HC Deb 05 June 1984 vol 61 cc144-6
5. Mr. Haslehurst

asked the Secretary of State for Employment whether he will meet the chairman of the Manpower Services Commission to discuss new ways in which jobs and training for young people could be devised.

Mr. Tom King

I frequently meet the chairman of the Manpower Services Commission to discuss the progress of the commission's employment and training measures, including those which held young people.

Mr. Haselhurst

Is there not a whole host of what might be termed odd jobs which, if they were organised and aggregated, might provide a lot of real and worthwhile opportunities, especially for young people, if they were trained to meet those opportunities? Could not the MSC conduct an experiment along those lines to see whether it is possible to get a practical scheme under way?

Mr. King

There are several ways in which the MSC tries to encourage the means by which managing agents can help to pick up individual opportunities for young people in rural areas. There is more scope for imagination in that area. I shall certainly discuss that point with the chairman of the MSC.

Mr. Nellist

Is the Secretary of State aware that the £25 allowance that is currently paid to youngsters on the youth training scheme ought to be almost £40 if it had increased in line with wages or inflation in the past five years? Why does he not admit to the House and working people outside that the real aim of the scheme is to drive down the level of wages paid to young people to play elastoplast politics and to cover up the real level of youth unemployment?

Mr. King

The real aim of the youth training scheme is to give more than 250,000 young people—as it will be this year—the chance of a year of good training and work experience at the start of their working life. I am satisfied that that objective is being achieved. It is a training allowance, and my first concern is to ensure that all of those young people get the best training that we can obtain for them. I give the highest priority to that aim.

Mrs. Rumbold

Is my right hon. Friend aware that, although many employers greatly welcome the introduction of the youth training scheme, the application forms for such schemes last year amounted to two or three pages which had to be filled in, but this year about 28 pages must be filled in? Will he reassure me that he will investigate that matter?

Mr. King

I announced to the House that we would have a consolidation of the scheme this year. I must tell my hon. Friend that what she described is not what I had in mind. I shall look into that aspect.

Mr. Kennedy

Will the Secretary of State consider constructively discussing with his Scottish Office colleagues any proposals that might come from the Highlands of Scotland for improving MSC funding to provide greater youth opportunities for training in oil rig repair and maintenance?

Mr. King

The hon. Member knows that that is the responsibility of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland, but I certainly take note of what he has said.

Mr. Lawler

Returning to the original question of my hon. Friend the Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. Haselhurst), and given initiatives like Instant Muscle, will my right hon. Friend consider amending the enterprise allowance scheme so as to help people under 18 coming off YTS schemes to go into business on their own, given their desire to do so?

Mr. King

The first and obvious difficulty is that people under 18 would not be able to enter into a legal contract, as required under the enterprise allowance scheme. That poses a real problem. My hon. Friend will know that the enterprise allowance scheme is extremely successful. At the moment demand is very large indeed and I do not think that we envisage extending the age category.

Mr. Sheerman

When the Minister meets the chairman of the Manpower Services Commission to discuss jobs and training for young people, how will he defend his Government's action in sabotaging the European Commission proposal that everyone should have a right to two year's training? How can he do that when he knows that the chairman of the MSC is fully behind the proposal for two years' training, cashed in when the individual wants them? Why did his Government sink the European Commission proposal to give that to all people in Europe?

Mr. King

The hon. Member knows that in Germany, for instance, the training schemes on a two-year basis are employer-led to a large extent. The difference in this country is the degree to which the Government are leading the schemes. I should like to see ways in which employers could take forward the training initiative. I think certain Opposition Members would be willing to concede that the YTS has been a remarkable success in many areas. There is now an opportunity to build with employers further schemes to improve training provision.