HC Deb 25 October 1988 vol 139 cc162-4
9. Mrs. Golding

To ask the Secretary of State for Employment what percentage of 16 to l9-year-olds were working part-time in 1979 and at the latest available date.

Mr. Nicholls

It is estimated from the labour force survey that 3 per cent. of people aged 16 to 19 in Great Britain were working as part-time employees in spring 1979. The equivalent figure for the spring of 1987 was 14 per cent.

Mrs. Golding

Is the Minister not aware that our young people want full-time jobs? They want full-time jobs with training; they want full-time jobs with work protection; they want full-time jobs with decent holidays and they want full-time jobs with a decent living wage. If he is aware of that, when will he provide such jobs for our young people, rather than force them into totally unsatisfactory, part-time, poorly paid jobs?

Mr. Nicholls

I am sure that those young people would not want to be generalised about and told what they are supposed to want. Only 9 per cent. of those young people gave as their reason for taking part-time work the fact that they were unable to find full-time jobs. There are all sorts of other reasons why young people may want part-time work. For example, they may be students who have decided to supplement their grants. The hon. Lady is entirely wrong to draw only one conclusion from the figures.

Mr. Bill Walker

Is my hon. Friend aware that many youngsters are employed part-time in the kind of work that is available in my constituency, where the tourist industry is the largest employer? Many of them work part-time to supplement the allowances that they receive while they are at college or university, and we must encourage that.

Mr. Nicholls

I am sure that my hon. Friend is right. More than 80 per cent. of the increase between spring 1979 and spring 1987 was among students. Clearly, there is nothing wrong in students' deciding that they want to start to earn some money on a part-time basis as part of the process of making their way in life. There is nothing wrong in that, and obviously that is why Opposition Members condemn it.

Mr. Morley

Is the Minister aware that many young people are being exploited by firms through poor pay and poor conditions? Furthermore, as a direct result of the young workers' scheme, many of the firms that have exploited young workers are non-union firms and have intimidated and frightened them into not joining trade unions? When will the Government protect the rights of people to join the union of their choice rather than taking those rights away, as they have at GCHQ?

Mr. Nicholls

The question has nothing whatever to do with GCHQ. If the hon. Gentleman has firm evidence concerning the exploitation of the young, he should give it to the relevant authorities. I hope that he is pleased that more is being spent on training than at any time in the past; about £1.4 billion is now being spent, as opposed to £380 million when the Labour party was last in office. The figure has more than doubled in real terms.

Mr. Cyril D. Townsend

To what extent does my hon. Friend consider that the failure of young people to get full-time jobs is due to the low quality of education in some of our schools? If young people are turned out unable to read properly, to spell or to do simple arithmetic, how can they do the full-time jobs that arise in an advanced society?

Mr. Nicholls

If the state of a young person's education was so poor that he could not get a full-time job, I doubt whether he could get a part-time job either. However, my hon. Friend has given me the opportunity to make the point yet again that only 9 per cent. of young people gave as their reason for taking part-time employment the fact that they could not get full-time employment.

Mr. Cunliffe

We should not let the junior Minister get away with the complacency shown at the Dispatch Box today. Young people want full-time jobs. Young people want jobs with training. If those disgraceful figures that he has given to the House are combined with the fact that there are more than 100,000 young people at 16 in jobs with no training at all, that is a national disgrace. As the demographic downturn takes place during the next months. [Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. Hon. Members must ask questions.

Mr. Nicholls

Once again, that illustrates the pitfalls of writing one's diatribe before listening to the answers. There is nothing complacent about the information that I have given to the House.

Mr. Cunliffe


Mr. Nicholls

What I have given to the hon. Gentleman is fact. What he does not like is the fact that the Government's record for training both youths and adults is extremely good. If the hon. Gentleman really cared about members of society who would benefit from training, he and his hon. Friends would be doing something about backing employment training.