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Job Training Scheme

Volume 113: debated on Tuesday 31 March 1987

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asked the Paymaster General what response he has had from local authorities to the job training scheme.

In general, there has been a good response from local authorities.

Is the Paymaster General aware that some local authorities, especially Scottish local authorities, are reluctant to participate in that scheme, unless it is seen to involve real training for real jobs with realistic wage levels? Will he try to meet those objections because otherwise the job training scheme will be seen to be yet another Government trick to try to fiddle the unemployment figures by conscripting people from the dole queue into phoney jobs?

I hope to assure local authorities and the hon. Gentleman that the training provided by the new JTS will be good quality training aimed at providing real jobs because it will involve work experience with employers. No local authorities have yet come forward to sign a contract, but many have put forward proposals, and I hope that we reach agreement with those in Scotland. I hope also that no local authorities or trade unions will be tempted into playing politics with the JTS or getting us bogged down in trade union arguments about rates of pay.

Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that the Labour party's attitude to this imaginative scheme to introduce training to a substantial number of young people in particular, is similar to the attitude that it displayed to the youth training scheme in its earlier years? Can we look forward to a similar change in its attitude?

I very much hope so. At present the Labour party does not really know its reaction to the JTS, having condemned it automatically when it was first announced. The only comfort that I take from its latest so-called 1 million jobs package, which is comprised largely of the same old measures, is that a large part of it is a plain imitation of our JTS programme. It proposes to provide 300,000 training places, whereas it claims that the 120,000 training places for which we aim in the JTS are too many, too quickly.

Will the Paymaster General confirm that only about 2,000 places have been achieved on the pilot schemes out of a target of about 5,000, that nearly half the people were over 25 and that there has been a high dropout rate? If that is the case, does it justify the Government's forced expansion of the schemes?

I do not agree with all those criticisms, but I agree that the point of pilot schemes is to see how they go and to learn from any problems we encounter. On the whole the response from trainees, agents and work experience providers was extremely good. Probably too many of those taking part were over 25 and we intend to target the scheme largely on the under-25s. I do not agree that the drop-out rate was bad. Some people leave the scheme because they find a full-time job where they can get further training and we do not object to that.

Will my right hon. and learned Friend warn young people who want proper training and a job that this is apparently yet another scheme which, according to the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley), a Labour Government would not contemplate?

The right hon. Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley) is fond of criticising all our employment and training measures, yet it is clear from his comments that he has not even bothered to read about them or to visit them and that he does not know what he is talking about.

He does a great deal of harm to his constituents in Sparkbrook if he tries to persuade them to do nothing, to be unemployed and on the dole rather than to take advantage of the various training and other work experience measures that we are providing.

May I assure the Paymaster General that a Labour Government will introduce proper training programmes which develop skills in this skill-starved nation and that they will not be anything like the job training scheme? Will he confirm that he recently announced that the job training scheme is not to be designated as approved training, thus admitting that it is work experience? Does he understand that the major objection to it is that the money is too low and the benefits are not sufficient in return for the work? If local authorities propose to top up the allowance to a decent rate, will he permit that under the scheme?

The hon. Lady must understand our scepticism: the Labour party has spent the past three or four years opposing every training measure that we have introduced and now she claims that Labour's training programmes will somehow be different. The only point that seems to concern the Labour party is how much trainees should be paid. If she concentrates merely on increasing pay for trainees, that will not improve training one iota. Nor will it reflect the worth to employers of people who are beginning to acquire skills. Therefore, we do not contemplate topping up the rate under the new scheme; we contemplate good quality training being given.