§ 5.4 p.m.
§ Lord Molloy rose to call attention to the future effects of youth unemployment and to the development of new technology; and to move for Papers.
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, I think I should say at the outset that, in addition to the obvious paradoxical element in the title that I have given to this debate, there is another even more important element. I think that, to a degree, the title reflects our inability to operate a section of industrial and commercial activities in a fully efficient manner. I believe that that must be so when we have to consider the wonders of technological advancement, and the many things that we read about or that we seek which are vitally important. At the same time we must be concerned that among the 3 million unemployed of our fellow citizens there is a large sector of young people.
§ Of course, unemployment is not merely a matter of figures and numbers, but it is an actual blighting of life for individuals and families as well as a grotesque economic waste for our nation. The element of youth unemployment in that is, I believe, a scandalous neglect of our seed corn. Many of our unemployed 902 youth and young part-timers lead a sort of twilight existence in the labour market. They are experiencing prolonged spells of joblessness, with brief spells of unsatisfactory employment. Among them in particular are young men and women who have high technical qualifications, who are the products of some of our universities, and who I should have thought must have a slot somewhere in our industrial and commercial life.
§ According to an OECD document entitled Causes and Consequences of Youth Unemployment, evidence suggests that these early labour market problems for young people do not disappear with the passage of time; that each unemployed youngster appears to have to continue, even in later life, earning a low wage or a low salary. I do not know why that should be. I have merely read the evidence of the OECD document that this sort of thing is happening—this is the peculiar result of unemployment—not only in our country but in many of the OECD countries as well.
§ I believe that we must ensure that the evil maintenance of this bad start is not continued, for we are talking not merely about the future of technological scientists and educationalists, but also about the future parents of future Britons. I believe that such a state of affairs must be a loss and, indeed, a threat to our nation.
§ There are literally thousands of our young people who have never even had experience of employment. That, by itself, must be bad, but I believe that it is our responsibility to look a little further at what that means. There are young people in our society who have never had a job, who have never had a commercial position and who have never been provided with the opportunity to start to earn their own living. That is the final bad result. What is equally bad is that time has been wasted in sending them to school; the time of teachers has been wasted in teaching them; it has been a waste of time their swotting for examinations; there has been a waste of time for those who would have developed into craftsmen and apprentices.
§ Throughout this argument there seems to be a labour of love from the time a little boy or girl goes to his or her first school, right through to the comprehensive or grammar school, on to technical college and ultimately to university. For a young person to end up on a scrapheap, often after devoted love being sacrificed to teach him, is not merely sacrificing a labour of love on the altar of inefficient economy; it is also a grotesque thing to happen in any civilised society. I believe further that it also constitutes a risk to the future of our nation as a great trading nation. That thought is pretty grim to have to contemplate.
§ Therefore, there seems to me to be a challenge facing Britain. That challenge is to provide young people with as many opportunities as possible to develop their preparation for a working life. That is what new technology means. It does not mean any more the young chap, or young woman, sitting alongside Tom, or Nellie, learning the trade. Those days are gone. It means knowing full well that they may have to know a bit more than the middle-aged craftsman, who does not know how to operate and work with some of the products of modern technology. The young apprentice, or the young learner, coming in, will know a hit more than the skilled craftsman.903
§ This is what I mean when I say that they are not even being allowed an opportunity, by being at a place of gainful employment, to prepare for a working life. That means that we have to take full account now of the skills needed both in commerce and in industry. If we can do that in a planned and sensible way then it might well be that much of the waste going on will at least be reduced or even stopped, and the future skills and abilities that British industry and commerce are going to require in the future can be taken full cognisance of now. That is also very important.
§ I believe that the new technology field is one of the paramount features of such consideration. Let me hasten to add that this does not mean that our basic, traditional skills should be in any way demoted, for they are still the bedrock upon which so much of the future industrial innovation, and indeed the success of the new technology, will depend. The scientist, the technician, and people of their skills and abilities, will always need their laboratory and their instruments. They will need some fitter, some engineer, to make them. The surgeon needs his scalpel. The man who produces with his skill that scalpel, and the man who produces the steel from which that scalpel is made, and the miner who digs the coal for where the steel is made which makes the scalpel, the designer, the striver in the steel works, the fine artist who fashions this wonderful blade for the consultant, would be wasting their time if the consultant could not use it in his capacity as a great surgeon.
§ There is this interweaving responsibility, what I have called the pyramid of endeavour, right the way through. Perhaps one of the great workers in scientific technology might depend on the ability of a bus driver or a train driver to get him to work. The doctor, when he is not feeling too well, the nurse in the hospital when he may have to go there—in all this new technology we have been shown more than ever before the pyramid of life and endeavour to which we all ought to be contributing. Alas! those who are not part of this pyramid are those who are not contributing, and not through any fault of their own. This is another element that we have to look at.
§ I have been examining these things and trying to understand them over the past few years, talking to trade union audiences, in universities, and so on. I am still amazed and still really do not understand how it happens. I do not really understand when I switch on television, born of the mind of Logie Baird, how that picture actually gets there, and that it can be distorted if the cat knocks down the internal aerial. I do not understand these things. However, I respect and admire the brilliance of the mind that thought of them.
§ Terms like "micro-electronic technology" today make words like "computer" and "TV", sound old-fashioned. The silicon chip; the automatic brain; data processing; microprocessors; hardware and software. I have a faint idea of what all that means. We have the transputer, and then of course biotechnology. All these conjure up thoughts and dreams of a new world of leisure and plenty, or a horrid automated society with misery for millions in the interim period of its development, when they can see themselves more and 904 more, because of some wonderful result of the thoughts of a genius, being thrown out of work. They will have no admiration. What frightens me and gives me concern is that not only will they have no admiration for whoever it is who has deprived them of their livelihood, they will have a bitterness which will lead to anger. This is one of the thoughts that responsible people should be considering with regard to the development in the future of the new technology.
§ I believe that the latter picture that I put before your Lordships could have even more horrendous results. People get upset or hurt, whether it is through the loss of a loved one or the loss of a home, and having to move out. I have experienced it. I know what it is to help my mother to pack the tin bath with the crockery; get the pram out. My little sister had to carry the baby. Do you know what the crime of my parents was, my Lords? They had not found a way of life to remunerate them with enough money to pay the landlord. My father, a skilled marine engineer, always told me that the hardest, toughest job in his life was during the depression of the 1930s: it was not working gainfully, but searching and looking for work.
§ I do not want that sort of thing to come back, because I believe that the young people of our nation will have different ideas. We have seen that demonstrated in some of the troubles we have had in our inner cities. I deplore it, but I try to understand it. It is tied up with what I am submitting for the consideration of your Lordships this evening. However, it need not be. We have to start with some basic understanding. I do not think that that understanding will come from hating and saying, "I will have nothing to do with the modern, new technology". That is an absurdity. We have to find some other form of understanding. That understanding must provide us with some sane, ethical code to guide us on our way.
§ In my submission that code should be on the following lines. New technology is a challenge to industry and to the nation. It is really not a question of accepting the new technology, of rejecting it, or fighting it; the issue is how to maximise its benefits and minimise its costs, and ensure that its benefits are shared equitably. Some might say that that is a grand ideal, and of course it is. But all education, if it has no ideals, is not education. All planning for a decent, civilised society of big industrialists—the men who are in charge of our great industries, both in the private and in the public sectors—if they have no ideals is followed by trouble. We as legislators have to accept the same principles. I hope that what I have just outlined is at least something that will help us on our way.
§ Britain's industrial revolution led the world in genius of invention and, regrettably, in subsequent misery and industrial slavery for millions. It took generations to shed most of the evil of the latter. Today's technology is different. In the past, technological and technical breakthroughs came at a fairly slow rate; they took time to spread. When Stephenson built his Rocket he did not go charging all over the country like a television signal. Railways lines had to be laid—indeed, they first had to be made—gradually from one place to the next, and that in its turn made its contribution, first conveying materials and then people. 905 In the perspective of today's new technology, that was a long, slow process.
§ I could give many other examples, such as the petrel engine, electric motor, spinning jenny and so on. That slow process allowed the economy at least to adjust itself. But the social upheavel, the uprooting of communities, the migration of the workforce and the creation of factory life inspired—if that is the right word to use—one of England's greatest poets, Blake, to call them dark satanic mills. It was a blot on that semi-civilised society. There is a danger not of that sort of development but at least of something similar if we do not hold firmly, with a strong intelligent grasp, to the development of new technology.
§ I say that because the spread of the development of modern technology will not permit of gradual refinement. The speed of development is as phenomenal as the initial invention. I will give an example. In the early 1950s, it was estimated by British and American technologists and scientists that it would be possible to construct a human brain using millions of little valves, and it took five years to calculate that the housing for that human brain would be as large as Greater London. By the 1960s, the housing could be reduced to the size of the Albert Hall. Today it can be done in a smaller space than the average human brain itself. That indicates the massive speed with which the wonders of new technology are outdated, sometimes within a few months. With the transistor replacing the valve there have been many other innovations. They may be wonderful—indeed, they truly are—but equally they can be dangerous. That is proved by the fact that whereas to make a human brain in the 1950s would need a housing the size of Greater London, by the 1980s, using circuits of micro-processors, it could be made smaller than the real one.
§ The genius of the inventors demands new skills and abilities in the field of operation. The apprentice will be required to be fully trained even before any production is started. That being so, it seems to me that we are suffering from an abysmal myopia when we are compelled to acknowledge that thousands of our young men and women with initial ability and educational standards are languishing in the barren, blind alleys of unemployment. I do not pretend to know the answer. I simply appeal for us to recognise the dangerous implications of inaction and for some ideas to be looked at, even if they are rejected, if in consequence thereof better and more practical ones are ultimately embarked on.
§ The changes taking place in the structure of the employed population create a need to respond to them. Against a background of already unacceptably high unemployment, fears of further deterioration are stimulated by techincal progress. Those fears are exacerbated by increases in the number of young people helping to swell the unemployed and dole queues. Yet the seeming paradox is that a higher rate of economic growth is needed to guarantee effective demand; our growth is slipping and not really improving, yet the answer to the dilemma we are in is greater and higher economic growth. Modern technology will assist us to achieve that because the increased output of modern technology is one of the ways by which we can accomplish that objective. 906 The new technology will require customers and consumers. It will be denied those if it contributes to further unemployment.
§ The worst of all worlds would be if the new technology in nearly all its forms failed and economic recovery and its maintenance was doomed. Our nation would be in a very parlous situation. However, I believe that with vision and planning there need be no delay. We should, therefore, start at once to develop the particular skills associated with micro-electronic technology. Let Government, industry and the trade unions get down to identifying those of our unemployed youth who possess the basic knowledge to make it worth our while to pay them to learn. It may sound impossible, but what I am in essence saying is that if we were facing a great emergency, within a few months we should know, from among the unemployed the length and breadth of this island, the sort of people we needed to pick out quickly to save us from that great catastrophe. We should select now from among the unemployed youth, so as to get them to understand and play their part in learning how to make the new technology function.
§ With that in mind, I suggest we should perhaps have a brand new form of technical college, specifically designed for training on futuristic lines, so keeping up with what the future means. One can be discussing the future today and next week, with modern technology, the future almost becomes the past. In earnest co-operation with our industrialists and trade union leaders, we could provide, with industry, their own training establishments in anticipation of the requirements of the skills of the future. Time does not permit me to indulge in the detail of my submission, but I believe that a radical and imaginative plan will be needed to meet the needs of the new technology, and therefore the unions and our great industrialists should set about modernising the apprenticeship system and we should be providing people with training so that they may easily enter the world of new technology. The TUC, CBI and our universities should co-operate with the Government to evolve an on-going method of training and teaching.
New technology need not be a threat but a benediction in many fields; for example, in medicine, education, communication and all forms of commerce and industry, light and heavy. But at all times people must be at the centre and never on the periphery. Perhaps then, with that ideal, our country will provide the civilised response to what the Welsh poet W. H. Davies asked when he wrote:
What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare?
Certainly I hope it will not mean succumbing to the delirium of watching TV for hours on end, but getting to know the real world, to which new technology can also contribute. In what I have outlined, I sincerely believe that if any country in the world can do it, it is my country, Great Britain; that our endeavours and achievements will not only enrich the lives of our own people but also make a necessary and valuable contribution to assisting the much poorer lands of this earth. It is an exciting challenge. I believe our nation has the capacity to respond. My Lords, I beg to move for Papers.
§ 5.29 p.m.
§ Lord Rochester
My Lords, I am sure that I speak for the whole House in thanking the noble Lord, Lord Molloy, for having introduced this Motion. If I may say so, I particularly admired the humanity and humility with which he related these complex problems to his own experience. If he will allow me to say so, I was just a little sorry that since this short debate covers such a very wide area, each of the two parts of the Motion was not more evidently related to the other. But in his speech the noble Lord, Lord Molloy, has made plain to us the connection in his mind between the two parts of the Motion, and in my own contribution I shall do what I can to link the development of new technology—about which, like the noble Lord, I feel a certain humility in talking at all—if not to youth unemployment alone, at least to unemployment in a wider and more general sense.
First, I should like to say that, given the present economic circumstances in which we find ourselves and the problem that these pose as to how to find adequate resources to finance all the good things that we should like to see done, I hope that we shall all be willing to acknowledge that at least in the immediate future any British Government, whatever their political complexion, will be bound to find it difficult altogether to eliminate the problem of youth unemployment. In my view, it therefore behoves us all, first, to approach the problem in a positive manner—as I think the noble Lord himself very largely did—and, secondly, to seek as much common ground as possible in trying to alleviate it.
For my part I have no doubt that we should aim to see that at the earliest practical date some combination of training, work experience, and further education is made available to all 16 and 17-year olds who do not remain in full-time education. That is certainly the aim of the Manpower Services Commission. I think that it is also the Government's long-term objective, and this is perhaps the moment to pay tribute to what the Government have so far found it possible to do in working towards it in their new youth training scheme. Indeed, I should like to welcome also the response that is being made to that initiative by employers up and down the land.
Two important reasons for adopting such a policy are that the job prospects of unskilled workers are all the time worsening—this was a point that the noble Lord, Lord Molloy, brought out very well—and that if, as a nation, we are to stay competitive, and thus minimise unemployment, we must have a workforce which is as well trained and as flexible as that of our competitors. A policy of that kind would also of course have the great benefit of taking several hundred thousand youngsters out of the labour market altogether for a period of two years. However, for my part I am prepared to concede that within the financial resources now available to us, it may not yet be possible to implement quite such a comprehensive policy. Nevertheless I believe that more can be done than is at present contemplated by the Government under the youth training scheme, in particular by including within it employed as well as unemployed young people.
I come to my next point. I do not believe that any comprehensive training programme for young people will work unless it has the support of all the main 908 interests involved—by which I mean Government, employers, trade unions and educationists. For that reason I very much hope that the Government will prove willing to accept the alternative arrangements to their youth training scheme which the Manpower Services Commission is reported to have agreed on. These would have the effect (among other things) of raising the amount of the allowance to be paid to youngsters on the scheme and would do away with the controversial proposals to withdraw supplementary benefit from I6-year olds who do not take part in it. Yet that would not add to the overall cost of the scheme.
Similarly, I hope that the Government will look favourably on the institutional framework for training young people that the MSC is reported to have worked out, paying due regard, as is done, to the parallel needs for some national advisory machinery which would bring together all the interests involved, or a regional structure which would enable training to be related to local needs and local labour markets.
For my part, I welcome in particular the leading role which, in the view of the MSC, employers should be called upon to take, because I know from my experience as chairman of one of the commission's district manpower committees that what will be needed most is competent management: that is, the ability to get people actually to do things. I realise that on points such as these the noble Lord, Lord Lyell, when he replies will not be in a position to commit the Government at this stage, because I think I am right in saying that the Manpower Services Commission finally reached these conclusions only yesterday. Nevertheless, I shall be grateful if he can respond in as positive a way as possible to the general approach to the problem that I have sought to advocate.
The only other thing that I want to say on the future effects of youth unemployment as such is that I am increasingly concerned—this point, too, was touched on indirectly by the noble Lord, Lord Molloy—about the proportion of long-term unemployed (that is, those who have been out of work for more than 12 months) who are aged under 25. They now account for more than a quarter of the total numbers involved. The scheme best able to cater for them has been judged to be the Community Enterprise Programme. The MSC recommended that there should be 60,000 filled places on that scheme in the year 1982–83, but the Government have decided that there should be only 30,000. I believe that in order to cope with the problem even 60,000 places are not nearly enough.
My understanding is that in Cheshire, where I live, the Employment Service Division of the MSC has been told that, far from encouraging the filling of even a few more places under the scheme, no further action should be taken to fill places on it. Presumably this is to make way for the new Government initiative, which was announced in the recent Budget by Sir Geoffrey Howe, to run alongside the Community Enterprise Programme, aimed at giving those who have been unemployed for some time the opportunity to work for the benefit of their own community. I have been able to give the noble Lord, Lord Lyell, a little notice of this point, and I shall be grateful if, when he replies, he offers me such enlightenment on it as he can.
If I may turn briefly to the second part of the Motion of the noble Lord, Lord Molloy, relating to the develop- 909 ment of new technology, I would say that I am not one who believes that in the long term new technology will necessarily increase unemployment. Of course in the short run it will involve displacement of people, but, for example, in process industries, on which perhaps I am best qualified to speak, the introduction of new technology in the erection of new plants could well result in the employment of more people in the building, engineering and construction industries, and in my view it is by no means certain that it need ultimately produce a net loss of jobs overall. What I am entirely clear about is that the consequences for employment of turning our backs on new technology would be far worse in the long run than the effects of welcoming it. As a trading nation, it is our ability to compete internationally that will primarily influence our employment prospects.
Since the last war our share of world markets has more than halved. In the United Kingdom during this period unemployment has greatly increased. Yet new technology has been introduced on only a relatively small scale, and cannot therefore be held to blame. In contrast, much more use of it has been made by our more successful competitors—for example, Germany and Japan—yet in neither of those countries is the unemployment rate nearly as high as in the United Kingdom. In short, we simply cannot afford to reject new technology, and here, I think, I am at one with the noble Lord, Lord Molloy, as I hope I shall be with a number of noble Lords who will follow me.
Indeed, on that point too, should like to pay a tribute to the recognition on the part of the TUC that if we cling to outdated technology we shall not prevent job loss; we shall simply lose our share of such new jobs as are created. Talking of the TUC, I have noted that a former trade union leader of great distinction, the noble Lord, Lord Scanlon, is to follow me, and because it is relevant to this debate I should like to pay tribute, if I may, to his work as chairman of the Engineering Industry Training Board, not least in seeking to relate apprentice training (touched on, again, by the noble Lord, Lord Molloy) more to the achievement of standards than to the serving of time.
I spoke earlier of the vital need for a concerted approach in the field of training among Government, employers, trade unions and educationists. I very much hope that if the Government accept the MSC's proposed modification to the youth training scheme, as I fervently hope they will, trade unions generally will in turn accept wholeheartedly relevant standards of competence as a measure which should determine the attainment of skills. My Lords, I welcome the opportunity that this debate has given us to see how far we can find common ground in tackling the problems posed by youth unemployment and the development of new technology.
§ 5.43 p.m.
§ Lord Scanlon
My Lords, a combination of Government policies and a deep recession has been superimposed on the longer-term structural decline of British industry. This has driven the jobless total beyond the 3 million mark; but most importantly, the number out of work for more than a year has doubled to over a million in the space of 12 months—and even 910 these figures really understate the jobs shortage. They do not include many people, especially married women, for instance, many of whom have a desire to work but have not registered as unemployed. Nor do they include those kept off the register by short-time working and special Government measures. When these groups are taken into account, the real jobs shortage is over 4 million, and rising.
Young people under the age of 25 constitute over 40 per cent. of this jobless total. Two hundred thousand of them were out of work for more than a year at the beginning of 1982—three times the figure of 12 months earlier—and another 192,000 were kept off the unemployment register by special measures. That is not to denigrate the special measures; it is simply an indication of the extent of the jobless youth of our country. In some inner cities, youth unemployment has climbed to the staggering figure of between 40 and 50 per cent. of the total unemployed within those cities. Unemployment among ethnic minorities has risen faster than the national average. In 1981, the number of jobless black workers increased by over 46 per cent., compared with an increase of 37 per cent. in the national average. This is compounded by discrimination against job applicants from ethnic minorities, again particularly young black people.
Previous speakers have referred to such unemployment as representing a huge cost to society, not only in terms of individual suffering but also in lost skills and productiveness. The scale and speed of this skill wastage has reached record proportions. But there is another aspect of the problem which concerns the very future of Britain as an industrial nation. New technology is giving rise to profound changes in the occupational structure. Many old skills are now no longer relevant, and the demand for new skills is beginning to grow. This demand can be expected to accelerate in any economic upturn, creating the prospect of severe skill shortages. And yet, instead of making increased provision for training in new skills, the Government are dismantling the statutory framework of training and handing over responsibility to employers, who are themselves having to cut back training in response to the recession. This has resulted in many young people missing out on training opportunities altogether, and many other workers have lost their jobs and had to take on less skilled work, while the remainder have little, if any, chance of re-entering the labour force without updating their skills or acquiring new ones.
We recognise that it would be wrong to underestimate the difficulty in moving rapidly towards full employment. The counteracting pressures are formidable. In addition to the damage done by Government policies to job prospects, the world economy is still in recession; our manufacturing base has been weakened over decades by a chronic failure to invest; and much of the new investment that has taken place is highly capital-intensive, and therefore not productive of new employment.
However, recognising all these things we do not and must not accept the dangerously complacent view that, somehow, in some way, society must learn to live with a sort of permanent "reserve army" of jobless people. So long as there are needs to be met and people with the ability to fulfil them, the scope for useful and productive employment is unlimited. New 911 technology can and must be made to work for us, and not against us, by releasing people from hazardous and repetitive tasks and allowing us all to spend less time at work. The present pattern of exchanging the school desk for the dole queue is not only economic nonsense; it can and will have serious political and social consequences unless we speedily terminate it and provide constructive alternatives.
Investment in training is as important to the future of our country as investment in machinery and innovation. The neglect of training over recent decades is part of the vicious circle which has so typified our economy of low investment, low wages and low productivity headed by a policy of de-industrialisation. Training provision now lags far behind that of our main competititors abroad. Almost half our young people leave school without getting an apprenticeship or vocational preparation of any kind compared with less than 10 per cent. in West Germany and less than 20 per cent. in France. Only 30 per cent. of British workers have any intermediate qualifications compared with over 50 per cent. of German workers, and the tragedy is that there is no real sign of any improvement in this situation.
In addition, occupational change imposes a great challenge to our training arrangements. By 1985 white-collar workers will outnumber manual workers. There is likely to be a steady decline in the demands of traditional skills such as, for instance, machine operators, fitter mechanics and sheetmetal workers. At the same time, the economy will need growing numbers of professional engineers, technicians, draughtspeople—and here may I say that computer-aided design in draughtsmanship is as great a technological revolution as has happened in any other part of our economy—and, in addition, systems analysts and computer programmers.
These changes reflect the basic shifts that are taking place between manufacturing and services and between knowledge-based and traditional industries. Occupational skills are having to adapt to processes rather than products and to cross-industry needs rather than industry-specific needs. This implies that the focus of training will have to shift in the future from craft skills to cross-sector transferable skills, and it is unlikely that our present training system is adequate to this task.
May I now turn to what the noble Lords, Lord Rochester and Lord Molloy, referred to as the initiative of the Government's White Paper. May I join them in congratulating the Government in announcing in that White Paper the general, laudable principle that all school-leavers should be given the opportunity of continuing education or some type of full-time vocational training. But training for what, and how? Please accept that criticising the Youth Opportunity Programme and the work experience programme is not to denigrate in any form the opportunity it gave to youngsters to relieve the tedium of unemployment, but it was a costly business and one has to admit that it realy had more to do with reducing the unemployment figures than with any long-term, worthwhile training. We hope that the training that is now envisaged will be of value not only to the trainee, to the recipient—for even if, at the end of the training, 912 there were no job for him, it could be used as part of his qualification provided that the training was of the right type and right quality—but also to employers, to industry and to the country.
However, the unfortunate blots on the escutcheon were the two conditions that the Government seem to insist upon in fulfilment of the terms of their White Paper; that is, the degree of compulsion and the inadequate training allowances. Both these problems will seem to have been overcome if the Government accept what is now reported in the press as being the unanimous decision of the task group which was set up comprising of representatives of the CBI, the TUC and the MSC. That report indicated that, initially, at any rate—and, if it has been correctly reported, I would subscribe completely to that view—it should apply to unemployed youngsters and by 1985 apply to all young people under the age of 18. To try to do it all in one swoop at the beginning would, in my view (and, I hope, ultimately in the Government's view), compound confusion and put stress on quarters where presently there is no need for such stress.
I should now like to turn to what the report seems to omit or is unclear or indefinite. I must again qualify my remarks by the statement, "If the press report is correct". I turn first to the matter raised by the noble Lord, Lord Rochester, that of training to standards. I do not propose to weary your Lordships by recounting the efforts that the Engineering Training Board has made, and is continuing to make, to try to obtain the agreement of employers, of trade unions and of academics, to change the whole approach of status in industry to one of achieving that status by the achievement of standards rather than by the lapse of time. This report makes no mention of three important issues: will there be standards, and, if so, who will determine them? Who will see they are maintained? Who will give the accreditation at the end of such training? I know that these may seem detailed points, and we shall await with interest the reply of the noble Lord opposite, but I believe they are important issues which must be considered in the setting in which I am trying to place them. The report also suggests the establishment of upwards of 50 local boards, and that the MSC staff should be reinforced by recruits, if necessary seconded from industry, from education and from other sources.
I take liberty to disagree at this stage with the noble Lord, Lord Rochester. Do we really need such an army of either autocrats or bureacrats when we have within our midst the expertise, the knowledge, the know-how, and the ability to cope with all the proposals made by the MSC in the report? I believe that we have this ability within the existing training boards—that is, those that have remained on a statutory basis—and that there are scores of people from those boards which have been disbanded who are likely to join the ranks of the unemployed unless we can utilise their expertise. Therefore, I would make the appeal to look at this very carefully and to ensure that the training boards become an integral part of training for the school-leavers which is such an imaginative step and could help relieve the horrifying total of the jobless youth of our country.
Finally, the scheme, as I have said, must be initially for school-leavers, but it must be over and above 913 those recruits to industry that employers would normally take on. They must not be seen as an alternative to the intake; they must be seen as additional to the intake. They must not be seen as a source of cheap labour but as a means of augmenting existing labour ready for when there is an upturn in the economy.
I hope that the noble Lord will take note of these measures: first, the Government must undertake some steady, controlled reflation of the economy, for without it a substantial inroad into this massive total of unemployed—and particularly the youth unemployed—is not possible.
Secondly, the Government must accept the MSC recommendations with regard both to the elimination of the compulsion element and to the new proposals for the training amounts indicated in their report. The Government must insist that ITBs and other voluntary counterparts are brought into the whole machinery of operating the new training initiative. To do less would only exacerbate the gloom and despair so readily prevalent in the youth of this country. To accept these suggestions will do much not only to give them hope but to help them play a real part in the restoration of this country's economy.
§ Lord Rochester
My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, I hope that he will forgive me for intervening in this way for there is so much on which I agree with him. I do not want to cross swords with him, but rather seek a point of clarification. I was naturally very interested in what he had to say about the institutional framework and the superficial difference at any rate between himself and me on this point.
As he will recall, I was, like him, very much opposed to the ready dismantling of industrial training boards. I see that in the case of those industries where industrial training boards remain it is possible to have some framework of the kind that he suggests, but what of those industries where they are no longer in existence? Will not some institutional framework be required there, and will it not have even more application in view of the point that he himself was making of the need for training nowadays to take place not only within individual industries but across industries on a cross-sectoral basis?
§ Lord Scanlon
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for seeking clarification on this matter. I readily concur with his view that what is done is done and that those industries for whom there will be no statutory board are faced with difficulties. My plea was to utilise the expertise of people within those industries who were, and to some extent still are, employed by the training boards that will eventually be dismantled. I have been present at conferences when the Secretary of State has made it quite clear that he will not issue the order cancelling the existence of those training boards until he is satisfied about voluntary arrangements. If he is satisfied, in my view he could well utilise those voluntary arrangements within those industries and, where the statutory board exists, the expertise of the statutory board.
§ 6.5 p.m.
Earl Alexander of Tunis
My Lords, like other speakers, I too am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord 914 Molloy, for bringing this important and far-reaching subject to your Lordships' attention. However, I hope that your Lordships will forgive me if I do not stay to the end of this debate as I have a long-standing engagement. But I shall certainly read with much interest the Hansard report tomorrow morning.
I should just like to make one comment on the title of this debate. I would have thought that it would have been more positive if it had read, "future effects of youth employment" and not "unemployment". Some of your Lordships might have read the extensive report in the most recent issue of Time magazine. It makes it quite clear that the American youth are very much familiar with all aspects of home computers. I hope that following this debate, and following the speech which the noble Lord, Lord Lyell, will be making, this country will catch up with America.
I understand that the Government are well aware of the problem and indeed the potential in this field. Perhaps to assuage Lord Molloy's concern—which we all share—the Department of Industry, together with the Manpower Services Commission, are providing young people with information technology centres. These are designed to give training and work experience in micro-electronics and computing. I understand that the Government gave approval for about 30 information technology centres. It is intended that many will be in inner city areas of Glasgow, Liverpool, Manchester and London. I understand that a further 70 will be formed, making about 100 by the end of this year.
Information technology centres will introduce young people to activities such as computer programming, tele-text editing, word processing (I really do not understand what that means), computer maintenance, control systems and electronics. In order to create a realistic working environment, information technology centres will also develop, produce and sell new technology items. The Notting Dale Technology Centre, for example, develops and produces electronic aids for the handicapped. It is hoped that some of the products developed will result in independently viable "spin off" business being created. Programs are tailored, I understand, for the trainees individually and can last for up to one year.
In other words, this is a significant step forward which should—and I believe does—have support from all parties as well as, of course, the various businesses and commercial interests which it is bound to affect in the years to come.
§ 6.8 p.m.
§ Lord Vernon
My Lords, there is probably no one in this House who is not concerned about this subject which has been raised with such deep feeling by the noble Lord, Lord Molloy, this afternoon. We on this Bench believe that a high priority should be given to reducing the present level of unemployment and especially unemployment among the young.
In the course of a speech during the Hillhead by-election, Mr. Roy Jenkins put forward specific proposals to achieve this reduction, the aim of which would be to provide jobs for 1¼ million people over a one- to two-year period, including 200,000 new jobs for young people.
915 The effect of unemployment is demoralising for people of all ages; but it is infinitely worse for those in the early morning of their careers than it is for those in the evening of them. If anyone has to go to the wall it should be the old rather than the young. For that reason, I personally believe that a start should be made soon towards reducing the retirement age for men to 60, as it is for women. The present position is in any case grossly discriminatory and it is also anomalous, bearing in mind the much earlier date at which men, on average, die. We must, however, be frank with ourselves: in the era of high technology into which we are moving and about which so much has already been said, we shall never again be able to eradicate unemployment in the sense that we did in the 1950s and the 1960s. There just will not be the jobs.
We must also face the fact that with our very dense population, built up over the last 150 years or so to meet the demands of labour intensive industries, our task is going to be harder than for some other countries. Of course, it is possible to hide unemployment by creating bogus jobs, whether in industry or in the Civil Service. That is clearly what happens in the Soviet Union, which maintains that it has no unemployment.
It is, of course, not only the Soviet Union where unemployment is hidden. I saw the other day some interesting figures relating to extra-mural activities by Italian civil servants, in which your Lordships might be interested. First, those with a second job formed 54 per cent. of the total; secondly, those often absent from duty because of few checks made, 45 per cent. of the total; thirdly, those selling goods within Ministries during working time, 33 per cent. of the total; fourthly, those taking early or late holidays (and thus a longer holiday because of superiors' absence at main holiday time), 27 per cent, of the total; lastly, those who hardly ever report for work because no checks are made, 19 per cent. of the total. Those figures are taken from an academic study conducted in Rome and quoted in the Lloyd's Bank Economic Bulletin for February 1982. Perhaps to a limited extent the same thing happens here—I do not know—but it is surely not a precedent that we should seek to follow.
It would be wrong not to give credit to the Government and to the previous Administration for the steps they have taken through the Youth Opportunities Programme and the new Training Initiatives to lessen the impact of unemployment on the 16 to 18 year-olds. Training is obviously of vital importance and it is a field where at present we lag behind our European competitors, as has been made clear by the noble Lord, Lord Scanlon. But training is surely more rewarding and psychologically more effective if it goes in hand with a job. It is one thing to be trained in certain skills; it is infinitely more valuable if a person, in addition to having such skills, can point to a period of utilising them for an employer who, even if he cannot continue to offer employment in the longer term, may at least be able to provide a working reference.
Therefore, I hope that the Government will give consideration to the proposal made by Mr. Jenkins that employers should be offered a subsidy of £30 a 916 week for every school-leaver they employ under the age of 18, provided that certain periods of off-the-job training are linked with the subsidy. In order to avoid creating a high level of unemployment at 18, the subsidy could alternatively be paid on a graduated scale, giving more to employers of 16 year-olds than to the 18 year-olds. The Government, of course, may say they have gone some way towards meeting an employment subsidy along the lines suggested by the £15 per week job creation subsidy devised by Professor Walters. However, they have not gone far enough, and in any case the conditions attaching to the Walters scheme appear to have run into severe criticism from the CBI and the TUC.
If one looks at the league table, if one may so call it, of employment of the under-25s in the major Western European countries as at December 1981, it appears that the United Kingdom has 1,109,000, which constitutes 38 per cent. of out total unemployed, as compared with West Germany with 360,000, which is 21 per cent. of their total unemployment. France has 917,000 in the under-25 age group and Italy has I million; but in both these cases the percentages of total unemployed are around 45 per cent., which is substantially higher than our own, according to the figures I have seen provided by Eurostat. Moreover, when one considers that there is compulsory military service for up to two years in those countries—taking perhaps half a million of this younger age group out of the labour market in any year—the comparison with our European partners is not unfavourable. That does not mean, of course, that we should be complacent.
That brings me to my final point. Compulsory military service has certain obvious advantages: not only does it give a measure of training and discipline to youths who might otherwise be roaming the streets, but it also takes a substantial number of persons in the 18 to 20 age group off the labour market and so provides more opportunity for others. We in this country have always set our faces against compulsion and I would guess we shall continue to do so; but that makes it all the more essential that our voluntary government training schemes should contain a mixture of carrot and stick. I for one—and I realise that I am not at one with the noble Lord, Lord Rochester, and the noble Lord, Lord Scanlon—strongly endorse the condition built into Mr. Tebbit's scheme that supplementary benefit should not be payable to those not participating.
Before concluding, I should like to add this: in preparing for this debate this afternoon, I have become bewildered by the number of different schemes for providing job subsidies and training which at present operate. The benefits and conditions attached to these schemes vary, and some have been wholly or partially overtaken by others. Would it not be in the general interest, and not least in the interest of those participating in the schemes, if the Government were to codify them all in a single table, intelligible to the public at large? I should be grateful if the noble Lord, Lord Lyell, could consider this suggestion.
§ 6.19 p.m.
§ Lord Energlyn
My Lords, I listened with a certain degree of bewilderment to the noble Lord, Lord Scanlon. He, unconsciously, I feel, underrates the 917 standard of intelligence of our young people. He once said—rather humorously, I suppose—in your Lordships' House that he regarded academics as "educated beyond their intelligence." Whether from that sterns his philosophy this afternoon, I do not know, but the important thing is this: we are still the best educated people in the world. I say that without fear of challenge. When we are talking about training people for this and that, no country in the world has such a fertile source of ability as we have in Britain.
Those young lads whom we see on television, who are sailing happily south to defend human rights, for which we in Britain stand, are an example of the standard of intelligence and integrity of the young men and women of this country. So I cannot stand by and hear anybody criticise them on that premise. They are the most versatile young people in the world. What I am going to suggest is that, being myself a pure scientist, I think I can speak with some degree of knowledge of what invention really means—
§ Lord Scanlon
My Lords, I am sorry to intervene, but I thought the noble Lord was going to say what it was that I had said in criticism of the youth of this country.
§ Lord Energlyn
My Lords, I had a general feeling from the noble Lord's speech that these young people need to be intensively trained. That is right, is it not? There is a need for intensive training.
§ Lord Scanlon
Indeed there is, my Lords, in order to meet the challenge of the new technology and to master it.
§ Lord Energlyn
But with respect, my Lords, the noble Lord generalised. What these people are capable of doing is, within one week, learning a particular skill which the technologists require. But the point is that in the technology of today and tomorrow we shall employ fewer and fewer people. That is the picture of technology. Technology creates unemployment. It is designed to replace the human being in carrying out tedious forms of labour.
What I should like to suggest is that there is an area of technology which no noble Lord has yet touched upon, which is the technology of salesmanship. It is simple to invent something. It is simple to manufacture something. The most difficult part is to know whether it is worth anything in the markets of the world and, if it is, to be able to go out and sell it. We were the great merchants of the world and what I am suggesting is that, if you want to train anybody, you should train salesmen in the technology of salesmanship.
Today, it is not a case of a nice fellow going out and trying to sell something to somebody. A man has to go out with specialised knowledge of the product he is trying to sell, which means that he has to understand the technology behind that product. He must also be in a position to go back to his employers, or the source of the product, and say, "I need a hack-up. It is no good my telling a customer that we have this item for sale. The customer says, How marvellous! How much? And when can I have it?'". If that salesman cannot guarantee delivery, he is wasting his time. So 918 what I am saying is that there is an area of tuition in which we are sorely at a loss, and that is in the training of salesmen. What could be more appealing to a large numbers of young men and women—I am talking not about hundreds but about thousands—than sending them out into the world to sell British products? British is best! I now turn to research and development in relation to any form of labour-based potential. Most people have been amazed that within days we have been able to convert a pleasure steamer into a hospital. Most people have been amazed that we have been able to convert a ship, built for another purpose, into an operational naval unit with helicopter decks and so on. They did not appear by magic. All the research and development had been carried out to do that job, but it was not until this emergency took place that the R and D of these naval research departments, which I assure your Lordships is superb, was brought into use. Let us not lose sight of that marvellous piece of technology that we have at our fingertips, ready to use, which nobody else in the world has.
We should aim at production and at exports—exports created by salesmen—and we need to get those exports across the oceans of the world. We should rebuild our merchant navy, which is another source of employment for our adventurous young people. But this time, one would have the advantage of the enormous advances which our naval engineers have made in creating new rudders, new propellers and in all kinds of materials for the fabrication of fast-moving ships.
I now turn to other labour-based industries. I could quote a number, but time will not permit me to do so. But I will select one which is very close to my heart; namely, the coal industry. Here we have an indigenous industry which for too long has been forced to serve the needs of this country, when the whole wealth of this country before the war was built on the export of coal. Since the war, we have built into this country mining technology which the world demands and for which it pays handsomely. In one year, we are capable of producing coal to the tune of 40 million tonnes in excess of our own requirements. In the world market, that is worth £400 million of anybody's currency. Therefore, I would integrate the merchant navy into the export of coal. But to export that coal requires a knowledge of the technology and the transportation of coal, and we need in the National Coal Board a virile, new group of technologists, trained in the technology of selling and transporting coal.
I must also praise the Government for having done a most imaginative thing. I commend to the noble Lords, Lord Molloy and Lord Scanlon, a very interesting document on economic development by district councils. In four or five marvellous pages it gives the whole picture of the impact of the finances of district councils on the development of community endeavours. As I understood him, the noble Lord, Lord Molloy, was trying to integrate industry with social life, decent standards of life, et cetera. I am hopeful of being able to contribute to something like this, because I have been invited to become a participant in the development in one of these imaginative enterprise zones.
When I first read about an enterprise zone, I thought that it was just another development of a trading 919 estate, but I very rapidly learned that it is nothing of the kind. The Minister has, with vision, put into this picture a concept of community development—not a soulless trading estate—and I shall be taking part in the development of one of these enterprise zones in Swansea. We cannot go on without considering the whole area of South Wales. Here we have some fascinating challenges from derelict land. The Government have, very wisely, increased the money available for the restoration and refurbishing of derelict land. I could talk for half an hour about that, because it is a marvellous idea.
We have the possibility of getting young people back on to the land. There could be nothing better than to revive and build up our agricultural and horticultural industries—a healthy, out-of-door way of life. Young people do not want to become industrial robots producing transistors by the million or motor-cars by the million. They want to get out into the air and to live. They want nothing better than to be in the fresh air. We in South Wales have an enormous potential. It is no wonder that the Japanese have gone into South Wales. There they have an imaginative labour force prepared to work with anybody, so long as they can have a decent way of life. In this area we are hopeful of fulfilling some of the ideas which the Minister has in mind.
In conclusion, I hope I was not discourteous to the noble Lord, Lord Scanlon. I appreciate his point, but I do wish he would turn over another page and, with his remarkable ability, appeal to the youth of this country to go out and say, "We are British, and British is best".
§ 6.31 p.m.
§ Baroness David
My Lords, I, too, should like to thank my noble friend Lord Molloy for introducing this debate and, as the noble Lord, Lord Rochester, said, for the humanity with which he did so. I am sure we all got the feeling that he himself has about the waste which goes with youth unemployment.
I think it is good for us to focus our attention again on what is the most distressing aspect of the present recession: the horribly high figures of youth unemployment. We heard yesterday that the figure for all unemployed is now up to over 3 million, boosted by 11,000 new school-leavers. It is daunting to look at the figures of the young unemployed—the under 20year-olds—over the last 20 years. In 1960, in Great Britain, there were 33,000; in 1970, 67,000; in 1976, 225,000; and in January 1982, 548.300. In 1960, the figure of 33,000 was 8.1 per cent. of all unemployed; in 1982, the under 20-year-olds made up 18 per cent. of the total figure. These figures do not include the half a million people nationally who are on Department of Employment special schemes. The Manpower Services Commission predict that over 630,000 places will need to be found in 1982–83–80,000 more than last year—and that 65 per cent. of the young people available for work are likely to be unemployed in 1984–85. The Cambridge Economic Policy Group, which has predicted fairly accurately in the past, puts the total figure at the end of 1985 at 4,350,000, which could mean the under 20-year-olds being near 800,000.
920 It is clear that we shall have a high level of youth unemployment for a considerable time. While acknowledging that the Government have taken some steps to try to ameliorate the situation, our view is that those steps are inadequate and that the plans put forward in their White Paper, A New Training Initiative: A Programme for Action go nowhere near providing the necessary training for the age group. My noble friend Lord Scanlon said that we hope those plans will be superseded if the Manpower Services Commission has accepted what the task group proposed. This, of course, is reported in the press today, so we cannot take it for certain. But I hope very much that this is so.
My noble friend Lord Scanlon has spoken of the needs of industry for properly trained and skilled people. I endorse all he said and do not agree with the noble Lord, Lord Energlyn. I agree that we probably have the best educated people but I believe that we still lack a great many skills. This has been so for some time and is likely to go on, unless we initiate these training schemes. I should like to ask the Minister whether he could tell us how the voluntary arrangements, to replace the industrial training boards which have been abolished, are progressing. We need to equip all young people with the skills they are going to have to use in the modern world. It is essential that all those who leave school at 16 should have a further period of proper training, whether they are in employment or not, as the Labour document Sixteen to Nineteen: Learning for Life proposes, so that our 16 to 19-year-olds will not remain the least well trained, the least well educated, of any European country. The figure of 44 per cent., as it was in 1977, of young people of that age who went on to no further education or training bears this out. That does not happen in any other European country.
Like the noble Lord, Lord Rochester, I was not quite sure of Lord Molloy's reasons for linking youth unemployment and the new technology: whether he feared that the new technology would mean less and less jobs overall, and therefore less for the young, and wanted to know how this was to be dealt with, or whether he saw in the new technology opportunities for new industries and new development. I am glad that this was his line. We have to admit that in some areas the new machines are reducing the number of jobs, but in some cases they are not. I understand that the banks have managed to provide more services for their customers because of the new technology and that they have not cut their staff. So there are opportunities, too.
Tomorrow's jobs, an article in the Economist said, will come from small firms cashing in on the microchip revolution. Growth in employment will probably come from a revived, small-scale, entrepreneurial local sector, supported by new institutions and by local enterprise trusts. Some firms are beginning to recognise this trend as an opportunity. In March, for example, the British Steel Corporation, the Cooperative Bank, Pilkington Brothers, Sun Life Assurance and Control Data UK, a subsidiary of the fourth largest United States computer company, subscribed £200,000 each to set up a new enterprise called World Tech Ventures. The idea is to set up and support new business ventures in areas such as the North-West, the North-East, Scotland and Wales, badly hit by 921 de-industrialisation and the ensuing unemployment problems.
Regeneration—a new company—is transforming old industrial buildings, some owned by the British Steel Corporation, into complexes of low rental, small workshops for craftsmen and light industrial users. So there are hopeful signs. The British, I do believe, with Lord Energlyn, are very quick to seize on new inventions and to take up new opportunities. I am sure they will put their native wit and imagination into all this. But, as I said before, we need the trained, skilled people. Nowadays all young people must have a proper acquaintance with information technology, with computers, with micro-electronics. They have got to be "computerate".
I want to turn your Lordships' attention to what is going on in the schools, which has not been mentioned before and which is just covered by the framing of the motion. Is training going on adequately in our schools, and is there adequate preparation so that when young people come out of school they are adequately equipped in this way and are "computerate" and marketable? I acknowledge the efforts which are being made by the Department of Industry Education Unit, with its 50 per cent. grants towards the cost of micro-computers for secondary schools, and by the Department of Education and Science with its microelectronics programme. But let us suppose that a school accepts the 50 per cent. for a micro-computer and produces the other 50 per cent. out of its capitation fund. Is one computer adequate for a school of 1,500 pupils? One computer with one keyboard does not go very far.
I wonder whether it is wise to extend the programme to primary schools—all 21,000 of them—until such time as the secondary schools have enough equipment for all 11- and 12-year-olds to have the chance to have a go and understand how to use, and how to make use of, that equipment. It may be found with primary school children that it is not wise to start quite so soon. I should like the Minister to comment on that point. I should also like him to comment on how much access secondary schools are getting to outside computers. This is important, because you do not want schools to be too inward-looking.
As to obtaining more equipment and enough software, with local education authorities so pinched for money there may well be difficulties. The HMI report, which was published last month, says:Nearly one-quarter of the returns from secondary schools and sixth form colleges noted specific shortages of equipment, most frequently in science, craft, design and technology. Audiovisual apparatus and other electronic equipment also featured in some reports, although in some other schools these were observed to be available but under-used".Some schools have been quite enterprising and have established links with industry and local firms from whom they have received gifts of equipment. One school with which I am in touch, in Cambridge, received 15 computers from Sainsbury's. Then there are the parental contributions. I was told at the weekend that, of the 250 computers on order in Cambridgeshire, 40 were coming from the DOI grant and the rest from parent-teacher associations. It is nice for some schools, but in some districts parents cannot provide that sort of money.
922 The HMI report had something to say on this and quoted figures for parental contributions; £9,000 per annum in a large London primary school, £15,000 per annum in a metropolitan grammar school, £1,000 per annum in a shire primary school of 121 pupils. The HMI said that the income was used mainly for large, expensive items of equipment but that some was used for equipment directly related to curricular activities. The HMI reported more than 40 observations referring to schools in areas of unemployment and subject to other deprivation, where the heads felt unable to seek help or where the fund-raising produced very much smaller sums. I feel anxious about this. What is the Government's attitude—to those that have shall more be given? We want all children to have an equal chance, and I hope that all pressure will be brought to bear for proper capitation allowances from central Government in the block grant, and from local authorities in their budgets. It is just in the area of the provision of computers and so on that there could be huge differences and some could be badly deprived.
Besides the need for enough equipment in schools and colleges, there is an equal if not greater need for properly trained staff to cope. Are the teacher training colleges of the university departments of education coping successfully in training in microelectronics, computer sciences and so on those teachers who will shortly be emerging? Has the Minister information as to what is happening in colleges? I am aware of the £9 million that the Government are putting into the whole programme and that a grant of between £300,000 and £400,000 was given to Birmingham University and Birmingham LEA to mount a course to train 15 teachers. They were given full-time release to go on this course for a year, so that they in turn could instruct and lead other teachers. I believe that these 15 teachers are now in full-time jobs giving in-service training all over the country, but the money from the DES is not enough to mount more courses of the Birmingham variety. Is there a hope that the MSC might help in this way and that industry too could help? Indeed, I believe that industry is helping and that the CBI has produced funds under its "Understanding British Industry" scheme. So there are ways of getting around this problem.
I want to stress again that all children and all young people need to be aware of and understand the use of the new technology. It should not be for the exam children alone, but for all. Equally, all teachers right across the curriculum should be aware and understand. It is as important to the historians, geographers and linguists as it is to the mathematicians and scientists. All teachers and all pupils should know how to find and handle information. The HMI comment on equipment being there but unused suggests the need for more in-service training of teachers, and there is evidence that, where this training is laid on, teachers will give up free time and attend courses at weekends.
If there has been a failure at school, then that must be put right later, and no doubt the Minister will tell us that the Government are doing that with their ITECs —Information Technology Centres, where the young unemployed are taught advanced computer and electronic skills. As the noble Earl, Lord Alexander of Tunis, spoke of these, there is no need for me to go on about them. One such centre was opened at Wallasey 923 last week and two more have opened at Gateshead and Coventry. All that is fine, but I should like to ask whether the same work could not have been done at local authority colleges of further education if they were not having to cut down on their staff because of local authority cuts? Is setting up something new economically sensible when these colleges already exist? Is this not a duplication of the provision? Is it not just a case of opening up new centres merely to make a splash, to get some publicity and to appear to be doing something—or is it really the case that it is absolutely impossible to make this provision at technical colleges?
I can only end by emphasising yet again the horror everyone feels at young people facing unemployment for a very extended period. If one talks to them, one knows how angry they are. They want proper jobs, and if they do not get them, their energies are not used up and they may turn to crime and disruption. It is hard to bring positive proof of links between unemployment and crime, but, in his report on the Brixton riots, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Scarman, clearly accepts that one can lead to the other. Of the disturbances he said:Most disturbances occurred in inner city areas which share many of the features of Brixton; a high ethnic minority population, high unemployment, a declining economic base, a decaying physical environment, bad housing, lack of amenities, social problems (including family breakdowns), a high rate of crime, and heavy policing".I believe that Government policies have increased the number of unemployed, but I am not so unreasonable as to say that the Government are entirely responsible, as unemployment would have increased anyway because of the trends which have beers clear for some years. But I do believe it is up to the Government to provide training, particularly for those 16-to 19-year olds leaving school and those who have had a job but have become unemployed. I should also like the Government to provide—or to make it possible for local authorities to do so—areas for sport, outdoor activities and leisure facilities. Again, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Scarman, referred to the lack of leisure and recreation facilities in Lambeth and Brixton. He commented:The exuberance of youth requires imaginative and socially acceptable opportunities for its release if it is not to be diverted to criminal ends".Even with a proper training programme—a two-year one, which I hope we all want—I fear that there may still be high unemployment among the under-20s. I should like the Government to consider again the possibility of a 9- to 12-month period of service to the community—not military service, let me say at once—but general service given between the ages of 16 and 25. I must stress that I am speaking now in a personal capacity and not as the official spokesman. Enrico Colombatto, in an LSE discussion paper on nationwide social service, states that such a scheme could provide between 847,000 and 1,768,000 jobs in social service and health service jobs, in environmental conservation and in conservation projects in urban areas—and I would add, in sport and physical recreation jobs. Such schemes would provide full-time employment for supervisors, team leaders and skilled craftspeople who could direct inner city rehabilitation projects. A 924 number of jobs that are truly needed to be done and that would not otherwise be done for some considerable time would in this way get done.
This scheme (and for me this is the chief reason for being so keen on it) would enable young people of all sorts and kinds to get to know about other people from all walks of life and about each other. It would be a real lesson in living and in giving. I believe it is important for future legislators, future captains of industry and future top grade civil servants to have rather more awareness than they have had in the past of how the other half lives. I hope that, when the Minister comes to reply, he will be able to give some constructive responses to this debate.
§ Lord Energlyn
My Lords, before the noble Baroness, Lady David, sits down, I wonder whether she will be so kind as to clarify in my mind—and I am sure in the minds of others—her concept of education? If I may say so, the noble Baroness put forward a number of contradictory beliefs. At the end of her speech she said that she wanted these young people to have the broadest possible education of life. At the other end of the spectrum, she said that, above all else, they must learn how to use a computer. The picture one gets is of freedom on the one hand and of computerisation on the other. I submit that this is not education but a form of teaching—and a very dangerous form of teaching, because the end product of that form of teaching will be intellectual guinea-pigs.
§ Baroness David
Well, my Lords, I do not think I agree with the noble Lord. I am not going into a definition of education in this short debate, but I could perhaps have a discussion with him at some other time. I do not think that learning specific skills and also having a wider learning about social skills and life generally are so incompatible as he thinks.
§ 6.50 p.m.
§ Lord Lyell
My Lords, I think the whole House will be grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Molloy, for introducing so eloquently and with such passion his Motion this evening. Certainly I found it to be especially timely and especially interesting, because it behoves all of us in your Lordships' House, and I believe throughout the country. to have the greatest regard to the unemployment situation, hut above all the employment prospects of young people when we seek to help them today. I am very glad to say that in devising and developing special employment measures for the young there has consistently been a determination to look beyond the immediate employment needs. I would like to give to your Lordships one or two indications of the range of measures which the Government are taking and how these measures are being constantly brought back to the important criterion of relevance to present and future employment conditions which are so fundamentally shaped by technological development.
Before turning to the Government's precise measures to help the employment prospects of young people, I would like to say a few words about the problem of youth unemployment and how we need to bear future employment prospects in mind when seeking to tackle it. At the latest count of the unemployed by age, in 925 January this year, there were approximately 220,000 young people under the age of 18 unemployed, and this represents a 15.6 per cent, increase over the comparable period ending January 1981. I would accept that the current figures for school-leaver unemployment show that in recent months the level has been around 50 per cent. higher than during the same months last year. I would not want to disguise the fact that these are serious figures, or indeed to deny that they merit the very closest attention and scrutiny. But we should first get them in perspective and see what we can say positively about them. I believe there are positive measures that we can take, and positive things we can say, about these figures.
My Lords, it may come as a mild surprise to your Lordships, but of the roughly 600,000 16-and 17-yearolds leaving school in 1981 for work, around half had jobs by the end of October last year. Around 300,000 had left school or college and had got a job. Of the remainder, about 200,000 were in the Youth Opportunities Programme and about 100,000 were unemployed. Even at this time of historically high unemployment, 50 per cent. of school-leavers had, within a few months, got jobs through their own efforts and with the help and advice of their local careers service. I would ask your Lordships to note the numbers in the Youth Opportunities Programme. I believe that is an achievement, and with your Lordships' indulgence I will return to it briefly later.
Things are improving more generally in relation to youth unemployment as a whole. Figures are collected quarterly, and last October the total was around 26 per cent, higher than in October 1980. But in January 1982, as I said earlier, the total was only around 16 per cent. more than in January 1981. I would not want to play with figures, especially without computers, even in your Lordships' House, but these figures are important to an understanding of the total scene of youth unemployment and, above all, the associated problems of which the noble Lord, Lord Molloy, has spoken in his Motion, and about which indeed many others have spoken this evening.
The message that I would repeat again and again is that the only way we are going to create more permanent employment for everyone is through restoring the competitiveness of British industry. I think that point was made very forcefully and robustly by the noble Lord, Lord Scanlon. Certainly this objective means containing inflation and generally creating the right conditions for industry and enterprise to flourish. The Government's present economic policies have these aims in view, and unless we get the basis right for our production of national wealth we can spend a long time theorising about this or that measure to improve young people's employment prospects, but not actually succeed in doing anything about them.
My Lords, there are three especially important points: first, we must contain public expenditure; secondly, we must restrain pay increases; and, thirdly, we must learn to live within our means. Once we have got the economy on course we need to be sure that our help to the young unemployed not only benefits them but is also related to economic needs, and above all is capable of lending impetus to that economic recovery.
I would like to turn briefly to the opportunities which we provide for unemployed young people. The 926 Youth Opportunities Programme started as a means of helping disadvantaged young people with relatively short periods of work experience or work preparation, so that they could be helped back into employment by being able to compete on equal terms with their fellows for available jobs. In the first full year of its operation, 1978–79, it had 162,000 entrants. In four years this programme has grown between three and four times its original size, and in 1981–82 it had around 550,000 entrants. At present there are about 210,000 young people on the programme, and in the last financial year the Government will have spent well over £400 million on it; and that is around £450 million, if we include the Community Industries Scheme. This figure compares with just over £200 million in 1980–81; that is, the last financial year. Let us not forget that this is a Government which have been accused—I do not think this evening they have been too stridently accused—of heartlessly squeezing public expenditure and of not caring about the problems caused to people, and especially young people, by unemployment. Rather we believe that, with the figures I have given your Lordships, this is a Government that know how to choose the right priorities, especially in this field.
The reason for the growth in the Youth Opportunities Programme is no cause for self-congratulation in itself, but the fact of it certainly is. In four years well over 1 million opportunities have been created for unemployed young people. These young people will have all kinds of differing abilities, and these opportunities will have been created through the concerted efforts of employers, local authorities, voluntary bodies, trade unions, and of course the hard work of the MSC officials. There may be criticisms of certain aspects of the programme. The trainees may have reasonable grounds for complaining about the lack of training or the level of the allowance. I think the noble Lord, Lord Scanlon, raised one of those points in the course of his speech. We believe that very few people have ever complained about the programme as a whole, or indeed have failed to recognise its unique achievement in giving the country a vocational training base and a powerful instrument for changing attitudes to training.
We would not go so far as to say that youth unemployment has been solved by the Youth Opportunities Programme. There have been no miracles, nor indeed were there ever intended to be. A training programme alone, no matter how effective, is not going to change economic conditions, and in the space of a few years. This Government have always recognised that recovery depends on people, everybody, working hard; indeed, the policies of this Government have been designed to encourage individual initiative and to avoid comfortable and easy answers today that will prove no solution for tomorrow.
My Lords, when you are running something that depends upon the collaboration of many different parties, those 1 mentioned a moment ago, the path is not always smooth, and what may appear to be reasonable to one party may seem unnecessary or indeed unwarranted to another. But certainly what I want to impress most clearly upon your Lordships is that the sum of all the complaints about delays and substitntion of regular employees by trainees, 927 and about inadequate training for those on the programme, is very much less than the sum of the achievements of the Youth Opportunities Programme.
The achievement of this programme is that it has provided hundreds of thousands of young people with some basic skills, with useful things to do, and, I believe most importantly, with hope based on improved self-confidence. I thought that I saw the noble Lord, Lord Molloy, looking keen. If he wants to interrupt I shall, of course, give way. In this way it has helped to mitigate the effects of unemployment on young people, but it hag not, perhaps, provided the quality of training that is necessary. If these young people are to contribute effectively to our future prosperity or, indeed, to secure their own future employment prospects, then they must be trained effectively.
The Youth Opportunities Programme has always been changing throughout its fairly short life. It has consistently sought to come to terms with the future employment needs of young people. It has had a difficult time balancing the need for quantity of places with quality of training, but it has succeeded in providing improvements in both areas. Many of the training aims outlined in the Government's White Paper on training which, as your Lordships are aware and have spoken of, was published last December, are already being met to some extent in the present programme—for example, release to off-the-job training, linked schemes to ensure greater diversity of work experience and work preparation, recording of progress and, indeed, the development of model schemes. One very valuable example is what I understand is called the index training scheme which is carried out in the town of St. Helen's in Lancashire.
Of course there must come a time when it is proper to sit back and to think carefully how best to contribute to meeting the employment needs of young people. The Youth Opportunities Programme has laid a sure foundation as a training programme, and we now need to link it closely with the Government's wider training objectives to ensure that a full year's training is provided for every unemployed 16-year-old school-leaver. It is time to make the important transition from the programme being there generally to help the young unemployed, to a sharper and more defined aim of becoming part of the vocational preparation system for all young people. This is the essential message of the new training initiative. Our White Paper set out the ways in which we intend to give substance to that message. The future development of a skilled and flexible workforce to meet the needs of modern industry depends upon its success.
Our White Paper which is entitled, A New Training Initiative: A Programme for Action, as your Lordships are aware, was published last December and it contains far-reaching proposals for industrial training, particularly the major proposal designed specifically to help unemployed young people. Our aim is that the Youth Training Scheme provides a full year's foundation training for all unemployed 16-year-old school-leavers. We shall build on the experience which we have gained from the current Youth Opportunities Programme, to provide a better trained and, above all, a more adaptable 928 workforce which will be able to take full advantage of job opportunities as the upswing in our economy occurs.
However, at the same time we have also welcomed the Manpower Services Commission's proposal to set up a high level task group to look at the possibilities of a wider and more general scheme of foundation training for all young people, both employed and unemployed. That is the Government's ultimate objective. The task group report was considered by the commission yesterday, 27th April. The report was received and has just been submitted to the Secretary of State. I understand that the commission has, indeed, endorsed this report and we expect to publish it shortly.
In this event I am sure that your Lordships will agree that Ministers have not yet been able to consider the task group's report adequately or, indeed, had much of an opportunity to read its recommendations. But there is a major difference between its proposals and those of the Youth Training Scheme, because all young entrants to work would now be brought within the scope of the new scheme. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State will look constructively at what the task group suggests and will need to consider carefully points where the emphasis is different from that in the White Paper. Nevertheless—and this is of fundamental importance—I understand that there is a great deal of common ground between both my right honourable friend and the Manpower Services Commission.
Many of the developments already taking place will be carried forward. But what happens during the next 12 months on the Youth Opportunities Programme will be crucial to the success of any new programme. The intention is to provide courses that are much longer than the present average of 23 weeks on the Youth Opportunities Programme. In fact most courses will, we hope, last approximately one year. The priority group of young people will be minimum age school-leavers who become unemployed. These are the people who have manifestly failed to make the transition between school and work, and whose need of help is greatest. Without help they would stand little chance of getting suitable, if indeed any, vocational preparation. This is the group which we must guarantee a place.
But what is needed for young entrants to employment in this particular age group is the effective integration of skills, knowledge and experience through planned and supervised work experience, and properly designed opportunities to reflect on this in terms of off-the-job learning and further education. As many of your Lordships will be aware, the White Paper conveniently identified five main elements: induction and assessment; basic skills; occupational based training; guidance and counselling; and finally, record and review of progress. Moreover, learning and training needs to take place off-the-job and a period of at least three months was proposed in the White Paper. This will place demands on providers of further education.
Of course, very substantial expenditure is involved. The Government have earmarked for the Youth Training Scheme—which they have said they will consider making available to the alternative proposal that the task group makes—around £875 million in 1983–84. But in the first full year of the scheme's 929 operation—that is 1984–85—more than £1 billion has been earmarked. This is on any scale, but particularly in respect of the figures that we have been speaking of this evening and, indeed, in respect of the scale of the problem, enormous expenditure. Our main motive is to improve the training content.
I have discussed the development of the Youth Opportunities Scheme into the Youth Training Scheme and the emphasis that both these programmes place on helping the priority group of the young unemployed. But we should not forget the very large numbers of young people who are now going straight into jobs, and all too many of them are going into those jobs without adequate training for their jobs or for their future careers. The White Paper recognises that effort is needed here, too, with recommendations about the reform of craft and technician training, the development of the Open Tech to make the new technology more accessible by "distance learning" techniques to people working independently and, above all, the expansion of vocational preparation for young people in work.
I should like to turn now to the second arm of the Motion of the noble Lord, Lord Molloy; namely, new technology. One of the main aims of providing foundation training for young people will be to give them a basis upon which they can build and develop new skills as the need for them arises. It is no longer possible for anyone to assume that he will be doing the same job throughout his working life. All of us— young and old—live in an age of rapid technological changes. The noble Lord, Lord Molloy, drew the marvellous analogy of valves and the human brain with the size of Greater London, Trafalgar Square, the Albert Hall and now smaller than the actual human brain.
That is one very interesting and lucid example. This clearly demonstrates the age that we are living in. Indeed, to follow it, job requirements are changing all the time. What we need, above all, is flexibility, and a readiness to adapt and take advantage of the new opportunities as they arise. This involves in particular much greater flexibility in training provision both for young people and for those who already have some experience of employment.
It is not entirely easy to assess the likely quantitative effects on employment of the introduction of new technology. But it is extremely important to a try to arrive at a balanced view. I think it is fair to say that most of the more recent evidence on this suggests that gradual rather than simultaneous application of new technology in all sectors is likely, and that this should, on the whole, allow time for employment effects to be absorbed, that in manufacturing industry overall growth in demand should have more effect on employment levels than technological innovation in itself, and that rapid adoption of new technology offers an opportunity of avoiding high unemployment in the long term. But, at the same time, we must recognise that there will be certain areas of employment in which job opportunities will decrease, and certain groups which are particularly at risk.
It has never been found very easy in the past to adapt to changing techniques and work patterns. The question that I think all of us in your Lordships' House have asked ourselves this evening is: how are we to get 930 it right this time? The labour market's instinctive response to change has often been simply to seek to protect itself from the effects, which, as often as not, has been done by attempting to hold back innovation. Methods may have become more subtle over the years, but the Luddites of the 19th century had much in common with those who today use restrictive practices to slow down or, indeed, to prevent the introduction of new techniques and new technology. What we have to work for and to encourage now is a much more positive approach throughout industry and, indeed, throughout the country, which allows all those concerned to take advantage of what this new technology can offer every one of us.
If this is to happen, all those who may be affected by new technology—and, in practice, that means the whole workforce—will have to be well informed about it. For their part, the Government have set up a number of programmes designed to promote better understanding and awareness of the subject, ranging from the microelectronic applications project, which aims to raise awareness of microelectronics at all levels of industry, to our Micros in Schools programme, to which the noble Baroness referred in great detail—and we are very grateful to hear of her experiences in this particular area. Under this particular programme, every secondary school in the country will have its own microcomputer by the end of 1982—that is, this year. Of course, employers too have been doing more and more to explain to their employees how and why changes are being introduced and to involve them in the process of change. If we are to move forward and to make use of the opportunities offered by technological advance, we must continue to encourage and to promote the spread of information; only in this way can we dispel exaggerated fears.
I should like to return briefly to the aspect of training in the area of new technology. The process of adaptation can be assisted—and at the same time those groups which may feel most threatened by the introduction of new technology can be helped—through individual training and, indeed, individual retraining. Some of the skills and qualifications which are, or which will be, required are already in short supply. At the same time, some people face a declining demand for the skills and experience that they have acquired in their working life over the years. It is no good thinking that a massive public training programme would solve these particular problems. The prime responsibility for training must remain with the employers, who are in the best position to know what training is needed. The function of publicly-funded training is to act as a mere catalyst towards the meeting of present and future training requirements.
I should now like to try to answer some of the questions and to deal with some of the fascinating points that have been raised by your Lordships in the course of this debate. I shall attempt to answer most of them, but if I miss any, perhaps I may write to your Lordships and cover the matter in that way. I apologise if I miss anything, but time is getting on and we all want to hear what the noble Lord, Lord Molloy, will say when he winds up the debate on his Motion.
The noble Lord, Lord Molloy, opened the debate on his Motion with considerable vigour, fire and skill. I 931 would certainly agree with three aspects of his speech. The challenge to provide young people with as many opportunities as possible for their working life is one which the Government accepts in their White Paper; indeed, we are considering how to deal with this particular challenge in the report of the Manpower Services Commission, which we have just received. We accept the noble Lord's appeal, and we are in no way inactive when it comes to thinking of ways in which to adapt new technology for training and skills for the future. So far as we are concerned, new technology will not fail through lack of thought or innovation, or indeed, investment on the part of the Government.
The noble Lord, Lord Rochester, was kind enough to give me notice of the point that he wished to raise about one aspect of the Community Enterprise Programme. As your Lordships will be aware, the Community Enterprise Programme has been expanded from 25,000 places in 1980–81 to 30,000 places in 1982–83. The Manpower Services Commission had planned on the basis that they would have 60,000 places, but the Government decided that the greatest priority should be given to the problem of youth unemployment, and only a modest expansion of 5,000 places was possible, given the limited financial resources available. Because of this, there is considerable and frustrated expectation among the sponsors who have drawn up schemes which simply cannot go ahead because of the absence of finance. These schemes may now only receive support as existing schemes close and, therefore, the complete opposite applies. There is too great a demand for CEP places and these are almost certain to be fully subscribed.
The noble Lord, Lord Rochester, raised a particular point about the Community Enterprise Programme near his home in Cheshire. That is a local matter and perhaps he would let me write to him with the details, which we shall endeavour to discover from the Manpower Services Commission.
The noble Lord, Lord Scanlon, in a fine and robust speech, raised several points. The first was on the White Paper. I am afraid that we cannot comment at this early stage on the task group's report. Ministers are considering it and we shall study the report; we hope to publish our comments in due course, when we have had some opportunity of studying this very valuable second arm to the report.
The noble Lord, Lord Rochester, and the noble Lord, Lord Scanlon, both spoke about the need to reform the country's training system. The White Paper, which the Government has published, sets out a comprehensive programme, covering not only foundation training for young school-leavers, but also the replacement, by 1985, of time-saving age-restricted apprentices with training to standards and, indeed, with better access to training for adults. The MSC is working with all those concerned—and among these I would classify employers, unions, educationalists, standard-setting bodies, et cetera—to implement these plans, though I am afraid that it is a little too early to give detailed answers to the specific points which were raised by the noble Lord, Lord Scanlon. We shall, of course, study very closely his comments and, if there 932 are any further details that I have missed, we shall be in touch with him by letter. I hope that he will accept that.
The noble Lord, Lord Vernon, raised several points. The first point the noble Lord asked me was about reducing the statutory retirement age to 60. The Department of Education and the Department of Health and Social Security have looked at this, but it is phenomenally expensive. The cost seems to be about £3.6 billion a year, and the effect on unemployment of younger work people is most uncertain. That is the main thrust of this afternoon's debate. The Government's job release scheme directly links each retirement with a reduction of unemployment, so no one can get the job release allowance unless the employer appears to take on an unemployed person in his place.
Many other points were made, especially by the noble Baroness, Lady David. I am afraid I have not any detailed replies, or indeed anything special, to give the noble Baroness on the, I think, four points she raised on voluntary arrangements instead of the industrial training boards, on our views on primary school and secondary school computers, and, above all, the cost of—did the noble Baroness mention it?—outside computers for secondary schools.
§ Lord Lyell
I am obliged to the noble Baroness for her clarification. There are the educational aspects, and above all the educational aspects of the ITeCs. I wonder whether I could study the noble Baroness's speech and write to her in close detail.
I was particularly grateful for the contribution of my noble friend Lord Alexander of Tunis, who I regret is not in his place. He said he had a previous engagement. My noble friend is, I think, one of the few Members of your Lordships' House who will be directly involved in youth education and training in a few years time, since it was not until I sat down in your Lordships' House and on the bench that I discovered that he and his wife had had a daughter. I hope your Lordships will associate with me in sending my noble friend and his wife our congratulations. I think that probably is the long-standing engagement to which my noble friend referred. I think he put it extremely well.
My noble friend raised the point, or warned me, that there was a fascinating article in a well-read American magazine about teenagers and tiny tots of the ages of six and seven practising with computers in schools. This magazine went on to say that to many children playing with computers, and indeed working with simple word processors, is as simple as riding a bicycle, playing football, playing the piano, or solving a Rubic's cube. I got on a racing bicycle last year and nearly fell off twice. I have never yet solved a Rubic's cube and cannot play the piano, so I do not think there is much hope for me in starting computer training. I would leave the other aspects of retraining ourselves to the imaginations of your Lordships.
I would say in conclusion that our plans for young people are part of our comprehensive scheme to develop at last the training arrangements which this country needs. This cannot, on its own, solve the problem of young people's unemployment, or indeed of adult 933 unemployment, but it can help to create a climate in which we make progress, and by taking full advantage of the opportunities provided by technological development regain our competitive position in world markets.
§ 7.24 p.m.
§ Lord Molloy
My Lords, I have no intention of detaining your Lordships with a second contribution. May I just say a sincere thank you to all those who participated in this debate; to the noble Lord, Lord Rochester, whose contribution I thought was almost completely congruous to mine, except that he put his finger on an important point of finance for all the things which we both have in mind, and which also fits into my economic theory of Keynes and Galbraith. This is, to spend and prosper.
Of course, we would expect and got a knowledgeable speech from the noble Lord, Lord Scanlon, although I am hound to say that I am sure he would acknowledge that the mill cannot turn with the water that is past. There has to be a much fresher approach from management and the trade unions. We cannot go on requiring eight or nine trade unions to build a motor-car. We cannot expect the Government to do everything. There has to be much more definite and forward-looking action from both sides of industry, from the universities, and from all those who can contribute. Every time there is something tough that needs to be done we cannot shield behind the excuse that it is the fault of the Government or that the Government must do it. We have to move forward now—and this also means an enhancement of democracy—to much more involvement of many more people.
I would say thank you to the noble Earl, Lord Alexander, for his small but vital contribution. He thought that employment and new technology was to be preferred to unemployment and new technology. I do not argue with him. Plenty of young men and women on the dole will have views on that matter. I think I agreed with almost everything that the noble Lord, Lord Vernon, said, except that I am diametrically opposed to his veiled proposition of making redundant the Good Samaritan.
I certainly concede to the noble Lord, Lord Energlyn, what seemed a remarkable job in the conversion of the "Canberra". There was a classic example of necessity being the mother of invention. But I would much prefer that sort of thing to be done for some other reason. I hope that what is going to be the spur of our new technology is not threatening to go to war with someone. That would be the supreme banality.
What also fascinated me was when the noble Lord, Lord Energlyn, mentioned something that I confess never even thought of, although I ought to, and that was the new technology being applied to agriculture and horticulture. I do not mean these ghastly, terrible plastic flowers, and all that form of rubbish. However, I can well understand the need for new technology if only to honour and respect those who made things grow on the tough, salty Gower coast where I played as a boy, and where I thought that every potato, every carrot, and every apple was indeed a miracle. The noble Baroness, Lady David, of course concentrated on education, which was right and proper, because that is the base from which we shall move forward.
934 All I will say to the noble Lord, Lord Lyell, is that if Front Bench speakers have to be marked for their ingenuity, their concentration, and for their work on any subject, and I am the prefect on this side of the House, his homework was first class and he gets a "well done" mark, and for his general response to the debate (although I dislike using foreign terms) I would say it was a reply par excellence. May I conclude with this: I believe that the British people are neither slow nor dull. They are agile in mind and in spirit. It is up to us to provide our young British youth with the opportunities that they richly deserve. If we can accomplish that, I am sure that we shall obtain the approbation of the good, the applause of the wise, and the thanks of the future.
§ Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.