HC Deb 15 February 1984 vol 54 cc245-7
1. Mr. Ernie Ross

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland when he next intends to meet the chairman of the Manpower Services Commission in Scotland.

The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. George Younger)

My hon. Friend the Minister with responsibility for industry and education met Dr. Munn, in his capacity as chairman of the Manpower Services Commission for Scotland, on 6 February, and I hope to do so shortly.

Mr. Ross

When the Secretary of State meets the chairman, will he raise with him the question of the failure of the Manpower Services Commission and the area boards to follow up youth training schemes where approval has been granted subject to trade union approval being given? Where there is clear evidence that no such approval has been given, will the MSC take steps to ensure that schemes are approved by trade unions where there is trade union involvement?

Mr. Younger

I know that the MSC always does everything that it can to get approval from the trade unions for these schemes. When they are approved, it does all that it can to encourage them to go ahead.

Mr. Hirst

When my right hon. Friend meets the chairman of the MSC in Scotland, will he take the opportunity of congratulating it on the effective way in which it has promoted the community programme, by which about 60,500 people in Scotland are doing excellent work within the community? Will he also take the opportunity of telling the MSC in Scotland that Conservative Members greatly admire the work that has been done in promoting the enterprise allowance scheme? Will he explain that this is the method by which the unemployed in Scotland are being given the opportunity to become self-employed business men?

Mr. Younger

I agree with my hon. Friend. There is no doubt that the community programme is a good method of helping the long-term unemployed, who have poor prospects otherwise of securing employment. The allowance scheme is proving popular and has been followed up by many people.

Mr. Gordon Brown

In future conversations with the MSC, will the Secretary of State tell it how he proposes to reverse the situation in which there are now more people in Scotland without a regular job for the first time in its history than there are peole employed in manufacturing industry? Will he explain how he proposes to end the situation in which 1,099 factories or establishments have been lost in Scotland since 1979? Will he tell them that he will resign if Scotland loses any regional funds under the present regional review?

Mr. Younger

I am sure the hon. Gentleman will agree that one has to set against the factories that have been closed over the past few years the number of factories that have been opened. I am sure that he was as pleased as I was to read the announcement yesterday by Hewlett-Packard of an extension that will provide 700 new jobs over the next three years. Service industries have been doing very well through the difficult times of the past few years and expanding most of the time. That must be set against unemployment in manufacturing industry.

Mr. Malone

Is my right hon. Friend aware that in the Grampian region especially the enterprise allowance scheme has been a great success and has resulted in about 100 new businesses being started? Will he take whatever steps he can to ensure that further funds are devoted to this excellent and successful scheme?

Mr. Younger

I entirely agree with my hon. Friend. The great benefit of starting up many small concerns is that the areas concerned are often no longer dependent on one large industry. The one industry is replaced by many small enterprises which are basic to the economy.

Mr. Millan

Is the Secretary of State aware that, because of the change in policy and financial arrangements on the training side, there is now a threat to close some skillcentres, including the one in Govan? Would it not be a criminal waste of a purpose-built facility that is only 10 years old, in an area of desperately high unemployment, if the centre were to close, and will he intervene to prevent that disaster?

Mr. Younger

I note the right hon. Gentleman's points about Govan skillcentre and I shall discuss them with my colleagues. The new Skillcentre Training Agency will adopt a commercial approach to training and will consider the role of the skillcentres as soon as possible.

Mr. Bill Walker

When my right hon. Friend meets the chairman of the MSC in Scotland, will he ask him to examine carefully the YTS scheme, especially as it is not working at the moment in the Edinburgh area, where companies such as Ferranti cannot take on boys because the trade unions will not allow it?

Mr. Younger

I agree with my hon. Friend that where there are objections to the youth training scheme every effort should be made to try to resolve those objections so that the maximum opportunity is given to young people to take advantage of the scheme.

Mr. Dewar

Although I welcome the kind words of the Minister about the community programme, will he go a little further and reassure the House that the number of places in the community programme in Scotland will not be cut next year? The present number of places is about 16,000 and, given the unemployment situation, would it not be a disgrace if the number were to decline significantly when there are 350,000 Scots on the dole queue?

Mr. Younger

I appreciate what the hon. Gentleman says about the importance of the community programme. As he will know, there was a pause in the starting of new schemes late last year to avoid overshooting the target for which funds were available. However, by providing an extra £15 million nationally for the community programme the Government have ensured that the build-up of places to this year's target may be resumed. The hon. Gentleman must await the public expenditure proposals to see how next year's target can be fitted in.

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