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School Leavers (London)

Volume 927: debated on Tuesday 1 March 1977

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asked the Secretary of State for Employment how many young people who left school in 1976 or earlier are still unemployed in South-East London.

On 13th January 1977, the latest date on which the unemployed were analysed by age groups, 7,103 young people under 20 years of age, of whom 2,675 were school leavers, who are defined as those still seeking their first employment, were registered as unemployed in South-East London. By 10th February 1977 the number of school leavers unemployed had fallen to 2,190. The statistics do not identify the date of leaving school but it is known that most of these were 1976 summer term leavers.

Does my hon. Friend agree that these scandalous figures show that South-East London is in quite as bad a position as many of the regions? Does he not agree that it is disgraceful that we should be paying thousands of youngsters to do nothing? Is he aware that the form of unemployment benefit often discourages young people from going back to school or from getting further training? Will the Government come forward with an opportunity guarantee to see that youngsters who cannot find jobs are given something useful to do from the time they leave school?

The figures are very disturbing, but they are much more disturbing in Lambeth, Lewisham and Southwark than they are in Bexley, Bromley and Croydon. There is a very big difference between these areas. The idea that my hon. Friend put forward is in line with the social contract aim to provide further education opportunities for all young people, disabled or not. This idea is being examined by the Manpower Services Commission, and we are looking forward to getting its observations on this aim as quickly as possible.

Can the Minister tell the House whether discussions are taking place with the Department of Education and Science to discover what educational skills school leavers have, and whether there is a high correlation between lack of achievement and ability and the failure to get jobs?

We do not need discussions or inquiries to establish that. There is a very strong correlation between unemployed youngsters and those with a lack of training and qualifications.

Will the Minister take very seriously the remarks of his hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, West (Mr. Price)? The whole House feels that the various methods we have at the moment for helping school leavers are not adequate and are not likely to be so over the next few years. What is required is a comprehensive training scheme to enable young people to go from school to some form of training that they feel is worth while and that the country can afford.

Because we believe that very stronely, we have the Manpower Services Commission working on the feasibility of such a programme at present. The real problem is not with the school leaver—there has been a dramatic fall in the number of school leavers unemployed—but with unemployment among young people under 20 who are unqualified and untrained.

Is my hon. Friend satisfied with the standard of equipment that youngsters receiving craft apprentice training are being forced to use? Is he aware that at the Percival Whitley College at Halifax youngsters are serving apprenticeships on clapped-out machinery the like of which they would never meet in private industry? Will he have discussions to ensure that craft apprentices are given proper equipment on which to serve their apprenticeships?

The mass of complaints that I receive are centred on the fact that training is very often on machinery that is far better than that used outside in private industry. When I visit my hon. Friend's constituency I will look into this problem.