HL Deb 12 July 1994 vol 556 cc1633-6

Earl Russell asked Her Majesty's Government:

Which government record is capable of recording any failure to deliver the guarantee of a youth training place for every 16 and 17 year-old who wants one.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Employment (Lord Henley)

My Lords, it is the responsibility of training and enterprise councils to deliver the youth training guarantee. According to information supplied by local careers services, on 31st May there were only 213 young people in England waiting for the offer of a YT place for eight or more weeks.

Earl Russell

My Lords, the Question asks for any government record from which it is possible to discover whether the guarantee is being delivered. Am I to understand that the Minister is not able to quote such a source? If so, is he saying, like Belloc's Lord Hippo, that he knows because someone who was in the know had confidently told him so?

Lord Henley

My Lords, I could have simply answered, no. I thought that I would give a more helpful answer to the noble Earl. I was making clear that there is no central government record and that we do not believe it necessary to have such a record. However, from information supplied by the local careers services in every LEA or wherever, we are informed that there were only 213 such people.

Lord Rochester

My Lords, how can the Government ensure the delivery of a government guarantee through a non-governmental body? Do the Government have any record of their own which would enable them to establish whether any 16 or 17 year-olds have been excluded from the guarantee group, and if so, for what reason?

Lord Henley

My Lords, again I have to make clear that we base our evidence on that provided by the careers service. That indicates that there are 213 people who have not been covered by the guarantee. Perhaps I should make it clear that delivery of the guarantee is a matter for the TECs. I can given an assurance to the noble Lord that no TEC will be prevented, through lack of resources, from meeting that YT guarantee.

Lord Stallard

My Lords, does the Minister recall that the noble Viscount, Lord Goschen, in reply to a Question earlier this year about the careers service, intimated that the Government do not use its statistics in their calculations? Can the Minister now confirm that the reply given by the noble Viscount that the Government do not use the careers service statistics in checking whether the guarantee is being delivered is because they are not government records? Can the Minister confirm that?

Lord Henley

My Lords, my noble friend was referring to the position which applied some time earlier. As from the end of last year the careers service has provided us with the appropriate information. I make clear to the noble Lord that the number of people not covered by the guarantee fell from 4,000 to 3,000 a year ago and is now a mere 213 in England.

Lord Dean of Beswick

My Lords, can the Minister say what percentage of these young people, on completion of a course, obtain real jobs? If it is not a substantial percentage, does the Minister agree that it is an appalling disappointment for those who complete a training scheme only to find that there is no job at the end of it?

Lord Henley

My Lords, I cannot answer the noble Lord's question, but I assure him that unemployment among young people, whether measured for 16 or 17 year-olds or under-25 year-olds, is far lower than that experienced by most of our European colleagues, It is certainly lower than the European average. The employment rate among young people, at 55.9 per cent., is the second highest in the EC while staying on rates in education have increased from about 42 per cent. of 16 year-olds in 1979-80 to about 70 per cent. in 1992–93.

Lord Campbell of Alloway

My Lords, is my noble friend aware that the answers he has given to this Question appear wholly sensible, straightforward and satisfactory? Does he agree that the concept of keeping records of records involves tremendous expense? When they are produced they are all challenged as being fudged anyway.

Lord Henley

My Lords, I am very grateful for my noble friend's question. Of course I believe that my answers have been wholly satisfactory. As I made clear, I do not believe that it is necessary to keep central records in this matter. It would be unnecessarily bureaucratic, burdensome and costly. We have perfectly adequate records provided by the local careers services.

Baroness Seear

My Lords, we understand that the Government are using the careers service records. If those records are accurate and the Minister is satisfied that they are, that is satisfactory. However, my recollection is that very frequently the careers service admitted that it was unable to trace quite a number of people who had left school. Have the Government a record of how many people have been "lost" because those are likely to be the people in whom we are particularly interested? Is the careers service certain that it is tracing everybody, because it never used to?

Lord Henley

My Lords, it is always possible that one or two people have been missed. If so, and the noble Baroness brings them to my attention, I would be prepared to take up their case.

Baroness Seear

My Lords, how does the noble Lord think I am going to find them if they have been lost?

Lord Henley

My Lords, I am sure that the noble Baroness would be very good at it. I am trying to make clear that I believe the careers service, which is there on the ground and locally based, is the best organisation to provide such records. Those records indicate a very dramatic fall-off in the number of those for whom the guarantee is failing. The noble Baroness should be pleased that I am able to tell the House that there are now only about 213 people in England who are not covered. That figure used to be of the order of 4,000.

Lord Hailsham of Saint Marylebone

My Lords, does not the original Question ask for the records of someone who wants a place? How can there possibly be a record of what they want as distinct from what they have applied for?

Lord Henley

My Lords, I am most grateful to my noble and learned friend for bringing to the attention of the House the precise wording of the Question put down by the noble Earl. I answered it as best I could. I think that my noble and learned friend will be glad that the figure has fallen to 213.

Baroness Turner of Camden

My Lords, will the Minister let the House know how many 16 and 17 year-olds awarded hardship payments in 1993–94 were registered for youth training? What is the average length of time they had been waiting for a placement? Will he tell the House also how it is possible to monitor the success of government policies in that area unless proper records are kept?

Lord Henley

My Lords, proper records are kept, and proper research is undertaken to ensure that we have the appropriate details. I can answer part of the noble Baroness's question. There were, I believe, 137,870 applications for severe hardship payments in 1993 of which 118,528 were successful.

Baroness David

My Lords, have the Government yet discovered a means of eliminating double counting from their figures to show how many 16 and 17 year-olds are in education, employment or youth training?

Lord Henley

My Lords, these matters are difficult. As the noble Baroness will be aware, according to the labour force survey conducted under ILO methodology there are some 122,000 unemployed 16 and 17 year-olds, but that figure includes 52,000 people who are in full-time education. That is because the method by which the ILO decrees that unemployment should be calculated includes those who say they are looking for jobs or will be available for jobs in two weeks' time. That job can be a part-time or Saturday job.

Earl Russell

My Lords, is the Minister aware that people on the ground such as Centrepoint constantly find 16 and 17 year-olds with no visible legal means of support, and that many of us believe that if government records are creating "unpersons" with no visible legal means of support that is a very serious matter?

Lord Henley

My Lords, in cases of no visible legal means of support, it is open to that individual or those who advise that individual to apply for severe hardship payments. Severe hardship claims are dealt with on the basis that the guarantee is not being met but that the claimant is also prepared to look for a job or various forms of training. We do not believe that it is right to provide income support, as the noble Earl desires, for all those who claim it merely because they feel that it is unnecessary to take up a YT place.

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