asked the Secretary of State for Employment if he will now make a further statement about the new training initiative.
asked the Secretary of State for Employment if he will make a statement on the progress of his plans for a new youth training scheme.
With permission Mr. Speaker, I shall answer questions 15 and 17 together, and I hope that the House will forgive a slightly longer reply on this important matter.I have received from the Manpower Services Commission the report of the youth task group, which the commission published today. The commission has endorsed the report. The task group puts forward proposals that are of significance for future training arrangements for young school leavers, both employed and unemployed. The Government will consider the recommendations carefully, with a view to an early decision this summer, so that preparations can be made for a new scheme to replace the youth opportunities programme in September 1983. I understand that the Select Committee on Employment will be considering the report and I shall be glad to take into account any views it forms. Despite a number of significant differences between the task group proposals and those of the White Paper, there is much common ground. They share the objective of proper training. Both give priority to the unemployed, including a guarantee to unemployed 16-year-olds, and both would develop the youth opportunities programme this year to lead into new arrangements from September 1983.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that there are grounds for general satisfaction that the TUC, CBI and other organisations in the task group have been able to agree on proposals to submit to the Minister, and does he accept that this is a significant and welcome step forward on the already commendable White Paper that he presented to the House?
I am glad that all sides have been able to make an agreed report to me, and although at the moment I cannot say in advance of my consideration what my final conclusion will be, I welcome that agreed report and the fact that the employers' side has been willing to put in large sums of money, above what the Government have proposed putting in.
Will my right hon. Friend, as he develops his scheme, allow for continued expansion of the more worthwhile community service activities that are taking place at the moment? This is for two reasons: first, to expand the range of opportunities available to young people; and, secondly, to provide alternatives for those young people who find themselves in areas where the scheme that he is developing will not, unhappily, be able to develop quite as aptly as it will in other parts of the country.
I hope that alongside everything we do on the basis of this training scheme there will continue to be a substantial role for voluntary service generally.
Will the right hon. Gentleman look into the instances in East Anglia where the Manpower Services Commission is reluctant to finance training for work on allotments? In view of the substantial amount of land and the high incidence of unemployment, will the Minister perhaps, have a word with the MSC?
If the hon. Gentleman were willing to write to me about any particular problem—or perhaps, more effectively, to write to the chairman of the MSC, which has direct responsibility for these matters—I am sure that he would find that either the chairman or I would be helpful if we could be.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that, as well as creating over 5,000 redundancies at Shildon, Norwich and Swindon, the British Railways Board also intends to put into mothballs the apprentice training school at Swindon? Does he agree that this would be a disgraceful waste of excellent training facilities, and will he give me an assurance that he will do everything possible to make use of these facilities instead of closing them?
I am sure that the chances of making good use of such facilities would be enormously increased if the staff of British Rail were willing to make full and proper use of the capital investment made in British Rail and get on with increasing productivity and moving on to better and more flexible ways of working.
Will the Secretary of State accept that the MSC report excludes any element of compulsion for the youth training scheme? Will he accept that, so that we can have the maximum of speed and the maximum of support both throughout the industry and the House?
There has never been any proposal for any compulsion in this regard.
Should not the Secretary of State for Employment have been better briefed before coming to the Dispatch Box to reply to the question asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Swindon (Mr. Stoddart)? The workers in British Rail Engineering have contributed magnificently to productivity agreements, and over the past 10 years their record has been faultless.
I am sure that great strides have been made in increasing productivity in the engineering works. However, the engineering works do not exist in their own right, but as a support for running the railway. There is clearly a pressing need for greater productivity on that railway.