asked the Secretary of State for Defence what consideration he has given to extending job experience schemes currently being promoted by the Government to the Armed Forces.
I assume that the hon. Member is referring to the work experience schemes which are managed by the Manpower Services Commission as part of the youth employment programme. The Ministry of Defence has been considering how it can usefully participate in these arrangements. As a first step we are about to launch certain pilot schemes involving trainees in the civilian industrial field.
I give a halfhearted welcome to that reply. May I press the right hon. Gentleman further and say that, at a time when tens of thousands of young people are out of work and the Armed Forces are short of manpower, a six-months' work experience programme with the colours would be valuable experience for those young people or, as the Manpower Services Commission puts it, would
"help young people gain in maturity, self-reliance and self-esteem."
I accept a great deal of what the hon. Gentleman says. We must wait to see how these pilot schemes go before we push further ahead in that general direction. There could be considerable controversy if we were to use the Armed Forces for some of the schemes which the hon. Gentleman has in mind. The Ministry of Defence makes a considerable contribution to employing young people and also in improving the quality of the national work force in future through our apprenticeship scheme, which is doing extremely well and is at a very high level. We intend to maintain that scheme in future.