HC Deb 18 February 1986 vol 92 cc176-8
5. Mr. Sean Hughes

asked the Paymaster General what progress has been made in promoting the YTS.

Mr. Kenneth Clarke

On 27 January my right hon. and noble Friend, together with the chairman of the Manpower Services Commission, the director general of the CBI and the general secretary of the TUC launched an advertising campaign to promote the new two-year YTS.

Mr. Hughes

Have not the Government yet again had to resort to using actors, this time to promote the YTS? Does that not demonstrate the implausibility of the miserable sums that are on offer?

Mr. Clarke

The advertising is necessary to ensure that we have people, including employers, coming forward to provide the training that we want and also to make young people generally aware of what is on offer now that we are going for a two-year good quality training programme available to all of them. I do not know what the hon. Member means by "miserable sums". By 1987–88 we shall have passed the £1 billion mark each year in spending on youth training.

Mr. Bellingham

Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that it is imperative that the unions support the YTS? Is he aware that there are 50 youngsters engaged in YTS in Norfolk county council whose second year is being threatened by the National and Local Government Officers Association? Will my right hon. and learned Friend have a word with NALGO and give it a prod?

Mr. Clarke

The TUC supports the YTS and the scheme is run by the Manpower Services Commission, on which there are three trade union representatives as commissioners, including such leading figures as the general secretary of the Transport and General Workers Union. I agree that some unions still prove to be difficult in practice in some localities, and NALGO is less than helpful. However, I do not have the influence on NALGO that the Opposition might have if they took a more constructive view.

Mr. Foot

Has the right hon. and learned Gentleman had a chance to look at the matter that I raised with him two or three weeks ago—the extra burden that is being put on local authorities to bear part of the burden for the YTS? How much of the burden is being put on local authorities? When the transitional payments are exhausted, will the Minister take steps to ensure that the whole burden is borne by the central Exchequer rather than by local authorities with the highest unemployment in the land?

Mr. Clarke

Local authorities are supported in the same way as other employers, and the contribution made to the employers must reflect the fact that, certainly in the second year, the trainees are often adding some value to their service or business. One of the main problems faced by local authorities comes from NALGO, as my hon. Friend the Member for Norfolk, North-West (Mr. Bellingham) said, because payments to young trainees need to be topped up far above the necessary levels. Therefore, the local authorities saddle themselves with unnecessary wage levels. That is a matter between the local authorities and NALGO. There is no reason why central Government funding should contribute to such payments.

Mr. Terlezki

Does my right hon. and learned Friend not find it very difficult to promote the YTS when the Opposition invariably try to discourage young people by stating that it is slave labour? They know nothing about slave labour whatsoever. They should encourage young people to join the YTS.

Mr. Clarke

I agree with my hon. Friend. The payment made to trainees on the YTS reflects the fact that they are in training. It is a realistic payment for those going straight from school and receiving their first training at work. Sixty per cent. of them go straight to jobs when they have completed their training. The Opposition's position is quite ridiculous. They say, through clenched teeth, that they support the two-year YTS, but then, as my hon. Friend says, they launch into destructive publicity which puts young people off.

Mr. Prescott

I congratulate the new Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Employment on joining the Front Bench. It coincides with a time when much of the responsibility of the Department is being transferred to another place.

When the Paymaster General had direct responsibility for the Manpower Services Commission, did he endorse the appointment of the Tory public relations agency, Saatchi and Saatchi, whose black propaganda reminded us at the election that Labour policies were not working, when unemployment was a third of what it is today? Did the Paymaster General also endorse the propaganda in the national newspapers to the effect that apparently Japan has to look out for Spikey Dodds in a youth training scheme which has fewer resources, qualifications and job opportunities when compared with YTS in other countries?

Mr. Clarke

I have given the reason why we are promoting and advertising the youth training scheme. We want the providers of good quality training and young people to know what is on offer, because they will benefit from it. It would be absurd to spend £1 billion on the programme and to spend nothing to promote the programme that that money makes available.

On the matter of Spikey Dodds and Japan, I think it is important to underline the fact that this country has to be competitive in an international market which is very often dominated by Japan. Better quality training for our young people and a more skilled work force will help us to achieve that.

Mr. Cyril Smith

I want to refer to the question of the right hon. Member for Blaenau Gwent (Mr. Foot) on the cost to local authorities of the YTS. In my constituency it is over £500,000 a year. If one accepts that authorities should contribute, can the Minister at least persuade his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment that such expenditure should not be subject to rate capping?

Mr. Clarke

Much local government expenditure does not arise directly from the youth training scheme or the Government's rules for it. Such expenditure arises from the fact that local authorities give way to political pressure and pay wage rates to those being trained which are higher than necessary and higher than those provided by many private employers. I cannot stop local authorities from doing that. It is absurd to suggest that we should divert money from our training budget to subsidise local authorities which do that.

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