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School Leavers

Volume 21: debated on Tuesday 30 March 1982

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asked the Secretary of State for Employment how many people who have left school since 1979 are now unemployed.

The precise information is not available, but at 14 January there were 386,920 people registered as unemployed in the United Kingdom who were under 19 years of age.

Does the Secretary of State agree that among those unemployed school leavers are a large number who have never had the opportunity of training? Does he also agree that they may reach the age of 19, and therefore be too old, before the new training initiative comes into force? Has he any proposals to help those young people, especially the physically handicapped who constitute the largest proportion of those unemployed?

I find it difficult to believe that such people have not even had the opportunity of entering a YOP scheme. I share the hon. Gentleman's anxiety that youngsters should receive better industrial and vocational training—that is the purpose of the youth training scheme. Unfortunately, we are not in a position to create for people opportunities that should have been created in the past—perhaps because the previous Government did not have enough money to do anything about it.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that although some 70 per cent. of handicapped school leavers are unemployed, the Manpower Services Commission in London has just turned down the only project advanced for setting up a workshop for disabled school leavers? Will he look into the matter and ask the MSC to reverse that decision?

I was not aware that the MSC had done that. I shall certainly look into the matter and write to my hon. Friend to tell him what the MSC gives me as its reason for doing that. Clearly, this is a time when we should do all that we can to protect those least able to protect themselves.

Does the Secretary of State agree with what the present Home Secretary said in February 1978—when there were 39,000 unemployed school leavers, compared with 139,000 now—that unemployment among school leavers was a major contributory factor to the increase in juvenile crime? Does that apply today?

I should like to consider more closely what my right hon. Friend said, rather than take it from the hon. Gentleman, who does not set it in context. I do not doubt that the devil makes evil work for idle hands, but I also remember that in the soft early 1960s it was suggested that juvenile crime increased because people were too well off. I suspect that original sin has at least as much to do with the problem as do economic circumstances.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the unemployment figures highlight the importance of the Government's new training initiative and the need for the final scheme to be on the broadest and most imaginative scale possible?

Yes, I hope that it will be on the broadest and most imaginative scale possible, so long as it is practical, deals with all the 16-year-olds, to whom I have given a guarantee, as well as the 17-year-olds, and is within the restraint of £1 billion per year expenditure.