HL Deb 05 December 1983 vol 445 cc879-81

3 p.m.

Lord Gridley

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

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government how many places on the youth training scheme have been filled.

The Minister of State, Privy Council Office, and Minister for the Arts (The Earl of Gowrie)

My Lords, at the end of October over 230,000 young people were on the scheme.

Lord Gridley

My Lords, I thank my noble friend the Minister for that Answer. May I ask whether the Government are satisfied with the programme so far, and how many people are envisaged as being eventually trained under this scheme? Is it in the region of 460,000 individuals?

The Earl of Gowrie

My Lords, yes. I think I can say—inevitably guardedly—that the Government are satisfied with progress so far. We anticipate that by the middle of this month nearly 300,000 young people will have entered the scheme. I cannot extrapolate further than that except to say to my noble friend that the intention is that all young people over 16 who choose to take a place should be offered one.

Baroness Seear

My Lords, does the noble Earl agree that there is very considerable concern—not least among employers operating the mode A scheme of YTS—at the failure to take up places? Will he say what steps are being taken by the Government to make sure that the public has a much better understanding of the difference between YTS and YOP and, in particular, that the schools have much better information? It is now quite clear that schools did not fully understand and were not in a position to pass onto their pupils the real advantages of YTS.

The Earl of Gowrie

My Lords, I am grateful for the noble Baroness's recognition of the real advantages of YTS, and it is the case that the Government and the Manpower Services Commission have lost no time in making schools, in particular, aware of the differences between this scheme and YOP. I am confident that these differences are realised. I think that more can be done in the way of publicity, and the Government are looking at that. Nevertheless, the take-up so far is encouraging. In so far as it has been slightly less than expected, it is also the case that there are now more real vacancies for young people than there were when the scheme was set up.

Baroness David

My Lords, is the Minister aware that a great many local authorities will find themselves in grave financial difficulties because of the MSC paying for places occupied and not for places prepared? For instance, I have the figures for Nottinghamshire. They prepared for 8,660 places and 4,660were taken up, so there will be a great shortfall in the fee income. They estimate that it might be as much as £600,000. Other authorities are in the same position. Can the Minister say something about that and about whether the Government intend that they should not go into penalty because they have overspent in this way?

The Earl of Gowrie

My Lords, I should have thought that local authorities all over the country would greatly welcome the fact that there are now more real employment opportunities for young people, though of course the training element in this scheme means that it will be possible for a young person to be both in employment and under the scheme at the same time, which is also I think widely welcomed. But I see no reason, if local authorities plan sensibly, why they should be in any difficulty.

Lord Hatch of Lusby

My Lords, I asked the noble Earl this question on an earlier occasion and he did not have the figures with him. I wonder whether he has them today. Can he tell us what is the percentage of places taken up, in comparison to the places that are available and the number of young people who are eligible to enter this scheme?

The Earl of Gowrie

My Lords, the reason I cannot do so is simply that it is very difficult to break down the employment figures in this way. The fact of the matter is that there has been a sharp improvement in the prospects of employment for young people over recent months. That still leaves a very great deal of difficulty for very many young people, and it is to them that the scheme is directed.

Baroness Masham of Ilton

My Lords, may I ask whether any young handicapped people have taken up places?

The Earl of Gowrie

Yes, my Lords. That is the case, though I could not give the noble Baroness precise figures. She and the House might also be pleased to hear that of course young disabled people can enter the scheme after the age of 18.

Lord Hunt

My Lords, is the Minister prepared to say whether the—certainly to myself—disappointing results so far are due, to any extent, to the reluctance of employers to take a full part in this scheme, as distinct from the reluctance of young people—if there is reluctance—to engage themselves?

The Earl of Gowrie

My Lords, I do not know of instances. I have to tell the noble Lord that employers are reluctant in this way. Certainly the Manpower Services Commission gives them a great deal of help over the scheme and its operation.

Lord Alexander of Potterhill

My Lords, I am sure the Minister will agree that the important point relating to this scheme is not so much how many take advantage of it, but what proportion of those who do take part in the scheme get a job afterwards. Can he give the House any indication of the proportion of those completing their training who are in employment three months later?

The Earl of Gowrie

My Lords, I wholly agree with the noble Lord in those sentiments. But of course since the scheme came on stream only on 1st September 1983, it would be too early yet to tell. I can say to the noble Lord, as I said earlier, that the prospects have slightly improved for young people, and that of course we all welcome though we want to see the improvement continue.

Lord McCarthy

My Lords, I have listened very carefully to the noble Earl. Does he say that he has actually answered the question of my noble friend, Lady David, who asked him whether the Government would compensate local authorities for the places which they have made available, when they will get money only if people take them up? If they do not take them up and local authorities lose money, will they be in penalty or will they be compensated?

The Earl of Gowrie

My Lords, it would be perfectly within the bounds of local authorities to operate this scheme (which they value, as the Government do) within their existing budgets.

Baroness Seear

My Lords, does the noble Earl agree that, while we are all glad that there are more jobs, it is highly undesirable to encourage youngsters to take up jobs which have no training element and will only lead to further unskilled work which is likely to diminish rather than to go into YTS? This is not widely understood and Government encouragement here is badly needed.

The Earl of Gowrie

My Lords, I think that we take the noble Baroness's point on board by stressing the fact that it is perfectly possible to be in real employment and to be in the scheme at the same time.

Lord Wedderburn of Charlton

My Lords, are the Government wholly satisfied with the legal status of a large number of young people in this scheme? In particular, are they satisfied about the way in which their status is at least doubtful, and about the fact that in many ways they are excluded from the employment protection and discrimination legislation? And—I am hoping that the noble Earl the Minister will not say that this is a different question—do the Government recognise that this at least is one disincentive in respect of the scheme?

The Earl of Gowrie

My Lords, I do not think that Governments, if they are sensible, are ever wholly satisfied about anything. But the fact of the matter is that the Manpower Services Commission operates the scheme in careful consultation with employers and with unions, and I have not noticed any volume of complaint along the lines that the noble Lord has outlined. I hope that the noble Lord will also attend to the possible disincentive employment effects of the kinds of legislation that he has mentioned.

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