§ 3.1 p.m.
§ Baroness David rose to call attention to the problems and difficulties of school-leavers; and to move for Papers.
§ The noble Baroness said: My Lords, the bulge in the birth rate in the early 1960s—"bulge" has always seemed to me to be a rather unfortunate word in this context but it seems to have passed into common use—has resulted in an all-time high in the number of school-leavers in 1982 and 1983. This year there are 761,000 of them: 552,000 are leaving school for employment: the majority of them will be leaving this month. That is why we thought it an appropriate moment to have a debate on what the future holds for them in a country where the official June figure for the jobless is over three million. It is widely accepted that a more realistic figure is well over four million.
§ The number of school-leavers already jobless is 247,360, and 38 per cent. of the unemployed are under the age of 25. It is a very dismal and dispiriting prospect for our young people. The Government will say that they are initiating the Youth Training Scheme to cope with the situation, and that this scheme aims to produce places for 460,000 young people at a cost of£l billion; 300,000 of these places will be employer-based Mode A places, and 160,000 will be Mode B places. to be organised by the commission itself and making great use of local authority further education colleges.
§ Of course we welcome the principle of this scheme to provide training for all 16 year-old school-leavers and we wish it every success. If properly funded and monitored, it could be a start in improving the deplorable situation where 44 per cent. of our 16 year-olds left school and had no further education or training at all, in contrast to France and Germany, where the corresponding figures were 19 per cent. and 7 per cent.
§ However, the success of the Youth Training Scheme depends on a number of things. We should like to ask some questions about the ability of the Manpower Services Commission to produce the necessary number of places in time, also some questions about the quality of the courses, and about the financial aspects and the attitude of the Government on pay and benefit.
§ First, I deal with the readiness. Although the MSC has identified a large proportion, if not all, of the places, it still has not approved a large number of them. Can the Minister tell us how many places have actually been approved according to the criteria laid down? Has the £1.5 million paid to Saatchi and Saatchi to advertise for employers to get them to provide places provided a good response? And I mean good enough in every sense of the word.
§ That brings me to my second question on quality. The Youth Opportunities Programme did not have a very good record on the quality of training that it provided, although there were exceptions and well thought-out schemes. Can the Minister assure us that the YTS will everywhere be better? There are widespread fears that the speed with which the scheme has had to be set up will mean hurriedly and inadequately prepared plans.569
§ The MSC had hoped that a high percentage of places would be provided by big companies used to giving excellent training to their own staff. It was thought that they would have spare training capacity and would welcome the opportunity to fill this capacity. But the depth of the recession has hit even the biggest companies, and if they have had to make a lot of people redundant it is not so easy to take on a lot of trainees. Instead, it is said that there are private companies being set up, encouraged by the MSC, more of less in order to provide places for the YTS and cash-in on the grant. So some people are talking about our one growth industry—the unemployment industry.
§ Because of inadequate funding, the 13 weeks off-the-job training is to be a maximum and not a minimum, and it is good to remember that Sheffield's scheme for the young unemployed, using MSC money, provides 26 weeks off-the-job training and has been extremely successful. The fear is that the education component may be reduced to the lowest level in terms of actual quality and aspirations. The latest concept appears to be that all these students need are a few so-called transferable skills. These are: first, basic calculations; secondly, basic literacy; thirdly, communication—that is, conversing, asking questions, listening to instructions; fourthly, practical skills—that is, to push, pull, lift, carry and use fixed setting controls. The objective is now more the development of desirable attitudes—docility, obedience, et cetera—than any usable skills for actual jobs.
§ The fear is that employers will select from their YTS students those showing these attitudes most evidently, and the rest—including anyone showing independence of mind—will go to the wall. It is perhaps significant that the MSC has banned any overtly political or controversial topics from the YTS courses under threat of withdrawal of funds.
§ How and by whom is the monitoring to be done on both the training and the educational side? The area boards are each to have an accredited training centre responsible for staff training and development. Are the 55 centres that are needed identified and ready to perform? Is there adequate trade union involvement to monitor training and to make sure that the schemes are not used for cheap labour and job substitution? It is difficult to reconcile the claims for quality training in the context of the lowest level of apprenticeship intake since 1979; 16 of the 23 industrial training boards have been scrapped by this Government. Also there have been many cutbacks in well-planned and well-staffed courses in further education colleges.
§ In the areas of high unemployment where industry is suffering badly as a result of the Government's deflationary policies, will the standards of training be as good as they are in the more prosperous south-east? How much variety will there be in the schemes? Will they stretch across many and diverse industries? Will they include the Civil Service?
§ Can the Minister tell us that the Government are concerned not only with keeping young people off the streets and reducing the unemployment statistics in the cheapest possible way, but that they are genuinely concerned to provide a worthwhile year of training 570 and education for the age group as a whole? I remind the noble Earl that the task group said that the scheme was to cater for all levels of ability.
My third question is on the financial aspects and the Government's attitude to those young people who are reluctant to take part in schemes. What do the Government propose to do about those unwilling to join? I thought that the threat of withholding supplementary benefit from these young people had been removed; but I was horrified to read in an appendix to a circular on the YTS that has already gone out to principal careers officers that:
Careers staff should inform Unemployment Benefit Offices of any young people who refuse, or fail to avail themselves of, a reasonable opportunity of training in the scheme by means of the attached form.
The result of this will be to disqualify them from receiving benefit for up to six weeks, and this also will apply to young people who come off the scheme before the full time is up. Is this wise and is it human?
§ A reluctant trainee is going to be a perfect nuisance to the employer who has offered the place, and probably a bad influence on those training with him, and the stopping of his benefit will seem very unfair to him. The resentment against authority is not exactly going to encourage him to be a co-operative member of society, and, I may add, the position of the careers officer who has to perform this function is not going to be very pleasant, either. Is this matter finally decided? May I ask the Minister what consultation has there been on this with the careers officers, and has there also been consultation with the Social Services Advisory Committee?
§ Then to the weekly payment of£25. Mr. Tebbit announced last week that the increase of£1.45 recommended is not to be given. The YTS task group had agreed that the real value of the allowance should be maintained to take account of inflation. I believe Mr. Tebbit's decision to be a big psychological mistake. It is perhaps difficult for us, mostly in the grandparent class—and finding it hard to keep up with the changed value of money in view of what we had as pocket money or allowances or earnings at 16—to grasp the totally different value of money now, but we ought to make an imaginative leap and to think what it would be like to be told, "You are going in for work training. You will be working for an employer, but we are not prepared to give you more than the youth opportunity people had 18 months ago". Young people have a pride, and they want to feel that a value is set on them. This decision shows a woeful lack of human understanding and foresight. A generous gesture would have augured better for the success of the scheme.
§ In fact, to bring the allowance up to what it was in real terms in 1979 you would have to go up by 16 per cent., which would mean£30 a week. Has there been any provision for trade unions to top up the amount? It is interesting to note that the 5,200 trainees doing military training under the Youth Training Scheme will receive the£25 minus£10 board, whereas the regular recruits doing the same work and under the same military law will be getting£44 minus£16 for board, leaving them£13 per week better off. Will this be seen to be fair by these young people?571
§ Then what happens at the end of the training year to these young people who will then be 17? How many of them are expected to get jobs? I have read a ministerial estimate of one in two. This was in a debate in another place—Mr. Alison speaking on 2nd February. That will leave about 230,000 jobless, or needing further training.
The YTS is, in part, based on the proposition that training will create jobs. Mr. Peter Morrison is quoted as saying:
To the extent that trained youngsters will be more efficient employees the scheme will contribute to reducing unemployment.
I am afraid that that is a questionable statement. I hope he is right, but it is difficult to believe; we have to remember that the Youth Opportunities original claim was that it would be a major answer to youth unemployment, but it has not proved to be so. Young people want work, and if they are going into this scheme with the expectation that they will get it and do not and feel themselves thrown on the dustheap, we are piling up a packet of trouble for ourselves and we cannot blame them if they become cynical.
§ If they see the programmes as simply opening a series of doors that lead nowhere what will be their attitude, and how will it influence the next year's trainees? Incidentally, have the Government committed themselves to further years of the YTS, or are they waiting on events? Perhaps the Minister will tell us. The Labour Party's plan is for a two-year student traineeship for all 16 and 17 year-olds, all getting an allowance. That would seem to be the very least that is required in an era when work is, and is going to be, in very short supply. I hope that the two-year student traineeship would be of positive value to the individual, not only to give him a variety of worthwhile skills but also to make him more able to organise his life and leisure whatever happens. Now that Sir Keith is taking over responsibility for the 16s to 19s can we hope for some statement on his long-term proposals fairly soon? Improvisation has gone on for long enough.
§ One final point before I leave the YTS. Does the Minister think it fair that employers should be paid in advance for their trainees but that local authorities should not? How are the wretched local authorities to cope with this additional financial burden, and how are they to be compensated? Through special grants? Through adjustments to the rate support grant? If they overspend because of this will there be penalties?
§ Their careers service is, and will be, heavily involved, and good counselling, both before and during the training year, will be imperative. I am aware that the Government are contributing£1 million to help the careers service buy computers for its work with the YTS, but that will not mean that the personal intervention and advice of the officers can be dispensed with. It will be needed more than ever.
§ I now turn to those other leavers, 205,000 of them, who are intending to move on to further or higher education. Will there be the places for them? Is it correct that the University Grants Committee has agreed to abandon the principle which led it in 1981 to recommend student number targets for universities? This appeared in an article in the Observer last month, but I should like official confirmation that there has been a relaxation.572
§ The Government have been congratulating themselves on the increased number of students working for advanced courses in the polys and colleges of higher education. Naturally this happened when one out of six students were denied the university place they had confidently hoped to obtain. The polys were able to accommodate them. But with the threats from the National Advisory Body of a 10 per cent. cut from September 1983 things could be very different. What is to happen? Is the 10 per cent. cut to be in resources but not in student numbers, as some suggest? I ask specifically, will the polys and colleges be able to accommodate all those students who are qualified to go on higher level courses in 1983 and 1984?
§ As for the non-advanced courses, many colleges are accepting students to a point where group sizes have to be so large that quality of education is at risk. The cuts local authorities have been forced to make to keep in line with Government policy have inevitably meant the discontinuation of certain courses, limitation of entry numbers to existing courses, with the effect of qualified students being turned away.
§ I was staying with my daughter a few weeks ago when her daughter, aged 16, came home from school absolutely full of the story that two of her classmates had that day heard they had been refused places, and they were in tears, she said. She was very upset too. It was the first impact of the cruel world hitting those who had been protected beforehand.
§ One can only hope that those who have been turned away will get on a YTS scheme that will suit them fairly well, but it is not the same and cannot be followed with the same enthusiasm as that for the course freely chosen. And what of the parental choice we hear so much of? Is it not just as important, or more so, for your children at 16 to have the training and course that you and they wish for them as it is to have a choice of school and say in the curriculum at 11-plus?
§ I want to finish with a few thoughts on the curriculum and our whole education philosophy. I am much interested to know what the innovations and improvements in the curriculum promised in the gracious Speech will be. What is Sir Keith, as opposed to Mr. David Young, proposing? I still think Mr. Young's bright overnight idea of the new technical vocation initiative a bit of a gimmick, not well thought out in relation to the total provision for the 16s to 19s, and possibly very divisive. I now see that the scheme is to be extended in more authorities with the MSC footing the bill of£14 million.
The exam led curriculum is not suitable in the modern world where work is at a premium. A number of your Lordships from all sides of the House have signed a manifesto, Education for Capability, which challenges the present system and which aims to correct the imbalance in British education. Over 200 leading figures from industry, commerce, education, science, politics, the trade unions, the arts, the media, have given their support. I should just like to quote some lines from their manifesto:
There is a serious imbalance in Britain today in the full process which is described by the two words 'education' and 'training'. The idea of the 'educated person' is that of a scholarly individual who has been neither educated nor trained to exercise useful skills; who is able to understand but not to act. Young people in secondary or
higher education increasingly specialise, and do so too often in ways which mean that they are taught to practise only the skills of scholarship and science. They acquire knowledge of particular subjects, but are not equipped to use knowledge in ways which are relevant to the world outside the education system.
This imbalance is harmful to individuals, to industry and to society. A well-balanced education … must … include the exercise of creative skills, the competence to undertake and complete tasks and the ability to cope with everyday life; and also doing all these things in co-operation with others.
§ The further education unit has proposals which are much on the same lines. I believe that in concentrating so little on the arts, crafts and design side of education—where this country has been so highly successful in the past—we have not done the best either for the country or for the children. We have to face the fact that there is likely to be large-scale unemployment for some years. There are two things that the Government can do to help the young. They can stimulate the economy and positively encourage expenditure on job creation. I think my noble friend Lord Gormley will be speaking on that aspect. They can change the curriculum in our schools so that children will be better equipped to face up to the world they find themselves in, and so that they do not grow up to think that academic success is the be all and end all, so that they have the resources within themselves to make the best use of their talents, and give them the ability to manage their leisure and be creative and not feel if they have not worked that that is bad and a disgrace. The work ethic has to change.
§ I do not know how many of your Lordships have seen an ITV series of four programmes entitled, "Birth of a Nation". A fortnight ago there was one about a secondary school in an inner city area called, "Time out of Mind". It was certainly exaggerated but many grains of truth were there: the aimlessness of many of the pupils because of the unsuitability of what was being taught. There were the ex-pupils hanging round the school gates making trouble because they had nothing to do. Then there was the good girl who had left—a good girl who had worked hard and done well. She had come back to see the head. "Look", she said. "Here is my O-level certificate. Here is my A-level certificate. Here is the cup I won. I did what you said. I got the qualifications you said would help me, but there I am. I have to go on the dole. You can have the b— certificates and stuff them up you know where".
§ It was a very disturbing film. If we are to avoid the terrible feelings of frustration, disappointment and unhappiness in our young people; if we are to avoid a repetition of the riots in Brixton and Toxteth, the Government have to do something more than produce a youth training scheme which, even if good, will do little more than postpone the moment when young people in their hundreds of thousands join the dole queue and have a feeling of shame in having to do so. It must be a bridge between school and work, not a gangplank to long-term unemployment. My Lords, I beg to move for Papers.
§ 3.23 p.m.
The Earl of Gowrie
My Lords, I congratulate the noble Baroness on the expertise and commitment of her speech, though I regret just a little what seemed to me a slight sourness of tone. She put to me a great number of detailed questions. Some of them may be 574 answered in the course of my speech, but I will take the more specific questions at the wind-up, if your Lordships will be good enough to give me leave to do so.
I come to this subject with at least as much passion and commitment as the noble Baroness. Just over 10 years ago I left a job as a lecturer in London University to enter the then Government. One of the reasons I did so—and it was quite a wrench to me personally—was because I had become convinced then that both the subjects being taught in higher education and the methods of teaching were not giving young people the necessary equipment with which to earn a living for themselves and the country.
My students were bright arts students, looking for careers in public administration, social services, teaching, journalism and the like; all valuable and useful careers, but all depending on the success of business and industry for the tax money, or for the consumers' spending money, to support them. Under one Government or another, whether Labour or Conservative—though it is fair to say that at that time Labour had had the lion's share of office—business and industry were less and less able to support the huge growth in jobs of that kind. Thus, more and more demands were being made on central and local government to make up the money that business and industry were failing to earn. That meant high taxes and high inflation, and still more difficulty for business and industry and their ability to support young people through expanding service jobs.
I used to surprise even my brightest students by urging them, as well as to study, to go out and get a straightforward marketable skill such as plumbing or cooking. I remember that the women's movement was well under way at that time, and I was careful to recommend plumbing to the women and cooking to the men. That was 10 years ago, when things were a lot easier than they are today. The trouble then was that British business and industry were losing their market share and were not competing as successfully with other Western countries and with the fast-growing Far Eastern economies, especially Japan. The trouble now is that we are that much further on and that the terms of trade in the world as a whole are now much worse, not simply here. We have to fight a great deal harder to maintain our share. Your Lordships may be aware that 10 years ago, whereas Japanese television sets were selling well in this country, so were British television sets. Now I believe it is impossible to buy a television set which does not contain a Far Eastern component. The same is true of the market share of household goods and motorcars.
The terrifying thing facing young people is a simple truth about the modern world. Competing in the modern world, particularly in manufacturing, means that one either has to have very cheap labour or one has to have very little labour in each concern; and that labour has to be extremely productive. In Britain we have had the worst of both worlds. Over the decade of the 1970s, with output, excluding oil, rising on average by a miserable 1 per cent. each year, our overall wages went up by 325 per cent. Is it any wonder that we have been less and less able to compete? Is it any wonder that hundreds of thousands of workers have lost their jobs or have had to be bought out of employment, 575 often at great expense? It seems to me that that increase in unit labour costs, unaccompanied by productive increase, is behind a great deal of our unemployment and our reduced job opportunities—not monetarism, or Keynesianism or Seventh Day Adventism!
We are a trading nation. We depend on other people being prosperous enough to buy our goods and services. The trouble is that energy has become expensive—out of all proportion to our experience in seeking work, if we belong to my generation of 40 years of age or so—but I do not think it is simply the fact that energy costs have become so expensive. Indeed, many people feel that cheap energy was beginning to cause great harm to our other resources in the planet—our natural resources, notably. What was so difficult was the speed of the transformation that we had to put up with, and the fact that so much more money was taken out of the industrial economies by OPEC than they put back in investment or in the purchase of our goods, or investment in developing countries. Simultaneously, as we had an energy shortage we had a surplus of money floating round the world looking for a quick return and quick sources of investment. That was very inflationary, and we know the consequences that had for employment.
It seems to us on this side of the House that Governments are not greatly different from people. When they borrow money they have to offer good rates of interest to the lenders or they do not get the money. Over the next few years a great many people are going to continue to want this Government to borrow more money in order to help industry, in order to help young people, in order to help local government, education, pensioners, capital spending and even (dare I say it from my new position?) to help the arts. But this desire is always accompanied by the Catch-22 question that faces all modern Governments, which is that Government spending to help industry means high borrowing and high interest rates, which hurt industry and employment. If the Government increase their borrowing, interest rates are liable to shoot up again, and, after a time lag, more jobs will be lost and more job opportunities will be closed to young people.
I mentioned earlier the need for productivity, too. Productivity is not, in the modern world, a simple issue of working harder. In fact, I think that we run ourselves down too much in this respect. The British work longer hours, in general, than most of their competitors. Productivity means working effectively, and nowadays that means machines. Machines cost a lot of money. If Governments are doing all the spending and borrowing, it becomes more profitable for people and institutions to lend money to Government than to lend money to industry so that industry can buy the machines to make the goods to earn the money that Governments tax and spend on people, and that people then spend (to adapt the old nursery rhyme) to make a better world for Jack and Jill to build their lives in.
What I think all this means is that the future of employment in this country and the fate of young people in this country—the problems and difficulties of school-leavers, in the words of the noble Baroness—depend upon two rather simple things. One 576 is an improvement in the general levels of world trade, and the second is the competitive response of British businessmen and industry to such improvement, Neither of these two things is the gift of this Government or of any other Government. But Governments can do quite a lot to help and, of course, they can also do quite a lot to hinder the situation.
My claim is that the Government have helped generally by lowering inflation. That is a signal achievement, and it was of course an achievement which was rewarded at the general election. But the general election is over, and the Government now have to continue to help by keeping up the counter-inflationary pressure in order that interest rates can go on coming down and resources can be released with which industry can borrow and invest. But the Government can help in another way. They have helped, in particular, by tiding as many individuals and industries as possible over a very difficult time. The nub of our policy can I think be very simply expressed. It is that we can, and do, help individuals and industries caught in the painful machinery of an economy which is changing gear; but we cannot, and will not, prevent the changes from taking place. These changes that are taking place are not being induced by politics or by dogma, or, in the phrase of the noble Baroness, by reflationary policies. They are the way the wind is blowing in the world outside.
How does one protect employment levels as best one can and, where young people are concerned, protect employment opportunities as best one can, while currency stability is the principal aim of Government? The answer, again, does not seem to me to be a complex one. There has to be a response, as I suggested earlier, in pay bargaining; but there has, too, to be a response to the outside world and our competitive position in it. Real changes are happening in the world of work in general. As I suggested in the debate on the gracious Speech last week, Britain is passing through a transition from one kind of industrial society to another. This transition has been going on for two decades, at least. The criticism to level at politicians, perhaps of either or any political persuasion, is that they have been prone to connive at our national tendency to slow down or to restrict inevitable change—inevitable because we are a trading economy and we cannot isolate ourselves from changes which are, in any case. taking place elsewhere.
How successfully we make the transition depends primarily upon the ability and willingness of people, employers and trade unions and individuals as well as the Government, to make change possible by accepting and, indeed, welcoming it. I would very much hope that most of us who are parents would put pressure on our politicians to welcome change and to see that it is achieved as peaceably as possible. And we should welcome this change because we sometimes talk as if our old industrial society were in some way highly desirable in itself, or as if we should fight for its retention. It seems to me, in social terms and in terms of what most of us as parents want for our young people, quite extraordinary that we should be so attached to our previous industrial society. It may have provided high employment, but it did so only in fits and starts, in cycles of depression and boom. Its cost was low wages, low productivity, an atmosphere 577 of confrontation and the mentality of the two sides of industry, a separation of the sexes at work, environmental pollution and the contrast between the heavy industrial landscape and the quality of life offered to those whose work allowed them to live outside the old industrial conurbations.
I do not think that any Conservative like me who is worth his salt should be too Utopian or should expect too much of human life, but I honestly think that the new high technology, high added value and high-wage industries are, in human terms, simply better, even if they do not individually employ so many people under one roof or in one town. Certainly, as a parent, I would hope that any children of mine would be able to enter the new industrial world rather than the old one.
There seems to me to be another important issue. A bad tendency of recent years has been to talk of employment and unemployment in general, macroeconomic, terms. I want to get down to brass tacks now. Our young people want to know what are the kind of jobs for which they will be competing. If they know this, they can start putting the pressure on our educational and our training activities to service their needs in a better way. It is important for people, for instance, of all educational and social backgrounds, to be able to raise their levels of skill. There is curently a considerable shortage of people with computer-related skills, programmers, systems analysts, hardware and software engineers; and industry also needs, at a somewhat lower level of skill, more maintenance and service engineers with a knowledge of not just one discipline but of a mixture of disciplines.
We are often told that new information-processing systems mean that many routine clerical functions will be done away with—the implication, of course, that those currently employed in these areas will become redundant. My personal visits to companies have shown me how much staff readily accept new machinery, since usually it makes for a more interesting job. The routine and boring elements are reduced significantly, while the manipulation of information increases. They can then give a better quality service to their customers and obtain more, not less, satisfaction from their jobs. When I was Employment Minister, involved in youth training, I certainly noticed a strong customer resistance to boring jobs, even among those who did not have jobs but who would have liked to have them.
I have little doubt in my mind that it will be service activities of this kind that will provide the biggest scope for employment in future, rather than manufacturing industry as traditionally described; for these are the areas where demand, not just from private consumers but also from manufacturing and overseas companies, will be expanding fast, and where the emphasis on quality of service provides scope both for more technology and for more people. An example of this is air travel. I gave this example to your Lordships on a previous occasion, but it seems to me so precise an example that I do not apologise for giving it again. We have now increased technological complexity in the cockpit; and we have increased the mechanisation of luggage handling and the computerisation of ticket and check-in facilities. All those things 578 have been accompanied by a job loss, but the net result of these and other factors has been a massive expansion in demand for air travel and, therefore, general increase in opportunities in the sphere of air travel.
What else can we expect over the coming decade or two as this difficult "baby bulge", as the noble Baroness described it, faces the labour market? Industries such as steel, shipbuilding, textiles and perhaps even vehicles can expect to employ fewer people. Other manufacturing industries will certainly grow, but will probably grow with a relatively stable workforce overall. Service sector activities will expand both in terms of output and employment. People will tend to work shorter hours. It seems to me that the trend in this direction over a period of many years is evident, and it is continuing gradually, with employers tending to absorb the costs.
New technology will allow the home to become more prominent as a centre for work, leisure and education. This suggests an increase in home working, not just of the traditional blue-collar type of work but also across the whole range of white-collar work, through the expansion of information technology, providing widespread links with computer and telecommunications systems.
As I said again last week, I do not deny for a minute that there are very great strains and stresses in the transition to the new industrial order that lies ahead. My only point is that the perils of dragging our heels are larger and more ominous; and already they are of considerable concern. So in the end it all comes back, it seems to me, to the need for adaptability, for quicker footwork by our economy and for greater preparedness for change.
But, having said that, I do not for a minute deny that this is a specially difficult time for all young people seeking work, and I include those with relatively high educational attainments as well as the less well qualified. I have tried to explain why the Government are forcing the pace of adaptation to changed national and international circumstances rather more rapidly and vigorously than previous Administrations; but I do acknowledge that there is a limit to the speed at which people and industries adapt, and this is bearing very hard on young people in particular. General unemployment has risen to current levels because of our failure as an economy over the years to adapt to a new situation quickly enough. I am glad to say that all the evidence is that the economy is now changing gear, and as a result most young people are finding their way into real jobs, although of course the search is taking them longer and they do need more help. In the closing part of my speech I want to indicate what help the Government are giving to them.
The noble Baroness acknowledged that most of our effort is going into the Youth Training Scheme, which succeeded the Youth Opportunities Programme. This is a new departure. I do not want to belittle the Youth Opportunities Programme, particularly as I was responsible for its administration. It helped a great number of young people with work experience and training, and in its last year the Government spent 17 times more than the original budget. It was not by any standards a failure, and, indeed, recent surveys reveal 579 that 70 per cent. of the youngsters participating in the YOP found their training helpful, and, in a very difficult job market, 44 per cent. obtained jobs afterwards.
The new scheme is a real, new departure. The YOP was a temporary measure to help school-leavers, and the YTS is here to stay as a bridge between school and work. I hope that answers the central concern which was expressed by the noble Baroness. Its introduction recognises what many of our international competitors have recognised for some time: youngsters need a transitional period of work experience and training which is occupationally and industrially relevant—a period when they can learn the essential basic skills needed for working life.
The MSC has plans to provide places for 460,000 entrants to the scheme in 1983–84 at a cost of almost£1 billion. Ninety per cent. of those places are already identified, and at the end of May, which was two months into the scheme, 93,000 places had already won the approval of area boards throughout the country. That represents 20 per cent. of the total needed. The MSC is confident it will have sufficient places for this year's summer school-leavers.
We in the Government have given an undertaking that any 16 year-old school-leaver who cannot find a job will be offered a suitable place by Christmas, and because it is a training measure and not simply a measure against unemployment, it will provide places for about 100,000 employed 16 year-old leavers as well—and there is no register effect there, of course. This shows that we are concerned with the training opportunities provided for the 16 year-olds; and we believe that there will be sufficient places to cover unemployed 17 year-old school-leavers as well, although we cannot guarantee those so quickly.
The scheme is a quality programme; and the noble Baroness was concerned about this. During their year in the scheme young people will be given 13 weeks' off-the-job training, providing relevant further education. They will be given training in the basic skills and training needed successfully to enter work: numeracy and literacy as they relate to the workplace, for instance; the use of basic tools; and an introduction to computer skills and new technology. On-the-job training through work experience will be designed to give a variety of basic skills relevant in many different occupations, and to give young people a chance to find out for themselves what they take to and what they do not.
I was asked about the quality and monitoring of the schemes. The quality proposed by sponsors will be carefully controlled and monitored by the Youth Training Board at the national level and by the manpower boards at local levels. These bodies are representative bodies with members drawn from all sectors of the community: trade unions, employer representatives, local authorities, educationalists and the voluntary sector. I would refer your Lordships back to a very encouraging speech made by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Norwich last week about his direct experience of the scheme in his area.
All this is designed to ensure that the new scheme offers school-leavers a quality year-long training 580 programme to give them a good grounding in work skills and knowledge. I recognise that this is not enough, and it is important, as the noble Baroness said, to acknowledge the importance of the work of the education services. I am critical, as are some of my colleagues, about the speed at which school curricula have adapted to the new industrial world. This is, of course, a local rather than a national responsibility, but encouragement is being given to improve the relevance. For instance, I referred the House to the Cockcroft Report on mathematics. There are special measures to improve the in-service training of mathematics teachers, and we encourage exchanges with industry. We are giving more grants for in-service training in pre-vocational work. All these are being identified as priority areas within the£7 million teachers' training grant scheme; but I urge the profession, as a profession, to recognise that it is in their own great interest as well as in the interest of pupils to adapt to these changes.
We have pilot projects for lower-attaining pupils, and there is the technical and vocational education initiative, which was again mentioned by the noble Baroness—and I do not agree at all with what she said about that. My experience of this initiative is that probably in the long-term, to adapt to the new industrial revolution that I mentioned, it is the most promising of all.
I have tried in the time allotted to me not to disguise the seriousness of the prospects for school-leavers in the months ahead. Inevitably, job prospects lag behind any upturn in the economy and in this grim inflationary, or post-inflationary, world of the 'eighties and 'nineties we cannot expect the growth rates that people of my age group had the good fortune to enjoy in the 'fifties and 'sixties.
My last point is a slightly more cheerful one. If we have this debate again towards the end of next year or the year after, I believe it will be possible for the Minister to paint a slightly more cheerful picture of the youth employment scene. Naturally, the Minister will attribute this to the virtues of his or her administration. But, in fact, the principal improvement will have taken place beyond the control of any of us. That famous 1960s baby bulge, which the noble Baroness mentioned and to which I have to confess to your Lordships I contributed, has suffered the horrid irony of coming on to the job market in this inflationary post-OPEC world before the immediately post-World War 1 baby bulge comes off the labour market. The battle of both bulges will be over in two or three years' time come fair wind or foul, come wise or foolish policy. But, my Lords, wise policy, like that of the Government, will of course see it won with far less pain.
§ 3.51 p.m.
§ Lord Kilmarnock
My Lords, I had the privilege of introducing a debate on a very similar theme a little over a year ago in your Lordships' House—on 9th June 1982. to be precise—and nearly all the speakers directed their attention to the Manpower Services Commission's Youth Task Group report, out of which, by way of cross-fertilisation with the Government's White Paper, the Youth Training Scheme has emerged. On that occasion we had five 581 speakers from this Bench and we all, I think, urged the Government, as indeed did the Liberals and the Labour Party, that the scheme should be voluntary. The Secretary of State subsequently seemed to accept that advice.
But while welcoming the scheme, I and my colleagues expressed at times some worries and reservations. My noble friend Lady Stedman, I recall, was concerned lest it develop into a mere pool of cheap short-term labour. My noble friend Lord Young was concerned with the level of the trainee's personal allowance, to which the noble Baroness referred; my noble friend Lord Hunt wanted to see the inclusion of an element of service to the community; and my noble friends Lord Roberthall and Lord Chandos stressed the need for quality and wondered how this could best be secured.
Yet at that time we were all mainly interested in getting the scheme adopted in its broad outline and in ensuring that it should remain voluntary, so these were no more than faint clouds on a fairly distant horizon. Now that horizon is much less distant. The scheme is due to come fully into operation in September, and indeed some elements of it are already in place. This is the last chance we shall have to debate it before full implementation. On those grounds alone, the whole House must be grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady David, for having given us the opportunity for this debate this afternoon.
No one would doubt the commitment of the noble Earl, Lord Gowrie, from his days at the Department of Employment, to youth training, and indeed to the whole question of the future of work. We congratulate him from this Bench on his new responsibility for the arts, but we are glad that he retains an interest in the matters under discussion this afternoon. The noble Earl said to the noble Baroness that he would pick up most of her specific questions when he came to windup at the end of the debate, but I should simply like to add at this stage my own concern about the question of the voluntary nature of the scheme.
I understood the noble Baroness, Lady David, to cast some doubt on the Government's continuing commitment to this principle and I, also, should like to ask him whether the Government have in fact backed off their commitment to a voluntary scheme. After the barrage of questions put to the noble Earl by the noble Baroness, I hope he will forgive me if I now go into one or two of our worries in a little more detail.
First, I want to seek some slightly greater clarification on how the very ambitious target of 460,000 places will be met. The noble Earl seemed quite confident here, and on 16th June Mr. David Young issued a press notice claiming that the youth training scheme had got off "to a flying start". He said:Out of the 460,000, we are looking for 300,000 places to he provided by employers".According to the table attached to his press statement, 95 per cent. of these had been "identified" but only 200,000 were "firmly anticipated". It is the latter figure of 200,000, not 300,000, which was mentioned by Sir Terence Beckett in The Times of 5th July, where he wrote:About 200,000 places will be provided by companies, large and small, and the rest by the MSC schemes, government departments and voluntary bodies".582 While recognising that the word "employer" might be stretched to cover employers outside trade and industry, there still seems to be some discrepancy here and, if that is the case, it would inevitably place a greater burden on the mode B type of provision. Mode A, I would remind your Lordships, is largely employer-based, while mode B encompasses schemes either provided directly or organised by the MSC itself. Maybe the noble Earl can clear up my doubts on this when he comes to wind-up.
Next there is the all-important question of quality. It has been constantly stressed from the outset that the Youth Training Scheme is intended to be of far higher quality than the Youth Opportunities Programme which it replaces, and the noble Earl confirmed this himself. Indeed, on average, it will cost approximately twice as much per place. Mr. Geoffrey Holland, the MSC director, is quoted in the June edition of the Employment Gazette as follows:In the future, training for young people will mean acquiring a foundation that is relevant to a large number of employers, not just one employer and one job".But are most employers going to be able to provide the broad base which Mr. Holland advocates, or ensure that it is provided off-the-job, when, in the nature of things, they will themselves be more interested in training that is job-specific?
Speaking in another place on 22nd April 1983, Mr. Peter Morrison said that in many cases schemes will offer a recognised foundation for progress to further skill training. All trainees will receive a certificate at the end of their courses recording the training undertaken and achievements, including nationally recognised standards where appropriate. Managing agents will have a significant role in monitoring the quality of the schemes and the precise nature of this is currently being considered.
Can the noble Earl tell us the results of that consideration? The managing agent will, if I understand the scheme aright, be in some cases the provider of the training both on and off the job over which he is supposed to exercise the quality control. Will he, in effect, become his own policeman or will there be an independent inspectorate?
The noble Earl made reference to the Youth Training Board, but I believe that there are still some important questions to be answered here. I am sure the MSC is aware of them, and indeed Mr. Young himself has recognised the need for foundation training and for high standards. What we want to hear from the Government are the steps they will want to take to make these admirable aims standard practice. It may be that some of the answers will be provided by the 55 training centres which I read in the Employment Gazette of last month are being set up to train the trainers.
Apparently it is intended that line managers, instructors, further education staff and other education and youth service tutors are to attend these centres for courses, seminars and workshops to reach the standard that the MSC requires for trainers in the Youth Training Scheme. In view of the imminent commencement of the scheme, perhaps the noble Earl can tell us what progress has been made with these centres and whether any of these courses are now 583 happening. Or will in-service training be the normal way and, if so, will it be possible to release trainers from the front line?
This brings me to the role of further education. I am sure that the further education establishment has its faults, but it would be a great mistake if it were to be cold shouldered by the MSC, with all the new fire it has in its belly and new cash in its pocket. I have said before in your Lordships' House, and I make no apology for saying it again, that I view with alarm the signs of the development of a two-track system at 16-plus, with the trainers ignoring the educators and vice versa. If Mr. Holland's vision of afoundation that is relevant to a large number of employersis to become a reality, it seems to me vital that the education service continues to be involved in a young person's development throughout his or her trainee period. That is why we, in our election manifesto, proposed a single Ministry of Education and Training combining the youth training functions of the Manpower Services Commission and the responsibilities of the present Department of Education and Science.
The Government have chosen not to follow this course, but we urge on them to strive at least for the maximum partnership and co-operation between educators and trainers in this important area. It seems to me that this may be beginning to happen in the technical and vocational education initiative, to which the noble Earl referred, for 14 to 18 year-olds. I understand that the MSC have accepted 14 submissions for pilot schemes out of 66 put foward by local education authorities. Perhaps the noble Earl will be able to tell us a little more about them.
Though by far the largest, the Youth Training Scheme is not the only weapon in the Government's locker. I want to refer now to the Community Programme. The target figure is 130,000 filled places at any one time, which means, I think, 165,000 in a full year. According to Mr. Young, 52,289 places were operational at the end of May. This scheme replaces the previous Community Enterprise Programme. This is an instance in which the Government did not accept the advice of your Lordships' Select Committee on Unemployment, which was that the Community Enterprise Programme should be expanded because it had the support of both unions and employers. Instead, the Government chose to supersede it by a cheaper version with a higher target figure, though the real cost is not likely to be much less as the Government are getting less back by way of tax and national insurance contributions.
May I ask the noble Earl to whom the Community Programme places are going? Your Lordships' Select Committee argued in paragraph 14.47 that:The aim should be in the long term to enable a … place to be offered as of right to each 18 to 24 year-old who has been unemployed for six months. A guaranteed place for the long-term unemployed is an important target: training soon goes to waste without work experience.This is clearly of great relevance to those who may come off the Youth Training Scheme and who do not find employment within six months. Could the noble Earl tell us whether it is the policy of the Government 584 to give priority on community programmes to this age group or whether there is in fact a preponderance of long-term unemployed from among the over-25s? It was the recommendation of your Lordships' Select Committee, under the chairmanship of the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, that priority should be given to the 18 to 24 year-old group and that only the remaining places should be made available to those over 25.
There are two other programmes to which I want to make very brief reference. The first is the Young Workers Scheme, upon which I understand there are currently 104,000 young people under 18 engaged. I think I am right in saying that the employer receives a £15 a week subsidy if he pays under £42 a week and a £7.50 subsidy if he pays under £47 a week. There have been many criticisms of this on account of its interference with free collective bargaining and with wages councils' rates, but I want to approach it from a different angle. I want to ask the noble Earl whether the Government will not consider introducing a statutory requirement for a training input by the employer or for day release.
There was, if I remember rightly, an EEC proposal that all young people under 18 in employment should be entitled, as of right, to a minimum eight hours per week of off-the-job training. Though we may be under no obligation in this respect—I do not believe that it is accepted by the Council of Ministers—I should have thought that there was a strong case for introducing it on our own initiative. After all, the employer is getting relatively cheap junior labour, and one day's release to further education or training would not be unduly onerous. I would suggest that this is an improvement we really ought to make to the scheme, unless we are determined to continue with a disastrously underskilled work force.
Finally, I come to the Armed Services Youth Training Scheme. I am not sure whether this is in addition to or part of the main scheme, but I gather that there will be 5,200 places for 16 and 17 year-olds in the first year. The Army will take 3,700 boys only, the Royal Air Force 1,000, including 100 girls, and the Royal Navy 500, including 50 girls. One wonders why the Army has set its face so sternly against any girls at all. But, more seriously, the question of girls in the services leads one to the wider question of whether this initiative might not be extended for both sexes into the civilian public service sector and the voluntary sector. I say this because a highly professional volunteer defence estabishment can have only a limited capacity to absorb trainees under 18 on a 12-month engagement, but there are many other areas of our national life to which this constraint would not apply. I think particularly of the constant concern, expressed on a number of occasions in your Lordships' House, of my noble friend Lord Hunt, that young people should be enabled to take part in some form of community service. I wonder whether the Government have explored this avenue and, if so, whether the noble Earl can tell us the results of their soundings.
When all is said and done and all these schemes are on course, we are still left, as the noble Earl has said, with a very cold climate for jobs, especially for the young. Better training, higher skills and, most particularly, adaptable skills can. I am sure, do a lot, because all the evidence and all the research which was laid 585 before your Lordships' Select Committee shows that it is the low-skilled and the unskilled who are left at the bottom of the heap. But education and training take a long time to work through the system, especially if you start from a low base, as we do, in comparison with most other advanced industrial countries.
It is therefore up to us, who are no longer as young as we were, to put our money where our mouth is. If we are alarmed by mounting youth unemployment and the close correlation between that unemployment and youth crime, it is, I respectfully suggest to the noble Earl, not good enough to leave it to market forces to correct this in the fullness of time. The Government may envisage this as a transitional decade (I think those were the noble Earl's words) of structural adjustment, after which the jobs will come marching in of their own accord. But what may be transitional for politicians, journalists and historians is actual and brutal day-to-day frustration for those who are victims of the transition.
Nor do I see the famous jobs at the end of the decade unless a sustained joint expansion of the world economy by all the major industrial powers takes place. This includes easing the third world's backbreaking burden of debt. This was one macro-economic option which was not mentioned by the noble Earl. Having quadrupled in the 1950s and 1960s, the volume of world trade in manufactured goods actually contracted by 3 per cent. in 1982, according to an estimate by the ITEM club of economists. Taking 1975 as 100, our own manufacturing output, excluding oil and gas, sank from a factor of 106.6 per cent. in 1974 to 88.4 per cent. in 1982. These figures speak for themselves. The noble Earl touched on this, but he did not suggest the way ahead.
Sustained expansion without inflation can only be achieved in conjunction with an incomes policy such as we advanced in our Programme for Government. That is the best present that all the corporate interests in the state could make to the younger generation. If we do not make it, we shall stand accused of lack of seriousness when we talk of opportunities for the young.
§ 4.7 p.m.
§ Lord Wells-Pestell
My Lords, for me personally it is always a joy to listen to the noble Earl. I have listened to him many times and he has had to disagree with me many times, but we can normally expect from the noble Earl an informative and a very balanced contribution. He was a little disappointing today, because as far as the youth of this country are concerned we are not much farther on. It is perfectly true that the noble Earl was able to satisfy the noble Lords who sit behind him because there were only five noble Lords behind him to hear what he had to say; the other three-quarters left the Chamber immediately he stood up. I feel that it is of supreme importance to tackle seriously this very important matter, yet we are playing with it because we are not really serious about it.
This is not really my subject. As noble Lords know, I am not an educationalist. I am one of those people who can be dismissed as knowing a little Latin and less 586 Greek. I am a sociologist, a profession which is held in considerable contempt by the academics. But at least we do a certain amount of research, and we are usually on the ground and close to the people about whom we arc trying to speak. What I am really concerned about is the position of young people today and their position in the future.
I do not suppose that the noble Earl, Lord Gowrie, will agree, but I believe that after we are all dead and buried, when history comes to record what really happened in the latter part of the 20th century, it will say that at this particular period we abandoned the young people of this country and did nothing whatever for them. If that is true—and many of us believe it will he true, and is so at the present moment—then it is a tremendous indictment. What have we done for young people at the present moment?
I am concerned about personal relationships. I am concerned about community relationships. I am concerned about anti-social behaviour. I am not the only person in your Lordships' House to be so concerned, and let me make that quite clear. Many of us are concerned, but when we look at what has happened in the past three or four years it is really deplorable. One thinks of the cuts in education and of the curtailment of university places, which mean that only 42 per cent. of 16 year-olds and 27 per cent. of 17 year-olds can as a result of Government policy stay in full-time education. For them, there is no alternative but unemployment. Sixteen of the 23 industrial training boards have been scrapped. which means that apprenticeships in this country have dropped by something in the region of 40 per cent. There may not be work for apprentices at present, but one of the mistakes we have made in the past is to make a change from one aspect to another without training and equipping people to step into the new technology.
Half of these 15 and 16 year-olds leave school without a job. By the end of this year, as things are going at the moment, more than half of those under the age of 18 may never have a job. Dare we visualise what will happen to them or what kind of citizens they will become? We are here discussing about half a million young people who will leave school, and it is doubtful whether one-third of them will find work. We are creating a time bomb which will detonate itself in terms of anti-social behaviour, and eventually in serious criminal behaviour.
Your Lordships, like myself, are perhaps tired of hearing what the noble and learned Lord, Lord Scarman, said in his report, but some things are worth repeating. He made it clear that,to secure stability, there will be a long-term need to provide useful, gainful employment and suitable educational, recreational and leisure opportunities for young people".There is abundant evidence that crime goes hand in hand with unemployment—do not let us make any mistake about that. When I say there is abundant evidence that the two go hand in hand, they really do go hand in hand—and the noble Earl is so honest that I do not believe he would deny that.
The Government cannot shrug off the responsibility for the increase in crime by young people. I have spoken to the noble Viscount, Lord Whitelaw, and being the type of person he is, the noble Viscount has 587 no objection to my quoting what he said in February 1978. Unless we on this side—and myself in particular—have misjudged him, I am sure that the noble Viscount would agree that he would say precisely the same words again now. I want your Lordships to listen to these words very carefully because it was a very wise statement, although you may think I say it is a wise statement only because I agree with it:If the boys and girls do not take jobs when they leave school, they feel that society has no need of them. If they feel that, they do not see any reason why they should take part in that society and comply with its rules".The noble Viscount went on to say:There has been a dramatic rise in unemployment among boys and girls. That is the responsibility of the Government".I share those views. It is in my interest to do so as we are in Opposition, but I would have taken that view if we had been in Government.
We do not attach enough importance to what is happening among young people today. They are resentful and mistrustful. They do not trust our generation. They take the view that we are doing precisely nothing for them, other than giving them unemployment benefit and the kind of freedom which perhaps they do not really need. They have no respect for authority: and they have no respect for the kind of standards, attitudes and values which some of us believe are terribly important. We believe they are terribly important because we are not faced with the kind of problems which the young unemployed are faced with.
Today, the young jobless are in a worse position than the depression victims of the 1930s. In the 1930s, the unemployed were in the main people who had been put out of work—but today we are faced with thousands of young people who cannot find the opportunity to work. I ask your Lordships to believe that this is an explosive situation and that we really are sitting on a time bomb. Nearly 33,000 young people were received into custody last year—which is a 20 per cent., increase over two years. I listened to my noble friend (for he will always remain that, wherever he sits in your Lordships' House) Lord Hunt when he was speaking in the debate on the humble Address on 28th June last, about a week ago. He said at col. 165 of Hansard:The relevance of unemployment to crime is well established by research. A United Kingdom study last year entitled Economics and the rising prison population. by McLintock, showed that a 100 per cent. rise in unemployment resulted in a 25 per cent. rise in delinquency and that for every 1,000 young people unemployed, 23 more have been sent to prison".My noble friend went on to say:Conversely, in a North American study by Fleischer, it was shown that a 1 per cent. decline in unemployment has resulted in about a 2.5 per cent. decrease in delinquency".The feeling of frustration and the conscious and growing desire by young people to hit back at the community is predominant in their minds. We are never going to deal with the anti-social behaviour we are facing, and which terrifies many of us, until we find something for these young people to do. I believe that when the history of this period comes to be written, we shall stand condemned for having known what was happening, and I was going to say doing precisely 588 nothing about it—but perhaps that would not he fair to the noble Earl, who has indicated that something is being attempted. However, I do not believe we are really coming to grips with this matter.
Your Lordships may say. "You may criticise, but what do you have to offer?" Well, this is not really my field; I am not an economist, and I really do not know. But I wonder whether the Government have asked themselves if some useful purpose could be served in getting together with the TUC, with various national voluntary organisations, and with the Church. If I may say so, with great respect to the right reverend Prelate who is present. I do not necessarily mean the Church of England, I mean the Christian Church. I speak as a churchman and in a good many areas where there is so much anti-social behaviour the Church is very weak. It may be that other Churches could do something about strengthening, if only financially, the weaker areas where they could offer some sort of daytime facility for youngsters to be trained and taught something.
I believe this has to be a communal responsibility and not necessarily just a Government responsibility. It must primarily be a Government responsibility because they can lay their hands on some money. But in the blacker areas, the more depressed areas. I wonder whether the local authority social services, the Churches, the trades unions and the Government could get together and perhaps provide some kind of facility in those areas which will give young people an opportunity of doing something really worthwhile, so that they feel that they are being counted as useful citizens.
§ Viscount Massereene and Ferrard
My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, may I say that I employ some young people and I quite agree with what the noble Lord has said, that there is a great social problem with the young people. But I should like to point out that in the early 1930s, which I remember very well, we had just as much unemployment as we have now and we had no crime among the unemployed youth. Well, perhaps we cannot compare the 1930s with today, but I think the reason is—
§ Viscount Massereene and Ferrard
Well, my Lords, I was going to say that I agree that the unemployed youth should take preference over the older unemployed because—
§ 4.23 p.m.
§ Lord Beloff
My Lords, we hardly need to be told, even with the eloquence of the noble Lord, Lord Wells-Pestell, that this is a serious subject; all of us I think are convinced of that, and not least Her Majesty's Government. I am surprised that he should have gone on to say of a Government which have introduced schemes—and they may indeed, as the 589 noble Baroness pointed out, have their weaknesses or be capable of improvement—on this scale to meet one, but only one, aspect of the problem of unemployed youth, that they are negligent of it. I think it is very important when we consider this matter to beware that we do not attach arguments to this subject which are themselves controversial, that we do try to analyse the different aspects with which this problem confronts us.
It is the case that if one takes a long view it is not very helpful to connect the growth or decline of unemployment with the growth or decline of crime and other forms of deviancy. If we look at most of the industrialised world, including this country, crime was very much reduced in the second half of the 19th century. The England of 1900 was a great deal more law-abiding than the England of 1850. After a period of relative stability in these matters, the growth in the crime rate and other indices of delinquency began again in 1935 or thereabouts in this country and elsewhere in Western Europe and Scandinavia. It has continued—alas!—on its upward path with very little reference to the quite important fluctuations in employment.
Let us rather consider the problem from the point of view of the young people themselves—not that they are likely to become criminals or delinquents and upset our peace of mind, but that as human beings they normally wish to be employed, to earn a living and eventually to found a family. That is the problem which we have to face. It has a number of aspects. First of all, we need to know much more about what the noble Earl mentioned: the impact of a technological revolution. In all past technological revolutions employment has in the end been restored. What we do not know—at least, I know of no one who has been able to give us an estimate—is whether there is something about the occupations of young people which makes them more difficult to re-employ than adults as the effect of this technological revolution works itself through society and through industry. Clearly we must bear that in mind.
Secondly, there are a variety of economic arguments. Young people, like other workers, will normally be employed if their input—and this applies to public as well as to private employers—at least corresponds to the output: that is to say, if the wages or other allowances paid to them come back to the employer and eventually to the community in the form of work done. There appears to be in the British case a rather unusual feature in the very narrowness of the gap which has in the past separated the wages or other income of the young from those of adult workers. I should like to know whether the noble Earl agrees that in the countries which have, as we have been told by the noble Baroness and others, much more developed schemes of apprenticeship and training, which we are now—slowly alas!—beginning to emulate, there is a greater incentive to employ the young because there is a wider span between their wages and those of the fully-trained adult worker. At any rate, there must be an economic aspect to the question of youth unemployment.
There is also I think a social psychological aspect, which came to my mind when the noble Baroness spoke about whether the allowances that would be paid under the YTS or other schemes were adequate. 590 We have had a psychological revolution in which young people expect as a norm a very considerably higher level of personal consumption than would have satisfied their predecessors of the same age half a century ago. In this of course they have something in common with the rest of the community. But also I believe that there is a narrowing of the gap in the expectations of the young as against those of an older generation. They expect to have available to them more rapidly (and they reckon their income as adequate or not according to whether this is or is not the case) material goods which in preceding generations came only with maturity and the acquisition of the full skills required in one's walk in life. This is a difficult area. It is much affected by the attempts—often successful—to commercialise the buying propensities of youth, but it certainly affects the resentment which the noble Lord, Lord Wells-Pestell, talked about.
Most important of all—indeed, the debate so far this afternoon has concentrated on this factor—there is the question of education and training: as the new economy develops, whether those we should like to see employed in it can offer the skills which are required if they are to play a valuable part. I understand the point of view of the noble Baroness, Lady David, who opened the debate, that we may in the recent past have underestimated practical and creative skills in our educational system in comparison with what she termed "academic values". I believe this to be a totally false dichotomy. It is certainly the experience of the ORT schools (which, as your Lordships know, have been partly the model for the new technical initiative) in various countries that it is quite possible, and indeed normal, for the acquisition of practical and academic skills to go hand in hand. It is wrong to set them against each other.
Therefore, I think that we should attach importance to the growing evidence of an extraordinary division of achievements in these, if you like, academic skills. Let us call them the skills that are tested by school-leaving examinations; by O-level or CSE. There is, as my noble friend Baroness Cox pointed out in her report published last week, such an extraordinary division of achievement as between different local authorities, and, even more surprisingly, as between different schools within the same local authorities, even when all allowances are made for specific difficulties of social background, ethnic variety and so on. There are obviously failings at the school level which are at least as important from the point of view of the future employment of the young person as are the deficiencies in actual training on which the debate has so far concentrated. It is therefore a challenge to the educational establishment, certainly, to the economists and to those who study and try to appreciate the movements of opinion among the young, and those who deal with them. It is a challenge to all those groups.
I think it would be a pity if the quite genuine concern (which I do not for a moment wish to denigrate) of the noble Lord, Lord Wells-Pestell, and the noble Baroness for these young people were to increase their sense of the inadequacy of the provision. I do not know that the kind of media programmes to which the noble Baroness referred are really very 591 helpful; whether they do not create opinion as much as seek to reflect it. It seems to me that this is a topic above all others in which we ought to be prepared to exchange views, to exchange experience and to devote ourselves to what is in the end the most important of all the tasks confronting this Government and, indeed, our political institutions as a whole.
§ 4.34 p.m.
§ The Countess of Mar
My Lords, I must apologise for the fact that I shall not be able to stay until the end of the debate, as I have a train to catch. I wonder whether your Lordships have ever considered which is the most under-privileged group in our society. Is it the elderly or the disabled, about whom we hear so much, or children from deprived families? No. With apparently so many doors open to them, it is the people about whom we are talking today. They are at the top of the league for crime and imprisonment; for drug, alcohol and solvent abuse; for poverty, homelessness and, of course, unemployment. From the relatively sheltered environments of home and school they are thrust upon a world they have been poorly equipped to cope with. The last few years of their schooling are focused upon the importance of their concentrating on academic work and passing examinations so that they might get a job. At one stage it was a good job; now it is any job.
Some young people are known to opt out of the system at this stage. They become truants, and are often the survivors because they have learned early to accept their own limitations and those that society places upon them. What may for them start off as jobs on the side could well become permanent jobs, albeit very menial ones. On the other hand, those who stay the course until they are 16, 17 or 18 can find life more difficult. Educationalists have devised numerous courses and examination systems in the hope that successes achieved will give the boys and girls a better chance in the job market; but, unfortunately, employers still insist on using O-levels and A-levels as their currency. CSE and intermediate City and Guilds certificates mean little to an employer who has no experience of them.
Our fledgling youngster finds himself in the dole queue and, in the West Midlands at least, will have to compete with up to 200 other applicants for each job for which he or she applies. Many of the competitors will be experienced men and women who have been made redundant. What hope has our young man or woman? At first their natural youthful optimism will keep them buoyant, but as the rejection letters tumble through the letter box without even the offer of an interview, despondency is bound to set in. Some young people suffer from clinical depression. They lie in bed all day or sit in a trance in front of the television, their behaviour completely beyond the comprehension of their parents. Others, as the noble Lord, Lord Wells-Pestell, said, may take to the streets with their peers. Is it really so surprising that they figure so highly in the statistics for crime and stimulant abuse?
One of the saddest effects of youth unemployment is the rapid deterioration of the relationship within the family. I was shocked to hear a father say on the radio a few weeks ago that he had the solution to the crimes 592 committed by his unemployed son. He had thrown his son out to fend for himself, and, what is more, he recommended that other parents should do the same! My heart went out to that unknown boy who would probably have been an upright citizen had he had a job.
It is not difficult to understand how family strife arises. It is not uncommon for several members of a family, including the father, to be unemployed at one time. Young men feeling their feet can be seen as a challenge to the father and may try to undermine his authority. Young women who are not brought up to the traditional domestic skills may be bored and resentful. They are given no means by which to vent their youthful energies in a creative or a productive sense, so they turn upon those who most care for them. Adults in general are held to blame for their predicament, not only for the present high unemployment but for not foreseeing it and not preparing these young people adequately for the difficulties they have to face. It takes parents of a very high calibre to withstand the pain caused by the loss of pride and dignity to their unemployed child. Perhaps some benefit would be gained if parents were given "unemployment counselling" when their children receive careers counselling, for the present scale of unemployment, particularly among the young, is a phenomenon entirely new to our society and a good many people need help to cope with its understanding.
I do not speak from lack of experience. My daughter left secretarial college with good qualifications last year. She tried for over six months to obtain a job—any job—in the Birmingham area. She was offered one at £2,200 a year which, after deductions, would have left her with barely enough to live on, let alone keep a roof over her head. She could not live at home, as we live in a rural community. I spoke with the prospective employer and asked him whether he was aware that the salary he offered was below subsistence level. I told him that my daughter felt she could not accept the job unless he was prepared to offer a higher salary. He said it was the fault of the Government for setting the rates of social security benefits too high and raising young people's expectations. He settled for a married woman to do the work instead. Eventually my daughter came to London, where she had no difficulty.
During those six months we both of us suffered. I found it hard to accept that there were no jobs. I nagged and I criticised, and I worried constantly. I was told, quite rightly, that I did not understand. I marvel that she never lost hope, though in the later months there was a marked decline in her energy and enthusiasm. I am thankful that it was no longer than six months.
No doubt a good many other young unemployed people could move from their homes, but they do not have the benefit of very kind friends to find them accommodation. So many of those who do leave find themselves in the homeless category because they are unaware of, and ill-prepared for, the problems that they must face when they come to the capital.
The problems and difficulties are as many as the young people who are unemployed, and the solutions seem so few. Last week I spoke of the need for 593 education for leisure and creativity, and I am pleased to see that my thoughts are similar to those outlined in the communication from the Commission to the Council of the EEC entitled, The Promotion of Employment for Young People. I most sincerely hope that Her Majesty's Government will note the content of this communication, in particular those paragraphs on encouraging youngsters to do things for themselves. I would ask them to remember that it is never too early to begin. No doubt the cost will be great, but how can the cost of supporting a whole generation of unemployable men and women be measured? The Youth Opportunites Scheme, about which we have heard much today, earned for itself a great deal of disrepute. Hopeful youngsters became disillusioned when nothing came of their six months' work experience, and though some employers genuinely tried to help there were many who exploited the situation. We are about to see the Youth Training Scheme launched, and again there is scepticism. I do not profess to have the solutions, but I know that drastic measures must be rapidly taken to give our young people dignity, hope, and a sense of purpose.
§ 4.42 p.m.
§ Baroness Ewart-Biggs
My Lords, I feel that the subject of the debate is very timely; all the more so when it is borne in mind that last week we heard that the number of school-leavers who are not obtaining jobs represents a very high proportion of the unemployment figures as a whole. I certainly do not wish to make a long speech—there is a lengthy list of noble Lords who are to speak after me—and, like my noble friend Lord Wells-Pestell, I am not an expert. However, I should like to make a few points arising mainly from the experience that I have gained through my involvement with an organisation in Belfast, called the Northern Ireland Voluntary Trust which is deeply involved with young people, and the National Children's Centre in Huddersfield. In this regard I feel that I cannot let the occasion presented by this debate go by without mourning the tragic death at the weekend of Brian Jackson, the creator of this centre in Huddersfield. For so many years he championed the cause of children and young people all over the country. I am sure that there will be many of your Lordships who will agree with me that the loss of his commitment and of the fruits of his brilliant, highly original, and innovative mind, will be sadly felt by the youth of this country, as it will be by those many people who try to help those young people.
Through thinking about this subject and doing a little research, I found that two very obvious truths emerged. First, with the disappearance of the old, traditional routes from school to work, fewer school-leavers than ever before will find jobs. Secondly, no radical measures—only cosmetic ones—have been, or are being, taken to reverse this trend. Indeed, as my noble friend Lady David said, by a bitter paradox it is the children born out of the affluence of the 'sixties who are the very ones to fall victim to the present social revolution. I must claim three times as much responsibility as the noble Earl, because I have three children who were born in that period.
There is no doubt that during this debate there will come out many ideas about how to draw young people 594 back into the employment market. I do not wish to stress those points, but I should like to say a few words on what is being done in this field in some of the continental European countries. But, first, I wish to say something about the school curriculum and about the effect that unemployment has on the young people themselves and on family life generally.
I believe that undoubtedly it is more important than ever before to assess whether our present school curriculum is the right one with which to prepare our children for today's world. For 70 per cent. of our young people, full-time education finishes at age 16. It is these children who will have the least to offer future employers and who will therefore be the most vulnerable. Furthermore, they are the ones most affected by the age of the microchip, where mills and so forth no longer provide the sanctuary of some form of permanent employment.
So what do those children most need from a school curriculum? First, there can be no doubt that an academic training is vital, seen from a point of view of it providing a life training. But, in addition, there seems to be an overwhelming need to teach children about parenthood, and to give them a little more political education in order to help them understand the economic and political background which has brought on their problems. Many children continue to find basic, everyday communication difficult, and there is little in our present curriculum to help with this. There is surely a need for more training in skills in order to help the student in every way to become more self-sufficient.
In Northern Ireland in particular, there is a need for children to feel a strong commitment to their immediate community, and there is evidence that for those young people who are very bored by the traditional curriculum the programmes for community service and social education have provided a source for real interest and discussion, as well as a closer involvement with, and loyalty to, their community.
Much has been said about the attitude of school-leavers towards employment prospects and towards their lives in general. But in my view there seems to be unequivocal proof that the majority of young people still embrace the traditional work ethic. They want a job, and the money that goes with it. It is only by the force of argument and circumstance that they will settle for the money alone.
Although I was not going to speak about the Youth Training Scheme—knowing that many noble Lords would be speaking about it today—I would say that young people's attitude towards it is one of deep scepticism. They see it as a cosmetic device to keep them out of the labour market. They know that, as with the YOP, the Youth Training Scheme provides no guarantee of a job at the end of the year; and that remains their major preoccupation.
In order to adapt to the lack of job expectations, a growing number of young people are now involving themselves in new sub-cultures. For example, we have seen the great rise in punk culture and in Rastafarianism. There are a growing number of young people who congregate at the numerous music festivals and pop concerts, and these have become part of their lives. Among youth workers it is strongly felt 595 that where young people are interested in alternative lifestyles and activities, it is important to support and facilitate them, since, on the other hand, it is clear that the consequences of failing to give them any meaningful role in society are very grave. Such a feeling of alienation can lead only first of all to apathy and boredom, and then to alcohol abuse, drug problems, glue sniffing, vandalism, and many other forms of anti-social behaviour. There can be no doubt that in Northern Ireland—as the noble Earl is fully aware—some disaffected young people are attracted to extreme solutions to their problems, and it is no coincidence that Sinn Fein has a large, active, and energetic following of young people in areas such as West Belfast.
From the viewpoint of the parents, apart from the anxiety and tension that they feel about their children's prospects—which the noble Countess was describing—there are the financial implications. It must be acknowledged that in 1983 it is asking families a great deal to expect them to continue to support 16, 17, and 18 year-olds. Some educational authorities provide maintenance for those staying at school, and for those who enter further education there are local authority discretionary awards. But on the whole these payments are not adequate, which is also the case with the £25 per week allowance under the YTC. Furthermore, at a time of endemic youth unemployment it is inconceivable that the youth service itself should suffer such drastic cuts.
So, one asks, first, what changes should there be in Government policy towards the young, and, secondly, what can the community itself contribute? Basing one's views on the assumption that the demand for young workers may be permanently changing in all the western European industrialised countries, it is interesting to look at what is going on in our neighbouring states. It is clear that some of these countries are working to re-introduce the old system of apprenticeship. It is no coincidence that in Austria, Germany and Switzerland there is the lowest rate of youth unemployment because of the introduction of a particular labour market institution that makes it much more attractive for employers to hire and train young people. This so-called dual system offers training in a wide variety of occupations such as agriculture and trade and in white collar occupations, commerce and the social and public services. The apprenticeships last an average of three years. Trainees are recruited by enterprises and organisations and learn both at the place of work and at technical school.
The incentive to the employer to offer a training place is, of course, that the wage rate for apprentices is a low proportion of the skilled adult rate. In Austria, it is at a 25 per cent. rate. But there seems little evidence of employers there taking advantage of this so-called cheap labour nor of these young trainee workers displacing older workers. One can only presume that although the system does not offer a magic remedy, its relative success comes out of a mutual trust between employers, trade unions and the young people. Furthermore, there can be little doubt that young people benefit not only from the scheme of training itself but also from the sense of security provided by remaining within the labour market, 596 rather than being deliberately, as they see it, excluded from it. For example, in Austria, out of the lowest age school-leavers, 88 per cent. go into these apprenticeships, leaving only 12 per cent. for the jobs that exist. The dangers of a high degree of young people with a sense of alienation from their community is, in this case, much lower.
I wish finally to say just a word about the work being done in the voluntary service to help school-leavers. This is an important area. I should, however, like first to stress that well-known injustice affecting the young unemployed who themselves undertake long term, full-time voluntary work. It seems a grave injustice that they should forfeit their right to receive unemployment or supplementary benefit because they are no longer available for work, especially in view of the consequent effect on their sickness benefits and state retirement pensions, brought on with the loss of their right to have their insurance card credited. It should be unthinkable to create a generation of people who will be disadvantaged at both ends of their lives.
Regarding the actual contribution being made by community and youth workers, it must surely be undeniable that one of their roles is to guide and influence Government policy as to the true needs of the young. They are very close to them and in a position to do this. Their responsibility must be to innovate and devise new ways of tackling the real problems of today's young people. But they cannot carry out this work without statutory funding. For instance, it is generally felt among social workers in Northern Ireland that the Centres for the Unemployed which have been established have made a real contribution to the problem. Over the past year, the Northern Ireland Voluntary Trust has made grants to centres in Belfast. Derry, Newry, Omagh and other places to help these schemes get off the ground. This has resulted in many unemployed young benefiting from advice and personal contact, hearing about job opportunities, getting involved in educational programmes and learning skills. They have undertaken community service. They have received some guidance on how to use leisure.
Moreover, these centres have given birth to worthwhile projects offering mutual self-help activities and encouragement to young people to get involved in the community. But, unless the Government see fit to provide adequate funding, some of these centres will be unable to continue. Although the voluntary agencies accept that it is difficult for the Government to create jobs for school-leavers, they cannot, on the other hand, accept the Government's refusal to invest money into work that they are doing to alleviate and sometimes resolve the difficulties and problems suffered by the young who are without jobs.
My noble friend Lady David has given us a huge and critically important subject to debate. It is tempting to speak for a long time. Having resisted that, I should like to end by saying that the responsibility for the future of our young people must surely be shared in the way I shall describe. Our schools must be responsible for developing a curriculum that will truly help young people to elate to the real world that awaits them. Secondly, the Government, in addition to the establishment of the Youth Training Scheme, must be more open to radical measures for increasing training 597 and job opportunities for the young. Thirdly, employers and trade unions have a real responsibility to work towards accepting the principle that job sharing and early retirement must be part of the future way of helping the young.
Lastly, society itself should show a little more sympathy towards the problems of the young and the way that the young react against them. As my noble friend Lord Wells-Pestell has remarked, many of our young feel bitter and frustrated and therefore act in the way that they do. Speaking from a moral attitude, I think it only fair to say that the emphasis should be not on the young unemployed being a problem and expense to society, but on the fact that it is society that has confronted young people with the problem of unemployment.
§ 4.56 p.m.
§ Baroness Carnegy of Lour
My Lords, there is no question that the structural changes now taking place with accelerating speed in this and other countries—the changes in our economic life, in the world of work and in the way we live our lives generally—have enormous implications for young people, for their immediate future and for their longer term future. The debate on this issue has unfortunately got stuck in the increasingly arid wastes of a monthly outcry about the unemployment statistics and about whether or not X amount of extra millions of pounds would cure the problem. Even your Lordships' debate this afternoon seems to suggest that the implications of the changes that are now taking place are largely disastrous for young people, that the past was absolutely golden, that we are doing nothing or too little about the future, that the Youth Training Scheme has everything that you can think of that is wrong with it, and that somehow we as a nation are letting our young people down and the future is black.
Surely, as my noble friend the Minister says, the time has come to move on, to acknowledge that the past was not all golden, to confront the future with fresh eyes, to make the very best use of the resources we have and to build up, rather than to knock down, what we have collectively achieved so far, so that young people can do what they want to do, which is to find new ways to live and work in a changing world. They see very much better than many of us how things are changing and how new ways have to be found.
It is true that young people can no longer say, as they leave school this summer, that they will enter this career or that, and that they will follow it all their lives. They can no longer say that they will spend eight hours a day of every day of their lives doing a particular job; that is, the same job all the time. They can no longer say that from the day when they leave school they will be financially independent and possibly, in about two years' time, better off than they will ever be again in their lives. These things are no more. It is true that parents and teachers can no longer say to their younger brothers and sisters that unless they work hard at school they will not get a good job, and that if they behave in a certain manner they will never get a job. The uncertainty about jobs has removed a useful sanction.
But what is happening instead? Are we playing with the matter, as the noble Lord, Lord Wells-Pestell, 598 suggests? I would say that we are very far from playing with this problem. Let us look straight at what is happening. From now on in this country no young person need leave school to go into unemployment. No young person need embark on adult life without basic training for work, basic training for competence in living, for survival in the modern world, as 70 per cent. have done until now. I may say that the German system, which we certainly admire, involves considerably lower pay than any young person in work or on the Youth Training Scheme will get in this country; and for them there is no alternative, no equivalent of supplementary benefit when they leave school.
From now on the choice for young people will be to stay on at school after 16—and we hope increasingly to find a course relevant to them; to go to college; to go on the Youth Training Scheme; or to get a job, with a 50 per cent. chance of being on the Youth Training Scheme in that job. Those who enter the Youth Training Scheme—and it has been very much criticised today, or at least there has been implied criticism—will find something quite new. They will find that they are taught the basic skills on which any job has to be built. They will also find themselves learning about the basic skills of a group of activities or a group of occupations in which they are interested. That is something which is new and in which we are leading the way in Europe. They will learn from the point of view of a young adult about the world outside employment. They will learn how to make the most of themselves, how to be effective human beings and how to turn their education into the skills for survival in life.
I am perfectly certain that the Youth Training Scheme will happen to the extent that is planned and that it will succeed. It will only succeed if people hack it, show some enthusiasm and encourage young people who are going on it. The kind of leadership that we need for that has not been forthcoming from all the speakers today. Because many young people will be on the Youth Training Scheme in employment, and because many of them will he trainees with employers and will get certificates at the end, the chances of their getting a job will be greatly enhanced by being on that scheme. Of that there is no question. As the reform of apprenticeship gathers momentum, it will be possible for young people who have been on the scheme to go on into skilled training and so, with the new adult training strategy which is now being evolved, to find on-going training through their working lives. This is new. It is very much better than what we have had previously, and it should be a source of encouragement and not of moaning and groaning.
I believe that at last genuine shifts in emphasis are taking place at school. It is happening in many ways. Let me quote an example from Scotland. The new arrangements for the 16 to 18 year-olds who are not going on to obtain the higher leaving certificate will involve a course broken down into modules where each young person can choose a course which suits him or her, which is related to his or her vocational aspirations and which will dovetail into the Youth Training Scheme. This is a great move forward and it should work very much better than the arrangement we have at present. The technical and vocational initiative in schools in England and Wales is certainly 599 being responded to most enthusiastically by the education authorities that are taking part—14, as has been said, at present—and it has just been announced, as your Lordships will be aware, that that initiative is to be extended.
On the education side, perhaps most is happening in informal education. There are many initiatives taking place to help young people of 16 and 18 to find their way in the complicated world of job-hunting, to find their way through the bureaucracy, to find how to join in society and play their part. Again, let me quote an example from Scotland. There are now getting on for 100 youth information points where young people can go ostensibly to find out what they need to know. However, when they get there they find people who are interested in them and who are prepared to help them and give them the advice and perhaps the support they need. Involved in those information points are local authorities, the great youth organisations—uniformed youth organisations as well as un-uniformed—and many people are now assisting individual young people to find out what they need to know: to find jobs, to find ways in which to involve themselves in society.
Preparation for International Youth Year in Scotland is being entirely organised by a committee of 20 young people assisted by four adults. They are showing themselves to be immensely responsible and very interested in carrying out this particular task.
There is now under way a great concerted effort in this country involving industry, employers, unions, training people, education people, schools, colleges, community educators, the careers service and the MSC. Sir Terence Beckett said in yesterday's edition of The Times:It is a major operation—we have seen nothing quite like this since general mobilisationnearly 50 years ago. I believe that that is true. Young people have big problems, but they are keen to look forward, not back. They want to confront and grasp the future, not to complain about it. They accept that working life is changing, that opportunities are changing, and they want to come to terms with them. They want to be positive, not negative. I hope that your Lordships will be prepared to give a lead to them, to their parents and to the political people who speak on their behalf, by acknowledging all that has been achieved so far and by backing to the hilt all those people who are helping to produce new and different opportunities for young people today and for young people tomorrow.
§ 5.8 p.m.
§ Lord Blease
My Lords, I am sure it will have been noted that a very important feature of this debate is the fact that nine of our noble Baronesses have put their names down to speak. It is important to note that, because already mention has been made not only of matters concerning equal opportunity but also of the fact that family life and the home feature very much in the problems that we are discussing here today. I would like to follow the noble Baroness who referred to Scotland. I know of her wide experience and knowledge and the contribution that she makes in this particular field. She has made a very interesting and 600 challenging contribution to this debate and I would like to share her optimism. I certainly share a number of the points that she put forward as a challenge that we must face up to in meeting the problems of young people in our society.
My noble friend Lady Ewart-Biggs has already mentioned matters concerning Northern Ireland. I hope that I shall not be repeating some of the matters she has already mentioned. I intervene in this debate because of the chronic and serious plight of the growing numbers of unemployed school-leavers in Northern Ireland. In the Province the proportion of young people without jobs is the highest in Europe. However, at the outset of my remarks I readily acknowledge that there are sad and depressing political aspects pertaining to this problem in Northern Ireland which fortunately do not prevail in the rest of the United Kingdom. At the same time I would hasten to add that high unemployment among young people in Northern Ireland is not something that occurs as a result of the past 12 years of civil strife and political unrest. No! I can recall some 50 years ago when thousands of jobless teenagers in Belfast queued at the "bureau school" for their means-tested dole money.
If there is anything to be deduced from the current situation, it is that social behaviour arising from chronic unemployment, deprivation and feelings of social injustice, interacting in an unstable political environment, can fan embers of discontent into flames which engulf the values and the fabric of our society. This aspect of the problem was expressed by the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Mr. James Prior, when, in opening a parliamentary debate on Northern Ireland in another place on 28th April last year, he said, at column 851:Among the young, unemployment is very high and that is an encouragement to men of violence to attract young people to their ranks".It would be churlish of me not to admit that successive United Kingdom Governments have sought to promote measures to alleviate some of the problems for school-leavers in Northern Ireland. I am glad to say that the present Government continue this form of intervention, which certainly helps in many ways. We are proud of the fact that there is a better GCE A-level pass rate in the Province than in any other region in the United Kingdom. Notwithstanding the financial burden it is for many parents, it is gratifying to know that about 40 per cent. of all the school-leavers go on to further education, and it is claimed by industrialists and others that in Northern Ireland we have the most advanced training facilities in Europe.
It has been my privilege to work with many of the people who are now directly involved in the Northern Ireland educational, training and employment services for young people. I have the highest respect for their professionalism, their dedication and their concern for the school-leavers and young people. Many of the people who are now directly involved in the various youth services have themselves been the victims of the consequences of industrial restructuring, new technological change and the world-wide recession. Many are experienced trade unionists and managers, and have themselves teenage children, so they are well aware of the problems.
601 I welcome the state's intervention in seeking to provide measures to overcome the problems of school-leavers and the young job-seekers. What concerns me is the apparent lack of concerted policies to deal positively with the issues. It appears to me that the unco-ordinated growth of the various special measures has mainly arisen from "moral panic" responses to separate events rather than from any clearly thought-out, long-term programme of social and political action.
The unco-ordinated features of these various special measures have led to muddled administration, ineffectiveness and inefficiency. This has given rise to frustration among the training personnel and youth leaders who are working in the field. It has also resulted in confusion and demoralisation among young school-leavers and young people.
In my closing remarks I wish to deal briefly with one of the special measures for the young unemployed. It is the Youth Training Programme, which was introduced in Northerm Ireland in September 1982. It is similar to the Youth Training Scheme to commence here in Britain in September. So Northern Ireland will have had 12 months' advance experience of the YTS measures.
The Northern Ireland Youth Training Programme for 1982–83 offered 3,660 places to young people aged 16 to 17 years. I understand that out of a target population of 8,700 in the 16 year-old age group over 2,000 school-leavers declined to take part in the programme. Of the 2,800 who have taken up places to date, there has been a drop-out rate of 25 per cent. I can well understand some teething troubles with even the most skilfully designed and thought-out schemes, but I think it is serious to have the volume of criticism that has arisen from this particular innovation, and some review of the position is urgently required.
I have read with interest the minutes of evidence on the Youth Training Programme when the departmental witnesses appeared before the Education Committee of the Northern Ireland Assembly on 4th May 1983. I have also received documents prepared by managers, training personnel and supervisors directly involved in the training schemes. One of these, which I understand was forwarded to the Northern Ireland Secretary of State, Mr. Prior, on 24th June, states that one of the main reasons for the YTP failure to attract young people is the anomalous position regarding benefit payments and the trainees' weekly allowances. This has already been mentioned several times in the debate and is a very important factor. Mr. Robert Smyrl, who is the manager of Cookstown community projects, is the author of the paper sent to Mr. Prior and I have his permission to mention this in this House today. It contains a number of points relevant to the future success of the training schemes, points which I consider important. However, to go into them in detail would be wrong in this debate. I should be grateful if the noble Lord the Minister—who is extremely well acquainted with Northern Ireland—would perhaps use his good offices suitably to request that the paper be given earnest consideration.
I should also like to ask the Minister—who I stress is knowledgeable about the Northern Ireland situation—if he could suggest that an arrangement be 602 made for discussions with the representatives of the personnel directly involved in this Youth Training Scheme. I consider that there has been a dearth of consultation at proper level in the Northern Ireland situation, which has sadly missed out. Without going into a lot of detail, the most important point which puts the Northern Ireland scheme in a different light from the United Kingdom situation is that in the United Kingdom we have the Manpower Services Commission and in Northern Ireland we have no equivalent—it is run by an interdepartmental executive committee. No matter how well intentioned that particular department may be, unless consultations are carried on, I think it falls by not involving the people directly in the particular scheme.
I readily admit that there is an urgent need for the building of a purposeful and a real bridge to enable young school-leavers to make the transition, which has already been mentioned by the Minister, to cross the gap between school and work. That bridge must be built and it must be built well. But it is the view of many that the Youth Training Scheme or, in Northern Ireland, the Youth Training Programme is a makeshift plank; that it is not a bridge. Some of the more able school-leavers may find it a springboard for self-development and to job opportunities, but I am concerned that the vast majority see it as an insecure, shaky platform which reaches nowhere.
§ 5.20 p.m.
§ Lord Somers
My Lords, I should like to begin by asking your Lordships to forgive me if I have to leave before the end of the debate; the excuse is the usual one—I have to get home. This has been a most interesting debate and there is no doubt that it is a most important one. The noble Baroness, Lady David, must be thanked for having introduced it. I listened with great interest to the speech of the noble Earl, Lord Gowrie. I was pleased to hear that a lot of what he said was in agreement with opinions which I had held for some time, and so it was most encouraging to me. It made me feel that possibly I am not quite as stupid as I thought I was. But when the noble Earl got on to the world of computerised industry I felt glad that I am as old as I am, because I really could not attempt to master that kind of thing. Fortunately, the young are much better at learning new techniques than we old people are.
Many schemes have been proposed for helping young people, young school-leavers, but many of them have failed to realise that they are not just a mass of humanity. They are all individuals. Each one with his own particular talent, or particular opinions on life; his own particular ability, and everything like that. That must be discovered and developed so far as possible. That is why I feel that the first duty of the schools is to try to find out what those talents are.
The school curriculum was mentioned by the noble Baroness, Lady Ewart-Biggs. I think, as she does, that on the whole it is fairly right, but more opportunity might be given to the arts. Some of your Lordships may think that that is just prejudice on my part, but, for instance, there has been an unfortunate move on the part of the Surrey Education Authority to ban all individual music lessons inside schools hours. That is going to make individual teaching practically 603 impossible and therefore non-existent. One may say that that will not affect more than a small handful of pupils. That is true, but on the other hand that small handful may be a valuable handful who might make good in later years. It is a pity not to give them the opportunity. However, apart from that I think that the schools are not doing too badly.
Then when pupils finally leave school, having discovered what their desires for occupation are, is the critical point. We must have for them either training courses in training colleges, or something like that, or a much wider application of the apprenticeship system. We have a little of it at the moment, but it is not nearly wide enough.
There is a point I want to make here. Some school-leavers are a little apt to think that having left school they can go into a job and immediately earn the top wages, regardless of the fact that they have no experience and no knowledge of the job. The position should be made clear to them in school so that they then do not suffer great disappointment when they come out and find that they cannot immediately earn those top wages. The apprenticeship is for gaining experience and knowledge of the job. I think that they should be paid a lower wage, perhaps rising gradually, and then at the end of their apprenticeship period—make it perhaps a year, or something like that—they should have some sort of examination. I do not mean a particularly formal or set examination, but they should be examined to see whether they have benefited by their training, and they should have some sort of certificate if they pass. Then they could rank as a qualified worker in whatever subject it is.
That is a perfectly obvious thing to ask, because who of us would have thought that the moment we left school we could immediately get a top job? I know that when I left the Royal College of Music I did not expect to become at once a cathedral organist—and I would have been very disappointed if I had. In fact, I never became a cathedral organist, may I say. That is merely a personal detail, but it illustrates what I mean.
The noble Lord, Lord Wells-Pestell, said of the young that we have abandoned them. I agreed with a good deal of what he said, but I certainly did not agree with that. In some cases they have abandoned us. That is a natural thing for young people to do. Most young people find that they do not agree with what their parents have been teaching them or thinking, and they go off on their own road, and it is perfectly right and proper. But to say that we have abandoned them is wrong. There are many cases where we could most certainly do more for them—that is what this debate is about—but I do not think that we have abandoned them in any wholesale sense as was suggested.
The great thing that is important, after having left school and having passed one's apprtenticeship, is experience in whatever walk of life one is in. The more experience one has, the better one is at it. That is why the older worker is in general—I will not say that it is an absolutely hard and fast rule—more valuable to the employer than the younger one. I say again that that is not a hard and fast rule. There may be some brilliant young employees who will be extremely useful.
604 This is not an easy problem to solve. We have to examine the young people individually and find out what are their individual problems. It is not going to be simple, but most certainly it is a task that we should take on.
§ 5.28 p.m.
§ Baroness Fisher of Rednal
My Lords. I should like to show my appreciation to my noble friend Lady David for initiating this debate. I listened to what the noble Lord, Lord Beloff, said with great interest. He mentioned, "this exchange of views". I wish that the exchange of views had been a little more balanced in the House today. The majority of the speakers will come from this side of the Chamber, both to the right and to the left of me, and very few of the exchanges we should have liked will come from the Benches opposite.
One would have felt that the solutions for youth unemployment might be found more among the Members who sit on the opposite Benches; those people we call the captains of industry, with the influences that they have in industry and in commerce and in all other kinds of ways. I am disappointed that we have not had those points of view given to us from men and women on that side who have experience of all these things, which they face either around directors' tables or at various levels in boardrooms.
What has been said, and said quite frequently, in this debate is that unemployment at all levels in the country is something we deplore. We are glad that there are now some members of the Government asking the Government to be more sympathetic to the problem of unemployment generally. But perhaps the worst aspect of unemployment is that it is the young people who are the worst hit. They are worse off through no fault of their own. It is not their fault that there are no jobs. It is not their fault that they hang around the cinemas and other such places and are a problem in some parts of the country. It is not their fault because they would not be there if jobs were available for them.
In many instances our school-leavers leave school on a very pessimistic note because they know the situation that will confront them as soon as the school gates clang behind them. The noble Countess, Lady Mar, made a particular point about the school syllabus. Schools have not geared themselves towards putting on the school curiculum, "How to prepare yourself for unemployment". However, I do not think we would want them to do that. It is a problem that the school-leaver has to face, because the education system tries to give optimism to boys and girls who are going through their schools.
We find school-leavers having to devise what I call survival tactics. Basically this means that they must keep their self-respect at all costs. They must also seriously think about some form of income. They must have money in their pockets. As has been said by other speakers, there is a great sadness among young people. They feel that they are a burden on their families.
I am speaking this afternoon because of the many activities in which I take part in the City of Birmingham with youth generally. There is a great 605 sadness and the feeling that children feel upset that they have to rely on their fathers and mothers and sometimes on married brothers or sisters to help them out, to give them pocket money, enabling them to spend some time enjoying themselves.
It was very disturbing for me to read in one of the Sunday papers last Sunday the following:The Prime Minister recently gave an indication of her attitude to unemployment among young people when she said: 'It's too easy for some of them, straight out of school, to go straight on to social security at the age of 16. They like it, they have a lot of money in their pockets, and some of them"—not all of them by a long chalk—learn a way of life which they should never have the chance to learn' ".I felt terribly disturbed and very concerned that the Prime Minister should feel that about the young people. But what concerned me more was the statement, "They have a lot of money in their pockets". I do not know where she gets the "lot of money" from, because these young people from 16 to 18 years of age, who have to go on supplementary benefit, since April this year have lost £3.10 from their social security money. They are not eligible for unemployment benefit. This is what the DHSS calls their housing requirement if they live at home. In other words, it if flung back to the parents to maintain them still longer.
Statistics show that from the money which unemployed young people receive on average they give their parents £10 per week. Therefore, if this category of persons about whom the Prime Minister was thinking, between 16 to 18 and on supplementary benefit, give their parents £10 per week and they have lost £3.10, they are left with £5.80 a week. By no stretch of the imagination could noble Lords say that £5.80 is a lot of money in one's pocket. Many noble Lords in this House and many people outside would spend more than that on one meal, and it would be a very meagre meal for that money.
We find young people completely disillusioned. They trek down to the job centre and read the same advertisements day after day. They write hundreds of letters. I was speaking to a young man last week in the city and he had already written 130 letters in the last four weeks. Very rarely do such youngsters receive an acknowledgement from the employer. If employers really are concerned they need only to reply by postcard to say, "Your application has been received". That would mean something to the young people who bother to write these letters as such cost to themselves, and who as it is do not get even an acknowledgment.
Then there are the interviews. There may be one job available and the employer will very often have at least 20 or 30 people interviewed for the job. I am not talking about jobs that require half a dozen qualifications; I am talking about what I call ordinary jobs in the city of Birmingham. Someone was telling me last week about tests that employers are now giving. One would think that the applicants were taking on the job of being in charge of British Airways itself.
One girl went after a job. She was one of 19 applying for a job in a biscuit factory. She spent over an hour and a half doing tests. One of the questions was, who was the Prime Minister? Obviously, just after a general 606 election she knew the answer immediately. I was pleased that she was not asked who Lord Gowrie was because, with all due respect to the noble Earl, I feel she would not have known. She then spent three-quarters of an hour doing aptitude tests. She said it was like playing with baby Lego. She then went on to do the final test which was picking up the biscuits. She was given 20 biscuits in a rack and she was told to hold her hands at either end and transfer them from that rack into another rack about a foot away. Unfortunately, four biscuits from the centre fell to the floor and then the whole lot went. Needless to say, she did not get the job. I said to the rest of the young people there, "Practice doing that with biscuits if you go for a job in a biscuit factory in the future".
But this is how employers are treating our young people. There is no need for this kind of thing for what one might call the mundane tasks in industry. After the pessimism our young people feel a great bitterness, when, after every effort they make no proper jobs emerge. I should perhaps tell the noble Earl, Lord Gowrie, that young people do not call them "real" jobs. They call them "proper" jobs because that is the terminology which they feel is much more satisfying to them.
I was a little concerned this afternoon, when we had aspects of education being given to us and when my noble friend Lady David told us quite graphically about the girl who appeared on Television. I was a bit upset and concerned that this appeared to cause laughter in some parts of the House, perhaps. It was no great laugh to that girl that she had done what everybody had told her to do—to keep her nose down in her books, to take the proper kind of courses that were offered, to do all the right things—and then found herself in this category. It was a sad story that was told by that girl, and really not a subject for laughter, because it illustrated the hopelessness of young people.
As I have already said, I come from the City of Birmingham—and one could know that, anyway, from my voice—and what is very upsetting to me and is something which is relevant to those areas where we have new housing estates. We have had them now for 10 or 12 years, and the occupants of the housing estates (not only in my city but all over the country) have a very unbalanced age structure. In many of them, young families predominate and the young people on these new developments have a sense of being trapped because they cannot participate in the customary activities of the other young people who, very often, have lived in more remote areas and have had to travel to city centres for these activities. Therefore, they feel remote and they become bored. As we all know, work imposes a structure on the working day and this structure, if it is not adhered to, results (as my noble friend Lord Wells-Pestell has said) in young people especially taking up unsocial activities. This is particularly relevant on the newer housing developments.
I want to go on quite quickly to the Youth Training Scheme. It is true to say, as other speakers have said, that the Youth Training Scheme follows YOP—with all the criticisms of exploiting young workers that were levelled at that. I am sorry that the noble Baroness, Lady Carnegy, is not in her place. When she was talking about placements by the Youth Training 607 Scheme and about the opportunities, she said that it would be a wider training. But I think it is true to say—and if the noble Earl in his reply tells me that I am wrong in this, I will accept it—that most placements under the Youth Training Scheme were in what were called the older industries. My knowledge of placements in Birmingham shows quite clearly that they are in the older industries. Therefore, as far as I am aware, the technological placements that are being advocated are not placements in those industries that are rushing forward to participate in the Youth Training Scheme. Therefore there will not be all the wide variety of opportunities for placement in the places where the jobs will be in the future.
I have some personal knowledge of the Youth Training Scheme because I am part of a group that is desirous of setting up a scheme. However, one is concerned—and I hope the noble Earl will tell me that this is quite exceptional—that the local committees of the MSC, under the full-time officials that are working in the MSC, are not always fully aware of all the aspects of the scheme. They do not explain in detail many of the points which people who are desirous of setting up schemes wish to know. In dealing with the MSC officials, one gets the impression that they are "working a rush job" and, in many cases, that it is being operated by inexperienced staff. Time and time again, when questioned, they have said: "The timetable was completely unrealistic anyway. You will get these things within six weeks; you should have got them a fortnight ago. You will get in October that which you should have got in May". There are all these kinds of problems on the ground.
I want to say quite quickly that the question of additionality is causing great concern among many of the smaller business employers in the city who are offering themselves for training but who feel that they are not being given financial incentives comparable to those given to the large concerns. I should like the noble Earl to look into the question of additionality, because the only way you can get the small employer to help to find jobs is to offer financial incentives. Perhaps the noble Earl will refer to that in his reply. I feel that there is also a need for the department to look at the start-up expenses for managing bodies that are not large employers.
Much as I have sympathy for the training scheme, and appreciate that it might alleviate the position of some of the young people who go on it, we do know that it will not create a single job. It will create opportunities for young people to apply for jobs; but the actual training scheme itself will not create one new job. What it will do is to increase the competitiveness for the few jobs that are available. Therefore we shall find that those with few or no qualifications will suffer most and continue to suffer most. I wish that I were as optimistic as was the Minister when he was speaking regarding the special needs of the disadvantaged groups and the disabled, because I feel confident in my mind that they will be as severely disadvantaged under YTS as they already are in life.
The Earl of Gowrie
My Lords, I would not want the House to mistake the noble Baroness. I do not think 608 that I mentioned the disabled in my speech, so I could not have been optimistic about them.
§ Baroness Fisher of Rednal
My Lords, perhaps the noble Earl used the word "disadvantaged". I apologise. Perhaps, instead, I may ask the Minister whether he is satisfied that the Youth Training Scheme will be giving special consideration to the needs of the disadvantaged and disabled.
A quick point that I would put to the Minister is this. He mentioned Japanese television. I am not so sure that we always operate our images correctly. I am looking at Raleigh Cycles and, as far as I know, Raleigh Cycles turn out an excellent product, which is absolutely first class. But the Raleigh Cycles products that we sell to the USA are not built in that town that is very near me, Nottingham. They are produced in Taiwan and they are nowhere near as good as those produced here. The quality is not so high. Is one of the reasons why we have fewer jobs, that employers for some reason or other feel that they have to manufacture so many of their commodities in other parts of the world?
When we are talking about pay bargaining, perhaps I may say to the noble Earl—and he spoke about pay bargaining as far as it related to unions and to individuals—that, perhaps especially, the chairman of the CBI should also take note that wage and salary levels are important. My final point would be this. We in the West Midlands feel that our latest unemployment figures demonstrate once again that there is no real sign of when the trend of unemployment will turn significantly downwards. The outlook for the school-leavers in the West Midlands is particularly bleak. My final comment would be that I feel a great confidence in our young people—a confidence that they can stand on their own two feet, given the opportunities; but at the present moment they are shackled ball and chain by this Government's monetary policies.
§ 5.51 p.m.
§ Lord Donnet of Balgay
My Lords, the subject we are discussing is like a huge jigsaw, and we can only address ourselves within the limits of our own experience to the pieces of that jigsaw. I make no apology, therefore, for saying that I approach this subject within the context of industry and employment. The biggest influence on the employment of our youth will depend on the performance of those in jobs and the performance of British industry. I will mention all the usual worries and anxieties, but I must confess that on solutions I can only offer my little bit of experience on one part of the jigsaw. Like the noble Countess, Lady Mar, my heart goes out to the young school-leavers, to their parents and to the family circle, because in present conditions they certainly face tribulations.
As the chairman of the Scottish Committee of the Manpower Services Commission is now present, may I send felicitations to my countrywoman in mentioning the facts about Scotland, including the fact that she was rather disappointed not to have heard any assertions so far on the hopes and aspirations for the successful implementation of the Youth Training Scheme. She will have no difficulty in hearing support mentioned by me in my speech. I certainly support priority to the young.
609 I served industry in a most positive and direct way for 50 years at workshop level, at boardroom level and at the bargaining table. I have no hesitation whatsoever in recommending support for the theme that Britain needs a flexible, adaptable workforce, able to survive change and uncertainty in an increasingly competitive world.
I acknowledge the Manpower Services Commission theme and its language, just as I wish the commission well when it launches very shortly its Youth Training Scheme. Indeed, I feel strongly that a sophisticated industrial country like ours needs to make the best of our mixed economy of public and private enterprise, which are so inter-dependent on one another. There is an overwhelming need to put to use all our human skills among the young and the adult. The need for training to acquire, to increase and to update skills, knowledge and expertise should be treated as a perpetual priority in our national economic programmes.
I hope I have left your Lordships in no doubt that in general terms I am in favour of giving support to the Manpower Services Commission on manpower and training matters. There is, of course, a right way and a wrong way of achieving the right aims and objectives. I welcome the introduction of the Youth Training Scheme as an encouraging step in the right direction, but it is necessary, in the same way, to see that the resources devoted to the scheme will be sufficient to provide the necessary coverage.
Many doubts have already been expressed about this. The multiplicity of Governmental special employment and training measures has generated confusion. The confusion has been generated over what, how much and to whom help is available. For instance—and this may partly deal with the remarks of the noble Minister when he opened the Government's contribution to the debate—although the Youth Training Scheme is budgeted to have approximately£1 billion a year devoted to it, as has been mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Kilmarnock, other employment and training measures will be phased out or run down, including the well-known Youth Opportunities Programme. It appears, therefore, that the full financial resources devoted to the subject at the end of the day may only be modestly increased on the introduction of the Youth Training Scheme. Perhaps the Minister might give us reassurance on this point.
A second point may be mentioned. There is an unworthy suspicion (or is there?) that education and training is to be used for something that it should not be used for; that is, to be seen as a device for adjusting the unemployment statistics. This is perhaps a question of interpretation. I am looking at a document just now in which the chairman suggests that education and training are certainly not to be seen as a device for adjusting the unemployment statistics, while in the body of the report we are reminded that, while not designed for that purpose, the successful implementation of the Youth Training Scheme can be an effective way of reducing unemployment. Therefore, I say to the Minister that it is not sourness to offer suggestions. It is a feeling on the Opposition side of your Lordships' House that we should remove all the impediments we can to the successful implementation of the Youth Training Scheme.
610 My third point has already been mentioned and I am sure that I need not repeat it, because I feel that it has been noted and will be answered by the noble Earl, Lord Gowrie. But two days ago information seemed to leak that the Government were to penalise any unemployed school-leaver who turned down a place in the Youth Training Scheme.
Before undergoing the resurrection of being introduced into your Lordships' House five years ago I had already lived an exciting and busy existence as national chairman of the General and Municipal Workers' Union, as president of the Scottish Trades Union Congress, as a member of the General Council of the British TUC and also as chairman of a national public service, during which I served the nationalised industries' sector in the Central Council of the CBI. Being exposed to those experiences has left me with the conviction that in this modern, dynamic and competitive industrial country there should be flexibility in people's work commitments, both within an employing organisation and between employing organisations. The need for changes in working life has important consequences for both employers and trade unions, and I am anxious to increase the level of rapport between employers and unions, and between those in industry and the Government. The promotion of inter-occupational mobility, the spread of know-how and experience between companies and transferability between industries and occupations requires trade union agreement; perhaps also including the transfer of union membership. Therefore, I beg the Government to recognise this fact.
In reading material connected with this subject, including press material by social researchers, the jargon and the gobbledegook has been rather overwhelming. If I have attached the wrong initials to the many schemes that are in existence, I beg the forgiveness of the House. I hope that I have said something helpful and worth saying.
§ 6.3 p.m.
§ Baroness Nicol
My Lords, the Youth Training Scheme is welcome, as I believe my noble friend Lady David made clear at the beginning of her speech. I am sorry that the noble Baroness opposite thought that we were being sour about it, but it is our right and indeed our duty to criticise and to ask questions. In that spirit, I propose to offer some more questions to the noble Earl which I think have so far not been asked.
My noble friend Lady Fisher mentioned the handicapped provisions in the scheme. As I understand the Youth Opportunities Programme, it allowed several years extra in the case of handicapped people and I should like to have it spelled out, if the noble Earl can do so, whether or not that same provision will be made under the new scheme.
Are we also to understand that the more modest schemes for less able people are to disappear? The less able are more in need of help than many of the youngsters who will go on to the Youth Training Scheme, and it seems to me very important that there should be short-term schemes available for the less able, or indeed for the children who are so disenchanted with the educational system that they would not want to take on another full year of training.
611 There are a number of these children and they present a real problem. What provision is being made for them?
Will there be a travel allowance for participants in rural areas? The old schemes allowed for what I believe was called the "Over £4 scheme". In some cases, this made all the difference between children in rural areas being able to take up training schemes and not being able to take them up. As I am sure your Lordships all know, travel on rural buses is very expensive and they cannot meet that kind of expense from their £25 allowance. So please may we be told whether the travel allowance will be continued?
Will the scheme include instructions in industrial relations? We have not heard any mention of this, but it seems to me that it is very important that children should at a very early age begin to understand the part that industrial relations plays in their working lives. Whether they go on to be managers or remain on the shop floor, they will need to understand about industrial relations and I think that some part of the first year should be given over to this. However good this or any other scheme may be, it can bring only temporary relief to our children, as we have heard from many sides this afternoon, unless the whole problem of unemployment is brought under control. Therefore, just for the moment, may I leave the problems of young children and turn to the problems of unemployment generally?
It seems to me that a first and vital step is to reduce the costs of employment to the employer. I am afraid that I do not have the up-to-date figure, but about 18 months ago it cost an employer £20 per employee per week. This cost must surely be in the region of £30 now. It seems to me that, unless the Government can take some courageous step to reduce the cost of employing people, a lot of the other things that we are hoping will happen will never in fact happen. Small employers, in particular, would think many times before taking on an extra body if it landed them straight away with that sort of overhead.
This move could have a rapid effect on real work sharing. By that, I do not refer to the suggestions that have been made about splitting jobs and splitting pay. I do not think that that is a starter, for there are very few workers who can live on half the pay they get, and very few employers who will take on the kind of situation where one job is split between two. Real work-sharing would mean a reduction in overtime working and would also reduce the attraction to employers of using moonlighting part-timers. Genuine sharing of the work available, not job and wage splitting, could, as I have said, become a reality. The loss to the Exchequer would be short-term and soon recouped by lower unemployment, and social benefits would be immediate. It is the social effects on our society of mass unemployment which should cause us most concern, and indeed from the speeches that we have heard this afternoon I think that that is what worries people in this House most. We have already heard of the long-term damage to family life caused by the destruction of security and the removal of hope.
The link between unemployment and rising crime is arguable, but what is not in doubt is that the lack of a job causes more offenders to receive custodial 612 sentences. Judges and magistrates are always influenced in their sentencing by the circumstances of the offender, particularly whether or not he or she is in work. More people now appearing before the courts are without this qualification for freedom, and so the numbers in detention are increased. The increase in custodial sentences over the past two years has been greater among young people. The NACRO figures show that for every additional 1,000 unemployed, 10 more receive prison sentences. But for every additional 1,000 young people out of work, 23 more young offenders are sentenced to custody. This is a very sobering thought, when one takes into account the discussions which have already taken place in this new Parliament about the overcrowding of our prisons.
Finally, I should like to say a word about the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Kilmarnock, who referred to the young workers' scheme. He believes that by introducing a training element this scheme can be greatly improved. It appears, however, from a report commissioned by the Department of Employment that the scheme has not been very successful. They have produced a large number of statistics, with which I shall not bore your Lordships since they are freely available. However, the effect of the scheme seems to have been that the wages of a large number of young people have been reduced, while only about 10 per cent. of new jobs have been created for them. I should not like this scheme to go forward simply by the addition of a training element. There ought to be a very strict look at its effects before the Government decide to continue to support it.
§ 6.11 p.m.
§ Lord Gridley
My Lords, it is customary when following a Member of this House to say something about that Member's speech. It is a pleasure to me to follow the noble Baroness, Lady Nicol. She has asked a great number of questions of my noble friend Lord Gowrie who is to reply to the debate. She has also referred to a matter which exercises my mind: that the youth of our country should be given industrial experience either before they leave school or just afterwards in order to make them aware of the situation in which they will have to play their part in life. I am not quite sure whether the Government have the money to pay for some of the schemes which the noble Baroness has in mind—if, in fact, she was asking that more money should be spent.
I welcome the action of the noble Baroness, Lady David, who has made it possible for us to have this debate. It is of exceptional national importance that the youth of our country should be happy and placed in satisfactory situations of employment when they leave school. It is also of importance that their future livelihood should to a certain extent be not protected but that there should be prospects for them. I speak as the former chairman of the board of governors of an independent school and also as a member of the board of governors of a state school. While I held those positions, during a considerable number of years, we were deeply concerned to ensure that the school tailored, as best it was able, its curriculum to meet the requirements of young people when they left school and took their place in industry, the arts and elsewhere.
613 It was an extremely difficult era. It was the time when rock and roll was the fashion. I was the chairman of the board of governors of a girls' boarding school. In those circumstances, we had to allow the sexes to meet each other—not necessarily under supervision—on a Saturday night. They met boys from a neighbouring school for dances. This kept them in a good temper. Since it was a girls' boarding school there were times when they wanted to be let off the leash. We had to be particularly careful about that. One night I had a telephone call. It was reported to me that certain pupils from the boys' school were having some kind of liaison with the girls, having got in through a window. This had to be stopped. We were faced with that kind of difficult situation during that period. Much went by the board. Some of the principles by which we had lived were given more latitude than we had been accustomed to.
I do not wish to say too much about schools, although they play a most important part in fitting our youth for employment. Before I leave the subject it is necessary to say that many things which are going on in our schools are absolutely wrong. I do not want to say too much about discipline. However, there was a time when accepted principles in this country were under challenge. I began to realise that our educationists were encouraging children to challenge the accepted principles which had guided our lives, but it seemed to me that they were putting nothing in their place and that they were making no attempt whatsoever to defend the principles which we had accepted.
They have found themselves in many respects in a very difficult situation. We want our youth to be contented. Also we want industry to be satisfied that when young people go to work in industry or elsewhere they will be willing to accept reasonable codes of discipline. This is in the interests of the nation and of the stability of industry. Because of the experience I have just mentioned I shall possibly be critical of the situation in which we find ourselves, but I hope it will be considered to be constructive criticism. I shall ask the Minister three questions.
First let me say a word about inflation. It seems to me that neither politically nor otherwise is sufficient emphasis ever placed upon the horrors of inflation. I have seen inflation at first hand in the various countries which I have visited. The final result of inflation is to affect those who are least able to succeed in that difficult environment. Money completely loses its value. A degree of hopelessness descends upon everybody. I hope that nobody in this country will ever have to experience it. Therefore, in considering how we could assist our school-leavers I do not believe that it would help them if we were to pour money into industry or education. I know that the critics say: "If you cannot do that to help the school-leaver, it is not their fault". I accept entirely that view.
Ever since 1945 Governments of both political persuasions have taken out of the economy more than has ever been put back into it. The blame for that situation lies upon us all individually. That blame has to be accepted. However, I do not believe that the Government can be charged with doing nothing in a very difficult financial situation, particularly to help the school-leaver. The Government have poured a 614 considerable amount of money into the Youth Employment Scheme. Much has been said about it and I shall not repeat the points which have been made by previous speakers.
But in addition to that scheme, by paying £25 a week to youths who participate in it the training is no cost to the individals concerned. I perfectly well realise that some criticism may be levelled against the Government and myself personally for saying that, but I believe it was my noble friend Lord Beloff who said he felt, like myself—and this goes back to the time when I was a governor of schools—that our youth are expecting all the time too much money for the very little they do, and do not really appreciate what is being done to help them in this situation. That is something they have to learn, and they will be very much happier when they have learnt it.
There is also the Government scheme to help small businesses. I believe I am right in saying, although perhaps my noble friend the Minister will correct me if I am wrong, that the school-leaver is helped in other ways by the Government, by being allowed to draw unemployment pay from June until September, until he or she takes up a place in college of futher education in September. I believe that grants of something in the region of £100 per month will then be made to help them. The Government do not remain idle in the help they render in that situation.
I now turn to the question I should like to ask of my noble friend who is to reply to this debate, concerning the technological revolution that is now upon us. How do the Government see the development of technology, and are the Government in touch with industry and with scientists on this subject?
It must be important for our youth to retrain to meet this challenge. Is something being done to meet the point in the school curriculum? I hope that the Government will be able to say something about the use of micro-electronic devices, which I understand the Government have now installed in secondary schools.
I have one final comment to make from my experience as a school governor. In post-war years—since 1945—it has been more or less an accepted principle in education establishments that youths should be allowed to challenge some of the principles which we accepted and which have guided the conduct of our lives. But what seems to have been overlooked is any serious attempt by many of our educationists to say anything about the reasons for our principles, obligations and duties. This has made difficulties in schools regarding discipline. Lack of discipline does not help a school-leaver; and should the reputation of a particular school in this respect precede him, it will make matters all the more difficult for him in getting a job. We in industry desire stability. All men of goodwill in industry desire the same. I suggest that our educationists, and possibly the Minister of State for Education and the local authorities who are responsible for most of our schools, might consider the comments I have made in this respect.
§ 6.24 p.m.
§ Lord Gallacher
My Lords, the main problem facing school-leavers arises from the absence of employment, which is partly due to the world recession and the 615 strong measures taken by the Government to combat inflation. The plea from this side of the Chamber last week was for some stimulation of the economy, helped by a lower borrowing rate, but the response by Government spokesmen was, to say the least, disheartening. Even the slight upturn in the economy may be short-lived if the decision by the Building Societies Association to increase borrowing rates forces the Government to do the same in respect of the rates they pay for various kinds of national savings. Dearer money generally will delay what recovery there is.
School-leavers now face the fact that despite possessing admirable qualifications they have little or no choice of job. For the many youngsters without formal qualifications the prospects are even more bleak because in the heyday of youth employment entry standards to even the most ordinary apprenticeships were significantly raised, and there is no suggestion at present that these standards are in need of review. I shall say something more about this point later in my remarks.
In the district where I live one of the local advertising newspapers has a new version of the "agony column". Each week about 20 youngsters, using first names only, list their educational qualifications and the jobs in which they are interested. Most of them seem over-qualified in relation to their aspirations, and I ask myself: is this a product of a training system with excessive entry requirements? I wonder also about the prospects at present for the many school-leavers who cannot match these attainments.
The situation overall contrasts sharply with the position during the recession in the 1930s. Junior labour had some attraction for employers then because, of course, it was cheap and disciplined. Apprentices were at risk when they had served their time and became eligible for the full rate of pay. Nobody wishes to go back to the days when many great industrial achievements were substantially the work of apprentices in their final year, but the fact that it was so calls into question the extent to which training and industry's needs are matched today, in spite of all the effort that has gone into achieving harmony between the two.
The Youth Training Scheme represents the main response by the Government to youth unemployment. In a sense, the scheme is an admission, if not of failure then at least of the fact that desperate remedies are needed in a dire and continuing situation. The Youth Training Scheme deserves support because it will give hope and experience to thousands of young people who otherwise might have been compelled to do nothing upon leaving school, with all that that implies for social discord.
It is a matter for regret that because of the belligerent noises made by Ministers at the Department of Employment in recent years relations between the TUC and the Government are at their lowest ebb in my recollection. Organisations of employers are not blameless in this regard, either, for they have been too ready to echo Ministers and correspondingly reluctant to find a middle way. My experience of industrial relations was that youth training usually provided 616 common ground between representatives of workers and employers—and the sooner both parties strive to find that ground again the better it will be. It is hoped that Ministers who speak on employment matters in this House will use their influence to bring about a change of climate in Tothill Street.
There are matters relating to the Youth Training Scheme which are of concern to workers. The scheme is being introduced at very short notice and early operational snags, which are bound to arise, may be difficult to settle. There is a fear that in certain areas of employment the scheme may be used as a source of cheap labour and will act as a displacement factor for adult part-time workers who may not have much protection under existing legislation because they do not work sufficient hours or have not been in employment long enough.
The amount of training which will be given under the scheme is also unknown, and arrangements for monitoring this aspect are untested. It now seems regrettable that major training boards, such as those for distribution and food, drink and tobacco, were wound up by the Government, because they could have assisted the monitoring function in areas which are likely to be of considerable employment significance under the Youth Training Scheme. Indeed, certain of these training boards could well have found a more positive role under the scheme.
In those firms where traditional schemes of apprenticeship continue there may be a danger of an upper and a lower category of young employee in the workplace. This may reveal itself sharply during periods in which Youth Training Scheme workers are in close proximity to apprentices. Even more delicate will be the ending of employment under the scheme while the apprentice continues in work. Indeed, the acid test of the Youth Training Scheme will be the number of youngsters who are either retained by their scheme employer or who quickly find work with another firm because of the training experience they have gained. Substantial failure on both fronts will discredit the scheme as such, and this will be a setback for all school-leavers. The Government should realise that, under the scheme, they are buying time as regards economic recovery and that unless the upturn which they say is under way is reflected in the employment field it will be deservedly unpopular, not only with young people but with the community at large.
A feature of the Youth Training Scheme which intrigues me is the change of emphasis it gives as regards training. If employers carry out the spirit of the scheme it means that a major part of scheme training is going to take place in the workplace rather than away from it. This reverts to the older way of doing it, where one could acquire skills by being time-served. If one had the good fortune (not always apparent at the time) to be under the eye of a good craftsman instructor then at the end of the apprenticeship one had at least the practical ability to do the job.
A year spent under the Youth Training Scheme should at least shorten the period needed for a subsequent apprenticeship. I hope it may also lead to a reappraisal of the formal educational requirements written in for entry into certain training schemes. This is not a plea for educational dilution as much as a lifting of barriers in a totally changed environment.
617 Wartime experience showed that concentrated training was possible provided there was a basic aptitude, and it may be that the matter should be looked at in that light. Even the services have now raised standards appreciably. The RAF need four GCE O-levels in specific subjects at Grade C or better for an engineering apprentice, yet the Royal Navy will accept for officer training with five O-levels in their aircrew and seaman branches. This is a plea for the lowest entry requirement consistent with the job to be done and the facilities for doing it. No doubt there will be a continuing need for some theoretical knowledge for certain trades, but in many others, where diagnosis is machine assisted and replacement rather than repair is the norm, we would be denying skilled status to many worthy young people who, unlike us, will probably need to change careers during their working lives because of the pace of innovation and development.
In my view the present outlook for school-leavers is grim, particularly if the Government persist in the deification of market forces and monetarism. On the other hand, an opportunity may be at hand for easier training schemes which will bring employment opportunities within the grasp of many who have needlessly been denied these. We should not, even in adversity, overlook opportunity, and if the Youth Training Scheme leads to skilled status for young people who might otherwise have been denied it this will be a spin-off for which all of us will be grateful.
§ 6.35 p.m.
§ Baroness Lockwood
My Lords, I am very grateful to my noble friend, Lady David, for introducing this very difficult and highly emotive subject. Like other noble Lords, I am concerned about the problems and difficulties facing school-leavers, in particular the problems in finding employment. This is not a problem which is confined to the United Kingdom only; it is a problem, of course, experienced by other European countries in particular. But Britain's problem is exacerbated by two factors: the intensity and the depth of the economic recession, which has produced a higher rate of unemployment in the United Kingdom than in any other European country, with, I think, the exception of Belgium; and, secondly, the fact that traditionally a higher proportion of our young people have gone straight into employment from school without the advantages of further training or an apprenticeship on the lines of other European countries. This was brought out very clearly in the report of the House of Lords Select Committee on Unemployment. This latter factor we are now belatedly attempting to rectify through the Youth Training Scheme.
Clearly, everything possible must be done to prevent young people from becoming unemployed and starting adult life on social security. I think the future of this country, economically and morally, is at risk if this is the only opportunity that can be offered to them. Therefore, I welcome the Youth Training Scheme, inadequate though I think it is in a number of respects. I welcome it as a beginning on the major task of reorganising and recasting our training provisions in a way appropriate to the new revolution in industry, and in a way that will cater for all our young people 618 and not just that small percentage of young people who are able to enter higher education.
But, within the major task, there is, I think, a further priority—the removal of discrimination on grounds of both race and sex. I appreciate the commitment of the noble Earl, Lord Gowrie, to improving our education system and to eliminating sex discrimination. I only wish that 10 years ago when he was in the teaching profession his approach to this problem had pervaded the whole of the education system, because, had that been so, we might not have some of the problems which we face at the present time.
Some noble Lords may have seen reference to a recent publication of the Equal Opportunities Commission entitled Day Release for Girls. It was concerned with day release, the advice that the careers service offers to girl school-leavers and the reaction of management to careers for girls. It is very interesting that some of the experiences of our young girls quoted in this survey, which covered some 20 firms of a very mixed hag in the North of England, show how difficult it is for many of our young people even to have a fair share of some of the facilities that are available. For example, only 18 per cent. of the day release places are taken by girls. If I may just quote one or two examples from the report which indicate the extent of the problem, one career officer said, in relation to encouraging girls on training courses in non-traditional roles,We give them hurdles to jump, we paint the blackest picture and say that there are many harriers to overcome.".Another person involved in interviewing girls asked—and this was in relation to girls who were thinking of moving into the building industry—Would you be happy going up a ladder in a skirt?.These are the kinds of attitudes and approaches which girls have to overcome if they want to break out of the traditional mould.
There is a perhaps more difficult problem for people of ethnic groups. I think the problem that girls face is an insidious and all-pervasive one concerned with attitudes and expectations about the life pattern of women, and the reference to going up a ladder in a skirt just indicates how outdated some of these attitudes and assumptions are. But the problem of race discrimination is sharper and more concentrated. It is concentrated because of the concentration of ethnic groups in some of our industrial centres.
Recently I was speaking at a seminar with the chairman of the Commission for Racial Equality, and he quoted some very disturbing figures. They were in effect a snapshot of the situation for 415 ethnic school-leavers in Bradford in September 1982. He gave these figures: 7 per cent. of Asian school-leavers find a job, compared with 28.4 per cent. of non-Asians (28.4 per cent. of non-Asians is not a good percentage but it is considerably more than the 7 per cent. for Asians). In MSC schemes, 26.5 per cent. of Asians participate, compared with 38.3 per cent. of non-Asians. When it comes to these young people registering as unemployed, 32.5 per cent. of the Asians did not register, compared with only 10 per cent. of the non-Asians. This indicates to me that the Asian young people are contracting out of the system because they feel totally without hope.
619 The noble Earl in his opening remarks referred to a survey of Youth Opportunity schemes—probably the one that was featured in the Department of Employment Gazette in March. That indicated that in another industrial city the people who have the greatest difficulty in getting a job are the young West Indians who have gone on multiple YOP schemes. In other words, they have not got a job after their first one; they have gone on to a second scheme and they have found it even more difficult to get employment afterwards.
Therefore there are these very difficult problems of sex and race discrimination which are built into the wider problem of youth unemployment. I know that this is not the policy of the Manpower Services Commission. Indeed it is one of its stated principles that part of the aim of the Youth Opportunity schemes and the YTS is to try to ensure that there is equality of opportunity between the sexes and among the different racial groups. I know that there have been a number of joint projects between the EOC and the MSC to try to eradicate some of the discrimination. But very often the problem is not at policy but at implementation level. It underlines the need for training the trainers. Consequently I was very encouraged to see that, as other noble Lords have said, there are to be 55 centres set up for the training of supervisors and others concerned with the Youth Training Scheme. Perhaps the noble Earl will assure us that this problem of discrimination will be taken on board in these training provisions. It is particularly important that we should remove discrimination within the Youth Training Scheme.
We are at the crossroads here between the old apprenticeship type of training and the new type of training in what we hope will be transferable skills and a modular system. We are also at the crossroads between the old type of manufacturing and commercial work and the new electronic and information technology industries. I do not fit into the category to which the noble Earl referred of those who hold that our present industrial system is the best one. Like him, I feel that the new industrial system that we are moving into can provide a much better life for the citizens of this country. But it is absolutely vital that the training provisions take this on board and train our young people, irrespective of race or sex, for work in the developing industries.
There is just one other factor to which I should like briefly to refer, and which again has already been referred to by my noble friend Lady David and by other noble Lords: that is, the bulge in the population. The noble Earl, Lord Gowrie, said that at the present time we have two bulges: we have the immediate post-war bulge and the present bulge coming out of the schools. The fact is that the bulge has now just about worked its way out of the schools. According to the DES report in April 1983, the year 1982–83 saw the highest number of 18 year-olds coming through the system; so I think we can assume that we are now moving, as it were, into smaller numbers.
The Earl of Gowrie
My Lords, I entirely agree with the point that the noble Baroness is making, but, if I may correct her on one point, what I said in my 620 opening remarks was that we were facing the exceptional difficulties of the 1960s baby bulge coming on to the labour market before the post-first-war (not the second war) bulge leaves the labour market. If a person was born in 1920 he would be leaving the labour market as a male employee in, say, two years' time. That was the operative point. We should therefore get to an easier position in the late 1980s.
§ Baroness Lockwood
My Lords. I thank the noble Earl for that correction; indeed it was the first world war and the older workers not yet having completely moved out of the labour market that he spoke of. But the point that I was making is that the bulge is now moving out of the school system. Surely that means that we are in a position to use the resources of the school system to improve the services rather than cutting back simply because numbers have decreased.
I think that there are a number of ways in which that could be done. Those in schools and the teaching profession generally who otherwise might become redundant could be used not only within the education system but within the Youth Training Scheme, too. Secondly, I was encouraged when the noble Earl, Lord Gowrie, said that he hoped it would be possible to include most of the 17 year-olds in the Youth Training Scheme. It is very encouraging to note that, but I would hope that we could begin to think in terms of a two-year scheme, and not just a single-year scheme, with a greater content of off-the-job training. Thirdly, we should encourage more young people to remain within the education system at further education colleges if they do not qualify for universities and polytechnics. Again referring to the report of the Select Committee of this House on unemployment, I point out that if we are to encourage young people to remain within the education system, it means that we have to have a co-ordinated and logical policy for grants and not the current ad hoc system that tends to penalise those who remain in school.
So the position is difficult. However, I think that there are many things that could be done to build on what is intended within the Youth Training Scheme. Surely it makes sense for the Government to finance young people in education and training rather than to finance them in unemployment. It is only in this way that we can encourage our youth to have a sense of purpose, and to feel wanted and useful in society, and not rejected by it.
§ 6.50 p.m.
§ Lord Prys-Davies
My Lords, I, too, wish to ask for the forgiveness of the House should I have to leave before the end of the debate. I have to keep an appointment early tomorrow morning, and so I have to be back in South Wales at a reasonable hour of the night. The transition from school to work—those are the words used by my noble friend Lord Blease—is a vital and difficult period in any young person's life, and it is doubly difficult if his society is also in course of transition at that time. We have to accept that there have been changes, and that there are continuing changes, in the traditional pattern of employment and training that we have grown to know and to accept. With the advance of technology—time after time the 621 noble Earl the Minister has referred to the advance of technology—there is an increasing demand for highly skilled labour, rather than unskilled labour. One accepts, one sees the evidence, that technology will lead to fewer jobs, but those jobs will require more and more skill. Unless a young person has acquired the skills which modern industry calls for, he will not be in a position to compete for the jobs which will be available; and I accept that there will be fewer jobs.
I have no expert knowledge, and I speak as a parent in an old industrial area. I can almost describe my valley as being formerly a mining valley. In Wales we have this year about 45,000 school-leavers. Sadly, Wales has a limited range of industries, and they have all been hard hit by the recession. So it is now very difficult to find adult employment, and it is certainly very difficult for young people to find employment. It is estimated that between 70 and 75 per cent. of Welsh school-leavers will be seeking entry to the YTS; for there is no other option. In my own county of Mid-Glamorgan, where so far as Wales is concerned the situation is probably at its worst, it is envisaged that between 80 and 90 per cent.—probably nearer to 90 per cent. than to 80 per cent.—of school-leavers will be seeking a place in the scheme. The employment prospects for young people in Mid-Glamorgan have been described as "catastrophic" and "desperate". That is not exaggerated language. Without the YTS, thousands of school-leavers would be in dire straits, roaming the valleys with no hope.
Therefore, I wish to concentrate on the YTS. I am anxious that the new scheme should be a success. I believe that it has potential. However, there is considerable uncertainty, and that has been voiced in your Lordships' House this afternoon. There are doubts and fears among parents and school-leavers about the capacity of the scheme to meet the demands placed upon it. Again, there are doubts as to whether it is a programme merely to get young people off the dole queue for one year, or whether it will lead to a "proper job", as my noble friend described it, or a "real job", as the Prime Minister described it when she was in Opposition. But whether it be a "real job", or a "proper job", the school-leaver wants a job which offers him a future.
Against this setting I should be content to ask a few questions of the Minister. My questions are not original. They have been voiced by many Members of the House, and they will be voiced by parents and school-leavers in the part of the world that I come from. I understand that in Wales at the end of May 7,164 places in the scheme had been approved, and 16,873 places were in the process of being approved. That is a total of about 24,000 places. But it means a shortfall of about 9,000 places. Can the Minister—if not today, then on another day—explain in detail how the gap of 9,000 places is to be closed by September, or possibly at the very latest, December? If that is the position in Wales, presumably it is also the position in other parts of the country. If the Minister cannot explain how the gap is to be closed during the next few months, what is to become of the many school-leavers who have applied for a place within the scheme but will not be accepted?
Secondly, since the Minister is unable to give a guarantee that the school-leavers who enter the 622 scheme in September (or December) will progress in 12 months' time to a job, or to a scheme of further education, or training, can he assure the House that the Government are seriously addressing themselves to the problem which these young people will have to face in 12 months' time?
Thirdly, in those areas such as Mid-Glamorgan which have been over-dependent on traditional industries, and in the rural areas which lack a private industry base, how, and where, will the school-leavers receive the relevant 39 weeks of work experience of quality? If I may take up a point raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Nicol, I would ask, if the school-leavers have to travel long distances from their home locality for work experience of quality, will the Government give greater assistance towards meeting the costs of travelling expenses? I understand that school-leavers are expected to pay the first £4 per week of travelling expenses out of the £25 per week allowance. Have the Government adopted this line and are they sticking to it, or are they prepared to rethink it?
Fourthly, are the Government satisfied that the scheme in general, and the managing agencies in particular, will be effectively monitored? It is always sensible to be aware of possible risks. Will the Manpower Services Commission be taking all necessary steps to introduce special measures to monitor efficiently, effectively, and at frequent intervals the quality of the schemes organised by the managing agencies, which are not employers in their own right? Many of these agencies will be starting from scratch with no experience whatever of guiding young people through the transition from school to work. They need to be watched.
Fifthly, and finally, I wish to refer to the needs of the handicapped school-leavers and the school-leavers with special needs. My noble friend Lady Nicol has already referred to young people who are handicapped. Although unemployment is grievous for any young person, it is a particular tragedy for the handicapped who can too easily become a prisoner of his home. Some have difficulty in learning. Some learn at a slow rate. Others emerge from school immature and lacking social skills. Will the noble Earl say what percentage of the disabled and handicapped will find a place in the scheme by September? There is a suggestion in the Guardian today that disadvantaged young people may be excluded from the benefit of the scheme because private employers will not be able to accommodate them.
I am sure that it would be the wish of your Lordships' House that the handicapped school-leaver should not be treated as an exception to the rule. His needs are even greater. Indeed, in the case of the handicapped and the disadvantaged school-leaver, in order to meet the handicapping effects of their disability should not the foundation training be, not for 12 months, but for two years? I have asked a number of questions. Given the importance of the YTS and the uncertainty that surrounds it, and given the magnitude of the problem, I think I can best help the young people by asking these questions.
§ 7.2 p.m.
§ Baroness Seear
My Lords, the noble Earl, Lord Gowrie, spent a good deal of his time on the broader economic issues before going on to deal with particular employment issues, which are the main focus of today's debate. It is tempting to follow him in that direction. I shall resist that temptation partly because of the time and also because, after all, we debated economic issues only last week and there would be risk of considerable repetition. I should like only to make one point that we made last week. A carefully planned and job related expenditure on capital projects would give more encouragement to those coming off the Youth Training Scheme that they would be able to find a job at the end of the training period. As so many speakers have remarked, it is highly desirable that there should be confidence among a high proportion of those coming through the Youth Training Scheme that there will be the chance of regular, paid employment that is not of a limited term—the weakness of all the special schemes in the past.
Surely, the attitude that we should be taking towards the Youth Training Scheme is that it is the best effort so far to deal with what is one of the most serious social and economic problems facing this country. While it is right to be critical, it is surely essential to say, as many, although not perhaps all, speakers have remarked today, that we want the scheme to be successful. Can we not have a tripartite approach to this problem on which there is no difference, except in detail, between the parties? Its seriousness is realised on all sides of the House. The scheme can be damaged if growing cynicism towards it leads to a belief that it is no good putting effort into making it successful.
I must declare an interest. I am the chairman of an area manpower board. I am up to my eyebrows in the Youth Training Scheme. This experience has made me feel that some of the questions asked today are somewhat wide of the mark. Many of us who have been considering these problems for a good long time—the points that we made in the Select Committee on unemployment focused on these issues—feel that the initiative and the drive has to come at grass roots level. Of course, there has to be Government financing, but schemes developed at the top never really fit properly at local level. In the Select Committee report we stressed the importance of local initiative and local enterprise in dealing with these problems, and argued that there should be an opportunity to vary what was done according to the particular needs of different localities. The focus of action and initiative, it seems to me, has to take place, not at Government level but at the level of the area boards.
We shall he considering applications for grant schemes next Monday. We cannot possibly say this with certainty, in deciding, month after month, which applications are acceptable and which are not, but we believe that in my area we are on target and that we shall be able to deliver the goods. I confess that if one is operating in the Home Counties the problem is a great deal easier than that which confronts the noble Lord, Lord Prys-Davies. It is a process that is going on all the time.
The committees dealing with these matters are made up, as I think your Lordships know, although it 624 has not been emphasised sufficiently, of employers, trade unionists and educationalists. Only one of those groups needs to say that it is not prepared to go along with the scheme. Every single application has to have on it a signature from a relevant trade union to say that it approves of the scheme. If that signature is not forthcoming and the guarantee is not given because the unions are not satisfied that this is a bona fide scheme that is doing the job properly, it is held up until union agreement is gained. So the safeguards are written in. It depends on the activity, the concern and the energy of local boards to get the matter through.
I would suggest to your Lordships that if concern is as deep as that expressed in the House today—and I am sure it is genuine concern—your Lordships should be getting in touch with local manpower boards to ask what sort of assistance they need to produce the right number of schemes of the right quality on stream to date. That is where it will happen. It is not going to happen because the noble Earl, Lord Gowrie, says that more ought to be done, or gives statistics that will inevitably be out of date because they will not include what we do next Monday. I do not suppose that they will include what we did a week or two ago. I do not know, therefore, what is the point of asking for the figures. It will waste the time of the Minister and that of his department.
The need is for your Lordships to get into your local areas, find out what is happening and discover what you can do about it. The key, as certain noble Lords have recognised, is the managing agents. This scheme will be as good as the managing agents are good. The managing agents are being asked to take on considerable responsibility, risk, cost and inconvenience in a number of cases. They want all the help and the support that they can get. It is surely not too much to hope that, in the light of all the concern that has been expressed, an attempt will be made to turn that concern into inquiry at local level as to what is happening, and that an attempt will be made to ease the job of getting the scheme really working. More managing agents of good quality are needed.
Within your Lordships' House—indeed, within the Chamber this evening—there may well be people who are in a position to encourage other persons to come forward as managing agents. As your Lordships know, managing agents can be private employers, public employers, local authorities or voluntary organisations. Between us in your Lordships' House there must be a large number of people who know a large number of people in the categories that I have listed. Some of them have already come forward as managing agents: some have not—the information may not have reached them. However, the success or failure of the scheme will rest on how well the area manpower boards can do the job and what type of support they get in the localities for the job that they have to do.
The Youth Training Scheme, this one year, is only a beginning. I have bored your Lordships over and over again by emphasising the seriousness of the lack of training of the manpower of this country—not only of school-leavers—and the nightmare that, as industrial recovery comes throughout the world, we shall be left behind because our competitors have a properly trained labour force and we have not.
625 Nobody is suggesting that a one-year youth training programme will make good the lack of proper training for generations—a lack of training which has been condoned by Government after Government, by trade unions and by employers who have done all too little to see that we are in line in our training with the needs of modern industry.
I should like to suggest just one or two things of a practical nature which we might do to build on the Youth Training Scheme. It is an introductory year, that is all. It will not turn people out with the skills that are needed for the kind of industry and the kind of economy that we are now moving into, but it is a beginning.
We have to go back to the schools. Indeed, that has been mentioned by other noble Lords today. First, we need to ensure that youngsters, their parents and the people who teach them know more about the world of work, about jobs and about the knowledge and skill required for the jobs of the future, and know in time. It is no good telling youngsters, when they have already decided not to take physics and to drop maths, that there are good jobs in the electronics world. Why do we not—and we have said this so often, but we really have not done it—get the careers service into the schools before youngsters make the vital choices about the subjects they are going to study? More money spent on a better careers service earlier would be a very important investment indeed.
There needs to he a much greater understanding of the whole world of work among the teachers themselves. This has become a cliché. However, that is what must be understood if youngsters are to prepare themselves properly and to have the attitudes that they need to have when they come out of school. At present we have unemployed teachers. Is it really not possible to have proper, special training for teachers of good calibre who can spearhead inside the schools up and down the country the type of change of attitude in teaching and in teaching staffs that will mean that the schools' approach to the preparation of youngsters for work is quite different from what it is at present? Do not let us pull our punches about this: there are still a large number of teachers who do not begin to understand what it is all about. I am sorry if I am upsetting the friends of the teaching profession.
Only a month or two ago I was talking to a teaching organisation, and the type of questions that I was asked by the audience showed that they simply had not started to understand the changes in outlook that were necessary if youngsters were to be properly prepared, or the degree of collaboration that was necessary with people outside the teaching profession if the job was to be done properly. Therefore, those are two things that we might be doing. We need much better training and a corps of teachers of high calibre who would begin working the changes inside the schools. I know that work is being done and that in some schools remarkable changes are taking place, but they are nothing like enough.
Thirdly, let me echo what the noble Baroness, Lady Lockwood, said about the children who decide to stay on at school. I am not suggesting that there should be financial inducements to youngsters to stay on at school, but it is quite wrong that there should be 626 financial inducements for them not to stay on at school and that the decision about whether they stay at school or whether they try to get a job, or whether they go into the Youth Training Scheme and then get a job, should not be made on the basis that there are a few pounds to be had in their pocket if they go to the YTS and that they will be much worse off if they stay at school.
I remember well, when we were discussing this matter in the Select Committee on Unemployment, that we came sadly to the conclusion that such grants for staying on at school would have to be means-tested; but if they were means-tested they should be mandatory. So in those families where the additional pounds were going to be a matter of great importance the decision should not be weighted because they would not be certain that, if they made the decision to stay on at school, they were not going to get the money. It would not cost the Government any more, because if youngsters leave and go to the YTS they have to pay them there anyway, so they might as well pay them if they stay on at school.
Another point to be made in the longer term is that certainly my party would like to see the training period two years rather than one year, although that two-year period might be handled in a variety of different ways. The period from 16 to 18 is a growing period, a learning period, a maturing period and a period of very great importance. I should like to suggest to the noble Earl that we look very carefully indeed at what is happening in the tertiary colleges. It may well be that a big change in education is needed. We have been tinkering about with the idea of sixth form colleges and tertiary colleges for some time, and we have not made up our minds what we want to do about them. However, it is at least arguable—and I think that I am now convinced—that the best way forward would be the tertiary college in which youngsters were working full time for A-levels but, at the same time, under the same roof and mixing in with them in social and sporting activities would be people doing part-time courses, day release, people doing more practical kinds of training, vocational and professional training in a variety of subjects.
It seems that a great many youngsters now do not want to go into the old style sixth form at school. They want to leave at that age and they want to go to a college which is for more adult people than they experience at school. I recognise the problems from the point of view of the teachers. But, after all, at the end of the day, we run schools for the sake of the pupils and not for the sake of the people who teach them—a point which must be made but which often gets overlooked.
The tertiary college seems to be the way ahead. There we would have the people who are staying on at school with these mandatory means-tested grants, but along with them would be people who were following through in the training programmes. The people in the YTS could be doing their 13 weeks (let us hope that it will be more than 13 weeks) in these tertiary colleges. That is a development which at least we ought to consider very seriously indeed when we look at the type of additional developments we want in the new programme of which the YTS is just the beginning.
Again, why do we not seriously consider the "two for one" schemes (such as General Electric have been 627 running in Coventry) for youngsters when they have finished with the first year YTS? General Electric in Coventry took the youngsters in their scheme from the Youth Opportunities Scheme. They took two for each job. They worked half of the time and they were released for additional training—and, of course, it could be far more specific training, for by the time they finished their one year of YTS they would have a much clearer idea of the special skills and the module that they then wanted to pursue. They could do that in the other half of their time, when they were not being employed. That is a "two for one" scheme.
I happen to be a supporter of job-splitting for certain categories of people who wish to do it, provided that it is properly controlled. I realise that there are objections. I can see no objection at all in regard to the 17 to 19 year-olds because by building on the basis of the YTS you can build expertise with job experience. If you did this, the problem of finding regular work for the people coming off the YTS would be only half as difficult because for each job two people coming off a YTS would get a job. By the age of 19 they would, of course, have to be full-time employees. But by that time they would have acquired additional skills, have had additional training, have had three years' experience and have something that was marketable, which is what these young people have to achieve.
§ 7.21 p.m.
§ Lord Gormley
My Lords, I would not have missed this debate for the world. My education was sadly lacking before I came here this afternoon. Like my noble friend Lord Wells-Pestell, I do not know why I am here; I do not know why I am participating in this debate, because I am not an educationist. To pretend to be an economist would I think be stretching the truth quite a lot; in fact, economics used to be the bane of my life.
As I have listened to this debate I have realised why I was asked to wind up for those on this side who formed the majority of the contributors to the debate. I want to thank the various noble Baronesses and noble Lords who have explained the difficulties of the further education system and the Youth Training Scheme that is to be introduced in Britain. I realise that they have all touched upon one problem, as regards the difficulties of school-leavers, which is: how do we get them ready to take a job, how do we get them ready to enter the field of employment? They defined the difficulty with the training schemes and the curricula of schools, which I would suggest is similar to the difficulty we had over the training programme for the apprenticeship scheme in the pits, when we had to change over from the traditional mining methods to modern mining methods. We had to change the whole curriculum of the apprenticeship scheme, just as the schools have to change their curricula if they are to get people ready for this modern society. I shall come back to that in a while.
I thought it better to concentrate my efforts on what I see as part salvation of the problems after the training has finished and people cannot find jobs. I was not present to hear the Queen's Speech or during the debate that followed, for which I apologise. Unfortunately, the right honourable lady in the other 628 House did not come and ask my advice about the date and I had already booked a holiday with three of my grandchildren, and I thought that my priority lay there. The Queen's Speech did not do very much to alleviate my feelings that this attempt was any more serious than the attempt made in the previous Queen's Speech. I though that it contained very little to solve the problems of Britain.
There were three comments on it to which I took some exception from two noble Lords who are not here today. I wish they were, because one of them particularly referred to the problems of a pit in South Wales. I hope that your Lordships all listened to the speech made by the noble Lord, Lord Prys-Davies, on the problems that exist in certain areas, which are isolated areas. We might have uneconomic collieries, or other sections of the economy might have to be subsidised, but the choice concerning people will be whether you subsidise them to produce something or whether you subsidise them to produce nothing. That is the challenge that faces many of us when we deal with uneconomic pits.
I do not think it is enough simply to quote a certain pit as being totally uneconomic and say, therefore, that it should close; you have to look at the whole detail, the whole psychology, that is affected when the only place where wages are able to be earned in an area is closed, and at the social effect it has, not only on the men concerned but on the families, the shopkeepers and everybody else. I decided to take part in this debate as I was unable to take part in that previous debate.
The second point I want to mention concerns the comment that was made on the trade union movement. There is such a hullabaloo going on at the moment in Government as if if all the trade unions finished tomorrow it would solve our problems. It is completely stupid to think that that would ever solve the problem. While we are wasting time doing that, we are not solving the economic problems of the country. We can pay too much attention to it. That is why I was pleased to read the speech of my old colleague, the noble Lord, Lord Ezra, who said that we know the problems so let us address ourselves to them rather than keep flying at one another and perhaps getting the wrong solutions
The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Norwich has highlighted the work being done in the area of the Youth Training Programme and said that 58 per cent. of those who had gone through the programme had found jobs, but there were still 42 per cent. who had not. It is that 42 per cent. about whom we are talking today—the ones for whom we do not find jobs when they have been trained. I hope that we can try to solve the situation by some suggestions that I shall make. I do not expect the noble Earl to answer my questions tonight, although he may be able to answer the questions that have been raised on the education side.
Our population is among the most sophisticated of any people that I have visited in the world, and I have visited 57 countries. Here we have a position where the older, the highly skilled technicians—I am not talking just about shopfloor people now but middle and higher management—because of what is happening in the world (I am not just saying what is happening in Britain), are having to be thrown on the scrap heap 629 because firms are becoming bankrupt. Many times that is not their fault; they may have orders but they just do not have the cash. Those people with that high expertise, perhaps having been trained by some schemes similar to those we have spoken about today, are being thrown on the scrap heap in the middle of their life at a time when they should be at their peak, with no hope of ever finding a job. They have a feeling of bitterness and betrayal. How can we expect people like that to be loyal to any employer again? You are wishing for something that is not possible.
Others have highlighted the plight of youngsters at schools and universities who have no hope. I do not go along with those who say that it does not cause any problems. I believe that they are a breeding ground for the malcontents, for the political malcontents as much as anything, not just the industrial malcontents. As has been said this evening, 12 months' training is no replacement for a regular job. Since I retired I have been travelling round the country speaking to different groups of people including the CBI, the British Institute of Management, the Institute of Directors, schools, all sorts of political parties—anyone you can name, I have been speaking to them. I have spoken on one theory alone: before we get to an election, let us get Britain back to work. That is the only problem and the real problem that we have to face, because we need to buy jobs. It is just as easy to buy a job as it is to buy a place in the dole queue.
When I led a large trade union delegation to five Ministers before I left office I put certain suggestions forward. I think that those same three things are relevant today in the short term to solve some of the problems. As the noble Earl the Minister said, we have to increase productivity; we have to embrace the new technologies. The reluctance to embrace the new technologies is caused because of the high rate of unemployment that surrounds everybody. I believe that three things could be done—we still need legislation—which, if the Government declared that they intended to do them would cause such a rippling effect that inevitably it could cause many people to want to make a move. I talk about the electrification of the railways. It is a must. It is no good to keep having speculative reports as to how we can cut back the railway system. We have got to have a railway system which will get the goods from the place of production to the consumers, along with the big road building programme which needs to be elaborated on and speeded up. We also have the house building programme which is so essential, particularly in the centre of our cities.
The Minister and some people may say to me that these three things will cost billions; they are bound to cause inflation. But we are talking about jobs that are going to take five or six years to complete. They may cost billions in the long term, but they will gain a lot more back because they will take people off the dole to do worthwhile jobs for Britain during that period. During that period, which I regard as only a first exercise, we could encourage the introduction of modern technology. We need to get people to want to accept it. We need to encourage joint talks between management, workers and trade unions at all levels to try to change their work patterns.
630 We want to get people involved in wanting to get all the modern techniques applied in their own industries instead of being Luddites. We never were Luddites in mining. We accepted all the modern techniques because we said if you take the "w" out of work, that is what we are looking for. We need to change the work patterns deliberately. If we think in our minds of a five or six-day week, we will never solve the unemployment problem.
We have all the education systems guaranteed to get the lads' or girls' minds thinking that five or six days is the working week. I remember talking to a Labour Party conference a few years ago. I said that I did not know what all the fuss was about. We were not born to work. We were born, and out of economic necessity we have to work to earn money. If we had a barter system we would have to work to get things to barter with, but we have the system so we have to work. But that does not mean that we necessarily have to work five or six days every week.
If we could produce all the wealth we needed in Britain by everybody working two or three days a week, what the hell is wrong with that? What is wrong with a system that says we can employ more and more people for less and less of the week, but perhaps the machine working more hours a week, or more hours a day? What is wrong with that? Then we would increase our production and lower our production costs.
I hope we have not forgotten the lesson we learned when Ted Heath decided that the country ought to go on a three-day week. It was the finest period we have ever had for productivity. Nobody ever learnt the lesson. We should have been going along that line, and saying that it is better if everybody works a three-day week. We would get more productivity. But they never learnt the lesson.
Now is the time, when the unemployment figure is so high, that, in order to cut that figure down and get it right and get the jobs, we have to get the new ideas in our minds. Do not let us throw them away because it has traditionally been a five or six-day week. We had the same problem when we went on a five-day week in the pits. They said we would lose a lot of coal. We did for a while, but we gradually got it back. It is a question of using new techniques in order to change people's minds. This is why there is a big job to be done. We have to educate people that a shorter working life is the order of the day.
Since I came here there have been more late night shifts than I have ever known, but here we have a chance to change it if we do not talk as long, and I shall try not to. The shorter working life for me is the real order of the day. Longer and daily production from expensive machinery should be our objective. If we can fill coal for three shifts a day, if we can have the machines cutting coal for 18 hours a day, why cannot we and other production industries be thinking of the 24 hours rather than just a few hours? Why should we not be encouraging industry to accept multi-production shifts? If we provide expensive machinery and it is not working, it is costing money.
It might be wrong for me saying it from this side of the field as an ex-trade union leader, but that to me is the solution of the problem of both the unemployment figure and the low production that we have been saying 631 is causing us to lose exports. I think we can cure both if we tackle them properly. This is where there is a need for the Government to take a lead. If they did as I suggested, and as we suggested as trade unionists, and in the short term went for those jobs which can be done immediately for the betterment of Britain; if they put money into that and told the people we intended to do that, the rippling effects on the supply industry would be fantastic. The big growth industry would be the leisure industry, and we can deal with that as we come to it.
I ask the Government to pay heed to these positive suggestions. If successful, they would create all the wealth needed for the finest education system in the world, and the finest social security system in the world. There would not be am threat to the benefits which have been—well, not enjoyed, but having to be received by those involved. If this sort of position were accepted, it would cause a lot of discussion, a lot of talk, and it would need a lot of persuasion, but it would create an urge for people to invest and to create a totally different atmosphere in this country.
It would help to create more wealth in the bigger energy markets. More important still, it would also give a lead to Europe. It would give us a chance to give bigger help to the underdeveloped parts of the world mentioned earlier in the debate. This again would create the need for bigger markets for exports. I am informed also that it would give us a better chance to fight for a peaceful world.
In short, what am I saying? I am saying that because of our assets—and I have not mentioned the energy wealth we have in Britain; we are unique in the Western world—we should be more positive and accept that motto. Let us get Britain back to work. Let us lead Europe and then the rest of the world to recovery. If we have confidence, I am sure we can do it. We should then get back our respectability and be regarded once again as Great Britain. We can then prove that Government by full consultation works. In short, we should be able to change society not by revolution but by broad and genuine agreement.
§ 7.37 p.m.
The Earl of Gowrie
My Lords, if your Lordships will give me leave to join the night shift, I shall try to see that we all knock off reasonably early. I should like to welcome the noble Lord, Lord Gormley, most warmly to the Front Bench. I do not know whether he has spoken from it before, but certainly not when I have been facing him. During these recent days as we wait rather nervously for the outcome of all those to-ings and fro-ings between the Leader of the Opposition's Room and No. 10 as to who is going to come to our House, I certainly hope that we can be given half as good a vintage as the noble Lord, who is indeed one of the assets not only of the House but of course of the whole nation. I certainly received my political education when the noble Lord was very much in the thick of things during the three-day week. I do not in fact think that some of the lessons of productivity learnt at that time have gone unnoticed by industry in this country or by the Government. But, as he knows, it is difficult to institutionalise things that one learns in periods of great stress and crisis.
632 We have had a good enough go on the general economic side and the only other thing I would say to the noble Lord—and this is the point I made to the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, last week—is that there is a great attraction in getting back to work in the way he suggests. Those of us who have served or lived in Northern Ireland know that big programmes of public works change the mood and produce employment, but it is very hard to sustain that kind of employment when they run out. That is something that would have to be part of the discussions that the noble Lord suggested should take place.
I have been asked a great many questions and I shall go at somewhat of a lick. I apologise in advance if I do not deal with every point that has been made to me. Perhaps some could be followed up in correspondence. I was a little depressed by the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Wells-Pestell, in spite of his having been rather nice to me, because he asked rhetorically what anyone was really doing about this problem of youth unemployment. I thought that he was answered very well by my noble friend Lord Beloff, who pointed out very mildly, I felt, that over £1 billion of expenditure on a problem is not nothing. And throwing money at a problem is not the only solution. We try carefully to monitor the quality and reality of the work being done.
I hope that all noble Lords who think the Government are not working hard enough at the issues will attend to the speech made by the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, when she wound up. I am not suggesting any sinister Lib-Tory pact, but she pointed out that the Youth Training Scheme must be a great community effort. It must be tripartite not only in the conventional sense but in the political sense of the word. The Government have their duties in setting up the organisation and running it, and they have to provide it with money. After that it is up to us as parents and employers, and up to the young people themselves.
My noble friend Lady Carnegy anticipated the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, when she, with all her experience of the Manpower Services Commission in particular in Scotland, pointed out that we must not talk this effort down. It needs a push from the whole community and if we talk it down we may succeed in persuading young people that it is not a good start and that it is unnecessary. That would compound the problems that we have.
I was naturally sorry to hear from my noble friend, if I may so describe him, Lord Blease, that there have been some difficulties in Northern Ireland. Northern Ireland got off with the scheme rather earlier than anyone else and perhaps the teething troubles there appeared earlier. I shall bring some of his criticisms to the attention of my honourable friend, Mr. Butler, though I rather suspect that the noble Lord will be in closer contact more immediately with my honourable friend than I shall. Perhaps if we both bend his ear one of us will succeed in getting through. I noticed that the noble Baroness, Lady Ewart-Biggs, mentioned Northern Ireland. We shall try to keep her in touch with what is going on there.
We are grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady David, for initiating the debate. It is an enormously important subject with which to start this Session. She asked me 633 whether those qualified to enter higher education would be provided with places. My advice is that the age participation rate for higher education is at its highest level since 1974 or 1975 and the Government believe that there is capacity in the higher education system, within our expenditure plans, to meet expected student demand in the coming years. I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Nicol, that the provision of places in education is not enough. There must be the motivation among those concerned. It is true, as the noble Lord, Lord Somers, said, and as was echoed by the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, that we must get the extent of the new industrial revolution and the consciousness of its extent into the schools very early. As one of those responsible for the careers service at the beginning of this Government, I laid great emphasis on that and I am sure my colleagues do as well.
The noble Baroness, Lady David, asked what curriculum changes were being considered in further education particularly. The traditional specialised education and training is being replaced by more flexible and broadly based courses of initial preparation, followed by specialist topping-up. As the noble Lady herself mentioned, the further education unit is much involved in this curriculum development process. Its budget has been doubled this year as a reflection of this important work.
The noble Baroness asked about numbers in non-advanced further education and wondered whether there were not too many. Nearly 50 per cent. of all 16 year-olds are now staying on in full-time education and this is an encouraging trend. Money is being allowed for this increase, some £100 million, over our plans for the fiscal year 1982–83 and by means of the rate support grant. This extra support is being continued. Schools and colleges have responded well to extra demand, in the main. There may be some local course over-subscription, but our hope is that all who want to stay in full-time education will be able to do so. I again stress the importance of the right motivation.
The noble Baroness, Lady David, also asked, now that Sir Keith Joseph was responsible within the Department of Education and Science for the 16 to 19 year-olds, what would be done for them? Government policy is well known and it includes such new initiatives as the YTS itself. There is also the certificate of pre-vocational education, sometimes known colloquially as the 17-plus, which is a one-year full-time study programme with a vocational bias.
There is also the new technical and vocational initiative, which was mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Kilmarnock, in his speech. In response to some of his questions, I am glad to be able to tell him that the Cabinet has agreed to extending the initiative and my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Employment announced this in a Parliamentary Question last Thursday. I believe that the success of the initiative should give a lead in raising the level of technical education in the country as the ideas behind it gradually become in-built into the education system. I hope that it will be a growth area and can meet some of the problems in the schools which the noble Baroness and others outlined.
634 The noble Lord, Lord Donnet of Balgay, mentioned the need for updating skills and knowledge in mid-career. We are encouraging the education service to do more to meet industry's needs and demands in this respect. To stimulate development in this area we announced two programmes last year, the PICKUP programme—the acronym for professional, industrial, and commercial up-dating—to be run by the DES and aimed at flexible learning across the board. Secondly we have the MSC's open tech programme which is aimed at increasing access to education and training for the technician group. When one starts totting up these programmes—I agree that they need close monitoring—we are at long last starting to compare reasonably favourably with our competitors.
The noble Lord, Lord Kilmarnock, and the noble Baroness asked me about Youth Training Scheme places. The latest figures are more encouraging than those I gave in my opening speech. Overall 200,000 places—which is 43 per cent. of the target—have now been approved by the area boards and the MSC is confident in the light of that achievement.
The noble Lord, Lord Kilmarnock, asked about the community programme and age qualifications. A young person aged 18 to 24 who has been unemployed for six months in the last nine months is eligible, or a young person aged 25 or over who has been unemployed for the past 12 months of the last 15 months is eligible, to apply for a job on the community programme.
I think we all agree about the monitoring of quality. The MSC's local programme teams will be responsible for ensuring that the quality requirements of the scheme are met. My noble friend Lady Carnegy gave some of her experience of that. The MSC additionally is appointing a quality assurance consultant for each of its regions. The consultants will carry out a regular regional assessment of quality of schemes. As to training of the trainers, the MSC is setting up 55 accredited centres for the training of sponsored staff and other providers of training for young people. This, too, should be a persistent upward force in improving the quality of the schemes. The noble Countess, Lady Mar, asked me about the European resolution on youth employment. As she is not here, I will write to her about that.
The noble Baroness, Lady Fisher of Rednal, in a trenchant speech which I much enjoyed—I am not sure that I was supposed to enjoy it at all that much, but I did all the same—spoke about whether some of these schemes were meeting the points I made in my opening remarks about adapting to new technologies and new industries. I have a report from my right honourable friend the Secretary of State. He recently spent a day in the Medway towns seeing a variety of training schemes. He began at an 18th century fort where a team of instructors and unemployed craftsmen are working both to repair the fort as an historic site and to train young school-leavers in those various and widely applicable skills. He then went on to Marconi Avionics, which is starting a YTS scheme centred on its own sophisticated electronics operation as well as taking on 60 extra youngsters for training on top of their normal intake of 40 craft and technical apprentices. The company is devoting management time to help these smaller local companies take part in 635 YTS. I would certainly hope that other, comparable large companies would perform this useful piggy-back role. That is something that we could build on.
Finally, he went to a local authority training workshop where trainees with perhaps less ability get a variety of basic skills with building materials, electronics assembly and metal work. I take the point about life being rather generally easier in the southeast, but I would point out to noble Lords who might have that thought in mind that the Medway area has suffered considerable employment devastation in recent years.
I come now to the points made about the money paid out to young people on the scheme. I think it most important to recognise that this is not work. We are not fooling ourselves, and therefore we are not engaged on paying people. This is a training allowance, and we recognise that 16 year-olds, through this scheme, are in the world of work, that their expenses consequently do exist and that it would be unfair to require their parents to meet them solely. We are on discrimination issues, and the noble Baroness, Lady Lockwood, was kind to me about my experiences in those fields. Where the scheme is concerned we are uninterested in sex. We must be one of the very few bodies in the country uninterested in sex. Also, we are colour-blind. I think that your Lordships would wish that we remain so.
On the travel expenses, about which the noble Baroness, Lady Fisher and the noble Lord, Lord Prys-Davies, asked me, people who are participating in YTS as trainees will be reimbursed travel expenses in excess of £4 a week. That has been indexed in reverse, so to speak, for some time, and, therefore, there is a concomitant benefit. I can also tell the noble Baroness, Lady Fisher, and the noble Lord, Lord Prys-Davies, that disabled youngsters may receive a 13-week extension, taking their time beyond 52 weeks in certain circumstances. That, of course, is a substantive addition.
The noble Baroness, Lady Nicol, in a speech which in this respect, at least, was music to my ears coming from the Benches that it did, underlined the importance of employees costing less to the employers—which seemed to me an impeccable Tory sentiment and not one that we are used to hearing very often from the Benches opposite. The Government are helping the small employer through the Young Workers' Scheme, and she will be aware of the details about that. My noble friend Lord Gridley brought us back to the world of new technology and asked me about what was being done on microcomputers. If my noble friend will forgive me and allow me to save time, I mentioned some of the Government schemes in respect of introducing computers into the educational system during the debate on the gracious Speech last week. If my noble friend will look at that he will see, I think, that we are doing quite a lot. I can add to that tonight by saying that the Government are providing £1 million for the provision of microcomputers in career offices to help with the YTS. I think that that, also, is a good addition to the microprocessor application project and the micros in schools project and the new blood initiative that I mentioned last week.
636 My noble friend Lord Gridley was also worried about a benefit trap where young people were concerned. The fact is that a young person leaving school in Summer is not entitled to supplementary benefit until September. If he or she intends to return to full-time education, he or she is not eligible for benefit at all. That gets over that particular difficulty.
I should like to end on a reasonably upward note. One of my noble friends on the Front Bench, perhaps sorry for me in view of the immense amount of questions that have been put to me, baled me out by bringing me a copy of the Standard business section of this very day. There, Sir John Sainsbury has been issuing his company report, and he said:By the end of the decade not only will all our supermarkets be equipped with their own computers but they are likely to have electronic scanning at every checkout. New technology will mean faster communications, allowing us to respond to consumer requirements with greater speed and efficiency.Sir John went on:As a result of all this investment in machines that are supposed to destroy jobs, 24,000 more men and women are employed at Sainsbury's today than were 10 years ago. During this year we plan to recuit 1,000 young people under the Youth Training Scheme, to every one of whom we hope to offer employment".That seemed to me an enormously encouraging sign.
Finally, if I could cite another great and good person thoroughly committed to this problem that we all have about young people, I should like to quote from Sir Terence Beckett, who is not, I think, always unconditionally supportive of the Government. He said yesterday in The Times:As I travel the country, some employers have asked me how I can, with order books and profits at an all-time low, be expected to take on more school leavers. My answer is, 'How can you afford not to?'. There are signs that the recession is easing. As demand increases, employers will be looking for more labour and the people they will want to take on will be those with some real experience, those who have an understanding of the needs of business and a basic knowledge of tomorrow's technology. I believe that this scheme can provide them. It is a major operation. We have seen nothing quite like this since general mobilisation nearly half a century ago. The difference is that the aims are entirely peaceful. Today the common enemy is unemployment. We must attack it with all the forces at our command.We can all give assent to that; and, if we can mobilise our own feelings as a contribution towards this problem in the way that overall has been positively suggested this evening, I think we shall win this battle.
§ Baroness David
The noble Earl has answered a great many questions that I have asked but there is one important one that he has not answered. It is what is to happen about withdrawing benefits from those who are reluctant to go on the scheme.
The Earl of Gowrie
My Lords, that would be under consideration. My own view is that people who do not take part in the scheme would have to have rather strong reasons for not doing so. It would seem to me unreasonable, if the scheme were provided, not to expect them to go on with it.
§ Lord Kilmarnock
My Lords, again before the noble Earl sits down, would he look at my query about the lack of any training element in the Young Worker Scheme, and perhaps write to me about it?
§ 7.58 p.m.
§ Baroness David
My Lords, we have had a long debate and I shall not speak for more than a minute or two. I should like to thank the noble Lords and the many noble Baronesses who have taken part in this discussion of what I think is an extremely important subject. I must make one comment. I was rather amused to read in The Times this morning a letter from Lord Diamond saying that the duties of Her Majesty's loyal Opposition can safely be left with the Alliance Peers. We have had 19 speakers today, including one speaker from the Liberals and one from the SDP. Hence that comment.
I was rather upset by the moans and groans about the new training scheme. I think that was unfair. I said particularly that I welcomed it and wished it success. I think it is quite right to ask questions and to try to make sure that the scheme is as good as possible. That is what we have done from this side and I do not think that anyone has decried the scheme. If Lord Beloff thought that I said what he said that I said, I did not make myself clear; and I will take that up with him another time.
I am sorry that we did not have more employers and people from the world of industry speaking from the Government Benches. That would have been very helpful to all of us. I thank the noble Earl for answering so many of the questions. I think that I knew most of the answers that he gave to the educational questions. The answer that I wanted about the curriculum was really something more fundamental than just what is being done about the 17-plus and so on; but I will not go into that now.
So I shall come back. The question of school-leavers that we have been discussing today is an extremely important question. It has been very well aired and it will continue to be in all our minds. No doubt we shall come back to it, possibly before the end of the two years that the noble Earl mentioned in his speech. I beg leave to withdraw my Motion for Papers.
§ Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.
§ House adjourned at one minute past eight o'clock.