§ The Secretary of State for Employment (Mr. Tom King)
With permission, Mr. Speaker, I wish to make a statement on employment and training.
Last Thursday I published the White Paper "Employment: The Challenge for the Nation". Today, in conjunction with my right hon. Friends the Secretary of State for Education and Science and the Minister without Portfolio, I am publishing a further White Paper, entitled "Education and Training for Young People".
The purpose of the first White Paper is to set out the facts and figures on the present employment situation and to describe the strategy that the Government believe offers the best prospects for employment, with the steps already taken and the further measures proposed.
There are three key elements in the Government's strategy towards employment. First, the Government must create an economic, financial and industrial climate in which enterprise can flourish. The priority is to control inflation. Without that, there is no prospect that industry and commerce will compete successfully, raise output and create jobs. Secondly, the Government can help improve the labour market by encouraging more and better training and by removing obstacles which hamper employers taking on workers. Finally, the Government can provide direct help for those worst affected by unemployment through, for example, the community programme.
The second White Paper, "Education and Training for Young People", deals with a key element in our strategy for employment — the reform of our education and training policies and programmes. It outlines our approach to work-related education and training for 14 to 18-year-olds and emphasises the need to develop more comprehensive and coherent provision for this age group.
Improvements in education and training are crucial to strengthening the economy. Only then will industry and commerce be able to find the skills they need if they are to become more competitive. Efforts to get a better trained work force must be directed at everyone in it, irrespective of age or occupation. But, in particular, we must ensure that our young people are properly prepared for the world of work. We intend to build on the success of recent achievements by taking action in three particular fields: introducing new arrangements for in-service teacher training related to the technical and vocational education initiative, setting up a review of vocational qualifications and bringing in a new two-year youth training scheme. These actions flow from the review of provision for 14 to 18-year-olds carried out by the Minister without Portfolio.
As regards the youth training scheme, the Government are providing substantial additional resources so that, from April 1986, we are able to offer a second year of training to 16-year-old school leavers and a one-year place to 17-year-old school leavers. Our aim is that all our young people leaving school will have the chance to get vocational qualifications. The Manpower Services Commission has warmly and unanimously welcomed these proposals and has now put in hand the necessary consultations, with a view to reporting back to me by the end of June.
The new training scheme, together with the parallel changes in education and the review of vocational nal qualifications, will help to put vocational education and 1220 training for our young people on a par with that of our main competitors overseas, and will help create a more flexible labour force and more competitive economy.
Taken together, these two White Papers set out clearly the Government's strategy for employment and give the details of the new proposals for improving vocational education and training in this country, which I hope will command the support of the whole House.
§ Mr. John Prescott (Kingston upon Hull, East)
I noted with interest that the Secretary of State did not predict the increase in employment that might result from the two White Papers with which he dealt. These two documents are a reflection of the increasing public concern that exists about the growing mass unemployment in Britain and particularly about the plight of those who make up the unskilled labour force, who are suffering after six years of Conservative policies.
There is a startling difference between the two White Papers. In describing the training requirements embodied in "Education and Training for Young People", the Government recognise that they have a responsibility to intervene to ensure that there is adequate training and proper planning for training. It is clear that the Government have a direct responsibility to achieve those goals, at a time when British industry has failed to make either a financial or physical contribution to improving the skill of the nation's labour force.
That is particularly true when we compare this country with our international competitors. The concern in Britain seems to be more for training to be a business cost than an investment.
The Government stand indicted for the way in which they have dealt with the problem—that is, by their philosophy of trying to justify the abolition of 16 of the 23 industrial training boards and, more recently, 29 skillcentres, on grounds of cost. We require planning adequate to meet the training requirements of the nation and the resources from industry.
YTS schemes are to be extended to two years. We on the Labour Benches have campaigned for that for a long time, so it is a step that we welcome. Indeed, such an extension was part of our manifesto. I particularly welcome the announcement in the White Paper of the review that is to be conducted by the Secretary of State into many of the criticisms that Opposition Members have made of many existing YTS schemes.
As the Secretary of State is now considering some of those criticisms, may I ask him to confirm that the new two-year scheme will not be compulsory? Is he considering giving a proper wage to trainees, which in real terms would now be equivalent to £38—£10 or £11 more than is currently paid? Many of those now on YTS schemes regard the present rates as slave labour pay. Is the right hon. Gentleman also reviewing the health and safety conditions and the monitoring of schemes by area boards? It would be appropriate if he reported back to the House on those matters, in time for the debate when he has received the report mentioned in the White Paper.
Will the right hon. Gentleman elaborate on what is said in the White Paper about a preference for employer-based schemes in the second year? That seems to underrate the contribution that local authorities have made to some excellent YTS schemes, and I hope that he does not intend to reduce their role.
1221 Will the Secretary of State reconsider his decision to close 29 skillcentres? Will he postpone their closure in view of the fact that for second-year YTS schemes, which will come into effect in 1986, skillcentres would be ideal places to use for that second stage, offering good opportunities for quality training.
The White Paper "Employment: The Challenge for the Nation" has failed miserably, as did the "Budget for jobs", in trying to convince people that the policy was designed to secure more jobs for the additional members of the skilled labour force that the Government hoped would be created. The Government reaffirm their belief in the free market and blame everybody for the problems of mass unemployment, which in fact has been caused directly by Government policies.
The White Paper contains some statements which we readily accept and confirms the Labour party's record on producing jobs during its five year of office. For every one extra job it produced, the Tory Government have lost six during five years of their policies. It is a deplorable document because, as with training, it refuses to accept that employment is a responsibility of Government. It compares most unfavourably with the 1944 White Paper, which fully accepted that Government had a responsibility not only for employment, but to observe their international obligations, which were embodied in the wages councils, the abolition of which is proposed in the White Paper.
This is a deplorable White Paper. It does little for employment, and the Government wash their hands of their responsibilities, and do little to reduce the mass unemployment that continues to increase. The White Paper confirms that the Government's policies are deliberately creating mass unemployment. If the Government believe that they can do nothing about it, they should resign and make way for a Labour Government who will reduce unemployment.
§ Mr. King
It is difficult for the hon. Gentleman to sustain the charge that the Government are washing their hands of the problem when during the past week we have introduced two White Papers, which deal specifically with some of those issues. I would have hoped for a more positive response from the Leader of the Opposition and his hon. Friends. [Interruption.] It contrasts noticeably —because of the noise from Opposition Members, the hon. Gentleman may not have heard this — with the warm and unanimous response from the Manpower Services Commission, which includes representatives of industrialists and the Trade Union Congress. They have confirmed their support for our expansion of the opportunities in youth training.
I confirm that the scheme will continue to be voluntary, that we intend to maintain a trainee allowance, and that we do not intend to make the sort of substantial increase in costs that the hon. Gentleman suggested—for one good reason. It is genuinely important to ensure that the maximum resources go into training and that we get the highest possible quality of training. When I am faced with a choice of priorities, I am more anxious to maintain a reasonable level of trainee allowance and a high quality scheme, than to make a much higher level of trainee allowance, which might be at the expense of the quality of the training.
The hon. Gentleman asked about skillcentres. He will know that part of the way in which we can ensure modernisation of our skill resources is to ensure that we 1222 put those resources to the most effective use, not into the maintenance of bricks and mortar for under-utilised assets in a facility which is not fully used.
Britain will only be able to produce the goods and services of the future if those who work in industry are trained in the skills of the future.The Leader of the Opposition happened to raise his head at that, but that is a quotation with which I agree. It also happens to be the policy that we have been putting forward.
The hon. Gentleman asked about the forecast. I have looked hard through "Labour's Jobs and industry Campaign", but I cannot find many forecasts — and rightly so. [Interruption.] Well, I cannot find it in the document, which was shrewdly drafted. As we made clear in the statement, we seek to achieve the best possible prospects for employment. The measures that we have announced in the two White Papers will help significantly towards that.
§ Mr. Mark Carlisle (Warrington, South)
I welcome whole-heartedly the statement of my right hon. Friend, and the great emphasis placed on training for young people. Does he agree that we have been well behind our European competitors in this area? Does he agree that the actions of the Government since 1979 stand in strong contrast to the complete lack of action by the Labour party when it was in Government? Does he further agree that the reaction by the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, East (Mr. Prescott) to the statement is the only matter that could appropriately be called "deplorable"? Does he further agree that it is vital to retain close links between schools and industry, and that we should put great importance on the vocational training of those who choose to stay on in sixth forms but do not intend to take A-level courses?
§ Mr. King
I am grateful to my right hon. and learned Friend. With his great knowledge of the subject, he will understand the importance of these issues. It is unfortunate that the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, East (Mr. Prescott) was so grudging in his comments. All that the Labour party could manage was the youth opportunities programme. There is not much argument in the House that the YTS is a vast improvement on that. I am proud that we launched it. I am even prouder that we can announce this extension to it. I am grateful for what my right hon. and learned Friend said about the link between education and training. The fact that my right hon. Friends the Secretary of State for Education and Science and the Minister without Portfolio have worked so closely on this makes it clear that we see the vital need to ensure the closest possible link so that we genuinely meet the different needs of youngsters by vocational as well as more formal academic education. I believe that the announcements are a major step in that direction.
§ Mr. David Penhaligon (Truro)
The Minister, admittedly under the spur of desperation, is gradually putting together a package for education and training which at least has some potential. What will he do to persuade or perhaps coerce employers to face up to their social responsibilities by making the investment in their future employees that most European employers make? Furthermore, the White Paper boasts that 60 per cent. of those leaving YTS obtained a job. Some people dispute that figure, but I will accept it. What are the Government's plans for the other 40 per cent?
§ Mr. King
I thank the hon. Member, albeit for his somewhat half-hearted welcome for what we are doing. It would be wrong to criticise all employers. Many employers make a substantial contribution, but on average the contribution from British employers is less than that in Germany. That is one of the major challenges contained in both White Papers. I am encouraged by the president of the CBI, who has made clear his determination to see that the CBI plays a positive role in this. While I cannot give the hon. Member exact details of how we will achieve it, I am optimistic that we shall start to improve the take-up rate of permanent jobs which for many of the youth training schemes is in excess of 95 per cent.—although the average, as he rightly says, is something over 60 per cent. We are anxious to see that figure raised at the earliest possible opportunity.
§ Sir Philip Goodhart (Beckenham)
In his first welcome White Paper, my right hon. Friend referred to the contribution to the greater flexibility of patterns of work that can be made by young workers. The private sector has been much more helpful than the public sector. Can my right hon. Friend promise any action to make the public sector more imaginative and flexible?
§ Mr. King
I am interested in the point that my hon. Friend makes. Events in the postal service have brought to the public notice overtime and flexibility and how additional jobs might be created. I do not say this critically, because it is one of the issues that we are considering, but at the moment, something over 11 million hours of overtime a week are being worked. A substantial amount of employment is contained within that overtime if it were possible to reorganise it. It behoves us all to try. I shall be studying the public sector to see whether it can make a contribution with experiments in more flexible working.
§ Mr. Tony Benn (Chesterfield)
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that, for tens and tens of thousands of young people on YTS, 40 per cent. of whom will not obtain employment as the result of the scheme, the Government's motives are seen to be different from the ones that he put to the House? They are seen as being to take people off the register, to provide free labour for employers, to lower wages, to substitute for adult employees, and to by-pass trade unions and the health and safety regulations. Young people want real training and jobs. His statement means that the Government contemplate low wages in a permanently high mass unemployment society.
§ Mr. King
One reason why some young people may hold that view about YTS is that the right hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn) and some of his hon. Friends choose to keep telling them so. I am glad to say that their views are those of a substantial minority in the country, and I am grateful for the fact that neither the Opposition Front Bench nor the responsible trade union leaders share them.
§ Sir John Biggs-Davison (Epping Forest)
Does my right hon. Friend remember the prophecies of the right hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn) about the Falklands war and the miners' strike? The right hon. Gentleman is now making prophecies about employment.
1224 My right hon. Friend speaks about the contribution of the CBI. Does he have anything to tell us about the decline of apprenticeships in this country, and does he have anything in mind in that regard?
§ Mr. King
Part of the change in apprenticeship has resulted from changes in manufacturing industry. A number of employers regard the apprenticeship route as less relevant to the new technologies. One very important aspect of the review of qualifications is the question how we can arrive at a more comprehensible and appropriate system of qualifications that will perhaps incorporate apprenticeship as well. At the moment, many youth training schemes are running parallel with apprenticeship schemes. There is certainly a need for rationalisation.
§ Mr. Ron Leighton (Newham, North-East)
In his statement, the Secretary of State told us that the Government intend to devote substantial new resources to the second year of the YTS. I do not believe that that is really true. The figure for the first year was just over £100 million and for the second year it is £300 million. Those figures are derisory. When the right hon. Gentleman first talked about year one of the YTS, he used to speak of providing £1 billion. Now that we have reached year two, instead of speaking of another billion pounds, the right hon. Gentleman wants to have two years of YTS for £1 billion. That is not sufficient. Last week the Select Committee took evidence from the CBI. The YTS is a voluntary scheme — voluntary for employers too. The employers were very worried about the very small sums of money being provided by the Government.
The Government can spend billions of pounds on fighting the miners, and billions on the Falkland Islands. We want billions of pounds to be spent on educating Britain's younger generation. A realistic allowance must be made, to guard against charges of cheap labour. The right hon. Gentleman must do the job properly. He is not devoting sufficient resources to it.
§ Mr. King
The House will note that the hon. Gentleman describes as derisory the sum of £1.1 billion, the amount that we propose to devote to the youth training scheme when it is running. The hon. Gentleman says that he has received evidence that some employers may be concerned about the contribution that they have to make. That is exactly the point that was made by the hon. Member for Truro (Mr. Penhaligon). Of course difficult decisions have to take place. We must ensure that people understand the importance of the matter. I hope that the hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends will support us in ensuring that they do.
§ Mr. Richard Tracey (Surbiton)
Will my right hon. friend consider the idea of including in the training some course in basic economics? If it was pointed out that jobs are produced by customers, markets and competitive service and not by Governments, young people would not grow up to share the tunnel vision from which the Opposition suffer.
§ Mr. King
Almost the most unpleasant aspect of the campaign being launched by the Labour party is a postcard bearing the slogan "Gissa job". To suggest that jobs are in the gift of Governments, without any contribution or effort on the part of the person concerned, is to encourage the worst possible attitude. The Government have a clear responsibility, but we will not succeed unless our 1225 contribution and responsibility are matched by the determination of the individual himself—for instance, to train in order to improve his qualifications—and by a contribution from the whole of industry.
Mr. Eric S. Heifer (Liverpool, Walton)
In relation to basic economics, what does the right hon Gentleman have in mind—will he insist on Pigou Keynes, Adam Smith, Ricardo, Karl Marx or Marshall? How many real jobs will we get on Merseyside as a result of this scheme? How many people will be taken into training on decent incomes —or, as some people are suggesting, is the Secretary of State all bark and no bite?
§ Mr. King
That is the most extraordinary supplementary question to be asked the day after the Labour party produced a paper which carefully avoided saying how many jobs Labour's policies would provide on Merseyside. The expansion and development of YTS will enormously improve the chance of young people to equip themselves for work, including some who need it most. The expansion of the community programme will significantly help a number of the long-term unemployed. The growth in the economy is now at last creating more jobs. Those factors offer a better prospect than we have had for a long time for employment in Merseyside and elsewhere.
§ Mr. Tony Baldry (Banbury)
Does my right hon. Friend agree that, in regard to adult training, what matters is not whether the building is called a skillcentre, a technical college or a college of further education, but the quality, quantity and cost-effectiveness of the training? Does he further agree that, unless British employers start to take the lead in training, British industry will follow behind our competitors?
§ Mr. King
I know, as will the House, the close interest that my hon. Friend takes in these matters. He is correct. We must ensure that resources are used as effectively as possible. That is true whoever is responsible for these matters. Resources must be used effectively in a rapidly changing world of skills. We must also ensure that everyone understands the importance of investment in training for the future.
§ Mr. Derek Foster (Bishop Auckland)
Will the Secretary of State now admit that, in areas such as the north-east, placement in work of youngsters after YTS is not the 60 per cent., 70 per cent or 95 per cent. that he mentioned, but only 33⅓ per cent? No wonder they grow cynical about his scheme. Will he also admit that, until employers contribute to the scheme as has been suggested, there is no chance of it succeeding? The careers service in County Durham is deeply sceptical that employers are capable of making the type of response that the right hon. Gentleman will need.
§ Mr. King
A couple of times in the past month I have been close to some of the places that the hon. Gentleman has described. I have seen the difficult problems in the north-east. There is no wand to be waved, and anyone who pretends that there is is committing a cruel deceit. I believe —and I hope the hon. Gentleman will ensure—that, in the hon. Gentleman's constituency, young people realise that, in spite of the hostile and thoroughly unhelpful propaganda that some choose to put about, YTS offers a good opportunity to get a start. No, I cannot guarantee everybody a job at the end of the scheme, but I can 1226 guarantee, as is evidenced in the north-east, that young people have twice as good a prospect of a job if they have been on YTS.
§ Mr. Spencer Batiste (Elmet)
Does my right hon. Friend agree that his excellent proposals for the extension of YTS could be more effective still if the scheme could build on a more broadly based framework of vocational training in schools?
§ Mr. George Foulkes (Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley)
On the second White Paper, the Secretary of State mentioned "this country". Can he confirm that that means Great Britain? He also mentioned consultation with the Secretary of State for Education and Science and the Minister without Portfolio. How was the Secretary of State for Scotland consulted in the preparation of the White Paper? Is any separate statement being made on the implications for Scotland, especially the Scottish education system, which, as he knows, is different from that south of the border?
§ Mr. King
The hon. Member will find the references. The situation is different. In this case, the proposals are in an England and Wales context because of the differences in the Scottish educational system. The hon. Member knows better than I the differences in relation to integration and qualification. However, the first White Paper, on employment, to which I referred covers the whole of Great Britain.
§ Mr. Patrick Nicholls (Teignbridge)
In welcoming the proposals that my right hon. Friend has set out today, may I urge him to reject emphatically the suggestion made by the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, East (Mr. Prescott) that the allowance paid to somebody who is undergoing training should be the same as the wage that is paid to a person who is doing a job of work? Will he agree with me that, whatever the situation may be today, the decline in traditional apprenticeships began precisely because the trade union movement insisted upon narrowing the gap between the wages paid to apprentices and those paid to working men, which meant that it was no longer worth while for employers to invest in that type of training?
§ Mr. King
My hon. Friend is quite correct. As we are quoting international comparisons, one of the very striking differences is the difference between what is expected by those under 18 in this country and what they expect in such countries as Germany, where there is a much greater acceptance of the training allowance approach. It is highly significant that there is a great deal more training in Germany.
§ Mr. Robert Kilroy-Silk (Knowsley, North)
Does the Secretary of State not yet know that those who are most hostile to youth training schemes are the young people who have been on them, as the Prime Minister found out last Tuesday? May I remind the Secretary of State that on the very day that those 25 unemployed young people from my constituency visited the Prime Minister, there were no more than 10 vacancies for young people in the entire town 1227 of Kirkby? As a result of this statement and two White Papers, how many new jobs will be created? Will the prospects for those young people continue to be blighted and destroyed? Never mind the 10,500 people who are unemployed in my constituency; when will the 25 who visited the Prime Minister last week get real, full-time jobs?
§ Mr. King
Many of the criticisms made of the youth training scheme by those who have been on it, and in a major article in a national newspaper, refer not to the youth training scheme at all but to the youth opportunities programme, which was started by the hon. Member and his hon. Friends. Overwhelmingly, however, the comments about YTS are favourable. They are not universally so, and it is a problem that the scheme does not always lead to full-time employment but instead to disillusion. All I know is that these measures, including those for youngsters who have been on YTS and who are now over 18, and the expansion of the community programme, including the training component, will help them at this difficult time. Of course they would prefer full-time jobs, but the whole House knows that this country, like the other countries in western Europe, is facing a serious problem of high unemployment.
§ Mr. Kenneth Carlisle (Lincoln)
It is important that both White Papers reflect the reality that in the end jobs depend upon supplying what the customer wants. In particular, will my right hon. Friend accept that it is very welcome that the youth training scheme is being developed into a second year, which will be particularly helpful to school leavers. Will my right hon. Friend ensure that the youth training scheme is dovetailed into the present apprenticeship scheme?
§ Mr. King
The review of qualifications, which may have sounded to other hon. Members like a less interesting item, will, when they have read the White Paper and had a chance to see what is involved, be seen to be of fundamental significance. It is vital that we should put into operation the rationalisation of apprenticeships, together with the other training schemes. It is one of the objectives that we have in mind.
§ Mr. Gordon Wilson (Dundee, East)
When will the Secretary of State realise that, without a policy of economic expansion, the two White Papers he has published constitute two legs of a three-legged stool? Secondly, will he give special help to those areas which have been the victims of industrial devastation over the last few years, where the skill base may have been diluted, in order to make sure that youngsters get the skills which are applicable to work?
§ Mr. King
Of course I accept what the hon. Gentleman says about the need for a strong and expanding economy. He will find that it is a central plank of the White Paper we have just published. This country is now embarking upon a fifth year of economic growth. It is likely to have the highest growth rate of any country in Europe. This country is likely to be the fastest creator of new jobs of any major country in western Europe. Of course that is the main platform upon which we have to build the expansion of employment opportunities in this country. I hope that the hon. Gentleman understands that I fully recognise its importance.
§ Mr. Conal Gregory (York)
Will my right hon. Friend examine after Easter, in the light of the forthcoming review of the wages councils, the overtime aspect? There has been the prospect this week of an industrial dispute in the Post Office. Is it not both immoral and uneconomic for people to work long-term overtime rather than cyclical overtime? Will my right hon. Friend examine this aspect in conjunction with his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer so that we may enter an area of real job creation?
§ Mr. King
I am grateful to my hon. Friend. I think the whole House knows what a sensitive and difficult area this is. However, I gave the figures to the House earlier. It amounts to about 11.5 million hours a week, which is the equivalent of 600,000 full-time jobs. I know that it is not possible to make a straight conversion, but, in terms of part-time job release and the way in which we can work towards job-splitting schemes and the incorporation of regular overtime into those schemes, we may be able to find a way in which those who are in work contribute towards helping those who are without work.
§ Mr. Max Madden (Bradford, West)
Does the Secretary of State understand that many young people remain very suspicious of YTS? They believe that it is a cheap labour scheme, often with indifferent training being given, and that it is riddled with racial discrimination. Will the Secretary of State give a firm undertaking that he will never seek to make YTS compulsory? Will he also give a specific assurance that trainees in their second year will be given an increased allowance?
§ Mr. King
It is precisely that sort of comment, delivered in this House and then fed around the country, which has destroyed the opportunities for many young people. Last year, 20,000 young people who would have had the chance of training and work experience in good schemes which would have led to much better prospects of employment were put off by the comments of those who tried to score cheap political points. I have nothing but contempt for them.
§ Mr. Patrick Thompson (Norwich, North)
I join those both inside and outside the House who will welcome this statement as evidence of the Government's increasing commitment to training as the one sure way to increase opportunities for our young people. Does my right hon. Friend agree that we are falling behind our competitors in information technology? Will he ask his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry to persuade industry and commerce to make a greater commitment to information technology, through greater use and greater training?
§ Mr. King
One thing that strikes me about company reports of their financial affairs in their balance sheets and reports and accounts is that, although they depreciate their plant, machinery and buildings, it would be an excellent innovation if they depreciated the most important part of any business—the quality of the skills of their work force. I hope my hon. Friend understands that the work force is a vital investment. If it has been important in the past, it will become absolutely critical in the future because of the galloping pace of new technology.
§ Mrs. Ann Clwyd (Cynon Valley)
The Minister is quite right. We have seen growth in Wales during the last six years—growth in long-term unemployment, from 27 1229 per cent. in 1979 to 40 per cent. now. What does the Minister intend to do about it? Do the Government recognise the link between unemployment and health? According to medical research, thousands of people have died unnecessarily because of the Government's policy of creating unemployment. Does the Minister recognise that social factors are also linked to unemployment: that the rise in marital break-ups, in suicides and in child battering are the direct result of the policies of this Government? What does he propose to do about this?
§ Mr. King
In our assessment of the present position, the greatest areas of concern are clearly the prospects for young people and the long-term unemployed. For that reason, and because of the tragic human problems that accompany unemployment, especially long-term unemployment, the extension of training for young people and the doubling of adult training provision with more help for the long-term unemployed are the two central planks of the measures that I have announced.
§ Mr. Peter Thurnham (Bolton, North-East)
I welcome both White Papers. Does my right hon. Friend agree that they contrast strongly with "Labour's Jobs and Industry Campaign" which would restrict outward investment — although Japan, which has one of the lowest rates of unemployment and one of the most dynamic economies in the world, is now also the world's largest exporter of capital?
§ Mr. King
I do not wish at this stage to go into the fallacies and paradoxes of that document, which will no doubt engage us at a later date. In this country we live by our trade, which is a vital component in the success and strength of our economy. Our exports are expanding fast and if there is one thing we need like a hole in the head it is import controls.
§ Mr. Kevin Barron (Rother Valley)
Is the Secretary of State aware that the majority of young people leaving school or coming off the youth training scheme in my constituency still cannot find jobs and will regard with scepticism statements emanating from a Government whose only claim to fame is that for every week in office they have added 1,000 people to the dole queue?
§ Mr. King
I wonder how much that kind of effort really helps young people in the hon. Gentleman's constituency to find jobs. The hon. Gentleman might have used his breath to better effect in pointing out to them the opportunities that will come from expansion of the youth training scheme and in encouraging as many of them as possible to take those opportunities.
§ Mr. Tim Yeo (Suffolk, South)
Is my right hon. Friend aware that the voluntary sector is keen to play a full part in the drive against unemployment and that any steps that he can take to encourage the participation of voluntary organisations in the expanded community programme will be warmly welcomed?
§ Mr. King
I am most grateful to my hon. Friend. I referred to that aspect in my speech in the Budget debate. I certainly hope that it will be possible to try some imaginative approaches to ways in which charities and the voluntary sector might be able to co-operate in the community programme in ways not so far possible. I believe that that could be a great help, especially for the long-term unemployed.
§ Mr. Dave Nellist (Coventry, South-East)
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that his belated statement on unemployment today, combined with the recent statement of the Minister without Portfolio, Lord UB40, and the Chancellor's Budget statement are clear evidence of the Government's Elastoplast approach to youth unemployment. The net cost of the £1,000 million allocated to these measures in the Budget is only £75 million when dole and supplementary benefit savings are deducted. Is that not clear evidence of the Tory policy of industrial conscription and reduced wages for young people through the YTS, when my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, East (Mr. Prescott) has correctly pointed out that the allowance should be £38 per week to keep pace with the increase in the retail price index in the past seven years, or £40 per week to keep up with wages?
Finally, in the document on employment issued last week the Secretary of State asserted that young people were pricing themselves out of jobs. Does he not recognise that since the Tories came to office school leavers' wages have fallen relative to adult wages by 8 per cent. for boys and 12 per cent. for girls while youth unemployment has trebled? Where is the connection between wages and allowances for young people and that rocketing rate of unemployment?
§ Mr. Peter Bruinvels (Leicester, East)
Despite the sniping and carping of the Opposition spokesman on employment, may I say on behalf of my hon. Friends and the country that we welcome my right hon. Friend's announcement as providng real hope for the youth of today? Will he confirm that all careers teachers will be properly trained to encourage young people to go into the youth training scheme and not to regard it as a stigma as the scheme provides real hope for them, in contrast to the Labour party's "gissa job" policy which everyone is expected to pay for and from which no one will benefit in terms of lasting employment?
§ Mr. King
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his positive approach. The trouble with Labour Members is that they get hung up between claiming that something is really their own policy and taking every opportunity to snipe at developments which in their more rational moments they should agree constitute a major step forward for which many people in the House have called for a long time and which could offer much better prospects for young people and the long-term unemployed.
§ Mr. Barry Sheerman (Huddersfield)
Is it not lime that the Secretary of State went back to school and learnt something about the three Rs — rhetoric, reality and resources — and the difference between them? The rhetoric of the White Paper talks of investment in training and coherence in education and training provision but in reality the Government have dismantled the national training system and the industrial training boards, cut back the skillcentres and destroyed the apprenticeship system so that there is now less adult provision and less high quality training for young people than there was in 1979?
1231 Is the right hon. Gentleman further aware that the emerging problem of skill shortages is of the Government's own making and that despite the rhetoric about skills and qualifications for young people the reality is that the Government are preparing young people for low-tech and no-tech jobs with low skills and a low-waged future?
Is the right hon. Gentleman also aware—
§ Mr. Sheerman
The right hon. Gentleman talks about coherent provision, but are not the 16 to 19-year-olds, the A-level and higher education students, also entitled to coherence, or is he intent on reintroducing the 11-plus by the back door so that the GCSE will be the new 11-plus, dividing quality education for some from low-tech, low-skill education for others?
§ Mr. King
In the kindest possible way, I must tell the hon. Gentleman that that was a most extraordinary collection of comments. As I still had some faith in the hon. Gentleman, I hoped that he might be able, albeit grudgingly, to express on behalf of the Opposition a warm welcome for this measure. I am sorry that he was not able to do so, but I hope that in the fulness of time the merits of my announcements will be recognised.
§ Mr. Nellist
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. As I understand the procedures of the House, it is usual to apply before lunch for an emergency debate. I seek your guidance on whether it is possible for me to apply now for an emergency debate on youth unemployment in view of the pathetic answers given by the Secretary of State for unemployment and the cavalier way in which he has treated serious criticisms of his statement. The support that the Secretary of State received from Conservative Members for the answers that he has given—people for whom one job and one income is insufficient—and his statement to youngsters on £26.25 a week that they are pricing themselves out of jobs, demand that the House today set aside all other business to discuss fully the statement and the documents which the Secretary of State for Employment has just introduced.
§ Mr. Speaker
It is not possible for the hon. Gentleman to make a Standing Order No. 10 application today on this matter. The White Paper was published, I think, two or three days ago.
§ Mr. Speaker
The hon. Gentleman will have to find other opportunities to seek to debate the matter, which I am sure will occur.