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School Leavers (Employment)

Volume 895: debated on Monday 7 July 1975

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asked the Secretary of States for Wales what projects he proposes to initiate under the special powers now available to him in order to provide useful occupation for school leavers who are unable to find employment at the present time.

The powers my right hon. and learned Friend has assumed under the Industry Act 1972 do not enable him to initiate such schemes. However, we will use these powers to the full to create new employment opportunities generally, thereby increasing the jobs available for school leavers.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the number of unemployed school leavers has reached an unacceptably high level even before the end of the school year? What is the outlook for school leavers who will be leaving in the next few days for finding a reasonable job? Is this what the Labour Party meant when it talked about getting Britain back to work? Is it not time that the Secretary of State admitted that the number of unemployed now and the even greater number to be expected next year are due solely to the failure of this Government to tackle the problem of inflation by telling the people that unless they accept a cut in their living standards now they will be without a job next year?

The hon. Gentleman is scraping the barrel on this one. I stress that the Government inherited a miserably stagnated economy from the previous administration and that the Government are currently engaged on the major issue of organising a strategy to defeat inflation.

With regard to the hon. Gentleman's own locality, I looked at the figures relating to North-East Wales. They are not good enough. The present Government regard unemployment as something to be defeated and they will take every measure possible to do so—for example, the Community Industry Scheme, the contingency plans of the Training Services Agency and the Training Award Scheme. These are schemes announced by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment and they are making a positive contribution to getting rid of school-leaving unemployment.

Will my hon. Friend, together with the Department of Employment, direct attention to the decline in the number of apprenticeships in Wales, particularly in the construction and engineering industries in the present recession, so that this country will be prepared for the expected upturn in the economy when it occurs?

Yes, I can take that on board. I have mentioned the Training Award Scheme. This is designed to keep the young off the streets and out of the dole queue by, for example, giving a £15 a week tax-free grant so that youngsters can have an apprenticeship training scheme for one year.

If I may take up that last point, is the Under-Secretary aware that in 1972 his fellow Under-Secretary said that he felt especially strongly about school leavers and in the course of a debate put forward specific proposals designed to deal with that situation, and that that was at a time when unemployment was lower than it is now? Will the hon. Gentleman assure me that he will take up those proposals? Does he share the view that his hon. Friend expressed at that time that the unemployment figures are an absolute condemnation of the Government and of their policy?

I have already outlined the way in which my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment intends to tackle the problem in Wales with regard to school-leaving unemployment. As for the hon. Gentleman's quotation of a remark by a colleague of mine, the record of the previous administration in 1972 was a miserable one.