HC Deb 07 July 1992 vol 211 cc173-4
11. Mr. Luff

To ask the Secretary of State for Employment what plans she has to better co-ordinate policies for 16-plus training and education.

Mr. McLoughlin

The jointly produced White Paper "Education and Training in the 21st Century" published in May 1991 was designed to encourage young people to develop to the best of their ability, remove barriers to opportunity, achieve higher standards and provide more choice. We are making good progress towards those aims.

Mr. Luff

Pausing only to apologise for the split infinitive in the question in my name on the Order Paper, which I assure my hon. Friend the Minister was not in the question that I submitted to the Table Office, I invite him to congratulate all those in my constituency who have worked so hard to deliver an important part of the Government's plans for the 16-plus age group. I refer in particular to the training and enterprise council, the chamber of commerce and the wider business community. Will my hon. Friend assure me that, in the unlikely event that allegations that the YT guarantee is not being delivered in a particular area are proved to be true, he will make every effort to ensure that the guarantee is forthcoming.

Mr. McLoughlin

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for the praise that he rightly gives to his local training and enterprise council. I am glad that he has approached it to establish how the guarantee is operating—rather than rely on the scare stories that we often hear from Opposition Members. I assure my hon. Friend that the Government take the YT guarantee very seriously. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment has just made an announcement about the way in which we shall monitor the scheme to ensure that it is delivered throughout the United Kingdom.

Mr. Leighton

Is the Minister aware that 500 young school leavers in the London borough of Newham have no jobs, no training place and no benefits? That is the situation this year, as it was last year—and the same is projected for the future. Will the Minister give that matter his personal attention? Is he aware that his Department has received a letter inviting a Minister to the borough to study the situation on the ground? Will he make a positive response?

Mr. McLoughlin

I am not aware of the letter to which the hon. Gentleman refers. I will check it out and I hope to respond positively to the hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Anthony Coombs

Will my hon. Friend confirm that 60 per cent. of young people are staying on at school —the highest ever figure? In my own constituency, the Kidderminster college of further education has seen the number of full-time students rise by 10 per cent. over the past year. Is that not evidence of what occurs when colleges of further education are given greater flexibility and independence from local authorities? Ought we not to pursue that theme, with the support of industry?

Mr. McLoughlin

I agree. The staying-on level in Hereford and Worcester is 63 per cent., which is slightly above the national average. The increase in the numbers staying on for further education are surely welcomed in all parts of the House.

Mr. Fatchett

When all the best estimates suggest that the youth training guarantee is not being delivered to between 60,000 and 100,000 youngsters—and for many of them, that means poverty and homelessness—why do the Government not accept the figures and act upon them? Is it because the Minister is ignorant of the facts, or is he simply callously indifferent?

Mr. McLoughlin

It is because this Minister deals with the facts that he does not recognise the hon. Gentleman's figures. They are bogus and scaremongering. We have made it clear that we want to ensure that the guarantee is met. It is a pity that a number of trade unions and Opposition Members refuse to have anything to do with the youth training guarantee.

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