HC Deb 18 December 1984 vol 70 cc144-5
5. Mr. John Townend

asked the Secretary of State for Employment how many young people are employed under the young workers scheme in firms which come under the Distributive Trades Wages Council.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Employment (Mr. Alan Clark)

The Retail Trade (Non Food) Wages Council has chosen to set a weekly minimum rate of pay for 17-year-olds which, by just 5p, is too high to enable employers in that trade to claim support under the young workers scheme.

Mr. Townend

Does my hon. Friend agree that it is nonsense for the Government to set aside funds to encourage employers to take on young people at realistic rates of pay when wages councils make any employer who takes advantage of that scheme in breach of the regulations? How many young people are on the dole because of this stupidity, and when will the Government act?

Mr. Clark

As my hon. Friend knows, we are examining wages councils. We encourage representations from all quarters, including his, which, though not unpredictable, is welcome. The fixing of a limit which is so narrowly calculated to frustrate the working of a Government scheme is unlikely to be accidental.

Mr. Nellist

Perhaps for the information of the House and others who are listening the Minister will say how much the wages council rate is in pounds and pence. Will he confirm that when Sir John Hoskyns, who I believe now has something to do with the Institute of Directors, was the head of a policy unit under the Prime Minister, he produced a paper which said that the aim of the young workers scheme and the youth training scheme was to increase the differential between adult rates and young workers' rates — in other words, to create a pool of cheap youth labour?

Mr. Clark

The hon. Gentleman is waxing very indignant about wage rates, but he must decide to which he attaches the greater importance: the wage rates of those who are in work, or to the job prospects of those who are seeking work.

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