HC Deb 03 July 1984 vol 63 cc129-31
1. Mr. Haselhurst

asked the Secretary of State for Employment if he will make a statement about the future of the youth training scheme.

The Minister of State, Department of Employment (Mr. Peter Morrison)

The Government expect to receive further advice from the Manpower Services Commission on the future development of the youth training scheme within the next few weeks and will take this into account in reviewing the scheme.

Mr. Haselhurst

Has my hon. Friend seen sufficient of the scheme to be satisfied that it has been successfully instituted? Could it be expanded in the reasonably near future to become a two-year programme?

Mr. Morrison

I entirely agree with my hon. Friend that, by general consent, the scheme has been very successful indeed. Expanding the scheme so that it lasted for two years would, of course, involve considerably more resources.

Mr. Cyril Smith

If the Minister is not able to give the House an assurance that the whole scheme can be extended to last for two years, will he give particular consideration to the needs of young people who are slow learners or who are physically handicapped? They need a two-year scheme, as opposed to a one-year scheme, in order to obtain the full benefit from it. Will the Minister consider extending the scheme for two years for such young people?

Mr. Morrison

I assure the hon. Gentleman that the needs of the groups to whom he refers are among the matters which my right hon. Friend and I are carefully considering. As the hon. Gentleman will know, the scheme has been extended for the disabled.

Mr. Rowe

Given the often extremely mischievous attempts to decry the scheme as a total failure, can my hon. Friend tell us how many of the young people involved have managed to find permanent employment, or the promise of permanent employment, at the conclusion of the first year of the scheme?

Mr. Morrison

It is a little early to give a precise figure. However, the early signs are very encouraging and suggest that the placement rates will compare very favourably with those achieved on the youth opportunities programme.

Mr. Leighton

Why have the Government devalued the YTS by lowering the real value of the YTS allowance? Is the Minister aware that an increase of 5 per cent. in no way keeps pace with the rate of inflation? Has he noticed that the Secretary of State for Transport plans to increase London Transport fares by 10 or 12 per cent., on the plea that that is necessitated by the rate of inflation? What is the reason for those double standards?

Mr. Morrison

There are just under a quarter of a million trainees on the scheme and they do not entirely agree with the hon. Gentleman about the level of allowance. The hon. Gentleman will be aware that the Manpower Services Commission recently made a recommendation to my right hon. Friend, which we are now considering.

Mr. Wilson

Does the Minister not realise that when his Department and the MSC took the decision to abolish mode B1 places for community projects under the YTS considerable damage was done to area boards? Will he, in reviewing the operation of the scheme, take the advice of area boards of the MSC rather than rely on the MSC, which seems to be out of touch with the realities of the situation?

Mr. Morrison

As the hon. Gentleman will appreciate, it is a significant waste of taxpayers' money if only 55,000 of the 90,000 mode B1 places are occupied. We have decided that there will be about 70,000 places, which seems to be the right way of approaching the matter.

Mr. Stokes

Will my hon. Friend liaise with his hon. Friends in the Ministry of Defence to ascertain whether its scheme, which, I believe, is one of the best in the country, can be further extended and advertised?

Mr. Morrison

I assure my hon. Friend that my hon. Friends in the Ministry of Defence and I talk about that scheme. I appreciate what my hon. Friend said about advertising the scheme.

Mr. John Smith

Is the Minister aware that the proposal to increase the YTS allowance by only £1.25 per week is disgraceful, bearing in mind that the YTS allowance has been pegged at £25 since its inception? Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the Government continually veto all proposals to increase that allowance in line with inflation, such as the proposal recommended by the MSC? Is he further aware that YTS trainees should be paid properly, at a figure of about £34 per week, not £26.25 per week? Are the Government not using this measure to depress wage levels for all young people generally?

Mr. Morrison

Surely the right hon. and learned Gentleman is aware that the MSC recommended an increase to £26.25, by a majority of six to three. That means all the local authorities agreeing with the CBI, and the TUC dissenting. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has not yet made up his mind about the precise level of allowance in the year ahead.

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