HL Deb 27 November 1985 vol 468 cc896-901

2.47 p.m.

Lord Molloy

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

The Question was follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government what are their policies for the provision of youth employment in the major inner city areas in conjunction with training schemes and urban aid programmes.

The Secretary of State for Employment (Lord Young of Graffham)

My Lords, the regeneration of our inner cities is the key to employment for those who live there, including of course young people. The Government operate a range of programmes which contribute to that objective by promoting enterprise and generating employment.

Lord Molloy

My Lords, I am most grateful to the Minister for that reply. Does he not agree that the aid must match the need? Would it not be a good thing in addition for both private and public enterprises to be encouraged to give what help they can so that the dreadful period of unemployment we have seen recently will slowly abate?

Lord Young of Graffham

My Lords, I can only agree with the noble Lord, but it is of course quality of aid that is just as important as quantity. The Government are looking at the quality of the aid and the way in which it is provided as well as at the absolute amount of it.

Lord Rochester

My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that we on these Benches welcome the moves which the Government are apparently to make to encourage employers to take positive action in offering more jobs to people from the ethnic communities? Can the Minister assure the House that in doing so the Government will have particularly in mind the plight of young people in inner city areas?

Lord Young of Graffham

My Lords, the Government have in mind the plight of all young people in this country—whether they be in the city areas or in rural areas, and whether they be coloured and from the ethnic minorities, or not. It is important that we encourage all members of our community to enter into the enterprise culture. I suspect that in the inner cities it will be difficult to find employers who can give more jobs. What we shall have to do is encourage a sense of enterprise and self-employment, and encourage more small firms to bring back into the very centre of our cities that which created those cities in the first place; that is, a spirit of enterprise.

Lord Gisborough

My Lords, with regard to training schemes, does my noble friend the Minister not accept that there are a large number of young people who are not acceptable for training schemes by virtue of their poor performance or low ability? Will he consider setting up special training schemes to cater for those young people who are particularly difficult to fit in?

Lord Young of Graffham

No, my Lords. I refuse to accept that a large number of our young people are not acceptable on training schemes by reason of their inabilities. Many of our young, I suspect, may not have benefited from the 11 years of compulsory education which the state afforded them, but the fault lies not with them but with the education they received.

Lord Bruce of Donington

My Lords, will the noble Lord inform the House whether he is satisfied that the sources of venture capital to support new enterprises, particularly in these inner city areas, is adequate for the purposes he has in mind?

Lord Young of Graffham

No, my Lords, because we have two circumstances to contend with. One is the supply of venture capital and the other is the conditions of the inner cities to let enterprise flourish. I suspect that in many instances the level of rates and other activities in the inner cities are inimical to enterprise. We have to promote conditions which will let enterprise flourish and then ensure that we have an adequate supply of venture capital. The Government are addressing themselves to both those problems.

Lord Broxbourne

My Lords, arising from the previous supplementary question, is my noble friend the Minister familiar with—I am sure he is—the Pathway Employment Service operated by MENCAP to bring into open employment persons suffering from mental handicap? Does he appreciate that a measure of success has already been achieved? Will he lend his powerful and prominent assistance to these worthy endeavours?

Lord Young of Graffham

My Lords, I am well aware of that activity and I will do all I can to assist it, though I suspect that my noble friend overestimates my power and influence.

Baroness Seear

My Lords, does the noble Lord not agree that with regard to the category of youngsters to which the noble Lord, Lord Gisborough, referred—those who find it difficult to learn—the youth training schemes in category B, particularly those run by a number of voluntary organisations, are particularly appropriate? Will the noble Lord assure the House that there will be adequate resources for that category in the scheme?

Lord Young of Graffham

My Lords, I gladly give the noble Baroness that assurance. Of course they will be adequate. What we must ensure is that the successor scheme to the youth training scheme is a scheme that is employment based; that it is a scheme directed towards giving opportunity for employment to all young people. Those who suffer from some handicaps must of course have longer on the scheme than on the existing scheme, and I have no doubt they will have in the scheme to come. I assure the House and the noble Baroness that that will be so.

Baroness Phillips

My Lords, will the noble Lord accept that he has attacked the educational system, notably the teachers? The teachers have to struggle with an impossible situation which is not made any easier by the Government's refusal to accept their genuine case for some kind of recognition of their salaries.

Lord Young of Graffham

No, my Lords. I give no such assurance. What I did was defend the young of our country. I said that when we look at the quality of those who come out of school we should attack not the ability of our young but the quality of the teaching they receive. That, I believe, is something that most noble Lords will accept—that we should always blame the teacher and not the pupil. However, I stand open to correction, as I do on many other matters.

Lord Mackie of Benshie

My Lords, may I take it from the noble Lord's eloquent replies that he thinks there are no ethnic minorities in the inner cities who need special treatment?

Lord Young of Graffham

No, my Lords. Of course there are ethnic minorities as there are members of the general public in the inner cities, and outside, who need special treatment. There are many in our society who do. I was attempting to say that I suspect that if we look at the right kind of circumstances for young people which will motivate and guide them then we can—as the youth training scheme has adequately demonstrated—do much to restore all our young to a proper place in our society.

Lord Alexander of Porterhill

My Lords, will the noble Lord tell the House the extent of the reduction in the support by central Government of the educational system over the past 10 years? How many thousands of millions of pounds per annum less is it now than it was 10 years ago?

Lord Young of Graffham

No, my Lords, because that is not so. In terms of Government support per pupil, the amount has gone up year after year since 1979. In terms of teacher-pupil ratio it has gone down year after year. What we must never do—and what I hope your Lordships' House will never do—is confuse quantity with quality. We must ensure that the quality of teaching and the quality of the motivation of our young people get better. I am not sure that all noble Lords would agree that despite the additional spend over the years we are actually getting better value for it.

Lord Alexander of Potterhill

My Lords, will the noble Lord tell the House what is the percentage contribution to the education service by central Government this year as compared with 10 years ago?

Lord Young of Graffham

My Lords, I shall certainly write to the noble Lord and give him that figure, but I remind all in your Lordships' House that whether the contribution is made from central Government or from local government, it comes from the taxpayer and the ratepayer, and that it is our money. The source of it matters little. It is the quality and the use to which it is put that are important.

The Countess of Mar

My Lords, can the noble Lord say where this money is going to, because obviously it is not going into the schools? We have had reports of the large number of pupils in certain classes, especially for essential subjects such as English and mathematics; we have had reports of appalling conditions in school buildings; we have had reports of vandalism among young people because there are not enough people to look after them during the lunch hours, and so on. Can the noble Lord say whether the money has gone into administration or into practical teaching?

Lord Young of Graffham

My Lords, we have strayed a long way from the original Question. However, what I will say to your Lordships is simply that in England and Wales there are 104 employers in the world of education—the local education authorities. They receive the money, either from the ratepayers through the local rates or from central Government grants, and they ultimately take responsibility for the spend. The question should perhaps more properly be addressed to them.

Lord Molloy

My Lords, in acknowledging that this is a complex problem perhaps I may ask whether it is not a fact, despite the generous increase in urban aid during the past 12 months, that over the past three years, when this problem first started, that aid still constitutes a 13 per cent. reduction. In order to see that money is properly used, would it be possible for the Government to consider the establishment of an economic co-ordinating team to ensure that the right aid goes to the right place at the right time?

Lord Young of Graffham

My Lords, this is indeed a complex problem which, I suspect, cannot be explored in full during a Question. The facts are that the spend under the urban programme has increased between 1981–82 and this year from £210 million to £348 million, which I sense from my mathematics having benefited from a school education is a substantial increase, not a reduction. In certain partnership areas with which I am concerned as chairman of the city action teams we are now spending about £670 million on housing, the environment and employment. But neither the Government nor anyone in your Lordships' House would say that in spending all this money we are actually eliminating the problems. We are all concerned with the way in which we can improve the quality of our spend in order to begin to address ourselves to some very serious problems which exist in the inner urban areas and of which we have all become painfully aware over the past few months.

Lord Glenamara

My Lords, the noble Lord stressed the importance of small businesses, but in this context will he remember the other end of the scale? Is it not ironic that while the Government are rightly stressing and encouraging the formation of small businesses, at the other end of the scale businesses are swallowing up each other more quickly than ever before, usually to the detriment of the labour force? Can the noble Lord assure the House that when the Government are considering takeovers and amalgamations they will consider the effect on employment?

Lord Young of Graffham

My Lords, I can speak in your Lordships' House on many matters, but not on that particular one save to say that the only way in which employment will be maintained and even increased in this country is to concentrate on productivity and unit costs. I hope that the series of amalgamations which have been going on continually, at least for as long as I can remember, will have that as an objective.

Lord Molloy

My Lords, will the noble Lord say a brief word on whether it is possible to have some form of co-ordination on this difficult problem so that, as I have already said, we have the right aid at the right place at the right time? In my view, we should have a sensible co-ordinating committee, or examining committee, to see that that is achieved.

Lord Young of Graffham

My Lords, it is my task to co-ordinate Government activity in the inner cities. Yesterday I had a very hopeful meeting with the Association of Metropolitan Authorities. I found a great spirit of co-operation. I hope that we can move to seriously address ourselves to these problems.

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