asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what steps he is taking to assist the Scottish economy to absorb the large number of children leaving school and seeking employment in the current year.
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what discussions he has had with industrial organisations about employment problems facing school leavers in 1975.
Between February and March the number of unemployed school leavers in Scotland fell by over one-third. In mid-March there were more vacancies for young persons notified to the Department of Employment than there were unemployed school leavers. These figures are an encouraging sign.
Is my hon. Friend aware that the people of Scotland will be pleased to note the encouraging trend of those figures? Nevertheless, is he aware that in Fife in particular in March of this year there were 141 school leavers still unemployed, compared with 52 in March 1974? Will he give encouragement to the people in my constituency, and in other parts of Scotland, by indicating that the Scottish Development Agency will have the powers necessary to ensure employment for school leavers?
I take my hon. Friend's point. The employment situation is not as good this year as it was last year, and this has affected unemployment amongst school leavers as well as elsewhere.Apart from particular things that one can do to help young people, the answer is a healthy Scottish economy within a healthy United Kingdom economy, and that is what the various steps that we are taking, including the establishment of the SDA, are designed to bring about. in this as in other fields the SDA will have a favourable effect upon the Scottish economy.
I thank my hon. Friend for the good news that he has brought us. It seems that things are a little better. However, is he aware that of the 80,000 school leavers this year 64,000 will find it very hard to get jobs? Is he considering doubling the regional employment premium for those firms which are prepared to take on extra apprentices? If we can develop the skills now for the great future that is ahead of us we shall have done a good job.
The level of unemployed school leavers at the minute is just over 2,000. That is far too high a level, but it is not comparable with the figure that my hon. Friend mentioned. His specific question is more a matter for the Department of Employment and the Training Services Agency, but I shall pursue his suggestion that employers might be given special incentives to take on young people in this difficult situation. I shall write to my hon. Friend about that matter.