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16 To 19-Year-Olds

Volume 79: debated on Tuesday 21 May 1985

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asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what discussions he has had with the chairman of he Manpower Services Commission on financial provision for 16 to 19-year-olds.

The Government have invited the Manpower Services Commission to consult employers and other interests about the implementation of the extended youth training scheme, but I have not recently discussed with the chairman of the MSC the question of financial support for 16 to 19-year-olds in full-time education.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that at least 20,000 young people from working-class homes will be forced to go out to work or on to youth training schemes because their parents cannot afford to keep them in full-time education? Will he urge the MSC to re-examine the need for a proper education maintenance allowance? If the right hon. Gentleman will not stand up for those young people, perhaps the chairman of the MSC will.

I should be grateful if the hon. Lady would send me the evidence that supports the figures that she has so confidently produced, because my evidence shows that the staying-on rate is nearly at record levels.

Can we be sure that the new two-year scheme is intended to be a proper, integrated scheme rather than a mere extension into a second year?

I think that I can give that assurance, but matters of detail are for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment.

In his discussions with the chairman of the MSC, has the Secretary of State commented on the allowance paid to youngsters on YTS, which, had it been increased in line with inflation or earnings in the past six years, would have been £40 instead of the miserable £26·5 which the Government are paying? How does the right hon. Gentleman justify Cabinet Ministers getting a 10 per cent. rise in salary last year, directors of private companies getting an 11 per cent. rise, profits rising at 20 per cent., but youngsters on YTS having their allowance cut year after year?

These are not my direct responsibilities but those of my right hon. Friend. I agree that at the heart of youth unemployment might in many cases be higher earnings than the market will pay them or than employers find it profitable to pay. If the hon. Gentleman wants to reduce youth unemployment, he should take these arguments very seriously.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the vast majority of parents are happy to accept responsibility for maintaining their children?

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the evidence exists and that we shall give it to him? At least 20,000 young people from working-class homes have to go on YTS instead of staying on in further education. It is worrying to hear the Secretary of State more or less saying that he has no responsibility for those who go on YTS, for the educational part of their courses or for integration with the further education service. Is he abdicating his responsibility to those young people?

I take responsibility for the educational content, but I have been asked questions which overwhelmingly are for my right hon. Friend.