HC Deb 16 December 1986 vol 107 cc1043-4
7. Mr. Andrew F. Bennett

asked the Paymaster General why he has changed the community programme eligibility rules for 18 to 25-year-olds in the nine pilot areas chosen for the job training scheme.

Mr. Lee

The job training scheme pilots offer training and work experience, particularly for those aged under 25 who have been unemployed for six months or more. We therefore decided that in the pilot areas places on the community programme should be concentrated on those who have been out of work for 12 months or more.

Mr. Bennett

Will the Minister accept that what young adults want, like everyone else, is real jobs? However, at least the community programme has ensured that many of them can do something useful and in many cases they can get training while on the schemes. Does the Minister also agree that it is unfair of the Government to stop young people in the trial areas from continuing on the community programme unless they have been out of work for more than 12 months? Will he accept that the Government are again penalising those young people who desperately want jobs and forcing them to go on a training scheme, when many of them have been on the youth opportunities programme and youth training scheme and have had their fill of training? They want jobs from the Government.

Mr. Lee

The whole point of the job training scheme is to improve the quality of training of our young people, and I wish that Opposition Members, the hon. Member for Denton and Reddish (Mr. Bennett) in particular, would support us in that. The aim of the scheme, with regard to particular individuals, is to place emphasis on an agreed training plan, and particularly to concentrate on new technological skills and self-employment.

Mr. Thurnham

Does my hon. Friend share my amazement at the fact that the Opposition do not welcome the pilot schemes, which are designed positively to improve training for 18 to 25-year-olds, especially if that can leave more room for older people to take advantage of places on the community programme?

Mr. Lee

I thank my hon. Friend for his comments. We are trying all the time to improve the quality of our training schemes and training for our young people.

Ms. Clare Short

Has the Minister seen the MSC's recent report on the attitude of the long-term unemployed to the new job training scheme? Is he aware that it was, in the words of the report, "cynical and suspicious" and saw the reduction of the unemployment figures as the main benefit? It also described the scheme as "tantamount to slave labour." How can the Minister possibly justify paying participants their benefit only, removing them from the unemployment figures and then charging employers a fee for their labour? Is that not the most cynical and nasty of all the schemes that have been introduced, simply to reduce the unemployment figures in the run-up to the election?

Mr. Lee

I totally reject the hon. Lady's comments. We are trying to improve the quality of training all the time. I believe that the scheme is proving popular in the pilot areas, but we must await the results of the scheme before we can consider whether to extend it further.