HC Deb 17 May 1994 vol 243 cc659-61
3. Mr. Colin Shepherd

To ask the Secretary of State for Employment what steps he is taking to develop further training opportunities for young people.

The Secretary of State for Employment (Mr. David Hunt)

The introduction of a new modern apprenticeship scheme and other measures.

Mr. Shepherd

I thank my right hon. Friend for that brief answer. Does he recognise that the concept of apprenticeships is often thought of as purely a matter for the mechanical and engineering sectors whereas there are many other sectors to which it could be applied? Will my right hon. Friend stress that fact in his development of the concept?

Mr. Hunt

Yes, I will. In fact, my hon. Friend's own training and enterprise council—Hawtec—is, among other training and enterprise councils, involved in the preparation of a prototype for the retail industry. There are a number of other prototyping arrangements for modern apprenticeships, including information technology, plumbing and marine engineering. Those sectors cover a range of new areas which have not hitherto had apprenticeships.

Mr. Alex Carlile

What fresh proposals does the Secretary of State have for the many new graduates who will emerge from university in a few weeks, young and eager to work?

Mr. Hunt

I am delighted that between 1990 and 1996 the number of individuals graduating from our universities will double. I also take pride in the fact that the rate of unemployment among graduates is half the national average. The United Kingdom has one of the lowest rates in Europe. There will be increasing opportunities for our graduates, who will share in the increasing growth in the economy.

Mr. Alan Howarth

Is my right hon. Friend aware that his decision that equal opportunities for disabled people —and, most importantly, young disabled people—should be on the agenda for his meetings with training and enterprise councils has been extensively welcomed? Is he further aware that the Employers Forum on Disability and the Confederation of British Industry are looking forward to consultations with him on policies to end discrimination in training and employment and that they want the Government to take the lead in updating the legislation in that area? Will he press forward with that process?

Mr. Hunt

I agree that the present quota system is not effective in removing discrimination against disabled people. We are introducing a new access to work scheme, but we must go further and introduce proposals to end discrimination where it affects disabled people.

Mr. Tony Lloyd

Will the right hon. Gentleman confirm that £103 million has been cut from the budget for adult and youth training? Given the Government's record of shoddy, low-cost training which has failed the nation in the past, why should we believe that the modern apprenticeships will be any different?

Mr. Hunt

The hon. Gentleman is about the only person to have voiced that view. I have been overwhelmed with favourable responses to the new modern appren-ticeship scheme. In fact, the hon. Gentleman was quoting a significant underspend in youth training. The introduction of a new modern apprenticeship scheme and the credits that accompany it, together with a budget of £1.25 billion over the next three years, means that we have the potential to fill the skills gap in the economy at the much-needed technician, craft and supervisory levels.

Mr. Brandreth

Can my right hon. Friend confirm that the Government are currently spending about £2.8 billion per year on training and enterprise—two and a half times the amount spent in 1979 in real terms? Is that not one reason why last year some 1.4 million people were able to return to work, 24 per cent. of whom had been unemployed for more than six months?

Mr. Hunt

My hon. Friend quotes a number of very important statistics. We are spending much more now in real terms than was spent under the Labour Government in 1979. The important thing is to ensure that that spending is properly targeted. That is why we are introducing new measures which I believe are capturing the support of a wide cross-section of the community. I very much hope that the hon. Member for Stretford (Mr. Lloyd) will rethink his position.

4. Mr. Barnes

To ask the Secretary of State for Employment what percentage of youth training and training for work trainees found work on completion of their courses at the latest date for which figures are available.

Miss Widdecombe

Sixty-six per cent. of youth training and 36 per cent. of training for work trainees were in employment after completing their training.

Mr. Barnes

Why do so many young people go straight from inadequate training courses to the dole without decent qualifications or credits? Should there not be investment in skills training, together with temporary employment subsidies to promote the creation of jobs? It is not only the young people who suffer—the whole economy suffers by not being able to use their talents.

Miss Widdecombe

Some 66 per cent. of those who complete youth training gain a qualification or a credit. It does not follow that those who do not do so necessarily go into unemployment. Some go on to further training and others to further education. Those facts must be remembered. On the hon. Gentleman's point about spending on youth training, it is worth spelling out that the forthcoming budget actually includes a higher spend than currently, despite the fact that larger numbers of young people stay on at school.

Mrs. Angela Knight

Will my hon. Friend confirm that in the east midlands region unemployment is falling and vacancies are increasing, bringing real hope to young people looking for jobs? Is she aware that in the Southern Derbyshire training and enterprise council area, which covers my constituency of Erewash, young people eligible for youth training schemes are getting a place without waiting?

Miss Widdecombe

I am delighted to confirm my hon. Friend's latter point. Not only is it true in her constituency; it is now true in the vast majority of TEC areas. The number waiting more than eight weeks for a YT place has dropped from just under 5,000 last year to 138.

Mr. Campbell-Savours

Is not the problem questionable certification? I have yet another falsified national vocational qualifications certificate fraudulently produced by JHP Training. May we now have the National Audit Office independent inquiry for which I have repeatedly called and to which I have offered to provide evidence, as against the in-house inquiry that the hon. Lady wants to set up when clearly her own Department has been totally discredited?

Miss Widdecombe

The hon. Gentleman knows the answer to his question because he came to see me yesterday and I explained it to him then. I explained clearly to him yesterday that it is the view of the National Audit Office that it is appropriate for us to conduct an internal inquiry. That inquiry would be greatly assisted if the hon. Gentleman would make the evidence available to us, as he said in an early-day motion that he would.