HL Deb 22 October 1984 vol 456 cc53-92

5.50 p.m.

Lord Seebohm rose to move, That this House takes note of the Report of the European Communities Committee on Youth Training in the EEC (24th Report 1983–84, H.L. 282).

The noble Lord said: My Lords, the Motion before the House is to receive the Select Committee Report on Youth Training in the EEC.

The EEC has taken an increasing interest in the problems of education, training and employment of young people in recent years in response to the emergence in the 1970s of youth unemployment as a major problem in most of the member states. Although the focus of attention is on young people under 25, the committee realised that the subject involved the consideration of all education and training of all young people from the beginning of secondary education until maturity and beyond. The committee realised that this would be a mammoth undertaking going well beyond the normal time scale of a select committee and it was therefore decided to concentrate on vocational training for the 16 to 18 age group; that is, the first two years after compulsory education in the United Kingdom.

The inquiry aroused enormous interest and the amount of evidence that the committee received, both written and oral, was of a very high order and illustrated the great concern which exists in this country not only for youth unemployment but for the necessity to review and improve the whole education and training policies in the United Kingdom. The committee are immensely grateful for the contributions that they received and wish to express their thanks for the time and trouble that must have been incurred in the preparation of this evidence. The committee also wish to express their thanks to the special adviser Mr. Ron Johnson without whose help this report would not have seen the light of day.

I would say that although it appears very long and very heavy, the report of the committee, in fact, is only of 37 pages while there are 380 pages of evidence. I hope that people will not be put off by the size from reading what we have said. This report makes some very radical proposals, some of which will be expensive to implement. The committee hope that it will convince the readers that there is really no option in the matter and I wish to say now, at the beginning of my speech, how much I shall listen to the noble Lord, Lord Young of Graffhams's reply as there have already been some indications of ministerial speeches that the general principles that I shall describe are already being favourably considered. I should like also to say at this point what pleasure it must give the whole House that the noble Lord, Lord Young of Graffham, is replying in a maiden speech to this very important debate—and, my Lords, who better that he with the experience that he has had? We shall certainly listen to what he has to say with great interest and I, myself, shall listen with great expectation.

I want to stress this about the report. The report is not concerned with short-term issues but with the long-term survival of our economy which means making a start on radical change now before it is too late. What is at stake is not only the future of the economy but the future also of society and the quality of life. The report points out that the situation of unemployed young people is critical not only because they have no jobs but because they have no chance or lack the skills to integrate into society and the world of work. There can be little doubt that a more highly trained workforce generates wealth and helps to create jobs.

There is also the problem of motivating people when they do not believe that there is a job at the end of the day. The EEC objective is abundantly clear. Unemployment on an unacceptable scale will not go away unless there is a highly-skilled workforce fully competitive with other countries such as America and Japan. Nor can it afford to carry laggards in its midst such as exist today. In this report, the committee describes the initiative that can be taken by the Community as a whole but accept that most of the success of the operation will depend upon action initiated within member states. The report describes the various systems of vocational training in each member state. This brings out clearly why the great variety and historical background of each state makes a common system inappropriate, but does not invalidate the acceptance of a common policy. This report therefore concentrates mainly on recommendations for change in the United Kingdom.

I shall now do my best to convince your Lordships of the reasons why action so far as the United Kingdom is concerned is definitely and desperately urgent. Those who are vocationally unqualified in Germany, for instance, amount to about 30 per cent.; those who are unqualified in this country, 65 per cent.; in France, 40 per cent. of the 16 to 18 year-olds are enrolled in full-time vocational training compared with only 19 per cent. in this country. In Germany, only 10 per cent. of those in the 15 to 18 age group fall out of the vocational training net compared with 40 per cent. in the EEC and rather more in the United Kingdom. These figures alone should shake us to the core.

Now I must deal with the main issues that the committee identified. These were, first, the social and material status of young people which is perhaps the most important; secondly, the quality of training; thirdly, the assessment and certification; and, fourthly, careers education and guidance. In so far as the social and material status of young people are concerned, the committee studied the practices in other member states which vary markedly. Choices at school-leaving age are likely to be influenced by estimates of future prospects and immediate financial advantage in ways which do not necessarily reflect the needs of the community or the individual. Decisions at 16 may be taken in the light of financial circumstances at the moment and the family resources available. This militates against rational choice and divides young people into different groups to no useful purpose. It also tends to demotivate some young people and to make them feel insecure at a time when they most need self-respect and a measure of self-sufficiency.

After studying various approaches to this problem, the committee strongly endorsed the proposal to regard all 16-to-17 year olds as trainees or students following different groups through education or training programmes to a common goal. One immediate advantage would be to discourage a student or trainee from taking decisions about his future based primarily on immediate financial considerations. This approach is favoured by the Institute of Personnel Management who suggest that for their protection all young people in this age group should be given a defined legal status and the designation of student/trainee.

The main problem here would be to fix the level of income. In Europe, there is a suggestion that it should be fixed at a level which would give young people a measure of independence from parents but not enough to give them total independence. The TUC have recently issued a paper on this subject suggesting a figure of £25 per week for those in full-time education and £34 per week for those in part-time further education and part time in the workplace. Both Germany and France have a sliding scale (which I personally rather favour) starting at a much lower rate and progressing to the rate for the job as qualifications are achieved. The cost should be shared by Government and industry but the burden on industry should not be so high as to discourage it from undertaking training. But, as industry and commerce would be the main beneficiaries, it is not unreasonable to expect them to bear a proportion of the cost.

In Germany, the cost of their three-year programme—for 15–16–17 year-olds, because the compulsory school age stops at 15—is estimated as the equivalent of about £5 billion. In the United Kingdom as the school-leaving age is a year later, the cost would be that much less and the saving in social security and family allowances must also be calculated. In so far as the quality of training is concerned, the committee considered the working of the YTS and look forward to seeing some further analysis of the successes and failures of the first year's working. There is a report of the MSC of 1983–84 period; but that ends in July and that, of course, is too early to do a proper analysis of what had been happening during the first year.

The committee believe that one year must be followed by a second year if the foundation laid by the first YTS preparation year is not to be dissipated. Unless steps are taken to supplement the one-year programme, the United Kingdom is in danger of falling even further behind the other member states. This further training should, wherever possible, lead to a recognised occupational qualification. I have had the opportunity to visit two youth opportunities schemes. The first one was in a large, high technology company, where they had 21 students, youngsters of 16 years of age, completely by random selection, of which only four or five had any qualifications from the school.

It was astonishing, after six months, when I went there, how those who had no qualifications whatsoever had produced quite amazing aptitudes and skills in a very short time—aptitudes and skills which so impressed the company that they told me that five or six of them, not necessarily those with any qualifications at all, would be taken on to their permanent staff at the end. They had never taken on school-leavers before. Like many other employers, if they took on people they inquired first of all whether they had O-levels or A-levels. To my mind, this showed how important are two things. First, a second year is absolutely essential so that these motivated young people should not again be disappointed; and, secondly, the whole question of certification should be looked at.

This brings me to the third issue, which concerns assessment and certification. The committee point out that a certificate which describes in nationally-understood terms what a young person has achieved and what he can do is clearly of value when the time comes to seek employment or to undertake further study. An appropriate assessment method has another value. It motivates the young to learn; it helps them to chart their own progress; and it also helps to provide a feed-back on the adequacy of the training or educational programme.

According to the Institute of Personnel Management, the system of profile recording as a means of continuous assessment can itself be a vehicle for learning, and has many advantages over end-of-term examinations, which result in 60 per cent. of school-leavers having nothing to show for the eleven years of education they have received. The committee feels strongly that every school-leaver should be entitled to a certificate of achievement which lists their attainments, even though these attainments do not meet all the aims set out in the course. This should also avoid the appalling "pass/failure" hurdle which commits many to failure even though they have a highly-developed aptitude which does not form part of the examination system. I am now straying, I am afraid, from the 16 and 17 year-olds, but there should be no great break from compulsory education to vocational training, and the artificial distinction between education and training should be scotched at birth.

The fourth and final issue I mentioned concerns the careers education and guidance services. I imagine all would agree that careers education should be an integral part of general education. Young people need from a very early age continuous help in identifying and developing their aptitudes, and in being made aware of the range of choices. This has implications for teacher training and also for the present isolation of the teaching profession, which was pointed out in the evidence from the Policy Studies Institute. It must be difficult for careers teachers to give adequate advice and guidance to young people when they have spent their entire careers in teaching and the school environment. There are some useful schemes in existence, such as UBI, which is sponsored by the CBI and Understanding Industry, sponsored by a private trust; and, of course, there is the new development of the TVEI, which seems to be extremely successful. They are making some impact, but it should not be left to these informal and voluntary initiatives to make all the running. The committee feel that the status and role of the careers service and of careers education should be raised and that this service should be available to all those who are at school and all those at university, in jobs or unemployed, at least up to the age of 25.

I now come to our main conclusions. I cannot mention them all as there are rather a lot of them, and there are other speakers who may know more than I do about some of them. I shall deal with three of them. First, the need for an efficient workforce is a matter for the whole of the EEC, which cannot afford to carry member states who are unwilling to take steps to improve their performance. Secondly, every young person should have the opportunity of a training programme lasting at least one year after the YTS foundation year. Wherever possible, this further training should lead to a recognised occupational qualification. Thirdly, a common status for all young people should be the United Kingdom's long-term answer to the problem of the social and material status of young people.

To sum up, the current education and vocational training provision for young people should be restructured with a view to long-term improvement, and this should start now so that there will be, first, a well-trained workforce; secondly, a straightforward system that everyone understands and can benefit from; and, thirdly, the opportunity for young people to be helped to make sound choices on education, training and employment.

I hope I have said enough to convince your Lordships that the time has come to ensure that adequate provision is made, not only to meet academic needs but also the needs of the hand and of the heart. I beg to move.

Moved, That this House takes note of the Report of the European Communities Committee on Youth Training in the EEC.— (Lord Seebohm.)

6.5 p.m.

The Minister without Portfolio (Lord Young of Graffham)

My Lords, I rise to address your Lordships' House for the first time with considerable humility and reliant upon the knowledge that your Lordships' reputation is to deal kindly with newcomers. For one who has not come from another place—in fact, from no place at all—the task is formidable, and your Lordships may prefer to regard this afternoon as the first module of on-the-job training in what I can only describe as the Young Training Scheme.

I am indeed grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Seebohm, not only for what he has had to say today but for all the work that he and the other members of the Select Committee have put into the 24th Report, Youth Training in the EEC. The evidence they have taken and assembled will prove to be of the greatest utility to those of us concerned with policy in the field of education and the training of our young. I am sure noble Lords would want to join me in thanking the noble Lord, Lord Seebohm, and all his committee for their work.

Moreover, the report comes at a particularly crucial time. Training and the proper preparation of young people for work have never been more important. Our economic recovery will be threatened unless we get these things right, for only if our workforce is properly trained in the right skills can we produce the goods and services which people want to buy, and so generate new wealth and, with it, new jobs. That is why the Government accord training such a high priority. No-one is more aware of that than me, since it was my privilege to spend 2½ years at the head of the Manpower Services Commission. Indeed, it is even more appropriate to hold this debate this afternoon, since almost at this very moment my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Employment is announcing the appointment of my successor. He is Mr. Bryan Nicholson, at present chairman of Rank Xerox (U.K.), with executive responsibility for Rank Xerox subsidiaries elsewhere in Europe. With a long experience of industry, he will bring to the Manpower Services Commission a vision of the needs of tomorrow's world. I hope that in addition to my own I might be permitted to add the warm welcome of your Lordships' House. I well recall my own appointment to the Commission and the help and active support from commissioners and officials alike. I envy Mr. Nicholson the experience. It is a key appointment and, with his experience and ability, I know that he will prove to be an improvement on his predecessor.

As a nation, we have not fully recognised the importance of proper work preparation and vocational training, and the report points out that it is not only this country that faces these difficulties. Rising unemployment, particularly among young people, is a Europe-wide problem. In April 1984, over 12 million people were registered as unemployed in the European Community—an increase of over five million in three-and-a-half years—and young people have been particularly hard-hit, for demographic factors have worked against them and have meant that youngsters have been coming on to the labour market in substantially greater numbers. Technological development and changes in the industrial structure, particularly the shift from manufacturing to the service sector, have at the same time been affecting all the Western economies. The effect of both economic conditions and technological development has been to raise the skill levels which young people need if they are to get employment.

The need for adequate opportunities for training and retraining and for young people to be properly prepared for work has been a proper concern of this Government. We have published two White Papers on the subject, one in 1981 and one early this year. These reiterated the Government's support for the three national objectives set out in the Manpower Service Commission's consultative document, A New Training Initiative. We want to secure, as the first objective, the modernisation of training and occupational skills, and to update apprenticeships. The second objective is better preparation in school and college for working life, and better arrangements for the transition from education to work. This is a field which is largely covered at the moment by the youth training scheme and by the technical and vocational education initiative.

The third objective, which is increasingly of concern, but is perhaps outside the field of this debate, is wider opportunities for adults to acquire and improve their skills. These are ambitious aims, but we must achieve them if we are to build upon the economic advances that we have already made; for unless we have a flexible system of training which can respond quickly and cost effectively to the changing skill requirements of industry, we cannot hope to produce goods of the quality and price which the market demands.

For the whole secret of our ability to survive in such an increasingly hostile world is to reduce our unit costs, and for that skill and professionalism is required. Many of your Lordships will, I hope, recall the game played many years ago now at Lord's each season—Gentlemen against the Players. For all too many years we have played for the Gentlemen, but I am afraid that in today's world we have to play for the Players and become more professional in our approach and that means better training.

In that particular sense, training is an investment. It is not an end in itself, but is something which leads to jobs. It pays for itself by enabling people to provide goods and services which they will sell and so create new wealth. And it follows from this that employers have a key role to play in providing training. They decide who should be trained and in what skills. It is certainly no good Government thinking that they know best. We have tried that in the past and it has not worked.

But, of course, there are roles for others. In particular, individual trainees must accept that the training they receive can be costly and should be taken into account in settling the level of pay. Perhaps they could also show enterprise in making use of the many training opportunities today available to them; for example, through the Open Tech programme. And, of course, many individuals already in employment are taking part-time training programmes, for they know that the result of these programmes will boost their earning power.

But I would not deny that there are important responsibilities for Government. Where necessary, we must provide special help for those disadvantaged in the labour market, such as the young, the disabled and the unemployed. We have made great strides since 1981. The youth training scheme, which offers a year of work and training to minimum age school-leavers and to some other people, started life in April 1983 and became fully operational in September of that year. We are now at the beginning of its second year and nearly 50 per cent. more young people have joined the scheme as during the same period last year. They know that it works. They voted with their feet and they are increasingly coming on the scheme. Some 300,000 youngsters were on the scheme at the end of September. Initial indications, too, are favourable and nearly 60 per cent. of young people leaving the scheme are finding work. If you include those going on to further education and training, the figure approaches 70 per cent.

As regards individual schemes, the Construction Industry Training Board, which is by far the largest managing agent, reports that well over 90 per cent. have gone into employment, while the figure for the Clothing and Allied Products Industrial Training Board is 98 per cent. In the case of ABTA, the travel agents' scheme, the figure is 100 per cent. Of course, not all the schemes are on this scale, but it goes to show the central thesis of the youth training scheme, that young people with the right approach and the right skills can find work.

The success of the youth training scheme is a credit to employers, the careers service, local authorities, trade unions, voluntary organisations and colleges and even, if I may say so now, to the Manpower Services Commission who run the scheme. We are very grateful to them for all their efforts. I must at least say a word to the Area Manpower Boards, some of whose chairmen are in your Lordships' House.

Within the youth training scheme we have not ignored the new technologies. I should like to pay particular tribute to the ITeCs (the Information Technology Centres) of which we already have 148 open, and the number is still increasing. These have shown that young people without any qualifications can master the mysteries of programming, of boolean logic, and even dare I say it, of maths. These have shown that the deficiencies are in the system, rather than in our young. These have shown the need to restore a better balanced curriculum to our school system—one that motivates and interests all of our young, not just those who are naturally academic. Indeed, if this were not my first occasion before your Lordships, I might be tempted on this issue, if on no other, to be controversial.

It was to remedy this defect that the Prime Minister announced the Technical and Vocational Education Initiative in November 1982. Greeted with a certain amount of suspicion, and some may even say hostility, from a very conservative profession, TVEI has now got off to a flying start. It is about an enriched curriculum—one that provides both general and technical or vocational subjects. If any of your Lordships have seen the enthusiasm of both pupils and teachers alike, the realisation of some of our young that they are capable, that they have abilities, that school means something for them, then you will be as sure as I am that the changes we have encouraged are here to stay. I say "encouraged", because in all of this the teaching profession is ahead of us. My only regret, if I were to be honest, is that there have been some politicians in some local education authorities who have denied their school systems the opportunity of entering the programme. Perhaps they thought that they were harming the Government. Alas, they are harming only their own.

So eight months after it was announced, 14 local education authorities started their pilot schemes and the following year—August and September—43 authorities in England and Wales and a further five in Scotland have started their pilot schemes. I hope that before much time has passed all who wish to will have the resources. In Clwyd, it is already planned to spread the programme across the entire authority.

But that is not all. The Government are encouraging in other ways better preparation in schools for working life. Links between schools and industry are being strengthened. The certificate of pre-vocational education is one of a number of measures designed to improve and better co-ordinate the arrangements for vocational education after 16. In further education, the transfer of some of the resources for the funding of work-related non-advanced further education in England and Wales to the Manpower Services Commission will, I am quite sure, help make this type of provision more responsive to the quickly changing employment needs of the future.

And in Scotland important developments in this area are also under way. The committee's report referred to the new courses in the Scottish certificate of education standard grade and to the "16+ Action Plan" of January 1983, under which a flexible system of modular courses leading to a single new vocational certificate is being developed. The more I saw of education north of the border, the more I thought that we should study it further.

We are mainly concerned today with youth training, though in European terms that covers young people up to the age of 25. But action to develop the potential of young adults, as well as to improve the skills of many others in the work force, is just as critical to our economic success. We just cannot afford to let skill shortages hold us back. I was delighted when, as part of the Manpower Services Commission, we developed the adult training strategy and even more delighted when it was announced earlier this year. The cornerstone of this is our belief that employers have the key role to play in providing training and that investment in training pays. That is why my right honourable friend the Secretary of State announced recently that as part of this strategy we are launching shortly a major campaign to bring home to everybody in this country—employers, unions and employees—the vital importance of training for our future.

The Government are playing their part in two principal ways. First, we are putting a great deal of effort into stimulating changes in the training system to make it more responsive to the needs of employers and adult workers—through, for example, our funding of the Open Tech Programme and of projects to promote local collaboration between employers and providers of training. Secondly, we are restructuring the Government's own adult training programmes to make a more cost-effective contribution to meeting the needs of industry and commerce. Through tailoring provision to meet specific needs, by 1986–87 we are doubling to over 250,000 the number of adults who benefit from our training programmes within the current level of resources. About half of those helped will be unemployed people, including some 50,000 of the 200,000 long-term unemployed who pass through the community programme each year. Many of us who have been concerned with the very real needs of the long-term unemployed are delighted that at long last we can include a training element for their particular requirements.

I hope noble Lords will agree that these are considerable achievements. Britain certainly matches up well to the standards set by the European Community which we have helped to influence. For example, the vocational training resolution adopted by the Council of Ministers last year requires member states to do their utmost over the next five years to ensure that all young people may have a minimum of six months of basic training and/or initial work experience when they reach minimum school-leaving age. Our youth training scheme already provides such a guarantee, but for 12 months. Because we do so much for our young people, we benefit correspond- ingly from the European Social Fund, from which we receive more than any other member state. The United Kingdom is also undertaking the majority of the pilot projects which have so far been approved under the fund rules and to which, of course, your Lordships' report refers.

That is a brief overview of where we are in the provision of training for our young. There is one final matter that I would like to raise now although I would hope, with the leave of the House, to respond at a later stage in our debate to any detailed points on the report which your Lordships may make. Could I, however, say at this stage to the noble Lord, Lord Seebohm, that we are quite aware of the gap between the amount of initial training and vocational training that is provided in the United Kingdom and Germany. From our point of view, however, our concern is whether or not the gap is closing. The advances that we have made in the last two years are, I believe, very much in the right direction.

One of your Lordships' recommendations in paragraph 84 is to bring together the education, training and employment of young people in a coherent framework, a framework which can be understood by all, in particular by the young themselves. Your Lordships may recall that the Prime Minister, after discussion with the Ministers concerned, asked me a short time ago to chair a committee composed of junior Ministers and senior officials from the Departments of Education and Science, Employment, Trade and Industry and Health and Social Security. This group will look for the very first time at the provision for the 14 to 18 age group—education, training, employment and unemployment. We shall in due course, and before too long, report back to our colleagues.

I should not like to raise the expectations of this House, for it is a formidable task. Your Lordships will recall that the recent youth training scheme review group within the Manpower Services Commission did not recommend a longer scheme at the present time, but there are other matters—for example, the relationship between the Certificate of Pre-Vocational Education (CPVE) and the youth training scheme and in particular the status of certificates under the scheme—which need to be considered and taken into account.

I have no doubt that your Lordships will raise many more points this afternoon. All I will say is that we shall have a good look for the very first time across the whole field of youth activity. I am encouraged by the enthusiasm of my colleagues.

6.25 p.m.

Lord McCarthy

My Lords, first may I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Seebohm, on his excellent report. We on this side of the House agree with almost everything that is contained in it. There are one or two areas with which I disagree. At least, I think I disagree, if I have got it right. It may be that I have not got it right and that therefore I shall find that in the end I agree. I wish also to ask a number of questions of the Government spokesman.

I am very pleased to be the first person who is able, post hoc, to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Young of Graffham, upon discharging his first module. It was, as we expected it to be, a clear, encyclopaedic and almost non-controversial maiden speech. I hope to hear from him again on many occasions. Indeed, I know that I shall hear again from him soon. He is, with leave, to sum up the debate. I have always looked upon the noble Lord as the distinguished chairman of the Manpower Services Commission—the last place left in this Government where one can admit that one can learn from trade unions and the last place left where shameful tripartite quangos produce results and sometimes get Ministers to change their minds. It is something left over from the 1970s. I have a great affection for it and also a great admiration for the extremely useful, conciliatory and helpful task which the noble Lord has performed as the Chairman of the Manpower Services Commission.

I turn now to the subject matter of the report and congratulate the members of the committee upon what they have put before us. I do so for a number of reasons. First, within a very short time span, they have summarised, as the noble Lord, Lord Seebohm, said, the incontestable conclusions to which any sensible person must come when he compares the level, scope, form and general standard of training in this country with what is provided by our major competitors. They have shown once again that we do much less training than most of our major competitors and that the training which we provide, compared with that of many of our major competitors, is of a comparatively low standard and on a comparatively narrow base. They have shown how tremendously we need to expand this provision. They have shown the extra special need we have to expand training because of the fact, which is highlighted in the report of the Select Committee, that no post-war Government have yet managed to shift the basic assumptions about our educational system away from the over-domination of the needs of the top 40 per cent.—indeed, I sometimes think it is the top 5 per cent.—to the needs of the bottom 40 per cent. Because of the extreme difficulty of changing that balance, for which the older universities are as responsible as anybody else, it is especially important for us to supplement our classical, liberal education with training which is based upon work. This is spelled out very clearly and straightforwardly in the report.

But the Select Committee have done more than this. They have also shown that the specific tasks which need to be carried out in order to improve training are to be found in one of the great areas left in this country where already there is a very wide consensus of opinion. One of the most impressive aspects of the report is the evidence put forward by the CBI, the TUC, the MSC, local authorities, the Institute of Personnel Management and distinguished academics. It shows a very wide area of general agreement upon the way forward. Although the noble Lord the Minister knows this, I must warn him that he will not find a comforting area of consent and agreement when he moves into his present area of concern: what is to be done about unemployment. At least when we debate what one should do about training and the way forward in training there is to me, as an old consensualist, a comforting area of agreement. For example, everybody knows that the first and most important thing to do after the establishment of the youth training scheme is provide a second year of training. Everybody knows that at the end of that second year of training there must be recognised occupational qualifications based on continuous assessment and examination.

Although I shall return later to what the Government are doing in this regard, I believe that everyone in general agrees—and the noble Lord said so in one part of his speech—on the need to do more for the disadvantaged in this context, on the need to do more for the educationally backward, and on the need to do more for the heart of our unemployment problem—the long-term unemployed.

I hope there is agreement that, to some extent, in the immediate future this last objective can only be approached by a greater concentration on what is termed Mode B (1) and (2) of the youth training scheme, or a concentration on the community programme, or on the community industry programme—rather than focus to the same extent we have so far on Mode 1 of the youth training scheme. I say that because I believe it is generally agreed, and it is spelt out in the report, that it is the disadvantaged, the educationally backward and the long-term unemployed—especially the latter in areas of very high unemployment—who find it difficult to become absorbed into Mode A of the youth training scheme.

I should like to ask the Minister for his justification, if he accepts these figures, of the fact put forward recently by Youth Aid that if one looks at the number of places for Mode B which are to be available in 1984–85 as against those available in 1983–84, it is evident that the Government propose something like a 20 per cent. reduction in the total number of places; a reduction from 89,000 in 1983–84 to 70,000 in 1984–85. If those figures are wrong I should be pleased to have them corrected.

Is it also wrong, as Youth Aid suggests, that this reduction in the number of places for Mode B is in no way related to demand for places—for example, in the Midlands, Scotland, and the South-East, where the reductions are rather high—to the success in filling places this year? Indeed, Youth Aid says—and I should be glad to be told that they are wrong—that the cuts in the proportion of Mode B places as against Mode A places are simply an ideological spasm. If it be true as the Minister has said, that he appreciates the need to do more for the disadvantaged and the long-term unemployed, then I should be glad to be told that those figures are wrong.

That brings me to those areas where I am not sure that I agree with the Seebohm report, if I have it right. I am not sure I understand what the report means by a need for a common status and a common income for young people. I am not sure what it means when it refers to a need for a national framework; for a more coherent, clear, rational framework of training. If by common status it merely means that the committee are against parent dependence and want a system of allowances rather than the present system, then I am in favour; I see what they mean. If the committee mean by the common approach that they are against what I believe to be the impractical proposals put forward by the Policy Studies Institute for a value added way of calculating the allowance, then I agree with them. But if they are asking—and this seems to me to be the common sense way of looking at the matter—not simply for a common status but for a common rate of allowance, then I would prefer (and I say this now especially because I know that the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, is to follow me) the approach put forward in the report of the Select Committee of this House on unemployment. What we suggested there was not a common rate but a hierarchy of rates; a bottom rate for the unemployed and for full-time education and training—for students, yes, so that there should not be argued for a hierarchical system with a bottom common rate and a top rate for full-time training, and sociology and English literature rather than go on a youth training scheme.

But surely there should be some extra compensation for people undertaking work rather then training and some appreciation of the employer's position so that he will be compensated if the worker is away for training rather than working at his place of work. We argued for a hierarchical system with a bottom common rate and a top rate for full-time training, and rates per diem in between based on the proportion of full-time training or the proportion of full-time work. I must say that I am not convinced that what I think is behind that which is proposed in this report is a better system. I wait to see whether I have understood it correctly.

I shall now go on to the second area, which will not take very long. Once again, the people who study our system of provision in this area find it chaotic. They are quite right to do so. They say it is unbelievable that we should have three or four ministries, a large number of universities, polytechnics, CFEs, local authorities, the MSC itself, the schools council, and so on and so on—all involved in this area. They end up by saying that there must be a better way and that there must be a coherent national framework. I believe that I heard the noble Lord the Minister say that he was going to chair a committee to investigate this coherent, national framework. I also heard him say—and I am very glad that he did say it—that we should not be too ambitious in our expectations.

The example he proposed of the kind of tinkering rationalisation he might produce as a result of this committee reassured me very much. If the Seebohm committee is suggesting a radical change, this was something we considered in the report of the Select Committee on unemployment. We considered four forms of radical change. The late Lord Vaizey was in favour of a monster ministry of training which took everything over. Others were in favour of an elephantine, gargantuan enlargement of the MSC. Others believed in regionalisation and merging the functions of the MSC with the local authorities. And the local authorities gave evidence and said, "Hand it all back to us". When one considers the institutional upheaval involved in any major attempt to change the institutional chaos whereby we provide training in this country, the kind of tinkering which the noble Lord suggested is the best that one can do. I hope that he does not try to do anything else.

I come now to the questions that I should like to put to the Minister. Actually, I should like to ask a number of questions about three areas. The first concerns the results of the youth training scheme itself and the proportion of those coming off the scheme who are gainfully employed. If I heard the Minister aright today, the figures he gave seemed to be rather more reasonable. We have heard claims from Ministers that on one occasion 70 per cent. of people coming off the YTS were going back to work. One spokesman for the MSC claimed that 69 per cent. of people coming off the Youth Training Scheme were, "doing something useful". If one looks at how this "doing something useful" was calculated, one finds that it was calculated by taking away the unemployed who answered the sample survey and who said that they intended at some time in the future to apply for some form of training or education. The figure was calculated by taking them off and adding them to those who were "doing something useful". I believe that the figure put forward today—I think he said 56 per cent.—is much more realistic.

On the other hand, as I understand it this was a small sample. All the samples which have so far been held by the MSC to calculate the results of the youth training scheme have been postal samples and it is notorious that with postal samples one gets rather low responses. These were a little above 60 per cent. It is also notorious that the majority of non-responders are non-achievers. They have nothing much to tell you so they do not fill in your form. One need only assume that slightly more than half of those who did not respond did not, in fact, get a job and we have a rate of placement which is under 50 per cent.—something not much better than that achieved by the youth opportunities programme.

I stress that I do not say this in any sense in order to glory at the downfall of the youth training scheme, if it be a sign of downfall. It is a very difficult thing to do. But if we are to run the youth training scheme for a second year and if we are to supplement it, as I hope we shall, with something on the second year, then we must be very hard-headed and realistic and not make over-ambitious claims about what the youth training scheme can achieve. I hope the Minister will say that he agrees.

I shall now say a word or two about the young workers' scheme. The young workers' scheme is the most contentious part of the programme of special measures. It has no training element. It has a subsidy which is inversely related to wages in an attempt to price people into jobs. It has no controls whatever to ensure that there is any net job creation. The 200,000 or so people who have been on the young workers' scheme could, in fact, for all we know, have replaced 200,000 rather older people at the other end. Nevertheless, the young workers' scheme, says the MSC in its evidence to the Select Committee which we are discussing today, has been interfering, or putting people off from entering the youth training scheme. The MSC says in its evidence that it would like to see the young workers' scheme transformed into a second year scheme so that young people are expected to spend their first year on the youth training scheme and the second year on the young workers' scheme.

Interestingly enough, in the evidence of the TUC, at page 140, we find that Mr. Roy Jackson, the secretary of the education department of the TUC, actually agrees with this proposal. Therefore, my question is: does the Minister agree? Obviously he agreed when he was chairman of the MSC. Does he still agree that the best way forward for the young workers' scheme is to get out of the way, as it were, of the youth training scheme and provide the basis for a second year scheme? If he does, surely there is a case for considering a system of controls to ensure that there is some positive job creation. Surely there is a case, if there is to be a subsidy, for letting that subsidy be neutral; and surely there is a case for introducing a training element.

Finally, I ask one or two questions about the link between unemployment and training. Do the Government agree with the report of the Select Committee when it states: Lack of training is not in itself the main cause of unemployment. There simply are less jobs available"? If the Government say that, we shall have moved an inch forward. If they do, how do the Government accept that in the light of what was said by the Chancellor of the Exchequer recently when he told Brian Walden on "Weekend World"—or is supposed to have said, according to the Financial Times—that unemployment is a social human problem rather than an economic one. Like the crime rate, it is essentially beyond the power of Government. If that is the case, it puts the Minister in rather a difficult position because he has moved away from an area such as training, where something can be done and where the Government are doing a great deal, to an area where the Chancellor of the Exchequer tells him that his task is essentially beyond the power of Government. If that is the case, I do not see that one can agree with that part of the Select Committee's Report.

I hope that the Minister can say today, or if not today at some time in the near future, that he does not fully accept that the level of unemployment—admittedly, not centrally a matter of lack of training—is something that is essentially beyond the powers of Government; that it is something social and human rather than economic and that it is something, one might say, which really should be the province of the Home Office rather than the Treasury. There is no theoretical justification for this and no practical justification. It will be better by far to assume that something can be done and to assume that something can be done partly on the training side through the excellent provisions in this report, which I commend to the House.

6.46 p.m.

Baroness Seear

My Lords, it gives me very special pleasure to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Young of Graffham, on his maiden speech on a subject which we have discussed, in one way or another, in this House on a number of occasions and which has occupied the minds, and indeed the hearts, of many of us for many years. It gives me very special pleasure, in addition to those more general considerations, because I have had the privilege of sitting under the noble Lord, Lord Young, as chairman of one of his area boards. I have seen him in action spurring the MSC on with new ideas and with a great determination to achieve results.

Like the noble Lord, Lord McCarthy, I think the noble Lord, Lord Young, is an extremely brave man to take on the task in which he attempts to co-ordinate four Government departments. My own very small experience has been that if one has to deal with more than one Government department at a time it makes one's heart sink. The thought of taking on four at one blow requires the courage of a very brave man indeed.

Running through this report of the EC on youth training there are two main themes which seem to me to be of great importance and on which I should like briefly to comment. The first is the theme of the need for diversity in training. I was delighted to see that the committee is in favour of—indeed, has recognised and the EC has recognised—a much needed change from the idea that there would be an imposed EC standard of training to occupational descriptions; in other words, that we would work out what it was that young people, or indeed adults, were going to be able to do. Having decided that, we would work out in our own way—and this will differ in various countries and may indeed differ within the same country—the training and educational methods by which the standard needed to do the job so described is reached. This is a very important distinction.

Those of us who have been on European committees for some time will remember how some years ago we were bogged down with an attempt to find standards of professional qualifications which were acceptable in all the EC countries. They got into the most ridiculous situation of counting the number of hours that students attended on different aspects of courses. Those of us who have had anything to do with teaching students know very well that the hours that they spend in lectures, especially their own, are probably the least profitable that they spend in training courses. I remember one famous don at Cambridge in my day saying that three hours in the library was worth a term full of lectures. That has always been my view.

Students were suppoed to have attended a particular set of lectures, and if they only put in the hours, whether they had slept through them or whether they had been doing noughts and crosses at the back of the hall, they had attended them. That is what was required. This was ridiculous, and it held up the necessary free movement of labour inside the Community.

I myself believe—and I think that sometimes during the discussion on the report it is to some extent forgotten—that this is an EEC report. I know that a great deal of what has to be done has to be done inside this country and inside member states, but there is an EEC dimension. One of the most encouraging experiences I had in visiting a skill centre was when a man said to me, when I asked him what he thought were his prospects, "Not too bad. Three of them who were with me went off to Germany on Monday to a job"—and this was three years ago—"at £250 per week". The opportunity to go and work in other parts of the EEC will be facilitated because it has been accepted that the training given is training which enables trainees to do the job as described. This contrasts with the existing regulations, which prevent movement within the Community when the training undertaken is not identical with the detailed training requirements laid down at the centre by the EEC.

But the need for diversity is not limited to diversity as between member states. It is also important to have diversity in the approach to training inside this country. I recognise that it is important that there should be nationally recognised standards. However, I do see a very great danger, if we attempt to move too quickly towards nationally recognised standards, that we shall have fixed standards before we know what training the youngsters really need to have. Once we have those fixed standards, the training will be directed towards meeting the requirements of the standards and we shall move further and further away from recognising that we need to learn far more than we know at present what the youngsters really need to learn in order to do the required jobs.

So I am anxious that we should not move too quickly towards nationally recognised standards and that we should more humbly approach the job by trying to find out how we can do this very difficult job of training the whole of our labour force—because this is what we are now attempting to do. In the past, we have trained—in some cases extremely well—a very small proportion of the labour force. We are now trying to train nearly everybody. This is a quite different exercise, and a very difficult one indeed. One is trying to train people who are thankful that they have left school and who had hoped that they would never see any sort of training or educational establishment again. We do not know how to do this. We have to learn, and we have to learn very slowly.

So there is a question of diversity, of experiment, of finding out how these youngsters with different kinds of interests and ability can learn to be competent for the jobs which they are going to do. This is the nature of the task. So can we not work towards a system in which we recognise that what is being done in one part of the country is in many ways experimentally different in training approach from what is being done in another, but that nonetheless people who have passed through what is approved in a particular locality and have reached approved standards there will not be barred from access to jobs in other parts of the country? It is simply a word of warning against standardisation; because one knows so well that, once there is standardisation, all teaching is directed towards the requirements of that standard and you lose sight of what we are trying to do now, which is to work out how the youngsters can best be trained for the jobs for which in the past they did not get any training at all, and for the new jobs that they have to do. So much for diversity.

The second theme, and the theme of the youth training scheme, as of this report, is the theme of quality. The youth training scheme stands or falls by the achievement of quality. However, quality can only be achieved if we start way back in the schools. The fact of the matter is that to get the quality that we need requires a degree of collaboration between educationists and industrialists which we have not begun to achieve. These two groups are in many cases poles apart. There is a very great deal of suspicion, misunderstanding and lack of appreciation on both sides. Yet, unless this is overcome we are not going to achieve the quality, because the quality is a result of collaboration between the two groups.

The report speaks rightly about the importance of the careers guidance system. That certainly needs to start far earlier in the lives of youngsters in schools than at present. So often it comes after the key choice of subjects has been made. Therefore, youngsters—and particularly girls—set out on the wrong path because they have been allowed to drop mathematics, they have been allowed to choose the softer rather than the harder sciences. Then, when the job choices have to be made they find that they have been prepared quite wrongly inside the school. After all—and I will not repeat it—we all know that at last women now comprise rather more than half of the population. Their contribution to the economy is of great importance. However, we are still preparing them very inadequately in the schools for the kind of work that they are going to have to do in the future.

So we have this very tough job of getting the people in the education system and the people inside industry to work together. In that connection, may I say how impressed I was when I had the opportunity to visit one of the technical and vocational educational initiative programmes in the area in which I am area board chairman. It seemed to me that this was serving a number of very important purposes. It was providing training and education—and the distinction between the two words is almost by definition lost. It is fused in the very title of "the programme".

But not only was this providing a very good foundation for the youngsters who were taking it: it was forcing the teachers and the people in the industry to come together, both to develop and to work on the programme. So they were sitting around a table, talking to each other, thrashing out the problems, finding out that the people from the other side, as they saw them, were not the people with horns that they thought they were in the past, and that they could collaborate in working out a common programme. So this is educational, not only to the youngsters but, perhaps even more important, to the educators and to the people in industry. Here and in the development of this scheme, I believe there is a great deal of hope.

Also after the school stage, in the training programme, based on work, if we are to get the right educational component it is essential that the people from the educational institutions, colleges of further education, should come to understand what is required inside a place of work, and to develop their courses at colleges of further education to fit the needs of the trainees. My experience is that this is being done in some colleges but too often still there is a standardised course which it is hoped that the trainee will take when he goes along to a college of further education.

My experience of talking to the trainees, admittedly in a limited area of the country, is that what they are finding most difficult to take is the 13 weeks of job training. The one word that they use again and again is a three syllable word which they have all learned—"relevance", or, rather, the lack of it. Until we overcome that we shall not get the integration which is absolutely vital if we are going to have the quality that we want. I will not deal with this in detail but I think there are one or two points in achieving this integration which I should like to suggest should be examined.

I have come across the point that in assessing the value of the contribution of people in the colleges a great deal of importance is attached to, and points are gained by, class contact—student contact inside the college. But contact inside the place of work, which is surely essential if we are to get collaboration—the person from the college going along to the place where the youngster works and discussing with the industrialist and the youngster himself what are the kind of courses that would really help him—counts very little in terms of valuing what the teacher is doing and what the college is doing. I suspect that pay systems, grading systems and opportunities for promotion—matters which are of the greatest importance to academics—are being governed by an out-of-date view of what kind of things should be going on inside the colleges. This is something that would need detailed discussion with the representatives of the teachers in the colleges. But there is more than a hint, as one moves around, that they are held back from the kind of collaborative developments that one would like to see because of the regulations, controls and antiquated systems under which they are paid and promoted. I suggest that it would be of great advantage to have some detailed examination of the consequences of this kind of problem.

Quality starts in the schools and is continued by collaboration between educationists and industrialists. There will be no quality, no good scheme and no trained labour force unless you make a success of that. But quality also results from assessment of the schemes. Here, I must confess that I have grave misgivings as to whether we have yet learnt adequately to assess whether a scheme is really working well or not. I have great regard and respect for the staff of the MSC. But it is just not possible for the kind of people who are employed in the MSC to give informed judgments about the quality of training going on in a whole variety of different schemes in different industries. I have myself been muddled up with training over a large number of years, but I would not consider myself competent to estimate the quality of a training scheme in industries with which I have no familiarity whatever. Of course, when the MSC staff go round to do their assessment of training, because they are assessing financial competence and the conformity to financial requirements of the people running the scheme as well as the quality of the training, they tend inevitably to judge the schemes on their administrative and financial correctness, rather than on the real quality of training that is going on. That simply will not do as a way of deciding whether schemes are reaching the quality required.

Indeed, some research and interesting work done by the Tavistock Institute of Human Relations very much pointed out that learning often goes on best in some of the most administratively untidy schemes. There is no necessary correlation between the schemes in which all the forms are filled up and the bills paid regularly and the learning achievements of the people in the schemes. It is much more difficult to estimate what is going on in terms of learning achievements than it is to judge what is going on in terms of administrative tidiness. I welcome the development of project review teams in which the different parties to the training programme are getting together in a self-critical way with mutual help to try to improve standards. An inspectorial approach is not a helpful one at this stage when we are all trying to learn together.

I also think that we need every possible way of calling on the help of people who really are expert in the training field. I must say that when I sat on this committee, I was horrified to hear one representative—I think it was of the MSC—say, in talking about training, that there were no experts in this field. Perhaps I misheard. I think that it will be found in the record. There are in this country people inside companies and in the training boards, and who have left the training boards, who have a very high degree of expertise in the training field. We need to tap all that skill so far as we possibly can.

Training diversity and quality are the two themes about which I wished to talk. There is, however, one remaining theme on which I should like briefly to touch. The report and, of course, the MSC are committed to equal opportunities. It so happens that by this morning's post I received as, no doubt, did many of your Lordships, a report from Bristol University on ethnic minorities and the youth training scheme. I have not studied it in detail. But it is clear, as most of us would expect, that in some schemes at any rate members of ethnic minorities are getting a pretty raw deal. I do not suppose that in many cases this is deliberate. It happens in so many different ways.

I would simply say that it must be a high priority to see that members of ethnic minorities get full benefit from the youth training scheme. This will not happen unless firms and organisations employing them have well thought out and positive programmes for the promotion of equal opportunities. I say programmes and not policies. For my part, I could manage without policies. They are so often a fig-leaf for disguising the fact that nothing much is going on. But a detailed programme of what one is trying to achieve in terms of the employment and training of members of ethnic minorities, properly monitored to see that it happens, is the only way that the criticisms raised in this report can be met and the MSC's objective of equal opportunities can be achieved.

7.7 p.m.

Baroness Carnegy of Lour

My Lords, this report is about matters of far reaching economic social and political significance for the EEC and for this country. Its subject matter is closely connected, as the noble Lord, Lord McCarthy, has said, with the anxiety that is at the very top of public consciousness at the present time—anxiety as to what can be done to provide what seems to be, in this and in a number of other countries in Europe, a missing link in our national stategy. It is the link between, on the one hand, the vital containment of inflation and increasing of competitiveness, and. on the other hand, the reduction of unemployment through the generation of more jobs. This missing link was discussed, as the noble Lord, Lord McCarthy, said, with the Chancellor of the Exchequer on television over the weekend. My right honourable friend certainly did not brush aside the fact that unemployment is thoroughly bad—bad for those that are unemployed for long periods, divisive, expensive and bad for competitiveness. He did say that if there was a lever to pull, he would pull it. The trouble was knowing what that lever was.

This anxiety that exists at the present time is part of an anxiety of a more general kind. People are looking from the EEC and from their own government, for a lead. They know that the old economic ways of the 1960s and the 1970s do not work any more—the noble Lord, Lord McCarthy would say with the possible exception of the MSC. They are looking for a new sense of direction, for positive goals, for shared understanding of what the future might look like and how we might prepare for it. That desire, naturally, has particularly focused on the way that we should be equipping our young people to ensure that they can play their part in the future and to ensure that there is a part for them to play. Vocational education and training and particularly youth training could provide a major ingredient in this new sense of direction, this new hope, that is so ardently sought. So neither the Community as a whole nor any of its member states would be wise to ignore the kind of things that our committee is saying.

I want to speak very briefly on the messages that the report contains for the British Government. I am of course encouraged in so doing by the contribution on behalf of the Government made by my noble friend Lord Young of Graffham, under whose skilled chairmanship of the MSC I, too, have had the privilege of serving. It seems to me that there are at least four major reasons why my noble friend and the Government should take heed of this report and why they could and should take action beyond the considerable amount they are doing already, broadly on the lines the committee proposes.

The four reasons are these. There is increasingly hard and convincing evidence that, for developed countries, economic success comes best when national strategy is underpinned by strong, long-term commitment to vocational educational and training. This fact is borne out by the Select Committee report, by its comparisons between the systems of European countries, by the statistics and by a number of expert submissions made to the committee. It is rammed home even more forcibly by another report produced for NEDO and the MSC by the Institute of Manpower Studies and published during the summer. That report examines the situation in three countries—the USA, Japan and western Germany; their attitudes to and systems of vocational education and training; their level of investment in these things; who pays and why; and how the various parties concerned see their role and responsibilities. It also looks at how all this has affected, very much for the better, those countries' economic performance, flexibility in response to recession, ability to an extent to fend off unemployment.

For us in Britain, all these facts make challenging reading. As my noble friend Lord Young has said, we have made a start in the right direction, but we have a very long way indeed to go in the changes of attitude that are required. The employers in this country are mostly still a long way from seeing their role in education and training as competitor employers see theirs—that, to get training right in quality and quantity, employers should take the major part and that this is well worth their while.

Some trades unions, at any rate in local areas, are still some way from seeing their role as the positive supportive one adopted by their colleagues in competitor countries. Likewise the educators and their employers, taxpayers and ratepayers, are not yet fully convinced; and right through the system in this country—some of the evidence to the Select Committee reflected this—there are people in positions of influence in various organisations who can help us all to move on but who still respond to this challenge at the level of small-time political point scoring and defence of vested interest in the status quo. With the evidence there is that far stronger long-term commitment to vocational education and training is not only desirable but essential, the Government have a big responsibility to give a lead in changing attitudes, in getting willingness to re-direct energy and shift resources.

The second reason the Government must act—as my noble friend on the Front Bench has said, a beginning has been made by the forming of the new group—is that it is clear from this report that education and training must come together. The Policy Studies Institute put this really well in their evidence to the committee, and I quote from page 147 of the report: Education is not separable from training. Education develops basic qualities, skills and knowledge which enable specific skills to be acquired speedily and with real understanding. Being trained for today's jobs is not as important as being trainable to do the unknown jobs of the future.… Education and training should be seen as a community effort in which employers and parents have not only an interest but a major contribution to make". This view was endorsed by the memorandum submitted by the Society of Education Officers, who spelt out in some detail—and very helpfully—the educational implications of this kind of change.

Because this coming together involves many people who are used to working separately from one another—not just different Government departments under different Ministers but professionals of different disciplines working in both public and private sectors, and local authorities of various political persuasions—the only way is for the Government to give a strong, convincing lead—a lead which I believe is now desired by all concerned, including all but the least enlightened professionals.

The third reason why the Government should act now is that people are, without question, confused by the system which has already been discussed and are asking for arrangements that are not only easier to understand but are fairer, and if possible enable every young person to get some qualification which is of interest to an employer. This desire happens to coincide with the beginning of much-needed curriculum changes in schools, with great interest in TVEI, in the 16-plus Action Plan in Scotland, with increasing appreciation of the potential of the YTS year as its quality and objectives develop, its potentialities for young people, for colleges and other training agencies, and for employers. It also coincides with the virtual collapse of the old-type apprenticeship, making space now for new, more flexible ways into occupational training, for the possibility of a follow-up year to YTS with a qualification as the aim, and the adult training and re-training strategy now being developed and mentioned by my noble friend. The time seems ripe now for that more coherent system that everyone can understand. That must be the subject of Government action.

The fourth reason why the Government should act is the corollary to that last one—the need now for rationalisation of the status and the financial arrangements for 16- to 18-year-olds. To harness young people's enthusiasm; to encourage them to choose a route which is right for them in the longer term rather than producing more money in the short term; to reflect the fact that they are moving into adulthood, want to have their own money, be responsible for contributing for board and lodging, for saving, for buying sensibly, and that this is true whether one is at school, at college, in training, or wherever; to reflect the fact that all are on the way to one sort of qualification and, of necessity, learners for a while, some kind of shared status for all seems the best way, all 16- to 18-year-olds being students or trainees with an allowance rather than a wage but an allowance paid to them and not to their parent.

To conclude, the political imperative in this country as well as all over Europe is a new lead, a new sense of direction especially in relation to our young people. It seems to me that there are at least four good reasons emerging from this report why the type of policies which are proposed should be very seriously considered by the Government, and with all speed. Next year is International Youth Year. Perhaps 1985 is the year for further action. I commend the report to my noble friend and your Lordships.

7.21 p.m.

Baroness Serota

My Lords, as a Member of Sub-Committee C I must first express my warmest thanks to the noble Lord, Lord Seebohm, for the skill, patience and courtesy with which he steered the subcommittee through the masses of both written and oral evidence on all our deliberations which resulted in the presentation of this report this evening. The noble Lord has presented it in his typically clear and concise manner which all of us can only admire. I have of course known the noble Lord, Lord Seebohm, for nearly 20 years. We first met to undertake the inquiry into the local authority and allied personal social services. His skills of chairmanship are always a pleasure to those of us who serve with him on Sub-Committee C. Indeed, the whole House owes him a debt of gratitude not only for the particular report that we are considering tonight, but for all those that have been issued under his chairmanship of Sub-Committee C on education, employment and social policy in the EEC in the years that he has chaired the committee.

I, too, would wish to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Young of Graffham, on his elevation to this House, to the Cabinet and of course tonight on his ministerial maiden speech—a daunting triple, if I may say so—and I also wish him every happiness and success as regards the arduous new responsibilities that he has so recently undertaken. I was glad to note in his speech that he recognised that the prospects of employment for young people without marketable knowledge and skills are declining rapidly in all the industrially advanced nations. The noble Lord, Lord Seebohm, quoted to us the stark figures which are set out in Part 3 of the report comparing the spread of training in this country with the younger generation in Western Germany. I shall not delay the House at this late hour by repeating the figures. They were also touched on by the noble Lord, Lord Young.

But looking further afield and clearly expressed in the report which the noble Baroness, Lady Carnegy has just mentioned, are the figures relating not only to West Germany but also to Japan and the United States. It is quite clear from the report of the Institute of Manpower Studies which was prepared for the National Economic Development Council and the Manpower Services Commission recently, that in Japan 96 per cent. of 16- to 18-year-olds are still at school in the broadest sense of the term. The figure for West Germany is 86 per cent. Unfortunately the figure for the United Kingdom is only 52 per cent., which would rise to 60 per cent. if the school-based portions of the MSC's youth programme were included.

I was delighted to hear from the noble Lord the Minister that he too agreed that deficiences are in our system and not in our young. The system is fragmented, and to many quite incomprehensible. In spite of the numerous inquiries stemming way back to the Crowther Report in 1959, which some noble Lords will remember only too well, our existing system of education and training for young people, particularly in the 16 to 18 age range is fragmented and as the noble Lord, Lord Seebohm, said at the outset of this debate, there is an urgent need to bring together the education and training system for all our young people—and we stress in the report "all our young people"—within a coherent and comprehensive framework. The noble Lord, Lord McCarthy, seemed to have doubts about this, but having heard the evidence that came before the sub-committee and the discussions that we held together as Members, I personally have little doubt that the system is extremely difficult for young people to understand and comprehend. Sometimes it seems that it is merely chance which determines which way they go in or out of the system as it presents itself in the local areas in which they live.

The four key problems which we identified in the report—social and material status; the quality of education provided; assessment and certification; and finally careers advice and guidance—have already been dealt with so ably by the noble Lords who have preceded me that I feel that all I need say at this stage of the debate is that I personally attach the greatest importance to the first of those recommendations; namely, that relating to common status, so that young people can proceed through their different paths with equality of status, but perhaps to different goals. I wish to stress to the House that until this particular aspect of our training system is accepted and incorporated we shall still have the inequalities of opportunity that so many of us regret in the present set-up.

The noble Lord, Lord McCarthy, and I think also the noble Lord, Lord Young, touched briefly on those parts of the report that dealt with the needs of ethnic minorities, the socially disadvantaged, the handicapped and the disabled. I should like to draw the attention of the House particularly this evening to paragraph 82 where the Committee attempted to set out what it saw as the future policy for these particular groups. They may be minority groups but added together they add up to a substantial minority of our young people who do require special help through recognition, within the wider context of a universal training system, of their special needs. They need perhaps a more flexible age entry on training schemes, more time as regards the period of study, particularly for those who have spent long periods of their lives in hospital, and some of them need different learning situations. For example, under the NACRO youth opportunities programme one in four of their trainees were aged 18 or over. But when these programmes were translated into youth training schemes last year, NACRO could no longer offer its employment training to the immature, older adolescent without any substantial employment experience who might have spent time in residential care or custody but who was beginning to look for help with re-settlement in the community.

The noble Lord, Lord Young of Graffham, will know more about this than I, but I understand that the MSC supported NACRO's proposal for some flexibility in the criterion of eligibility for youth training schemes particularly to include this relatively small number of young people—I believe some 2,000 altogether—who had been in custody at the age of 16 or 17 and who had missed the opportunity of a full year on YTS. Unfortunately, this proposal was rejected by Ministers and I only hope that now that the noble Lord, Lord Young, has been translated—or perhaps I should say has suffered a sea-change—he will, as Minister with his particular responsibility, look favourably upon flexibility of age entry to particular disadvantaged groups.

Similarly, the decision of the Grovernment to reduce the number of places on YTS Mode B community-based projects, which are provided by voluntary organisations for handicapped and disadvantaged young people, reducing them from 90,000 to some 71,000, with the corresponding loss of the special experience and skills of the staff involved in these training schemes, has been widely deplored on all sides. Once again I would plead with the noble Lord the Minister to persuade the Government to restore these most unfortunate and short-sighted cuts and ensure that future training, policy and practice take account of young people with special needs such as these.

It would perhaps be wrong to conclude my brief intervention this evening without recognising that the implementation of the recommendation of the report of the noble Lord, Lord Seebohm, would require increased expenditure by Government, employers and individuals. But I hope that after this debate the House and the Government, which I also hope will study this debate and report in detail, will agree in the light of the evidence and the arguments adduced in the report that merely to improve existing schemes and initiatives is not enough, and that there can surely be no better investment for this country to make at this moment of time than investment in what after all is our greatest, our most vital resource—namely, the present and future generations of young people in this country.

7.31 p.m.

Baroness Vickers

My Lords, first, may I offer my congratulations to my noble friend Lord Young of Graffham. I hope that he has brought a magic wand with him because that is very much what this subject needs. I should also like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Seebohm, for the very kind way in which he always runs the committee and also for helping with the report. I should like to thank the clerks and the advisers who have produced this very remarkable report.

I found it very useful to meet those dealing with the youth training systems in the various countries of the EEC and to note that the problem is a difficult one in all the countries of the Community. Most of the points that I wanted to raise have been touched on, but I want to mention two particular matters; namely, careers officers and rural areas, which I do not think have so far been mentioned.

In my view careers officers are very important. I believe that it is very unfortunate that the Employment and Training Act 1973 has not been implemented by the Government, because I understand that this Act lays the responsibility on the local authorities to provide vocational guidance. At present there are plenty of teachers who need work, and it would be advisable if they could be properly trained as careers teachers. I understand that at present written statements are sent to young people containing careers advice, but that is not very helpful. Those statements may or may not be read. They may also not be the right type for the individual concerned.

I gather that a total documentation system which could start in the schools would be preferred. I believe that at present there are only about 3,000 fully trained careers teachers and about 500 untrained ones. I understand that Sir Keith Joseph and the DES think that profiling should take place in the schools. I hope that consideration will be given to encouraging young people to be self-employed. There are plenty of jobs at which they can be self-employed and which very badly need doing. I have in mind chimney sweeping, window cleaning, thatching, jobbing gardening, and so on. All these jobs are quite well paid and are very necessary to the community. But people seem to think that they are not grand enough. Therefore, I suggest that these jobs should be upgraded and put into special categories. I could give a number of other examples which would make very useful careers.

Careers education should be an integral part of general education and should start at about the age of 12. When people have to do jobs which they do not like there are many failures and therefore they leave within a short time. I was interested in what the report had to say about vocational training in France. There the Ministry of Education has a dominant role to play, which I think is very useful. It divides its programmes for apprentices in particular between the ages of 16 and 18, and 18 and 21. About 40 per cent. under the age of 25 are still unemployed, but they have a very good apprenticeship scheme in building and construction work and I gather that there are about 40,000 apprentices in that scheme. They also pay well—about £47 or £48 a month—and they give proper certificates. They give vocational certificates and apprentices certificates, which are very useful for young people to have.

Careers officers need better training and it is well worthwhile the Government spending money on giving them training. So often one goes into a school and sees a notice board displaying all the jobs open to these young people, but the subjects are never spoken about; the young people are just given the papers. I suggest that real training would be one way in which to get more people into employment.

I should like to say a few words about the rural areas. In Germany they have very good agricultural day schools and residential ones. The latter seems to be a good idea because distances in rural areas are often very great and this makes it difficult for young people to attend day centres. Schemes in these areas are often difficult to run. For example, a scheme run in a rural area is based on urban allowances. I believe that they should have a different allowance because of the travelling involved. I have been told by the coordinators of some of these schemes (and I have visited them) that 55 per cent. of a co-ordinator's operating costs and allowances have to be spent on travel. So there is very little left for tools and equipment, which have to be restricted to the bare essentials. Train fares also give rise to difficulties and some trainees bring their own vehicles, which takes up a lot of their money. Although they are reimbursed for any expenditure they incur over £3, it is felt that a trainee in a rural area needs £35 a week.

Another difficulty is the small numbers in some training centres. This is due to the health and safety requirements for specified working space per individual. Town-based project teams for the rural areas each comprise a supervisor and four trainees and supervisors have difficulty in going to the rural areas, and have to provide their own transport. However, one of the areas I visited was quite successful.

Perhaps I may give a few figures. They span the period from 1st April 1983 to September 1984. Between those dates their plans for practical work experience was associated with off-the-job training and during the same period 208 young people left the scheme. Of that total, 85 obtained permanent employment, 43 of whom were girls and 42 of whom were boys The remainder left for a variety of reasons. Twenty-three and a half per cent. had completed their allotted period of time; 7 per cent. were dismissed and 19 per cent. resigned for personal or health reasons; and 1 per cent. went to college.

I believe that that gives an idea of what can be done in rural areas with the different types of young people today. Some have been very successful in obtaining jobs in, for instance, stables. I visited some who were learning to be grooms. This was very popular with the girls. Unfortunately, I had a bad experience when I allowed part of my garden to be used by six young people to grow vegetables. I took no notice of these young people until they were leaving because I did not think that it was my business. But when I asked them why they were leaving they said that they did not like gardening and that there was no future for them. When I told them that they could earn about £3 an hour cutting grass they were rather astonished, but I do not think that they changed their minds.

In conclusion, I should like help on one particular point. Can my noble friend ask the Government not to cut the trainees, for instance, in the Royal Dockyards? The Royal Dockyards have always been a large training centre.

They have always trained more people than they need, both girls and boys, with the object of giving them proper training. They have plenty of room to do so, and the trainees go off and get jobs in other places. If this is going to be cut, as we have been told, it will be detrimental to the areas concerned. If the noble Lord could do this little job and persuade the Government not to cut them while there are plenty of applications for the engineering jobs, it would be helpful; and I should like to thank him now for listening and taking some notes.

7.41 p.m.

Baroness Lockwood

My Lords, I too should like to welcome the report of the Select Committee on Youth Training in the EEC. I welcome it for setting out the problems and experience of the different European countries and also for the important and coherent conclusions it reaches. Before commenting on the conclusions, however, I should like to underline how important it is for us in this country to understand the different attitudes to training in different countries.

This report refers to Europe. Other reports have gone wider, and already this evening the noble Baroness, Lady Carnegy, and my noble friend Lady Serota have referred to the NEDO and MSC Report on training and education in Germany, the United States, and Japan. As Geoffrey Holland, the Director of the Manpower Services Commission, has stressed, it is clear beyond any doubt that the United Kingdom's lack of competitiveness, and thus its economic problems, derive to a large extent from our failure to invest in training to the same extent as some of our competitors have done.

The Select Committee comment in their introduction in paragraph 9: Lack of training is not, in itself, the main cause of youth unemployment". They go on to say: there is evidence that a more highly-trained workforce generates wealth and helps create jobs". This is something that Japan would certainly subscribe to not only in the training of the young but also in adult training and life training, on which they place so much importance. Within Europe itself Germany would certainly subscribe to it, and, as has already been said, is investing more in training than we are in this country.

The evidence to the Select Committee showed that the Germans believe that their competitiveness depends on a well-trained workforce. Even in a recession German industry is prepared to continue to pay for it and continue to invest in training. Therefore, the fear of the Select Committee that we are in danger of falling even further behind in industrial skills and competence cannot be ignored even in the context of the British programme, as had been outlined by the noble Lord the Minister, Lord Young. Here I too should like to congratulate him on his maiden speech, and welcome him to this House.

If we look at the figures which have already been referred to, the report points out that only a third of the German workforce is unqualified compared with two-thirds of our workforce. This is already. But if we add to that the fact that only about 5 per cent. of young Germans leave school without going into further education or training, then we see that it is absolutely vital that we move quickly.

I would say, and I have said this before, that the YTS is a good beginning, but we must build upon it. Paragraph 129 of the Select Committee's report says: Every young person should have the opportunity of a training programme lasting at least one year after the YTS foundation year. This is the minimum that we should aim for. That paragraph goes on to say: Wherever possible, this further training should lead to a recognised occupational qualification. This paragraph raises the whole problem of the kind of training that should be provided. Much has been said on this, in particular by the noble Baroness, Lady Seear.

I am concerned that we should continue with the broad-based training that YTS has initiated. This was an experiment in training in this country. It is too early for us to say that we should now move over to more occupationally biased training, because again as has been said this evening there are many skills and occupations which we are going to have to train for in the future which we do not yet know of. Consequently it is important that we should provide in this first year a broad-based training which can then be built on in a more specialised way, perhaps then moving on to a more occupationally oriented kind of training. If it is clearly seen to be the case that the basic first year's training is going to lead to other training which in the end will build up skills which are marketable, then I think that young people will be prepared to accept not only the on-the-job training but the off-the-job training element too.

One of the difficulties that has been seen with YTS in this first year is that it is the scheme of last resort; a scheme for those who could not get jobs. Therefore, those who have gone on to the scheme have had the option of dropping out as soon as a paid job appeared, irrespective of whether the paid job really led to a proper career in the future. If our youth training scheme is to be of value to industry and of value to the individuals themselves, it must be seen as the first part of a continuous process in training.

It is because of this that I welcome paragraph 128 of the Select Committee's report, which talks about the urgent need to bring together the education and employment of young people into a coherent framework which can be understood by employers, parents, and educators. The noble Lord, Lord Young, referred to this. My noble friend Lord McCarthy referred to it, but he seemed to have some reservations about it. I think it is to be welcomed because there is a problem about recognising the routes which are available to young people. It is impossible, as the PSI evidence suggested, to divorce the educational element from the training element. Therefore, we have to take the two together, education and training, as an inseparable part of the lives of the young 16- to 18-year-olds.

I would say that even those who are studying A-levels with an eye to university entrance are also concerned with their future because they are concerned with the kinds of career or profession that a university education will provide for them. It is essential that we should see those two clearly linked together.

I must say that I have slight reservations about this question of linking the two, particularly when one takes it back to the 14-year-olds. I was somewhat concerned to see in the Times Educational Supplement of 12th October that the MSC is drawing up a plan of action to start vocational education at 14. It depends what is meant by "vocational education". If this means educating young people in the broader aspects of industry and what prospects there are, then I am all for it. If it is a question of introducing young people to technology I am all for that; but I do not think that at this point in a young person's educational career we should be training them or seeking to train them for a specific job. After all, in education we are currently debating seriously the widening of the curriculum for young people and so we do not want to narrow it at one end when we are thinking in terms of vocational training.

I welcome the committee's underlying recommendation that we need a strategy for both education and training. When I heard of the Minister's appointment I was not quite sure whether it was a step forward or a step backwards. As chairman of the MSC he had been able to initiate many things. I wondered what he would be able to do, as a Minister Without Portfolio. However, he tells us that his first task is to chair a committee which is co-ordinating the input of the 16-to 18-year-olds from four departments. I hope the emphasis will be on co-ordination because the German experience and evidence has shown that if a structure is to be successful it needs close cooperation—in the case of Germany from the federal and länder governments, trade unions and employers, and in this country from the Government, the LEAs, trade unions and employers. It seems that the relationship with the local education authorities is one that needs to be considered very carefully so that there can be co-ordination and goodwill on both sides.

The committee report accepts inevitably that an improved and extended system of training needs more money. The MSC has recognised this too, so therefore in this debate we must ask whether the Government also accept it? The recommendation of the committee at paragraph 132, and more fully at paragraphs 92 and 94, endorses a common status and allowance for young people. Here there will be a cost consequence, but I hope that it will be clearly grasped by the Government.

Part of our problem is the divisive nature of society in this country and a common status for young people would help to overcome this; a common status, as the report says, which would give young people the choice of route for that individual's development according to his or her aptitude and preference.

This one step in itself could do much to unify the system. Despite the reservations that my noble friend Lord McCarthy had on the type of allowance it would be, it is, nevertheless, a principle that has long been advocated from these Benches.

My final point refers to paragraph 130—special help to the disadvantaged. As the House would expect, my concern is with the opportunities for girls and women. Again the committee recognises this problem and it says that the lack of opportunity for girls to move into the occupations traditionally regarded as male is unfair and a waste of potential. But like the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, I think this is much more than just a recognition of the principle. It is a systematic attack on the principle and the attack must be made not just at national level but at local level, too.

When we consider the other programmes that we have experienced so far—the youth opportunities programme as well as the youth training scheme, the Community programme and even TVEI where the principle of equality is firmly stated in the objectives—we have still not come to terms with this problem of training and breaking down the different opportunities for girls and boys. I feel that at all levels within the system we need a recognition of the problem and, as Lady Seear said, programmes to remove the inequality. For this reason, as well as others, I also support very much that conclusion of the committee concerned with career guidance and the need for better training for both teachers and the trainers. Any integrated strategy for education and training based on common standards must, by definition, be concerned with this problem as well. For all the reasons I have outlined, the report is very much to be welcomed and I hope that the Government will act upon it.

7.58 p.m.

Lord Kilmarnock

My Lords, we are all grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Seebohm, for this excellent report and we also have been privileged to listen to the maiden speech of the noble Lord, Lord Young of Graffham. I am not worried about his lack of portfolio because I think it is probably exactly what is required to cover the span of activities which need to be drawn together, and we are fortunate to have him in this House.

There are two aspects of the committee's report on which I want to concentrate. The first is concerned with our own YTS and in particular the Mode B branch of that scheme. In paragraph 82 the committee says that: Special help must be given to ethnic minorities, to under-achievers and to the disabled". I do not want to quote much more of that because it has already been referred to by the noble Lord, Lord McCarthy, and by the noble Baroness, Lady Serota. The crucial sentence is as follows: The Committee regret that YTS Mode B appears in certain parts of the country to have been much reduced". When one turns to the evidence one finds in Questions 150 and 151 the noble Baroness, Lady Faithfull, and my noble friend Lady Seear pressing Mr. Mansell of the Further Education Unit on this point. He admits, on page 127, that: There is some resentment, within the further education system, that these young people are not going into Mode A (the employer-based YTS schemes), and that the further education system is being used, some say, as a dumping ground for these young people". He goes on to say: I would not agree with that term: I think it is a proper role for the further education system to do that". I applaud his sentiments because it is generally accepted that the education service has not succeeded with the bottom 40 per cent. of compulsory school-leavers, and it would be highly creditable to the FE system if it were to make the amende honorable on the lines suggested by my noble friend Lady Seear. Mr. Mansell says later: When we hear that the Manpower Services Commission because of the low take-up of Mode A are thinking of reducing Mode B that does not actually augur very well for this group of young people we are now talking about". My Lords, this is very serious, and whether Mode B cuts out an ideological spasm, as the noble Lord, Lord McCarthy, says, or whether it does not, it means that many of those who were not well-served during the compulsory stage of education are going to receive a further rejection under the YTS. The Government, I would suggest to the noble Lord, ought to think again here if they do not want to build up mounting trouble and resentment in future. By the end of March 1984, according to my figures, and the end of YTS year one, the MSC had closed 49 community projects and five training workshops, a total of 2,460 places. A further 17,500 community-based places were lost simply by reducing the size of the remaining schemes. The new slim-line Mode B(1) started in 1984–85 with 70,000 places—a reduction of nearly 20,000. The Government have always advanced low take-up as the reason for this reduction, but do the facts bear them out? I suggest not. The latest figures for occupancy available to me, at any rate, were to the end of August. They were as follows. Mode A (that is, the employer-based schemes) 202,679, representing only a 62 per cent. take-up; Mode B(1), 64,389, representing a 92 per cent. take-up. Given the fact that there is always some leakage through changes to another scheme or entry into the labour market, or simply dropping out, Mode B(1) turns out to be virtually fully subscribed.

The 1984–85 plan, I understand, called for 390,000 entrants. We have been told that there are now some 300,000 in place. If the remaining 90,000 come forward, they have little choice but to try for an employer-based scheme, for which many may be unsuitable and may be rejected. There is also the regional dimension. If there appear to be 6,000 places still going begging on B(1), they are almost certainly to be in London or the south. The National Council for Voluntary Services tell me that they know of many Mode B schemes in the northern regions—the regions with the greatest industrial devastation—which have lengthy waiting lists. I therefore want to ask the noble Lord if the Government will not consider restoring the B(1) schemes to, say, for the sake of argument, 90,000 places. If they do not, they will severely damage the credibility of their promise of a suitable training opportunity for all unemployed school-leavers. That includes the ethnic minorities, the disabled and the low achievers.

I turn to another aspect of the committee's report which particularly interests me, and that is the social and material status of young people beyond the compulsory school-leaving age and prior to immersion in the labour market. In paragraph 92 the committee recommend their common status approach for all 16 and 17 year-olds with the same basic allowance, irrespective of their particular chosen route. One immediate advantage of this—anyway, advocated by the Institute of Personnel Management—would be to prevent a young person taking a decision about his or her future based primarily on financial considerations, by which I understand immediate financial considerations are the differences between supplementary benefit, YTS allowances and staying on at school and so on.

The Government are committed to choice. I should have thought that it might appeal to them that the choices between various parts should be genuine choices; that is, financially neutral. This neutrality should ideally extend to those wishing to continue in full-time education whose parents at present continue to receive child benefit till their 19th birthday. Many poorer families will want to trade in child benefit for a higher allowance of supplementary benefit, which makes a far greater contribution to the family budget. Also, child benefit paid to mum is hardly likely to accord with the aspirations of young people over 16 to independent status and income.

We should not be surprised by these aspirations, or indignant at them. We have, after all, created the high-consumption society from which they spring. These aspirations will not go away, but, obviously, there are cost implications. As regards educational maintenance allowances, my party has advanced the idea of an education benefit at 16-plus, half of which would be initially assessable for tax against the parents' income. This would go some way towards equalising the choices and might, incidentally, reduce pressure on the more expensive YTS. This is a field to which more attention needs to be devoted. The committee deserve our thanks for again having brought the issue to the surface, as we did at the unemployment committee three years ago. Lord McCarthy is correct in saying that on that committee we suggested a more complicated system which I then supported. I am not sure that I do not prefer the greater simplicity of this approach. Until we get this right and make it fair, there will be a high level of disaffection among the young.

I have two final points, my Lords. Looking through the evidence one is struck by the number of advocates of a two-year YTS. The committee say in paragraph 102: every young person should have the opportunity of a training programme lasting at least one year after the YTS foundation year. I, myself, do not believe that anybody should be fully in the labour market before 18. That is my quarrel with the young workers' scheme, which, as far as I know, contains little or no training element at all. The noble Lord, Lord McCarthy, suggests that this scheme should be converted into a second year of training; and I think that I agree with him on this. On the cost side, there has undoubtedly been a lower take-up across the whole scheme than the 460,000 originally envisaged. Would the noble Lord not agree that this gives the Government some leeway for progress towards a second year? Could he tell us how much the Government had earmarked for 1984–85, and if there is an undershoot, as seems probable on present trends, whether they will apply this money to improve or extend the scheme?

My last point is this. The committee say in paragraph 78: The variety of approach in the United Kingdom represents a richness. But a more coherent and easily understandable set of provisions need not be any less rich. In paragraph 84 they say: there is an urgent need to bring together the whole education, training and employment of young people in a coherent framework which can be understood by employers, parents, educators, trainees, and, above all, by the young people themselves. I do not quite know why the noble Lord, Lord McCarthy, objects to this. You do not have to be an advocate of a vast institutional shake-up to want to understand what is on offer. I think I rather tend to agree more with the noble Baroness, Lady Lockwood, over that. The committee repeat this recommendation in paragraph 128 of the conclusions. Given the pluralism and variety of our system, I see it as one of the most important recommendations.

As far as I know, neither the career service nor anyone else has produced a comprehensive and comprehensible chart of the options open to young people and their possible interconnections. By that, I mean where you can change trains, so to speak, without losing the portmanteau of credits accumulated from the previous course or courses. I think that the noble Lord gave us some hope that something of this sort might emerge from the interdepartmental committee that he is to chair. I wonder whether that is a correct interpretation of his remarks, and, if so, whether whatever is produced will be widely disseminated. I also very much hope that the DHSS is going to be involved, because some of its regulations are well-nigh incomprehensible.

I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Young, will take my queries and suggestions in the constructive spirit in which they are made. We applaud the Government for having recognised the need for a proper training scheme in this country and for having laid the foundations, but there is still an awful lot of building to be done.

8.10 p.m.

Lord Young of Graffham

My Lords, may I start by saying that I now appreciate the reason for the reputation this House has for its debates. I have found the comments made today to be very instructive and thoughtful. I have learned a great deal and I certainly thank the noble Lord, Lord McCarthy, for his welcome to me on my first module of 'on the job' training, and I hope he will mark my performance afterwards.

Perhaps I may put the record straight by immediately paying tribute to the trade unions for their work within the Manpower Services Commission and in particular for their part in the launching of the youth training scheme. Of course, not only the unions, but also employers, local authorities and all the parties are involved. This truly is a scheme which could not have been launched without the greatest co-operation of all concerned. If I had any particular regret during my period at the MSC, it was really in regard to those organisations which almost made a profession out of criticising or undermining the confidence of young people within the youth training scheme.

The noble Lord referred to the report by Youth Aid on Mode B (1) training under the youth training scheme. One of the organisations and some parts of the report I regretted. But perhaps I may say once more, in relation to the provisions of Mode B (1) places, that although in the very first year of the youth training scheme we had provision for 90,000 places, at no time during that year were more than 55,000 places ever filled. Therefore we have been spending money on 35,000 places which were never utilised. The difference between Mode B (1) and other modes is that the Manpower Services Commission were paying for unfilled places and no less than £70 million that should have gone to the training of young people went to the employment of trainers. When Ministers reduced the number to 71,500 that still left a considerable surplus over the 55,000 places filled. We were responding to much more than an ideological spasm in the market. But I hope very much, as we see today with 65,000 places filled and provision still for 71,500, there will be adequate and suitable provision for all those who will benefit from Mode B (1) training. Ministers have assured the commission and all those interested parties, such as the Association of Metropolitan Authorities and the Association of County Councils, that, should the need be there for more places, they will sanction the funding of them. That understanding still applies today.

I should like also to assure the noble Lord that within the Manpower Services Commission we recommended that the young workers scheme be modified so that it should follow on from a year on the youth training scheme. Ministers accepted the recommendation, and today it is a follow-on scheme. So already we have the embryo, if you like, of a two-vear scheme: young people can stay for one year and then, if they so wish, their employers can apply the benefit of the youth training scheme, their employers get a subsidy, and continue the young people's employment for a second year. I suspect there will be very few young people who will not carry on in employment for the second year.

Finally, perhaps I may comment very briefly on the noble Lord's remarks about my future role. Of course it is only the private sector that actually creates jobs that last, but that does not mean that there is not much that could be done in reducing some of the barriers which Governments themselves have produced over the years to stop the creation of new employment.

May I next thank the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, for her remarks and pay tribute to her skill as the chairman of one of our area manpower boards? I should like to say that I agree with her totally on the need for diversity. There cannot be fixed standards, but there must be a degree of comparability within the various youth training schemes up and down the country. The one thing we must not do is to have too much rigidity in standards, because tomorrow's world, the world of employment, at the moment is very uncertain. We have to set the trainers free, to allow them scope for imagination so as to provide the kind of training which they can see will be required tomorrow.

But throughout all this we have to ensure that whatever else happens, the quality of the youth training scheme is paramount. If we do not get the quality, then the scheme itself will fail. This year it is the sole aim of the Manpower Services Commission to improve the quality. It was for this reason that the Youth Training Board decided that they did not wish to change the scheme in any particular, save to make it better.

I would say to those, including those organisations which tend almost to make a profession out of criticising the scheme, that they should perhaps take into account that compulsory education is 100 years old in this country and it is by no means necessarily perfect; the youth training scheme is but one year old. I hope that by the time the youth training scheme approaches a tenth of the age of compulsory education it will have a very high standard and at least will satisfy noble Lords opposite as to its quality.

Of course, there is a great deal to be done to bring industry into schools. In fact, I regret that in the debates which took place some 20 years ago when we were so concerned with the structure of education in this country—the debates that led to the comprehensives—we did not at that time give more thought to the content of education. Somehow during that very process we managed to eliminate whatever vestiges of technical education we had.

I recall, a year or 18 months ago, at a seminar which the Prime Minister called on the subject of innovation, an industrialist making an impassioned speech asking why, why, had we taken all the men and women who would have been good foremen and turned them into indifferent sociologists? If we were to look at what we actually did to ourselves during that period, I think we would accept today that we have considerable cause for regret.

That brings me to another side-effect of the youth training scheme. There is no doubt that colleges of further education must adapt to the demands of today, and that the youth training scheme has imposed considerable demands on them. For the very first time they were taking in young people with no educational qualification, and for the first time they were dealing with people who did not have five O levels or the equivalent in many areas. They have adapted and they are adapting. The principal complaint that came, from young people, out of the first year of the youth training scheme was in fact the lack of relevance of the off-the-job training. It is something which I am sure the colleges have taken note of and I look forward to this as one of the areas which will be improved not only this year, but in the years to come.

May I say just a word about the monitoring which the Manpower Services Commission carries out? It is indeed in two parts. One is proper financial monitoring; that is essential in view of the large sums of public money which are dealt with. There is also quality control, and it is not quite good enough to say of the Manpower Services Commission that they are but civil servants and therefore cannot look for quality. George Tolley, as the man who founded the Open Tech, took over at the beginning of this year responsibility for quality and I believe that we will see, from the results of the latest monitoring and from the way in which we are setting up project teams to look at quality, that the quality will improve and the Manpower Services Commission will make itself seen as a proper body to carry out such monitoring.

Throughout it all, perhaps I may say, our constant concern is with ethic minorities. It is not an easy problem to solve, and it is not one which lies totally within the hands of the Manpower Services Commission. The whole essence of the youth training scheme is that it is a voluntary scheme—voluntary for employers and voluntary for young people. In a way, as perhaps it should, it mirrors the rest of society, and when we have solved the problem of the ethnic minorities in the rest of society we will certainly have solved it in the youth training scheme. I hope that the youth training scheme can do something to reverse the process, by starting to lead, rather than to follow.

May I say to my noble friend, Lady Carnegy, to whom I am indebted for introducing me into this House only last week and who was a notable chairman of our committee for Scotland, that this country must have, and this Government certainly have, a long-term commitment to vocational training. I was privileged to be a member of the council of the National Economic Development Organisation and chairman of the Manpower Services Commission when we commissioned the Competence and Competition report. The gap it shows is one which I believe all members of our society are beginning to take seriously.

Of course, there is a difference between education and training. I became a solicitor. I am not too sure whether I was educated or trained in that craft. But what we have to do is to ensure that the fairly artificial boundaries that we created in the past are ones that merge imperceptibly together. I hope that our programmes—and here the Government can give a lead and I thought were—will bring together those in education and those in training, to realise that they have a common objective and a common purpose.

I have heard much during this debate about a shared status for young people—that is an aim that I would share. I may in a moment revert back to income because that poses a different order of problem. May I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Serota, about the fact that prospects for unskilled youth are indeed poor. The prospects for unskilled adults are poor. We live in a world where the prospects for those who are unskilled are, unfortunately, fewer and fewer.

Competence and Competition drew out the spectrum that exists. On the one side, there is Japan which, although it has a general education, has a highly specific and employer-led training programme. On my last visit there, there was pointed out to me by name the one individual who changed his employer—the one. It is a loss of face that is almost inconceivable in any other country. There it is perfectly proper and sensible for employers to invest a great deal of money in training their own employees, for they have the continued use and benefit of it.

At the opposite end of the spectrum is the United States of America, where I would probably have pointed out to me the one man who had stayed from the day of leaving school to the day of retirement in one company; where changing jobs is a way of life and where the whole process seems to go more and more towards individuals finding their own training and taking it with them when they leave. We, as in many other things in this world, are in the middle. Perhaps we have employers who are reluctant to spend money on training and we have individuals who are reluctant to assume that burden. That is the central dilemma.

I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Serota, for asking me not to tinker, although I was warned later on that I should tinker and I am not sure how much I should or should not do. May I say to my noble friend Lady Vickers that, unfortunately, I left my wand with me with my budget at the Manpower Services Commission. I come without a portfolio, but with more than good intentions and with some experience in the past and with the opportunity, I hope, to look at a number of the fields which we have discussed this evening.

There is considerable growth within the school system towards the objective of self-employment. No longer is it considered inconceivable or somehow improper that people should work for themselves. I have been to many schools up and down the land where at fifth form level, and even at sixth form level, projects are being undertaken to encourage young people to go off on their own; not that I believe for one moment that they should or could on leaving school, but to instil in them the virtues and objectives of working for yourself.

I believe that we have another problem—not perhaps within schools, but within our culture as a whole—that we should not equate service with being servile. If there is one shortage within the pysche of this country it is that for some reason we feel inhibited about providing service and feel that in some way it is servile. Perhaps the respected profession of a waiter across the Channel is not quite so respected in this country and it is a problem that we have to solve. But I should not like to take France as a model for technical and vocational education, though I much admire what they do. They have a common curriculum, the same subject is taught to the same age group at the same hour each week.

They have national service, but they have entirely different problems. There are some lessons to be learned, but not to be slavishly copied.

I appreciate the problems that we have in rural areas and the Manpower Services Commission and Ministers agreed only a few months ago to increase the travel threshold to £3 a week. That means that the Manpower Services Commission will pay all travel expenses over £3 and not just a travel allowance of £3. I have visited schemes where young people are getting very substantial sums indeed. There is much that could be learned from rural areas and one or two schemes are beginning to consider the use of buses to take the off-the-job training out to young people. I hope this is something that can be encouraged.

I listened very closely to what was said about Royal dockyards. My only immediate comment—and I will undertake to look into the matter—is that it is very important that we train for the skills that are likely to be required tomorrow. There are too many good training places in existence in this country, training the type of engineering skills which technology is taking out of utility. May I compliment the noble Baroness, Lady Lockwood, and say to her that her influence in this House is obviously all pervasive. After her days at the Equal Opportunities Commission, I looked at the speakers in today's debate and I realised that there is total parity. I agree with her on that. I agree with her totally on the sheer economic importance of training. If you like, the coin of profit has on one side of it productivity and on the other training, and it is only a combination of the two that will get us through.

It is slightly difficult to compare us with Germany. Germany has a tradition that has carried through with guilds and training, and we have to create one. But whatever training we have, it must be broad based and there must be flexibility for the future. The first year of the YTS is a start. If I may make one point in conclusion, I should like to proffer the advice to the noble Baroness that she should not be surprised by reports in The Times Educational Supplement.

The one theme which has run through this debate is the desire for common status and an allowance. Of course, I hope that we can see our way clear to some form of common status; but I would ask your Lordships to think again on the desire for an allowance. It seems to me that there is a great deal of difference between what a young person has to do in school in perhaps a 32-week year and what someone else has to do on the equivalent of a youth training scheme working three-quarters of a week and doing off-the-job training. The costs of education are very different from the costs of training. The contributions that people make are also different and it is a complex position.

We shall certainly look at it within the committee, but I would find some difficulty with the concept. May I say again that the whole problem of sex stereotyping is not one which I suspect can be solved on the youth training scheme. It is not one which I suspect can be solved in schools. But it is one that starts at the very beginning with life in the home.

Finally, may I say to the noble Lord, Lord Kilmarnock, that, rather as the distant rumbling of a summer storm, we hear again the sound of Mode B(1). The essential difference between the under-utilisation of B(1) and the under-utilisation of Mode A, which is the employer-based scheme, is that, at the most, Mode A would cost the Government £100, which is the managing agent fee, whereas under B(1) we have to ensure that the entire costs of a scheme and an empty place are actually met. I have another concern as well, which is that we ensure that the right people go into the right schemes; that there is a sufficient interchange and that those coming initially on a Mode B(1) type scheme will have the opportunity, not for promotion, but for change to a Mode A scheme, and that those coming initially on to a Mode A scheme have the opportunity to come back to a Mode B(1) scheme. I hope that the balance is about right, but I obtained assurances, which exist to this day, from Ministers at that time that if there is any shortgage it will be put right. That is a matter upon which I am quite sure noble Lords will keep a close eye. I have no doubt at all that Ministers and the Manpower Services Commission will hear about it.

In closing, may I point out that the funding of the Youth Training Scheme is slightly misunderstood. It is true that there is a budget and that an amount of money is allocated for it but it is a demand-led scheme. The amount of money which the MSC obtains for it is solely dependent upon the number of young people who enter the scheme. In the first year, the numbers going through it were reduced; because the original estimates were wrong, the figures had to be reduced. Secondly, they were reduced for motive which we certainly cannot criticise: that young people went into jobs. I hope that this year the figures will be closer. However, the only point to concern us is that the guarantee given by the Government that every eligibile young person who wants a place on the scheme will have a place by Christmas, is kept. Last Christmas about 1,500 people were still waiting to go on to the scheme. I hope that this Christmas, the numbers will be even better. This is the one figure which I hope will ensure that every young person who wants a place on the scheme will get it.

I am very grateful for this debate, from which I have learned a great deal. I thank noble Lords for bearing with me on this my first appearance at the Dispatch Box.

Lord Seebohm

My Lords, first may I thank everybody who has spoken in this debate. They have supported the report in, on the whole, an encouraging way. Secondly, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Young of Graffham, for his efforts on his initiation day. We were delighted to hear what he said. This may be the end of the debate in this House but it is only the beginning of the debate outside.

On Question, Motion agreed to.