asked the Secretary of State for Employment whether he is in a position to make a statement about the future of the job release scheme.
I refer my hon. Friend to my statement to the House on Thursday 14 February 1980.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that the job release scheme is one of the best short-term means of dealing with unemployment without incurring continuing long-term obligations? Does he not think that it is unfortunate that it has proved necessary to curtail this scheme in this way, especially in view of the likely increase in unemployment?
I agree that it would have been better if we could have found the money for this scheme. But I had to adjust, examine and balance a number of priorities and I decided that youth employment should have top priority at present.
Does not the Secretary of State agree that there is a repercussive effect in favour of providing jobs for our youth through the job release scheme? By allowing people to retire earlier vacancies are provided for young people and the so-called savings may be illusory.
I agree that there is some spin-off through which young people obtain jobs as older people retire under the job release scheme. That is one of the better parts of what I think is a good scheme. But the scheme that I inherited had only just been introduced the previous April and unfortunately it was being paid for out of the Contingency Fund and no proper forecasts for expenditure had been made.
Does the Minister recall that he said he had done well with his package? Does he agree that the best judges of that will be the people who will be on the industrial scrap heap as a consequence of the Government's policies? What will be the net savings of the overall package? The Minister has never given a precise figure.
The net savings for the coming year will be about £25 million. As the hon. Gentleman should know, the scheme that his Government introduced just before the election was based on the Contingency Fund, with planned expenditure for the next two years for which no allowance had been made in the Estimates.