HC Deb 10 February 1986 vol 91 cc640-83 3.38 pm
Mr. Alan Haselhurst (Saffron Walden)

I beg to move, That this House calls for future policy towards 14 to 19 year olds to be based on a close integration of education, training and the Youth Service, taking full account of the aims and objectives of Industry Year.

I realise that terms such as education, training, and Industry Year might all be said to be "good things" in the sense that that description was used in "1066 and All That". The debate could therefore be an occasion for a well-meaning canter round the course notching up worthy platitudes and generally exhibiting care and concern. I hope that we shall do better than that. Conservative Members could indulge in a welter of congratulations on a mounting series of initiatives taken by the Government. I believe that the Government deserve congratulations on many moves which they have made in that sphere. I hope that, instead of relying purely on congratulations, we will concentrate more on looking ahead at how policy might now develop.

A great deal has happened and is happening in education and training. I should like to sharpen the focus of the argument. I shall suggest a plan and what it should entail and I shall talk about some of the problems associated with it. I want to mention the often neglected aspect of youth provision—the youth service. I have a suggestion to make about careers education which is a vital ingredient of any strategy for education and training. Then, in case the links between industry and education have not been explicit in what has gone before, I shall direct some remarks to the subject of Industry Year and its objectives.

The general thrust of the motion, in particular its reference to the integration of education and training, seems to have fairly strong backing. A great deal has been written about the way in which the policy should evolve. Even the Government, in many of their statements, seem to favour something like integration. Basically, it appears that the Government want all young people to have the opportunity to follow a more relevant and practical curriculum leading to the achievement of recognised standards of competence and qualification. I note that there are indications, perhaps pre-eminently through the technical and vocational education initiative, that this opportunity should begin at the age of 14. I also note that the youth training scheme is now intended as a permanent feature. That is made clear in the White Paper entitled "Education and Training for Young People". I most certainly welcome that development.

Apart from that White Paper, we have seen the publication of "Better Schools" and we are seeing the continued development of the technical and vocational education initiative. Discussions are taking place on the initiative of the Manpower Services Commission on non- advanced further education. We are seeing a review of vocational qualifications and the introduction of advanced supplementary levels of examination. We are seeing the certificate of pre-vocational education. We are seeing the college-employer links project, and the introduction of the general certificate of secondary education and we have also seen the introduction of information technology centres. I do not believe that that is a fully comprehensive list, but it shows that the Government have been busy and imaginative in what they have been trying to create in education and training. However, one could be less polite about it. I notice that the National Association of Head Teachers is being more critical when it describes muddle and confusion as arising from all of that. Perhaps there is something of a child's puzzle about it—those children's puzzles where one is invited to follow pieces of string or lines which are in a jumble and one is never sure which leads to the end of the maze. I think that some of those dead ends now need to be reconnected so that there is more coherence in the picture.

If the House is confused by the welter of initiatives that have been taken and their varying purposes, what about the consumer? How is he to understand what the best course is for him to pursue? The Government are to be given credit for opening up a system for creating great flexibility and widening choice, but perhaps there is now a need to remould before some of the new developments that have been set in train assume their own rigidity and become harder to adapt and adjust into a coherent whole.

The plan that I would put forward, at least to set the argument going, is that we should envisage that education and training most certainly should begin at the age of 14. Basically, there would be three choices. There would be an academically oriented course; a technical and vocationally oriented course; and a workplace oriented course. But before I examine the arguments to support that proposition, I should like to make one immediate point. The National Association of Head Teachers has produced a consultative document on 14 to 18-year-olds. It comes from a working party headed by Mr. John Swallow, the headmaster of Ongar comprehensive school. I have known him for several years, and have great respect not only for what he achieves at his school but for his great knowledge of these matters. Therefore, in answer to any possible criticism from that source, I should like to say that I am not advocating a stratified system. I am looking at the plan that I have put forward very much on the horizontal plane and not on the vertical plane. Those choices should be regarded as equal.

What assumptions lie behind that plan? First, the opportunities that the plan presents should start at the age of 14. Sixteen is altogether too late. By the age of 16, alas, too many people have already opted out of the system—perhaps because they no longer pay attention or gain from classroom experience, or, more dramatic still, they may simply absent themselves from scholastic establishments. We are losing out on too many people if we think that they can be kept in full-time education, in the traditional sense, until 16. I understand that in professional circles today it is argued that 14 might be too late. I suppose that it depends on the quality of the education before that age. I believe that there must be a balance between achieving a broad foundation in education and concentrating on vocational studies.

The TVEI experience suggests that 14 is a realistic age. I note that the drop-out rate from TVEI courses is significantly less than the equivalent drop-out rate from full-time ordinary traditional education. Therefore, I believe that 14 is realistic.

The other assumption is that there should be no work before 18. In that regard, I am on song with the National Association of Head Teachers.

Mr. Richard Holt (Langbaurgh)

Does my hon. Friend accept that rather than being hidebound to the age of 14, which can fall at any time within 12 months, the plan should start in the 14th year, at the beginning of that academic year?

Mr. Haselhurst

I recognise my hon. Friend's point. That problem bedevils the education system at many different points earlier than that. That is a detail to be worked out. I say that with no disrespect to my hon. Friend. I fully understand the importance of the point that he makes.

The other assumption is that there should be no work before 18. The National Association of Head Teachers calls that raising the preparation age of young people, which is a fair way of expressing it. We have only to look at the experience of other countries to realise that the time between the ages of 14 and 18 can be spent usefully by all people within those age groups. In Britain we under-prepare our young people for work. I wish it to become the expected norm that full-time work begins only at the age of 18.

Several imperatives are associated with such a plan, of which the first is coherence. In the motion I have used the word "integration", but, in this context, I do not believe that there is much difference in meaning between integration and coherence. Education and training should be spanned in an understandable way. What is done along the chosen route of the three that I have suggested must relate to what is happening in the other routes. The whole system should be based on a mix of education, training and work experience. The mix should vary in the different channels, but remain consistent with the established objective of increasing the amount of practical and work-based learning for those over 14 years. That implies a modular system. Sufficient work has already been done to suggest that such a system is attainable.

The second imperative must be a connection between the routes, because I do not propose three parallel or separate lines. I have referred to routes and channels, but, emphatically, I do not mean tunnels. The routes must be visible with regular cross-over points, which may interweave. Someone could start in a work-oriented course and later revert to the academic stream, followed by a mix of technical, vocational or work-based experience, depending on what is suitable for that person. Cross-over and mingling are needed because the present system is characterised by the inability of people to make second or third choices. At present there are rare opportunities to go back on a decision taken earlier in life. If one is set on the wrong route from the start, it can be the greatest of all difficulties to make the best of one's talents.

How can we realistically expect young people at the age of 14, 16 or 18 to make a decision that will affect the whole of their lives? It is possible to talk to university undergraduates today and discover that even they, with their relative advantages, are uncertain about the job or career that they want in life.

I speak from my own experience of having great uncertainty, almost up to the last minute, about which opportunity to take. I was fortunate in those days, because I had a choice of which line to take. It is hideously difficult for anyone of school age in a rapidly changing world to decide what to do. We must give people every chance to be able to switch about between the different routes and channels that we can create for them. The participants in the education and training system must be able to seek more academic or more practical learning as their circumstances dictate.

A further imperative is that the nature of my proposed system should be recognised by parents. Too many parents and perhaps too many children regard non-academic work as second best. There must be parity of esteem between the various courses that could be undertaken in an integrated system. We do not want to perpetuate a system that regards 40 per cent. of our young people as failures. We can do better.

Employers must recognise what is intended in such a system and qualifications must be rationalised. The current review of vocational qualifications may provide a valuable start in that direction. Employers must understand what they are getting when young people present themselves for work. It follows that employers must have a greater input into the system and must make clearer what they expect from potential recruits.

A final imperative is that a plan for young people aged between 14 and 18 must be merely the foundation for continuing education. Education to the age of 18 or 19 is not an end in itself. It is no longer a matter of people finding one job to keep them going throughout life. They will have to renew their skills, training and education at various times. That takes us outside the motion, so I shall not pursue the point.

Mr. Peter Bruinvels (Leicester, East)

My hon. Friend has given an interesting analysis of how young people can get involved in careers after leaving school. What role does he see for careers teachers? Should not they be liaising with local industry and businesses to make sure that there is a place ready for a child who is about to leave school?

Mr. Haselhurst

I hope that my hon. Friend will forgive me if I deal with that aspect in a moment rather than break the sequence of my remarks.

Some problems will attend the sort of plan that I have put forward. Perhaps the most difficult problem that will have to be faced if we are to have an integrated policy is maintenance allowances for young people. That issue will have to be tackled. I do not see how we can perpetuate a system in which only those on youth training schemes are paid an allowance and that others are paid nothing. There is evidence that people are moving from TVEI schemes into the youth training scheme for that reason. We cannot ignore that fact.

Maintenance allowances would have obvious resource implications and all Conservative Members speak with trepidation when implying that new resources are required. However, I am not sure that vast extra sums would be required if we used a little imagination about the considerable sums already spent, directly or indirectly, on young people in this age group.

If we put all that money together and perhaps divert child benefit, in part or in whole, from the parent to the child, it may be possible to find a solution that would be broadly tolerable, cover the entire age range and remove biases in the system for youngsters to consider academically-orientated, technical or vocational-oriented or workplace-oriented routes. The problem is difficult, but it will have to be faced eventually.

Vested interests will have to be tackled. It will be all too easy for teachers and employers to take a narrow traditional view and there may be tensions and jealousies between local education authorities and the Manpower Services Commission if it is felt that the MSC has moved in with more money to supplant the work of the education authority. I can only appeal for flexibility, tolerance and a willingness to co-operate among all the partners in the system. Enough has been said and done to suggest that people can and will respond if they see an emerging national need. Therefore, I am by no means without hope that everyone can co-operate in producing a viable system for the future.

There is one other problem. This may be an idiosyncratic quirk on my part, but I think that others feel the same way. If we are to bring about the extent of change that I have described, there must be leadership from the top. That might mean having a Department of State that combines education and training under one roof. I do not expect my hon. Friend the Minister to respond to that point today; it may have to be dealt with at a higher level in Government. However, I believe that that will ultimately be necessary. I am emboldened to say that because I believe that some of my colleagues also believe that it must be tackled.

I would like to see the work done by the youth service integrated into education and training. It must be truer now than in 1974—when I had the honour to introduce the Youth and Community Bill—that many young people need counselling outside the home and the school. People may regret that fact, and obviously we all hope that young people can find the support and advice that they need from their parents and homes, which can be supplemented at school. Alas, the realities of life are rather different. A growing number of young people experience difficulty in finding support and help in either of those places. Therefore, there is a role there for the youth service. I see it as a major counselling service as well as one that can help young people to find constructive leisure.

To some extent, those matters will be covered in the courses undertaken in the 14 to 19-year-old plan—for example, the work done by Project Trident and the YMCA "Training for Life" programme. There are other schemes, and I am not denigrating them by not mentioning them. Interesting work is being done in that sphere. The efforts of the youth service should be integrated into the general sytem rather more specifically and carefully than hitherto. I do not want the youth service to remain a financially poor, unco-ordinated and spasmodic service. It has struggled as a Cinderella for far too long.

I hope that in making remarks about career structure and education I shall respond to the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Leicester, East (Mr. Bruinvels). There must be a quantum increase in careers education, and it must go further down the school system. The current volume is not sufficient to provide an effective service, and I do not believe that that service is currently as efficient as it should be. We should consider a new, combined, independent service merging careers teaching — which is under-funded — with the careers advisory service. I do not see why someone should not be employed in a school by a new centralised careers service. That person would spend most of his time in that school providing careers education and advice for the pupils and, perhaps, help on other courses that come within his ambit. He would have responsibility for liaising with industry to ensure that opportunities are created that match the product of the various courses in his district. That would be a useful way forward, and I commend it to the House.

Included in my motion is a reference to Industry Year. There has, of course, been a full and interesting debate on that during private Members' time, initiated by my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Northfield (Mr. King). I do not want to cover the same ground today, but it is an objective — some say the most important objective—of Industry Year to improve understanding between education and industry. I hope that that objective has been largely assumed in much of what I have already said. There is an opportunity today, however, to stress that each needs the other. Industry is vitally concerned with what happens in education and training, while education and training need to rely heavily on industry to provide a decent service for the pupils and trainees.

Industry needs to be not only the provider but a great source of influence on our education and training system. It can help to bring education alive so that it is no longer drab, dull and apparently irrelevant. There is a great deal of evidence that teachers can gain from experience within industry. Many of our major companies, at their own expense, have undertaken schemes to ensure the translation of their people into schools and teachers into their companies. Those who have already experienced that say that it has been of great benefit.

Such useful initiatives, whether from the CBI or individual companies, have helped to forge better understanding. However, the coverage is far from universal. The CBI states that its "Understanding British Industry" scheme covers only about 5 per cent. of our teaching force. The CBI's aim during Industry Year is to improve that coverage to about 40 per cent.—but even then we shall still be very much behind the sort of standards that we should achieve.

What more can be done? If there is an integration of much of our education and training, that must mean a greater contribution from industry. The MSC is due all credit for helping employers and trade unions to understand that point. Perhaps we should take up a point in a report published only today by the eastern region of the CBI which suggests that more business men should be governors of schools. That is something that we have not previously considered sufficiently.

I wonder whether we would encourage the further involvement of industry by giving a little financial inducement. There will be no difficulty in encouraging the ICIs, BPs and IBMs of this world to do valuable work; it is the smaller companies that wonder whether they have the time to make the necessary contribution. Perhaps such efforts—which can be quantified where business men are giving their or their employees' time to help the development of training and education off their premises—should be tax deductible. We would quickly regain any such concession in the quality of trainee and pupil emerging from the system.

Mr. Peter Bruinvels

I am sorry to take up my hon. Friend's time. Is he aware that one of the leading community colleges in Leicester, Judgemeadow, funds a large number of projects through the local authority and local businesses, whose representatives serve on the board of governors? Teachers and pupils have the opportunity to try out computers and machine tools. That initiative is working in Leicester.

Mr. Haselhurst

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. Many firms have been extremely generous and far-sighted. The volume of activity will increase, but it must increase quickly. We do not wish to be struggling in another 10 years and to have reached only 60 or 70 per cent. of the teaching force in Britain. I suggested that the expense of this activity could be tax-deductible because it could hurry the process along. I am not implying that, without such a concession, firms would not do what was right both in their interests and in the national interests.

Mr. Holt

On the question of available resources, has my hon. Friend given consideration to the many employers who have expensive capital equipment which technical colleges and other places of education simply cannot match in terms of resources? In the industry in which I worked we had machinery of which no trainee would have had any experience in the formal educational sense other than through the company. The company had down time on the machinery when it was not producing. The technical colleges will not be able to train the people who are required unless there is some financial inducement.

Mr. Haselhurst

My hon. Friend makes a valid point which may be allied to what I have said. I do not want to go into the question of the availability of equipment and hardware, although it does present a problem. It may be that the hardware is scattered too far and wide—that which is available in technical colleges and that which is available only within the premises of employers. More thought must be given to how we can make equipment more accessible to more people.

However clear may be the pattern of education and training in the future, and however much we commend individuals, the Manpower Services Commission, companies and teachers, we need the help of the Government. This Government, I believe sincerely, have shown that their heart is in the right place. [Laughter.] It is all very well for the hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Mr. Golding) to laugh. Obviously, he wishes to discount and discredit all that has been done. That is most unfair and unreasonable.

Some of the Government initiatives have been taken a little late in the Government's life. I would have preferred some of them to have been started immediately the Government came to office. However, I will not knock what the Government are doing now. The hon. Gentleman should recognise that the value of these initiatives is recognised in all sections of industry. It is not a matter for silly denigrating laughter. The hon. Gentleman should know better.

Mr. Barry Sheerman (Huddersfield)

Surely the hon. Gentleman will be sympathetic to a degree of cynicism from these Benches? Most of the so-called progress that has taken place over the past six years has come about because there are 4 million unemployed, 1¼ million of whom are young people. That is why the Government are instituting most of these reforms.

Mr. Haselhurst

I did not especially want to inject a note of controversy into this afternoon's proceedings. I thought that the concepts which I put forward would be treated on their merits and sympathetically throughout the House-give a little there and take a little here.

If the hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr. Sheerman) makes a jibe about this Government reacting for the wrong motives—the increase in unemployment—one can point to the last Labour Government when we had mounting unemployment, though below what we have experienced recently. The Labour Government did not lift a finger to do anything when many believed that action should be taken. There was not much support on the Opposition Benches for the Youth and Community Bill. The Labour Government had five years to take action but they did nothing.

Dr. Keith Hampson (Leeds, North-West)

My hon. Friend may recall the memoirs of the then Chief Secretary, Lord Barnett. In them he gave a blow-by-blow account of how Mrs. Williams went to the Cabinet with a scheme similar to the youth training scheme. The Chancellor of the Exchequer and other leading figures in the then Labour Government whittled the scheme away and the pilot scheme was given only £7 million. That was all Mrs. Williams got.

Mr. Haselhurst

My hon. Friend obviously has a stronger stomach than me for the memoirs of former Labour Ministers, but he has made a useful point.

I believe that there have been several good beginnings, and they have received widespread backing and much political good will, despite the laughter of the hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme. If I may change the metaphor slightly, it seems that almost all the pieces of the jigsaw are now on the table and it is not unreasonable to call on the Government to start fitting the pieces together. If the Government do so, we can then offer a new and recognisable deal to young people. We must create new opportunities in industry in Britain to put it on a par, in terms of its most important raw material, human beings, with other nations with which it must compete. If the Government act, they will give fresh encouragement to the teaching profession after the present difficult dispute has been brought to an end. The Government must show that they have the will and determination to complete what they have begun. I believe that the moment for that has come.

4.16 pm
The Minister of State, Department of Education and Science (Mr. Chris Patten)

I begin by congratulating my hon. Friend the Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. Haselhurst) twice over. First, I congratulate him on his success in the ballot and, secondly, I congratulate him on his use of that success. My hon. Friend knows more about this subject than most of us. He has proved that to us this afternoon, not least with his encyclopaedic knowledge of the rather Orwellian acronyms that litter the education and training landscape. My hon. Friend has been years ahead in calling for the close integration of education and training in the youth service. I hope I shall be able to show my hon. Friend that we are at least beginning to catch him up.

I start with three propositions on which I think I will carry even Opposition Members. First, it is clear that there has been substantial historic concern about the relationship between education and training. If my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge (Mr. Rhodes James) were here this afternoon he would confirm that Prince Albert himself would have waxed indignantly about the technician gap. That concern has been sharpened by high unemployment and the pace of technological change. These two factors have meant that for most young people entry into the job market has been delayed for a couple of years. For most young people it has become crystal clear that a permanent, once-and-for-all plunge into the job market, with no training after the age of 16, offers a questionable future.

The second proposition is that we have failed, because of the absurd and debilitating polarisation between so-called academic learning and so-called vocational learning, to bring together education and training.

We need general education courses which are also practical and relevant, and we need vocational courses which include those elements of general education necessary to foster the qualities which employers say that they want. It seems ridiculous to suggest that anybody who ever emphasises the importance of general education is an effete, wishy-washy, dare I say wet, descendant of Dr. Arnold, and personally accountable for the decline of the British industrial spirit. It is equally ridiculous to suggest that anybody who talks about the importance of relevance in education is a utilitarian, uncouth and uncivilised descendant of Mr. Gradgrind.

In a remarkable book on the philosophy of education written a few years ago, Mary Warnock argued that education should be regarded as a preparation for the good life and that, for most people, the good life should include work, and that education had to take account of that. I endorse that point of view, although I would not necessarily want to associate Mary Warnock with Dr. Arnold or with Mr. Gradgrind.

The third proposition is that it is in the interests of education and of industry to know more about each other, but it is rather depressing that a nation with a history such as ours needs Industry Year, but there it is. I hope, nevertheless, that Industry Year is a substantial success and that it helps education and industry to break out of the vicious circle in which both sides undervalue the other's work.

When addressing the curricular and institutional problems of education and training, we are dealing mostly with what happens after 16, but what happens before is vital. My hon. Friend understandably mentioned the age of 14 as a starting point in his motion. If we get right what happens between five and 16, and the curriculum is, according to the famous quartet, broad, balanced, relevant and differentiated, and if we are able to raise the threshold of achievement for those of average ability and those of below average ability, the problems after 16 are much easier to deal with.

I do not want today to engage in another argument about the teachers' dispute, which we have managed to discuss several times recently. However, I should like to make it clear once again that I wholly take the point that, unless we have a better trained, more highly motivated and better paid teaching force with clear conditions of service, our other ambitions for education before and after 16 are as dust in the wind.

I have mentioned the importance of balance. The technical and vocational education initiative is clearly relevant in that regard. As my hon. Friend will know, it is an initiative in which we are investing about £220 million of taxpayers' money. It should help to increase liaison between industry and education. I understand that my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Employment will want to say a little more about that if he catches your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker. We are considering carefully the wider application to all secondary schools of the lessons that we have learnt from the pilot TVEI projects.

As for breadth and balance, what young people are taught and how they are trained should not be determined, let alone narrowed, by examinations. Examinations should be the servant and not the master of the curriculum. Young people should be well advised about the routes rather than the tunnels that they take through the education and training system, and they should be able to transfer from one route to another according to their abilities or ambitions. It is in that spirit that the Government have acted to reform national exams at 16-plus, 17-plus and 18-plus, starting at 16-plus with the general certificate of secondary education.

The GCSE is one of the most important education reforms since the war. It has been discussed for at least 15 years. Nobody can legitimately argue that progress has been exactly helter-skelter. The examination puts greater emphasis on practical skills and application as well as on knowledge and understanding. I believe that it will do much to prepare young people better for adult and working life. It should motivate and engage pupils to achieve more. It seems to provide a better and fairer way in which to assess pupils at the end of the compulsory period of schooling and a means of establishing a sound basis for all post-16 education and training, including the youth training scheme, the certificate of pre-vocational education, A-levels, and full-time vocational courses.

The preparations for the GCSE are quite literally unprecedented. Most have gone according to plan, and some have gone slightly ahead of plan. I do not doubt that the timetable is extremely tight or that the task of introducing the exam is tough and puts additional demands on secondary school teachers. The timetable has always been tight and the job of introducing the exam has always been tough. But nothing that has happened in the past year or so has made the timetable any tighter or the task any tougher.

Teaching the new syllabuses will start this autumn and the examination will be sat for the first time in the summer of 1988. Retreat from that timetable is not an option. We cannot put into reverse the preparations that have been made so far and then start up again 12 months later.

I hope that we shall have the opportunity to discuss the GCSE at some stage. We shall of course listen sympathetically to any suggestions, whether they come from examining groups, employers, or teacher unions, about how we might add to the preparations that have already been made and help smooth the introduction of this important examination. We are prepared to listen sympathetically to any proposals. We are not prepared, however, to abandon the examination and to preside over what I believe would be an absolutely chaotic retreat.

Mr. Jack Thompson

Has the Minister had correspondence from teachers who are responsible for introducing the new GCSE? Only last week, I had correspondence from representatives of the whole of the north of England saying that there is little likelihood of the examination being introduced in September because there is already chaos in schools regarding examinations.

Mr. Patten

I have had a good deal of correspondence on the subject. I am in the process of meeting all of the examining groups to discuss it and I have talked to several of the teacher unions, and will continue to do so. There will be chaos only if some of the teacher unions determine that there will be chaos. I do not believe that, in the wake of what we all hope will be a satisfactory settlement under the auspices of ACAS, any responsible secondary teacher, given the help that we are providing with training and our willingness to consider other means of helping, will set out to wreck what all of the teacher unions and everyone else recognise is the most important educational advance for pupils of this age for years.

The House knows that we are anxious that the pattern of education for A-level students is too narrow, especially as compared with provision in competitor industrial countries. We must aim for a broader more balanced education for those following A-level courses, whether into higher education or employment. The House will know that we are introducing AS-level examinations in 1989. A-levels will remain, as they set standards of excellence which should be preserved. Nevertheless, some reforms are necessary, for example, in establishing criteria for key A-level grades.

There are also interesting developments in individual subjects, such as London's design and technology syllabus, which includes a module on computer-aided engineering, and the Joint Matriculation Board's new common syllabus on foreign languages which puts a great deal more emphasis on practical language skills.

Outside the GCSE and A-level, but with links to them, we have taken two major initiatives in qualifications for 16 to 19-year-olds. We have introduced a certificate of pre-vocational education, which is a new qualification for young people of school-leaving age who do not aspire to A-levels or a specifically vocational path, but who wish to remain in full-time education, whether at further education colleges or in schools. It provides a broad course based on general education with a vocational slant. This year may not have been ideal to start such a new syllabus, but about 15,000 pupils have been taking the CPVE course in more than 1,000 schools and further educational colleges. I hope that next year the takeup will be greater. The takeup will be helped if we can do more to publicise this extremely important new course.

The second, and arguably more important, initiative has been our attempt to cut a path through the jungle of vocational qualifications. That is what the review of vocational qualifications under the admirable chairmanship of Mr. Oscar de Ville seeks to do. It will be completed in April, and we look forward to considering its recommendations as soon thereafter as possible.

I am confident that we can build on existing strengths to develop a system of qualifications which is more attractive, relevant and accessible to young people and employers, while defining and maintaining the highest and clearest standards. We need to encourage more and better vocational education and training to produce competent, adaptable and creative individuals that our society and economy obviously need.

Mr. Holt

I wish to refer to the quantum of foreign language teaching and training, although I recognise that the debate is about training, industry and education. In reply to a recent question I was told that less than 2 per cent. of schools offered Russian or Japanese, and that only two schools offered those subjects in the whole of Scotland. How will we compete, and what resources will the Minister put on the table?

Mr. Patten

One of the themes in our White Paper "Better Schools" was that we needed to broaden the curriculum, and I accept that. It is invidious to choose between one subject and another. Although I recognise the importance of encouraging Japanese teaching and the study of Japanese in our schools, I have recently concentrated more on the importance of physics and mathematics, and on developing consensus about teaching the English language. I have read some documents about teaching the English language in our schools and find them almost incomprehensible. That should be a high priority, although I accept what my hon. Friend says about the importance of ensuring that we produce people who can sell vast quantities of cars to Japan and the Soviet Union.

Mr. Clement Freud (Cambridgeshire, North-East)

Will the Minister tell us what sort of cars we would sell to the Japanese?

Mr. Patten

Those which are described as British.

Mr. John Golding (Newcastle-under-Lyme)

The Minister is blushing. I have never seen a Minister blush before.

Mr. Patten

That is not a blush, but blood pressure. It becomes increasingly difficult to know what one is driving. I have a Morris Minor which is regarded as British, and also a Vauxhall Cavalier, but I am not sure how hon. Gentlemen would describe that.

Better careers guidance is important, not least because if young people make the wrong decision at 15 or 16 it is personally damaging for them, and costly for society. Once young people have made that choice, they should not reckon that future options are constrained by anything other than their determination and ability. Therefore, we need a much wider recognition of the already well-developed route to higher education through vocational qualifications.

Local education authorities must plan provision for 16 to 19-year-olds much more coherently than at present. The distinction between further education colleges and schools has to some extent been blurred, first by the long and, I am pleased to say, sustained tradition in further education colleges of general education, and secondly by the advent of the new sixth former in our schools. Those factors provide reasons for more coherent planning throughout the further education sector and schools.

Two further factors are vital. The first is demography over which, happily, politicians have little influence, except personally. The number of young people in the 16 to 19 age group will fall like a stone at the end of this decade, and in 1993 the number of 16-year-olds, for example, will be about one third lower than the number at the peak in 1981. Secondly, although numbers will fall, I am convinced that the participation rate of young people in education and training will continue to rise even if, as we hope, youth unemployment falls. Young people recognise increasingly that within the job markets of the future those who do not have qualifications will be desperately disadvantaged.

Dr. Hampson

People in Leeds may become worried that my hon. Friend is giving carte blanche to tertiary education. The Labour-controlled council has without consulting headmasters put forward an expensive scheme for the entire city to move from sixth forms to tertiary centres even though many schools, admittedly not necessarily throughout the city, have extremely good sixth forms.

Mr. Patten

I am certainly not giving carte blanche support to anything of the sort. However, local education authorities will have to plan provision across the age range in a way which is educationally sound and cost effective. I have seen various different ways of doing that throughout the country, and the last thing that I wish to do is to impose one solution on the whole country. Without reawakening old controversies, we have been down that path before, and it was not noticeably successful.

To consolidate and improve further education we clearly need to strenthen the partnership between colleges and employers. At present there is no lack of goodwill. Ways of improving the responsiveness of colleges to employers' needs are being explored, for example, through the colleges and employers link project. I have been very impressed by the work of further education colleges in the past four or five months. The colleges are well aware of the importance of better marketing for their courses and of the importance of more flexibility and efficiency in providing the sort of courses that local employers want. The most common complaint I hear is that many employers do not know what they want and that some employers still give insufficient priority to education and training, which I believe is one of the reasons for our economic problems.

The Manpower Services Commission has quite properly been at the forefront in trying to persuade employers that investment in training really is what it says, and is not a dead-weight cost. In particular, in planning work-related, non-advanced further education, the MSC has been able to focus local employers' attention on the opportunities available in local colleges. By acting as a proxy for local employers, the MSC has been able to help colleges respond to the demand from local employers.

My hon. Friend the Member for Saffron Walden was right to refer to the youth service. I would say more about the youth service if I had time, but I want to allow other hon. Member to speak. The youth service has been particularly concerned, over the past few years, with the problems of youth unemployment, particulary in the inner city areas, and with the problems of those who are virtually alienated from formal education. My hon. Friend will know that the National Advisory Council for the Youth Service met for the first time last month. He will not be surprised to know that the council expressed its interest and concern about education and training, and we look forward to hearing more from the council as it gets under way.

In conclusion, I express once again my gratitude to my hon. Friend the Member for Saffron Walden for the spirited and thoughtful way in which he introduced the debate. I hope that the debate will help us to break down some of the rigid distinctions that still exist between education and training. I see the work of the education service being complemented by the expertise of employers and training agencies. We should all regard ourselves as being on the same side. We have a considerable job to do if we are not to betray the hopes of a whole generation and if we are not to fall further behind what other countries do in this most important area.

I trust that I have provided my hon. Friend with sufficient evidence to demonstrate that we have set our hand to this extremely important task and that, to follow what my hon. Friend said, we are not just talking but actually doing something about the problem. I would not like to indulge in what Lord Palmerston called the "abuse of metaphor", but I think that we are putting together some of the pieces of the jigsaw.

4.44 pm
Mr. Barry Sheerman (Huddersfield)

I add my congratulations to the hon. Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. Haselhurst) on initiating this debate and on choosing a subject which is not discussed enough in the Chamber and which should be taken extremely seriously. I agree with much of what the hon. Gentleman said. Many of his suggestions were both positive and creative. Indeed, many of them could have come from the Labour party manifesto.

However, it emerges from occasions like this—we have had a civilsed debate so far—that there are two faces of Conservatism. One face runs the engine of the Government and the other is a more civilised face which appears in debates like this. It may be that we shall hear a different tone in other speeches, but a visitor from education, in witnessing this debate, would be forgiven for having a feeling of slight unreality.

There have been two speeches from the Conservative Benches which hardly made any mention of the fact that education and training are at a lower ebb than at probably any time since the Education Act 1944. No mention has been made of the longest running dispute in the education service that is harming families, parents and the morale of the teaching profession. Also, the Government have destroyed the traditional training mechanisms. Many of them were imperfect, but at least they existed to train people. I refer to the industrial training boards, skillcentres and, in particular, the apprenticeship system. A visitor from outside would be forgiven for thinking, "What on earth has been going on in the past six years when all that has been ignored in the remarks so far?"

I must bring the House back to a sense of reality. The morale of the teaching profession is lower than it has ever been since 1944. The reason is not simply that teachers deserve better pay. I do not have to descend into the realms of theory. The fact is that teachers of certain subjects are not coming forward. The hon. Member for Langbaurgh (Mr. Holt) mentioned the lack of training in Japanese and Russian. I was reminded by the hon. Gentleman's comments — if we are serious about the future of industry—about the lack of candidates coming forward for the vital jobs in science, technology, applied electronics, robotics and computer studies. I have visited schools up and down the country which are crying out for help, because they do not have the ability to attract men and women qualified in those subjects to teach our young men and women because teachers' pay is not good enough.

I have just returned from a visit to Stevenage. I was told that a school there could not even hope to recruit someone, even if the candidate was given a house in the area for a two or three-year free period, because that person would not be able to afford to rent or buy a house in that area on a teacher's salary. Such a candidate would be forced to go into industry, where computer and electronics companies pay half and even twice as much again.

Mr. Chris Patten

Will the hon. Gentleman give the House the benefit of his thoughts on the fact that average salaries for teachers in real terms when the Labour Government left office were £800 lower than they are today?

Mr. Sheerman

I shall return to that point later in my speech. However, I challenge the Minister's figures. I read the Minister's press release and checked his figures. I think they are completely wrong, and the teaching unions agree with me.

Mr. Patten

I bet they do.

Mr. Sheerman

Indeed they do.

Again, the Minister is deriding the teaching profession. Since I have been in the House, all I have heard from the Government has been an attack on teachers. I have mentioned teachers' pay, which does not produce teachers qualified in the right subjects at the right time and in the right place. It is a question not just of money, but of morale.

Time and again the Secretary of State for Education and Science has attacked teachers for being poor teachers, not committed to education or to the future and welfare of their pupils. That is wrong. Such attacks undermine the profession and are at the heart of the current dispute. If the Government had anything other than a desire to continue the dispute, the teachers' unions would have settled long ago. I am sure that they would have done so if the Government had governed and that had been seen to be their role.

I want to consider some of the positive aspects in the motion. Many of the things that the hon. Member for Saffron Walden mentioned are things to which the Labour party is already committed. However, when he talked about integration and coherence, he certainly touched on a subject to which so many professionals in the education world would say, "Hear, hear."

The pursuit of coherence is important to the National Association of Head Teachers, to which the hon. Member for Saffron Walden referred on several occasions. The hon. Gentleman went through the list of acronyms. He referred to TVEI, CPVE, and a host of other schemes. I hope that Conservative Members will recognise that new demands are being placed on teachers when their morale is at an all-time low.

It is not easy for teachers in the modern world, when the Government introduce many new schemes, to know that a high percentage of the young men and women in the classroom will not automatically go into employment when they leave school, as so many did in my generation. The effect of unemployment is to be seen in the schools. It has led to low morale among pupils, and their motivation has suffered. The Government have underestimated the consequences.

In a climate of massive unemployment, there are many areas where most average youngsters have no chance of obtaining a job on leaving school. In the north-west, 22.7 per cent. of youngsters at school stay on after 16 years. In the south, and in Greater London, 35.3 per cent. stay on after 16. What is the destination of young men and women who have been on the youth training scheme? In the northern region, 41.5 per cent. of those who complete a youth training scheme join the dole queue, compared with 15.3 per cent. in the south-east. The education and training situation is desperate. Many young people throughout the country are in a state of despair. That is the real context for this debate.

The hon. Member for Saffron Walden asked, "Is 14 years too late?" I believe it is. I accept that many international observers think that our primary schools are extremely good, but, unfortunately, something goes wrong when our bright young people leave their primary schools and move into secondary education. It seems that they are turned off education. Indeed, it seems that they themselves are turned off as well. I am sometimes left in despair when I talk to youngsters. It seems that some of them have lost hope in their country, in industry, in their communities and in themselves. They have lost self-respect and self-regard while at school. Those of us who are interested in Britain's future must, irrespective of party, ascertain the causes for this despair.

Mr. Tony Baldry (Banbury)


Mr. Sheerman

I shall not give way now. Something happens to our young people when they embark on secondary education. We must identify what it is and produce remedies.

The hon. Member for Saffron Walden was right when he said that youngsters with no qualifications no longer move directly into work. He rightly said that they do not move into work in many instances before they are 18. Whether the fact that there is little work for young men and women before they are 18 is a consequence of Government policy or whether it is the consequence of mounting mass youth unemployment is a question that I shall leave others to answer. I invite others to draw their own conclusions from my earlier remarks.

When the Minister had only recently taken on his new education brief, he made a speech in which he referred to young people having a wide and real choice at 16 years of age. The hon. Member for Saffron Walden put his finger on reality when he said that if real choice is to exist, a system of education maintenance allowances should be introduced as soon as possible. Unfortunately, many young people do not have a choice. They have to take part in a youth training scheme, and thereafter they have to try to find a job.

The position of many families forces youngsters to turn off the career path that would be best for them—for example, further education at a college or staying on at school. Tens of thousands of young people are having to forgo what is right for them because they need to take a small wage home to their families. In other words, they no longer have a choice. I hope that the Minister is serious when he makes speeches throughout the country on these issues. I hope also that within the Department he will argue for real choice for youngsters.

The Labour party believes in many of the principles and concepts which are espoused by the hon. Member for Saffron Walden. They are set out in manifestos and policy documents and are ready for implementation after the next general election, which seems to be more imminent as each day passes.

We believe that there is a balance between a good general education and an ability to receive an education in technical and vocational subjects or, as the hon. Member for Saffron Walden said, in practical subjects. A balance between academic, technical and vocational subjects and the workplace is a good description of a proper comprehensive education. Conservative Members have not always espoused comprehensive education, but I am delighted to hear that some of them are now accepting the proposition.

The hon. Member for Saffron Walden talked about real choice and the possibility of young men and women changing course as their careers developed, and he drew a distinction between routes and tunnels. An awful tunnel that blights our industrial and educational lives is one that stems from a percentage of the privileged opting for a different tunnel from the majority, which leads them away from the state sector—

Mr. J. F. Pawsey (Rugby and Kenilworth)

Is the hon. Gentleman referring to Winchester?

Mr. Sheerman

My hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Mr. Fisher) is not responsible for where his parents sent him for his education. He has learnt the lesson and sent his children through the state education system. In discussing routes and tunnels, private public school education is the tunnel, and it is a blight on the education of our young men and women. It is more responsible for our poor performance in industry and in technical education than almost anything else.

The youth service has a growing importance in our society. There are about 1.25 million unemployed young men and women, and they need and deserve a better youth service than the one that was appropriate for the 1950s and 1960s. If local authorities and the Government choose to ignore that, they are living in cloud-cuckoo-land. A properly manned and resourced youth service would be a tremendous help in bringing some counsel and help to young people who are unemployed and in despair.

The Government rejected the main findings of the Thompson report, which were based on experience and participation. The rejection of putting real money into our youth service and taking it seriously has had a damaging effect on our young people. The way that the youth service has been used over the past five years has led to many missed opportunities.

I should have thought that last year, International Youth Year, would have been an opportunity to introduce a properly resourced youth service. There are many models. The Wolverhampton youth service is an example where Labour authorities are showing what can be done, even on a reduced budget.

Mr. Geoff Lawler (Bradford, North)

As the hon. Gentleman will be aware, a report on the funding of the youth service was recently published. One of its main findings was that 92 authorities were not spending up to their estimated expenditure on the youth service, but were diverting about £13 million into other services. Many of the most serious offenders were Labour-controlled authorities. When it comes to the allocation of funds for voluntary services, where there is a more effective use of resources, as I am sure the hon. Gentleman will agree, the most serious offenders were again Labour-controlled authorities.

Mr. Sheerman

That is a good point, but I remind the hon. Gentleman that the figures show a mix of Labour and Conservative-controlled authorities. However, when local authorities, Labour-controlled in particular, are squeezed of resources by the Government, it is not surprising that sometimes their priorities for employment, regeneration and other activities have to be given precedence over the youth service. We must have some youth service resources particularly earmarked for that purpose. That is the way that we shall go when we form a Government.

If we are to be honest with millions of young people, we must debate the youth training scheme tonight. It is at a critical point. It is about to go into its extended two-year form. As the Government and Ministers know, the Opposition broadly support the extention of YTS to two years, because that is a step on the road to Labour's long-stated objective in "Learning for Life", published in 1981, and in other documents, towards a proper two-year traineeship for all young people. Trainers, educationists, and employers who are trying to make these schemes work deserve our help, encouragement and congratulations. We also support the closer regulation of managing agents and the work being done on the accreditation of YTS.

There is truth and fiction in this matter. The Prime Minister is fond of talking about truth and fiction and about how much stranger truth is than fiction, so I shall develop that theme. The truth is that those working valiantly in YTS are shackled in their efforts by the effects of five fictions.

The first fiction is that the Government have made extra resources available for the two-year YTS. The truth is that no more will be spent on the two-year programme when fully operational than the £1 billion promised in 1983 for the one-year scheme. That is training on the cheap, and the result is catastrophic. There is inadequate off-the-job training—only 20 weeks over the two-year period, when the TUC and educators wanted 26 weeks. It means overall lower training qualities than we need and want. It also means a great shortfall in the premium places and an allowance that is too low, by anyone's reckoning, by about £500 a year for each trainee.

The second fiction is that the Government have created in YTS a high-quality skills training programme. At one time, Lord Young wanted to call it the skills training programme rather than the youth training scheme. The truth is that most YTS places are fairly low-quality work experience. We must move on from that, but we cannot do it without cash. It is also true that high-quality apprenticeship type training has been halved since 1979. The new funding arrangements will force many YTS employers to hire out their trainees on the cheap to get the income to make up for the funding deficiencies. That is a recipe for the exploitation and alienation of our young people.

The third fiction is that the new premium places are a proper successor to the mode B schemes—the generally high-quality schemes aimed particularly at disadvantaged youngsters. The truth is that the two-year YTS makes the premium places a ghetto for the disadvantaged. Trainees will have to be vetted first by the careers service. We understand that after 1 April disadvantaged youngsters with a handicap, whether they come from a history of trouble in the courts or of absenteeism in the schools, will have to be on special schemes on their own. They will not be integrated with their peers, but will be in ghettos for the disadvantaged. That is wrong. I hope that if I am wrong, the Minister will clear up that point later.

The effects on the career service will be bad. Members of the executive of the Institute of Careers Officers came to see me about this. They are extremely worried. They feel that the scheme will turn our education and youth training schemes into ghettos for such young people. The careers service is—

Mr. Holt


Mr. Sheerman

The hon. Gentleman will have an opportunity to make his own speech.

The careers service is terribly overstretched. I understand that a previous Minister in the Department of Employment seriously considered abolishing the careers service. Thank heaven, that lunacy was avoided. The careers service needs to be expanded and better resourced soon. I am sure that the hon. Member for Saffron Walden will agree with me on that. The reduction of places on mode B schemes has led to the reality that 70,000 places have slipped to 40,000, and new funding arrangements are driving schemes out of operation. Others are being forced into unsuitable survival mergers, and experienced trainers are being forced on to the dole.

Mr. Holt


Mr. Sheerman

I shall not give way.

When the previous reduction from 90,000 to 70,000 was announced, there were assurances that that would be the bottom line.

The fourth fiction that the Government are putting about is that there are jobs and a great future at the end of YTS. That is not so. One cannot build an education and training policy in an environment of mass unemployment for young people. Some 100,000 trainees a year—30 per cent.—graduate straight on to the dole. In all, 1.25 million young people are on the dole and 500,000 have been unemployed for more than six months. Unemployment in the economy as a whole is increasing year after year under a Government who have run out of ideas, out of steam and very nearly out of Ministers.

I hope that the Minister will listen particularly to this item. The Government are failing, in particular, YTS entrants from April to September 1985. They cannot look to the two-year YTS, but they also cannot look to the late, unlamented, young workers scheme, which bribed employers by allowing them to give low wages to young people. That section will get nothing by way of help into employment. Those entrants will be more disadvantaged in seeking employment than any other group over the past 10 years.

The last fiction is the richest of all. It is the fiction that is in some ways the most hurtful to many young men and women on YTS. I spoke to some of them last week. It is surprising that the Manpower Services Commission should be so out of touch that it decided that models and actors should be hired to pose as YTS trainees in the £4 million advertising campaign.

Mr. Chris Patten

That is a trivial point.

Mr. Sheerman

The Minister says it is a trivial point. That shows how completely out of touch he is with young people aged 16 and 17. Many of them are bitter and angry. Instead of taking some of the 350,000 YTS trainees and using them for the advertisement, Saatchi and Saatchi hired models. Fifteen-year-old Tracy Logan is not a YTS trainee. It is not for her, she says. She was also paid more for an hour's work than a YTS trainee gets in a week. It was a disgrace, but what else could one expect from an advertising agency, such as Saatchi and Saatchi, which is so closely linked to the Conservative party?

Mr. Pawsey

The hon. Gentleman is scraping the bottom of the barrel.

Mr. Sheerman

The House will remember that during the 1979 general election campaign the Conservative party said "Labour is not working." Saatchi and Saatchi showed people queueing up for jobs. But it did not find unemployed people and pay them to do the job; it got actors and members of the staff of Saatchi and Saatchi to do it. Surely that could have been avoided. It was an insult to the YTS trainees. For an hour's work, Tracy Logan was paid as much as YTS trainees get in a week.

Education and training in this country are at a critical point. YTS, the expansion and development of the curriculum and the changing nature of further education are in the melting pot. The adversity of high unemployment provides us with the opportunity to make urgently needed changes. This opportunity is unparalleled since the introduction nearly 100 years ago of universal schooling. We could be laying the foundations for a wonderful work force in the 21st century. This is Industry Year. However, for unemployed young people as well as for other unemployed people in this country the idea that we are tackling this problem must not turn out to be a fiction. The advertising agencies must not put out the fiction that Industry Year is wonderful and will be the answer to all the problems of unemployment. It must be more than that.

Education and training must do something about getting this country back to work again. None of the policies mentioned by the hon. Member for Saffron Walden or by the Minister of State will work unless there are jobs. Jobs come first. I hope that there will be a real commitment to backing British industry, British Leyland and other British companies and to allowing local authorities to spend money, thereby creating work.

I hope that the Government will see the folly of their ways and that Ministers will say in this debate that they take on board the unanimous, all-party recommendations on long-term unemployment that were made last week by the Select Committee on Employment. Measures that would relieve long-term unemployment would have a knock-on effect upon teachers and pupils. If the morale of those who work in the system can be lifted, there will be some hope for education and training in this country.

5.14 pm
Mr. Robert Banks (Harrogate)

I join in congratulating my hon. Friend the Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. Haselhurst) upon using his success in the ballot to raise this extremely important subject.

I listened with great care to the hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr. Sheerman). He attacked the public school system but there has been no confirmation from the Opposition Front Bench that the policy of the Labour party is to destroy the public school system, which would lead to chaos in the teaching profession. The hon. Gentleman then attacked the youth training scheme without saying a single word about the Labour party's policy on replacing YTS, which is under such critical fire.

This debate should deal with the constructive efforts that can be made to deal with the problems that exist in our society and should concentrate upon the direction which education ought to take during the last quarter of this century. We could spend the whole evening griping about this, that or the other, or griping about the problems caused by the teachers' strike, but it is far more important for the House to direct its thoughts to how best to achieve this country's objectives through our education system being geared to the needs and requirements of our changing society.

Unemployment will be a major factor until the end of this century, and probably beyond it. Unemployment is not a problem for this country alone. It affects Europe and other nations. However, unemployment places a huge responsibility upon education to try to solve the problem of unemployment.

The pattern of our society is changing. People's working lives will be shorter. They will not start work at 18 and continue in work until they are 65. That philosophy will not see us through to the end of this centurty. Young people must be educated to recognise that there will be a change in the pattern of their working lives. They must also be educated to use their leisure time. With a shorter working life, people will have much more leisure. Furthermore, during their working lives people will have an increasing amount of leisure. That is good, but we must ensure that they are able to enjoy themselves both while they are working and after they have retired. Education must ensure that people are educated to use their leisure time productively. In the 1960s it was normal to have two weeks of holiday each year. That has been increased to between five and six weeks a year. By the end of the century it will have increased considerably beyond that.

I pay tribute to the way in which the teaching profession has helped young people to understand the kind of careers that are available to them. It has instilled in them the desire to be enterprising and to be the "doers" of this world. That is a broad statement. However, the teaching profession has provided this country with a generation of young people who are every bit as good as any previous generation. They are probably better than any previous generation. I am speaking almost like an old man who is looking at the generation that will take over from us. The young people of today have an immense fund of talent. That is due to their education in the last few decades. A great deal more must be done. Many have not had the education to give them the tools to provide them with a job. People are still coming out of schools unable to read or write properly. We must recognise that and take steps to improve it.

The technological revolution that is taking place creates many challenges. There is a shift in emphasis towards the high-tech industries in the United States, Japan and South Korea. How are we to grapple with the problems that will emerge from the growth of those industries in those countries which are taking the markets that we must prepare ourselves to obtain? We can do that only by being a fully-fledged member of Europe, working in concert with our European partners. To do that we must provide the scientists, technicians and engineers to generate those industries, not just in Britain but in Europe.

Therefore, it is of immense importance that we give the fullest possible assistance and emphasis to ensuring that our universities, colleges and schools have the resources to provide the scientists and technicians for the scientific advances that will be necessary if we are to maintain our position as a country with a high-tech industry base. On a lower level, it is important that our connections with industry should be improved. We need to overhaul the structure of education in so far as it is related to industry and commerce. In commerce, I include the service sector because that is a growth area if ever there was one. There may be as many as 350,000 jobs in that sector in the next five years. We must improve the quality of the services that are available to tourists from home and abroad.

It is of immense importance that we see a dovetail arrangement between education, industry and commerce. I do not deny that some connections exist, but they are only a fraction of what is necessary. If a person is to fulfil himself he must have an understanding of what sort of career he wants to take up. That is never an easy process. Some may have an instant desire to be a doctor or to enter a manufacturing company, but the great majority of people do not have the full range of options presented to them. It is through the close connection of industry and education that young people will be able to develop a better idea of the career that they want to take up.

On the other hand, industry, through its connection with education, will have the opportunity to play a part in the school curriculum to ensure that education gives people what industries need. That is immensely important because, even with 3.5 million people unemployed, we suffer from a shortage of people with certain skills; in many cases, basic skills. I am amazed that my constituency has a 9 per cent. unemployment rate—a large figure. I say "large" because the jobcentre has between 400 and 500 jobs or work opportunities and my local paper is full of advertisements for a range of jobs — skilled, semi-skilled, managerial and manual. Something is hugely wrong. Education must ensure that it plays its part in getting closer to local industry and, vice versa, industry must get closer to schools.

Frankly, paying people in industry to go into schools and give a lecture on their products and how their factory operates is not the whole answer. I am against that. It is better to appeal to a person's better nature so that they are doing something because they want to contribute towards the future success of not only their company but the next generation. That is a worthy thing to do. If someone is paid to do that, everybody knows it, and that is not the same as wanting to impart information through a desire to be of assistance.

Much more needs to be done. If the Government, in Industry Year, are to make a contribution to industry, the best measure of all would be to give education full recognition for what it needs to do to bridge the gap between education and industry.

5.25 pm
Mr. Michael Hancock (Portsmouth, South)

I congratulate the hon. Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. Haselhurst) on introducing the motion this afternoon because it gives us an opportunity to debate a matter which lies at the heart of Britain's decline. The way in which hon. Members have forcefully put points on the changes that can and should be made should not be lost on those Ministers who are present.

Britain's existing and potential work force suffers from a lack of training and proper skills and the crisis that we are suffering is enormous. It is that part of the education system which is most urgently in need of reform. I do not for one minute want to suggest that there are not other parts of the education system that need change and reform but it is among the 14 to 19-year-olds that the urgency of the crisis is felt so dramatically.

There is a crisis in two senses. Young people are often unemployed, untrained and lack any sense of clear purpose about their future. The social results of that condition are becoming daily apparent to everybody — apathy, alienation, irresponsibility and civil unrest.

There is also a crisis for the national economy. Statistics obtained from the Library for just three of our competitors show how bad our training and skill opportunities are. For example, in the United States 78 per cent. of the civilian labour force have some form of high school diploma. In Germany 66 per cent. of the labour force have a form of vocational qualification. In Japan 60 per cent. have a school diploma. The best that the United Kingdom can do is to have 50 per cent of its working population with one CSE pass. The figures speak for themselves in showing the size of the problem we face. I am sure that the Minister does not need me nor any other hon. Member to tell him and his colleagues about the size of the problem.

Two things need to be done. One is the sharp shock treatment which the Government seem to be favouring in other areas of their policy, and the other is a longer-term look at the situation. Action needs to be taken immediately. We must effect proposals to bring immediate change by way of a crash programme and to provide a comprehensive and coherent framework for the education and training of the entire age group.

That major reform may well take a number of years to achieve. It would be impossible for any party to gamble with people's futures and suggest that the matter can be solved overnight or in a few years. It cannot. It will take as long to cure as it has taken to create if we are to do it properly. But we must use fast and effective measures at least to start making amends for the catastrophe that we now face.

The alliance—I speak on behalf of the SDP and the Liberal party—is convinced that the great majority—

Mr. Pawsey

They are not here.

Mr. Hancock

My colleagues are in the same place as the colleagues of the hon. Member for Rugby and Kenilworth (Mr. Pawsey). It is important not to score points as to which hon. Members are present, but to consider the way in which we can combat our problems. Scoring silly political points might do the hon. Gentleman's ego good, but it certainly will not commend us to the people about whose problems we should talk responsibly.

The alliance aims to give the great majority of young people the opportunity to undertake full-time or part-time education and training. If the policies of the alliance are pursued and a crash programme is implemented, young people will have the opportunity to gain money and experience in the world of work. They will have a choice between different career paths and will be able to afford to choose. They will work within an integrated and flexible qualifications system. Our proposals for reform flow directly from those aims.

The proposals in the crash programme will be steps on the way towards a realisation of long-term proposals. The first step must be to recognise that the link between education and training is indivisible. It is damaging to categorise youngsters into groups because, invariably, it means that many do not fulfil their potential. The fundamental steps must be to combine the Department of Education and Science with the Manpower Services Commission. At present, there is an overlap between the two, jealousy, unnecessary competition and lack of co-ordination. A combined education, science and training Department would, in the eyes of the alliance, result in wide decentralisation with local authorities playing a key role. The Minister of State referred to that key role. It is important for local authorities to give a push to a project to provide more opportunities for more people.

The purpose of our programme should be to produce in as short a period as possible a turnround in the numbers entering courses and qualifying at all levels. The courses should be relevant to the skill shortages in specific areas. The Secretary of State is likely to be frustrated in his attempts to increase the number of engineering degree students because not enough people are qualified to take up the extra places. The alliance's programme would concentrate on pre-degree courses leading directly to entry to higher education or to technician or craft-level courses. We would start immediately, using existing institutions and training mechanisms which would, in the end, be integrated into long-term programmes.

Much would have to be done to achieve our aims. We would need money and a Government committed to spending it on education and training, not merely to talking about it. The sum of £200 million for each year of the programme, which might run to three or four years, would have to be provided if it was to be seen to work. We would need a joint team from the Department of Education and Science and the MSC to conduct the programme. That team would assess the bids and stimulate the proposals that would fulfil certain criteria. I ask the Minister to consider those criteria seriously. They include increasing the numbers on courses in skill shortage areas, increasing the number of likely applicants to fill higher education shortage areas and boosting basic skills, which would result in people able to fit the first two categories. Priority would be given to courses in high unemployment areas.

Funding could be given through subsidies to fund additional apprenticeships and bursaries for students returning to full-time study or relevant courses after a year or two in employment, on YTS, or even on the dole. When I was responsible for apprentice training in one of the factories where I worked, the company missed many opportunities because it was not prepared to invest sufficient money in training its workforce. The hon. Member for Langbaurgh (Mr. Holt) referred to the cost of machinery lying idle while people were being trained. Proper investment in a proper apprenticeship scheme would have saved that company from incurring losses. The apprentices would have learned from day one what was necessary to perfect the skills they would undoubtedly need for new technology and existing practices.

Funding could be given also to special programmes to enable people to return to education rather than sign on for the dole. Funding of training courses could provide the necessary teachers and trainers. We often talk about training people, but do not provide proper training for the trainers. This results in sub-standard training in an attempt to convince ourselves that we are training people for the future. In the short term, we have only invested money in people who are inappropriately trained to pass on their skills and expertise.

The crash programme would, by its nature, concentrate on limited objectives in trying to solve a short-term problem. We must reform the whole system if we are to cope with long-term problems. Young people in the 16 to 19-year-old group fall into four categories — the employed, the majority of whom have no training and a minority of whom are released for daytime study; those in full-time education; those who are on Government training schemes—mainly YTS; and the unemployed.

The cardinal aim of any long-term change in policy must be to make it possible for people in the last category to join the first three. Our proposals are directed towards enhancing access to and the quality of education and training for the first three groups.

Often the alliance is criticised for not having policies relating to the needs of the people, but on training, as in so many respects, our policies have been well thought out and well costed. They aim to meet the needs of existing communities and future needs. We believe that there should be a legal obligation on all employers of 16 and 17-year-olds to release them for education and training for two days a week, or its equivalent. If necessary, such an obligation on the employer could be matched by a contract of employment which obligates the employee to attend such courses.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Employment (Mr. David Trippier)

Is that idea meant to be appropriate to small businesses? Would they be required to allow some of their employees to be absent for two days a week?

Mr. Hancock

Small businesses and large companies must accept the obligations. Many small businesses have enjoyed the facilities of YTS and the skills of those people lucky enough to be given proper training. It is no good absolving a company from responsibility on the grounds of it being a large or a small company. This must be seen to be a fair and equitable measure across the board. If it causes problems for some companies, we would hope that resources would be found to provide not only training and expertise but to allow the company to give employees that time off. That is why I referred to the need for money. This picks up the point made by the hon. Member for Langbaurgh about the cost incurred when the machines were not operating.

Mr. Holt

Is it alliance policy to direct firms to take people on? Many small firms will not take on people if legislation to this effect is introduced. If the hon. Gentleman had listened to what I said earlier, he would have heard me say that the capital cost of major plant is such that it must be kept in operation for 24 hours a day and is therefore not available for training. I think that the hon. Gentleman missed the point.

Mr. Hancock

The hon. Gentleman is rather pessimistic. If the scheme is properly funded and brought into operation, those points can be covered. It would be absurd to suggest that small businesses can cope with the absence of two or three trainees for two days a week or with machinery lying idle for longer periods. If the scheme is put together correctly and is properly funded and planned—in contrast to the ad hoc approach at present —it could work. The pessimism of hon. Members has led many small employers to feel reluctant about embracing schemes of mutual benefit to the whole nation.

We must first recognise the imperfections of our training and try to develop it and encourage small business men to participate. We will get nowhere all the time we place obstacles in the way of a solution. I hope that hon. Members will try to develop a better understanding of training and encourage employers to look more favourably at such proposals.

I hope that there will be major improvements in the youth training scheme and an increase in off-the-job training to the equivalent of two days a week. We should welcome the expansion of information technology centres.

The Government should support a shared starter-job scheme as an alternative to my first and second proposals. They should show that support in those areas where they are directly responsible for employment and training. They would be jobs rather than training schemes. The starting salary could be split between two young people. They would each work half a week and receive training during the other half. The Government should cover the cost of the training and the additional employment cost. The cost would not be as much as is sometimes paid out in benefits now. Employers and the nation would benefit.

There should be a young student grant paid directly to full-time students aged 16 to 19 years. That could be paid to all students or means tested fairly according to the family's income. Child allowance would continue to be paid to the parents and the young student grant would be the difference between the child allowance and supplementary benefit. If the Government were prepared to accept that proposal, an impediment towards getting things moving could be removed.

Mr. Pawsey


Mr. Hancock

I must continue. Other hon. Members wish to speak and I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will have ample opportunity to make whatever political points he wants.

In addition, a young returners grant could be paid to students returning to full-time education after a year or more on the YTS, in employment or unemployment. It would be aimed at boosting the number of part-time craft and technical courses which should increasingly take the place of apprenticeship.

Grants should be paid to those young people with the motive and ability to benefit. They should be means tested according to individual, not family income.

All those proposals will cost money. It is no good us congratulating the hon. Member for Saffron Walden on bringing the issue before the House. We should all be prepared to tell the nation that there will be a price to be paid. If we do not pay that price, the circumstances I quoted earlier will continue. We shall be putting our heads in the sand and hoping that the problem will go away. Our experience over the past 10 years tells us that the problem will not go away. It will worsen. Those hon. Members who have tried to score cheap political points should not suggest that my proposals provide no answer to the problem. The proposals could benefit us in the future.

Mr. Chris Patten

I do not wish to make a cheap political point, but how much will those proposals cost?

Mr. Hancock

They would be expensive. The crash starter scheme programme would cost £200 million a year on present costings. The long-term proposals would be extremely expensive.

Mr. Patten

How much?

Mr. Hancock

Will the Minister tell us how much is being spent on youth unemployment benefit and other payments, when he replies? The two figures would not be significantly different. We should decide whether we are prepared to pay the price of doing nothing, or pay what I suggest is not significantly different from what we are paying now. Failure to implement my proposals will mean that debates such as this are no more than words.

I am sure that the unemployed are sick to death of hearing people talk about the problem. They want to see action. They want an opportunity to obtain the skills and training which will put them into the jobs that the Minister and his colleagues are keen to tell the House are available if people put their minds to obtaining them.

We all know that without training and expertise, youngsters will never be able to fill those posts. Employers will be unable to create more jobs unless the Government and local authorities are prepared to work together to create jobs and make the atmosphere for job creation a damned sight more attractive than it is at present.

5.45 pm
Mr. J. F. Pawsey (Rugby and Kenilworth)

I listened with interest to what the hon. Member for Portsmouth, South (Mr. Hancock) said. I noted carefully that he was speaking on behalf of the Liberal and Social Democratic parties. I should, however, be interested to know what is the detailed cost of his proposals. It was not good enough to say that the reasoned objections and questions from Members on this side of the House were cheap political points and to dismiss them. He sought to produce a reasoned argument and it was right for him to be asked what the proposals would cost. I was disappointed with his answer to my hon. Friend the Minister of State.

The hon. Gentleman also mentioned apprentices. I am sure that he would agree that part of our problem is that in the United Kingdom apprentices are paid about 60 per cent. of a skilled man's rate. In West Germany, the equivalent figure is 20 per cent. He might agree that that is the principal reason why we have fewer apprentices than West Germany.

I am sorry that the hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr. Sheerman) is not in his place. He referred to the teachers' dispute. He sought to make what seemed to be a genuinely political point on pay. I was disappointed but not surprised that he did not recognise the importance of my right hon. Friend's package of £1.25 billion which has been obtained from the Treasury for teachers' pay. I was also disappointed that he did not respond to my hon. Friend the Minister's challenge when he said that teachers' pay is now about £800 per annum more when compared with the pay they received when his party was in power.

I add my congratulations to those already heaped upon the head of my hon. Friend the Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. Haselhurst) on his good fortune and on selecting such an admirable motion. In this, as in most things, it is important to come first. I do not feel any sour grapes even though I drew motion No. 3.

Had I been successful, my motion would have referred to the south Warwickshire coalfield and would have outlined my anxiety about it and the way in which it will affect the environment of my constituency. Nevertheless, I freely acknowledge the importance of this motion. Education for 14 to 19-year-olds is most important. I shall paraphrase George Orwell: whilst all education is important, some parts perhaps are more important than others.

The National Association of Head Teachers report has been mentioned and has much to commend it. There should be a freer and easier exchange between education and industry — between the schools and colleges and industry. Currently, it is fashionable to talk about flexible retirement. We should be discussing flexible school leaving with early leaving being tied closely to effective training. I was pleased to hear my hon. Friend refer to the technical and vocational education initiative. I should like to see greater use made of centres of excellence. They are often seen as being only for the academic but there is no reason why that should be the case. They could equally be used to concentrate the best technical minds.

Those who would not find their way to such centres could remain in the school environment for their secondary education. It often happens, however, that children are taught in what seems to be an educational vacuum, where the outside world scarcely impinges upon the work carried out in the classroom and where study has little discernible relevance to a future job. Learning for learning's sake is always to be commended, but what may be of greater value is education which prepares young people for industry and commerce. After all, that is where the majority of our young people will earn their living. We should not be ashamed to say that we educate our children for work, and I commend my hon. Friend the Member for Saffron Walden on the use of that phrase. It is one which obviously has particular relevance to this debate. I believe, as I am sure he does, that the syllabus should have a greater relevance to the job market.

Another point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Saffron Walden was that this is Industry Year and it was noteworthy that he referred specifically to that in his motion. This specially designated year sets out to bridge the still considerable gap between school and industry. Much useful work is being done and the breadth of imagination that is being displayed by some schools and companies is worthwhile. This year might be the launch pad, but it is important that the impetus should be maintained next year and the years after. One of our aims, therefore, should be to reforge the link between education and industry. In the past, at least to some extent, that was performed by the technical schools. In those schools and their sister institutions, the technical colleges, education was provided which had a particular bias towards the type of industry in a particular area. For example, in Coventry education was directed towards the automobile industry whereas in Bradford it was directed towards textiles.

Even some of the teachers and lecturers in those schools and colleges had a practical experience of a specific industry. That was of substantial benefit to the young people in the schools and colleges because the teachers brought with them knowledge of the shop floor and the workplace. These days, those who teach often have limited experience of business and industry, having gone from school to college and back to school again. It is no wonder that some teachers are a little uncertain about industry. It is no wonder that when our young people leave school they often regard industry as a last resort. It sometimes seems to be a daunting and strange place.

It is unfortunate that after 11 years, or thereabouts, of full-time education so many of our young people are ill-equipped for what is expected of them. Since the experience of many teachers is confined to school and college it can be no surprise when they promote, probably unintentionally, the professions because they understand the professions better than industry, with its emphasis on skills, management and profit. Therefore, it seems that there is a need for a shift in teacher training so that teachers are more exposed to the demands of the factory and the office and have a better understanding of the requirements of modern business. The syllabus and the ethos of teacher-training colleges should reflect a greater understanding of the needs of industry.

I have referred to centres of excellence. The selective schools, both grammar and technical, did much good. is significant that the selective system has been maintained in such differing countries as France, Germany and the Soviet Union. One of the paradoxes to which I have referred on previous occasions in the House is that, despite doubling the money spent on education, standards have not significantly improved. That point has been hammered home by my hon. Friend the Member for Brent, North (Dr. Boyson) and I am delighted to see him in his place on the Front Bench. My hon. Friend the Member for Dartford (Mr. Dunn) has also referred to that point, and he was justified in so doing.

I have referred to Northern Ireland where examination results have shown a dramatic improvement when compared with those of England, Scotland and Wales.

Mr. Martin Flannery (Sheffield, Hillsborough)


Mr. Pawsey

With respect, the hon. Gentleman should see the figures. If he saw and understood them, he would have difficulty in refuting my point about Northern Ireland and the type of education now enjoyed in the Province.

Northern Ireland is the only place in the United Kingdom which has maintained a selective system and I would argue that Northern Ireland would be an admirable benchmark for the rest of the United Kingdom against which the present system might be judged. I shall paraphrase a former Member of the House when I say, "Why look into the crystal ball when one can read the examination results?"

Earlier I argued for an easier movement of young people between industry, college and school, but I believe that that should be founded on the bedrock of school stability. That is often best provided by the maintenance of sixth forms within the established fabric of schools. I am convinced that the sixth form does a great deal for the individual and the school which retains that system.

Mrs. Edwina Currie (Derbyshire, South)

Hear, hear.

Mr. Pawsey

I am delighted to hear my hon. Friend the parliamentary private secretary agreeing with me. I am certain that I am not embarrassing my hon. Friend in any way, but if I am I shall withdraw my earlier remark!

Certainly the sixth form promotes a sense of responsibility and significantly, where colleges of further education exist alongside schools with sixth forms, the majority of pupils elect to stay within the school framework rather than transfer to the greater freedom of the college. In many cases, young people of 16 are not ready for college and prefer the continuity and discipline of school. I was particularly interested to hear my hon. Friend the Minister of State say that no system of tertiary education would be imposed. Clearly, as he said, there is a place for variety and choice within the education system.

Schools would benefit from having greater control over ther own budgets. Governing bodies and heads would have more freedom and responsibility to decide on the syllabus within their own school. I suspect that that would lead to a more relevant form of education, particularly if it was allied to a method which made it easier for parents to choose between schools. This is not a debate on the voucher, but I believe that more choice for parents would put greater pressure on schools to provide the type of education and discipline that would best give young people a chance of getting a worthwhile job.

I welcome the GCSE, but I realise that not all children will derive benefit from it. Those who are less suited to academic education should be provided with real and worthwhile training in relevant skills. If languages or physics are genuinely of little interest to a specific pupil, why not then concentrate on bringing out the strength of that pupil? That, in turn, will develop the confidence which comes with an appreciation of skills. It is better to do that than to develop a sense of inadequacy through repeated failures.

The problems in education have been visible for years. We should remember that the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth (Mr. Callaghan) called for a great debate 10 years ago. Ten years ago, it was recognised that all was not well. Education was not and, I fear, is not up to parents' expectations. The education system has not delivered the goods.

The battery of measures that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has introduced during his tenure of office, particularly on teacher appraisal, will undoubtedly help. I hope that the common sense that has been exhibited by my right hon. Friend will be recognised by teachers and by parents. Surely it is right that the good, conscientious teacher — thank God that they are in the majority — should be adequately rewarded and that professional pride be restored.

I conclude by repeating a point I made when we last debated education. In 1976, the performance did not match the rhetoric. For the sake of our children and their future—and the nation's future—I hope that that will not be the case in 1986.

6 pm

Mr. John Golding (Newcastle-under-Lyme)

The Government are very good at one thing, and that is demolition. Indeed, when the Prime Minister is finally driven out by the wolves, or perhaps the sheep, I believe that she will turn her back on south-east London and make for the north. I can see her now, running amok, blowing up chimney stacks, with the light shining in her eyes, because this is a Government of demolition experts.

The Government are good at demolition, but they are useless at building. Nowhere is that seen to be more true than in training. They have smashed what was and put too little in its place, except for the 16 and 17-years-olds. As Parliamentary Under-Secretary, I was responsible for training in the Government of my right hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth (Mr. Callaghan), and it was not an easy job. Training does not arouse much emotion, interest or concern, unlike unemployment, with which I also had to deal. The staff engaged on training were the least effective in the Manpower Services Commission because they did not have the right background. The industrial training boards were far better, but there were one or two bad ones. Many employers at local level just did not want to train, and there were even trade unionists whose love of tradition and rules stemming from antiquity would have qualified them for your distinguished office, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

Those of us who wanted improvement constantly sought changes, trying to harmonise the MSC and the industrial training boards, trying to ensure that training met actual need at both local and industrial level, trying to ensure that both the quality and quantity of training were correct and, most difficult of all, trying to ensure that the arrangements for payment for training were equitable. We tried, and we tried hard, but it was a hard, slow process. It had to be because we were dealing with people who had a lot of pride in their current arrangements and a lot of prejudice, too. When one deals with people's pride and prejudice, one needs to be cautious, careful and considerate while persuading them to change. It was a slow job, which we did not finish before the general election.

Then came the so-called Tory radicals. Like most revolutionaries, they acted on the presumption that all one has to do is smash what exists and everything will be all right for ever more. The revolution, in itself, will bring forth the natural goodness of people, by making them free. That was the Tory revolutionary doctrine.

As I listened to Tory Ministers spouting after their 1979 victory, I was reminded of Russian Communist propaganda films that I watched and laughed at as a boy. So I laughed somewhat bitterly when I was told by Tory Employment Ministers that, after the smashing of much of the industrial training boards system, voluntary arrangements would herald a new dawn. Freedom, self-help and individual initiative are to be encouraged, of course, but one cannot rely on them alone in training. Sometimes one needs rules, discipline and compulsion to make people behave properly towards one another and society as a whole. My experience tells me that in training one needs rules that can be enforced. However, Tory Employment Ministers have acted like parents who have placed too much faith in the teachings of Dr. Spock and then acted unreasonably, angrily and bitterly because their offspring have failed to turn out like the book. They have gone from over-indulgence to becoming screaming, gibbering wrecks in no time at all.

Ministers took away the statutory obligation to train. Now they are running from one dinner to another, pouring out press releases as they go, being critical of the employers' lack of training facilities.

Mr. Holt

Does the hon. Gentleman accept that there never was a statutory obligation to train? There was a statutory obligation to pay for training, and many people never did any training at all.

Mr. Golding

I accept that correction, but the training took place, and taking away the statutory obligation to pay has taken away the training itself in many instances. Let us return to the preaching. My advice to Ministers is that there is no point in that preaching. They should save their breath, and, at those dinners, give their puddings time to settle rather than make those useless speeches. The employers' attitude is quite clear. According to the old rhyme, "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but press releases never hurt me." The press department in the Department of Employment should recognise that.

In any case, press releases do not tell the shareholders that companies are not spending money on training which is not immediately necessary to maintain a firm's profits. The nub of the problem of training is this. It does not necessarily pay an individual firm to spend money on training. We must emphasise that. It is no use telling a firm that it is in its interests to train when the accountants say that it is not. It is cheaper to poach. One can pay higher dividends to shareholders if one ignores the needs of the next decade. That is regrettable and I represent work people who desperately need training and retraining. In private industry investment in machines shows up on the balance sheet, and investment in people does not. That is something that Ministers must come to understand.

Mr. Tony Marlow (Northampton, North)

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Golding

The hon. Gentleman is an old friend of mine. I relied on his interventions in the Committee on the British Telecommunications Bill to carry me on for months. He is entitled, after two minutes in the Chamber, to make a three-minute intervention in my speech, but I say this first. There is a conflict between the interests of existing shareholders and the needs of the country's industry and work people.

Mr. Marlow

The hon. Gentleman was obviously deep in his notes earlier on when I was previously in the Chamber. However, I am grateful to him for giving way. The hon. Gentleman seeks to represent one of our largest and most important private industries. Is that private industry—I am sure that he is dying to tell us anyhow—doing sufficient training at the moment?

Mr. Golding

The answer is no, but I had not intended to make an election speech this evening.

I believe that a company's obligation to its shareholders means that we must have a wide basis of statutory obligation — the hon. Member for Langbaurgh (Mr. Holt) would say for payment—backed by a system of payment that is fair to employers and taxpayers. Without statutory obligation, the needs of the young will be neglected, the need for training and retraining older workers to avoid redundancy and unemployment will be ignored and the development of individual potential will be neglected. I emphasise, as I always wish to do in debates on training, that training is not only for the needs of employers, but for the needs of individuals so that their potential can be fully developed. Without a statutory obligation, the whole future of our manufacturing and industrial society will be put at risk.

The only answer to the question "What shall we do when the oil money runs out?" is that we must rely on the tremendous talent and abilities of the British people. That answer will carry no conviction if the Government carry on with their present policy of depriving industrial training of its rightful place in society.

I congratulate the hon. Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. Haselhurst) on his foresight in bringing forward the motion today.

6.12 pm
Mr. Geoff Lawler (Bradford, North)

One problem with following such a constructive and farsighted speech as that by my hon. Friend the Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. Haselhurst) is that the ideas in my speech that seemed innovative when I wrote it earlier suddenly do not look so original. Although I agree with my hon. Friend on many matters, one of his most telling comments was that a great success of the Government has been their policies on education and training. We have generated a whole change of attitude that has enabled an end to be seen to an underqualified and underdeveloped work force that has led to an underpaid and an underemployed work force.

We have seen changes in the attitude of employers, who recognise that investment in people is necessary and that they must train if they are to compete and to produce innovative products and if their growth is not to be restricted by skill shortages.

We have seen a change of attitude by unions, who recognise that a lower wage does not necessarily equate to slave labour or pose a threat to adult members of the unions, but is simply a reflection of the costs of an employer's investment in people.

Young people have changed their attitudes. They recognise that they are not qualified to seek proper work at 16 years of age. They are prepared to defer immediate earnings for enhanced prospects and greater rewards later.

The Government and those three constituents have accepted the need for change, but there is still much to achieve. We must not sit back. We must go on to achieve more. Young people need better preparation to know what they want from life and career. We must identify skill shortages and produce schemes to overcome them. We must co-ordinate school and workplace qualifications. Industry must spend more than the average 0.5 per cent. that it spends now on training to reach a figure closer to the 3 per cent. on average spent by our competitors. We must provide post-YTS provision and above all we must rid the youth training scheme of the stigma that it is only for the unemployed. As long as it is seen by young people as the second-best option, it will never have the credibility and respect that it deserves.

We are now providing the paths that lead from school to industry. However, young people wish to be advised about which path to take. Several hon. Members, including the hon. Member for Saffron Walden, have raised that point. I pay tribute to careers staff who do magnificent work at a difficult time. But careers advice to young people in our schools is wholly inadequate. Staff are expected to know everything. They have to advise young people who want to be bus drivers and those who want to be astronauts, those who want to be hairdressers and those who want to become Members of Parliament, God help them. They are backed up by out-of-date and unattractive material.

The careers service needs a shake-up. It must be better resourced, but we must also specialise and concentrate the advice in centres, so that people can, for example, watch attractive videos showing what training is needed or what is involved in each career. Specialist careers advisers are needed for those centres to advise on their special subjects. If a young person wishes to become a bank manager, he could go to the specialist who knows how banks work and what training and qualifications are needed.

Those materials and advisers should be made available to people from the age of 13 and 14, so that they can map out their future at an early stage. Otherwise, we shall continue with the current system in which careers advice in many schools means that the bright are shoved in the direction of university and college and the not so bright must fend for themselves.

We must open up wider horizons for young people in schools, so that they can appreciate the opportunities available to them other than those into which they are traditionally channelled because of what their parents do or the type of community in which they are brought up. They should be shown at an early age what core subjects they should take to provide them with the career that they want.

In the inner cities especially, we need to provide young people with hope through careers advice. From the early age of 12 or 13, they see little point in being diligent at school and in choosing career paths, because those openings are not available to them. I recently visited a school in a part of my constituency which has a male unemployment rate of 60 per cent. to 70 per cent. We must ensure that careers teachers and advisers can counter that problem by showing children that making the right choices can push them in the right direction and enhance their chances of success. We must not allow young people of 13 to 15 to despair or become disillusioned. They must see that there is hope and opportunity for them.

The careers service should be shaken up. We should scrap the post of careers teachers. By all means, have a link person in schools, but all the careers service should be concentrated under one roof. Specialist centres should be opened, so that existing resources are concentrated instead of being spread thinly.

We must encourage careers teachers to rid schoolchildren of the idea that when they leave school at 16 they are ready for work. We must ensure that 16-year-olds realise that they must continue with further education and training before they are suitable for employment.

Links between colleges and industry are a great help. I am especially pleased that Bradford, with two thirds of its schools linked with industry, is above the average for cities.

We must ensure that colleges and the courses that they run are flexible to industry's demands. As hon. Members have mentioned, colleges must be properly equipped with the machinery to train people to provide the skills that industry needs. One way to help is to allow companies' donations to educational institutions in the form of equipment or cash to be offset against taxation, in an effort to free more resources for colleges.

Through local consortia and chambers of commerce, we must identify skill shortages. My city is in the ludicrous position that 40 per cent. of the long-term vacancies are still vacant because training is needed. The local consortia could suggest opportunities for business, because they could identify goods that could and should be produced by local businesses and help to train people for those opportunities.

From secondary school onwards, we must prepare young people in a way that allows them to make the maximum use of their time. Even the middle schools, with children aged between nine and 13, should be linked with the upper schools and we must co-ordinate pre-school leaving and post-school leaving qualifications, so that we end the situation in which many people discover, on reaching adulthood, that the exams that they took at school were irrelevant.

We must ensure that the time spent studying for GCSE or CPVE is useful for career progression and can be further developed during post-school training to gain a final work-based qualification.

If we are to ensure that the advantages of all the changes that we are seeing in education and in training and all the advantages of going on a youth training scheme are not wasted, we must ask, "What happens after YTS?" Fortunately, more and more companies are becoming farsighted enough to incorporate the YTS into their existing training schemes; the electrical contractors are a shining example of that.

Already, 38 per cent. of those who go on the YTS and get jobs go into placements offering higher levels and longer periods of training. However, despite all the guidance and the training, some will remain unemployed. We must ensure that that is not the end of the line for them and that they do not feel that they have been forgotten. We can add to the credibility of and respect for the YTS by ensuring that there is something at the end of it. The most often voiced criticism of the YTS is that there is nothing at the end.

The Government cannot guarantee a job and should not do so, but they can guarantee continued opportunties for self-development. There are already a wide range of voluntary schemes and MSC-funded schemes in our cities, but they lack co-ordination, use thinly scattered resources and are provided haphazardly. We should increase the facilities available and make greater use of existing resources. Why not open the universities and polytechnics during the evenings and weekends, when millions of pounds worth of equipment is left idle, training no one? Similarly, the capital provision exists for TVEI, the ITECs and training centres. That could be used for the benefit of the community. No allowances would be necessary; further training and qualifications for the unemployed would be the incentive.

We should always be looking to encourage self-employment as an option. A recent youth survey showed that 30 per cent. of young people wanted to be their own bosses. Indeed 25 per cent. of those who had taken up the enterprise allowance were under 25. Through the schools and the YTS, we must continue to advise young people on how they can become self-employed and run their own businesses.

I should like the enterprise allowance to be extended so that those who leave the YTS do not have to be unemployed for three months before taking advantage of the scheme. We should provide a scheme that pays young people from the moment they leave the YTS to help them to set up their own businesses. I believe that young people would respond to such a scheme which would remove the anomaly that they must be unemployed before they can go into business on their own.

At last we are getting it right and it is important that vocational education and youth training should be for all. It must be for the bright as well as for the not so bright. We need to encourage the more able young people to consider new career paths and not only the safe options. One merely has to look at the quality of some British management to see how much training is needed.

By training the strong to achieve their full potential, we help the weak. The most significant achievement of our vocational education and youth training programme is that we are helping the weak to achieve aims that they would not have thought of achieving if Government help had not been available. They are finding new talents, perhaps through gaining employment as programmers or by setting up their own businesses.

Baseless criticism of the YTS is becoming progressively less sustainable. Unions that do not participate hamper industry and deny opportunities to young people. Companies that do not offer places are short-sighted and ignore the direct correlation between more training and better performances. Groups such as the Labour party and Youthaid, which purport to represent the interests of young people, actually destroy prospects every time they put someone off joining the YTS. Those groups have a strange idea of what is in the best interests of young people. It is like Greenpeace campaigning for lower taxes on harpoons.

As Youthaid reports, 10 out of 11 young people opt for the youth training scheme and 84 per cent. of those on the scheme are happy. That is a remarkable success story and one that any product manager would be delirious to achieve for the launch of a new product.

For too long this country has relied on the strong to help the weak. Effective vocational education and youth training allows the weak to help themselves to become strong.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

Order. It may be helpful if I announce that I understand that the Front-Bench speakers would like to start at 6.45 pm. A number of hon. Members still wish to take part in the debate and I hope that they will bear that in mind.

6.26 pm
Mr. Jack Thompson (Wansbeck)

I add my congratulations to the hon. Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. Haselhurst) on initiating the debate. It has been a fascinating discussion and there has not been too much dispute between Conservative Members and some Labour Members on a number of issues.

About 10 years ago an old and wise friend of mine said that we ought not to talk about "education" and "training", but that we should use the word "learning". From the day we are born till the day we die, we never stop learning. As babies and children, we learn from our parents and we progress through nursery school — if we are lucky enough to have such schools in our area—to primary school, secondary school, college, university or work experience and training. The last thing we learn is how to die—and we never repeat that experience.

The hon. Member for Saffron Walden made a significant point about linking education and training. There has been a division between the two for far too long. We need to change that. The suggestions of the hon. Member for Saffron Walden should be noted by the Government because they would provide a good base on which to work.

The hon. Member also mentioned the need for a department of education and training. I support that suggestion, though I should prefer the title of department of learning.

Hon. Members on both sides of the House have referred to the relationship between local education authorities and the MSC. I have known occasions when the relationship was so bad that the two sides, were virtually not talking to each other. That is a sad reflection of the way that training has developed and of the difference between the funding for the MSC to support training and the funding for local education authorities.

Two or three years ago the education authority in my county had discussions with the MSC and one of the principal reasons why a local technical college was able to stay open and provide the facilities that it was built for was that we got funding from the MSC and allowed young people to use part of the premises to occupy their time. It involved about £650,000—a form of blackmail from the MSC to the education department to provide space for its programme. That space was intended for the specific purpose of training young people in higher skills than those being offered by the MSC. I do not criticise its training of young people, but the facility was not being used for its intended purpose.

I went through the traditional training system—I was an engineering apprentice for five years. Apprenticeships lasted from the age of 16 to the age of 21 — so if someone was 16 years and 2 days, he could not obtain an apprenticeship. I was 15 years 11 months when I was offered my apprenticeship, so I was rather fortunate. It was very clear cut, and the formula was based on the old craft guilds. The apprentices, journeymen and craftsmen followed a set procedure that dated back to the middle ages.

The pattern has changed and we have moved from five-year apprenticeships to four-year or even three-year apprenticeships, depending on the skills required, However, we are not adjusting in industry to those changes. We still talk about apprenticeships, but we should put them in the right context. Both employers and trade unions must look again at craft training and apprenticeships. Indeed, it may prove necessary to dispense with that whole aspect and instead think of training and retraining, regardless of age.

We are in a vacuum because the old system is disappearing and there is no new system to take its place, and that is creating many problems. The education service is under pressure because of the reduction in Government spending. The Ashington technical college in my constituency is doing a magnificent job, but it has to cover a county of about 50 miles by 50 miles. It cannot adequately provide for those living in the more rural parts. The college has developed an annexe system which, although good, could be better with the right investment. I am very proud of that college; indeed, I am an ex-student of it. In the good days it had money to buy equipment and provide facilities. With the cuts in spending today, young people are not having the right opportunity to develop their skills.

Conservative Members have referred to the training of those aged 14 and over in local industry. I remember when the coal industry was predominant in my constituency. By the end of the second world war, young people were conditioned to entering the coal industry, although they might also have had to enter the Army for a short time. There was no alternative for them. A 10-year-old was aware that he would be a miner. Times have changed, and so has industry.

I could not support a system where the emphasis in schools was placed on conditioning children of 14-plus to become virtual clones for local industry. Training in and understanding of industry is one matter, but the training of young people for only one industry is quite another matter, and I would not be happy to support that.

There has been some discussion about the industrial input in training colleges. I remember when mature students, sometimes with 10 or 15 years industrial background, undertook teacher-training. That was an excellent scheme. Today, we could not find anyone who would willingly leave industry to train as a teacher. That is the sad part of the current trend.

Industries in my constituency underuse their training facilities because they cannot afford apprentices. They would be happy to take on more young people if there was some Government support. I am fortunate to be involved in the Industry and Parliament Trust and I am also seconded to the North-West electricity board, which has an excellent training centre just outside Manchester. It would be happy to train young people at that centre, which is underused, but it does not have the necessary finances. There should be financial support for that sort of scheme.

I am glad that we have been given the opportunity today to discuss these issues. I hope that there will be a number of other occasions when we can discuss them again so that we can eventually obtain the system that the hon. Member for Saffron Walden genuinely supports, and which I support in principle.

6.36 pm
Mr. Andrew Rowe (Mid-Kent)

The theme of the debate has been partnership, and the partners within the system are, first, the children and young people who want their curiosity satisfied. That means stretching them. I served on the Swann committee for five years. The message that came from every part of the country was that young people were dissatisfied with their education because they were not stretched, not because they were being taught too much. However, I think that there is too much teaching of the sort that Mr. Gradgrind indulged in—filling little pitchers with fact. Speaking as a former university teacher, I met far too many students who entered university far past their learning peak. They had achieved entry by being crammed for exams by skilful schools. They no longer had a great deal of intellectual curiosity, so their three years at university were often disappointing for them and for their teachers.

Secondly, the teachers are currently an issue in themselves. One of the great problems is that they are torn between the manifest demand outside teaching for specialists in robotics, maths, physics and other subjects and their ineradicable belief that no differentiation in salary should be made between one faculty and another. It is an important and difficult question to which too many teachers do not pay sufficient attention.

The third partner in the group is the board of governors of a school. My hon. Friend the Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. Haselhurst) said that we should pay business men to take on the governorship of schools, but that is not the reason why they do not sit on those boards. It is because it is a non-job. It is an important, difficult and taxing task, but the amount of decision-making open to them is derisory. No one worth his salt would come out of business to do that job. We must devolve real authority to the governors.

Of course, we must consider the parents. It is sad that at a time when parents have so much leisure—more than they have ever had in our history—teachers teachers are almost unanimous in saying that involving parents is virtually impossible. I do not blame the parents. During the 1960s and 1970s teachers spent a great deal of time saying, "Hands off—this is a specialist job. Anything you bring to the school will be old-fashioned, out of date and tiresome. Will you kindly leave us alone to get on with the job of teaching your child in a modern way?" Having sown that wind, they are now reaping the whirlwind and finding great difficulty in persuading parents to assist in schools—despite the fact that many of them would be glad to do so.

The Government must give serious attention to videos. More than half the households in Britain have a video. I am prepared to bet that entertainments represent 95 per cent. of the programmes on those videos. We have to develop a major programme of educational videos for pupils to take home with them and use on their home videos. Half of the pupils would lack the self-motivation to do that properly, and they could stay on at school to be taught in classes which themselves would be halved. The other pupils would spend their time at home learning from the masters of the trade and in a form to which they have grown accustomed. We need a modern day Carnegie. If we cannot find one, the Government will have to do it for themselves. The Government will have to set up a massive trust—ideos, unlike books, are expensive to produce—to provide copyright-free videos so that people, without pirating them, can copy them for their children.

Mr. Sheerman

The Open University would do that tomorrow.

Mr. Rowe

The Open University may well do it tomorrow, but it takes up to six years to produce a video, and that would be too long.

The employers are the last link in the partnership, and it is true that they do not know what they want. The Government have been coherent and right in their approach to the qualifications net. We have to develop a method of choosing people by aptitude rather than by qualification.

We should allow teachers far more opportunity to train and retrain but it will be expensive to do that. We should seriously consider whether our school terms are not too long. We use our schools as a social control mechanism, and for that reason people keep their children at school for many months of the year. In practice, much of what goes on in schools could be condensed without loss. If one did that, there would be more time for teachers, as part of their contract, to be trained and retrained in ways that they would like. I believe that children could be found placements in industry and thus gain experience.

It is sound that the Manpower Services Commission should be the engine for so much of this change because the Government have some authority over the MSC, whereas they have no real authority over the national education system. However, I know from my own constituency that schools are finding it increasingly difficult in Industry Year to find work placements for children because of the demands of the expanded youth training scheme. The Government must remember what their left hand and right hand are doing.

6.43 pm
Mr. Martin Flannery (Sheffield, Hillsborough)

I understand that I have only three minutes to speak. If I could spend the time agreeing with the motion, that would be enough, but there are harsh realities to be faced. I never cease to be amazed by the bland effrontery of the Tories when they put forward this type of motion: That this House calls for future policy towards 14 to 19 year olds to be based on a close integration of education, training and the Youth Service, taking full account of the aims and objectives of Industry Year.

We talk about Industry Year, but let us be clear: it should be called "Lack of Industry Year" or "Death of Industry Year" because of the Government's actions. That is the reality that young people face.

The Government have talked about close integration. We would love close integration, but there is disintegration of the entire education system in Britain because of the sheer brutality of the Secretary of State for Education and Science and the Prime Minister. The right hon. Lady has ordered the Minister virtually to destroy industry. British industry is in the greatest crisis that has ever been witnessed because of the Tories—and they talk with bland effrontery as if they really mean what is said in the motion.

I heard the hon. Member for Harrogate (Mr. Banks), wealthy and well-heeled, talk about unemployment dominating us until the end of this century. Left to the Conservative party and to him, of course it will. We have to face the fact that unemployment is not an act of God, although the Government talk as if it were. It is an act of this Government under the system in which they believe. The Government do not know how to handle the system in which they profoundly believe. Therefore, within the framework of that system they do not know how to handle the state system of education. The Government are pouring money into private education and taking it away from public education.

The Government have talked about education, training, youth service and leisure. They have given plenty of leisure to the youth of this country and they are now putting them on training schemes largely to keep them off the unemployment registers. If one added young people to the unemployment list, there would be 4 million unemployed. That is harsh reality, no matter what the Government say.

Within the three minutes I have had at my disposal I have not been able to do what I have done in every education debate and every education Question Time in the past 12 years—discuss how to advance the cause of education. The one thing that will advance the cause of education in Britain is to get rid of this Government. We must fund education properly and value our teachers and children properly. The Government will never do that until they are made to do so by the people of this country, represented by the Labour party.

6.46 pm
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Employment (Mr. David Trippier)

My reply to this debate gives me a golden opportunity not only to thank my hon. Friend the Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. Haselhurst) for initiating the debate with his excellent speech but for his distinguished career in youth and community service over many years. Many of us remember him, between 1966 and 1968, as a very distinguished chairman of the Young Conservatives. My hon. Friend had a special ability to organise conferences such as the one we have witnessed this weekend. He subsequently went on to be chairman of the Manchester youth and community service council.

My hon. Friend also played a significant part in the programme entitled "Youth Charter Towards 2000". He also has the dubious honour of being the Member who sponsored me for the Conservative parliamentary candidates list. This speech gives me the first opportunity to thank him publicly for that. Despite his latter digression, his judgment in these matters is normally sound and his concern for education and community development is certainly unquestioned.

My hon. Friend, in speaking to his motion, was skilful in cataloguing the various schemes which have been introduced in the past seven years. I welcome his praise of many of them. I also welcome his suggestion that there should be greater coherence if we are to achieve the various targets we have set ourselves. Not least of these is our attempt to increase awareness in the minds of the young of what programmes are available and to convince them and their parents that we have a common and integrated approach throughout Government.

All the speakers in the debate seem to have agreed on one thing—that young people represent the future. If we do not give them the chance to develop the skills they need and do not encourage the right outlook, prospects must suffer. The well-being of this country depends on our giving young people the knowledge and understanding to build the nation's ability to create wealth. For this reason, much depends on our approach to education and training of the young.

There are several key elements in that approach, as suggested by my hon. Friend the Member for Saffron Walden. We must offer a wide range of choices and opportunities. We must give access to marketable skills and establish schemes and a system which are coherent in philosophy and practice. More than that, as my hon. Friend the Member for Rugby and Kenilworth (Mr. Pawsey) said, we must bring young people into contact with the world at work and develop the enterprise culture early. We must change attitudes and make the development of enterprise and initiative a common feature of education and training for young people.

I noticed that the word enterprise was generally lacking in the speeches of Opposition Members. There were only one or two exceptions. The hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr. Sheerman) left it until the last gasp of his speech, and then mentioned it only in passing when he said that the Labour party wants local authorities to encourage enterprise. We appreciate that local authorities play a part, but they should not take the lead. As my hon. Friend the Member for Bradford, North (Mr. Lawler) said, we must stimulate and develop enterprise this year. Those whom we are trying to encourage—the Government and local government — represent the acceptable face of bureaucracy, and we ignore that at our peril.

My hon. Friend the Member for Saffron Walden mentioned the opportunity that this year offers. He wanted an improvement in the interface between industrialists and educationists. The initiative of the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce is to be welcomed and encouraged. It has the support of the Government, the Confederation of British Industry, the Trades Union Congress, professional organisations, the churches, women's groups and many others who perhaps realise, as I do, that we should have done this 30 or 40 years ago, as my hon. Friend the Minister of State, Education and Science said.

It is widely accepted that, irrespective of whether we like it—we do not—there is in Britain today an anti-industry, anti-enterprise and anti-profit culture. Things have improved considerably while the Government have been in office—we can point to clear evidence of that. However, we do not pay sufficient regard to industries that provide the wealth that pays for the essential services that we have come to accept such as better schools, hospitals and roads. The strand that joined the speech of the hon. Member for Portsmouth, South (Mr. Hancock) and Labour Members, when outlining the fantastic programmes that they say that they will get involved in—they say that they will throw the cheque book at every problem—is that they never spell out the detail of their programmes or say where the money will come from.

Industry Year is designed to start to change cultural attitudes so that, once again, the most talented people will choose to work in industry. It is important to stress that the definition of industry being used this year includes tradable goods and services that people need and want. My hon. Friend the Member for Harrogate (Mr. Banks) rightly reminded us that we are not talking solely about manufacturing industry, but about the important service sector as well.

Mr. Mark Fisher (Stoke-on-Trent, Central)

You never do.

Mr. Trippier

If the hon. Gentleman reads our White Paper on regional policy of nearly two years ago, he will see that we chose our words carefully. He will see that the grants that are made available, principally through the Department of Trade and Industry, have been confined to manufacturing industry—that we have discriminated in favour of the manufacturing sector. We signalled a change by saying in the White Paper that we would no longer discriminate against the service sector. We have wide support for that view, and so we should. We have looked across the Atlantic and seen where the new jobs have come from there. Growth, wealth creation, and employment creation have come principally from the service sector.

Mr. Holt

Did my hon. Friend see the Leader of the Opposition yesterday, speaking on television, when he said that his party is committed to introducing higher taxation for the very people who must be induced to go into industry to provide the entrepreneurial skill that we so desperately need?

Mr. Fisher

The top 5 per cent.

Mr. Trippier

I saw that programme. I was enthralled that the Leader of the Opposition referred to enterprise, which I welcomed. He said that there would have to be an increase in taxation—

Mr. Fisher

For the top 5 per cent.

Mr. Trippier

Quite frankly, the top 5 per cent. do not bring in the money necessary for the programmes that the Opposition are talking about. I cannot think of anything that would be more of a brake on enterprise or act more as a disincentive to those we are trying to encourage than the Government taking more of their earnings, with the result that the risks that they take are not adequately rewarded.

Mr. Sheerman

Does the Minister agree that we have witnessed the destruction of enterprise in the past six years? As I said in my speech, if the Government do not do something to resuscitate industry, constituencies such as the Minister's and mine, in which 45 per cent. of youth training scheme leavers go on to the dole queue, will have no employment to offer because there will be no enterprise. What will the Government do about that?

Mr. Trippier

There is not much of a debate on this issue because the Labour party's record in government is appalling. Its policies for entrepreneurs and enterprise were non-existent. The hon. Gentleman is supposed to be my shadow opposite number, including my responsibility for small firms, and I find it extremely difficult to stomach the fact that the Labour party has not mentioned enterprise or small firms in either of its last two manifestos. It has no interest in encouraging such activity.

The Industry Year message must be put across strongly to the education sector. The generation in education now is that from which most of our future entrepreneurs will be attracted. However, the attitude of parents is important, and the Industry Year message is aimed at them, too. There is little point in persuading students to look to industry for careers if their parents still try to steer them towards the so-called softer options, which at the moment unfortunately assume higher status. Parents must be convinced of the importance of industry and enterprise. We hope that companies will hold open days for the local community so that everybody can understand and appreciate how much industry contributes to the local and national well-being.

It is essential that companies and schools form closer links, perhaps by companies adopting a local school. This is a two-way process. Students can learn about industry, and companies would be able to contribute and perhaps alter the learning process so that children develop the right skills. I should like all school leavers to be able to understand a simple business plan and a balance sheet. I wish that I had received such training at school.

I am not convinced about tax allowances for industrialists, but that is obviously a matter that I should have to refer to my right hon. Friend the Chancellor in any event. I tend to agree with colleagues who answered that argument. It is far better to encourage people to come in from industry to speak in schools. That is improving all the time. The Department of Education and Science and the Department of Trade and Industry are involved in promoting knowledge of industry among schoolchildren through the industry education unit in the Department of Trade and Industry, which is running an interesting scheme called the mini-enterprise in schools project, in conjunction with the National Westminster bank. The target is to have at least one mini-enterprise in every secondary school by the end of Industry Year. That is quite a target—there are about 7,000 secondary schools—but at least 30 per cent. are already covered. The projects give youngsters an opportunity to understand the pleasures and pitfalls of business life while at school. It will give them a good understanding of enterprise.

I warmly welcome what the hon. Member for Huddersfield said about the youth training scheme. This is the first time that I have heard it said publicly that the Labour party broadly — I am not taking the hon. Gentleman's words out of context—supports YTS. I do not want there to be a partisan attitude towards the scheme. The hon. Gentleman knows that members of the TUC are commissioners of the scheme. It is a first-class scheme and has helped many youngsters to find full-time employment. It is the best youth scheme that we have ever introduced.

Thanks to my hon. Friend the Member for Saffron Walden, we have had an opportunity to discuss the issues early this year. I hope that the message of this important year will be understood, and that its relevance to young people will better equip them for the challenge and opportunity offered to the nation in future.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved, That this House calls for future policy towards 14 to 19 year olds to be based on a close integration of education, training and the Youth Service, taking full account of the aims and objectives of Industry Year.