HC Deb 24 May 1995 vol 260 cc892-3
8. Mr. Connarty

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what is the budget estimate for the skillseekers training programme for 1995–96; and how many jobs with training the programme is expected to provide. [24231]

Mr. Kynoch

The 1995–96 budget for youth training in Scotland, which includes the skillseekers training programme, is over £98 million. It is estimated that, for 1995–96, the percentage of young people training under skillseekers who will have employed status will be around 50 per cent.

Mr. Connarty

That is a very vague answer from the Minister. I was given better figures by Scottish Enterprise, which estimates that £70 million will go into the skillseekers programme, and it is looking for 30,000 jobs with training. Does the Minister share with me the concern of everyone to whom I have spoken in the past month that the vouchers-for-training scheme is just the beginning of Tory party dogma—the thin end of the wedge—of vouchers for nurseries and vouchers for education? Young people will be out in the market grasping their vouchers and those who will be taking them on will be thinking, "How can I get this person through this job with the least money coming from the employer?" Every person to whom I have spoken has said that there is no increase in money for monitoring. How do the Government expect young people to obtain decent training without anybody supporting them? Why is there no more money for monitoring to ensure that the skillseekers programme is not just another youth rip-off scheme?

Mr. Kynoch

The hon. Gentleman might be interested to know that between Scottish Enterprise and Highlands and Islands Enterprise, the total figure estimated for 1995–96, excluding modern apprenticeships, is 35,000. The hon. Gentleman is a little out of date with his figures.

I understand that, on Friday, the hon. Gentleman is due to visit his local enterprise company, Forth Valley Enterprise, which started the skillseekers programme in April. If the hon. Gentleman were to consult more widely, he would find that it has been widely accepted by employers around the country. Local enterprise companies have considerable flexibility in the way in which they can operate within specified guidelines.

Just the other day, I introduced a new pilot scheme in Fife. It is called fast track and trainees will be able to undertake full-time education as well. On monitoring, payment will be made only after very stringent checks against the stringent standards that will have been set by the enterprise companies.

Mr. Stewart

Does my hon. Friend agree that skillseekers, which started in Grampian in his area, has been a marked success throughout Scotland? Is it not significant that this, together with every other training initiative introduced by the Government, has been automatically opposed by the Labour party?

Mr. Kynoch

My hon. Friend is absolutely correct. The Opposition are full of words, but little action. My hon. Friend referred to skillseekers being piloted in Grampian. He would be interested to learn that in Grampian the number of young people with employed status has risen from 422 at the end of December 1991, under the youth training scheme, to 3,726 at the end of March 1995 under skillseekers. That speaks louder than words.

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