HL Deb 18 November 1981 vol 425 cc501-3
Lord Gainford

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government what representations they have received on the consultative document A New Training Initiative.

The Minister of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Foods (Earl Ferrers)

My Lords, a considerable number of comments have been received. These have shown broad agreement on the three main objectives which were put forward in the document. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Employment hopes to announce new measures arising from his consultations by the turn of the year.

Lord Gainford

My Lords, I thank my noble friend the Minister for that Answer. Can he give any information as to whether the future plans of Her Majesty's Government will assist the reduction of late teenage unemployment by encouraging school-leavers to take up full-time technical training?

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, there is a great deal of training going on at the moment. The whole purpose of this document is to try to see where that training can be improved. Her Majesty's Government are particularly concerned to ensure that young school-leavers can obtain employment and can obtain adequate training.

Lord Kilmarnock

My Lords, will the noble Earl tell the House how the Statement made by his right honourable friend in another place on Monday on the future of industrial training boards will affect the Government's plans for the new training initiative? Can he further say whether the industrial training officers who have belonged to the boards will be mobilised as part of the Government's new training plan?

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, the announcement made by my right honourable friend earlier this week will not, in fact, make any difference to the new training initiative. The whole purpose of that announcement was to indicate that the Government consider that the industrial training boards have done good work but statutory boards are unnecessary. In all these cases where they have been removed they are being replaced by voluntary training schemes.

Lord Avebury

My Lords, in the light of the calculations published in the Financial Times last week showing that the direct cost to the Exchequer of every unemployed person on the register is £4,380, will the Government revise the scale of the efforts that they are making to place young people in employment?

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, a very great deal is already being done, as the noble Lord will know, under the Youth Opportunities Scheme and also under the Young Workers' Scheme.

Baroness David

My Lords, can the Minister give us any sort of date when the Government's responses to these representations will be made and when any new scheme will be announced?

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, my right honourable friend will make a Statement towards the turn of the year, as I said in my original reply.

Lord Leatherland

My Lords, does the Minister think that the difficulties being encountered by young people in trying to secure employment would be eased if the pension age were reduced from 65 to 60?

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, that is an interesting idea, but it goes rather wide of the original Question.

Lord Bruce of Donington

My Lords, will the noble Earl inform the House whether Her Majesty's Government have yet formed a conclusion as to what industries are likely to be still in existence by the time their initiatives come into effect?

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, with the greatest of respect to the noble Lord, I do not think that that is a particularly helpful question. He knows perfectly well that the success of this country depends on being competitive. We wish to see, primarily, inflation kept down and people adequately trained to take advantage of the new circumstances.

Lord Alexander of Potterhill

My Lords, would the Minister agree that we have reached the point where there is general agreement that the unemployment of 16-year-olds leaving school is not transient but permanent, and that therefore we should look in the long term to the need to recognise that the training that we are now providing, which tends to be training for a specific job, is an irrelevance? What is needed is continued education and training to 18 on a much broader basis, such as is now operative in Germany, and training for specific jobs to follow that in the kind of society in which these young people will live their lives.

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, the question of unemployment of young people is a very serious one which the Government take most keenly. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Alexander of Potterhill, is not correct in his assumption that this will be permanent. The whole purpose of my right honourable friends' document and I can only quote their words at the beginning of the document—which was signed by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science, the Secretary of State for Employment, the Secretary of State for Scotland and the Secretary of State for Wales—is that overall not enough priority is given to training; too little is done; too much of it is misdirected and inflexible; and not enough is made of the nation's available skills. It is to put that right that this document has been produced.

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