asked the Secretary of State for Scotland how many young people are currently unemployed in Scotland; which percentage of young people this represents; and what actions he intends to take to remedy this situation.
22,400 young people under 18, representing 12.2 per cent. of the age group, were registered as unemployed in Scotland on 10 January. The Government's first priorities are to reduce the level of inflation and establish a sound and prosperous economy in which industry can expand, creating more jobs for young people and adults alike. In the meantime, we are expanding the youth opportunities programme to provide substantially more places for unemployed young people in 1980–81.
In many areas, particularly those designated as being in greatest need, youth unemployment is reaching frightening proportions. What specific alternatives to emigration, to joining the Armed Forces for the wrong reasons, or even turning to crime, is the Minister prepared to offer by positive discrimination in setting up programmes to create employment for these young people?
I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will at least to some extent be glad to know that there is no substantial difference between last year's numbers compared with the numbers that I have just given to the House. We shall not be satisfied until the number of young people unemployed has been considerably reduced. However, I have already told the hon. Gentleman that there will be provision for additional places in the youth opportunities programme—an additional 6,500 places this year compared with the number of places in the previous year.
Is the Minister aware that his claim of additional provision is nonsensical in my constituency, with the abolition of the employment transfer scheme? Will he at least see that something is done by allowing some flexibility in the 12-month unemployment rule and the STEP?
The right hon. Gentleman has, I think, made representations in individual cases. I assure him that individual cases will continue to be looked at with sympathy by my Department.
Does my hon. Friend realise that many young people would be better qualified in the labour market if their technical and business studies skills had been developed at school? Will he urge officials in the Scottish Education Department to urge schools to concentrate on those subjects and not on subjects which have little or no value in the labour market?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. One of the greatest disappointments that faces young people today is to leave school and find that they are not properly equipped for work. I shall certainly bear in mind the points that my hon. Friend has raised.
Is the Minister aware that more young people will become unemployed if the BBC goes ahead with its disgraceful proposal to scrap the BBC symphony orchestra and virtually to decimate the educational programmes on BBC Scotland? Will the Minister ask his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland to intervene personally with the BBC governors tomorrow to stop this proposal and say to BBC Scotland "Think again"?
That matter hardly arises from this question—
—but my right hon. Friend and I are fully aware of the difficulties being experienced over these matters and we shall keep them under review.
Is the Minister aware that the greatest disappointment facing young people today is that they leave school fully equipped to take up employment, but because of the Minister's employment policies cannot get a job? How does the Minister justify the contention that the training opportunities programme is being expanded, bearing in mind that after Question Time today the House will debate the statement by his right hon. Friend that the programme is being contracted? Is the Minister one of the "wets", or one of the "dries"? It is about time that he made up his mind.
The youth opportunities programme is being expanded. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will want to know that, despite the difficult economic situation, school leavers are being absorbed into employment or training at about the normal rate.