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Young Persons (Training)

Volume 22: debated on Wednesday 28 April 1982

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asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will make a statement on discussions between his Department and the Manpower Services Commission with regard to the training of young people in Scotland.

My Department and the MSC are in regular contact about the training of young people and other issues. Last December we published the White Paper "A New Training Initiative" and welcomed the commission's proposal to set up a high level task group to consider foundation training for all young people, whether employed or unemployed. In the meantime, the Scottish Education Department and the Scottish Economic Planning Department are working closely with the MSC to ensure that the new initiatives are developed effectively in Scotland.

Does the Minister agree that the prospects throughout the remainder of the Government's life, which we hope will be short, are for an increase in unemployment? Is he aware that this will result in the essential talents of highly qualified young people leaving school being ill used or misused? When will he be able to ensure that these young people have a job or a training opportunity when they leave school?

The prospects for the remainder of this first Parliament of my right hon. Friend's Government are that the economy will move into a much stronger position regarding inflation, interest rates and competitiveness. That is the most important thing that any Government can do for job prospects.

Has the Minister noticed the strictures of the Manpower Services Commission south of the border about the inadequacy of the £15 a week made available under the Government's new training programme? Has he further noticed that both the CBI and trade union members have associated themselves with the view that this should be increased to more than £27 a week? Do the Government intend to take action on the matter?

I hope that the hon. Gentleman is not suggesting that by increasing the allowance from £15 to £25 that is necessarily being generous. In real terms it means that there will be less money available for those young people who need it and fewer resources available to implement the training that is an essential part of the scheme. Training and education for 16-year-olds and 17-year-olds is what this scheme is all about.

Does my hon. Friend agree that the important aspect is the training of young people and that it is the training that costs the money? Does he further agree that the money paid to young people is a training allowance, not a wage?

My hon. Friend is correct. I hope that Opposition Members will bear these points in mind.

On the question of allowances and the compulsory element in the scheme, have not the MSC, the CBI and the TUC unanimously condemned those aspects of the scheme? That view is in line with the criticisms made consistently by the Opposition since the date of the announcement of the scheme and in the debate in the Scottish Grand Committee in Edinburgh. As these aspects of the scheme, if proceeded with, will jeopardise the whole success of the scheme, will the Government drop them?

The right hon. Gentleman surprises me by his misunderstanding of this matter. We are not trying to pay a wage to young people, but to provide an allowance for those engaged in some kind of training employment. If the right hon. Gentleman looks at the position in other countries in Europe, he will find that the allowances are comparable. One of our problems is that 16 and 17-year-olds in employment are paid too much and are therefore priced out of employment.