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Youth Training Scheme

Volume 79: debated on Tuesday 21 May 1985

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asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science when he will next meet the chairman of the Manpower Services Commission to discuss the second year of the youth training scheme.

Officials of the Department and I are in regular contact with the chairman of the Manpower Services Commission and his staff about matters of mutual interest, including the proposals to expand and develop the youth training scheme.

When the right hon. Gentleman next meets the chairman of the Manpower Services Commission, will he tell him that if we go in for a second year of the youth training scheme, the Government will be more than doubling in real terms the budget available for training? Is he aware that we are suspicious because the wages of youngsters have been dramatically eroded? Is he further aware that if he does not do that it will appear to us that he is after training on the cheap, or, at worst, that he is interested not in training but only in keeping the unemployment figures down?

While that supplementary question should be addressed to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment, I could not possibly accept that the young people concerned are being treated in the way that the hon. Gentleman suggests. They are being given, for the first time, an opportunity for positive training after they leave school if they are not in a job.

Will my right hon. Friend confirm that, despite the views of the dafties on the Labour Benches, the YTS has been an exceedingly successful scheme, with about 70 per cent. of those taking part getting jobs afterwards, and that an extension to two years would prove an extra benefit?

I confirm that the YTS is a successful scheme, though I am not the Minister to whom detailed questions about exact figures should be addressed.

The right hon. Gentleman will be aware that there is already a two-year scheme in Northern Ireland. Does he agree that if the results of introducing a two-year scheme in England prove to be the same as in Northern Ireland—that is, that even at the end of two years no jobs are available — we shall be no further forward? Would it not be wiser for the Government to amend their economic policy so as to secure jobs for these youngsters?

One cannot always read across conditions from Northern Ireland to this country or reciprocally. I only wish that we had in our schools in England the academic results that are achieved in Northern Ireland.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that when representatives of the CBI came to meet the Select Committee on Employment they said that one of their worries was that in the second year of the YTS they might be short of people with teaching skills? In view of the falling morale among teachers because of a lack of promotion prospects, will my right hon. Friend consider making it easier for teachers to enter training rather than teaching?

I do not think that that calls for action by me. It is up to the individuals concerned.

May we have an assurance that any extension of the YTS will mean genuine training and employment opportunities for young people, instead of it being just another opportunity for some unscrupulous employers to exploit them with slave labour wages, throwing the youngsters back on the dole queue after two years instead of one?

I know enough to know that the hon. Gentleman is grossly distorting the results of the YTS. However, relatively precise questions about the YTS are for my right hon. Friend.

Further to that supplementary question from the hon. Member for Falkirk, West (Mr. Canavan), is my right hon. Friend aware that the Select Committee on Employment invited representatives of the British Youth Council to draw attention to six bad schemes which they alleged existed? That was six weeks ago. To date, we have yet to hear of any bad schemes. Does my right hon. Friend agree that that suggests that the allegation that the YTS is exploited is simply a slur by those who seek to attack and undermine this valuable scheme?

Opposition Members who go in for such generalised smears damage the very people whom they purport to want to help.

Is the Secretary of State aware that there is widespread concern lest the second year of the YTS falls more into the hands of the private training agencies than of employers or mode B providers? Is he further aware that the record of those agencies on high quality educational content has not been good? Will he ensure that the Department's team is in there fighting for high educational content in the second year, linked to further education generally?

I am not one who seeks to evade questions, but supplementary questions of that type are for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment.

I did not call the hon. Member for Coventry, South-East (Mr. Nellist). I called the hon. Member for Rutland and Melton (Mr. Latham).