§ 3.5 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for Employment (Lord Young of Graffham)
My Lords, with the leave of the House I shall now make a Statement on employment and training measures.
Unemployment has fallen for five consecutive months and is now down by more than 100,000. Vacancies are standing at their highest levels this decade. Our unit wage costs are now rising more slowly than the rate of inflation and are beneath those of our principal overseas competitors. We shall shortly be entering our seventh successive year of economic growth.
All this, building on the firm foundation of the million new jobs the economy has created since 1983, can only be good for employment. But with some skill shortages already emerging and unemployment at its present level there is no room for complacency. The Government have therefore reassessed the scope and direction of the employment, enterprise and training measures within existing departmental programmes. and as a result I am writing to the chairman of the Manpower Services Commission to ask the commission to undertake further measures that will give priority to our task to motivate and train unemployed people, particularly the younger generation, to fill the jobs that are now becoming available.
First, Restart is a success. By the end of March this year the Manpower Services Commission staff should have interviewed all the one and a quarter million people who will have been out of work for over a year. This has been an enormous task. I should like to pay tribute to our staff in the MSC. Not only for the 40,000 interviews a week that they have undertaken but for the enthusiastic and sensitive manner in which they are completing their task of offering advice and help to long-term unemployed people.
We can see already that this programme is bringing help and assistance to the long-term unemployed. In the latest figures long-term unemployment fell in three months by 7,000 when in the previous year it rose over the same period by 25,000. I am confident that this improvement will be maintained as the programme develops and as the economy continues to strengthen. No other industrialised nation provides such a package of individual help to each and every long-term unemployed person. But even this is not enough.
Last October, my noble friend the Leader of the House announced to your Lordships that the MSC would pilot, in nine areas, Restart interviews being offered to those out of work for six months or more. We thought that the earlier the help was received the more effective it would be. The results of these pilots have convinced us to extend the Restart counselling in two ways.
First, there will be an additional earlier interview. From the end of March everyone who becomes unemployed for more than six months will be invited to attend a Restart interview. But we have decided to go further and our second extension is to offer a Restart interview at regular six-monthly intervals. In the future there will be regular contact between 1333 Manpower Services Commission staff and unemployed people to help them, at different times and in different ways, back to work. The counselling interview is of course only the first step—though a vitally necessary one—in the process of getting the unemployed back into work. This brings me to the second of the new measures I am announcing today.
Last October my noble friend also indicated to your Lordships' House that the Manpower Services Commission would commence piloting an entirely novel training scheme designed specifically to meet the needs of those who have been out of work for six months or more. This scheme has three essential elements. It applies to those who have been out of work for the requisite period. It takes place on employers' premises and it must lead to recognised vocational qualifications.
The Manpower Services Commission has considered the pilots, and last week the commission endorsed the report of a working party on the shape of the new scheme. I wish to accept its recommendations in full. The commission is concerned that quality be pre-eminent and I agree completely. It is further concerned that quality dictates the speed of any extension and I again agree. As I agree that qualifications from recognised examining and validating bodies must be part of every individual programme. Indeed, these will be conditions of the job training scheme which will be available for people who come to their first six month Restart interview.
The reskilling of Britain is vital if we are to maintain our current economic progress and achieve the decline of unemployment. We have therefore decided that the new job training scheme should be expanded on a national basis to coincide with the extension of the Restart programme from March this year provided that the Manpower Services Commission can maintain quality in each area. With that very important proviso we will ask the Manpower Services Commission to provide up to 110,000 places by September of this year. This will mean that in a full year nearly a quarter of a million unemployed people will be given high-quality training in skills that will enable them to compete, and to compete successfully, for jobs in today's labour market. This will offer a fresh start, in particular to the under-25s. They must be our priority.
I have visited too many areas with high unemployment and heard too often many employers complain that they cannot find people with the right skills. I hope that this new training measure will play a major part over the next few years to provide the skills necessary to maintain our place in the world. It will, if the Manpower Services Commission can maintain the necessary quality of provision. I have every confidence that it can achieve that.
The job training scheme is for adults. My third announcement concerns young people. We are already ahead of most other countries in the steps we have taken in the last four years to train school-leavers, but there is a further step that I can announce today. The successful introduction of a two-year YTS last year enabled us to guarantee a place to every unemployed 18 year-old school-leaver. Indeed, out of 475,000 1334 school-leavers only 2,376 were still awaiting the offer of a place on this training programme by Christmas.
I propose to extend the guarantee of a place to every unemployed 17 year-old school-leaver. This will mean that each and every unemployed young person under the age of 18 is now guaranteed high-quality training leading to a recognised qualification. This guarantee is unequalled by any of our principal competitors. For the first time, from this Easter there need be no unemployment under 18 and anyone under that age who remains unemployed will have chosen to remain unemployed.
Finally, there will be a further increase in the enterprise allowance scheme. Over the last three and a half years more than 200,000 unemployed people have started to work for themselves under this programme. Self-employment is rapidly increasing in all parts of the country. Far from a North-South divide, the increase since 1979 has been greatest in Yorkshire and Humberside—77 per cent.—than it has been in any other region. The 43 per cent. increase in the northern region is close to the 46 per cent. increase in the South-East.
We are presently expanding the enterprise allowance scheme towards an annual target of 100,000 unemployed people setting themselves up in business. Next year that target will be increased to 110,000—an expansion of 10 per cent.—but here again I shall be asking the Manpower Services Commission to pay attention to quality and to the amount of help the new businessmen and women will have to help them succeed.
The measures I have announced today constitute a major redirection of our labour market programmes to help the unemployed back into real jobs. Unemployed people need practical help to get back into work and not empty promises to create millions of jobs on local authority payrolls. They need help and training to compete successfully for the jobs which are already becomng available. We need to have a workforce with tomorrow's skills to compete in tomorrow's world. That is what these new measures will help accomplish, and I commend them to your Lordships.
§ 3.15 p.m.
§ Lord Dean of Beswick
My Lords, let me commence by thanking the noble Lord for the Statement he has just made. I should like to take up two or three points with him because I think he will agree that it is a rather long Statement and half an hour does not allow very much time to absorb it. Of course I welcome his statement that since 1983 there have been a million new jobs created. It would be extremely churlish of me not to do so. But is it not a fact that recent Answers in your Lordships' House have shown quite clearly that the overwhelming number of these jobs—I think the last quotation was over 600,000 but fewer than 700,000—were in the service sector and the public sector? Desirable though that is, such jobs are not as important to the economy as manufacturing jobs.
Questions are also being raised across the political spectrum, and outside it, as to whether two years' training is long enough. I should like to ask the Secretary of State whether he is aware that in the 1335 building industry both the public sector and the private sector are of the opinion that the two-year scheme involved there is not producing the finished article and in fact is putting people into the building trade when they are not ready to be absorbed and cannot be gainfully used by the people who wish to do so.
It would be wrong of me not to press what I think is the weakness in the noble Lord's claim. I think it is an across-the-board criticism but I relate it mainly to his statement regarding young people. He said:For the first time, from this Easter there need be no unemployment under 18 and anyone under that age who remains unemployed will have chosen to remain unemployed".Is he saying that if they do not go on a training scheme they are in fact classed as refusing a job? If that is the case, I think that quite a number of young people would think they were being subjected to some sort of libel.
The whole tenor of the reduction in unemployment contained in the Statement makes the point that people on training schemes are deemed to be in employment. There is a philosophy that divides us. From my party's point of view and from my own, we do not consider those people to be in work at all. We think it is a welcome innovation, but it is completely wrong to class this type of activity as a job. The noble Lord stands accused—this has been referred to in one of the responsible papers this morning—of massaging the figures in order to get the number of unemployed below 3 million just prior to the run-up to the next general election.
Finally, may I ask the noble Lord how the funding for this will occur? He will be aware that quite a large number of people on the present training schemes receive no additional allowance other than their social benefits. Will a special allowance be paid to the new people who are being absorbed into this scheme in order to make it more financially attractive and to give them a chance to live with a little more dignity than some of them are now able to do?
I have made this point before, as have others from these Benches. I come from industry, like some other Members of your Lordships' House. While these training schemes are extremely welcome, even at their best they are not a substitute for jobs. I do not think the noble Lord today has been able to convince this side of the House that the economy is in the healthy state, or is making the rapid upturn, that he makes out in his Statement and that Minister are continually making out in another place.
§ Baroness Seear
My Lords, I should also like from these Benches to thank the Secretary of State for making his Statement. I apologise for not being in my place as he began to read his Statement. When I tell him, however, that I was engaged on vetting for an approved training scheme he will perhaps forgive me.
This Statement is welcome in very many ways. I do not wish to sound churlish if I say that I greatly welcome the fact that there will be earlier and more frequent interviews of people classed as long-term unemployed. These frequent interviews, starting earlier, should have taken place a very long time ago. It was a great pity that when the opportunity arose the 1336 Government cut the numbers employed in the jobcentres instead of keeping the staff there and enabling them in those years to get going on these interviews. Had that happened, it is very likely that far more people would have benefited from training by this time. However, better late than never and it is a very good thing indeed that this is being undertaken.
I do not entirely agree with the noble Lord, Lord Dean of Beswick, when he criticises the YTS and the other training schemes as being training rather than employment. The fact surely is that unless we give a good deal more training than we have given in the past, there is not a hope of these people getting into jobs. The two are closely related and training has to precede any opportunity of getting into jobs. In many parts of the country there are jobs available but the training has not been done. Therefore those jobs cannot be done. We are very late. The Statement says that we are doing more than our opposite numbers in other countries. That is true, but that is because they have done so very much more in the past and we are now busily engaged on catching up. However, there is much in this Statement that one must welcome.
I should like particularly to ask one or two questions about the job training scheme which is now coming in on a much larger scale. The Secretary of State has said that this scheme is to lead to real qualifications. It was, I think, six months or a year at the outside for people who have been long-term unemployed. Very many of the long-term unemployed are people who have never done any training before; they are people who have been in the ranks of the skilled, the unskilled or, at the most, semi-skilled. What real opportunity is there, honestly, to pretend that they are going to come back at the end of six months with something which is recognisable as a proper qualification of any kind? Can the Secretary of State tell us—this must have been discussed—how it is proposed to use this period so that it really will give them something approximating to a real qualification?
I should also like to ask how this is to be organised and financed. The Secretary of State says that it depends on the Manpower Services Commission being able to provide places of quality. This means, as I understand it, that employers will have to provide, as they are providing under the YTS, the bulk of that training. Many employers are now going full stretch to give the training that is required for the YTS, and that is highly desirable.
Is the Secretary of State satisfied that employers, with the present inducements offered to them, will be able to provide high quality training? And is it not time, if the Secretary of State is to rely on employers to give all this training—and this I think is right—that the financing of employers who are capable of giving real quality training is such that there really is an inducement for them to do it? They will not be training for themselves. They will be training for other people. When the Government say that employers should invest in training, that is true if they are training for themselves. But when they are training for other people they can reasonably expect good resources from outside.
§ Lord Young of Graffham
My Lords, I am indeed grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Dean of Beswick, for 1337 many of his points, though I suspect from the points he has made today that he should have a word with the leader of his party in another place. Let me say before he does that—and I shall explain in a moment—that I should like to make one point absolutely clear. It is wrong to imply that manufacturing jobs are vital to the future of the economy of this country and service jobs are not. It is simply that all jobs that create wealth are vital to the future of this country. That is the important thing. Whether that creation of wealth is in the service sector or in manufacturing, all jobs are vital.
The noble Lord said that the building trade is a case in point and he went on to say that he does not regard training schemes as being real jobs. I must tell your Lordships that the party opposite in its claim to reduce unemployment by 1 million—even though we who have seen 1 million jobs created in the past three years have also seen unemployment go up during that time—states that it will do so by putting the half a million unemployed building workers back to work.
I must tell the noble Lord that we have been approached by employers' associations and even by the unions, who say that we must have a great big drive to train more people in the construction industries; and we are. That is what this programme will provide and there, I suspect, disappearing in a puff of smoke, go those half a million unemployed. Then if you look at the next category there are 300,000 jobs on training schemes. I suspect that the party opposite values training schemes, as we do if we are to be concerned for the future, because as a result of this measure that I have announced today, by 1991 there will be 1 million more skilled people in the British economy. That is something that we would surely all applaud.
The noble Lord also asked whether I was implying that young people under the age of 18 who did not take part in the YTS would be regarded as unemployed or were being libelled. There is no compulsion. We are saying to young people under 18–16 and 17 yearolds—"When you leave school, you have a guaranteed offer of a place on the YTS." If they choose idleness instead, I regret it. In the course of time I think they will regret it. But it is a matter for them. I suspect that none of them will. When they see and hear what is happening to their fellows, all will come in. I very much hope that that will be the case and I live in anticipation of it.
Of course unemployed people require a special allowance. They will be paid their travelling expenses. But this is, if you like, a partnership between the employers, the unemployed and government. And we are saying to the unemployed, "Come and work for the same money that you are getting at benefit levels, which varies according to your personal circumstances and travelling." Employers will contribute the accommodation and government will provide for the cost of training. As result of that, what we have seen in our pilot schemes leads me to believe that there will be no shortage of young people, or of older people, coming forward to enter the scheme.
I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Seear. I accept what she said as a supreme political compliment—better late than never. I recall being 1338 attacked in your Lordships' House for Restart and being accused of all sorts of things. I am glad it is now so accepted and that I am being gently chastised for not having done it years ago. But at no time in the past did the employment programme introduce or contemplate anything like this.
The noble Baroness was quite right to ask what qualifications can be obtained in six months. Noble Lords may be interested to know that, in the category of those who have been out of work for more than six months and who are under 25, no fewer than 29 per cent. have A-levels or their equivalent. What we are talking about are real, valid vocational qualifications.
I am today writing to the chairman of the Business and Technician Education Council, the City and Guilds and the Royal Society of Arts, saying that this programme will be directed towards qualifications produced by them and by the other validating bodies. We are not in the business of producing new qualifications. We are in the business of helping people to take the existing vocational qualifications, all of which are now being ordered by the National Council of Vocational Qualifications, which is assessing qualification levels.
Finally, I was asked whether the employers will contribute and whether they will afford it. I believe that all in your Lordships' House will be pleased to know that this is not my scheme. It is a scheme that has been agreed by the Manpower Services Commission at its last commission meeting. It is one that has been approved by the employers—by the CBI; it is one that has been approved by the trade unions and it is one that has been approved by education and local authority interests. We have seen no shortage of employers coming forward. We have seen no shortage of young people coming forward, and in the pilots alone over 1,000 people are today on the programme. I believe that we are entering a new era, in which we will give the young and the old in this country a way back towards tomorrow's skills and, I hope, tomorrow's jobs.
§ Lord Boyd-Carpenter
My Lords, is my noble friend aware that, in contrast to the somewhat grudging response of the noble Lord, Lord Dean of Beswick, there are many of us who welcome enormously this carefully worked out, detailed and very important scheme which he has announced and which, despite his modest rejection of the suggestion, many of us know owes a great deal to his own personal intervention, care and experience? Is my noble friend aware—I am sure he is—that those of us who have some experience in industry know that one of the problems is the lack of availability of sufficiently trained labour to fill vacancies, and that the unemployment figures are inflated as a result of that? Is he aware that it seems clear from his Statement that that problem will be very substantially dealt with in the future?
In response to the comment of the noble Lord, Lord Dean of Beswick, that a place on a training scheme is no substitute for a job, is he aware that he is doing a much better turn, particularly to a young person, in giving that young person training which will fit him for a job for life rather than putting him into a temporary job with no economic purpose which is funded by large public expenditures?
§ Lord Young of Graffham
My Lords, I find it difficult to dissent from anything my noble friend has said.
§ Lord Dean of Beswick
My Lords, is the Minister guaranteeing everybody a job for life, on the basis of what the noble Lord has said?
§ 3.30 p.m.
§ Lord Hatch of Lusby
My Lords, the noble Lord the Minister has added to his Statement a number of comments of his own. He made an electoral preface to the Statement itself in that he claimed that unemployment had fallen over the last few months. Can he tell the House what the figures would have been and whether unemployment would have fallen if the criteria for counting the unemployed had not been changed over the last five years?
At the same time, the noble Lord said that our competitors, particularly in Europe, showed a very favourable figure. I have asked before whether or not he can tell us what other industrial countries have a lower unemployment percentage than this country. His previous answer to that question was, "Spain and Portugal". Has the Minister been able to find any other countries where unemployment is not lower than it is in this country?
In the Minister's peroration he spoke about economic growth and added further comments contrasting service and manufacturing jobs. Can he tell us whether this economic growth of which he boasts includes an increase over the past year in manufacturing production and production of wealth? Does he not agree that the number of service jobs depends directly on the number of manufacturing jobs that can be created?
§ Lord Young of Graffham
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Hatch of Lusby. No doubt the recent economic news is somewhat depressing to the noble Lord. However, I do not think we should enter into a general economic debate at this time. May I just say that it is true that during the last three years we have been losing manufacturing jobs at the rate of 8,000 a month. I am sure that all your Lordships will recall that for the entire decade between 1966 and 1976 we were losing manufacturing jobs at a rate of 10,000 a month. The entire industrialised world is losing manufacturing jobs, and I suspect it will continue losing manufacturing jobs because that is the way in which technology changes.
It is not true to say that service jobs depend on an increase in manufacturing jobs. It is true to say that the health of an economy depends upon sufficient wealth creation in the economy to at least match wealth consumption. Alas, for some decades after the war we were better at wealth consumption than we were at wealth creation.
The noble Lord, Lord Hatch, will be delighted to know that the OECD recently revised the unemployment statistics, so he will soon have another target to talk about. They now agree that the rate of unemployment in the United Kingdom is 11.1 per cent., which is what we say it is. One of the reasons why we have this problem of high unemployment is 1340 that we have had such a legacy of decades of neglect—and I mean that. When we look at the way unemployment has gone in the last five years, we are actually doing rather well.
§ Lord Renton
My Lords, is my noble friend aware that physically and even mentally handicapped people have a contribution to make towards the prosperity of industry within the limitations of their skills? Can he give an assurance that it will continue to be government policy to do all that can be done to help to train such people?
§ Lord Young of Graffham
Yes, my Lords. Certainly so far as disabled younger people are concerned we shall maintain the present position under which young people can enter YTS one day short of their 22nd birthday and under which they will have an adequate time on the scheme to make up for a more difficult learning period. I am also proud of the work which Remploy's sheltered workshops have done, and the work which has been pioneered recently by the Manpower Services Commission in providing sheltered placement to enable disabled people to work among non-disabled people, which is far better for them than working in areas where everyone is disabled. There is a great deal to be done in this area. Disabled workers are good workers. The Fit for Work Award scheme gets more popular each year. We shall certainly never nelgect our disabled workers.
§ Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos
My Lords, the noble Lord has made yet another Statement in a series which he has made on training since he became Secretary of State for Employment. As my noble friend has said, we warmly welcome all constructive training plans which the Government introduce, and we shall support them.
However, is the noble Lord aware that he is in grave danger of creating a mood of euphoria in this country based on the belief that by creating opportunities for training he is also creating jobs? Is he aware that he is doing no such thing? The Minister should tell the House where the jobs are; how many real jobs the Government are creating; and whether they can guarantee real jobs in manufacturing industry. Is he aware that it is absurd to suggest that jobs in service industry are of the same value as jobs in manufacturing industry? Is he aware that the root of the economic difficulties of this country is that the Government have failed to create jobs in manufacturing industry, and that we are approaching a disastrous position?
It is of course true to say that jobs in service industry are valuable. Everyone knows that. However, they are not comparable to jobs in manufacturing industry. The noble Lord should be aware of that and make it plain to the public. Furthermore, can he tell the House whether it is true that this new scheme he has announced is properly funded and that it has not been rushed through, as has been reported in the press this morning, in order to push unemployment below 3 million—for electoral purposes—by the summer? Is he aware that the future of our young people and the provision of proper jobs for them is more important than party politics?
§ Lord Young of Graffham
My Lords, there is no doubt that good economic news does not strike joy into everyone's heart. We can sometimes see that happening. If we have economic difficulties, it is because the party opposite fails to understand that there is absolutely no difference between the service sector and the manufacturing sector; that a hotel in any area which is earning foreign exchange by taking in overseas visitors is just as valid a method of wealth creation as any factory that exports goods; and that what we must look at time and time again is whether or not we have wealth creation within our society. Whether that wealth is created by manufacturing widgets or producing services is immaterial. So long as we do that properly and create wealth, that is where we have to be and that is where we have to go. I challenge the noble Lords opposite to find any economy in the world in which manufacturing employment is increasing. The noble Lord should have listened to the leader of the party opposite when he spoke to the Welsh TUC and said that even if they came back, they could not guarantee to provide any more manufacturing jobs.
The one canard that I tire of is being told time and time again that these measures are being introduced to bring unemployment under 3 million. I can do no more than quote the National Westminster Bank when is said yesterday that unemployment would be 2.9 million by the end of this year, 2.7 million by the end of next year and 2.4 million the year after that. It seems to me that most commentators are deciding that the economy is growing and that unemployment is coming down.
Perhaps I can reassure noble Lords opposite on how much of this is real and how much is imagined. Out of the fall in the unemployed of 107,000 in the last five months, fewer than 30,000 result from an increase in those coming under special measures. The rest is due to the growth of the economy.
§ Lord Harmar-Nicholls
My Lords, is my noble friend aware that if international comparison is to form the basis for a judgment on this problem, in this country, per 1,000 of population, more people are in employment than in any other European country except Denmark? That has been the case, not three to six months before an election, but for the last three to four years.
§ Lord Young of Graffham
Yes, my Lords. I occasionally remind all in your Lordships' House that whereas France and Germany have 59 per cent. and 60 per cent. of those of adult age in employment, and the average for Europe is 58 per cent., we have 65 per cent. in employment. We have managed to produce more jobs for our working population than any other major country in Europe. We are very close to the figure in the United States of America.
§ Lord Ross of Marnock
My Lords, could the noble Lord say whether the polytechnics and colleges of further education which were set up or restructured some 20 years ago are playing a part in these retraining schemes? Is he satisfied that they are making the contribution that they were intended to make when they were set up and restructured?
§ Lord Young of Graffham
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, but there is a considerable difference between a polytechnic and a college of further education. The area to which the job training scheme is primarily directed—the qualifications of B.Tech., City and Guilds, and RSA—is suited to colleges of further education. I very much hope that they will play an important role in this as they have in YTS, and they are beginning to respond much more today to the needs of industry.
§ Lord Ross of Marnock
My Lords, will the noble Lord at some time or other produce statistics for Scotland? Is he aware—
§ Lord Rochester
My Lords, are the Government proposing to take any further action to ensure that those who will be responsible for giving the counselling in the additional interviews that are now to take place under the Restart scheme, and for the long-term unemployed, will themselves receive adequate training in counselling?
§ Lord Young of Graffham
My Lords, yes. The Manpower Services Commission will have a further 700 members of staff. Training programmes set up by the Manpower Services Commission have been in progress since the scheme first started last year, and these will continue.
§ Lord Ross of Marnock
My Lords, I wonder whether the Minister will produce some of these figures specifically for Scotland? Is he aware that the optimistic figures he produced in relation to the fall of unemployment in the country—
§ Lord Ross of Marnock
My Lords, it may not suit noble Lords to hear bad news. Is the Minister aware that the figures of unemployment he produced, rather gaily I thought, in respect of improvements are not duplicated in Scotland, where unemployment is rising? Has he heard of Caterpillar? Has he heard of the Lower Clyde? Has he heard of Babcock? In the past month, one after the other they have produced figures of tremendous unemployment.
Let me welcome the fact that he has given 1¼ million interviews. Is that not great—that he has interviewed people? There was a time when this was done automatically at the old labour exchanges. It is what follows these interviews that really matters. I want the figures for Scotland. I want the figures in relation to Jobstart interviews. I want to get the training figures, and I want to get the results of the training.
At that point the Minister gave things away: after they get these qualifications they may be fitted for real jobs. How many real jobs have come so far? What is the proportion? I think the point raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, is correct. Are people going to get qualifications to fit them for life after six months? That is utter nonsense; it is eyewash. I want to know if he really believes that.
1343 The question of colleges was raised. We are closing colleges. Have we got the colleges in Scotland? They have already spilled over into education colleges in Ayr. But the Government have been closing down education colleges, although the chance to use them for proper training is there. In that he is doing good in training, this is a reflection on our education system and shows how wrong we have been.
§ 3.45 p.m.
§ Lord Young of Graffham
My Lords, I must confess that I do not appreciate the use of the term "eyewash" to describe what is a real training measure. It is true that for the past four or five months unemployment has been rising in Scotland. Scotland has suffered the brunt of the closures in the North Sea oil industry; but there was a period of many months before that when unemployment in Scotland was declining. Nobody took great pains to point out that at the time when I announced figures. Nobody in your Lordships' House came to me and said that although unemployment went up in the United Kingdom please note that it went down in Scotland.
I appreciate that there have been closures at Caterpillar, but it occurs to me—and I will write to the noble Lord with the name—that there was the announcement of the opening of a firm of 2,500 people in Scotland last week. I read that Ford are taking on a thousand more people this week. I read that Jaguar are taking on 700 more people this week. I have continually read of closures over the past five months, and yet unemployment has fallen by 100,000. I suspect that many of us in your Lordships' House would do well if we occasionally said to ourselves that perhaps—just perhaps—the economy is improving, and just perhaps there are more jobs about.
§ Lord Elliott of Morpeth
My Lords, is my noble friend aware that that part of his Statement which suggested the achievement in percentage terms of near balance between the employment position in Humberside and the South of the country will help further to dispel the very damaging suggestion that there are two nations within the one?
§ Lord Young of Graffham
My Lords, I think I should just say I am not too sure whether that will dispel the notion. My right honourable friend the Paymaster General, when he was in Yorkshire yesterday, pointed out that the increase in self-employment was 77 per cent. since 1979. "Ah, well", a Yorkshireman said, "that just shows you how many people here have been driven into working for themselves." There is no pleasing some people.
My Lords, when a long-term unemployed person has been through the Restart process, then fails to get a job and returns to the register, is that person no longer regarded in the category of long-term unemployed? To what extent is that a factor in the announcement of the reduction in the long-term unemployed to which the Minister referred?
§ Lord Young of Graffham
My Lords, anybody going to the Restart interview or going on a short Restart 1344 course returns to the register but if he does not find a job or goes into a Jobclub, he returns as long-term unemployed. If someone leaves the register entirely because he goes on a six months' training programme he is no longer available for work and gets training allowance and not unemployment benefit; and if at the end of that period he is unfortunate enough not to find work he comes back on the register as an ordinary unemployed person. Since Restart has been going, there cannot be many people who have gone off on a six months' training programme and returned to the register. The vast difference in long-term unemployed is because we are helping long-term unemployed people back into work.
§ Lord Beswick
My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that he would create much more confidence on this side if he did not overgloss the situation? Although he says that in no other country have they got these job retraining schemes, is it not a fact that in our principal competitors countries, for example Japan, these lads would have remained at school until the age of 18? Is it not a fact that so far as concerns them they are turning out trained engineers from their colleges and universities? We have not done that, and we are reducing instead of increasing. Is not this long-term degeneration of our training system something about which we should be concerned?
§ Lord Young of Graffham
My Lords, I wish the noble Lord would not refer to a sober statement of fact as a gloss. When I said that our principal competitors do not run schemes as we do, I meant every word of it. I am talking about schemes such as Restart, in which we bring in the unemployed for interview and offer no less then eight different items of help to all the long-term unemployed. Nobody has yet tried to do that. We have done it, and we are improving on it.
The education system, I suspect, leaves a great deal to be desired; and far too many people leave school with little to show for 11 years of compulsory education. But schools are the responsibility of local education authorities and we should be very careful to apportion the credit, and otherwise, where they lie. There are many aspects that we have to make better but we have started the process of getting people back to work and I am sure that all in your Lordships' House will welcome that.