training scheme and the part that the TUC, trade unions, employers and voluntary bodies have 449 played in setting it up in co-operation with the Government. We are pleased to see a scheme that is at least an improvement—a step forward—on the youth opportunites programme. However, when Labour Members highlight the problems of that scheme at Question Time we are accused of being disloyal to the young people on the schemes. I must make it clear that that is not the case. The Opposition have the right and the duty to point out the scheme's deficiencies when they arise.
The YTS was based on the co-operation of employers and trade unions, but if it changes its character it could lose the support of those who set it up. I must warn the Minister that Labour Members' support for the scheme will soon disappear if it becomes compulsory by the back door—by the withdrawal of benefit from those young people who choose not to take up the scheme but who prefer to remain unemployed. Furthermore, the Labour party cannot approve of the way in which the Government have issued a circular which denies basic rights to young people on the scheme that are accepted as normal for young men and women and indeed for children at school. It is wrong, and it is at the heart of the Government's misunderstanding of young people, that a circular should be issued banning leaflets and advertisements for any political activity and banning young men and women on the scheme from political participation. It is at the heart of a young person's education that he should be exposed to political influences. It is an integral part of the healthy development of young men and women that they should be able to make up their own minds between the various political options before them. To bring in a form of censorship by the back door gives serious cause for concern and I hope that the Minister will think again before he pursues the circular.
§ Mr. Peter Morrison
Is the hon. Gentleman completely repudiating the regulations that his right hon. and hon. Friends put forward regarding political activities on the youth opportunies programme?
§ Mr. Sheerman
The regulations under the youth opportunities programme were quite different, and the Government's present circular contains emphases that do not reflect the spirit or intention of the regulations under the earlier youth opportunities programme.
However much better the youth training scheme may be than the scheme that went before—this is the main thrust of my argument—it is still not a coherent policy or the training and education of our young people. It is a stopgap, a substitute, for a genuine education training policy for our young people. The Labour party has a well-developed training policy for the many young men and women who are less advantaged than those who may succeed in the educational world, those who have gained qualifications and moved on to university and other forms of higher education. We are talking today particularly about those young men and women who leave school as soon as possible. They are the forgotten generations of Britain. Generation after generation has been neglected. I make no excuses for successive Governments who have neglected these young men and women.
However, the Labour party has produced a document entitled "Learning for life" which forms the basis for a effective policy for such people. A comprehensive youth training scheme is the only genuine alternative. Although we shall bide our time, hoping that young men and women 450 will benefit from the present scheme, it is still only a stopgap. Our aim must be to achieve a universal, comprehensive and continuing system of education training and employment for the 16 to 19 age group. We want both a comprehensive and well-thought-through policy.
Listening to the Minister, one sometimes wondered whether people in Britain would understand his attitude. The position that exists is completely unacceptable to our young men and women. Present unemployment cannot be accepted. Whatever the Minister says, youth unemployment is still rising. Between July 1982 and July 1983 youth unemployment rose by 15 per cent. — nearly twice as fast as unemployment overall, which rose by 8 per cent. One and a half million young people are now unemployed. Fifty per cent. of those aged under eighteen are unemployed or on special programmes.
Among young people, long-term unemployment — unemployment lasting for more than a year—rose by 34 per cent. last year to 375,000; it is now six times what it was when the Tories took over in 1979. We are talking about the loss of a generation. That generation will not come back. We will not be able to go down on our knees and say, "Please come back. We are sorry; we weren't ready for you." We will not be able to say, "We are sorry that there was no education, no training and no jobs." That generation is moving on — jobless, untrained and unskilled.
§ Mr. Ian Wrigglesworth (Stockton, South)
If the Labour party feels so strongly about this, can the hon. Gentleman explain why he and his hon. Friends will not be supporting us in the Lobby tonight instead of abstaining and indeed — as the Opposition Benches show — absenting themselves from the debate?
§ Mr. Sheerman
As the hon. Gentleman well knows, we have our own plans for a debate on unemployment. We cannot accept the Liberal-SDP motion as it stands — [HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"] I shall explain shortly what is lacking in the motion.
Earlier in the debate there was reference to the poor take-up of the youth training scheme in one area. The point was also made that in those areas where unemployment was highest, the YTS take-up was lowest. Conservative Members may be naively surprised, but I am not. Those of us who are in touch with the younger generation know that a subculture of youth poverty is developing, and that is the most worrying aspect of our civilisation today. The alienation and hopelessness of young men and women is being expressed not just in the crime rate, but in more significant ways—the inability of those young people to develop stable and lasting relationships, to see themselves as individuals with self-respect or to relate to their families. A sad comment on the horrific murder trial that came to a conclusion last week was the fact that many of the murderer's victims were young men who had left home and had been lost to their families, who did not know where they were. This subculture of youth poverty is producing a large drifting population. That is one of its most horrific results. We would do well to take note of this increasing problem.
It is ironic that when we discuss these problems outside the House, many people apply a common-sense measure. The Prime Minister often talks about the common sense of household economics. Ordinary people recognise that, 451 in this generation, we have had the greatest natural windfall in the history of this country: North sea oil. Only this Government have enjoyed the tremendous benefits of North sea oil revenues. Without North sea oil income the real bankruptcy of the Government's policy would have been apparent. However, North sea oil has been frittered away on the dole queue. It has been used unproductively to keep people unemployed. At the same time, it is argued—this sounds like common sense to me—that a whole generation's talents, abilities and potential for turning our country into a civilised and pleasant place in which to live have been squandered. The real condemnation of the Conservative Government is that they have frittered away our North sea oil heritage and at the same time they have squandered the talents of our young men and women.
This debate has revealed the Government's complacency about their employment policy. The Government do not understand the gravity of the situation. They do not grasp that there is very little time before the problem will become unmanageable. We must turn our minds tonight to the grave problem that over 1.25 million young men and women under 25 are unemployed and have no future and no prospects. We must search for a permanent solution to that problem.
§ 6.6 pm
§ Mr. Roger King (Birmingham, Northfield)
I shall probably be one of the few genuine indentured apprentices to speak in the debate. I spent five or six years as an engineering apprentice with the old British Motor Corporation. At that period of our commercial and industrial life apprenticeships were considered to be one of the most vital forms of our industrial structure. Indeed, in the 1950s, one still paid the company concerned in order to be an apprentice.
It was not until the later 1950s and the early 1960s that one received anything at all for involving oneself in the hard grind of an engineering apprenticeship. My first wage packet contained no more than about 5½ per cent. of a skilled man's wage packet. Over the past 10 or 15 years the traditional apprenticeship has priced itself out of the market. Not many companies can now afford to take on a full-time apprentice. The wage rates being offered to youngsters on a full-time apprenticeship are far too high to bring in the numbers that we need in industry.
Generally speaking, I applaud the work that the Government have done over the past four years to improve industrial efficiency. There are no easy answers to the problem of unemployment. What the hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr. Sheerman) has said is all very true. We do not want to see youngsters unemployed, but the hon. Gentleman fails to acknowledge the predicament in which the country finds itself as a result of improvements in industrialisation and industrial efficiency. In my constituency, 10,000 car workers can produce twice as many cars as 20,000 produced a few years ago.
Nothing that the hon. Gentleman has said can help to stem the historical tide that leads us to believe that that is to be the normal course of events for our industrial capacity. Gradually, the influence of the robot and technical advances will bring about an enormous sea of change for those who have been employed during the past 20 years or indeed at any time in the history of industrial activity in this country.
It is against that background that we must consider the training schemes that are introduced to prepare people for 452 the jobs and needs of tomorrow. There should be much more of a partnership between education and the commercial sector. I was gratified to read in the report of the Institute of Directors that only about 2 per cent. of those polled wanted any cuts in our education system. However, about 30 per cent. wanted more cuts in the National Health Service. That low percentage figure for education is indicative of the feelings of both management and employers, in that they want this country to have a worthwhile education system which does not end at the age of 15 or 16, but continues throughout life.
Many of us even will need to be retrained several times in our working lives. Some people will have to be retrained again and again at some stage in their lives. Given the multiplicity of bodies now springing up, it may be necessary to set up some sort of training commission to oversee the training of those who have left full-time education.
The youth training scheme has met with many criticisms, but it at least gives youngsters an opportunity to gain some experience in the ways of the commercial world. It is said that take-up has often fallen short—including sometimes in my constituency—of the target that was envisaged. Perhaps the financial inducement should be tilted in favour of encouraging people to learn the disciplines of industrial and commercial life. I am not suggesting that unemployment benefit should be stopped, but perhaps a greater financial inducement could be given to those on youth training schemes, while possibly slightly reducing unemployment benefit.
§ Mr. Paddy Ashdown (Yeovil)
Does the hon. Gentleman not find it a very strange paradox—the point was made by my hon. Friend the Member for Truro (Mr. Penhaligon)—that although the Government say that we are moving into a new technological era and that people should be encouraged to take up further education, the incentive is for them to join youth training schemes rather than to go into further education? If they join a youth training scheme they will receive £25, but they will receive nothing if they go on to a college of further education. Is that not a strange paradox?
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. I remind hon. Members that there is another debate and that interventions during short debates prolong speeches and make it more difficult for me to call those hon. Members who wish to speak.
§ Mr. King
Earlier, I was talking about a training commission. I believe that we should look closely at those who opt to continue in full-time education. If we are prepared to budget for 460,000 places on the youth training scheme and the take-up falls short of that, there may be some latitude so that we can give some financial inducement to those who want to pursue a course in higher education. I would support that idea.
There are fewer and fewer unskilled jobs in this country. In the west Midlands, a recent poll carried out by the chamber of commerce showed that 20 per cent. of manufacturing companies in the area were short of skilled workers. That fact should be given due attention.
When we have looked at all the conventional ways of reducing the number of those on the unemployment register, we should consider the long-term prospects. Many people ask me what should be done about the retirement age. We should consider a long-term policy. For example, we could decide to reduce the retirement age 453 from 65 to 60 by the year 2,000, by lowering it every four years by one year. That would be far preferable to reducing the retirement age to 60 at a stroke and thinking that that would be a cure-all for the problems of unemployment. The cost of doing that would be far too high.
Let us consider the short and medium-term possibilities. I am not very keen about the regional aid programme, on which the Government spend about £1.3 billion a year. A significant proportion of that sum should be transferred to capital works programmes. Railway modernisation and the building of some 2,000 new diesel rail cars—which British Rail claims it needs—would provide far more jobs than can be provided by handing out large sums of Government money to so-called regional aid areas. Massive chemical plants can be put up at the cost of £100 million to employ only 50 people. We have had regional aid for 20 years, and I should have thought that those wanting to move to such areas would have long since done so. I hope that a switch will be made to capital works programmes. No more money is necessarily required. There should merely be a switch and a change of emphasis.
We are moving into the era of the self-employed man, the one-man business and of the person who can use his skills to decorate a house, to turn his hand to plumbing and to a thousand and one other small self-employed jobs. Greater encouragement should be given to that, by giving youngsters on the youth training scheme a good range of skills which will be of practical use in future years.
§ Mr. Paddy Ashdown (Yeovil)
I listened with considerable interest to the hon. Member for Birmingham, Northfield (Mr. King) and I agreed with many of his points, particularly in the latter part of his speech.
Hon. Members generally agree that unemployment is one of the two or three key problems of the age. Unless we solve that problem successfully, the stability and perhaps very nature of society will be threatened. I think that there is common agreement on that. Youth unemployment at once gives rise to most emotion and to the most concern in the long term. That is only right. It also causes anger, as has been shown in one or two interventions today. As the hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr. Sheerman) said, we are in danger of creating not just one lost generation but a whole succession of them.
The problem should therefore be studied in that context. We must consider Britain's general economic situation. Whatever we may do, if there is nothing at the end of our training schemes and initiatives, they can be of no value. Therefore, it is correct to mention, as we do in our motion, the need to stimulate the economy and to provide jobs. It is only right to blame this Government for the high- level of unemployment and the weak economy. I remind the House that, of the top six OECD countries, Britain has the highest rate of unemployment.
However, it is wrong to do what the Labour party did at the last election and pretend that with a wave of the wand we can solve the problem tomorrow. That is not so, and it is untrue, and probably impossible. We must consider the real problems of unemployment. I should like all hon. Members to recognise that the problem is both long term and structural. I very much agree with the hon. Member for Northfield that, whatever Government are in 454 power, the impact of our declining position in world trade and of the automative revolution means that our society will probably have an endemic and structural high level of unemployment. I wish that politicians of all parties would stop telling people at general elections the old lie that if they give them their votes, they will give them back their jobs tomorrow. We cannot do that, and that should be recognised — [Interruption]. I should say that the Conservative party was the most guilty of using that old lie in the 1979 general election. The Conservatives produced an appalling poster entitled "Labour isn't working". The clear inference was that voting Tory meant that the unemployed would get their jobs back. We must try to break out of the pattern where the party in office tries to find better ways of hiding the unemployment problem while those out of office try to find more exquisite methods of complaining about unemployment. We must address ourselves to changing the structure of our society and introducing the long-term initiative necessary to cope with the problems of unemployment. I am not referring to short-term palliatives.
I was interested to hear the Minister say that the Government regard the youth training scheme as a long-term programme. I wish that everything that took place under the scheme carried such a commitment. I believe that the scheme is regarded by many young people, and others, as a means by which the Government can get off a political hook, rather than as a serious attempt to tackle the problem of youth unemployment.
We tend to regard youth unemployment as a problem produced by the statistics of the Department of Employment. Hon. Members must be cautioned about that. We seem to think that youth unemployment ends at 18, because that is all that the Department of Employment discusses. The reality is that a hidden mountain of youth over 18 and under 25 are unemployed. About 30 per cent. of adult unemployed in Somerset are under 25. I regard those as young people, but they do not appear in the Government's figures or, with some exceptions, in most of the Government's main training schemes.
The Minister referred to the community programme and I recognise that it has a part to play, albeit small, in dealing with youth unemployment.
I was astonished to hear the Minister claim, with some self-satisfaction, that the youth training scheme was a success. The take-up figure on the scheme is little more than 50 per cent. of the planned total.
§ Mr. Peter Morrison
The hon. Gentleman must put his figure into context. The take-up rate is at present way above 50 per cent. of where we planned to be at this stage—460,000 entrants throughout the year.
§ Mr. Ashdown
The Minister's reply seems to imply that he would be happy if other people joined the scheme at a later stage. A constant complaint from county councils and management agencies is the problem of tying in late joiners. It is difficult to believe that the Minister has a long-term plan which will reach anything approaching the proposed target at the end of the scheme if in reality it is difficult to become a late entrant in the scheme.
The hon. Member for Torridge and Devon, West (Sir P. Mills) asked why so few young people had joined the scheme. The lack of entrants is one of the scheme's fundamental problems. The reality is that so few young people are joining the scheme because, whatever the 455 Minister or the Government say, young people do not regard it as a bridge from school to work but rather—and with some justification—as a stepping stone from school to the misery of the adult dole queue.
The lack of quality of places on the scheme is its chief fault. The Government have made no attempt to ensure that the supervisors in the Manpower Services Commission can ensure that the quality of training is at the required standards. The supervising bodies of the scheme are hopelessly and inadequately equipped to deal with the task. Not only do young people perceive this problem; parents perceive it too. Many parents in my constituency say to me, "We do not believe the scheme is working; that is why we do not support it". Despite the £25 per week incentive in the scheme, many young people perceive it to be so valueless that they prefer to continue in some form of further education.
The scheme also offers little to achievers. Many of our young people who are achievers will not join the scheme because they recognise that it has little to offer. A lack of presentation and communication exist between the Manpower Services Commission and those who wish to join the scheme. That is not surprising because the scheme was rushed in. It has suffered from inadequacy of preparation, of presentation and especially of training for those who run the scheme. I gain the same impression wherever I go. I have occasionally heard some Conservative Members say that the problem is somehow caused by the young people themselves. I believe that the YTS structure produces a self-fulfilling prophecy. It seems to be creating a group of young people as feckless as the Tories allege them to be.
Not only are the young who partake in the scheme dissatisfied. The MSC has created dissatisfaction among the managing agents. There has been a lack of consultation by the Manpower Services Commission. With the change from district manpower boards to the area manpower boards the educational representatives were reduced from two to one on the MSC boards. The YTS was then viewed by many of the managing agencies in the county councils as another instrument for attacking local government. The inefficiency of the MSC — I worked with that body before my election to the House—has created problems for managing agents.
There is inadequate provision for the rural areas. I have written to the Minister several times about this. The Minister's reply to my letter stated that the Government were considering what could be done to assist the operation of the YTS in the rural areas. I shall be interested to hear whether he refers to that matter when he winds up.
Those who run the scheme suffer from lack of permanency. Many of those who work for local authorities and run the scheme are subject to temporary contracts of employment which inevitably produces instability. Whatever the Minister thinks to the contrary, some county councils in the south-west of England, where the majority of county councils support the Conservative party, are nevertheless seriously considering whether to continue as managing agents under the scheme. That shows how they regard the scheme.
Some of the industries which have been encouraged and even pressured to take up a large element of the placements under the scheme are now in difficulties because the number of trainees working for them is significantly below the figure for which they budgeted. Some manufacturing firms are suffering severe cash flow problems. Is the 456 Minister prepared to use funds to bail out some of those firms which, in good faith and good spirit, sought to carry the scheme forward but who now find themselves in financial difficulties?
§ Mr. David Alton (Liverpool, Mossley Hill)
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for giving way. Does the Minister agree that a problem has occurred in those local authorities where trade unions — especially NALGO—have decided to black the youth training scheme? Would it not be useful if some guidance were given to young people in areas where the trade unions have blocked the YTS scheme from proceeding and where youngsters are therefore consigned to on the dole?
§ Mr. Ashdown
I am happy to support my hon. Friend. I hope that the Minister will take that up.
We must also consider what happens to young people who are not and never will be employed. In this context the youth service has a major role. I hope that the Minister will press his colleagues to come clean very soon about the action to be taken on the Thompson report. We were told a year ago that the matter was under consideration and that there would shortly be an announcement. A similar answer was given on 1 November. The Government must now come clean about this as the role of the youth service in relation to young people who will never be employed is crucial to society in the future.
There is a desperate need for a special advocacy for young people. One of the most significant recommendations in the Thompson report was that there should be a Minister for youth. That is vital for the future. That special advocacy is crucial to co-ordinate activities in this area for the future.
§ Mr. Patrick Thompson (Norwich, North)
I am sure that many hon. Members share my distress that only 3 per cent. of our number could be present for this very important debate. I hope that there will be a better attendance the next time we discuss these matters.
I have studied the motion with some care, but I do not feel that it does a service to our young people. It does not meet the challenge of youth employment and I find it impossible to support the motion as it stands. I am, however, able to support the Government amendment—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] I am able with enthusiasm to support the Government amendment.
I am sure that we all share the enthusiasm of the hon. Member for Truro (Mr. Penhaligon) for the concept of training. There was nothing controversial in that aspect of his speech. He did not, however, do justice to the question of how we can create new jobs. That is the central issue before us.
A senior member of the Labour party said some months ago:Young people want us to be honest with them—they have had far too much deception from politicians. We must not promise the youth of this country anything we cannot deliver. We will fight for but we cannot guarantee everyone a job and you know in your hearts you cannot and you should not say so.We could all learn from that. When the hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr. Sheerman) refers to the "proper" policies of the Labour party now I hope that he is not including, as I suspect that he is, the very policies that the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Small Heath (Mr. Howell) argued against on that occasion at the Labour 457 party conference. If that kind of package were introduced — legislation to guarantee everyone a job, training at trade union rates, free travel to and from training, and so on—the spending spree entailed would be a recipe for disaster and would do nothing for youth employment. Nothing would be more likely to create the "dangerous disillusionment" referred to in the motion.
The key to the problem lies, first, in increased prosperity—that is why I am able enthusiastically to support the Government amendment—and, secondly, in improved training and education. We must welcome the success so far of the ambitious youth training scheme on which the Government are spending £1,000 million.
I have seen for myself the success of the scheme in Norwich. I have visited a number of institutions and factories in which the scheme is operating successfully. In many cases, people learning skills on the scheme have been offered jobs as a result. Therefore, no one can convince me that the scheme is not helping young people to find work. In Norwich they are doing just that as a result of the scheme.
On Monday, the Eastern Daily Press stated:More than 3,000 young Norfolk people have joined the Government's new Youth Training SchemeManpower Services Commission officials in the area said thatdozens of young people in the county were joining the scheme every day.They further stated:We undertook to offer a YTS place by Christmas to every one of this year's 16-year-old school leavers without a job … We are confident that we will meet this guarantee in good time.One aspect of the scheme is less satisfactory. In Norfolk, and perhaps in other parts of the country, there is not sufficient take-up by employers to encourage eligible employees to take part in the scheme. I intend to discover the reasons for that. The life skills aspect should also be examined more carefully. There are serious criticisms of that aspect, but time does not permit me to go into detail now.
The Government must do more to improve the quality of scientific and technical training. That is bound to improve employment opportunities for young people. It is highly unsatisfactory that only half of our young people have systematic vocational training of any kind when the comparable figure in Germany is 90 per cent. and in France 80 per cent. We must examine this aspect much more carefully and find ways to increase the training element in preparation for employment. I welcome moves to increase science and technology courses in our universities and other areas of higher education even if it means a decline in some of the less rigorous disciplines which often leave graduates high and dry with qualifications unsuited to the jobs on offer.
Finally, we must resist the temptation to exploit the difficulties of young people for party political ends. I agree with the hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Ashdown) that we must all avoid that. We must seriously continue the debate that we have started today. We must consider how to increase wealth as that will provide jobs, how to increase opportunities for young people and how to improve training even more than the Government have done so far, although there is no doubt that what the Conservatives 458 have done is the envy of all Opposition Members, many of whom must wish that they could have done the same. I therefore support the Government amendment.
§ Mr. Dave Nellist (Coventry, South-East)
The Minister of State, Department of Employment, the hon. Member for Suffolk, Coastal (Mr. Gummer) said on 7 September:The Youth Training Scheme is a permanent advance on the road to economic recovery and not a temporary substitute for the dole queue".On 19 October the Minister of State, Department of Employment, the hon. Member for City of Chester (Mr. Morrison), on a visit to the Bristol area, said of the youth training scheme:It is providing durable training quality and it is providing the kind of hope which was fast running out for successive years of school leavers.Earlier in the debate the Minister was asked what percentage of young people leaving training schemes actually found employment. I received a written reply today from the Department of Employment showing that 38 per cent. of young people leaving training schemes this year found employment. Last year and the year before, the figure was 39 per cent. In 1979 it was 54 per cent. For a Government spokesman to describe the initiative on training as giving hope to young people is the cruellest joke that could be perpetrated on 16 and 17-year-olds.
The Government hold out the carrot that if a young person goes through a year on the training scheme somehow the golden horizons will open, with all the wonderful things advertised on the box between 6 pm and 8 pm—overseas holidays, fast cars, luxury furniture. They suggest that those are the things to aim for and that training and skills are the way to achieve them. At the end of the scheme, to say to two out of three trainees, "Sorry, the game's up. You are back on the dole, where your older brother and sister were before you," is elastoplast politics. It is putting sticking plaster over a social abscess and claiming that there is a veneer of training to help young people.
The Government have brought forward such initiatives during the past three or four years for three reasons. First, they have sought deliberately to massage the dole figures and, according to the Department of Employment, to take over a third of a million people off the dole figures. Secondly, they have sought to cheapen the rates of pay for youth labour. The right hon. Member for Chingford (Mr. Tebbit), the former Secretary of State for Employment, said that boys and girls were too expensive to employ and that they must price themselves into jobs. Perhaps that is why the Government refuse to increase the training allowance. Will the Minister tell the House at what stage he would consider increasing the pitiful £25 allowance on the YTS to a level at which young people can live?
Even before the youth training scheme, and its forerunner the youth opportunities programme, cheapened labour, the rates of pay, negotiated over decades by unions in different industries for apprentices of comparable ages with YTS trainees, were by no means perfect. British Telecom technicians earned £61 a week, British Airport apprentices £57, ICI apprentices £54, apprentices in the chemical industry £52, apprentices in British Rail workshops £50—there will not be many apprentices left in that industry, after the savage spending cuts at Shildon 459 and Horwich—apprentices in the gas industry received £49, in the water industry £48, in engineering £45, and in electricity £44.
Those are not huge sums, nor massive amounts of money. Most hon. Members earn more in a day at their ordinary rate of pay. The managing director of the British Oxygen Company, Richard Giordano, earns £11,000 a week for selling fresh air. How then can Tory Members tell British youngsters that they are pricing themselves out of work?
Attempts to cheapen youth labour are made for economic and political reasons. The present Secretary of State for Trade and Industry made the following remark. which he has chosen not to repeat in the past 18 months. He said that he had a vision of factories in which trainees could produce goods at such a high rate of production that imports from the far east, for example from Singapore, would be unnecessary. Those countries rely on a lack of trade unions and on cheap labour to produce goods cheaply. The right hon. Member saw the day when British youngsters could compete with those in the far east on equal terms. The Government are planning to drive down the wages of young people and to end the apprenticeship system in Britain.
ICI has taken on trainees under the scheme at Wilton on Teesside. There used to be 50 proper apprentices working under the terms of a negotiated national apprentice agreement. This autumn the company introduced a pilot scheme, and instead of employing 50 apprentices it will employ 192 school leavers as trainees. Obviously, at the end of the first year the company will choose 50 of the 192 trainees to go on to a second year's apprenticeship. The first year's apprenticeship was previously paid for by ICI, but is now being paid for by the taxpayers. Three quarters of these youngsters will have to go back on the dole.
Trainees in ICI used to get £54 a week. Now the company will offer only £40 a week. The scheme does nothing to solve unemployment, because the same number of apprentices are taken on in the second year as would have been taken on under the old apprenticeship system. The 142 young people working for ICI, having been given the illusion that they were competing for a job, and having gained skills in ICI, will go back on to the dole queue.
The number of apprentices is falling. In engineering they decreased from 29,000 in 1967, to 14,000 in 1981 and to 10,300 in 1982. Last year, in Coventry there were 238 apprenticeships in engineering. Ten years ago that city was known as the richest working-class city in Britain, the prosperity of which was built on the skills of the workers in manufacturing and engineering.
One of the reasons why the YTS will destroy the traditional apprenticeship system over the next two years is the additionality concept. A firm that used to have two apprentices will take on three YTS trainees and claim all five as YTS trainees and gain £1,950 from all five. The apprenticeship system will disappear as the Manpower Services Commission withdraws its sponsorship from apprentices.
We have heard little about the conditions under which youngsters have to work in the schemes. The House is aware that Opposition Members have exerted pressure in recent weeks and exposed the dangerous conditions in which many youngsters are working under the YTS. Under the YOP and YTS, 19 youngsters have been killed. There was an accident rate of 250 per month. Many of those 460 accidents were in places where the supervision was inadequate and where the factory inspectors had not investigated the machines and conditions in which the youngsters were working.
We have had a belated response from the Government. In July of this year, after pressure from employment appeal tribunal rulings, they came along with regulations to bring trainees within the scope of the Sex Discrimination Act 1975 and the Race Relations Act 1968. We heard this week that they intend to do the same on health and safety. That is a half step forward, of which the House is not unmindful. However, bringing the youngsters under the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974, which they should have been under five years ago, will not get away from the fact that unless the Health and Safety and Factory Inspectorates inspect every workplace where youngsters work, the tragedies of Sheffield, Strathclyde and south Wales will be repeated.
The Government are turning the clock back in their approach to youth and employment opportunities for young people. Hon. Members have said that the economy is the bedrock for discussion on training and employment. One fifth of manufacturing industry has been destroyed under the Government, compared with 11 per cent. in what we are told was the greatest crash in the economy between 1929 and 1931.
The hon. Member for Birmingham, Northfield (Mr. King) said that the solution was to look towards a future of one-man businesses. Has he not seen the figures? In the past year 1,000 businesses a month have gone bankrupt because of the crisis in the economy, which is exacerbated by the Government's measures. There has been a 36 per cent. fall in investment. We invest less in industry now than we did a quarter of a century ago. That is not because of a lack of money. About £32 million leaves the country every day for South Africa, Brazil, Korea and Argentina, where trade unions are illegal and the same slave labour wages are paid as many Conservative Members would like our youth to receive.
In reality, there are 5 million people on the dole They are offered no future and no employment prospects. Perhaps this fear has not been voiced in today's speeches, but it has been written about in the serious journals of capitalism and in articles by the representatives of that strand of society in the Chamber. There will be social explosions in the 1980s as unemployment continues to rise.
About 6 million people live in damp houses arid 9.7 million people do not get even one week's holiday away from home. Such social conditions will produce explosions that will dwarf what happened in the 1930s and the events of 1981 in Brixton, Toxteth and Moss Side. That is why the Government have taken the children off the streets and off the dole and put them into schemes which will not offer employment at the end of the day. In Coventry there are more under-25s who have been unemployed for more than a year than the percentage for the west midlands or Britain as a whole. A third of the under-25s in Coventry have been on the dole for over a year. Could Government Members come to Coventry and explain to those who are on the dole queue, as I was for three years before coming to the House, that their prospects of getting jobs are laughable if they have been on the dole for more than a year because factories are closing down week after week and month after month?
461 What are the young people being trained for? Why should the Government create the best trained dole queue in Europe? Why do they not bring forward genuine measures to create jobs? The hon. Member for Norwich, North (Mr. Thompson) spoke disparagingly about Labour party policy, adopted at its conference this year, of a guaranteed job for every school leaver. That is the aim of the Labour party and it is the only realistic thing for which to ask young workers to campaign.
I welcome the moves by trade unions in recent months to organise the YTS trainees into the trade union movement, to try to stop the worst aspects of exploitation and to aim for trade union rates of pay for the apprenticeships, which the schemes attempt to replace. In some factories in Coventry and elsewhere the trade unions are achieving success.
It was said earlier in the debate that the only way forward was to stimulate the economy. There are three ways in which money can be found to stimulate the economy. It may come from the employers, it may come from the workers or it may be printed by the Treasury. The British economy can sell only 70 to 80 per cent. of what it is capable of producing. Therefore, money will not come from there to stimulate investment in new manufacturing industry. It may be available to buy British Telecom or British Airways, or to fund a few more share speculations, but it will not be available for large-scale new investment. If it is taken from the workers, where will they, with their lower living standards, get the money to buy what industry produces? If more money is printed we will end up with inflation such as the Tory Government produced in the early 1970s.
Under capitalism, which the Government Benches represent, youngsters cannot be offered jobs. The Government cannot guarantee that 5 million people will find permanent work. That task remains for the trade union and Labour movement, which will create a planned economy with shorter hours and a lower retirement age. We should not have to wait until the year 2000 for a lower retirement age. My grandfathers did not live long enough to enjoy their retirement, because of the industries in which they worked. A target of a retirement age of 55 would create hundreds of thousands of jobs; so would a 35-hour week in industry. If industry enjoyed similar holidays to those for Members of Parliament, hundreds of thousands of jobs would be created. I do not expect such benefits to be given easily by the Government. It is up to this generation of young workers to join the Labour party and the trade union movement and take them from the Government.
§ Mr. Bill Walker (Tayside, North)
The hon. Member for Coventry, South-East (Mr. Nellist) has given a splendid example of what has been wrong with this country for so long—a failure to understand the needs of others, and intolerance. The hon. Gentleman knew that this was a short debate and that quite a number of Members have been present throughout and wish to speak. Yet he rambled on for 15 minutes and told us very little.
We need few lessons about trade unions from hon. Members like him. Many of us have been active in and have held high office in trade unions. For the hon. Gentleman's information, when I started my training, 462 having left school at the early age of 14, I was earning in real money terms less than the youngsters are earning today at £25 per week. Much has changed since I left school when there were plenty of jobs for young people because they had not priced themselves out of the job market. That alone, of course, is not the reason they are out of the job market, and I would not for a minute suggest that that is so. It is one element. Another is the lack of demand caused by the world recession; also, for many decades we have been ill-equipped to face the challenges of the real world.
Those challenges must be turned into an opportunity to remedy the deficiencies which have existed for many decades in the way we prepare young people to cope with the real world of tomorrow. As someone who has spent almost all of his adult life in the training of the young, I take seriously what we should be doing for them. The changes that are being introduced in the school curriculum, particularly in Scotland, are a first and most important step along this road. These changes are long overdue to prepare young people for the real world, not the world of the academics but the world where jobs are and where wealth can be created.
The youth training scheme, a most imaginative scheme that has come in for so much unnecessary criticism, should provide the basis on which we can build to restructure all training. In particular it should provide the basis for all apprentice and skill training, with training allowances being paid as in West Germany. It has worked there since Bismarck. Why can we not learn from others and do what they have done? That is one of the reasons why there are fewer under-25s out of work in West Germany than in the United Kingdom and elsewhere. The United Kingdom is about the middle of the European unemployed under-25s league.
I should like to see more investment, both in schools and in training programmes, in the tactile skills, the human relation skills and the communications skills because these are all vital and important for the world of tomorrow. To do this the scheme would need to be extended from one year to a minimum of three years, with the second and third years concentrating on particular rather than on general areas of training. If we are seriously considering doing something constructive for the young, as I believe we all are, and if at the same time we want to see United Kingdom industry becoming much more competitive, investment in a three-year scheme would be more rewarding than the massive grants or tax allowances which we give to all sections of industry.
It is no good Opposition Members wringing their hands about the high level of unemployment. Labour policies have contributed massively to the United Kingdom's problems. I remind Opposition Members what the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth (Mr. Callaghan) said in Eastbourne on 30 June 1978:Inflation is the main enemy because inflation is the mother and father of unemployment.Of course, the right hon. Gentleman is no longer on the Labour Front Bench and we can see a change in emphasis today in the way in which the Labour party approaches these problems. The Labour party has contributed to the problems by believing in the myth that Governments can create jobs and that Governments alone can keep jobs in being.
Customers create jobs. Anyone who has managed an enterprise knows that and that if customers are lost, jobs 463 disappear. That is why the solution to the problem of unemployment, especially youth unemployment, lies in keeping inflation down. We should also encourage training and stop bailing out poor management and propping up out-of-date work practices. The current ghastly recession has given us an opportunity to right the ills that have troubled us for so long. Many Governments have attempted to solve those problems but this is the first to do anything constructive about training the young.
Those of us who have been involved in training from the early days when a Conservative Government introduced training boards realise what a massive investment for the benefit of young people these training schemes represent. I remind the House that there is no simple answer. Those who present simple answers have simple minds.
§ 7 pm
§ Mr. Ian Wrigglesworth (Stockton, South)
This has been a useful and interesting debate which has captured the interest of those hon. Members who have been here. I am sure that it will also prove interesting to people outside. Right hon. and hon. Members who sit behind the Liberal and Social Democratic Benches have been notably absent during the debate and they will be notably absent from the Division Lobbies later.
I agree with the hon. Member for Tayside, North (Mr. Walker) in some of his criticisms of the hon. Member for Coventry, South-East (Mr. Nellist), but I congratulate the hon. Member for Coventry, South-East on having been here for the entire debate. He advanced his views of the plight faced by many young people forcefully. He also argued strongly about the defects in many of the schemes that the Government provide for young people. He made a valuable speech. It is a pity that similar views were not expressed by more of his hon. Friends. I strongly regret the fact that so few Labour Members spoke, even though they usually indulge in rhetoric.
I shall deal with three topics. The first concerns overall responsibility for education and training, the second concerns the new training scheme and the third, which refers to the latter part of the motion, is concerned with an investment programme which the alliance parties suggest is necessary if we are to give young people hope for the future.
It is becoming increasingly obvious through the development of the youth training scheme and other Manpower Services Commission activities, which have been extended by the present and previous Government, that we have a dual track system of training. The Department of Education and Science and local authorities have some responsibility but so, too, do the Department of Employment and, occasionally, others.
The alliance believes that the time is overdue for education and training to become the responsibility of one Department so that duplication and lack of co-ordination can be overcome. In the past few months a technical and vocational scheme has been launched. It appears to be excellent and I am sure that the hon. Member for Tayside, North, would welcome it. It will make educational courses much more relevant to the vocation that young people follow after leaving school. It is not a Department of Employment initiative, however. Putting micro-computers in all secondary schools is another excellent scheme but that has been the initiative of the Department of Trade and Industry. Therefore yet another Department 464 has become involved in a vital part of youth training. There is an overwhelming case for providing one Department that has responsibility for education and training.
I shall now deal with the youth training scheme. I should like to clear up any illusions that the Minister might have with regard to a speech which was made in another place by a Liberal peer. The Liberals and Social Democrats welcome the scheme as a good first step in the right direction. However, it is only a first step. I was pleased to hear the hon. Member for Tayside, North say something with which the alliance strongly agrees—it should become a two-year or three-year scheme. We understand that it is new and do not blame the Government for its teething troubles, but we hope that it will go further. It is vital that we get closer to the German model and that of many of our other competitors. There, training is an accepted part of life. It is not possible in only one year to train people to the level we want for the industries that we hope to have.
We should move towards a modular system. The youth training scheme can be criticised for not dovetailing adequately with other apprenticeship and training schemes. Moreover, we believe that the youth training scheme should not be confined to young people. Older people of perhaps 30 or 40 should be able to take the same module. Working life will become more changeable and people will have to change jobs. It will not be only young people who will want the training provided by YTS.
The alliance would also like to improve monitoring of the quality or standards of the scheme. It should be possible to have it recognised by employers and education authorities as a certifiable scheme which is accepted as providing a minimum recognisable standard of training. I hope that the Minister will comment on those suggestions and that the Government will recognise YTS as a first building block on which they will build. We should have a much more comprehensive system.
My final point concerns an investment programme. We need to train young people so that they have skills with which they can obtain jobs, but they also need to be given some hope that they will be given an opportunity to use their skills. There is no doubt that one reason why more young people are not joining YTS is that they are disillusioned and despair of obtaining employment at the end of their training. If hon. Members consider that 51 per cent. of young people who attend youth opportunities programme courses cannot find jobs after that training, they will not be surprised by the attitude that I have described. It is vital to overcome the problem of unemployment if we are to provide the boost that training schemes need.
The alliance said clearly during the general election campaign that we do not intend to start printing confetti money and throwing it all over the place. It is not possible for Governments to provide jobs just like that. Such a belief will not help. However, although the Government cannot provide jobs they can play a vital role in proving the framework and conditions in which industry can thrive and find new markets for its products or services. The Government do not seem to accept that.
In recent months, we have been suggesting measures to the electorate and the Government along the lines expressed last week by the Confederation of British Industry to the Government. We want not an inflationary package of confetti money, but a steady reflation led by 465 investment in infrastructure and in capital projects that are labour intensive but have a low import content. This will provide the wealth and opportunities to make the econmy grow again. We are not suggesting a magic wand that will rid us of 3 million unemployed in one or two years; it will take much longer to take people off the unemployment register. It will be a long time before fewer than 1 million people are on the register.
We must also examine job sharing, work attitudes and the means to provide people with opportunities — for example, sabbatical years and leisure activities—so that they enjoy future work patterns.
Hon. Members referred to the defects in the Government's schemes that they have seen in their constituencies. Many youth organisations have made representations that the Governent should listen carefully to young people when deciding how to develop and improve the schemes. The people who understand best how the employment schemes are working are those who take part in them. The National Association of Youth Clubs and similar organisations are involved in the schemes, and in some cases are responsible, with the Manpower Services Commission, for running them.
This has been a useful debate. I hope that it is the first of many debates on motions from the Social Democratic party. This is the first debate on employment since the recess and it has led to agreement across the Chamber. I hope that future debates will provide further opportunities to boost the Government's schemes for the benefit of young people.
§ Mr. Peter Morrison
I agree with the hon. Member for Stockton, South (Mr. Wrigglesworth) that this has been a worthwhile and interesting debate. I assure all hon. Members that we always listen to constructive ideas to improve the youth training scheme. The hon. Gentleman said that we should have a combined education and training department. I assure him that we have close co-operation—as he would hope—but I shall not accede to his request at this stage.
I appreciate the welcome given by the hon. Gentleman to the youth training scheme. I thought that he was a little fuller in his praise than the hon. Member for Truro (Mr. Penhaligon), though I should not like to differentiate between the two. The hon. Member for Stockton, South asked that the scheme should continue for two years. I believe that there should be a period of consolidation to examine how the scheme settles down, because by any stretch of the imagination this is a large launch.
There is agreement across the parties that it is important that the scheme should dovetail in with apprenticeships. We should not stop there; we should co-ordinate the scheme with the adult training strategy. That is the Government's approach to the whole area of training, not just the younger end. I agree with the hon. Members for Stockton, South and for Truro and other hon. Members about monitoring. The scheme will succeed according to its quality. It is important that monitoring is properly conducted.
The right hon. Member for Glasgow, Rutherglen (Mr. MacKenzie)—I understand his point—said that this was a debate about jobs. He cited steelworks and shipbuilding industries in his constituency. He talked also about 466 apprenticeships. This is a debate about future jobs and training. Traditional apprenticeships have served a useful purpose. A better aim is a combined objective across all industries to achieve high standards, rather than time serving. There is a move towards that objective throughout industry.
My hon. Friends the Members for Nuneaton (Mr. Stevens), for Norwich, North (Mr. Thompson) and for Tayside, North (Mr. Walker) gave the youth training scheme a large measure of support. My hon. Friend the Member for Tayside, North referred to it as a most imaginative scheme, and I believe that it is. We should pay tribute to the enormous amount of work that has been done in launching the scheme by trade unionists, employers, voluntary organisations and the officials of the Manpower Services Commission, who have made a magnificent effort in making a large number of places available in their areas.
The hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr. Sheerman), in his maiden speech at the Dispatch Box sought to make the scheme more political than I should like. I believe that the scheme is not about politics and that it will suffer if it is tarred with a political brush. As I pointed out in my intervention during his speech, there were political guidelines on the youth opportunities programme. It was appropriate that the Manpower Services Commission should set out agreed political guidelines.
The hon. Gentleman said that we did not have a coherent policy. I do not agree with him. As I said to the hon. Member for Stockton, South, the policy is coherent in the way in which it is linked with apprenticeships and the adult training strategy. The hon. Gentleman said that he wanted a scheme for all minimum age school leavers. That is what the scheme is about. With respect, the hon. Gentleman did not make many constructive suggestions. I am prepared to listen to constuctive suggestions, because I wish to improve the scheme wherever I can.
The hon. Member for Coventry, South-East (Mr. Nellist) cited accident statistics which related to the youth opportunities programme, not the youth training scheme. I hope that he will accept that point. We have said consistently that this is a training scheme and not a work experience scheme. The hon. Gentleman's speech was a rhetoric of hate towards the youth training scheme. Why does he not tell the 2,000 or more youngsters on the scheme in Coventry, and their parents, that he would like to close the scheme? I am sure that he would have an unpleasant hearing.
The hon. Gentleman knows that I am determined that health and safety conditions for those on the scheme are as good as possible. He tried to tell the House that there were no health and safety provisions. The hon. Gentleman knows that trainees have been protected under section 3 of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act.
I was grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Northfield (Mr. King) for the way in which he welcomed the scheme. I was interested to hear what he said about apprentices having priced themselves out of the market. I am sure that, because of his experience, the House will want to dwell on that issue.
The hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Ashdown) identified a problem when he talked about the analysis of the difficulties faced by school leavers and the younger generation, but he failed to put forward a constructive suggestion about how we could proceed. I am interested 467 in comments, but I want them to be constructive in some respect. The debate has been a little long on analysis and a little short on constructive solution.
The Opposition parties continually find ways for us to spend more money. If we spent more money, quite simply the public sector borrowing requirement would rise, interest rates would rise and money would come out of the system rather than go into it. Contrary to what Opposition Members have said, the younger generation are far more discerning about their future careers than hon. Members imagine. They understand only too well that the youth training scheme is about giving basic training in the industries of the future—not those of the past. That is why more than 250,000 have joined the scheme voluntarily during the past three months. They have voted the scheme a success. They know full well what the Government have done and will be doing for them.
§ Question put, That the original words stand part of the Question: —
§ The House divided: Ayes 72, Noes 184.469
|Division No. 64]
|Marek, Dr John
|Archer, Rt Hon Peter
|Millan, Rt Hon Bruce
|Carl Me, Alexander (Montg'y)
|Morris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe)
|Cocks, Rt Hon M. (Bristol S.)
|Orme, Rt Hon Stanley
|Concannon, Rt Hon J. D.
|Owen, Rt Hon Dr David
|Cook, Frank (Stockton North)
|Davies, Ronald (Caerphilly)
|Davis, Terry (B'ham, H'ge H'l)
|Evans, loan (Cynon Valley)
|Powell, Raymond (Ogmore)
|Fields, T. (L'pool Broad Gn)
|Richardson, Ms Jo
|Freeson, Rt Hon Reginald
|Roberts, Allan (Bootle)
|Hamilton, W. W. (Central Fife)
|Ross, Ernest (Dundee W)
|Harrison, Rt Hon Walter
|Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)
|Holland, Stuart (Vauxhall)
|Hughes, Simon (Southwark)
|Steel, Rt Hon David
|Jenkins, Rt Hon Roy (Hillh'd)
|Kinnock, Rt Hon Neil
|Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)
|McKay, Allen (Penistone)
|Tellers for the Ayes:
|Mr. Alan Beith and Mr. John Caitwright.
|Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich)
|Atkins, Rt Hon Sir H.
|Brooke, Hon Peter
|Baker, Nicholas (N Dorset)
|Brown, M. (Brigg & Cl'thpes)
|Buck, Sir Antony
|Biggs-Davison, Sir John
|Boscawen, Hon Robert
|Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford)
|Mills, lain (Meriden)
|Clarke Kenneth (Rushcliffe)
|Mills, Sir Peter (West Devon)
|Morris, M. (N'hampton, S)
|Morrison, Hon C. (Devizes)
|Currie, Mrs Edwina
|Morrison, Hon P. (Chester)
|Moynihan, Hon C.
|Fookes, Miss Janet
|Page, John (Harrow W)
|Page, Richard (Herts SW)
|Percival, Rt Hon Sir Ian
|Powell, William (Corby)
|Prentice, Rt Hon Reg
|Goodhart, Sir Philip
|Proctor, K. Harvey
|Raff an, Keith
|Griffiths, Peter (Portsm'th N)
|Rhodes James, Robert
|Ridsdale, Sir Julian
|Gummer, John Selwyn
|Robinson, Mark (N'port W)
|Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)
|Roe, Mrs Marion
|Hampson, Dr Keith
|Rossi, Sir Hugh
|Hawkins, C. (High Peak)
|Sackville, Hon Thomas
|Sainsbury, Hon Timothy
|Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm)
|Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')
|Shelton, William (Streatham)
|Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)
|Howarth, Alan (Stratf'd-on-A)
|Hunt, John (Ravensbourne)
|Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
|Soames, Hon Nicholas
|Hurd, Rt Hon Douglas
|Jones, Robert (W Herts)
|Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)
|King, Roger (B'ham N'field)
|King, Rt Hon Tom
|Stevens, Lewis (Nuneaton)
|Lee, John (Pendle)
|Stevens, Martin (Fulham)
|Leigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh)
|Stewart, Andrew (Sherwood)
|Lewis, Sir Kenneth (Stamf'd)
|Stradling Thomas, J.
|Thomas, Rt Hon Peter
|Thompson, Patrick (N'ich N)
|Thorne, Neil (Ilford S)
|Townend, John (Bridlington)
|McCurley, Mrs Anna
|Townsend, Cyril D. (B'heath)
|van Straubenzee, Sir W.
|MacKay, John (Argyll & Bute)
|Vaughan, Dr Gerard
|Maclean, David John.
|McNair-Wilson, M. (N'bury)
|Wakeham, Rt Hon John
|Wardle, C. (Bexhill)
|Wells, Bowen (Hertford)
|Mayhew, Sir Patrick
|Meyer, Sir Anthony
|Miller, Hal (B'grove)
|Tellers for the Noes:
|Young, Sir George (Acton)
|Mr. David Hunt and Mr. Donald Thompson.
§ Question accordingly negatived.
§ Question, That the proposed words be there added, put forthwith pursuant to Standing Order No 33 (Questions on amendments) and agreed to.
`That this House fully endorses the Government's industrial and economic policies in tackling the root causes of unemployment through the control of inflation and public expenditure, thereby creating the conditions for lasting increases in prosperity and jobs; and, in particular, congratulates the Government on the successful launching of the Youth Training Scheme.'