HC Deb 01 December 1992 vol 215 cc128-9
4. Mr. Milligan

To ask the Secretary of State for Employment what measures she is taking to meet the concerns which have been expressed by TECs.

Mrs. Gillian Shephard

Last month, I was pleased to be able to announce a package of measures that has been welcomed by TECs throughout the country.

Mr. Milligan

I thank my right hon. Friend for the statement that she made in reply to the previous question, but is she aware that 1,000 young people in Hampshire still have not been able to get training places? Hampshire TEC has a most imaginative scheme for providing initial training, to try to get those young persons up to the level that private business requires. Can my right hon. Friend explain what will be the effect in Hampshire of the announcement that she just made?

Mrs. Shephard

I can certainly explain with pleasure to my hon. Friend that close attention is being paid to Hampshire TEC's particular problems with meeting the guarantee. As I said, all TECs have the resources required to meet it. In fact, we have provided for 244,000 places for young people in the current year and the number required is only 216,000. There is no problem with resources, but there may be a problem with Hampshire TEC—as there are with some others—in finding employer placements. Each and every TEC—few now are finding difficulty—will be helped to meet the guarantee by the end of this month.

Mr. Wallace

How can the Secretary of State say that the guarantee is being met when she has just heard that 1,000 young people in Hampshire have no training places? A similar survey in Fife also found a large shortfall. Is not the reason that the right hon. Lady's budget for this year is £3.5 billion, when, in 1987, in real terms, it was £5.1 billion? In other words, the Secretary of State has only two thirds of the amount that was available in 1987, but unemployment is roughly at the same level. Is not the right hon. Lady abdicating her responsibilities to those who are unemployed and seeking training?

Mrs. Shephard

Unlike the hon. Gentleman, we welcome the fact that more young people are staying on at school. That results, perforce, in fewer young people coming forward for a training place. As I said, some TECs have found it difficult this year to find employer placements. There is of course always a surge of demand when young people make up their minds to choose youth training in the autumn. I repeat that there need be no problem of inadequate resources preventing TECs and LECs from meeting the guarantee.

Mr. Heald

Does my right hon. Friend agree that training and enterprise councils can play a special role in cases where there are large redundancies by co-ordinating task forces—as they have done in Hertfordshire and in my constituency in north Hertfordshire?

Mrs. Shephard

Yes. Hertfordshire TEC has played a key role in helping with British Aerospace redundancies, and I was delighted by the positive and strong response made by TECs in preparing plans to cope with pit closures.

Mr. Tony Lloyd

How can the Secretary of State claim that TECs are happy with the settlement when last year, this year, and next year they received and will receive real-terms cuts in their budgets at a time when long-term unemployment and unemployment generally are continuing to rise?

How can the right hon. Lady tell the House that she is keeping to the guarantee when, by her own figures, she admits that 19,000 young people have not been found a youth training place? Will she undertake to re-examine the situation whereby many young people for whom the guarantee has not been honoured find themselves without any income? Will she talk to her friend at the Department of Social Security and suggest that those young people should once again receive some kind of benefit?

Mrs. Shephard

As the hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well, there is a special hardship allowance and bridging allowances for young people who are between YT places. Given that in the House on 20 November the hon. Gentleman wrongly claimed that 75,000 young people were waiting for a training place, I thought that he would welcome today's figures.

Mr. Sweeney

Does my right hon. Friend accept that Britain is unique in offering a guaranteed place on a training scheme for all 16 to 17-year-olds?

Mrs. Shephard

Yes, I accept my hon. Friend's point. There is no question but that we have a better record in that respect than many of our European counterparts, including France.