HL Deb 20 October 1994 vol 558 cc321-4

Earl Russell asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether, further to the answer of Viscount Goschen on 8th February 1994 (Official Report, col. 1497–1499) and the answer of the Viscount St. Davids on 20th July 1994 (Official Report, col. 232–235), they have any plans to improve the information available to them on 16 and 17 year-olds not in education, youth training or employment throughout the United Kingdom.

Lord Ingle wood

My Lords, the Government are satisfied that the Labour Force Survey provides regular and reliable information on the labour market and education status of 16 and 17 year-olds.

Earl Russell

My Lords, are not the Government rather easily satisfied? Is the Minister aware that the two previous questions to which I refer in today's Question show that the Government are in considerable ignorance of the existence of Large numbers of 16 and 17 year-olds who are not in education, youth training or full-time employment? Further, are the Government aware that if they are not concerned about the matter, most of the rest of us are?

Lord Inglewood

My Lords, I believe that the noble Earl is perhaps being a trifle unfair to say that we are ignorant. The Government are aware of many sources of information relating to the kind of matters to which he refers. I mention especially the work provided for the Government by the heads of the Careers Service offices which is made available and about which additional information can be provided to your Lordships upon request. I understand that in the contracts currently being made with the Careers Service it will be stipulated that such information should be made public.

Baroness Turner of Camden

My Lords, can the Minister tell the House what happens to young people who fall through the net and who are not in full-time education, in training or in employment? Does the Minister understand that this is not simply a statistical exercise? We are worried about what happens to such young people. We are concerned that young people are sleeping rough and that young girls are also living on the streets. How can the situation be monitored unless there is reliable statistical information? What are the Government doing about it?

Lord Inglewood

My Lords, it is true to say that throughout the House there is considerable concern about the young people to whom the noble Baroness referred. The Government are currently working on a cross-departmental basis to try to look further into the problem to ascertain what further steps might be taken As I said, the information derived from the Labour Force Survey, which, after all, is carried out on the ILO methodology, is the starting point for the Government's analysis of the state of affairs. Moreover, as I also pointed out, there is further information available to the Government, and to others, to enable them to look further and more deeply into the matter. I should not like to pre-empt any findings that may emerge from any work that the Government could be undertaking at present.

Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos

My Lords, when the matter was discussed previously during Question Time, as the noble Lord will remember, I referred to the problems which existed in South Wales. On that occasion, the noble Lord's predecessor undertook to raise the matter with the Secretary of State for Wales. Can the noble Lord tell the House the result of those negotiations?

Lord Inglewood

My Lords, as the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, points out, that undertaking was given. As I said, a cross-departmental investigation is being carried out to ascertain the best way forward and the steps that can be advanced to try to improve the present state of affairs.

Baroness Faithfull

My Lords, does my noble friend the Minister agree that on the last occasion the matter was debated in the House it was pointed out that if the kind of job that a boy wanted was not available in the area where he lived, consideration would be given to his being—I was about to say transported, but perhaps not—given the chance to move to another town where there was the opportunity for him to follow what he wanted to do? That is what the French do. Moreover, I understood from the department that the matter was being looked into. Is that the case?

Lord Inglewood

My Lords, I thank my noble friend for posing that question. I do not believe that even the Government's critics have suggested that we transport people. It is true that TECs can contract across their boundaries for various forms of training if that is appropriate and if it is not provided in the area of the TEC involved. I gather that that is still the practice.

Lord Ewing of Kirkford

My Lords, will the Minister take account of his own situation as distinct from that of other young boys in the country who, having failed to obtain employment, experience great difficulty in even transferring to another area or finding a job? Having been defeated during the recent European elections, the noble Lord now finds himself as a government Minister answering Questions at the Dispatch Box. Can I give the Minister a list of at least 1 million young boys in this country who would gladly change places with him?

Lord Inglewood

My Lords, as regards the first personal point that the noble Lord made, I am fully aware of the fortunate position in which I find myself. I have always endeavoured to bear that in mind when considering these matters. If the noble Lord, or any noble Lord, has particular examples of where the Government have not met the guarantee that is given to 16 and 17 year-olds, I very much hope that they will draw them to the department's attention, and also to the attention of the TECs concerned, in order that that can be remedied as soon as possible.

Lord Northbourne

My Lords, does the Minister accept that young people in the categories described in the Question are disproportionately represented among the figures for juvenile crime and substance abuse, and that this is therefore a matter of the greatest importance to society as a whole as well as to the young people concerned? Does he also accept that voluntary organisations, and particularly the budding Foyer movement, have an important role to play in making contact with such young people?

Lord Inglewood

My Lords, the noble Lord is quite right. This is a matter which is of wide general concern to society as well as obviously to the individuals concerned. As regards assistance, I am sure that the Government and everyone else will agree that this is a matter for all interested parties. Collectively we can achieve a great deal more than we can individually.

Baroness David

My Lords, may I ask the Minister whether the Government are thinking of community service for some of these young people who perhaps cannot find a job or a place at the moment? I understood that that was being favourably looked on in government circles and I hope that it is being followed up. Can the Minister tell us anything about it?

Lord Inglewood

My Lords, as regards 16 and 17 year-olds, a commitment has been given to provide youth training. That is the way in which the Government believe it is appropriate to proceed in the case of the 16 and 17 year-olds.

Baroness Elles

My Lords, will my noble friend ensure that local authorities are encouraged to make access facilities available for youth movements and youth groups who could help many of these young people, even if they are not in full-time training during the day?

Lord Inglewood

My Lords, I thank my noble friend. That is obviously a good suggestion. We will do all that we can to try to ensure that that occurs.

Lady Kinloss

My Lords, is the Minister aware that the citizens advice bureaux continue to receive visits from large numbers of young people who are registered for youth training but fail to receive youth training places? Can the Minister say what help the Government plan to help those whose needs are not being met?

Lord Inglewood

My Lords, it is obviously part of the Government's purpose, as well as part of their commitment, to ensure that the youth training places are made available. As at the end of September, only 1,601 people had applied for youth training places who had not received them. As a proportion of the total of just over 1.3 million 16 and 17 year-olds in the country, it is a small proportion. I return to the reply I gave earlier; namely, that where any noble Lord has an example of the system going wrong, I hope that he will draw it to the attention of the people concerned, including the department, because that is the best and the quickest way to resolve the difficulty, which, thanks to the endeavours of the Government, is being reduced all the time.

Lord Elton

My Lords, given that this Question is on the narrow issue of the availability to the Government of information, is my noble friend aware that most of us are astonished by the amount of information he has on the subject? That information goes far beyond the Question on the Order Paper and it shows that the Government are particularly well informed.

Lord Inglewood

My Lords, I have already said that we are very concerned about this matter.

Earl Russell

My Lords, may I ask for clarification of the Minister's reply to my first supplementary question? He said that the information was available on numbers of 16 and 17 year-olds not in education, employment or youth training. If that is so, why, in the two previous cases to which I have drawn attention in the Question, did the Government give me Written Answers stating that it was not available?

Lord Inglewood

My Lords, I thank the noble Earl for his Question. I have endeavoured to discover what the position is and to give the information as I understand it. As the noble Earl will recall from the earlier questions, the information has become available only quite recently.

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