HC Deb 14 February 1989 vol 147 cc132-3
2. Ms. Armstrong

To ask the Secretary of State for Employment whether he has any plans to increase the safety of YTS trainees; and if he will make a statement.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Employment (Mr. Patrick Nicholls)

I repeat what I told the hon. Lady in the reply that I gave on 6 December, which is recorded in the Official Report at column 143— namely, that health and safety remains of paramount importance in YTS.

New developments currently in hand include the issue of a new health and safety training package aimed specifically at young persons and new advice for managing agents who monitor health and safety at work placements.

Ms. Armstrong

Is the Minister not horrified at the rise in accidents involving YTS trainees? Can he tell the House how enabling young YTS trainees to work longer hours—to do night and shift work and to work for up to 53 hours per week—will improve health and safety for our young people?

Mr. Nicholls

The hon. Lady seems to be working on the assumption that the YTS accident rate has increased dramatically. She should know that that is not the position. The rate of accidents and fatalities involving YTS trainees is the same as that for young people working outside the scheme.

If the hon. Lady believes that she has conclusive evidence that altering and rationalising hours of work must inevitably lead to further accidents, it would be interesting to see that evidence. I must tell the hon. Lady that there is no indication from anywhere else that such evidence exists.

Mr. Andrew MacKay

While safety measures must be enforced for YTS trainees from that for everyone else, does my hon. Friend agree that there is a great deal of nitpicking by Labour Members who are jealous because YTS is working so well?

Mr. Nicholls

Nits will pick.

Mr. Fatchett

Is the Minister aware that his answer sounds both smug and complacent? As the Government have presided over an increase of more than 100 per cent. in YTS accidents between 1984–88, is it not time that we had some real constructive action from the Minister—or is he so insensitive to youngsters and to those on YTS courses that he is quite happy to see such carnage among young people?

Mr. Nicholls

In using words such as "smug" and "complacent", the hon. Gentleman merely illustrates that it is unwise to write one's supplementary question before hearing the answer to the main question. If the hon. Gentleman is trying to suggest that there has been a major increase in YTS accidents he and his hon. Friends should know that the bases on which accidents are recorded were changed in 1986. If one takes that into account— [interruption.] The hon. Gentleman should know about that by now—he has been told often enough. If one takes that change into account, the figures are remarkably stable. The hon. Gentleman should realise that fatalities are recorded on a different basis for YTS trainees as for employees. On that basis, the figures are stable. It is not complacent or smug to try to do away with some of the scare stories that Opposition Members are constantly putting around to terrify people off YTS.

Mr. Bellingham

Does my hon. Friend agree that the key to the safety of YTS trainees is proper training? My hon. Friend will be aware of the excellent work done by the construction industry training board in that respect. Does he agree that it is crucial that that board should remain in its present form with a statutory levy?

Mr. Nicholls

That does not arise from this question, but I agree with my hon. Friend thus far—training is obviously vital and any YTS provider must have approved training organisation status. One of the key ingredients of that status is that such providers have proper safety and training arrangements for the young people in their charge.

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