HC Deb 09 June 1992 vol 209 cc130-1
2. 2. Mr. Bryan Davies

To ask the Secretary of State for Employment what assessment she has made of the quality and quantity of training places available to young people.

The Secretary of State for Employment (Mrs. Gillian Shephard)

I am satisfied that, across the country as a whole, the quality and quantity of youth training places are meeting the needs of young people and those of the economy.

Mr. Davies

I congratulate the Secretary of State on her appointment, but is she aware that when the chairmen of the north-west regional TECs sought a new Secretary of State, they did so because they wanted increased funds for training? What is her justification for the cuts in financial provision for each youth training place in Oldham and for the cuts in unit costs for training places throughout the north-west?

Mrs. Shephard

I met the chairmen of the north-west TECs recently, and we discussed a number of matters, including funding and flexibility. The hon. Gentleman will understand that there has been an unjustifiable variation in the unit costs for youth training places—a variation of £30 per place—and I think that it was right to bring those costs closer together.

Sir Anthony Durant

I congratulate my right hon. Friend on her appointment. What representations has she received from Labour Members about the youth training scheme?

Mrs. Shephard

Very few, because my hon. Friend will know that Labour Members have consistently set their face against youth training; and I believe that the Transport and General Workers Union, which sponsors many Labour Members, voted to boycott youth training. That scandalous state of affairs has not been criticised by Opposition Members.

Mr. Leighton

In welcoming the Secretary of State to her new duties, may I inquire whether she has read the excellent pamphlet published by Youth Aid, the Children's Society and 30 other organisations, entitled "A Broken Promise: A Failure of Youth Training Policy"? It makes it clear that the youth training guarantee is not being delivered and that right across the country, including my constituency, thousands of young people are leaving school with no jobs, no training places and no benefits? What will she do to improve youth training?

Mrs. Shephard

I can assure the hon. Gentleman that I have read that important report, and that of the National Association of Citizens Advice Bureaux. I must set the concerns expressed in those reports in context; 300,000 young people are successfully engaged in youth training. The Government will ensure a guaranteed place for every young person and no TEC has been or will be prevented from meeting that guarantee by a lack of resources. However, if there is a problem in the machinery, we shall look into it.

Mr. Patrick Thompson

May I, as a Norfolk Member, also congratulate my right hon. Friend on her new appointment? Can she confirm that it is the Government's intention to ensure that every young person not in full-time education from the age of 16 has a training place? Will she visit Norwich at the earliest opportunity to check whether that policy is being carried out to the full?

Mrs. Shephard

I confirm that there is a guaranteed place for every young person who needs one. I intend to visit Norwich shortly.

Mr. Fatchett

I add my congratulations to the Secretary of State on her appointment. Does she recognise that an equally important statistic is not the 300,000 young people on youth training places but the 100,000 who are struggling to find places? Is she also aware that the report produced by my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, North-East (Mr. Leighton), the former Chairman of the Select Committee, showed that half the TECs were having difficulty meeting the youth guarantee? Is it not a fact that the Secretary of State has been misled by her civil servants, or that she is ignorant about what is happening to youth training—the simple fact being that the guarantee is not being delivered by the Government?

Mrs. Shephard

I repeat that the Government do and will ensure that there is a guaranteed place for every young person. I accept that there is some waiting for places, but that is to be expected, given the importance of placing young people in training that suits their needs. As I said, if there is a problem with machinery, I shall certainly look into it. The machinery should not fail young people.