§ 3.5 p.m.
§ Lord Kilmarnock rose to call attention to the urgent need for improved opportunities for unemployed and other school-leavers with special reference to the Manpower Services Commission's Youth Task Group Report (April 1982); and to move for Papers.
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, I rise to move the Motion standing in my name. This, for me, is a significant occasion on a number of counts. In the first place, it is the first time that the Social Democratic Party has been allocated a day for a Motion of its own choice, and it is eloquent testimony to the importance we attach to an early and dramatic improvement in the prospects for the young people of this country that we have chosen this theme out of so many competing for attention. We wish also to place on record in Parliament our strong support for the main thrust of the Manpower Services Commission's Youth Task Group Report, to which the Motion refers.
§ It is also very timely that we should debate the report. The chairman of the commission in his introduction has asked for the Government's response by the end of June—only three weeks off. One must therefore assume that the Government have been giving it very serious thought and will be able to indicate to the House this afternoon, in broad terms, the nature of that response. Of course they will presumably want to give their final decisions in the form of a statement, and I am not aiming to pre-empt that. At the same time, I believe it will be useful to them to have the 198 benefit of the views which will be expressed in this House this afternoon before adopting their final position.
Finally, the report is animated by the obvious conviction of its authors that they were embarked upon something of great moment. In paragraph 3.8 they write:
A new comprehensive scheme is an historic step which marks a turning point in the industrial history of this country and a decisive break with the past as far as the education and training of young people are concerned".
§ If their proposals are converted into reality, I do not think that these words will prove to be inflated.
Before we go any further, I should like to dwell for a minute on why exactly we are contemplating and, indeed, are, I hope, on the verge of commitment to a very ambitious and far-reaching scheme. The answer is not far to seek, though it must surely come as a shock to anybody unfamiliar with the subject to discover that this country has not only proportionately the largest workforce in the EEC but also the least trained. The prime cause of both phenomena is that we release a far larger number of unskilled and ill-equipped 16- and 17-year-olds on to the labour market than any comparable country. In 1977, for example, 44 per cent. of our 16-year-olds went directly into work or unemployment as against 9 per cent. in Germany and 19 per cent. in France. Among those who are lucky enough to find jobs, this report tells us—in paragraph 2.1—that:
Around 35 per cent. of 16-year-olds entering jobs receive no training at all, and a further 18 per cent. receive hardly any training ".
§ These figures speak for themselves.
§ The scheme devised by the Youth Task Group is a response to these dismal figures. I shall devote most of my speech to the scheme, but the terms of the Motion are intended to encourage other speakers to range more widely or to concentrate on certain aspects in greater depth, if they feel so inclined. I myself shall try to pick out what seem to me to be the salient points.
In paragraph 1.1, the first paragraph in the report, we are told:
This report is about providing a permanent bridge between school and work. It is not about youth unemployment ".
As youth unemployment is one of the burning issues of the day, this may seem paradoxical. But the paradox must be seen in context. The context is that the present Youth Opportunities Programme was designed for, and is still restricted almost exclusively to, the young unemployed. That unemployment should be a condition of entry is no doubt a natural result of the temporary and counter-cyclical origin of the programme. But this approach is no longer a realistic one. The Youth Task Group tell us in paragraph 2.3 that:
Without policy intervention we estimate that 57 per cent. of I6-year-olds and 48 per cent. of 17-year-olds in the labour market will be unemployed in September 1984 "—
§ I repeat, without policy intervention.
We are facing, in my view, a shift in employment patterns which is more than a temporary hiccup in the system. Accordingly, the report signals in its very first paragraph a corresponding shift from a scheme whose exclusive entry requirement is unemployment to one of much wider coverage. That is a very im
portent change of scope and emphasis because it seeks to prevent rather than merely alleviate the disease. Although it will continue to give priority to all minimum age school-leavers who are unemployed, the task group states firmly in Chapter 4.12 that:
The scheme we are designing is a youth training scheme. It is designed to cover both employed and unemployed young people, including those who arc undergoing the first year of apprenticeship and also other existing training ".
It may appear from this, on first sight, that the group have accepted fully the view of the Birley Report—I refer to Opportunities at 16, published in 1978—that,
the concept of employment/unemployment is inappropriate to the under-18s ";
§ in other words, that they should be taken out of the labour market altogether. Although the task group go much of the way towards Birley they do not go the whole way. In the first place, they have had to take into account financial limits set by the Government. Secondly, they deliberately do not exclude the possibility of contracts of employment for young people within the age group, provided certain minimum training requirements are met. But they confidently expect that the majority of 16-year-olds not continuing in full-time education or in a job, and most eligible 17-year-olds, will opt for the scheme. I want to say here that my party would want to step this scheme up as speedily as possible to the point where it could cover all those under 18 years of age who wish to take up the opportunities it offers.
§ In a confusing time of rapid innovation, coupled with high unemployment, when training is mentioned many people ask, "Training for what?" The content of the programme is clearly of the essence. The report attempts to grasp the nettle in Chapter 2 where it recognises that as the trainee's future employment is uncertain, more than a job- or firm-specific training is required and that, as unskilled work is declining, a basis for higher levels of competence needs to be laid. In Chapter 4 the task group go on to elaborate on this point. I believe we should take to heart the importance attached by the authors to a minimum three months off-the-job training and/or relevant further education; to a defined core of skills on to which others can he built; to an introductory programme of training and skills related to a broad group or family of related operations; to planning and diagnostic skills; and, last but not least, to guidance and counselling.
I turn next to the importance of quality. The report quite frankly admits the shortcomings of the Youth Opportunities Programme in this respect. Quality control demands a coherent structure of supervision and assessment. It also requires a new relationship between the education and employment departments. I want to stress this point because we as a country are not alone in having to face it. In June 1980 the European Commission sent to the Council of Education Ministers a communication on the subject in which it said:
The employment sector has…become deeply involved in attempting to provide on a long-term basis for the educational and training needs of the least skilled school-leavers. This development has frequently meant that a new range of training and temporary work experience opportunities now exist in parallel "—
I emphasise, "in parallel"—
to the post-compulsory education sector. The complexities and anomalies created by this situation remain a challenge to inter-ministerial planning in many countries ".
§ What could be more true here'? The complexities and anomalies are perhaps even more of a challenge for us than for a more centralised administration, precisely because of the devolved nature of our education system and the checks and balances we have very properly set up between local and national interests. But proper though these checks and balances may be, they must not simply become lets and hindrances.
§ The machinery devised by this scheme to secure the involvement and commitment of all parties is one of local boards. There will be 50 or 60 of these, replacing the 29 Special Programme Area Boards which now exist. The new areas would coincide with one or more LEA boundaries. Membership would include representatives of all the professional and governmental interests, voluntary and youth organisations, and the careers service. Their role and task is set out in Chapter 5 of the report, which repays reading. The Manpower Services Commission is apparently to publish a further consultative document on the final shape of these boards, which I hope we shall also be able to debate in due course because obviously they are going to be very important.
§ The tasks before all those concerned, and most particularly the sponsors, are formidable. Some 460,000 young people are to be catered for during the first year of operation—that is, from September 1983, which is less than 18 months from now. It is the local boards that will have to sell the scheme to the local employers, who will receive a block grant of £1,850 per head at today's prices, out of which they are to pay the trainee's allowance which is set, according to the scheme, at the current YOP rate of £25 a week. The amount remaining to the employer for non-wage costs and training may not seem a vast incentive, but it is important to be clear that employers will receive the grant for their normal intake as well as for the additional trainees taken on as a result of the scheme, with the proviso that, wherever possible, programmes should cater for three additional trainees for every two recruited as part of an employer's habitual intake; three for two is the ratio which is sought.
§ But employers will not be able to take all the strain, so an alternative mode of delivery—called Mode B—is provided for, under which the Manpower Services Commission itself will act as managing agent, much as it does at present with the YOP scheme. I believe it is very important that the scheme should not become too monolithic. There must be room for diversity. My noble friend Lord Hunt and, I believe, others are interested in the idea of community service. It seems at least possible that this could find a home under one or other of the modes of delivery of the main scheme. I await with great interest to hear what he has to say on this subject.
§ I want now to say a few words about the receiving end. We can be as ingenious, committed and generous as we like, but it will be to little avail, or to no avail, if the scheme does not catch the imagination of the young themselves. I understand from the British Youth Council that status, income, quality and choice are the keys to a widespread and willing acceptance of this or any other scheme. The weakness of YOP 201 was that there could be no sure status based on unemployment; one was and is merely at the receiving end of a state charity. Work is the badge of the adult world but if one cannot have it at once then something nearly equivalent is needed. The idea of a traineeship contract with rights and obligations set out in one of the annexes to the report is therefore a great advance. As I have already indicated, there is no reason why this should not be converted into a contract of employment.
§ Next, income. This is what contributes most to independence from parents. It is felt very strongly by youth organisations that this should be indexed like most social security and national insurance benefits. The young do not want to be second-class citizens in the national system nor—should they be. Next, quality. Some 40 per cent. of YOP schemes have no training element at all. Thus, the guarantee of a minimum of three months off-the-job training is seen as a very important inducement, as are the quality assurance arrangements. Here, trainee feed-back seems essential and the task group suggests that there should be trainee representatives on local boards.
§ Finally, choice. Here I come to what is possibly the only really contentious issue, to which I would like to give a little thought. The success of any scheme such as this must rest on the willingness of employers to help, and the enthusiasm of the young participants. Employers do not want reluctant conscripts. Young people should not be compelled to enter such a scheme, and such an approach is one that my party could not accept. Our aim should be not to compel but to devise a scheme that is sufficiently attractive and worthwhile that the majority of the eligible young people will want to participate of their own free will. I shall revert to this point at the end of my speech.
§ First, however, there are some further questions of detail which I should like to ask of the Government and of which I have given the noble Earl prior notice. I would be grateful for some indication of whether the Government accept Part VI of the report entitled Next Steps. The first and most important question here is, will the Government be in a position to meet the commission's request for a positive response by the end of this month? Related to this and following from it is the subsidiary but none the less important question of whether the Government accept the task group's recommendation as to timing: that is to say, that information on the scheme should be available in schools and careers offices early in the academic year commencing next September; that a national supervisory hoard should be in place by 1st September this year; that there should be further consultation on the composition of local boards and that these should be in place by April 1983; and finally that a strong implementation team should be set up at the earliest possible moment.
§ On the question of changes in legislation, touched on briefly in the report, it will be interesting to hear from the Government whether they accept that these should be deferred. According to the authors, the scheme as advanced here does not require any legislative measures. Personally, I would agree with them that the question of any statutory underpinning that may be desirable should be deferred pending the review of progress in 1985. I wonder what the Government think.202
§ In the last chapter of the report there is one short sentence in 7.25 which runs: "Our report is unanimous". That is a remarkable achievement. The membership consisted, apart from Mr. Holland the chairman, of three representatives of the CBI, three from the local authorities, three from the unions and one each from the British Youth Council, voluntary organisations, the careers service and the education sector: that is to say, widely differing, and not infrequently opposed interests. Yet they were unanimous on all the things I have endeavoured to outline, both for employers and for young people; not least on the principle that the scheme should be entirely voluntary both for employers and trainees. This point is reiterated at several places in the report.
§ Opposition to the removal of the supplementary benefit network, as foreshadowed in paragraphs 36 and 38 of the White Paper, is not simply a matter of special pleading by youth interests. Compulsion is opposed by the CBI, who do not want reluctant recruits. This is also a very important condition of union support, which is of course fundamental to the success of the scheme. The contribution the unions have made is remarkable and it would be a tragedy if the unanimity achieved through imaginative participation all round were to be put at risk over what is a relatively minor issue. 1 say "minor" because I understand on good authority that if the good things promised are put into effect there is likely to he a 95 per cent. voluntary take-up.
§ I am not asking the Government to make any commitments this afternoon on this issue. I would prefer them to ponder it very seriously between now and when they make their statement. I very seriously urge them to bear in mind that the unanimity of the members of the group is bestowed upon the totality of the report. The chairman of the Manpower Services Commission, Mr. Young, stressed in evidence to a House of Commons Select Committee only last month that the various recommendations in the task group's report must be considered as constituting a single package. If the Government are over-selective unanimity could disintegrate very fast. If they choose to press ahead on ideological grounds, with an insistence on compulsion, they could endanger the entire scheme.
The Manpower Services Commission's Youth Task Group Report is by any standards an outstanding document. The scheme it outlines seems to me to be very well designed. The degree of support it has attracted from all sectors and interests concerned with it is quite remarkable. We on this Bench wish it a fair wind. If we were in office we would implement it, or something very like it. As we are not, yet, we hope the present Government will do so. I will end with the last words of the report, which are these:
The Government has created a major opportunity for itself, for the country, and above all, for young people. The opportunity is there for the taking ".
§ If I were in their shoes, I would seize that opportunity with both hands. My Lords, I beg to move for Papers.
§ 3.24 p.m.
§ Lord Scanlon
My Lords, may I first take the opportunity of thanking the noble Lord, Lord Kilmarnock, for the opportunity of this debate, and say at 203 the outset that I thought his contribution was quite thoughtful, and in my view much along the lines of the contribution I hope to make to your Lordships' debate this afternoon. Many of your Lordships may well say that he needs examining or I need examining in those circumstances, but in the contribution he made the important principles he enunciated will bear repetition. To do otherwise is difficult, recognising that on three or four occasions in the last months your Lordships' House has had the opportunity of debating this subject in one form or another. But repetition does not in any way detract from the importance of this subject. Given that importance, the Government seem to want to create the impression of ostracising and alienating all those who can assist and want to assist in fulfilling the aims of the new training initiative. Politics, we are constantly reminded, is the art of the possible. If the Government will not listen, or cannot listen, to their opponents, I hope at least they will listen to their friends. I would like to come back, as did the noble Lord, Lord Kilmarnock, to this point.
The three main points in the White Paper (Cmnd. 8455) are as follows: first, that skilled training in the future shall be to standards and status should not be achieved by a given period of time; secondly, that all young people up to the age of 18 years should either receive a period of training or full-time education; thirdly, there must be developed a scheme for the training and retraining of adults.
Taking the first point, it must surely be worthwhile for any Government to achieve this objective. But how much more important is it to industry in general and to manufacturing industry in particular. Modern technology and production will demand that people will have to undertake two or three varied forms of training during their industrial life, rather than one specific form which is the pattern at the moment. So point number one of the White Paper is very important in that setting.
Turning to the second point—it must be the main emphasis of the task group's review—it will now become increasingly necessary, in spite of inspired and optimistic suggestions of an upturn in the economy, of fuller order books and of more overtime (as though the latter were some form of virtue rather than sometimes a necessary evil), to recognise that the calculated assessment of most authorities is that a figure of 3 million unemployed will remain with us throughout the 1980s. That is despite any upturn, and possibly because of, as a large contributing factor, the new technologies which are developing. Therefore, the second point of the White Paper is paramount indeed. The third point is self-evident. Many adults are already well trained and only need some adaptation of their existing skills to cope with the new technology with relatively very little additional training.
Now I come to the detailed points of the task group's report. The report cannot be specific, because it attempts to deal with all aspects of working life, with industry, with commerce, with plants, wherever training is required. Your Lordships will forgive me, I hope, I if try, illustratively at any rate, to deal with the manufacturing industry and particularly with engineering. The Youth Task Group Report suggests a new hier 204 archy of bodies with training responsibilites and they are the approved sponsor; the managing agency; local boards; a national supervisory board and a quality assurance group to advise on standards. I want to deal briefly with each of those proposals and to stress the reservoir of expertise and professional knowledge that is available if each or any of these bodies wish to avail themselves of it.
I turn first to the sponsors. These are essentially the providers of training opportunities. It is stated that the scheme must use all types of sponsors individually or in groups; employers, local authorities, local education authorities, voluntary organisations and industrial training boards and I want to emphasise once again the importance of the latter.
However, perhaps of all their proposals the managing agencies are paramount. Managing agencies will be required to assume responsibility for managing whole programmes linking together contributions of different providers. The report indicates that any kind of organisation—including a national organisation—might apply to be a managing agency. Training boards, I stress again, are well placed to assume such a role for the whole of an industry. Training within those industries is provided through a wide variety of different agencies and by different means. Certainly in the engineering industry, through its local staff and by means of the levy, exemption and grant scheme, the board is well-informed on training in all forms in the industry. It could be of tremendous assistance to the whole scheme if the Government, through the MSC, could find their way to recommend that training boards should be included in the managing agencies.
I do not wish to sound too much like a commercial advertisement for training boards, for I will shortly be relinquishing any responsibility for training in engineering. But the new chairman of the EITB is, as we now know, the past chairman of the MSC; and the new chairman of the MSC, together with the new chairman of the EITB, are both committed to the task group's proposals. What a wonderful opportunity this provides of fully involving the latter with the former in the realisation of their joint ideals. Let me also add that, additional to all this expertise, this part of the task group's report dealing with the training of young people up to the age of 18 will eventually, in my view and in the view of many others, supersede the first year of the job training that presently exists. There are over 26,000 places already in engineering—in employers' factories, in colleges, in group schemes and in training boards' own workshops, which can be of tremendous assistance if only the Government, through the MSC, would utilise these opportunities. One could say the same about local boards, about the national supervisory board and about the quality assurance body. Let me conclude this detail of the task group's report by saying that the task group's proposal that the MSC should establish a group of professionals to secure the quality of the youth training scheme is welcome indeed, and I hope will be taken on board by the Government.
Therefore, through such agencies are the opportunities of redressing what again the noble Lord, Lord Kilmarnock, referred to as Britain being one of the least trained workforces in the industrial world. But 205 this remedy can only be achieved by co-operation; it cannot be achieved by confrontation. It will involve co-operation between Government, employers, trade unionists and educationists. To believe that we can ostracise each or any one of those and expect the fulfilment of the task group's report is, in my view, cloud cuckoo land. Are the Government really prepared to initiate and secure this co-operation? If they are, they proceed in a most mysterious way.
We do not know at this stage what the Government's response to the task group's report will be. I hope that the remarks that will be made during this debate will prompt the Government to give us some indication. But I urge them on behalf of all those who have been involved in this stupendous task which is so vital for the economic recovery of Britain, to accept the report in its totality. To do anything less, to ostracise or to embitter any of the participants will, in my view, bring about the demise of what is a most excellent report which is full of good common sense.
I refer now to some of the specific problems and again the noble Lord, Lord Kilmarnock, has emphasised them. In a nutshell, any idea of compulsion is repulsive to those who have been involved in these discussions. The CBI do not want it for the reasons already stated. They do not want reluctant, resentful trainees. Neither is it correct that someone who does not want that particular form of training should keep out of the opportunity for that training somebody who might not be quite as bright, but who is anxious and willing to learn. That he should be kept out by such means is, in my view, unthinkable.
I want to return to the question of the trade unions, because they are, in my view, vital and I make no apologies for so mentioning them. Many of them presently think that there is no purpose in continuing the dialogue with the Government in view of the many Acts that are being taken against what they consider to be—and, in my view, rightly—their long-cherished and hard won rights and opportunities. They have had two Acts restricting their long-established rights. They are now faced with the abolition of wages boards, or the possibility of that. They are also very sore indeed at the abolition of the 17 training boards that have been abolished and there is now doubt, due to the difficulties with the EEC, whether that body might further restrict its social funds in any activities for training purposes as far as Britain is concerned.
I sincerely hope that the trade unions will not use these difficulties, real as they are to them, to refuse cooperation in the task group's proposals, for which we are all concerned and for which they, together with the trade unions, have worked so hard. But they can only do this provided the Government accept the task group's proposals in their totality.
But what if the Government do not accept them? What if, in spite of the advice from the CBI, from educationists, from trade unionists and, yes, from the all-party group of MPs within the House itself, they reject it? I sincerely suggest to your Lordships' House that that will not only spell the beginning of the end of this wonderful opportunity for a revolutionary approach to training, but could place in jeopardy the workings of the MSC itself. It is against such a background that I make my plea to the Government to think hard indeed 206 before they even consider rejecting any of the main proposals of the task group. It would be disastrous if they were to do so. I know that it is bad debating form to anticipate the very things that one does not want one's opponents to do, but I think that these matters must be spelt out so that we know the difficulties that will have to be faced if, unfortunately, the Government determine otherwise. Given that they are prepared to accept the group's recommendations, given that all the parties co-operate, this can be a new opportunity. There will be difficulties; there will be vested interests to be overcome. But, as the noble Lord, Lord Kilmarnock, said, I am sure that, given that goodwill by the Government and given their willingness to accept the report, it can speed up and play a vital role in Britain's eventual economic recovery.
§ 3.40 p.m.
§ Baroness Seear
My Lords, I, too, should like to thank my noble ally, the noble Lord, Lord Kilmarnock, for introducing this debate this afternoon. I should also like to take this opportunity of paying tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Scanlon, who is about to relinquish his responsibilities as chairman of the Engineering Training Board, for sweeping away in that industry so many deeply conservative ideas about training which have bedevilled the industry in the past, and for giving the new ideas embodied in this report and in others a chance for development in what is still, after all, Britain's premier industry. We owe him a very great deal.
This afternoon we are discussing training and we are discussing employment but, above all, we are discussing a matter of the very greatest urgency. There is a danger that we are becoming accustomed to the idea of unemployment. There are even voices—usually very well-educated voices—which suggest that unemployment is something with which we have to learn to live and that there are ways of turning it to advantage by excellent use of leisure. For some, for a very few—for a small, privileged proportion—there may be some truth in that. But, for the great mass of people, and particularly for the people with whom this report is concerned, that is certainly a blind alley up which to attempt to walk.
I would ask your Lordships to look particularly at two paragraphs in this report—at paragraph 2.3 and paragraph 2.1—and to look at the figures in those paragraphs as if you had never seen them before. The noble Lord, Lord Kilmarnock, has already referred to them, but I wish to underline them with all the force at my command. It says that in September 1984 57 per cent. of 16-year-olds and 48 per cent. of 17-year-olds will he unemployed. Ten years ago it would have been inconceivable to contemplate that there would be that proportion of young people with nothing to do. What can the social effects of this be? I ask your Lordships to ask yourselves this question: what do you suppose that 57 per cent. of 16-yearolds with nothing to do will get up to? The imagination boggles. Not long ago someone said—I think I can remember who it was, but I shall not name him—that there was no evidence that unemployment bore any relationship to crime. Is it possible to imagine 207 that, with 57 per cent. of 16-year-olds with nothing to do, there will not be consequences of a totally deplorable kind which will show up in the courts and elsewhere?
Paragraph 2.1 makes the point—again it has been made by the noble Lord, Lord Kilmarnock, but I ask your Lordships to dwell on it—that in comparison with other countries we have for generations under-trained our school-leavers. It is, of course, worse than that, because we have given them a totally inadequate preparation for the world of work in school and then we do far too little—nothing at all for a high proportion of them—to compensate for that in training as they leave school and enter employment. Let us look at the figures. Only just over half of our young people receive any systematic vocational or educational preparation, compared with more than 90 per cent. in West Germany and more than 80 per cent, in France. Around 35 per cent. of 16-year-olds entering jobs receive no training at all, and a further 18 per cent. receive hardly any training. Girls—and I would underline this—fare worse than boys because they often enter service industries, which provide less training than manufacturing. Other groups, such as disabled young people and those from ethnic minorities, also fare badly.
This not only demonstrates how inadequately we have been coping with this problem compared with Germany and France and our other industrial competitors, but there is an implication in these figures which adds to the urgency of this afternoon's debate. The noble Lord, Lord Scanlon, has said that we must anticipate continuing to have in the region of 3 million unemployed during the 1980s. There are indications that trade is looking up and that there will be recovery, but—and this is the point that should be taken on board and considered in great depth—if there is to be recovery, it will be recovery in trades with a high degree of skill. The opportunities will be for the people who have skills and who have the ability and the training to acquire new skills as those new skills come to be demanded.
The nightmare is that as the world economy recovers and as there are new opportunities and new demands, those markets will be won by the countries which have a high proportion of skilled labour. Unless we begin to do something about it now—and hence the urgency—to compensate for the neglect as regards the provision of training in the past, then that world recovery will benefit our industrial competitors but it will leave us behind.
Therefore, it is not only a question of how you deal with unemployment of the young now and in a few years ahead; it is a question of ensuring that we have people to take advantage of the new opportunities and that we reduce this alarmingly high proportion of people without skills, for whom the employment prospects—not just of the 1980s but stretching on into the future are very bleak indeed. Speaking for myself, I am a guarded optimist about employment prospects in this country. However, if we do not do the things which it is in our power to do—and we may not do them—I am deeply gloomy about the employment prospects of those who have nothing to sell but time and physical strength—the unskilled—and we have far too many of them. It is no exaggeration to 208 say that unless we greatly reduce the percentage of the unskilled in our labour force, there are boys and girls leaving school today who will never have a regular job between now and the time when they reach retirement age, 50 years hence. That has never been true in the past and it is a hideous prospect to contemplate. Therefore, this is a matter of the very greatest possible urgency.
I should like to make some reference to those two groups mentioned in the last part of paragraph 2.1—irls and ethnic minorities. It is difficult to get an exact measure of the effect of unemployment on girls and women because of well-known inaccuracies in the figures. But there is a good deal to suggest that girls and women are faring worse in terms of unemployment than are boys and men, although, goodness knows, they are faring badly enough. However, it is very likely, because of the concentration of girls in office jobs, that over the next decade they will be pretty severely hit by unemployment. The need for girls to get training so that they can move into the new industries is paramount unless we are to have a very high precentage of unemployed women and a large number of women of considerable potential confined to the chance of unskilled jobs, which chance is likely to be a very poor one.
We know already that the opportunities for ethnic minorities are far worse than the opportunities for the white school-leavers. I would remind your Lordships of the Scarman Report which said that already 55 per cent. of West Indian school-leavers in Brixton were out of work. Unless action is taken to see that these youngsters are given training that position will deteriorate still more, so I underline the question of urgency. I have no doubt that the Government are going to say that they already have made very considerable plans and that they have changed considerably the programmes they have had in the past, that they have their own schemes and are satisfied to go ahead with those schemes.
I want very much to support what two previous speakers have said about the need to adopt these recommendations virtually as they stand. Over the last five years the Government have had a number of schemes for dealing with youth unemployment, a bewildering number of schemes characterised by a bewildering number of alphabetical descriptions which even those of us who attempt to study the question closely get completely confused over in trying to remember what they all mean. I believe the Government have got into a state of confusion over this, understandably, because their initial analysis of the problem was wrong.
They were not alone in this, but there was initially a belief that we were dealing with typical unemployment and what was needed was a temporary stop-gap provision to get people into some kind of job for short periods of time and that then things must pick up, jobs would become available again and the situation could be cured. We now know that this is a wrong diagnosis and that those initial plans and indeed most of the Government's subsequent plans, including their latest plan, have ignored the fact that the shortage of skilled people and the inadequate provision of training are the centre of the problem so far as young people are concerned.
209 What the Government are being asked to do in this report is to scrap the piecemeal approaches they have made in the past and to accept a radical change. The radical change is, of course, that for all youngsters between the ages of 16 and 18—the 16-year-olds and the 17-year-olds—those years are to be virtually years for training, not years in which they will hope to be in employment with perhaps a little training thrown in if they are lucky. It is to sweep away those piecemeal arrangements and to substitute the idea of traineeship for a two-year period, traineeship essentially based upon work, because the report says—and I am sure that everyone who has read it closely will agree—that the training should not be divorced from work experience. It needs to be work-based but the emphasis is on training.
Here the Government are offered a clean-cut scheme for 16- to 18-year-olds to turn them from young workers into trainees. Perhaps I may make one point following the noble Lord, Lord Scanlon, emphasising trade union support and how far they have come, because there is an acceptance in this that as trainees they will not get the wage for which the trade unions fought very hard in previous years. This is a very considerable sacrifice in trade union support and it is not something to be lightly turned down. I, for one, believe that we have made the juvenile wage too high a proportion of the adult wage and that has added to our difficulties. In treating them as trainees we get rid of that problem.
Then, again, there is the recommendation that this should be voluntary. If the scheme is a good one—and potentially it is a very good one indeed—we need not he afraid that most people will not be willing to accept it. The scheme will sell itself by its quality. It would be the greatest mistake to have compulsion or quasi compulsion which is implied when all financial support is withdrawn from youngsters who are not prepared to take part in the scheme. I would like also to stress the importance of local initiative. There is no way in which bureaucracies at the centre can develop and control schemes of this kind. The schemes ought not to be the same in all local areas. The more one looks at these problems the more one is aware that there is a wealth of experience, initiative, skill and concern at local level if we can find ways of harnessing it and if we can trust local committees to get on and do the job—and why should not we? After all, they are dealing with the jobs of their sons and daughters, their nephews and nieces and they have every reason to want to make schemes work.
It is, however, a very big undertaking. This is not just another new version of YOP, another new scheme that the Government have introduced. As Lord Scanlon has said, it is a revolutionary change. There needs to be a great deal of machinery set up if these local committees are to be established in time, and time is not on our side. We dare not leave this to drift on for yet another year. If the Government are prepared to accept that this is the way in which we need to go, that we need to scrap the old machinery and introduce this scheme, worked out here with great skill and clarity and with strong backing and support from all interested parties, and if we are to do this, then we have to start now.
This report asks that the Government should tell 210 us by the end of June whether they are prepared to accept it. Even that leaves very little time to be ready by September 1983 to cover the vast numbers which need to be covered. Surely, the Government are not going to turn down the chance to redeem the past and give hundreds of thousands of youngsters a chance which we dare not refuse them.
§ 3.58 p.m.
The Lord Bishop of Peterborough
I expect, my Lords, that when I have finished you will say that what I will have said before you have gone to tea was more like a sermon than a speech, but your Lordships must remember that a sermon has one advantage over a speech; it is shorter. It has taken me five years to produce three speeches and I can rattle off three sermons in one day. I believe the days may well have departed for a very long time, if not for ever, when it used to be well said that,man goeth forth to his work and to his labour until the evening ".For good or for ill, whether we like it or not, leisure is likely to dominate men's lives; and before leisure degenerates into the kind of idleness which is so satisfactory to Satan, we must apply all the sanctified or semi-sanctified common sense given to us to recreate an entirely new prospect for daily existence which will supersede the long-accepted assumption that everyone has to work like the psalmic labourer to earn his daily bread and, if he does not, or if he cannot, there must be something wrong with him.
How long the promised new self-evident, self-confident economy will take to gain self-perpetuating motion no one, I suppose, really knows; but we are told, and there seems no reason for disputing it, even for the sake of it, that most people will not be required to work for more than a few hours a week. So apart from the work-happy few who will have to give all their time and energy to keep the system going, and apart from those whose continual work consists in direct service of others, the rest—especially those leaving school—must be so equipped to develop some interior resources as alone can create contentment. Easy to say? Yes. Hard to implement? I wonder.
Ever since civilisation became identifiable some people were in such a way educated they found fulfilment in an existence which was not confined to the necessary making of money, and many of them were benefactors of the others. in the past so much of what would now be catalogued as unemployment was really lively leisure. Now, what was the life and lot of the few becomes the problem of the many. This problem must be solved quickly, without any second thoughts or looking back over shoulders.
There are dangers. One is that well-intentioned people think that, by helping a few unemployed to find for a short time something to do, they are solving the root problem. It is of course vital that we should alter the limit of our human imagination, and share—and regard it as our privilege to share—a little of the blank misery of neighbours who find that they are not wanted in the work market. But it is infinitely and lastingly more important that we all deliberately set out first to rid the unemployed of their sense of shame. This sense can be very deep, especially in localities 211 which have had a proud record of work. It is important that together with this we discover and enlarge the prospects—or the prospectus, if you like—of creative leisure. There is far more to explore, I am sure, than many of us heretofore have dreamed of.
One other incidental danger—and I like to look for dangers because then one can dodge them, or jump over them—or rather dead end, can lie in the setting up of parasitic industries of unwanted advisers, who will talk, and talk, and talk and manufacture a philosophy out of the miseries of others. We are all of us in the midst of this problem together, and we cannot take refuge in abstractions; talking about society instead of talking about "us"; asking for a lead from somebody else—and that usually means a politician or, worse, a bishop.
To give a name to a problem is not to solve it. There are some questions we should be awake to notice and which we ought to ask continually. One springs from the self-evident sense in not reducing the forms and means of higher education. The other from the temptation to extract more and more money from the diminishing employed in order to sustain the increasing young unemployed. The Government—and I like to support Governments so long as they do not misgovern—have given some token proof that they see this.
A place in my diocese, a town called Corby, which was to us a few years ago a grim spectre of doom, is now beginning to take a new heart. So is Peterborough where the schemes for the education and care of the young unemployed are having some effect and bringing a light to eyes which otherwise would be dimmed. But there are still in the villages—and I come across this continually in my ambulations—growing patches of idleness and decay, and sometimes despair. They do not make headlines because they are not so spectacular as the stains of the great ex-industrial centres.
I must not go on, because I must not disprove my opening sentence. I hope that we, and all other responsible people in this realm, will set our minds to grasp and propagate a new and verifiable assumption, and make extinct the old unquestioned acceptance that every man ought to earn his own bread in the sweat of his face, and that there was something wrong with him if he did not. Many of us would add that whatever comes can be made for all not only endurable but the source of hope and of some thanksgiving.
§ 4.6 p.m.
§ Lord Auckland
My Lords, the House will be grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Kilmarnock, for enabling a subject of the utmost social importance to be discussed this afternoon. On one thing there will be broad agreement in this House and elsewhere, and that is that the amount of unemployment in this country has reached an unacceptable total. The main question is as to how all this problem is going to be resolved. Whether or not the admirable Youth Task Group report will be able in itself to contribute to a reduction of this social evil on any scale remains to be seen, when one bears in mind that unemployment today has grave international implications.
212 Last September I was in the northern part of Finland in a town of some 30,000 inhabitants, most of whom earned their living in the paper industry, to some extent in the tourist industry, and in small businesses. In this hardworking town the unemployment rate was 20 per cent. In talking to the town mayor I was told that they were deeply worried by this situation in a particularly beautiful part of a lovely, if very depopulated, country. I make this point because of course unemployment, like so many things, is often a regional problem. There are some areas in this country, as your Lordships will know better than I, where unemployment is unacceptably high, even in times of relatively full employment. The Highlands of Scotland, the South-West of England, South Wales, to name just three areas.
Of course it is with such areas as these in mind that we must look both at this report and at any measures to combat unemployment, be it with regard to school-leavers, as the main subject we are discussing today, or those who are declared redundant in their mid-forties. In many cases this is an even more serious problem, and one which, although not specifically the subject of our debate this afternoon, we can never get clear from our minds.
I am particularly pleased to follow the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Peterborough, because a few weeks ago I went up to that fine city and I presented certificates to a number of young people in an organisation known as, I think, the Phoenix Workshop Scheme. This is run in part by a good friend of mine. There I met a number of young people. Because it was a very short visit, I did not have much opportunity of seeing exactly what they did; but I hope to go there again in the autumn for a longer visit, because I believe the scheme has much to commend it in a city which, the noble Baroness, Lady Stedman, will know, has grown enormously in the last decade.
It is to cities of that kind, with large overspills, to use a ghastly word, we must look, and especially to the new towns—places like Milton Keynes—for it is to the new towns (I lived for many years near the new town of Stevenage) that young people are encouraged to go. They raise families and their youngsters go to school there, and there is always the danger of too little industry chasing too few jobs, although there are many instances of industrial estates being built. I wonder whether successive Governments have taken on board the fact that in building new towns—Milton Keynes, for example, is still being developed—we can have splendid areas with many young people but with too little industry to attract them. Will admirable bodies, such as the Manpower Services Commission and the others who are looking into the problem, be able to cope?
Much has been said about village industries, and it is an important point. I notice that the noble Lord, Lord Spens, is to speak, and I imagine he will concentrate on the small business, which is vital because in the present Government climate small businesses are making encouraging progress, though far too many of them are finding it difficult to compete with the large monopolies. We have many delightful villages in Britain, but the young people in them find it difficult to obtain employment; not all of them want to work on farms or in other rural industries. There is need to develop, possibly through the new body, more local 213 industries, remembering also that they could have an enormous export potential. There is a crying need for hand-made goods for export, and that could provide more employment and increase our balance of payments. That is particularly true of Scotland, where the Highland Development Board has done splendid work, particularly north of Inverness. Although that area has enormous transport and weather problems, encouraging schemes are going on.
The real question before us is whether debates of this kind, and the sort of measures envisaged in the report and the White Paper, can solve the problem in the short-term. I believe that if there were more liaison between school careers officers and local captains of industry, employment exchanges and other bodies, the situation could be more encouraging. Perhaps the Minister could say how much liaison there is in that sphere. This promises to be a most useful debate. We have speakers with immense knowledge of young people. I am sure we all hope that, as a result of it, at least some sunlight will be able to pervade through the present severe gloom of unemployment.
§ 4.16 p.m.
My Lords, I must begin my brief intervention with an apology. I should at this very moment be in the chair of a meeting at some distance from your Lordships' House. I deemed it essential to be here today, not because I presume to suppose that there is anything unique I have to say but because I regard this as a most important debate, and I thank my noble friend Lord Kilmarnock for putting down the Motion. It can be said to be a very timely Motion, although the timetable, which your Lordships will have noted, is extremely tight. Had the report appeared earlier and the time for decision recommended in the report been as it is, it could be said that it would have been easier to believe that the timetable could be adhered to.
There has already been an impressive build-up of support for the report, which perhaps makes this a rather less interesting debate. I shall do little more than add my own support, and I should be very surprised if support in one form or another were not forthcoming from all those who will speak subsequently. I regard it as an excellent and enlightened report. It presents a sound and feasible course of action. It is a great improvement on existing and previous Government-sponsored schemes, and it takes into account what a good many people have been advocating for some time in regard to the need for a more comprehensive and more broadly-based strategy for education and training for all young people, which alone can provide an adequate basis for adult life and responsible citizenship.
A very important point is that the scheme is capable of encompassing a number of existing programmes which are already being run within the ambit of industry, the youth services, voluntary and statutory, the social services and the probation service, but I shall return to that shortly. It adopts a pattern which a few firms with the means to do so are providing already with the help of voluntary programmes, and your Lordships will forgive me if I mention two of them, the Duke of Edinburgh's Award Scheme and Endeavour Training.
214 Most speakers have mentioned the voluntary nature of the scheme. I shall do what the noble Lord, Lord Scanlon, felt there would be no harm in doing, and repeat once again my view on the subject. I have for long held that there is a strong case for the extension of a statutory requirement in education and training beyond the age of 16, with an element of service to the community built into it. But I recognise that that goal is not within sight at present. I recognise that it is intended to be a voluntary scheme, and I would go so far as to say that to include a penal clause by withholding supplementary benefit from those who do not go in for it would be a contradiction and mockery of the principle of voluntary entry.
I have two points to make, and just one or two queries—and I shall be quite brief. The first arises in Part V, paragraph 19, and the subject is equal opportunity. The importance of equal opportunity for all the young people who will come within the ambit of the scheme seems to me to be of tremendous significance. It underscores the point that I made just now of the importance of linkage with appropriate existing schemes so as to spread the available opportunity. It places a premium on an even quality of provision being available nationwide. We surely do not want a scheme which exists in some places and is non-existent in others, which is good in one or two places, and is indifferent in others. In no single respect is equal opportunity more important than for those young people who themselves suffer from difficulties and disabilities. I think it was the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, who mentioned one group with learning and writing difficulties. The right reverend Prelate referred to the young people among the ethnic minorities, and I would add to those groups those who are physically handicapped and those who come into the general category of being ex-offenders. They should all have special opportunities to partake in and benefit from the scheme, alongside everybody else.
My second point is this. I am well aware that, given the remit of the Manpower Services Commission, the emphasis in this report has to be on the quality and quantity of the actual and potential young workforce in this country. But I have no hesitation in saying that in my view the non-vocational element intended in the programme is its most important part. In my submission the scheme must aim to elicit the qualities of inventiveness, enterprise, curiosity, perseverance, self-reliance, self-awareness, concern about other people and about the community and environment in which they live, and, not least, an ability to enjoy life. Those are the qualities so eloquently expressed in a report to the Department of Education and Science by Her Majesty's Inspectors of Schools, quoted in Part VII, paragraph 10. For that reason I should like to make a strong plea for including as an integral part of the package, provided that it is available and the young person will take it, some form of service to the community. I go so far as to say that without that clement, the necessary degree and quality of motivation—which is referred to in Part I, paragraph 3, and which is a very important word, depending as it does on positive attitudes to life and society, as well as work—are likely to be lacking.
The scheme surely is not perceived by its authors 215 just as a factory tool for producing more and better qualified technicians. It is also a means by which young people can develop their full potential abilities as members of the community, for their own advantage, as well as that of their place of work.
I now turn to my queries, some of which have been raised by previous speakers. The first two queries relate to the point that I have stressed—equal opportunity. First, with regard to those young people in the 16- and 17-year-old bracket who are employed, the question is, will all employers of those young people accept and include that vitally important non-vocational element for the benefit of the young people themselves, as well as for the benefit of the firm? My second query is in regard to those who are not employed—that very large number that has already been referred to—and to the guarantee to all 16-year-olds who leave school without finding work. Will there be a sufficient response in terms of approved sponsors, and will the managing agencies, which are envisaged in Part V, paragraph 5, be able to put together sufficient support from all the other organisations—the local education authorities and others—so as to include all the half million or so young people in question, already referred to?
My noble friend Lord Kilmarnock quoted from a particularly important paragraph in the report; I think it was paragraph 8 in Part III. I am not going to repeat what he quoted, but I should like to preface it by quoting from the previous paragraph and to add something that he did not mention in the quote that he gave your Lordships. I quote from paragraph 7, where it is stated:… the scheme must engage the full support of the local education authorities…much of the youth service, and the Careers Service, on all of whichits success will depend. The report goes on to state, in paragraph 8:It is out of the question unless all parties are prepared to accept that…a new comprehensive scheme…marks…a decisive break with the past so far as the education and training of young people are concerned ".That really presents a challenge to everybody who has concern and responsibility for young people in that age bracket.
Lastly, and most important of all, there is the timetable. It is a very tight timetable. The report was published in April, and the Government are being asked to approve it by the end of this month. Can the scheme be delivered in the time envisaged? I ask that question only to bring to your Lordships' attention just two factors which bear on it. First, there is, quite obviously, the promptness of the Government's response. As we have heard, the report calls for a decision by the end of the month. I understand that the Government are already committed to a scheme, outlined by Mr. Tebbit, which involves a similar financial outlay. I would only say to the Government that, given that fact, it ought to make it easier to reach a quick and positive decision.
My second point concerns the prerequisite need of highly-skilled and motivated leadership at the place of sponsorship. Part V, paragraph 24 draws attention to this. What obviously is needed is a sufficient cadre of men and women with the vision, the experience, 216 and the skill with young people for overseeing and running this scheme in all its aspects. My view is that a crash training programme is quite essential, in service, or out of service, to produce that leadership. I believe that what is needed is a new type of person, an industrial youth tutor, and, with the greatest respect to training personnel in firms which have training establishments, I would say that I venture to doubt whether they possess all the qualifications without a specialist training. Can this essential prerequisite be delivered in time for the operational date, which is September 1983?—tat seems to me to be absolutely vital.
Finally, will the Government approve the scheme? That question has already been put, but I should like to put it again, because, as one who is interested much more in consensus politics than adversary politics, I should like to hope that the Government will enhance their image and give an earnest of their concern for the future young generation by giving an affirmative reply.
§ 4.29 p.m.
§ Baroness Stedman
My Lords, I, too, should like to thank my noble friend Lord Kilmarnock for giving us the opportunity to debate the report this afternoon. I should like to go a little wider than the report itself, though I believe that the proposals in the Task Group Report are a very considerable improvement on the Government's White Paper. As the noble Lord, Lord Kilmarnock, has said, the MSC report recommends a traineeship programme for all school-leavers and wants the programme to be ready to be offered in September 1983 to all the 16-year-olds leaving school, or full-time education, and not just the unemployed, as the Government's own youth training proposals envisage.
In its recently-published Agenda for Action, the MSC produced some very good, well-researched programmes, stemming from the expertise that it has built up over the years, whereas I believe that the proposals in the Government's White Paper aimed more at reducing the price of labour and taking more off the unemployment lists by making a pool of low-paid workers, and suggested somewhat amateurish schemes which did not seem to have been thought out and which I am sure were not subject to consultation with both sides of industry.
The White Paper proposals which change the status of jobless young people give cause for concern. Will the proposed contract be as equitable as it is claimed to be? I think not. I see it as a substantial cut in unemployment benefit and a virtual tax on parents whose children cannot get jobs; and it will be most inequitable in areas where there is already high unemployment and severe deprivation. Sanctions, such as the reduction of allowances, penalties and the intention to depress the income of young people, will be bitterly resented by all those young persons, and it could place the sponsors in ethical difficulties in supporting those suggestions. And where does this concentration on school-leavers leave the 17- to 18-yearold unemployed? It can lead only to a further reduction in the provision for this slightly older group. I believe there will be widespread trainee resistance unless Government policy goes much further in relating 217 training schemes to actual jobs, and unless they are willing to accept the task group report.
I was hoping that the right reverend Prelate, who is no longer in his place, might have been referring to some of the problems we have in our home city of Peterborough. We are both of us vice-presidents of the Youth Opportunities Council in our city—both, I regret to say, rather absentee vice-presidents because of our commitments in this House and in other places; but we both receive very regular reports from that council as to the problems and the successes that they have had. The experience of the need in my home town of Peterborough I believe mirrors that of the nation as a whole. The high level of unemployment among adults and teenagers—and we are at the moment at the national average—means that the first real need is for jobs; and no amount of work experience or training initiative can substitute for the real thing.
But we are finding that at the same time of continuing high unemployment there is a marked decline in the number of young people taking up the YOP placements. From about 1,000 youngsters who are now not in work in my city, only 40 per cent. are in YOP schemes. There are many reasons for the low take-up, including high travel costs in getting into the city to do the training, the small differential between the benefit and the training allowance, and concern that they are being used as cheap labour. But overwhelmingly there is a growing sense of dissatisfaction with the YOP programme itself, because many youngsters feel that it is not leading them anywhere and that it will not result in a job, or even significantly improve the chances of a job, at the end of the 12-month period. In effect, as the secretary of our Youth Opportunities Council put it, "The youngsters are voting with their feet".
We should be seeking policies which give priority to real job attainment after training, so that the economic activity of the young adults is maintained as a matter of social urgency. Because, today, the worst effects of unemployment are falling on precisely the generation that we need to be sufficiently prosperous to set up house and family, and sufficiently active in work to generate wealth and to provide adequate social services.
We need the Government to lead. Policy decisions on cash limits are a matter for Government decision and for the politicians, but they should then let the MSC use their expertise to carry out the policies. If tension builds up between the MSC and the Minister, then decision-making is going to be slowed down and the MSC will be forced to produce schemes which do not really fit the policy and may not even work properly. We want schemes and resources available that are going to avoid tension between the MSC and Government, not reinforce it. The Government White Paper has politicised the approach to youth unemployment schemes, and I think has done a lot to damage the tripartisan support which has been given to them. This will inevitably reduce the number of sponsors willing to support the programme, and could even make it fail.
The rising levels of long-term unemployment have now begun to build up, and there is an increased demand for the community enterprise programme. The MSC had hoped that the Government would 218 respond by permitting an increase in the number of places available to 60,000. Instead, the Government have frozen that programme at 30,000 places. It is reckoned that a million adults currently fall within the definition of "long-term unemployment"—that is, 12 months or more without a job for those over 25 and six months or more for those under 25. Even in their own White Paper, the Government acknowledge that unemployment is now structural, and the young people themselves know that those coming off the training schemes do not get the jobs they need.
I have talked to my local industrial chaplain, and I believe his views are typical of other industrial chaplains across the country. They believe that any trainee status has to be chosen freely by the young people; that they must choose it because it is attractive and because it is a meaningful option for them to take up. Only then are they likely to co-operate fully with training programmes. The chaplains feel that if young people do not see the scheme in this way then coercion is not going to help, and more fundamental problems may have to be faced.
The noble Lord, Lord Auckland, referred to his recent visit to Peterborough and to the success of the Phoenix training scheme. We have had imaginative and committed efforts of people running many schemes in my city, but there is a growing frustration now among the trainees, which is coming to be shared by the supervisors, when a trainee leaves his or her placement and returns to the dole. Overwhelmingly, the clear experience in my own area has led the Youth Opportunities Council to support and urge the implementation of the task group's recommendations. It is important that the quality of the training being offered to our young people during the 12 months is of a much improved standard. It is also vital that the allowance is a realistic one, and we hope that the recommendation of £25 a week will be agreed. I see considerable resentment if the Government's earlier proposals to reduce this to £16 a week are implemented. We shall have an even greater exodus from the scheme than we have from YOP.
My own Youth Opportunities Council believe that any attempt to introduce compulsion by withholding benefit will increase resentment and, in effect, be no more than an ill-advised, enforced additional year at school. No one will be fooled, least of all the teenagers: such a move would be principally a means of reducing the embarrassment of high youth unemployment by redesignating the youngsters as "students '. The main reservation about the task group's report is that even the best training schemes must be training for something. There are some assumptions in both the Government White Paper and in the MSC's overall strategy that I believe are perhaps questionable, notably that British industry is suffering from a lack of skill. The local industrialists in my city deny this. The noble Lord, Lord Scanlon, will probably know more about this at first-hand than I do.
But the assumption that MSC trainees should be treated as students is also misleading, because, although it is no longer as true as formerly, nevertheless most students who go on technical and professional courses have a clear objective and a job prospect ahead of them. There is no such specificity about the MSC programmes, though, in fairness to them, they did suggest that their 219 programme would not create real jobs; that is the task of Government.
I come from a new town with an unemployment rate about the national average. This would have been much higher if it had not been for the effect of our development corporation in bringing many new jobs to Peterborough over the years. New towns vary immensely not only in their regional location and attractiveness but in the strength of their economic base. Therefore, it is not surprising that in the new towns unemployment is higher in the North and Scotland, but it is surprising that it has now reached 15.8 per cent. in the Milton Keynes area. What is significant is that unemployment is now creeping up in the new towns around London and elsewhere in the South-East. It varies from 21.7 per cent. in Skelmersdale, 20.5 per cent. in Corby and 19.7 per cent. in Telford to only 5.4 per cent. in Welwyn. Yet it is now up to 9.4 per cent. in Harlow, 9.6 per cent. in Northampton, 12 per cent. in Stevenage and 14.3 per cent. in Basildon.
The Government view is that junior labour has been priced into unemployment. The White Paper laid stress on reducing the cost of junior labour as a major factor in opening up more job opportunities. The Government hope that more jobs will become available to young people by subsidising employers so that the effective cost of a young person is only £30 a week in direct wages. But presumably such jobs will be available only because women and lower-paid men will be displaced in favour of junior labour, because this will have a generally depressing impact on wages and adult employment rates. Employers are likely to be sensitive, too, about industrial relations problems they may have to face if the Government White Paper proposals are accepted, because they do not have the consensus backing of trade unions and management. While both sides probably agree with the training ideal, the change of status, the use of sanctions and a reduction of allowances and benefits and wages can only be divisive.
What the Youth Task Group has set out to do is to provide that permanent bridge between school and work. It is not a scheme for dealing with unemployment. The White Paper mentioned the "high level working group being established by MSC and charged with bringing forward proposals for a wider and more general scheme than the youth training scheme itself: a scheme for all young people whether or not they are in work. The Government went on to say that if the proposals from this group were a more effective contribution, then "resources available" could be reallocated. What I take that to mean—and I hope the Minister may confirm this—is that if the task group can do better for the same money and get the full backing from industry, trade unions and education, then their proposals will replace the youth training scheme.
On the other hand, if the task group fail then the White Paper proposals will be implemented. I hope that the Government will very quickly accept the proposals from the task group because they meet many of the objections that were raised against their own White Paper. I hope that the MSC will also be able to achieve their acceptable and improved programme 220 for long-term adult unemployed. The policies to meet the three objectives of the new training initiative must not be such that broadly-based consensus support and sponsorship for all these measures begins to break up. 1 believe that the White Paper contained too much that was divisive. We need a clear statement of policies backed by the will to carry them out. I believe the task group provides a means of starting along that road. I hope that we shall have a speedy acceptance of their recommendations by the Government.
§ 4.45 p.m.
My Lords, I should like to congratulate my noble friend Lord Kilmarnock on a masterly introduction to this debate. I think I can call him "my noble friend although he has crossed the narrow gangway recently; but he and I have been concerned together for more than three years about the problem of unemployment and, to that extent, he is certainly my noble friend. I do not think that I am as optimistic as he about the Youth Task Group scheme. It seems to me to be running into the danger of creating a further bureaucracy. I myself have never been very happy with the way that the MSC have started to run the present Youth Opportunities Programme. The bureaucracy there has been quite frustrating for would-be sponsors. They have to fill in enormous piles of paper and then sit about waiting for someone from the MSC to come along and vet them. That often takes three or four months and by that time their enthusiasm has disappeared and they are no longer interested.
I fear that this new suggested scheme will be even more bureaucratic because it is going to introduce an additional layer of bureaucracy, the management agencies. These appear at first sight to be all right, but, if one starts to analyse them, they are going to come partly from large firms, who may cover much more than a local area, and partly made up of a conglomeration of small firms getting together. I wonder to what extent they are really necessary. I like the idea of the local boards being linked to the local education authorities. That is very important. I should have thought that that was the principal way of getting what the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, said was the interest of local people involved—because it is vitally important that local people in all parts of the country should become involved in this. I am certain that they are ready to he so involved, but I am not sure that they would be prepared to become involved under the aegis of management agencies who themselves are being paid to do the job of running the agencies.
The scheme, so far as it goes, is very good, but there are one or two omissions. The first is that it does not appear to cater in any way for the major arts. I do not know what happens to the would-be musicians, drama students and so on. Will they get a chance under this scheme; or do they go in for general training under it and then have to develop those arts later on? I do not know. It is a thing which is not mentioned in the scheme. I should be interested to know how that point develops. Then there is the point which was touched on very strongly by the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, the problem of how the youth coming out of 221 school is to be trained to tackle adult life. There does not appear to be any means of training in the art of communication, the art of writing a letter, or a short report, or even answering or ringing someone on the telephone. All of this is absolutely vital particularly when one realises—I give these figures from memory—that some 46 per cent. of all school-leavers will have left school without any form of certificate and I believe that something like 30 per cent. will have left school without being able to read or write. There does not appear to be any means of catering for these people.
I should like to quote briefly from a note which was given to me by an employment agency, because it is rather pertinent to what we are talking about. It says:Ninety-five per cent. of the youngsters that I have been associated with on leaving their educational institutions have received little or no career guidance. These youngsters therefore have no real idea of how to begin to look for a worthwhile job, no matter how enthusiastic they may be to find work. Just as we are all trained throughout our early lives to eat, to dress and to behave, I think it is now vital that youngsters are trained in the correct ways of presenting themselves to prospective employers. From my own experience I believe that their training should include instruction on how to prepare a curriculum vitae. Let them each prepare their own and subject them to in-depth discussions and group assessment. It is possible that the youngsters' future opportunities could revolve around hobbies and interests in addition to or even instead of the formally studied subjects. Finally, once a personal interview is gained, the applicant's overall appearance is of prime importance. The interviewer's mind is 90 per cent. made up as the applicant enters the door. Consequently, overall appearance is of the most vital importance if the interviewee is to have any chance of getting the job ".I do not think that that is catered for in the scheme. I only hope that it will be catered for as they go along, particularly if and when the scheme is broadened to be able to be run over two years instead of the present one year.
There is a final aspect which is missing from the scheme. This was touched on by the right reverend Prelate and also by the noble Baroness, Lady Seear. She said that there were some educated voices—I suppose mine is one of them—who should not be listened to in this respect, but the fact is that we are faced with the prospect of there not being enough jobs to go round for many, many years to come. I am quite convinced of this. I think that we have the likelihood of seeing the total numbers of jobs getting smaller and smaller because of the evolution of the new technologies, and the new technologies are going to improve productivity but not improve the opportunities for jobs. This aspect—the fact that there may be numbers of people who will not get jobs—is a very serious subject which I believe ought to qualify for a debate by itself, so I am not going to go into further detail on it today.
I am sorry to be depressing about this programme. I wish it the very best of good fortune. It will only get that if the Government make up their minds very quickly to accept it, and I think that the point that was made by the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, that there is need during this coming 15 months until the programme starts for a crash training programme for the people who are going to train these youths, these school-leavers, is absolutely essential. I hope that that will be brought into effect immediately.
§ Baroness Gaitskell
My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, may I challenge him on what he said at the end of his speech? I do not believe that our technological advance will not get rid of the unemployment. People speak on this—and one or two have spoken this afternoon—but I do not believe it is true. This is the challenge we have. It simply will not do.
My Lords, the noble Baroness makes a very important point, and it is one which I believe has to be debated over a long period—given the opportunity of a full debate. My own feeling is this: the new technologies are producing ways of increasing productivity while not creating further jobs. The machines are themselves creating better machines which will carry out the additional requirements for productivity; but there will not be the human element to come in there. I think that we are faced with this awful problem of perhaps from 3 million to 4 million people being unemployed for the next 20 years.
§ 4.57 p.m.
§ Lord Young of Dartington
My Lords, I should like to join with all those who have spoken before me in thanking my noble friend Lord Kilmarnock for opening the debate on this grim subject that we are discussing on this fine summer afternoon. My noble friend Lord Kilmarnock said that whatever scheme was adopted—and he like me is very much in favour of this task force report—it must catch the imagination of the young people themselves. I would be a little less ambitious than he was when he said that, in saying that at least any new scheme that is introduced must not be scorned by young people, as it could be in my view if the training allowances paid to them are any less than those proposed in this report.
Unfortunately, it has been put about that the allowances may be less than those that are proposed here. I hope that the noble Earl who is replying on behalf of the Government at the end of this debate may be able to reassure us that this is not the case and that the allowances will be paid at least at the level which is proposed in the report. I also hope that there will be no penalties, as the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, was saying earlier, for people who do not decide to take part in this or any other scheme of this type.
I say this because leaving school and getting a job has in the past mattered so much to young people because it is a sign of becoming an adult and getting adult status. One of the keys is money. You are not paid at school and you are not paid afterwards. This has been, is and could be specially important for children who have been failures at school, and those who have had unsatisfactory home lives and perhaps very little pocket money or other financial support from their parents—sometimes because their parents are unemployed, just as they are in danger of being. A good deal of research has shown that people out of jobs—and this applies to younger people as well as to older people—become socially isolated from those who do have jobs, and the lower the allowances that are paid the more likely it is that this social isolation will occur. Young people cannot meet their friends in situations which involve the spending of money. Neither girls nor boys can necessarily afford to buy 223 clothes. They do not have the kind of capital which older people have which can make unemployment slightly less unbearable, and they can only too easily become ashamed even about going out of the house because they do not have any money themselves—or not enough money—and so have to be treated by others. So my plea on this point is that although we cannot expect training allowances to be at the level of that would get if they were in jobs, at least something approximate to those wages should be paid and anything less than the training allowances suggested here would be a disgrace.
One of the many sad results of the current recession is that the division in our society has been sharpened, especially among young people. On the one hand, we have children often from the better-off families, who go into the sixth forms in schools and thence, some of them, into higher education, universities and the like, carrying with them very large subsidies from the State, particularly those who go into universities—and this despite the fact that they often come from better-off homes, as I have said. Then, on the other hand, we have the children who leave school at 16 and go straight on the to dole or into a training school, which is very much second best, or has been so far, to any job they might have hoped to have got.
This new division reproduces, but in a sharper form, the old division between the grammar school children and the modern school children which some of us hoped we were going to see the end of before the end of our lifetime. I am arguing that meanness on the question of allowances could make even more frightening the kind of divisions I have been talking about and some show of generosity, even though it did not mean that divisions do not any longer exist, could at least alleviate them somewhat.
The other point I wanted to make concerns the question of administration referred to by the noble Lords, Lord Kilmarnock and Lord Hunt. On this, I think I am going to come rather close to what the noble Lord, Lord Spens, said a few moments ago. I may not necessarily be speaking on behalf of my party on this question: I am not sure that my party has a policy on it. The strategic decision, taking a long view and not a short view on administration, is whether responsibility should be with the Manpower Services Commission, using allowances and subsidies for training and sometimes to cover young people's wages. That is on the one side. On the other side, we have local education authorities having the prime responsibility and using not training allowances but education and maintenance allowances in one form or another.
I personally accept that the first goal is to get this report accepted and acted upon; but, taking the longer view, I very much query whether any Government so far has got it right about the division of responsibility that there has been and still is for the training of young people. I believe there is a great deal to be said for this responsibility being given to local education authorities and not to the Manpower Services Commission. That may be a long-term view, but even in the short term there is a case for much closer involvement of local education authorities even than the report itself pleads for.
The noble Lord, Lord Kilmarnock, referred to 224 Section VII of the report, as did the noble Lord, Lord Hunt. This section appeals for comprehensiveness—not for comprehensive schools—at the stage the report is referring to. This part of the report reminds us that most of the young people in colleges of further education, and many in schools, are already taking courses of direct vocational relevance. It also reminds us that there is a need for something much more than narrow vocational education for the trainees who we hope will get a much better deal if the recommendations of this report are accepted.
The question is whether that kind of comprehensiveness can be achieved, particularly at the local level, unless local education authorities are given the primary responsibility—even if it is only the primary responsibility at local level and acting as the agents, for this purpose, of the Manpower Services Commission. The report calls for greater decentralisation and more flexibility: yet the instrument for bringing about the decentralisation which is pleaded for is perhaps the largest and most centralised quango that this country has ever seen. There may possibly be no harm in that, at any rate for the time being, but could not local education authorities be considered as the main local agencies for carrying responsibility for putting this programme into effect? They do have the great advantage that they exist everywhere and that there is a local system everywhere. There would not be the same need to rely on sponsoring agencies or voluntary bodies, although voluntary bodies would be needed of course, alongside the local education authorities and in large measure.
It would require somewhat of a new attitude on the part of administrators in local education authorities and also on the part of teachers. At any rate in the longer term, it would require new and more adult institutions for young people to attend after the age of 16. In this respect, it seems to me that the new tertiary colleges which are springing up throughout the country do have a great deal to commend themselves. In a tertiary college, not only are there sixth formers but there are people of different academic levels of ability, receiving a wide variety of vocational training. Work experience schemes can be, and are, organised from tertiary colleges and people engaged on apprenticeship schemes can come to them for their non-vocational training.
These tertiary colleges seem to me so hopeful that they could well be the centre in many localities as and when they can be built up and with whatever speed they can be built up for children over the age of 16—not only those in sixth forms but all other children between 16 and 18 at least; and they would be the centres to which all teenagers would respond.
I was very sorry to see in the newspaper today that Sir Keith Joseph has issued a new circular, which I have not yet had an opportunity of reading, saying that he is not going to approve the alteration of any schools that have decent sixth forms in them. This could greatly slow down the further development of tertiary colleges. But I hope we can all comfort ourselves a little, by recognising that Sir Keith Joseph is not likely to go on forever in his present post, and that one day we may even have a Government who are prepared to see the Department of Education and Science become the Department of Education and Training.
§ 5.11 p.m.
§ Lord Roberthall
My Lords, I begin by associating myself with all those who welcome the opportunity given to us by my noble friend Lord Kilmarnock to discuss this very important subject, which is part of the whole question of what is to happen to the next generation. But I feel some diffidence in addressing your Lordships on this subject because, unlike all the previous speakers, I have had practically no direct experience of youth unemployment. The first part of my life was spent in the university world, and even in those days a university degree was very nearly a passport to employment. In the second part of my life when I was in public service, I spent a great deal of my time in advising the Government about problems of full employment.
In those days, it was not only the people who had been to universities who could find jobs. There was really no lack of demand for school-leavers, because, in a growing society and one which aimed at a high level of employment, the vacancies created by natural wastage on the one hand, and by growth on the other, were at least enough to provide opportunities for all the young school-leavers who wanted jobs. As a result of my comparative ignorance, I shall confine myself to one or two general points and make a few remarks on the macro-economic aspect of the subject, where I have had some experience.
In reading this admirable report, I was very much struck by the first sentence of Part V, which reads:It is no easy task to deliver such an ambitious scheme as the one we have proposed ".That is certainly true. It is a very ambitious scheme and it will not be an easy task. The most general point one can make in circumstances of this kind is that you can get it done only if there is enough drive and energy at the top. Of course, I hope that the Government will accept the report and that, if they do, they will see that there is drive and energy at the top. But, in addition, there are several detailed problems.
The first one that struck me was the very admirable desire expressed in the report to introduce a quality element. As I understand it, if the Manpower Services Commission is asked to go ahead, it will have to recruit and improvise the people who will advise on the quality element. Anyone who has had much experience in education will know how desperately important it is to get the right advice in anything in which you arc seeking quality.
There are two things that are absolutely essential. One is that the people who can do it can, as it were, write the specification, or the curriculum, in a form which will be recognised by experts as having some sort of quality about it. Furthermore, you must remember the people who will be teaching, so that the people at the top will have to be practical people who can not only write a sensible specification, but can write one which can be explained clearly to the people who will teach it. In this connection, I very much agree with what my noble friend Lord Hunt said—that it will be very important indeed that the people who will lead this on the ground are enthusiastic and trained. I believe that another speaker made the same point.
I turn now to the more general question on which 226 I want to make two points. The first—and, to some extent, the second—is about the content of the programme. The first point is that we are now in a very deep recession indeed. In my view, it is even deeper than the great depression which led to the now abandoned revolution in economic thinking. Looking at this recession, the index of industrial production, excluding oil and gas, reached a peak of 109 in 1973, which was nine years ago. It is now at about 90. Even allowing for a very modest figure for the underlying growth of capacity, we are now somewhere about 30 per cent. below what would have been our trend line. With a gap like that, it is extremely difficult to make any forecasts about the composition of the demand for labour, if we get back. The noble Lords, Lord Scanlon and Lord Spens, drew attention to the fact that we have been going through a technological revolution which very much exacerbates the unknown area which is facing people, who are asking themselves: what sort of training do we need?
I think that the task group is absolutely right when it goes for a two-stage, quite general programme. First, there are what it calls getting the core skills. Some of them have been mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Spens, though I think he was pitching his sights a little high. I was thinking more of knowing one end of a hammer from another, or perhaps using a telephone. I do not think most of them will get quite so far as the noble Lord, Lord Spens. But there should be the kind of original training which everybody going into industry needs to have. In the second stage, there will be large groups of industries, such as the building or distributive trades, or even the engineering industry, which can be divided up into a number of sections, where people would be given more specific training. In view of the enormous reduction in the number of apprentices, a programme of this kind will need, at some stage, to look a little further and, at least, to envisage some higher training.
But then we come to the second difficulty which faces the Manpower Services Commission in trying to think about what kind of training is needed. At present, we have roughly 3 million unemployed. Practically all the forecasts suggest that in the next two years this figure is more likely to increase than to decrease. If this trend continues, all the training programmes in the world will not do anything about the problem. It would be a great mistake on our part to think that the adoption of this programme will end our troubles.
I have already said that this is one part of the programme. The other part of it is a return to expansion. I am entirely on the side of the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, and against the noble Lord, Lord Spens. All economic history is against the noble Lord. The problem of unemployment is the problem of the backward countries—countries with no capital and no industrial skills and where, literally, there are no jobs. It would be extraordinary if a country like ours could not get back to a better use of its resources. By that, I mean not having this ridiculous position of a large unemployed labour force when all sorts of things are crying out to be done. To start with, what about the sewers? But we cannot do it.
The subject is an immensely difficult one. If this kind of unemployment continues, although we shall 227 put people through this course which may help them to get jobs more easily than would otherwise be the case, it will not affect the total unemployment position. There will still be a substantial amount of unemployment and a great deal of youth unemployment. This will have the effect of demoralising those running the programme and those who are on it. From this point of view, the policy of the Government is much too vague. There is nothing in it, as I understand it, which will give people hope.
The Government's objectives appear in the first financial statement, which opens with the words:The Government's objectives for the medium term are to bring down the rate of inflation and to create conditions for a sustainable growth of output and employment ".Since then, output has gone down and unemployment has gone up. We seem to be further away from those objectives and there is no indication of the Government's plans and intentions: whether we shall go on putting at the top of the list the control of inflation through the instrument of unemployment or whether, as the Alliance to which I have the honour to belong is proposing, we shall give people something to think about and something to hope for. Our plan would begin with a substantial expansion, for which there is certainly room. This is no place for a general debate on the economic system. However, it helps to deal with the reason why we are screwed down now. The inflation should be controlled by an incomes policy rather than by 3 million unemployed.
§ 5.24 p.m.
§ Baroness Faithfull
My Lords, I had written a speech and had meant to speak to it, but as I am the eleventh speaker I have decided to put it aside in order to counter some of the arguments which have been put forward in this debate. I wholly support the principles and the precepts behind the Youth Task Group Report. I should not want it to be thought that I do not support those principles and precepts. Nevertheless, I say with great diffidence that I thoroughly disagree with the way in which it is recommended that those principles should be carried out. I feel slightly nervous about saying this when speakers such as the noble Lord, Lord Kilmarnock, the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, and the noble Lord, Lord Scanlon, disagree with me. Nevertheless, I feel that I must say it, though I do so with great diffidence. I was grateful when 1 heard the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Young of Dartington, for I felt then that there is one other person in the House who is of my opinion.
What is my testimonial for speaking today? My testimonial is that I am the vice-chairman of a scheme called Work for Tomorrow. This is a training workshop and a social training scheme in Oxford for the young unemployed of 16 years of age. I have learned a great deal from the setting up and administration of this scheme. I have learned what are the assets and what are the liabilities. One of the reasons why I do not agree with the recommendation to set up 40, 50 or 60 boards is because of what I learned during the setting up of the Oxford scheme. With the noble Lord, Lord Young of Dartington, I believe that these schemes, however administered, should be the responsibility of the local authority—probably of the education 228 department in conjunction with the other departments of the council.
When we set up our scheme. we reviewed the areas of work in and around the City of Oxford which required people. I do not think that this had been done before. Then we reviewed who were the young unemployed. They were not the high academics or the high technology people. It was a very different band. The band which we found needed work included the very people who could have fitted in to the work which was available, had this been made possible for them. Therefore I learned the first lesson: that, if an important piece of work is to be done, it must be done locally, with knowledge of local conditions—of both the work available and the children needing work. As I sat on this committee, it appeared to me that we must be very careful not to impose upon young people. It is their lives which we are dealing with. What is it that they want? What is it that they can do? And what is it that they want to be trained for?
Secondly, I found that it was no good bolstering up young people and encouraging them to come on the scheme when they could see that there would be no work at the end of it. If they could see no work at the end of it, they would not co-operate. You could do what you liked: you could force them to come, or you could say that they would or would not be paid. However, the scheme would not be a success unless they saw that at the end of it there would be something to do.
The third lesson I learned was that unless you work very closely with local people you run into difficulties. We ran into very real difficulties. The local authority did not feel that they were responsible, although they were interested. There are many buildings in the education system. Schools are open only from nine until four or five o'clock, so there are empty schools. One particularly good school in the centre of Oxford would have been the most marvellous centre for the young unemployed, but because this scheme is not the responsibility of the education department they felt that they could not let us have the building. I must say, in fairness to the Oxfordshire education department, that subsequently they did let us have a building. But suppose we wanted to undertake some very imaginative schemes. We should need buildings, but the rent of buildings is very expensive. Rents for day or evening activities are very expensive, yet the education department has buildings at its disposal which nobody else will have.
The next point we discovered was that a number of the children who were leaving were not really up to standard. It is not a party political matter in any shape or form. I am not quite sure whether one is allowed to use the name of a person in another place but the ex-Prime Minister, Mr. Callaghan. said he had representations made to him by the CBI and employers that children were not adequately educated when they left school: that talking about training and employment was only two-thirds of the story because one had to talk about education as well.
The present Secretary of State for Eudcation and Science has assessed—and like the noble Lord, Lord Young of Dartington, I have not seen the circular—that 40 per cent. of children in school at the moment are bored and fed-up during the last year they are at 229 school and are therefore learning nothing. There are two factors here. One is education, and the other is employment. The two must go together. A number of the colleges of further education are hurriedly setting up courses for the young unemployed and are having very real difficulties.
While 1 agree with the Youth Task Group Report, I do not agree with the setting up of 40, 50 or 60 group organisations to carry out the recommendations of the report. I think that the recommendations of the report must be carried out and must be imaginatively carried out. But if we are going to involve local people, local employers, local teachers, local community people, local voluntary organisations and the local authority, then the activity must be locally based. if we are to use the local authority buildings, it must be the local authority that is responsible. For that reason, I do not support the setting up of this tremendous number of boards. This would be very expensive and we could well use that money in other ways. We could well ask the education authorities of this country if they will—and we hope that they will—allow their schools to be used more imaginatively. Furthermore, I ask a question. Would it not bring it nearer to the education departments' concept of assessing what work they are doing if they found that they were responsible for educating—not preparing for employment—a number of children who at the moment are not adequately educated for the world of employment?
Perhaps I may turn to the content of the courses. First, in this scheme that we are setting up we have divided the course into two sections. One is the work that would be done, and we hope not to give training unless we are sure that there will be a job. Secondly, we are hoping to involve participants in social projects. I should like to draw to the attention of the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, that we have already approached the social services department, who have gratefully accepted our offer, for instance, to help in the distribution of meals on wheels. There are not enough people to distribute the meals, and it is perfectly possible that the young unemployed could be involved in such activities as the distribution of meals on wheels, gardening and so on. Indeed, out of that may grow a sense of worth and value and responsibility—I even dare to suggest that in some instances, work may grow from it too.
I hope that we shall proceed with the Youth Task Group Report but I hope that we shall not proceed with it in its present form, bearing in mind that to set up something new is going to take time. To set up something that will be imposed on the local authority is going to be difficult. Relationships take a long time to build. I submit to your Lordships that to use what we already have to involve further those people who are already most involved with young people would be the best way of getting this scheme off the ground more quickly.
§ 5.36 p.m.
§ Viscount Chandos
My Lords, if I can lay claim to the good fortune of comparative youth, I am also far more fortunate in never so far having been unemployed. Indeed, I faced the daunting move from education to employment at a time when economic circumstances were more favourable than today and with the advantages 230 of a university degree. In the same way as my noble friend Lord Roberthall did, I find it difficult to imagine fully the depression and demoralisation that so many school-leavers now face. I believe that the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, mentioned that more than 50 per cent. of them are in that situation this year.
Many of your Lordships may be involved, as I am, in helping to decide on behalf of one employer or another who shall be given jobs and who shall be turned down. In doing so I am struck, even among those leaving universities and polytechnics, by the far greater anxiety that the current employment prospects create than existed even 10 years ago. How much worse that anxiety is among school leavers for whom competition for any job, let alone a good job, is so fierce. I therefore join with other noble Lords in thanking not only the Manpower Services Commission for the speedy production of their Youth Task Group Report but also my noble friend Lord Kilmarnock for initiating today's debate.
My noble friends have already highlighted many of the worthwhile and welcome recommendations made in the report in giving it their support, and I should like to add my unreserved support also. As well as making one or two specific points about the report, 1 will try to set it and its potential in a wider context.
I believe that the report demonstrates clearly the magnitude of the problem that faces the Government in improving the training of our young population. I hope that the Government will not hesitate in putting into effect the recommendations made by its agencies. I hope too that the other parties essential to the successful operation of this scheme will likewise put their full force behind it. The Youth Task Group Report and my noble friends today have emphasised that it would be highly undesirable to introduce any form of compulsion among school-leavers in joining a training programme. I fully support this. It would be equally undesirable to compel companies and other bodies to take part in the scheme. Nonetheless, I am sure that the Government must realise that even the financial carrot offered to companies in the proposed scheme, combined with the natural instincts of most businessmen to make a contribution to the training of a future workforce, provides only some encouragement to those companies to divert scarce managerial resources towards their participation in the proposed training scheme at a time when there is still much to be done in the training of existing and older employees.
If the Government adopt the recommendations of the report, I would urge them to use every means at their disposal to persuade companies in every sector of business and commerce, as well as every trade union and trade or business association, to make what is undoubtedly a sacrifice, at least in the short term, in diverting some resources towards making this scheme a success. In particular, the Government must ensure that the training programme is based on the technology and techniques of the 1980s and 1990s and not on those of the 1960s and 1970s.
The speed of change in technology, whether it is in numerically controlled machine tools, computers or other electronic office equipment, is so great that existing employees of many companies find it easy to fall behind in their knowledge of the new tools at their disposal. We must not allow the training for young 231 people to be given on the oldest and most obsolete equipment or by those people who have been least able to adapt to the changed practices of modern industry. There have been for many years Queen's Awards for exports. Perhaps the noble Earl the Minister might recommend to Her Majesty that a Queen's Award for industrial training would be an appropriate innovation in current times and might offer one additional incentive to companies and other bodies to support this scheme wholeheartedly and with enthusiasm. I think that the vital importance of improving the training available to young people would justify a new award of this type.
If the sponsors of the proposed scheme participate with real commitment, then the guarantee of a place on a training programme for every school-leaver who wants one would really mean something. I am sure your Lordships would agree that the fruits of such commitment would be evident very soon after, when the newly trained school-leavers join the permanent working population with far higher skills, and, just as important, far better morale and pride in those skills than would otherwise have been the case.
That, however, begs one question. Even if the new generation of school-leavers does receive the training the report recommends, will there be jobs within which they can exploit their training and experience? Moreover, will those jobs offer the long-term potential and prospects that the school-leavers' education and training entitle them to expect? As my noble friend Lord Roberthall has already said, improved opportunities for today's school-leavers simply will not emerge from improved training schemes alone. The noble Baroness, Lady Faithfull, has also pointed out the need for jobs at the end of the training programme simply to ensure the willing participation of the school-leavers.
The noble Earl the Minister has heard on many occasions before today how sceptical noble Lords on this side of the House are at some form of spontaneous combustion whereby a dangerous mixture of rigid monetarist policies, free market dogmatism and benign neglect explode to produce demand for goods, and hence employment, as if there is some form of mediaeval alchemy. The noble Earl may perhaps once more blame the worldwide recession and the policies of other Governments whose influence on the world economy is greater than ours. None the less, the Government cannot abdicate their responsibility for the role they have played in depressing the domestic economy and in encouraging directly and indirectly other countries to pursue similar misguided policies.
As my noble friends and I have argued on previous occasions, modest and cautious reflation of the economy could have a substantial effect on the level of employment in this country and give rise to a virtuous, not a vicious, cycle of rising employment and growth. Perhaps when this Government, or more likely the one that succeeds them, demonstrate how much can he achieved at how little cost, then other countries may also adopt a more enlightened and modestly expansive economic policy. If this does not happen here and in those other parts of the world, then the provision of training programmes for school-leavers will be like supplying the finest fishing equipment to the famished inhabitants of a desert.
Even when a better trained workforce have found 232 the jobs that they need, the challenge is not over. We must make those jobs secure and we must make them satisfying. Security of jobs will come through increased productivity, the abolition of restrictive practices of all sorts, a stable economic environment in which companies can plan for the future, and the introduction of new technology ahead of our competitors and not behind them. Job security does not mean the guarantee of the same job for the same person for ever, but the availability of a good job within one company, and, if that is not possible, within another, without financial or other sacrifice on the part of the employee. For that reason I applaud the Government's recent call for pension rights to be freely and fairly transferable so that job mobility is not restricted.
Finally, we must give school-leavers the prospect of job satisfaction throughout their careers. While to a large extent that satisfaction will come from being involved in a successful industry, we must allow these employees to play the fullest possible role at work and feel that their involvement is central to the success of their company. Industrial democracy, therefore, is neither irrelevant nor some plot to bring successful companies under hostile or irresponsible control. It is an essential part of the strategy needed for the revival of the British economy, which should go hand in hand with improved training, more enlightened macroeconomic policies, and the abolition of restrictive practices which I have already mentioned. Not many school-leavers in the 1980s have been subject to Dickensian disciplinarian style of education. They have been encouraged to participate and innovate within their academic environment. Why then should they expect to have a less involved or satisfying role in their future work career?
My Lords, I urge the Government not only to adopt urgently the recommendations of the Youth Task Group Report but also to change their economic and industrial policy to allow a far better future to be open to those who receive the new training.
§ 5.46 p.m.
§ Lord Parry
My Lords, I owe the noble Lord, Lord Kilmarnock, and the House an apology which I have already made to my own Front Bench leaders and the noble Lord who leads for the Government. I did not place my name on the list for this debate because I feared that I might not be able to attend. I have for a long time been committed to speaking in a conference on the provision of extra opportunities for leisure for those who were not employed and for those who would be employed for shorter hours in the future. May I add to that apology my thanks to the noble Lord, Lord Kilmarnock, and my congratulations to the noble Viscount, Lord Chandos. It is a great delight to hear a young voice speaking authoritatively in this Chamber of the older Members of Parliament, and although it might be a surprise to find him sitting where he does it is a delight to hear him speak.
The first sentence of this report talks about building a bridge between school and employment, and the debate has pointed out that for many people the bridge leads nowhere, the 40 per cent. who are alleged to be fed up and bored in the school system converting into the 50 per cent. who would like to be bored and fed up in the work system but are in fact unemployed.
233 The debate has taken a course that was fairly predictable. There is a sense in which our political system, all the parties in it and all parts of it, contribute to a blockage when we come to discuss new problems and new solutions to those problems. Inevitably, we have heard during this short debate and good debate this afternoon polarised positions on the question as to whether we are going to have more unemployment in the future or not. There is in a sense a commitment of people according to their history, whether they see unemployment as endemic to the system or whether they see it as a discipline upon the system changing the direction in which the economy is moving from time to time. As a result it was inevitable that the noble Baroness, Lady Gaitskell, should take the defensive position that she took, as it was that Lord Spens and Lord Roberthall should take the view they took. Nevertheless, it is the fact that circumstances have changed so violently and in such a revolutionary manner that we will be faced with a great problem of providing work for people who wish to work and developing leisure for those who will not be able to do it. I take the view that the noble Lord, Lord Spens, took. Indeed, that might surprise him as much as my noble friend Lady Gaitskell and my noble friend might be disappointed that I am not at this moment raising her elbow in the debate.
It is a fact that this country has changed from a heavy, industrial, basic economy to what is rapidly becoming a high technology, light industrial economy aided much more by the service sector of the economy. It could be—and I only put this down as a marker for a future debate and not to take up the time of the House at this hour of the day—that the leisure industry, the service sector and tourism, in which I am involved, may provide some better clues than those that have been offered thus far in this debate as to how we occupy young people whose opportunities do not match their expectations.
I cannot believe that we can restore faith to a bored youngster whose education at school has been largely irrelevant to his hopes and his parents' ambitions, by asking him to do some short-term gardening or meals-on-wheels. I hope that the noble Baroness will not think me vicious in attacking her remarks, but I really do not see it as a solution that the odd jobs of society, important though they are, can be the basis of an economy that will offer opportunities to a younger generation.
§ Baroness Faithfull:
My Lords, perhaps I may respond to the noble Lord's remarks. It is not giving young people time to fill in; it is helping them as part of a bigger programme to use and to understand the needs of the community, as well as training for industry.
§ Lord Parry
My Lords, I readily accept that explanation and make whatever apology is necessary. I did not understand that from what the noble Baroness said earlier. However, the point remains absolute that what we have is a changed situation and one that cannot he met even by the very good, modest, proposals of this report. Those proposals go only a very short way up the road to the sort of understanding that we have to come to of the future needs of the economy of Great Britain.
234 I put it down as a marker for a future debate—I hope it will be taken up—that we have to find more opportunities within the service of economies based elsewhere. It is probable that our industrial revolution is over. It is probable that there will not be in future a heavy industrial revolution anywhere in Europe. The industrially-based economy seems to have moved from Western Europe almost altogether, and from now on the countries of Western Europe, and certainly our own small islands, will have to find their opportunities in servicing, as they can do brilliantly, the employment revolutions that will be taking place elsewhere.
In my view this report goes a little way towards measuring up to some of the expectations of the young people whom it seeks to serve. I go no further than that. But I believe that we should accept the suggestion of the noble Lord, Lord Spens, and coupled with it perhaps a suggestion that I have laid down, and take up the opportunity that already exists on our advanced papers for considering the future employment opportunities of young and middle aged people in Great Britain in the light of the total economy and the contributions that can be made to it by the service sector and by tourism and leisure.
§ 5.54 p.m.
§ Lord Rochester
My Lords, we are drawing nearer the end of this debate and like others I should like to join in thanking the noble Lord, Lord Kilmarnock, for having introduced it. At one time I thought that we were all going to be of one voice. But some of the more recent contributions have clearly been dissentient from the general body of opinion that this task group report is to be welcomed. As regards the noble Lord, Lord Spens, and to some degree the noble Lord, Lord Parry, I might have had somewhat more to say in answer to their criticisms were it not for the fact that, in my view at least, what they had to say has largely already been answered by the noble Lord, Lord Roberthall. I do not think that I can usefully add to the comments that he made except perhaps to say how very much I agree with what it was he had to say right at the end; namely, that this report has something to offer us that is constructive and in that respect at least offers perhaps rather more than—and I do not want to introduce a controversial note—some of the policies of the present Government leading as they have done, not I am sure deliberately but in their effect, to larger scale unemployment among young people.
However, I must make some comments, however inadequately, in response to some of the remarks that have been made by the noble Lord, Lord Young of Dartington, and particularly by the noble Baroness, Lady Faithful!. I began to think, as the noble Baroness was speaking, that she was really disagreeing, as regards many of the essentials, with the task group report, despite her disclaimer at the beginning of her speech. I can only say that, as I listened, practically all that she had to say seemed to me to be well capable of being accommodated within the findings of the report, but perhaps as I proceed I may respond to one or two of the specific points that she made.
In debates such as this I am always happiest when I am speaking as far as possible from personal experience. On this occasion I am able to do that as someone who was responsible at one time for training large numbers 235 of people, including young people, in industry and now I can speak as chairman of one of the district manpower committees set up by the Manpower Services Commission to help in trying to solve employment and training problems in the localities.
I very much welcome the principle set out in the report that to qualify under the youth training scheme, any programme should satisfy criteria established by the commission, requiring the provision of an integrated programme of training, work experience and relevant education, including off-the-job training or further education. I am sure, too, that the task group are right to recommend that in practice the aim should be to ensure that the majority of the managing agencies that they have in mind to design and deliver training programmes should themselves be sponsors of the training and wherever possible large employers. As regards that, having worked for a large employer, I must acknowledge that I may be biased. I can only express my opinion and I say what I do simply because in my experience the best training is provided by such employers.
What I fear is still insufficiently realised is how much it now costs to provide the training. In paragraph 2.6 of the report it says that:annual costs associated with a first year apprentice will soon exceed £5,000 ".The report does not add that the grant that employers receive in respect of first-year training of apprentices—the numbers of whom often far exceed those that the firm concerned are ever likely to employ—has now risen over the full four-year period to something approximating, as the noble Lord, Lord Scanlon, will well know, £28,000. After the first year employers receive no grant at all. I recognise that the task group envisages the payment of a grant in respect of all trainees, whether they are employed or unemployed and including first-year apprentices, of £1,850 per person per year. 1 know, too, that the intention is that in future apprentice training should be related to the achievement of standards rather than to the serving of time.
Those are both welcome developments, but I very much doubt whether they will be proved sufficient to reverse the process under which our best companies are now taking on fewer and fewer apprentices for the benefit of the nation at large, simply because they can no longer afford such altruism. However, I pin some hope on paragraph 4.12 of the report of the task group, where they first anticipate that there will be no other MSC support for youth training for the age group covered by the scheme, but then add that they would expect the commission to make provision under a modified Training for Skills Programme for selective support for the development and modification of skill training arrangements beyond the first year.
I would urge most strongly that under the umbrella of that paragraph additional financial support should be given to employers who satisfy the relevant criteria to enable them to resume the training of young people for skill on the scale and of the quality which in the last few years they have increasingly had to reduce, or altogether to eliminate, in face of the overriding need simply to survive.
236 Next, I should like to turn to the problem of how this rightly ambitious youth training scheme is actually to be delivered. I welcome the proposal that local boards should be established to supersede the present special programmes area boards and that the boundaries of the areas for which they are responsible should coincide with local education authority boundaries. 1 recognise—as was advocated by the noble Baroness, Lady Faithful!, and indeed by the noble Lord, Lord Young—that it would be possible to seek to base the delivery of a programme such as this on local education authorities themselves, but 1 suggest it is significant that among the signatories to this report are at least three directors of education in local authorities or very senior people within such authorities. They have subscribed to the findings of this report, which is indeed unanimous.
Therefore, I have to say that although it may be the view of the noble Baroness, Lady Faithfull—I say this with respect—that the job should have been tackled in another way, it is plain that that is not the view of those highly placed educationists. The noble Baroness also said that she would rather have built on what is already there and not on something new. These local boards are new in the sense that they are, as I have said and as the report says, to replace the special programmes area boards, but they are anything but new in the sense that they are very much akin to the existing district manpower committees. I think that I can speak with authority on that, being, as I have said, chairman of one of them. Indeed, I applaud the idea of these local boards precisely because, in my view, it is essential that the administrative structure to be established should enable training to be related—and again this is a point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Faithfull—to local needs and to local labour markets.
Further, I welcome the proposal in paragraph 5.4 that:each Local Board should establish and maintain a list of approved sponsors for its area. But no sponsor should be admitted to the list until he satisfies certain criteria ",in conformity with overall guidelines and policies established by the MSC. I am sure that the task group are right to say that membership of kcal boards should be adequately representative of employers, trade unions, local authorities, local education authorities, voluntary and youth organisations and the Careers Service. All these have a stake in the problem, and I am satisfied from my experience that the problem will not be solved without such general involvement. I hope that that may help to reassure the noble Baroness, Lady Faithfull, as to one at least of the points that she raised earlier in her own contribution to this debate. As the report well puts it in paragraph 3.13:The scheme must appeal to, and release, the energy of local communities and all who live or work within them ".How could it be put better than that Paragraph 5.12 goes on to say:It would be a considerable advantage, wherever possible, for members of Local Boards to have direct experience of sponsorship of schemes ",and there are arguments for education and training professionals to be represented. There are indeed. I go further. In my opinion these boards will succeed or fail depending more than any other factor on the 237 extent to which they possess managerial competence in having the capability to persuade organisations and individuals wholeheartedly to participate in the scheme. This point is touched on in Part V of the report under the heading of what the task group calls, "Quality Assurance ". They say openly in paragraph 5.23 that the record of the MSC on the Youth Opportunities Programme and other schemes is not impressive in this matter, and they believe that something new is required. This is that to assist the commission practitioners should be recruited who have practical experience and who are drawn from industry, the education service and other sources. The task group believe--and so do I-- that many organisations would be happy to second good quality hand-picked individuals for the task, and they say that these people will need to have the necessary status, experience and expertise to deal with the proposed managing agencies, rather than with the kind of organisation which typically has sponsored opportunities under the Youth Opportunities Programme.
From my experience in the field, such as it is, I should like to back the task group in those judgments as strongly as I can. Indeed, in my view it is desirable, perhaps even essential, that one such person should be appointed to advise and act on behalf of the chairman of every one of the prospective local boards, and I urge the Manpower Services Commission to give this suggestion its most earnest consideration.
I was struck by what the noble Lord, Lord Scanlon, had to say, speaking with all the authority of being chairman of the Engineering Industry Training Board, about the need for these training boards to play a part in the organisational framework. I should very much like to support that and even to suggest a possible way in which it might be clone, simply as something to be considered. May there not, in fact, be scope for two types of institution: first, the sectoral training bodies—of which the Engineering Industry Training Board is an example—whether they be statutory or voluntary; and, secondly, the local bodies, to which reference has already been made? The role of the sectoral bodies would be to formulate ideas and determine standards appropriate to their sector, while the local bodies would ensure that these ideas and standards were taken into account in concerting the action to be taken on a cross-sectoral basis in the localities.
I was going to say more about this vexed question of voluntarism, but I shall largely spare your Lordships. However, I must briefly join with those who feel that voluntary participation by sponsors and by young people is essential for the scheme's success. Young people must want to take part in it, and reluctant recruits would be a disruptive influence which potential sponsors would not be prepared to face. Here too, for me the decisive factor is that no comprehensive training programme for young people will work unless it has the support of all the main interests involved; that is, employers, trade unions and educationists. They were all represented on the task group, they together back the voluntary principle, and because I fear greatly, like other noble Lords, for the future of the scheme if the recommendation of the task group is not accepted, I very much hope that the Government will defer to their advice.
238 More than that—and perhaps I may put this in the form of a question, since I have not given any notice of it at all to the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, and I do not believe he will be capable of responding to it in any very definitive way today, though if he feels able to say anything perhaps it might be that the suggestion will at least be considered—why should there not in future be Government representatives on the Manpower Services Commission in the same way as there are on the National Economic Development Council? In this way the Government would actively participate in discussion rather than merely receive recommendations which they then accept, alter or reject. The Government, after all, foot the bill at the end of the day, and in discharging that function responsibly, surely the Government should be prepared to expose themselves to the process of debate with the experts before they take decisions. Perhaps only in that way shall we ultimately achieve the national consensus which is so essential in this field.
§ 6.12 p.m.
§ Lord Irving of Dartford
My Lords, I too would like to offer my appreciation to the noble Lord, Lord Kilmarnock, for giving this opportunity to us to debate this very important subject today, particularly at a time before the Government have actually made up their mind, an event which cannot be long delayed. I also congratulate him on a very impressive speech. I believe it has been a very successful debate and there has been support, if qualified, in most parts of the House for the Youth Task Group Report.
I should like to congratulate the Youth Task Group on a very thorough and imaginative piece of work. 1, like my noble friend Lord Scanlon, support it very strongly although, like the noble Baroness, Lady Faithful!, and the noble Lord, Lord Young, I have reservations about control, an aspect to which I will come later. The best thing to be said is that the report discloses a very serious state of affairs showing how much over the years we have failed to meet the challenge of the training of our young people and the support of our industry; and if we do not understand the seriousness of the problem we will not capture the sense of urgency that is necessary to get the report off the ground and to understand what still has to be done even then.
We ought not to believe that this is merely due to recession or even new technology. It is a problem which has been with us for a very long time and one with which we have to deal, whether there is recession or not; because the report says that ours is one of the least trained workforces in the industrialised world. That is an appalling indictment for an industrialised power like ourselves and perhaps explains some of the difficulties we have had over the last 20 or 25 years. It says that the whole situation varies from sector to sector. Only half of our young people receive any systematic vocational or educational preparation compared with 90 per cent. in Germany and 80 per cent. in France. As the noble Baroness, Lady, Seear, said, around 35 per cent. of 16-year-olds entering jobs receive hardly any training according to a survey conducted in 1980; and, as she said, girls fare worse than boys, and disabled young people and ethnic minorities even worse.
239 In recent years, however, despite major public efforts and major public provision our performance has tended to get worse, not better. In 1960 40 per cent. of 16-year-olds leaving school got apprenticeships in manufacturing. By the 1980s this proportion had halved. The number of apprentices in manufacturing declined from a peak of 236,000 in 1968 to under 150,000 in 1980 and is now about 100,000. The number employed in manufacturing receiving other forms of training of any kind varied from 210,000 in 1968 to 90,000 in 1981.
It is widespread in respect of practically all industry and practically every kind of activity. Youth Aid say that already there are a quarter of a million unemployed between the ages of 16 and 25 who have been out of work for more than 12 months, and the tragedy is that this group represents a bigger proportion of the total unemployed than they represent of the total population at large. The prospect for these young people even with the Youth Task Group is very bleak. Unemployment quadrupled between 1975 and 1982, despite the intervention of large-scale work experience measures, notably youth opportunity schemes. Unemployment among the 18-year-olds multiplied five times over the same period. The report estimates that for the future, without policy intervention, 57 per cent, of the 16-year-olds and 48 per cent. of all 17-year-olds will be unemployed by September 1984.
In 1983–84 just over half a million 16-year-olds will leave full-time education and only just over 200,000 will find jobs of any kind. Most of those under 24 will not benefit at all from this scheme and these facts present a horrific implication in terms of social consequences if they persist. I should remind the House that, splendid though the report is and strongly as we support it. if we are to deal with the whole problem of youth unemployment we ought not to confine ourselves to relying on the quality of specific measures but have to accept that it will need action over the whole field of economic policy if we are to get the nation, and particularly our young people back to work.
I had a great deal of sympathy with the noble Lord, Lord Parry, because I believe that it may need also a much more fundamental kind of thinking about our problem, the approach to work, to status and to income, if we are to come to terms with it and secure a new equilibrium in society after the effects of new technology and the recession. It is a problem with which very few of our main institutions have even begun to deal in this kind of depth; and as the noble Lord, Lord Parry, said, the problem is: how are we to come to terms with the situation when we can no longer ensure the full employment that we have had, except in recent years, since the war? I say this not to denigrate the task group report but to urge that because of the importance of the whole problem we should lose no time in getting it under way. It is a highly ambitious programme and will need the maximum co-operation from all concerned.
It has been hinted, however—and perhaps more than hinted—that the Secretary of State is opposed to voluntarism although he may not be as opposed as he was to an increase in the allowance, as suggested 240 in the report; but if it is to go ahead at an early date there are several things he ought to recognise. The first is that the report comes from a group of people—the CBI. the TUC, local authority associations and voluntary bodies—and that it was a unanimous report because each group made some compromise. It is, therefore, a package which it will be difficult to upset without serious consequences. To succeed it needs the co-operation of many companies and local education authorities as well as voluntary bodies.
Co-operation can be assured only if the scheme is voluntary. It is clear that the CBI in its original approach and co-operation gave it on the basis of a voluntary scheme. Reluctant recruits would create a big disciplinary problem which would drive away potential sponsors who would not be prepared to face the disruption of their businesses which compulsion will involve. Many employers during the work on the report warned the group that 300,000 angry conscripts would cause considerable damage and disruption to their companies, and a scheme like this needs a large number of sponsoring companies who will be prepared to take young people into their businesses if it is to succeed.
Equally, if the suspension of benefit was used to secure attendance, this would almost certainly lead to the withdrawal of the TUC who warned, at the time of the White Paper, that they would not cooperate in a scheme that was compulsory. It would be quite impossible, in my view, for a scheme as large as this to succeed without the support of the unions. Even those members in another place of the Select Committee on employment, who favoured the withdrawal of the allowance against refusal to co-operate, were not prepared in this way to put the scheme at risk if there was a risk, and we believe that there is a very severe risk involved.
Perhaps the House ought to remember that in 1930, when a training scheme was adopted and the Government of the day decided to make it compulsory, or at least decided to take away the actual benefit for those people who refused to take part, Ministers were soon advised that, while there had been a great increase in applicants for the scheme, the increase in the problems of discipline were very great indeed and made it difficult to ensure effective training.
If the benefits were taken away there may be quite a large number of young people who, while they would like training, may feel that it is incumbent upon them to seek jobs to help the family in one way or another. I think Clare Short of Youth Aid in a letter to the Guardian on 12th May summed it up very well. She said:The real danger of the change to compulsion is that it will lead to resentment and truanting, and that the atmosphere of keenness to learn, which has been created by the best of the Youth Opportunities Programmes, will be destroyed ".We urge the Government to give the scheme the best chance of success by not making participation compulsory, and by not withdrawing the benefit as a means of forcing young people into the scheme.
There is another question I should like to raise with the Minister. Mr. Peter Morrison, the Parliamentary Secretary, reported in the Sunday Times by the Labour editor, John Fryer, on 23rd May, hinted at the possibility that there may be a payroll tax to finance the scheme and 241 its 460,000 participants. I wonder whether the Minister has any information on that. I would just say to him that it would be then difficult for some companies to pursue the course that they have done up to date. A company in my own area has given the local council £50,000 to be put with Manpower Services Commission money to establish a permanent training centre for about 60 young people, and I see this kind of support not being as widespread as it might be if there were to be a payroll tax.
I very much appreciate the question of a contract. This is important. It is particularly important in giving each participant certainty and status. It is also important that not only are the courses properly constructed and of quality but that they should be properly accredited. They should be built into a progressive course of training upon which the trainee can build in the future. There is a grave danger in building new organisations and structures separate from the many which already exist.
It is perhaps unfortunate that the scheme has come forward at a moment in time when the Government have disbanded a number of training boards. But I would hope that in those that continue to exist, like the Construction Industry Training Board—and 1 had the pleasure of presenting a number of awards of that board to special apprentices only last week—and indeed the voluntary bodies that are being built up, as in the case of the paper and board industry with which I am connected where there is a training committee which is taking the place of the training board, that people who are associated with this kind of training will be closely associated with the new structures being established.
Last year the Macfarlane Report was introduced to Parliament. It is a very important report indeed. It sought to look at the last years of secondary education and further education in a radical way so that they could get rid of the rigid division between secondary education and further education, and to tailor the whole of those provisions to the needs of young people in the locality and of local industry. It will he singularly unfortunate if the new development under the group scheme should go ahead separately from this new planning, which is essentially trying to bring into further education the opportunities for people to get a mixture of education and training. I hope when this revision is complete that we will see a lot more of the relationship between the group scheme and the new structures in education.
I warn against the separation of education and training. I believe this is an artificial division that would do harm in the long run. Like the noble Lord, Lord Scanlon, I accept the report as it is because we want it to go ahead, but it would be shortsighted if we were to separate it in the long run from the education service. I should like to see the development over the years of a military tertiary system of further education for 16 to 19-year-olds, with a student traineeship available to all 16 year olds, and eventually to 17year-olds, giving them access to education, training and financial support.
An educational maintenance allowance should be payable to those on full-time courses. A fair allowance, pegged to average earnings, to those on YOP schemes; 242 and a negotiable wage paid by employers to those in employment, with subsidised training should be the aim of the whole of this kind of activity. There should be a common assessment form which develops a profile of the individual, and modules which can be built on, so that no individual will feel that it is a disconnected kind of training or education he is getting, but that he can embark, if he wants, on a further course which will already have had the foundations laid by the course he has already taken.
I too should like to see the Career Service enlarged and given the whole role of guidance up to the age of 21. 1 think it is inevitable, and I certainly would like to see it, that the unified tertiary system of education should be rationalised under the local education authorities in the various parts of the country. In the meantime, an interdepartmental board should coordinate programmes in the short run with the idea of there being established eventually a Department of Education and Training.
We ought not to allow the short-term needs to prejudice our long-term objections. However, we believe that in the shorter run the package proposed by the Youth Task Group is welcome and should be given every opportunity. We hope that the Government will not prejudice its chance of succeeding and stultify its development by introducing compulsion or by withdrawing benefit for those who refuse training, but seek the co-operation of all in this imaginative enterprise.
§ 6.30 p.m.
The Minister of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Earl Ferrers)
My Lords, the House will be grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Kilmarnock, for giving us the opportunity of discussing what is a matter of very considerable concern, and this is a timely opportunity in which to introduce the debate. It has indeed been most helpful. No one has a monopoly of wisdom in dealing with the problems and we have listened—I have listened and I know the department will consider very carefully—to all that your Lordships have said on what is a most important matter.
The noble Baroness, Lady Stedman, used the word "sensitive" to describe the issue. It is indeed a very sensitive area. It is sensitive when unemployment, youth, with its future and prospects, trade unions, employers, inflation, recession and the Government all get involved, and they all have a part to play in this delicate and intensely human area in which each one of those is affected by all the others.
I could not agree with the noble Lord, Lord Spens, that we must accept that there will be 3 to 4 million unemployed for the next 20 years. Rather, I agreed with the noble Baroness, Lady Gaitskell, who said that was the challenge. Lord Spens said new technology improved productivity but did not provide jobs. I do not agree. Though the noble Viscount, Lord Chandos, might not like to hear it yet again, it is inflation and recession, not new technology, which removes jobs. New technology creates competitiveness and competitiveness creates jobs.
If one is frightened of new technology, I suggest one takes oneself back to the era of the last century when, 243 as I have said before, farm workers would burn the threshing machines because they thought they would be done out of the job of flailing corn throughout the winter. New technology is a creator of jobs and is not something of which we should be frightened. I agreed with the noble Lord, Lord Parry, when he said he was glad to hear the noble Viscount, Lord Chandos, a young man, come and make his contribution. I was sorry that he made some of his remarks about the Government's economic policy with a tinge of bitterness, but I accept that with the grace with which it was intended.
The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Peterborough made what I thought was a most moving speech in which he said how terrible it was that people should not be wanted on the labour market. So it is. It is terrible not to be wanted. He said we would be living in an era of leisure and drew the distinction that leisure should not slip into idleness, which was—I believe they were his words—the satisfaction of Satan. I agreed with that. I could not help but reflect that the age of leisure has been pronounced by some as a desirable objective. I say that with some hesitation in the presence of the noble Lord, Lord Parry, who is involved so much with leisure. It may be an inevitable result, but I do not know whether it should be a desirable objective because one should be on this earth to work at or for something and it should not be an exercise too much orientated in self-indulgence. I will not trespass on the right reverend Prelate's ground, otherwise I shall fall into the mistake of making a sermon and not a speech, which would only have the advantage of being slightly shorter, as was the right reverend Prelate.
§ Lord Parry
My Lords, I would not wish the Minister to take me on on the Welsh Nonconformist ethic of work. The argument, when we have time to develop it, is not that we move into a hedonist leisure-enjoined society, but that service, as it always has been, becomes recognised as a tool, and service by the human individual is probably the greatest work of all.
That was an excellent way of putting quite a complicated problem, my Lords, and I congratulate him. T hope your Lordships will see the current proposals of the Government as part of a continuing series of measures which have been designed over the past few years to meet the changing challenges which are posed by youth unemployment. The noble Lord, Lord Kilmarnock, in his concern to direct the attention of the House to this important subject, refersto the urgent need for improved opportunities for…school-leavers ".I think it is fair to say that the Government have always seen the training needs of this group as a priority and have constantly sought to improve provision for it. We are now on the threshold of important and exciting new developments, and I hope your Lordships will feel able to accept that and agree with it. Youth unemployment has for a long time been a cause for concern. The last Administration responded in 1978 with the Youth Opportunities Programme, which itself was developed from two previous measures, the 244 Work Experience Programme and the Job Creation Programme.
Youth unemployment, though, is not yet falling. The most recent figures, for April 1982, are complicated by the fact that this year they include unemployed Easter leavers, whereas last year they did not and therefore the comparison is more difficult. But in March, for example, school-leaver unemployment was still about 50 per cent. more than in March 1981, but the rate of increase is falling; the rise was well over 100 per cent. between March 1980 and March 1981.
I would not wish to juggle with figures which everyone agrees are bad. But before considering the nature of the Government's response, it is as well to know that there are some signs of improvement. There are signs that the Government's general economic policy is succeeding in restoring the competitiveness of British industry and in creating the right conditions for growth. The rate of growth in unemployment is slowing down and inflation is falling; the annual rate of inflation has now fallen to less than 10 per cent. Those are hopeful signs, which are also reflected in the youth unemployment scene, and I will give two examples. Of last year's young people who left school looking for work, half were in jobs by the end of October. Most of the rest were in the Youth Opportunities Programme. Youth unemployment last October was 26 per cent. higher than in October the year before, but the latest comparable figures, for January 1982, were only 16 per cent. higher than those for January 1981, which was an appreciable slowdown in the rate of increase.
I wish to emphasise that measures designed to help school-leavers make a smooth transition into work must be seen in their proper context, and that it is no good developing excellent training arrangements for them when, at the end of the day, the jobs are not there; and that is why so much depends on economic policies, a sound economy and industry being competitive with low inflation. The noble Baroness, Lady Seear, referred to 58 per cent. of young people being unemployed in 1984. That is a frightening thought and we must do all we can to see that does not come about. My noble friend Lord Auckland rightly referred to the fact that villages need jobs. That is so, but in the end one must be both well trained and have an economy which requires the products of our work to be needed and wanted, and that means it must be competitive.
I believe that our economic policies present the right strategy for the development of proper foundation training for young people, although I realise that other noble Lords—the noble Viscount, Lord Chandos, will be one of them—would disagree. The result is that young people who are being trained now should be able to take full advantage in the future of the opportunities which economic revival will bring when it comes. I agreed greatly with the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, when she said that when the economic upturn comes, the fruits will go to the most competitive countries. That means, among other things, those with the best training.
The Youth Opportunities Programme, which was started in 1978, has consistently been improved in both scope and content. The noble Baroness was again correct when she said that it was started very much as a short-term response to what was then seen as a short-term problem, but the enduring nature of youth 245 unemployment has presented the programme with an increased challenge, which in fact it has met very effectively.
The Youth Opportunities Programme started in its first year with about 160,000 entrants. In the most recent complete year of its operation, which was 1981–82, it had helped four times as many young people. Spending on the programme is now seven times larger than it was in 1978–79, and the resources which will in future be devoted to our training schemes, in 1984–85, will be 17 times as much. Those are very substantial figures. In 1984–85 we will be spending over E1,000 million on youth training. The Government have sometimes been accused by some people of ruthlessly squeezing public expenditure and caring little for the employment consequences. I hope that those figures will show that that in fact is not the case.
All of this should help three things: the future of the economy of the country, the standard of excellence of industry; and the personal pride and self-respect of young people—and let nobody, as I know nobody would, under-estimate the value of that.
But the scope of the programme is of course only part of the picture. As many of your Lordships have pointed out, there is also the question of its content. As unemployment has persisted and the need for a longer-term approach has been highlighted, so the quality of the programme has become more important. It has been no easy task for the Manpower Services Commission to achieve improvement in quality when at the same time the size of the programme and the demands placed upon it have also been rapidly growing. Nevertheless, the Youth Opportunities Programme has provided an increasing number of good training places with release to off-the-job training.
The Manpower Services Commission has put a great deal of research into the grouping of basic skills which are needed in a range of jobs. The relevance of the programme to the new technology has been assessed. Good quality training schemes, which link further education and varied work experience, have been developed. Projects which show good training practices have been set up with local education authorities in order to demonstrate the potential for integrating further education and work experience elements of the programme. In fact many of the aims for quality training which were outlined last December in the Government's White Paper on training are already met to some extent in the present programme.
Perhaps before I pass on to the consider the next stage of development, including in particular the Manpower Services Commission's task group report to which the noble Lord's Motion specifically refers, I should mention one further performance measure of the Youth Opportunities Programme—perhaps the most important feature. It is the number of young people who go on to jobs after their courses end. A further survey has been completed, and although these exercises are always subject to some measure of qualification, the results look encouraging.
An earlier survey of young people entering the programme in the summer of 1980 and leaving it about six months later showed that only 30 per cent. were getting jobs after training, with around another 12 per cent. going on to full-time further education or some other opportunity. The most recent survey, 246 results of which we have, and which is of young people who entered the programme in the autumn of 1980, shows that on leaving around 47 per cent. got jobs, with another 12 per cent. progressing to further education or training. Those figures may be subject to qualification, but the overall trend is there; it is that the proportion who are getting jobs after training is moving upwards.
Of course, it is always possible to look at survey evidence such as this from a different point of view and to say that underlying economic conditions are influential and that therefore we can afford to let up on our training efforts. But I believe that the figures indicate the good work which is already being done by the Youth Opportunities Programme, and they must determine us to make greater efforts. Indeed, those efforts have already been outlined. The Youth Opportunities Programme has laid a sound foundation as a training programme, and we need to link it closely with the Government's wider training objectives in order 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 just being there to help young unemployed people, to one where there is a sharper, more defined, aim of becoming part of the vocational preparation system for all young people, so that their future learning can be guaranteed, just as we should like to see all young entrants going into work being assured of proper vocational preparation. That is the message of the New Training Initiative.
Our White Paper entitled, A New Training Initiative: A Programme for Action, which was published on 15th December, contains far-reaching proposals for industrial training, in particular the major proposal designed specifically to help unemployed young people. Our aim is that the new youth training scheme should provide a full year's foundation training for all unemployed 16-year-old school-leavers. We shall build on the experience which has been gained from the current Youth Opportunities Programme in order to produce a better trained and more adaptable workforce. The White Paper made clear that the Youth Opportunities Programme will be developed in the current year in order to provide 100,000 of the new 12-month training places, which is consistent with the objectives of the New Training Initiative.
We also announced last December the resources which we were prepared to devote to youth training, and these show the very substantial scale of our commitment. As I have said, they will total more than £1,000 million by the year 1984–85. Therefore we are, I hope, on the verge of creating a proper and lasting system of foundation training for young people, a system which is itself based on the foundation of the Youth Opportunities Programme. The noble Lord, Lord Kilmarnock, said that there is here a great opportunity and that, if his party were the party in government, they would take that opportunity. I would only say to him, with the greatest of respect, that they are not in Government and that we have taken the opportunity.
Perhaps I may now deal specifically with the Manpower Services Commission's Youth Task Group, to which the majority of your Lordships quite rightly referred, and to which the noble Lord's Motion 247 specifically refers. The Government welcomed the establishment of the task group when the White Paper was issued last December. The noble Lord, Lord Rochester, asked why should there not be Government representation on the Manpower Services Commission. It is an important question, and I could give him an off-the-cuff answer. If I were to do so, it would probably be wrong, but it would be that there is something to be said for keeping Government and the political innuendos which may go with it away from specialist thinking and specialist advice. However I shall see that the noble Lord receives a proper reply, which will substantiate, or even correct, my off-the-cuff reply.
The Government made it clear that if it proved possible to draw up schemes which would provide more jobs with training for young people, they would be willing to transfer resources within the available total. We therefore welcome the task group's report. We think in general terms that it would be an important step forward towards our aim of providing a comprehensive and enhanced training scheme for all 16-year-old school-leavers. By all of us working together we can ensure that after September next year we will have removed the fear of unemployment from every 16-year-old in the country. If that comes about, it will be a considerable achievement. From that date 16-year-olds will have the opportunity of continuing in education, finding a job, or participating in one of the most comprehensive foundation training schemes anywhere in Europe. That is an immensely exciting prospect, and the task group is to be thanked for its substantial contribution.
Despite a number of significant differences between the task group proposals and those of the White Paper, there is common ground. The report is based on an agreed objective of the new training initiative (to which the noble Lord, Lord Scanlon, quite rightly referred) to move towards a position where all young people under the age of 18 have the opportunity, either of continuing in full-time education or of entering a period of planned work experience combined with work-related training and education. It also reflects the Government's aim to guarantee training places for all unemployed 16-year-olds as soon as possible; and what is said about the kind of training which needs to be provided and the machinery for delivery is on the same lines as the White Paper, although the task group have developed and adapted what was proposed.
Of course, there are a number of difficulties which the Government will need to think about very carefully. We need to satisfy ourselves that it can be financed within the funds which are being made available. Our White Paper proposals envisage necessary Government support in times of high unemployment. But training remains primarily the responsibility of industry. The noble Lord, Lord Hunt, and indeed, I think, the noble Lord, Lord Irving, asked whether I thought there would be sufficient sponsors available. We have no reason to doubt that sufficient sponsors will come forward, and Ministers in the Department of Employment are now busy encouraging major employers to participate.
My noble friend Lord Auckland referred to the part which schools can play. It is true that they can play a very important part. Both the Department of 248 Education and Science and the Department of Industry are well aware of the part which schools can play, and they encourage the development of links between the schools and local industries. That is what they are doing; and, of course, the operation of the new local boards of employers and education interests will help to strengthen the industry links. So there are considerable links being strengthened, which is absolutely essential. The task group's proposals for the inclusion of employed youngsters raises questions about the longer-term financial implications for the Government.
The noble Lord, Lord Scanlon, said that the Government must get co-operation, and he said that if that is what we want we are going about it in a curious way. Of course, I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Scanlon, in the first part of his premise: we do need co-operation. The whole essence of such a training scheme must be co-operation--the co-operation of employers, of trade unions and of trainees. The Government can find the money, but in the end success depends on individuals; and I was glad that, with all the authority that he has, the noble Lord advised the trade unions not to refuse to co-operate.
We do require co-operation, and I agree with my noble friend Lady Faithfull so much when she says that a lot of this depends upon co-operation at local level. In the task group's report it says—this was quoted, but it needs re-emphasis, I think:Satisfying all these requirements is by no means easy. It is out of the question unless all parties are prepared to accept that, however much the ground has been prepared, a new comprehensive scheme is an historic step which marks a turning point in the industrial history of this country and a decisive break with the past so far as the education and training of young people are concerned.The key to any new scheme lies with employers in both the private and public sector. Though many other sponsors and providers must be involved, it is to them that any scheme must look for a new attitude to investment in the training of young people, a willingness to do more for young people than they have done in the past and a readiness to make the resources of the workplace available for learning and work experience ".That needs the co-operation of all.
The proposals also call for a higher level of commitment from employers, and we shall need to be sure that sufficient sponsors will come forward. We do not want to see increased allowances paid at the expense of training standards. These and other difficulties will need very careful consideration. But it is important to be clear that the Government are now committed to doing whatever they can, through whichever form the scheme finally takes.
There will be a new scheme from September 1983. There will be no let-up between now and September 1983 in our endeavours to help unemployed young people. Indeed, the Manpower Services Commission aims to increase the number of entrants to the Youth Opportunities Programme to 630,000 this year. So we want to assure existing and potential YOP sponsors that we are most anxious that they should make their contribution to the continuing success of this programme. Indeed, Ministers in the Department of Employment are already seeing a number of people who represent leading industries, leading companies and leading organisations to encourage their fullest participation.
The new scheme will offer training places to all unemployed 16-year-olds. This we have guaranteed, and we regard it as most important that the guarantee 249 is in fact met. Building on the lessons which have been learned from Youth Opportunities Programmes, we shall take a major step forward in improving the training content of courses; in other words, that which is actually taught. So far as I can see at the moment, there are no significant differences between the new report and the White Paper on the question of training content.
What, then, will the new training scheme, of whichever model, include? It will include, first, a full year's foundation training; secondly, at least three months' off-the-job training; and, thirdly, structured courses of learning and training which will combine basic skills, occupationally-based training, guidance and review of progress. Basic skills training will include numeracy, literacy and general communications training, as well as general skills like problem-solving and decision-making.
Whether it will in fact include, as the noble Lord, Lord Spens, wanted, training in appearance and in how to get a job, I am bound to say I cannot tell him. My personal view is that I hope that it will, because I think he is quite right in saying that in an era when employment is difficult to come by the appearance of a new entrant is likely to make a very considerable impact, for better or for worse, on the potential employer.
While we are determined to make a success of our training scheme, the Government do not believe that they have a duty to provide for those who turn down such exciting and comprehensive opportunities. The Government can only go so far. There may be some who decide they do riot want to participate in education, training or employment, for whatever reason. That is their decision to make; but it is not the duty of Government to provide, with taxpayers' money, an incentive for them to opt out of working life. We do not think it is justifiable to provide supplementary benefit to 16-year-olds in their own right when they have taken a conscious decision not to participate in what is offered.
That, with respect, is not compulsion. I know, and I expected, that the noble Lord, Lord Kilmarnock, and others would be concerned about this. Not only the noble Lord, Lord Kilmarnock, but the noble Lord, Lord Scanlon, I think said that compulsion was "repulsive The noble Baroness, Lady Seear, was more generous and described it as "quasi-compulsion". The noble Lord, Lord Hunt, and the noble Baroness, Lady Stedman, also referred to it. The noble Baroness said it was a tax on parents. The noble Lord, Lord Young of Dartington—almost the majority of noble Lords, for some extraordinary reason—regarded this as compulsion.
I would say only this. Nobody is forcing people to be trained; the choice is theirs. All that the Government are saying is that if they do decide to opt out, a person should not expect to receive money for that. There is a moral consideration here. If a youngster has had little schooling and may be poorly motivated, then the cash available—and it is limited—should be used to train him and not to pay him to do nothing. The Secretary of State has always said that supplementary benefit should not be withdrawn until the scheme is fully operative. Special categories of people, such as the disabled, will still be able to get supplementary 250 benefit, and all the needs of the family on supplementary benefit can still be recognised.
This is a separate question from that of whether or not to run a training scheme as the task group propose. Their report rightly treats it as a separate question, and we must be careful not to muddle the two issues. September 1983 may sound a long way off, but we are conscious that there is a lot of preparatory work to be done, and, in order to give time to that, my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Employment will want to announce the Government decision as soon as possible this summer.
The noble Lord, Lord Scanlon, the noble Baroness, Lady Stedman, and the noble Lord, Lord Kilmarnock, asked a number of pertinent questions about whether the Government accepted the task group report and its recommendations. I hope I have been able to explain that my right honourable friend the Secretary of State is at present considering this and he will be stating his conclusions in the fairly near future, probably within a few weeks.
The noble Lord, Lord Kilmarnock, asked whether the Government considered that legislation would be required for new training arrangements for young people. I should like to make it clear that the resources for the new scheme are available until 1985 and the Government will naturally have regard to the results of the study that they will undertake with the MSC on the much broader question of the future financing of training as a whole. I hope that I have been able to show the thread of continuity which runs through the Government's efforts to help young people to make the important transition from school to work. But with levels of youth unemployment as high as they are, there has been an urgent need in recent years to provide opportunities which are useful and relevant to the world of work.
I agree that the priority here is the school-leaving group and I hope noble Lords will agree that the Government have responded fully and now have set their hand to the next stage of their response: the equipping of this country with an effective national system of foundation training which will mean that in this respect we shall be in the vanguard of the training of youth in Europe.
§ Lord Scanlon
My Lords, I crave the indulgence of the House, but 1 must press the Minister more strongly on this point of what I still think is correctly described as compulsion. The Minister has heard from every side of the House and from every speaker how they view with abhorrence the suggestion of the loss of supplementary benefits; he has heard my own hope that the trade unions will co-operate but with the condition that the Government accept the task group report as a whole. We anticipated that the noble Earl would say that the Secretary of State was considering it; but may we not press the Minister to say that, in view of all that is being said in this House and in view of what has been said by the all-party committee in another place, at least there is some possibility that representations can be made by the noble Earl, as the Minister responsible, in the hope that this very important point will he accepted by the Government, so avoiding the prejudicing of the whole of the task group report?
My Lords, I understand the desire of the noble Lord, Lord Scanlon, to press further. I would say, with respect, that I cannot go further than I have. I have told him that the Secretary of State is considering the whole task group report and the impact that it will have on his decision-making. It would he erroneous for me to sample out one particular aspect of the matter and seek to answer questions on it in isolation. I assure the noble Lord that the views that have been expressed tonight throughout the House will be conveyed to my right honourable friend and will help him in his decision.
§ Lord Kilmarnock
My Lords, I think I may say without exaggeration that we have had a very good debate. That is often said but I think that on this occasion it is true. I started by saying that I had some sense of occasion in introducing this Motion, and that has been diminished by no single speech. We have had no bad speeches. I know that we do not often have bad speeches in this House. It does happen from time to time, but did not this evening.
I do not want to make another speech. There are two themes that I want to pluck out of the debate. First of all, as a small footnote at the beginning rather than at the end, I want to say that I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Scanlon, in his suggestion that the remaining training boards, and in particular the engineering training board, should become managing agencies under this scheme. We must build on what we have.
An area of concern was touched on by the noble Baroness, Lady Faithfull. I was grateful for her intervention in the debate. It is an area of concern. I tried to indicate in my speech that this whole area, an awkward area where the educational and employment departments are increasingly having to co-operate, obviously has its problems. I had intended to say in my original speech—I cut out the passage, but I will now read it:It would be a tragedy if jealousies and rivalries were to develop between an education sector smarting under cuts and an employment sector replete with funds. If this scheme is to work, sectoral rivalries can have no part in it ".I agree with the noble Baroness. I think the difference between us is a question of emphasis. In this case, it seems that the noble Baroness, Lady Faithfull, is showing little faith in the capacity of the departments concerned to co-operate. If this connection, I thought that the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Rochester, with his experience, were of considerable reassurance.
It would be a pity if the White Paper and the task group report came to be seen as being in opposition to one another. The noble Earl, Earl Ferrers, made the point that they are not essentially so. The Government's 10-point programme in the White Paper started with a commitment of El billion a year. The fourth strand of the programme for action is the setting up of the group which produced this report and which was asked to report on ways of developing the youth training scheme to cover employed as well as unemployed young people within the available resources.
This is what it has done. The scheme it came up with is within the amount of money that the Government have laid down for this purpose. There is no conflict there. I am not going down the macroeconomic corridor followed by the noble Lord, Lord Spens, and the noble Baroness, Lady Gaitskell, into a 252 debate on technological unemployment. That is something that we shall have to have another talk about, but not now. I was struck by the image of my noble friend Lord Chandos when he talked about not giving brand new fishing rods to inhabitants of the desert. I think that our party's economic proposals are ones which would irrigate that desert, but he was right to point that out.
The noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, was, I thought, cautious in his reply. He referred to the report we have been debating as an important step, and as having much common ground, and he wondered what form the new scheme would finally take. I was glad that he quoted from paragraph 3.8, to which I referred in my opening speech. It refers to the words "a decisive break with the past". It is building on the past but a decisive break and a step forward.
Finally, the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Scanlon: I. have listened to every single speech and no single speaker has supported compulsion. By that I mean the withdrawal of supplementary benefit. That is something the Government must consider very seriously. I said in my opening speech that I was not going to press them. The noble Earl has said that the Government are going to make an announcement as soon as possible, which we are very glad to hear; but between now and then I beg the Government to take note of Lord Scanlon's final and passionate plea and the views which have been expressed on all sides of your Lordships' House this evening. My Lords, on that note, I beg leave to withdraw my Motion for Papers.
§ Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.