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School Leavers

Volume 932: debated on Wednesday 25 May 1977

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19.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what are the prospects of employment for school leavers in the summer.

Long-term prospects will depend largely upon the successful development of the Government's economic policies, which must in turn be related to world economic conditions. In the shorter term we have introduced a wide programme of measures designed to lessen the impact of unemployment on particularly hard-hit groups, such as the young, and we are urgently considering the proposals for additional assistance on an even more far-reaching scale which are contained in the recently published report of the Manpower Services Commission on Young People and Work.

In view of the dire prospects facing school leavers this summer, will not the Minister accept the view of the House that the empty statement that he has just made is devoid of policy content? As a representative of the interim Government of Scotland, can he not come up with some specific policies to deal with the real human problems that will face those who are about to leave school in the industrial areas of Scotland?

My statement was not an empty statement, nor did it imply any complacency on my part. I can speak for all my hon. Friends when I say that we are genuinely and sincerely concerned about prospects for young people who will be leaving school in June. However, we have already taken a number of measures, such as job creation programmes, youth employment subsidies and job release schemes, which make and have made a substantial contribution to providing employment for young people.

Secondly, much work has been done and will continue to be done in providing training for young people. As I said, we hope to respond quickly to the report prepared for our guidance by the Manpower Services Commission. I should add that the Manpower Services Commission's functions in Scotland will be transferred to the Secretary of State for Scotland on 1st July, and we shall have our own response to make in that regard.

Why does the Minister constantly import international dimensions into the arguments about employment? The construction industry is not affected by international consequences of the IMF. Why do the Government not give a massive boost to the construction industry and employ a very large number of young people in the productive side of this industry and, at the same time, increase the number of apprentices and journeymen that we shall require in the next five or six years?

Before people decide to build factories they have to have something to produce in them. This is where the international scene is involved. Recently the Chancellor made a number of announcements relating to assistance for the construction industry. We hope that these will make a valuable contribution to employment in this area.

When does the Minister expect to have the seasonally adjusted unemployment figures for Scotland? Is he not ashamed that after three years of Labour Government we have such an appallingly high rate of unemployment?

I, and everyone else on the Government side of the House, regard the present unemployment figures as totally unsatisfactory. The Government have pursued a number of initiatives and we trust that these will reduce the unacceptable level in the future. I shall not make any guesses; I shall leave that to the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Taylor). That is a problem for him, not for me.