HC Deb 05 February 1985 vol 72 cc734-5
6. Mr. Yeo

asked the Secretary of State for Employment how many young people under 21 years of age have been unemployed for more than one year.

Mr. Alan Clark

On 10 January 1985 the number of claimants in the United Kingdom under 20 years of age who had been unemployed for over one year was 121,000. The available analysis by age does not separate those under 21.

Mr. Yeo

As it is the lower paid jobs that offer that particularly tragic group of youngsters their best hope of employment, will my hon. Friend use his considerable influence within the Government to try to achieve an increase in the lower earnings limit for national insurance contributions from £34 to £100 per week?

Mr. Clark

My hon. Friend's central point is right. Young people must not be priced out of jobs. That is why we have a young workers' scheme, and we regret it when the wages councils frustrate that objective. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services is at present engaged in a review of social services costs and charges. I shall draw my hon. Friend's views to his attention.

Mr. Boyes

In Tyne and Wear, 500 people under the age of 18 have been unemployed for over a year. Has the Minister had time to read page 106 of the latest issue of "Social Trends", according to which there is a direct relationship between high unemployment and long-term illness? Are not the Government, who are guilty of creating long-term unemployment, also guilty of creating long-term illness?

Mr. Clark

The hon. Gentleman is right to draw attention to those young people who have been unemployed for over a year. That category causes us great concern. We have spent £2 billion on special employment and training measures. The level of resources and the way in which they are applied are subject to continuous review and discussion. The group to which he refers is at present under consideration.

Mr. Rowe

In view of the considerable success of the enterprise allowance scheme, will my hon. Friend look again at the extreme partition between those who receive benefit of some kind and those who receive a wage? There should be room for overlap.

Mr. Clark

That is a matter for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services. There have already been changes affecting the community programme, and I welcome them.

Mr. Flannery

Is it not a fact that scores of thousands of young people who have left school have never known what it is to work? When will the Government realise that that terrible crisis is an act not of God but of their monetarist policies, which it is time they brought to a close because they are uneconomic and loss-making?

Mr. Clark

The hon. Gentleman is not entirely right. Certainly there was a category of young person, as his hon. Friend the Member for Houghton and Washington (Mr. Boyes) mentioned, prior to the introduction of the youth training scheme, who could not get a job and had been unemployed for more than a year. Since the introduction of the YTS, there is no reason why any youngster should leave school without the possibility of obtaining a place on the youth training scheme.