HC Deb 20 May 1986 vol 98 cc166-8
6. Mr. Campbell-Savours

asked the Paymaster General what recent representations he has received on the operation of the two year YTS programme.

Mr. Kenneth Clarke

I regularly receive correspondence which indicates widespread support for the extension of YTS to a two-year programme from April of this year.

Mr. Campbell-Savours

Is the Paymaster General aware that a number of companies in Cumbria and elsewhere in the country are abandoning the two-year scheme because of the cost? They have also cut the number of places on the scheme because of their second year obligations. In so far as there is cross-party support in the House for an effective two-year scheme, what does the Paymaster General intend to do if the numbers drop?

Mr. Clarke

I am glad to be able to tell the hon. Gentleman that nine out of 10 of the places required for this year have already been secured. That is much better than at the equivalent stage when YTS was introduced about three years ago. Obviously I regret it when some employers drop out, but we think that it is right that employers should make an increased contribution, given that in the second year the trainees usually are of considerable value to the company. That policy is widely supported, not least by the TUC and its representatives on the Manpower Services Commission.

Mr. Rowe

Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that the widespread support for the two-year YTS scheme is growing in my part of the world? The particularly commendable aspect is the way in which it is intended to mesh it with the national qualifications system. Can my right hon. and learned Friend say when the review will be completed?

Mr. Clarke

The results of the review are in the hands of Ministers, and we hope very early to announce decisions. This is an important issue, as it is very necessary to sort out the state of vocational qualifications. I am glad to say that we are well advanced with the process of providing certification for YTS trainees at the end of the two years. We intend that every trainee should receive good quality training, which will at least put them on the way to a recognised vocational qualification.

Mr. Meadowcroft

Is the Paymaster General aware of the long series of exchanges between the Minister of State and me on the question of YTS and the voluntary sector? Can he give us hope that there will be a high number of premium places for those in the voluntary sector who are going on B1 schemes, which will otherwise be badly hit as they will be unable to cope with the administrative costs involved?

Mr. Clarke

There are already many premium places. Obviously it is important that we should provide those places when there is no alternative provision for more difficult-to-place youngsters with private employers. The changes made this year have largely resulted from the fact that we are now funding schemes on the basis of the amount of training that they deliver, and we are no longer funding for unfilled places. Things are now bedding down quite well, and I think that we will have the number of places, of all kinds, that we require.

Mr. Dorrell

Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that the overwhelming weight of evidence shows that by far the most efficient way of training to meet manpower needs in companies is for those companies to be actively involved in training? Is it not one of the most welcome parts of the new YTS that my right hon. and learned Friend's policy encourages firms to invest in their own training needs instead of expecting the state to do it all for them?

Mr. Clarke

I entirely agree with my hon. Friend. I think that we must carry on trying to get the message through to those parts of British industry that do not train that the same principle must apply to adult training.

Ms. Clare Short

If the schemes are so popular, why is the Paymaster General taking powers under the Social Security Bill to cut the benefits available to those unemployed people who refuse places or leave for 13 weeks instead of six? Does that not represent yet another move towards forcing the unemployed on to schemes that they do not find acceptable?

Mr. Clarke

The rule for social benefit entitlement is long standing. First, people must be genuinely available for work. Secondly, they must not lose jobs through indiscipline or refusal. The hon. Lady knows full well that the reasons for the recent changes have been explained by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services. They are not particularly out of line with the policy that has been adopted ever since the beginning of the welfare state.