HC Deb 13 November 1991 vol 198 cc1070-1
11. Mr. Norman Hogg

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will make a statement about the level of youth unemployment in Scotland.

Mr. Allan Stewart

In July 1991, the latest date for which information is available, there were 73,887 people aged under 25 years unemployed in Scotland. This represents 10 per cent. of the United Kingdom total compared with 14 per cent. in July 1989.

Mr. Hogg

Is the Minister aware that I have been asking this question, mostly of him, for the past 13 years and that that reply reflects how serious is youth unemployment in Scotland? Much of the real figure is concealed by half-baked schemes concocted by his Department, which do not reveal the real position. Do we not need to have real training for real jobs on the same basis as our major European competitors, notably the Germans? If we do not have that, we shall not be in a competitive position in the future.

Mr. Stewart

The hon. Gentleman will no doubt welcome the fact that unemployment in his constituency fell last month, as it did throughout Scotland. [Interruption.] The hon. Gentleman should wait to see the figures. As to the general point, we give a guarantee of a training place for all 16 or 17-year-olds who are not in full-time employment or education. As far as I know, that guarantee is given by no other European country. The current 300,000 youth training places in the United Kingdom compare with the lamentable 7,000 or so under the last Labour Government.

Mr. Ian Bruce

Opposition Members are always doughty fighters when claiming that they wish to preserve youth employment. Has my hon. Friend reflected on the likely effect of Labour's policy to establish a minimum wage of £3.20 per hour for every 16-year-old—and, indeed, on the effect on recruitment to the armed forces if defence spending were reduced by 50 per cent? That seems to be what Opposition parties want.

Mr. Stewart

I believe that, in that last instance, my hon. Friend is referring to the policy of the Liberal Democrats. He is, however, entirely right about the effect that a national minimum wage would have on jobs, especially jobs for young people. According to a number of independent commentators, up to 1.2 million jobs could be lost.

Mr. Worthington

Opposition Members are tired of the current complacency about youth unemployment. A guarantee is of value only if it is honoured. In Tayside, 533 young people are now unemployed; in Central region, 500 are unemployed. These are the 16 to 18-year-olds to whom the Government have given a guarantee.

The shortage of jobs is especially bad in traditional craft apprenticeships, in which many young people wish to work. Lothian now has 3,000 unemployed youngsters; that is 22 per cent. up on last year's figure. Strathclyde has a shortage of more than 3,000 opportunities. All that is concealed beneath a cloak of commercial confidentiality. The Minister is walking away from the problem, and he must stop doing so. Let us have a full independent review of the extent of youth unemployment in Scotland, and end the Government's complacency.

Hon. Members


Mr. Stewart

I am going to answer. Today I checked the position in every local enterprise company. The hon. Gentleman mentioned Central region. It is clear that Forth Valley Enterprise is well on schedule towards ensuring that its end-of-year target is achieved. The hon. Gentleman also referred to Lothian; there are sufficient places on Lothian and Edinburgh Enterprise Ltd. to meet demand. Scottish Enterprise Tayside currently has 2,800 young people in training, and nearly 1,500 have entered the scheme since I April.

The guarantees will be met by local enterprise companies throughout Scotland. What the hon. Gentleman says about me does not concern me; but, if he is calling the local enterprise companies liars, I suggest that he repeat that outside the House.

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