HL Deb 27 November 1991 vol 532 cc1355-78

5.51 p m.

Lord Beaumont of Whitley rose to call attention to the problems affecting the provision of youth training; and to move for Papers.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I draw your Lordships' attention to the fact that I have drafted the Question on the Order Paper so that the words "youth" and "training" have lower case initial letters in order that we shall be able to spread the debate quite widely if noble Lords should wish to do so, although I am aware that most of those who are to speak will, like myself, home in on the workings or non-workings of the Government's youth training scheme.

There are certain basic statements bearing on this matter to which the overwhelming majority of citizens of western democracies would subscribe today and would have subscribed over the past 50 years. One is that in order to survive and be prosperous society needs to employ the capabilities of all its citizens. I quote the words of Professor Whitehead: In the conditions of modern life the rule is absolute, the race which does not value trained intelligence is doomed. Not all your heroism, not all your social charm, not all your wit, not all your victories on land and sea can move back the finger of fate".

Although Professor Whitehead may have meant that to apply largely to an intellectual elite, the intellect of society is found in all its members, at all levels. If a society is to be successful, it should be fostering those intellects in all its people, however low down they may be on the intellectual or social scale.

The second and complementary statement with which I suggest that almost all would agree is that the citizens of this society are entitled to the opportunity to work at a useful job and to the opportunity to train for such work. Society has a duty to see that they have that opportunity. Of course there are people with extreme Right-wing views on economics and society who would maintain that it is not a matter for government. (Indeed, there are some who say that there is no such thing as society.) However, that would not be the consensus which is deeply rooted in the Judaeo-Christian philosophy of the duty of society to the individual which we inherit in this House.

However, it is not merely a matter of positive advantages which accrue to both society and the individual by encouraging the opportunities for people to work creatively. There are also the negative results which are possibly even more moving, or at least they tend to move government rather more. If you do not provide work and training for work, you end up with poverty, with all that that implies: poor education, slums, poor health, a higher death rate and everything which goes with poverty and the creation of a subclass of society.

The second matter which goes along with poverty—not entirely but to a certain extent—is crime. If people do not have work that they can do which they value and do not receive the training so that they can have such work, they will take to crime; and it will be by no means the least intelligent who will feel that they must do something and will find their stimulus in crime.

It leads also to drugs. That is largely due to an inability to find work worth doing. If anyone believes that poverty leads, as has sometimes been thought romantically, to a sense of community, they cannot have much experience of it because poverty divides people. Community comes from a certain ability to live on a par with your neighbour without jealousy or want.

The Government accept these basic principles or they would not have a youth training scheme. We must assume that they intend that scheme to work, not least from their fairly frantic claims time and time again—I expect we shall hear them again this evening but I hope we shall not—that it is working. It is not working. As a result of the dispute on that matter which grows between the Government on the one hand and the whole of the rest of the country on the other, enough figures to demonstrate the degree to which it is not working have emerged—sufficient, I suspect, for the Government to begin to admit it. What better occasion on which to start admitting it than this evening?

For example, I have up-to-date figures for Greater Manchester. The figures are supplied by Church Action on Poverty, which has a wide range of contacts. On 14th November there were 3,088 16 and 17 year-olds not in education, unemployed, not on a youth training scheme, registered with the careers service and willing to take up a YT scheme place if offered it. I hope that the figure of 3,088 will not be dismissed by the Minister as similar figures were dismissed last week by a Minister in another place as "excessively clear". I am not entirely sure how one can be "excessively clear" in one's figures on such matters.

Many other figures were supplied to me but that one is not untypical. The shortfall of jobs and opportunities is not surprising when we consider the state of the labour market and the economy. But the fact remains that sufficient valid and useful youth training schemes are not forthcoming and it is wilful to pretend that they are.

The effect of the shortage of jobs and training places is much as one would expect given the social security arrangements in the area. It must be remembered that many of the youths left home for reasons not entirely of their own making; some of the women are pregnant. I understand that the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chester is to give us some information and discuss the difficult problems and horrible cases that exist of people who suffer from being caught in that trap. Not least among those who are caught are the employers. They suffer financial disadvantages under the present scheme if they take on many people with disadvantages.

Considerable credit should be given to the Government for introducing the scheme. Basically it is an imaginative one. If it worked, on the face of it we would welcome what it is doing, though I suspect our society's malaise is such that if we are to crack the problem completely we need to go much deeper than a Conservative government are ever likely to go.

A certain amount of credit should be given to the Government. But the scheme is not clear where the role of government ends and the role of employers and charities starts or stops. I mentioned the strain placed on employers in making their decisions; equally, strains are placed on charities. One major national voluntary body discovered that its contribution to the schemes that it started has now risen to 51 per cent. of the total cost. We must ask whether that is what the Government intend. We must ask whether the charity, with all the good will in the world, is right to spend the money it receives in that way or the Government right to place the responsibility on its shoulders.

Another charity, the Children's Society, has pointed out that: The system assumes, in its procedures, structures and benefit levels, that all 16/17 year-olds should he living at home with their parents, in spite of the fact that many do not have secure family backgrounds". As I say, that is often not the fault of the children. The society points out further that, It assumes that if young people fail to provide for themselves, or to be provided for, it is their fault. It assumes that they do not need as much to live on as someone a few years, or even a few months, older".

It almost reaches the stage where it assumes that they do not need any money at all.

The Campaign for Work has summed up the situation by saying: The Government's policies are perpetuating cultural norms which act as barriers to the creation of a high-quality workforce. Young people are seen as a flexible and cheap source of labour by employers, to he employed during the upturn and discarded during the downturn. In other countries, young people are seen as a vital resource to be nurtured and developed".

My primary incentive in tabling the Motion stems from my interest and involvement in the work of Church Action on Poverty. But it is an area where both the heart and the head should join. We are neither looking after these youths, nor providing adequate training and instruction for the growth of our economy. I beg to move for Papers.

6.6 p.m.

The Lord Bishop of Chester

My Lords, I wish to call attention specifically to one of the points mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont. I am grateful to him for introducing the debate in the way that he did. My point concerns the training of young people with additional or special needs.

As the noble Lord said, an immense problem exists due to the fact that payments must be output related. In most cases that means an attainment of national vocational qualifications at level two or three although in some cases it is possible to pay at level one. That makes employers hesitate when dealing with people with needs.

Some schemes exist explicitly for young people with additional needs. The societies working in that line find the problems faced by young people are as much social as they are educational—emotional/ behavioural problems, attendance at court, family problems, persistent absenteeism and so on, including, in one of the National Children's Projects, four people with no homes. If they were not on the scheme, they would receive no income.

One boy was referred by the social services because of sexual abuse. One pregnant girl is not regarded by employers as likely to have output-related income. The scheme therefore took her in and carries her in its voluntary work. If she was not on the scheme, she could be eligible for £15 bridging allowance but no more, and would not be eligible for income support until 11 weeks before the birth.

The noble Lord, Lord Beaumont, mentioned one of the voluntary societies leading the field and the increase in its costs over the past three years from 39 per cent. to 51 per cent. Not only does it regard that as increasingly unjust and unfair in connection with its subscribers, but it is now reassessing whether to continue in the work at all. That would be a terrible loss. At the moment it is investing £850,000 a year in special work for young people with additional needs.

The balancing of principle and compassion is complicated in every sphere of life that we touch. There are seldom simple answers. There is no simple answer here. Very few TECs have made any real attempt to understand the requirements of young people with special training needs or to take action. Will the Government undertake to urge all TECs to tackle that area seriously, and in particular to encourage them to provide far more substantial financial input to the excellent schemes mounted by voluntary societies for young people with additional needs?

6.9 p.m.

Lord Rochester

My Lords, I very much welcome this debate. I propose to speak only briefly like the right reverend Prelate because in the debate on unemployment two weeks ago I talked largely about training, including training for young people. I am delighted to follow the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chester. I was about to call him "my Bishop.' but that may sound a little too possessive. I live in his diocese and I have the best possible reason for knowing of his interest in education and training matter. and in matters of wider social concern which he has expressed again today. I particularly agreed with what he had to say about young people having special needs and I propose to say a little about that from my own experience.

It seemed to me that I could best contribute to the debate by gaining a closer understanding of what is happening in the area in which I live. I have therefore been in touch with the training manager of the North & Mid-Cheshire Training & Enterprise Council—NORMID TEC, for short. She has told me (for it is a lady) that in that area about half the total number of 16 and 17 year-olds seeking a training place under the youth training scheme find one with an employer and often a large employer like ICI. Those young people are well looked after in the quality of both the training and the work experience that is provided by the employer.

The difficulty arises with those receiving training from other providers such as colleges of further education and trusts. For that training to have sufficient value it must include adequate work experience. Smaller firms in the area are suffering greatly from the continuing recession, being unable to take on more employees and in some cases having to make existing employees redundant.

In those unhappy circumstances they are understandably reluctant or unable to give trainees the work experience that they need. That in turn means that those undergoing training cannot obtain a national vocational qualification and their employment prospects therefore suffer. Smaller employers are also experiencing difficulty in paying the employer's contribution to the overall costs of training. There is a further knock-on effect in that training providers, unable to find employers who will provide work experience places, feel that they cannot take on more trainees; there are simply too many in the pipeline.

The TEC of which I am speaking is doing its best to overcome these problems by means of various initiatives. Members of the board are making direct approaches to employers. Limited financial subsidies are being offered to training providers to help them meet the additional demand on their resources and so on. But to the extent that in the situation that I have described it is not at present possible to provide every eligible 16 and 17 year-old with a training place, the Government's youth training guarantee is not being fulfilled. In that I very much agree with my noble friend Lord Beaumont.

I hope that that is an accurate summary of what is actually happening in north and mid-Cheshire. My purpose today is primarily to recount the facts. But of course the question arises as to how the Government can ensure that what the noble Viscount told me two weeks ago in our debate on unemployment actually comes to pass. Perhaps I may remind him of what he said: Under the YT guarantee all young people aged 16 and 17 who are not in a job or full-lime education are guaranteed the offer of a place on YT. The Government are fully committed to the guarantee and will continue to deliver it". He went on: I can say that no TEC will he prevented by lack of resources from meeting the guarantee".—[Official Report, 13/11/91; col. 621.] It seems that if that unequivocal commitment is to be met, then in Cheshire at least more resources will have to be provided. I have no difficulty with that, for it is part of the policy of investment for long-term sustainable growth that must be undertaken if we are to alleviate unemployment and improve our productivity and competitiveness.

To judge from a report in yesterday's Financial Times TECs are experiencing similar problems in taking up the 27,000 training credits the Government are offering to young people who have left school this year. Speaking last Monday at the launch of the second tranche of credits to be awarded to TECs, the Secretary of State is reported to have said that more young people than expected had stayed on at school or gone into further education. They had therefore not taken up the option of a training credit. On the other hand, the chief executive of Kent TEC, which I understand has had only a 15 per cent. take-up of its 3,000 credits, has said that the fundamental problem is that employers are not taking people on. However it has arisen, the present shortfall will not, I fear, help to allay the fears of TECs and training providers that their resources may prove inadequate to meet the Government's YT guarantee.

As the noble Viscount knows, and like the right reverend Prelate, I am concerned about a further problem affecting the training of young people; namely, the scarce resources available for those with special needs, for example, to improve literacy and numeracy. I have talked before of how youth training in an admirable centre catering for such people near my home has recently had to end altogether owing to a government-induced cut in the centre's budget. I shall not elaborate on that further now except to remind the Minister of the recent recommendation of the National Council for Voluntary Organisations that public funds should be ring-fenced to accommodate people with special training needs, and that TECs, employers and training providers should be given financial incentives to target those needs.

I do not know how many of your Lordships have seen a copy of the letter sent to the Secretary of State earlier this month by the Chairman of the House of Commons Employment Committee. Its contents are based on responses received by 1st November last from 69 TECs in England and Wales to inquiries made by the committee concerning the youth and employment training guarantees. No doubt some of those responses are by now out of date, but they lead me to think that the current anxieties of the North and Mid-Cheshire TEC to which I have referred have wider application, as my noble friend Lord Beaumont asserted.

I understand that today Members of the Employment Select Committee in another place have been seeing the Secretary of State to discuss these very issues. It will be interesting to learn in due course whether the additional planned increase in expenditure on Department of Employment programmes recently announced for next year will in practice enable TECs to fulfil the youth training guarantee. I very much hope that it will.

6.20 p.m.

Lord Northbourne

My Lords, I must apologise to the House and to the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley, for not being in my place earlier in the debate. That was due to the combination of a prior engagement and the vagaries of the Circle Line.

I want to make it clear from the start that I very much support the Government's initiatives in relation to training. Although it would have been better if they had been taken sooner, they are immensely necessary and desirable. I wish to spend just a few moments referring to some of the young people who are still slipping through the net. The noble Lord, Lord Rochester, has referred already to young people with special needs. The particular group I had in mind are children who have truanted from school during the last one, two or even three years of their school lives. Very often they come from families where they lack parental support and where they have a low level of self-confidence and motivation. As the noble Lord, Lord Rochester, said, these young people deserve support. They are handicapped and are just as deserving of support as physically handicapped people.

The first and most important thing they need is motivation. In this respect I should like to refer to the Government's report Education and Training for the 21st Century. It states at the beginning, and quite rightly: There are still young people leaving school without the motivation to continue learning". The problem is that the Government's policy of motivating these young people while they are still at school does not work if they have stopped being at school. Within the same document the Government refer to measures designed to encourage the improvement of the quality of the curriculum. Indeed we have all been very much involved in debates on the national curriculum. If the curriculum can be seen by young people to be more relevant, the level of truanting will undoubtedly be reduced, although I am sure it will never be eliminated. We are still left with the problem of young people who have been truanting over the past three or four years and will be truanting over the next two or three years, perhaps before all these changes have effect. For them the key role falls to the careers service.

My experience of the careers service is relatively limited. The people I have met in the careers service have seemed to be dedicated to doing their job as well as they possibly can within the resources that are available, but the resources are never adequate. Perhaps I may quote again from the report. It states on page 5: We will strengthen careers advice and vocational work in schools". I repeat the point that it is no use doing that in schools if the children are not there. What these young people need at the age of 16 is for the careers service to be able to make contact with them. The careers service is trying to do that but a great deal more could be done, particularly if the access points were in some cases less threatening.

I had an opportunity the other day to visit the careers centre at Stepney Green. It is located in a fine William and Mary house. There is a half flight of beautiful stone steps, and probably a couple of stone lions. I was almost frightened to walk up those steps and push open that swing door. I am sure that a young person who is rather alienated from school and from society would never walk through that door. The careers service has to set itself up in an unthreatening environment which young people feel safe to approach.

The careers service must also convince these young people that training is worth while for them. In that context some kind of aptitude testing, which is not at the moment done, may be relevant. Modern aptitude testing is quite a sophisticated science. In addition to the objective value, it might also be useful in convincing young people that they are capable of doing something. So many of them lack that self-confidence. There has to be a perceived relevance to the training courses on offer. Hidden in there somewhere has to be the possibility of topping up skills not fully achieved because of truanting without a total loss of face. If you are a macho 16 year-old Cockney kid on the streets of east London you are not going to be seen walking through a door marked "Reading and Writing"; you are not prepared to admit that you cannot read and write. But if somewhere built into your course is a unit called "Business Studies", which is in fact reading and writing and perhaps elementary computer work, you can achieve those skills without a loss of face.

Finally, there is a need for follow-up support through something like a tutorial system for young people who do not have family support. Someone has to see them into the training scheme and talk to them now and again to see how they are getting on. When they fall out of the training scheme because they do not like the face of the man who is teaching them, or for whatever reason, someone should be there to pick up the pieces, go through the problem with them and help them get into another scheme. In this respect there is a great role for volunteer befrienders. Befriending is an important voluntary function which the Government are supporting through the Safer City Scheme. They are wise to do so and I would encourage them to do so even more.

Some additional resources would be required to look after these young people. What a worthwhile investment that would be. But it would be wasted if while they were on their training scheme they were under intolerable stress because they did not have anywhere to live. The problem of accommodation is peripheral to the issue we are discussing today. Young people come out of children's homes and are put into single room flats. They may be lonely and lack help, support and guidance. Still worse is the situation of children who are thrown out of their family homes, for either good or bad reasons, and are left on the streets with literally no visible means of support except, if they are lucky enough to get on to a training scheme, the £25 a week that that entitles them to. Those young people need not only accommodation but companionship, guidance and support. Why are we prepared to give these facilities to university students but not to these young people who need them so much?

I wish to make two more points. One relates to what I would call pre-training courses. A great many young people at the age of 16 do not have a clue what they want to do in life. They usually want to be a jet aircraft pilot, a double-glazing salesman or anything completely zany. I suggest to the Government that what is needed is what in the industry is now beginning to be called taster courses: young people spend a year experiencing a variety of training for jobs that they might go into and at the same time brush up on their basic skills.

Perhaps I may mention to the House an experiment in this direction which is being carried out by a forward looking headmaster in a high school in Deal, my home town. He has entered into an arrangement with the adult training centre to become a training provider for 16 year-olds. They have an entirely flexible course. They do not have to be there from nine until five. They have a menu of activities. Their menu is agreed and, rather like a university, they go in for the lectures that are appropriate to what they are doing. The menu is a mixture of life skills courses—courses such as learning to drive a motor car, which is very much appreciated and brings in the kids. Mixed in with that are things which they need to know and the beginnings of some kind of career training. It is an interesting formula for smoothing that difficult transition from what should be school to the world of work.

Finally, I should like to float one idea which may be rather more controversial. A great many of the young people whom I know would like to get into the services. We know that for very good reasons all governments are opposed to compulsory national service There is also a funding problem and of course the services themselves feel that it would dilute their professionalism. Is it inconceivable that it would be an interesting idea to raise what one might call for the sake of a name a national service regiment? It would be voluntary and would involve one year of full-time, uniformed, residential training. The objects would be to build self-esteem, to learn to work in a team, to learn life skills and to help choose a career. It would be a residential pre-training course.

The programme would include all sorts of physical activities and a certain number of military type activities and it could be clothed in a partially military context, in the context of emergency and disaster relief or something of that sort. Recruits could bring their training credits, which would partially fund the scheme. There would be a need for funding for accommodation, but on the other hand the accommodation would presumably be in redundant Ministry of Defence barracks, which might well be cheaper than funding these young people in hostels in the cities, which is what, alternatively, ought to be done for them.

I conclude simply by saying that there is a great need to address ourselves to the problems of these young people who are falling through the net.

6.31 p.m.

Earl Russell

My Lords, I should like to congratulate my noble friend Lord Beaumont of Whitley, first, on his success in winning the ballot and, secondly, in introducing this topic. We are told that Napoleon, when he interviewed his marshals for promotion, used to begin by asking, "Are you lucky?" When my noble friend is asked that question he can reply, "Yes, I am lucky. I won the ballot". I am glad that he was.

On 6th March of this year Mr. D. J. Dickinson, chairman of the Training and Enterprise Council for London East, gave evidence to the Select Committee on Employment in another place. He expressed the hope that the youth training service would be used for strengthening our skills base. That is a hope that we on these Benches share. Our commitment to quality training is strong and continuing, is repeated and will continue to be repeated.

But Mr. Dickinson also expressed the fear of running, 'blotting paper' or 'register effect' unemployment programmes, with negligible re-skilling content, where the civil service remains the puppet master and TECs become mere puppets in all practical terms. In that combination of the fear of penny-pinching and creeping bureaucratic control I fancied I heard, and perhaps other noble Lords did too, the voice of my noble friend Lady Seear. This Government have not got a good record in working out what things are going to cost. They have in fact quite a habit of miscalculating. Since it is one of the crucial business skills to be able to get your costs right, my taxi driver recently said to me, "If these people were in business, I don't know how they would carry on".

In that context we must consider whether it is Mr. Dickinson's hopes or his fears that are being realised. It is clear that a number of young people are not entirely satisfied with the quality of training they are getting. I know that there are a number of dedicated employers, such as those to whom the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chester and my noble friend Lord Rochester referred. But there is a long history of the state putting burdens on employers during a recession. Employers often find those create difficulties.

The MORI survey showed that 63 per cent. of those who had done youth training thought that what they had received was not entirely useless. My noble kinsman Lord Henley on 24th July quoted that figure with pride. I am not quite sure that pride is the appropriate emotion. I appreciate that 16 and 17 year-olds can be a critical audience, but I wonder whether there is an area here in which the customer is always right. One of the crucial objects of such a scheme must be to convince those in receipt of training that they are receiving something valuable in which they can take a pride. Whoever's fault it may be, if that achievement is not made, the scheme is to an extent failing in its purpose.

The placements on youth training schemes are often really rather short for giving any sort of quality training. In the MORI report, 31 per cent. of those sampled were there for less than a month, and 58 per cent. for less than three months. I do not know how good a training one gets in that time, but it is a matter on which some doubt is legitimate.

There is also considerable concern among 16 and 17 year-olds about the amount of money available to those who take the training. That was found both in the MORI report and in Professor Sinfield's survey done for the Bridge Project at the University of Edinburgh. Youth training rates are actually below income support. They were low enough to start with. They have not kept pace with inflation. Out of that sum you have to find fares to get to work. That is an increasing burden on anybody taking a low wage job of any sort. If the fares are added in it is doubly below the level of income support.

I know that the Government are increasingly inclined to put forward the idea that it is possible to live below income support levels. Many remarkable things have happened in the history of the world, but that confidence is not altogether well placed. We have surveys indicating difficulty in getting, an adequate diet on income support. Below that level it may become very hard indeed. These difficulties were acute enough in the first place, but at the moment we are facing a combination of cuts in government funding plus rising unemployment, and in the six months up to May 1991 training and enterprise councils had cut 3,360 places. Those figures come from the National Council of Voluntary Organisations.

At the same time you can roughly gauge the demand from the number of those in receipt of bridging allowance. In the six months to February 1991, this rose by 22.3 per cent. What is the purpose of the bridging allowance? It was introduced in 1988 at a rate of £15 a week. It is still at that rate. Is this meant to be a living payment? If so, can we have an explanation of how it can be effective at that level? Or is it, as the sum suggests, simply meant to be pocket money? If it is, what is the useful purpose in paying pocket money to people who have no home to go to, nowhere to live, and very likely no pockets without holes in which they can safely put the pocket money?

I should like to hear that there is some hope that the bridging allowance may eventually be raised, and in the process what job it is meant to do. My noble friend Lord Beaumont of Whitley has quoted statistics about waiting lists for youth training places. I shall not quote any more, but I have a lot of others here. One of our big problems is the dual purpose of the youth training scheme. It is supposed to provide an industrial training, and it is also supposed to be a social security guarantee to provide the means of subsistence for 16 and 17 year-olds not otherwise entitled to benefit.

There is a real difficulty in achieving this dual purpose. One of the difficulties is in the length of time it takes to get a youth training place. The noble Viscount, Lord Ullswater, in a written reply to me on 22nd October, said that he could not tell me how long the 16 and 17 year-olds who would register for youth training normally had to wait for a place. He said that the information was not held centrally. In that case I should like to know how can the noble Viscount say, with the confidence he exhibited in gesture a few minutes ago, that there is a guaranteed place? When is the place guaranteed? It is no good if the place is only guaranteed in due course: there ought to be an entitlement to income support for those who have registered for a youth training place and to whom it has not yet been made available. Mr. Robert Jackson, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary, speaking in another place on the 18th of this month, said that managing the delivery of a guarantee of this kind for hundreds of thousands of young people was not a simple, straightforward operation. He is obviously right about that point. I do not dispute what Mr. Jackson said, but it is important to remember that everything depends critically on timing. But of course if it depends critically on timing for the Government it depends equally critically on timing for the young people concerned. We need to ask whether this guarantee of a youth training place is really any more immediate than the ultimate guarantee of an old-age pension.

There is also of course a dual-purpose problem, in that in a scheme run by employers, from which they have to be able to derive some benefit or it would not be fair to ask them to do it, they must be able to refuse some of those who are sent to them for placement. Twenty-two per cent. of those in the MORI sample who had applied for youth training places had been refused. That may be no fault of theirs, but it should not deprive them of a right to eat.

I am glad that the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chester talked about the special problems of pregnant women. because I sometimes wonder whether a society which treats its pregnant women in this manner really deserves to survive. If there is anything to which the phrase "social cruelty" appropriately applies, I think it is the treatment of pregnant 16 and 17 year-olds. It is also worth remembering that the European Community has recently decided that maternity comes under health and safety, which is subject to majority voting, rather than under social security, which is not.

European Community law is extremely strong on prohibiting discrimination and the European Court, in a judgment reported in The Times on 20th November, has given to individual citizens the right of action against their national governments for breach of Community law. I think the noble Viscount would be well advised to check whether what the Government are doing here is in fact in breach of any Community law.

We have great difficulty in gauging the scale of this problem, because large numbers of 16 and 17 year-olds seem to have simply disappeared from the figures. They have become un-persons; they are forgotten; they do not exist for bureaucratic purposes. In October 1988, when this scheme came in, there were 70,535 16 and 17-year olds registered unemployed, of whom only 14,677 registered for youth training at the beginning of the new scheme. We do not know what happened to the others. The AMA, surveying 1,800 16 and 17 year-olds in Manchester who were unemployed in 1988, found that 450, or 25 per cent. of them, cannot now be traced.

Can we assess the scale of this problem? The Unemployment Unit has an estimate that 90,000 people are missing from official figures and 65,000 of them are without any form of financial support. Those are significant figures, if they are correct. I have tried to check them by finding out the numbers of young people in full-time education and checking them against the total number of 16 and 17 year-olds in the country. However, I ran into an unexpected and interesting difficulty here. We have the figures which were given in a Written Answer from Michael Jack on 23rd July last and he gave 784,000 as being in full-time employment; 724,000 in full-time education; 260,000 in youth training in England and Wales; 13,000 in receipt of bridging allowance; and 21,000 in receipt of income support. That makes a total of 1,802,000.

It was on the basis of those figures that my noble kinsman Lord Henley argued on 24th July that the scale of the problem of the disappearing teenagers was not significant. But there is a problem about those figures. They cover 1,802,000 16 and 17 year-olds, but there are only 1,238,000 in the country; so the total is about 50 per cent. greater than the total number in the country.

It does not take much imagination to form an hypothesis to explain that. There is clearly a degree of double-counting and 16 and 17 year-olds go out of education and into employment with a good deal of regularity. So this means there is simply no way of checking from Government figures how many 16 and 17 year-olds have no visible means of support. The Government are in fact prisoners of their documents. When an historian complains that he is the prisoner of his documents he can at least say, "Please sir, it is not my fault: I did not make the documents." However, the Government cannot do that. We have here, I think, an example of the disadvantage of the Rayner principle: that government statistics should be gathered only or primarily for the government's use. It means that if awkward people like me want to ask awkward questions like this,, the Government simply do not have the means to supply an answer. I think they need to be able to supply an answer and I should like to know what the answer is.

I think the reason why the Government do not believe in this problem is because their records are made up in such a way that they do not show the figures properly, and, because information is not in the records, they think it is not there. They reprove us for relying on anecdotal evidence, but where there are no records you have to rely on such evidence. I make my living relying on anecdotal evidence for research. It has to be used with care but there are some things which you can find from anecdotal evidence which have a very high degree of probability; and that very large numbers of 16 and 17 year-olds have nothing to live on is one of those things.

6.48 p.m.

Baroness Turner of Camden

My Lords, I am pleased to have the opportunity created by the Motion of the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley, of again addressing the House on the subject of youth training. It is not so very long ago that the House gave some attention to the subject when a debate took place on the report of the Select Committee on the European Communities, Young People in the European Community. Much of the debate at that time centred around the problems of the deprived and the underprivileged to whom the committee had given a great deal of attention. It is noticeable that the debate this evening has concentrated very much on the same area. Youth training is a strand of particular importance when trying to deal with the complex questions raised by the whole issue of underprivilege and deprivation among young people. It plays a crucial role in trying to deal with those problems.

There is a wide measure of agreement about the importance of education and training. As the Minister put it when replying to the debate at col. 464 on 11th November 1991—I quote what he said because I think it is important— I have no doubt about the concern in all parts of this House, and indeed on the part of all interested parties both in the United Kingdom and across the European Community, to ensure that young people have the best possible start in life. This concern is based upon a common understanding that our future depends upon ensuring that young people receive the formal and informal education and training they need to develop their full potential and to meet the challenges that will face them in the 21st century. Each of us believes that it is vital not to fail them". I am sure everyone agrees with those sentiments. Our disagreement arises out of how such worthy objectives should be achieved. The difference between the Government and this side of the House can be summarised by saying that the Government's philosophy has been to rely on the voluntary approach when it comes to vocational training and that training, as they put it, has to be employer-led. On our side we have often felt that that approach disguises the Government's desire not to spend too much money.

Some of the institutions that were doing a reasonable job of work have now disappeared. From time to time I have raised in the House the issue of industry training boards. All except one—the Construction Industry Training Board—have gone. That board has only a short life guaranteed. It is said that the training boards were not effective; on the other hand, matters would have been a great deal worse if they had not existed. Two boards—the Construction Industry Training Board and the Engineering Training Industry Board—had good levels of achievement.

The Training Commission then disappeared, following amendments to its constitution which increased the number of employers on it. Now we have TECs. I do not criticise TECs. Many worthy people have become involved in them and are anxious that they should succeed. I am sure that we all hope that, but there are frequent complaints about lack of resources. We have heard some of those complaints tonight. Many feel that they do not have the financial backing to provide the services that are needed, especially in the area of career development and counselling. They would like to provide more services, including services for young people with special needs.

Then we had a succession of schemes aimed at young people. There was criticism because they were seen in some instances as not providing quality training but simply a means of taking young people out of the unemployment statistics. Because of the poor reputation of such schemes among young people, take-up has not been as great as the Government hoped. Moreover, as mentioned by a number of speakers, including the noble Earl, Lord Russell, recent social security legislation has removed from young people in the 16 to 18 year-old category the entitlement to unemployment benefit. Although the impact has been modified by making exceptions in the case of those suffering hardship, according to information I received this morning from NACAB there are still instances of young people suffering hardship who, nevertheless, have no income.

The result has been to increase the number of young people sleeping rough on our streets. They are, in the main—according to organisations active in this area—unemployed young people. The Government have repeatedly said that every young person who needs it will be guaranteed a training place. Yet, according to the information I have, there are long lists of young people waiting for training places which are not available. Much of that is in London, but Sheffield and Newcastle also report that more young people are seeking places than there are places available. As we heard from the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont, that situations obtains in Manchester. The noble Lord, Lord Rochester, also referred to problems in the Cheshire area.

In the meantime, there has been a substantial increase in the number of young people on bridging allowances. That is paid, as has been said, to young people waiting for a place, but it lasts for eight weeks only. NACAB reports disquieting numbers of young people who have exhausted their bridging allowances, who still have no places and who in the meantime have nothing on which to live.

The Minister will no doubt repeat the guarantee that he has already given the House. He did so as recently as 1lth November when we debated the Select Committee's report. He said that there would be a place for every young person who needs one. But that guarantee has been given before and we still have the reports that have been relayed to your Lordships tonight.

Of equal importance is the quality of the training provided. Traditional attitudes often prevail, with the result that young women are shunted towards work regarded as more suitable for females; and the more technical training, leading ultimately to higher paid employment, is not presented to them as an opportunity. There are reports of many young people leaving schemes without qualifications. Clearly, training should lead to a recognised qualification.

In the report the Select Committee published last year, attention was drawn to this country's failure to develop what we called a "training culture". There have been some signs of progress in that there are perceptible changes in public attitudes. The establishment of the National Council for Vocational Qualifications was a positive development. "Our aim" says the NCVQ, is to establish a qualified society". Of course we all agree with that. To achieve it we have to begin with young people. As the Minister said in the debate on 11th November, "We must not fail them". But that means providing the resources and a coherent national framework where everyone—educationists, employers, training agencies and young people themselves—know what is available and what has to be done.

The noble Lord, Lord Rochester, referred to a report in the Financial Times. The article is disappointing. When the training credit scheme was introduced it was regarded as a useful innovation. It was supported by unions and employers. Pilot schemes were agreed, and everyone believed that it would help achieve more training for young people and also give them some sort of choice. Unfortunately, it would appear that the scheme is not doing what everyone wanted it to do. The headline to the Financial Times article was: Training credits fail to win takers". It would seem that one of the problems is that employers are not taking on people in a recession because the recession has bitten deeply into training provision.

The training credit scheme will have credibility only if it represents a genuine opportunity for young people to train. It is my understanding that over the past four years almost £400 million has been cut from the youth training budget. I should like to hear from the Minister how it is intended to make good that loss in the future. That is especially important in view of the situation of young people when it comes to unemployment. Again, according to NACAB, it has been estimated that unemployment among 16 to 17 year-olds rose by 66 per cent. between July 1990 and July 1991 (from 57,500 to 90,500) and that youth unemployment is generally rising faster than unemployment overall. That, it says, is bound to lead to increased demand for training. It may also lead to more disadvantaged young people sleeping rough on the streets and in situations that we all deplore and desperately want to avoid.

I emphasise again the view held on this side of the House. The voluntary system will not ultimately work and more and more resources will be needed if we are to solve the problems that we have been debating.

6.59 p.m.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Employment (Viscount Ullswater)

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont, for introducing the debate on youth training,, however the initial letters are designated: whether they are in lower or upper case. I also thank the other noble Lords who have participated in the debate. I have noted the concern and gravity with which their contributions have been made and I fully appreciate the seriousness with which noble Lords view the topic we are debating.

I halve listened with great interest to the points that various noble Lords have made. I wish to reply in detail to them. However, before I do so I think it is well worth reflecting briefly on the very great success story which the youth training programme we know today represents both for the Government and for the country.

Indeed, before this Government came to power there was no such thing as youth training as we know it. The very idea was alien to a labour market which assumed that most young people leaving full-time education at the age of 16 would find their own way into the world of work. With luck most would get a job with perhaps some minimal associated initial training,. But there was no understanding of the importance of well resourced and structured arrangements for helping all our young people to bridge the enormous divide which exists between school and the workplace; no rudiments of a planned and supported period of integrated vocational training, and work experience leading to vocational qualifications.

In those days, we had the youth opportunities programme, which was essentially a work experience programme with, for some, an element of training in it. In 1978–79 in England and Wales there were on average only about 6,000 young people receiving training under the youth opportunities programme.

From these modest beginnings, when they came to power the Government, recognising our lamentable performance in this respect compared with our major industrial competitors, steadily increased the training component of the youth opportunities programme. Then in 1983 they introduced the youth training scheme which, it can truly be said, revolutionised our national training and vocational education arrangements for school-leavers. For the first time in this country, and still uniquely in Europe, the Government guaranteed the offer of training to every 16 year-old, and subsequently to 17 year-olds as well, who left school without a job to go to.

Initially a one-year programme, YTS had developed by 1986 to a two-year offering. It included stringent equal opportunities requirements and special provisions for young people with disabilities and other special needs. At the time these arrangements broke new ground in underpinning the access to and support in training of many of these young people. For them the chance of meaningful and gainful employment through YTS training was something entirely new.

These improvements were carried over when last year YTS gave way to youth training. Youth training has an increased emphasis on achievement of higher level skills, particularly at craft and technical levels. It has additional flexibilities for the training and enterprise councils and local enterprise companies which manage the programme at the local level, allowing them to respond more to the local needs of particular labour markets and of individuals.

YTS introduced foundation training into many sectors where it hardly existed before, for example in retail and clerical work. YT is now the accepted route into the workforce for young people in many occupational areas and industries. It is attracting year on year a greater proportion of those who choose to enter the labour market. It has become in a real sense a part of the infrastructure of working life.

If one looks at the figures a truly impressive picture emerges. Currently there are 260,000 young people in training in England and Wales—a more than 40-fold increase compared with when the last Labour Government left office. Since the inception of YTS in 1983 over 3.1 million young people have been trained. That so many youngsters have chosen training—for it is a voluntary programme—clearly demonstrates the value that the customer places on it.

The individual successes achieved by trainees are equally impressive: 80 per cent. of all participants and 87 per cent. of those who complete their training go into jobs or further education. Sixty-six per cent. of completers gain a vocational qualification which for an increasing number will be a stepping stone to the learning that they will need to update throughout their working lives. I must tell the noble Earl, Lord Russell, that not surprisingly a recent survey showed that the vast majority—80 per cent.—of trainees had found their time on the programme either useful or very useful. That is something we should remember. As your Lordships will certainly appreciate, from all those thousands of individual successes will also emerge another and equally valuable benefit from our enormous investment in youth training in recent years—the future competitiveness of British industry.

I speak advisedly of investment. The provision for the Department of Employment announced earlier this month in this year's public expenditure settlement included an increase in the youth training budget. The noble Baroness, Lady Turner, asked me for the figures for this year and the next: they are £842 million for this year and £853 million in 1992–93. The Government have made that decision in full knowledge of the falling numbers of 16 and 17 year-olds due to demographic trends and of the sharply increasing and much to be welcomed staying on rates for those young people in full-time education. That represents a continuing investment. Youth training expenditure over the next three years will total over £2.5 billion. It is difficult to know what greater evidence there could be of the Government's commitment to their guarantee and to youth training as a whole.

There has been considerable talk in the course of this debate about cuts in training expenditure; of the Government's not caring about young people or the training they receive. I hope your Lordships will therefore understand why I have felt it right to devote these introductory remarks to setting that particular balance straight and to reminding your Lordships of the very proud record which the Government can claim in their management of this most important matter.

I now wish to turn to points that noble Lords have raised during the course of the debate. The noble Lord, Lord Beaumont, said that society had a duty to give an opportunity to work and an opportunity to train for that work. I believe that that is exactly what the Government are doing by not only allowing young people to continue in further education if they wish but giving a government guarantee of a place on youth training if they wish to pursue another course of action. It is entirely up to them whether they wish to remain in further education, to obtain a job or to receive youth training. The Government do not believe, therefore, that it is an option for young people to become unemployed. There is no need for a life of poverty or a life of crime.

The noble Lord also quoted the figure given by Church Action on Poverty of 3,088 16 and 17 year-olds in the Greater Manchester area not in education. Careers statistics are difficult to interpret. There is serious double counting—as I believe the noble Earl, Lord Russell, will have understood—in quoting lengthy statistics. It is difficult to adjust the lists that may be held by the careers service on any day. I believe that the noble Earl suggested that people remain in further education, go into jobs or slide between the two. It is a practical difficulty to know exactly where people are.

Earl Russell

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Viscount for what he said about the difficulty of the figures. Can he then tell us how he knows with such great confidence that the guarantee is effective?

Viscount Ullswater

My Lords, I shall come to that in a minute; it was one of the points brought up by the noble Earl. Many young people go back to school, go into jobs or even go into training. That is not necessarily reflected in the figures. It would not be right to exaggerate the figures and possibly put young people off. It would be wrong to give young people the impression that there was no opportunity to gain a place on youth training.

The noble Lord gave the Government some credit for introducing the youth training scheme. I am glad to receive any crumb of comfort in this debate. The Government have never tried to hide the fact that employers are under a strain at present because of the recession and that has affected their provision of work experience places. However, I stress that the Government do not believe taxpayers should bear the entire costs of training. The funding models therefore assume a significant contribution from employers. Employers should contribute to the cost of training as they are the main beneficiaries of a better skilled workforce. In the interests of realistic quality training, it is desirable to place trainees with employers.

The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chester drew our attention to the training of those with special needs. He appeared to indicate that those with special needs were treated in the same way as ordinary youths on youth training. It is not always necessary for those with special needs to be placed on a programme in order to reach NVQ level 2. We understand that such a process may be beyond their scope. However, I am sure it is still right to keep that objective in view.

The right reverend Prelate also appeared to indicate that the TECs would have some difficulty in fulfilling the requirements placed on them. TECs are required to show in their plans how they intend to provide suitable training provision for people with special needs. TECs' performance against their plans is regularly monitored by local officials responsible for training. TECs are free to vary payments to providers to take account of the additional costs of special training needs. Performance bonuses are paid to TECs achieving the agreed targets for training those with special needs. TECs are under contract to provide suitable training for those people with special needs.

The noble Lord, Lord Rochester, shares the same diocese as the right reverend Prelate. He drew to our attention the problems that smaller firms are facing in this matter of training as there is currently pressure on their existing workforce. There may therefore be a reluctance to provide places for youth training. The noble Lord mentioned the NORMID TEC. The other day a letter was sent to the Select Committee on Employment in another place which states: At the halfway stage in the financial year NORM ID TEC has sufficient training places available to satisfy the demand for the guarantee group". In saying that I am not suggesting that there will not be some difficulty in finding the required places. However, no TEC will be prevented from providing places due to a lack of resources.

Lord Rochester

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Viscount for quoting from the letter. I do not wish to enter an argument with him now. However, if he reads the letter in more detail, he will note that at a later stage it makes other comments which bear out my remarks.

Viscount Ullswater

My Lords, I shall certainly study the letter with great care. The noble Lord, Lord Rochester, also drew attention to the scarce resources available to those with special needs. To a certain extent I have replied to that point by saying that it is a duty of the TECs to fulfil the terms of their contracts. If employers cannot take on trainees, placements may have to be delayed. Some providers may need to find temporary alternatives such as in-house or college based training to fill the gap. What is important is that suitable training is given to people and that they should be assessed for the training they require. If that means they have to wait for a suitable place, it is better that they should do so than receive unsuitable training.

The noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, supported the initiatives the Government are taking to help young people with their training. I am glad the noble Lord recognises the great strides that have been made in the past 10 years. I have identified some of those strides today. The noble Lord has deep knowledge of underprivileged people and those youngsters who play truant from school. I know he cares about them deeply and I have been privileged to hear him speak about them on more than one occasion. Youth training provides for those people—the noble Lord suggested they may be falling out of the net—by a period of initial training. The careers service can designate such youngsters and their problems can be dealt with.

TECs have a wide discretion in these areas. Youths may receive initial youth training to help them become motivated and to develop basic skills in literacy and numeracy. They can be given remedial education. TECs can spend money on trainee support and many TECs are developing new careers advice services. The Government are asking for bids for development projects in that area.

The noble Lord suggested establishing a national service regiment involving a one-year full time residential training course. The participants could cope with emergency relief and other such matters. That is an interesting idea. It is difficult from the Dispatch Box to place a precise cost on that scheme which would find favour with the Treasury. If the noble Lord has calculated a cost for the scheme, I hope he will write to me about it. There is even an armed 5ervices YT scheme which young people can apply for if they wish. However, that may not be quite what he has in mind.

The noble Earl, Lord Russell, said he shares the Government's commitment to quality training for young people. I am glad we share the same objectives. The noble Earl suggested that the youth training allowance was below the level of income support. I question that assumption. My understanding is that the allowance is above the level of income support for that age group.

The noble Earl asked what was the basic purpose of the bridging allowance and commented that the figure of £15 had remained the same since it was introduced. I can confirm that that is so. The basic purpose of the bridging allowance is to provide young people who have left an initial job or a YT place with financial help while they are searching for or waiting to take up further job or YT opportunities. It is not considered to be an income support measure. The bridging allowance is not intended to cover living expenses. Most claimants will be living with their parents. Those who do not can claim income support. I believe that we have the important safety net for young people that if perchance, for one reason or another, they are not living at home they have an opportunity to claim income support. Having difficulty getting a place is one of the factors which will be considered for the award of the severe hardship payment.

The noble Earl asked me directly when is a place guaranteed. He quoted an Answer from my honourable friend Mr. Jackson. The Government believe that the mere fact that numbers of young people are apparently waiting to take up a YT place at this time of year is not in itself evidence of failure to meet the guarantee.

Earl Russell

My Lords, I beg the House's pardon for intervening, but what are they expected to live on in the meantime while they are waiting?

Viscount Ullswater

My Lords, at present the parents of young people will be entitled to extended child benefit. That will continue until Christmas, I understand, and always has done. It is an extended benefit which lasts for a further 16 weeks after the beginning of September when young people would choose either to go back to school or to seek some other course of action.

Lord Northbourne

My Lords, is the noble Viscount aware that there is an enormous number of young people who do not have parents or whose parents are not prepared to support them under those circumstances?

Viscount Ullswater

Yes, my Lords. That is precisely why income support is available for those young people. However, we are agreed that those living at home should not necessarily be entitled to income support. As I explained earlier, they have no reason to be unemployed. There is an opportunity for further education, youth training or employment. That is a situation which is covered by the regulations which we have provided for young people.

Not all young people registered with the careers service would necessarily take up a YT place if offered one. Some careers services are still updating their records in the light of options taken by some young people to enter the labour market or return to school. It can take time to find the right place for some who have very specific preferences or for particular disadvantaged young people. Those are all factors which serve to exaggerate the true extent of demand for YT.

The noble Earl quite rightly suggested that a programme which involves 260,000 people is difficult to manage. It involves enormous practical difficulties, including predicting how many young people will stay on at school, how many leavers will get jobs, how many will come forward for training and how many will change their minds in between. Therefore, it is important that the options are available to young people, as I suggested to the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne. However, I do not believe that unemployment should be tolerated as an option for young people.

The noble Earl, Lord Russell, also suggested that there were difficulties faced by pregnant young women. That was also a point raised by the right revered Prelate. Those young women are still covered by the YT guarantee. Many of them receive training while they are pregnant, as no doubt the noble Earl is aware. They will receive their YT allowance up to the time when they will be entitled to income support, at the time the noble Earl suggested.

The noble Baroness, Lady Turner, indicated very clearly where our paths diverge. She said that government philosophy was to rely on the voluntary approach and that it should be employer led. I believe that the voluntary approach for young people is an important one. The fact that the TECs are employer led brings realism to the local conditions of the labour market in their areas. That is why it is important that this Government have that philosophy.

The noble Baroness also suggested that youth unemployment was rising. We have had various debates on the subject over the past few months. All I can say to her is that, yes, of course there are difficulties facing young people at the moment. However, our record on youth unemployment is better than that in the remainder of the European Community.

The suggestion that the youth training guarantee is not being met in even a single TEC area is one which the Government take very seriously indeed. The Government stand fully by their commitment to young people. We do not wish to disguise the fact that there are difficulties in a small number of areas, primarily in and around the capital. Working closely with the training and enterprise councils concerned, we have been addressing those vigorously, with resources and in a number of other ways. The current position is that the Government have always been and remain fully committed to the YT guarantee. We shall ensure that it is met and, where necessary, we shall ensure that no TEC is prevented by lack of resources from meeting the guarantee.

Baroness Turner of Camden

My Lords, before the noble Viscount sits down will he be kind enough to answer my point about training credits? That is very disappointing because it was a scheme which had very broad support. Both unions and employers supported it and wanted to see the pilot scheme succeed. It is very disappointing to see the FT report that there has been a failure in take-up. Has the noble Viscount any comments on that?

Viscount Ullswater

My Lords, I believe that the training credit scheme is destined to be very successful. I shall certainly look very carefully at the FT report. Perhaps it would be better if I were to write to the noble Baroness.

7.27 p.m.

Lord Beaumont of Whitley

My Lords, I should very much like to thank all noble Lords who have joined in the debate this evening. It has been a good one in so far as it went, although not necessarily very productive. However, it may have sown seeds which grow into better and larger plants.

I am particularly grateful to the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chester for his specialist contribution and to my noble friend Lord Rochester. Between the two of them it appeared as though it would turn into a debate on the North West, particularly as I chose Manchester for my main example. There was also a moment when I saw the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Liverpool on the Benches opposite and thought that he might also join in. I do not believe that there is any harm in looking at one part of the country in detail, without dispersing one's interest, so that one can see what the problems on the spot are. I am very grateful to both speakers.

I am also grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, for his speech. I find somewhat constricting the conventions of your Lordship's House which militate against one referring to one's friends as one's noble friends if they sit on other Benches and sometimes make one refer to noble friends who are not one's friends but who sit on the same Benches. I am delighted that the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, was able to participate and very interested in some of his original and pertinent suggestions.

In his otherwise very full answer, the noble Viscount did not, unless I missed it, respond to the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, about aptitude testing. That is an important and good point and I hope that the noble Viscount will take it back to the department for consideration. If he has anything to say perhaps he will write to the noble Lord and myself because we are interested in the matter.

Viscount Ullswater

My Lords, I shall be happy to write to the noble Lords.

Lord Beaumont of Whitley

My Lords, I thank the noble Viscount very much.

We then came to the Front Bench speeches. I should like to say immediately what a great pleasure it is to listen to the noble Viscount responding with interest and sympathy, as opposed to some of his colleagues who sometimes deliver their briefs in a monotone which suggests, rightly or wrongly, that they could not care less. It is a great pleasure and privilege, and a reassurance, to listen to the noble Viscount and I hope that he will spread the habit.

The very good speeches from the two Front Benches on this side underline the important point that this is far too important a matter not to become the subject of party politics. It is often said that it is too important a matter to become party politics, but, without the strong urge of united parties who care passionately about these matters and are prepared to put forward alternative schemes and form alternative philosophies, I suspect that in the end nothing much will be done. I was grateful for those two speeches.

My noble friend on the Front Bench asked me early in the proceedings, "Are you lucky?". I said that I was lucky because of my success in the Ballot. Indeed, I am lucky. It is important that we in this House, who are all comparatively lucky, from time to time turn our attention, as we do, to those who are not at all lucky, who live lives of considerable misery and frustration and who lack money and all kinds of things that we take for granted. I make no apology for having raised this subject once again tonight and I hope that it will continue to be raised at not too great intervals until something much more satisfactory is done. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the Motion.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.