HC Deb 14 March 1984 vol 56 cc382-3
6. Mr. Ernie Ross

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland when he next intends to discuss the youth training scheme in Scotland with the chairman of the Manpower Services Commission.

Mr. Allan Stewart

My right hon. Friend has no immediate plans to do so. The take-up of places this year on the youth training scheme in Scotland has continued to be encouraging, with over 36,000 youngsters having entered since the scheme's inception, 9,500 of them since the beginning of January.

Mr. Ross

Is the Minister aware that there is urgent need for him to meet the chairman of the Manpower Services Commission to discuss with him the intention of the Minister of State, Department of Employment to reduce by 30 per cent. community-based schemes within the new youth training scheme? Does the hon. Gentleman agree that it would be better to give new community-based schemes the opportunity of the operational year to settle down, so giving them a chance to move smoothly from the youth opportunities programme to the youth training scheme?

Mr. Stewart

The hon. Gentleman is referring to mode B1 places. Of the 10,000 in Scotland, only 7,800 are filled. Each unfilled place costs the taxpayer at least £2,000. Against that, the MSC's new target of 8,000 places next year is perfectly reasonable. Dundee ITEC, which has been a great success, will double its intake.

Mr. Kennedy

On the question of the youth training scheme, and further to the point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Inverness, Nairn and Lochaber (Mr. Johnston), what real hope can the Minister offer young people, for example in the Highlands of Scotland, who now face great difficulties as a result of the economic policies of the Conservatives since 1979? Many of their parents were encouraged to move from the central belt of Scotland and elsewhere to Fort William. When the Fort William pulp mill closed, some of them went to Invergordon to work at the smelter, and since that has closed they have had little opportunity for employment, and the youngsters have even less. What hope do the Government offer people in that situation?

Mr. Stewart

I am astonished that in the course of that lengthy question the hon. Gentleman could not bring himself even to welcome the youth training scheme. I should have thought that people of all political persuasions could welcome the scheme as a major radical new initiative in providing a bridge between school and work. The Highlands economy will benefit from the steady economic upturn in the United Kingdom and from the measures announced by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer in yesterday's Budget.

Mr. Bill Walker

My hon. Friend will be aware that we on these Benches are keen that the youth training scheme should be seen to be, and be accepted as, successful. What progress has been made in the Edinburgh area, where the trade unions have been less than constructive—indeed, could be described as having been destructive—by their failure to help to make the scheme work?

Mr. Stewart

While I accept that there has been local opposition in some areas, the support of the trade union movement for the youth training scheme has been widespread. Obviously, however, it is frustrating if a good YTS is unreasonably resisted because of local problems.

Mr. Home Robertson

Why is the MSC cutting the youth training scheme in East Lothian by closing down the community schemes operated by Lothian regional council? Already more than 4,000 people are unemployed in East Lothian. Why should a further 47 young people be deprived of even this short-term opportunity to do a useful job?

Mr. Stewart

A pause in the start of new schemes in the community programme was necessary late in 1983 to avoid overshooting the target for which funds were available. By providing an additional £15 million nationally for the community programme the Government have ensured that the build-up of places to this year's target of 130,000 may be resumed.

Mr. Craigen

Will the Minister more fully explain why there has been such a disruptive cut in the number of mode B1 places affecting community-based projects and training workshops? What consultation took place before the announcement was made? May we take it that the hon. Gentleman actually talks to the Minister of State, Department of Employment to make sure that the Scottish viewpoint comes across?

Mr. Stewart

I assure the hon. Gentleman that I talk to my hon. Friend the Minister of State, Department of Employment regularly——

Mr. Craigen

But does he listen?

Mr. Stewart

—and that he listens with extreme care. As for mode B1 places, I have explained the figures to the House and I believe that the MSC target is perfectly reasonable. The employer-based mode A schemes offer the best prospects for youngsters, and a sufficient number of those places will be available. I should have thought that that was a sensible priority.