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Labour Statistics

Volume 116: debated on Tuesday 12 May 1987

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asked the Paymaster General what percentage of the total unemployed are aged 25 years or less; and what initiatives the Government are pursuing in order to provide full-time employment at average rates of pay for those affected.

On 8 January 1987, the latest date for which figures are available, 34·4 per cent. of unemployed claimants in the United Kingdom were aged under 25 years. All of the employment, training and enterprise measures run by my Department and the Manpower Services Commission are part of the Government's strategy for encouraging enterprise and employment.

Does the Paymaster General agree with the MSC report that of the 200 job training scheme contracts signed at the beginning of May, only 20, or 10 per cent., were with colleges or local authorities in combination with colleges? Is he further aware that the National Audit Office, in a report on the MSC training strategy, said that colleges of further education were good value for money? Will he ensure that there is more public involvement in these job training schemes?

The new job training scheme is coming along well and we welcome the participation of further education colleges. One big problem is that some Labour-controlled councils are misguidedly refusing to allow further education colleges to take part, and I would be delighted to join the hon. Gentleman in asking them to change their policy.

Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that British trade unionists have something to learn from their counterparts in Western Europe, who have not priced young people out of jobs?

They certainly have. Although young people's pay in the United Kingdom is still high relative to adults' pay compared with the early 1970s, there has been some movement, so the relationship is rather more sensible. The recent fall in youth unemployment has followed from 1982, when youth wages dropped somewhat in relation to adult pay.

Is the Paymaster General aware that youth unemployment is notably grievous in south Yorkshire, which has been transformed into a wasteland in recent years? Has he studied the latest report of the Child Poverty Action Group, which points out that high unemployment and low incomes have made the Yorkshire and Humberside region one of the poorest areas?

Again, fortunately, the position is improving, most particularly for youth employment. The number of unemployed people under the age of 25 fell by 80,000 last year and has decreased by 120,000 in the past two years. The level of youth unemployment in the United Kingdom is well below the European average and our young people are starting to see the benefits of economic revival, partly because of our schemes, rather in advance of the rest of the population.

Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that unemployment, whether in the west midlands or elsewhere, is too high? How is that allied with the fact that the Birmingham Evening Mail carries 20 pages of full-time jobs every Thursday and Friday? Does he agree with the West Midlands Industrial Development Association, which says that jobs in the west midlands are growing faster than anywhere in the country? How does that tally with Socialists trying to scare people about jobs?

We all accept, as my hon. Friend has said, that unemployment is too high and poses considerable stress and hardship for individuals. That is why we are so pleased to see the growing number of vacancies advertised in local newspapers and jobcentres and the growing number of jobs in the community, all of which is derided by the Opposition, who are extremely concerned.

Does the Minister know that making comparisons with Europe in that sense fails to recognise that many more apprenticeship schemes have been formed in Europe than in this country? What will the Government do about encouraging apprenticeships in the manufacturing, engineering and building industries?

We do not have so many traditional apprenticeships as we used to have, but we are developing systems of training which are more akin to those in Western Europe, where one measures people's ability by the skill they can achieve, rather than the number of years they have served in a trade. Nowhere in Western Europe is there a training scheme as good as the YTS, and nowhere in Western Europe is youth unemployment coming down as rapidly as it is here.

My right hon. and learned Friend will know that one of the Government's most successful initiatives is the creation of urban development corporations. My right hon. and learned Friend will not know that in Committee this morning the hon. Member for Jarrow (Mr. Dixon) announced the Labour party's policy of abolishing them if, God forbid, that party was elected.

I am grateful to my hon. Friend, because that was obviously an incautious slip on the part of the hon. Member for Jarrow (Mr. Dixon), who sits on the Opposition Front Bench—as he is now—as a member of the Opposition Whip's Office. We are waiting to hear from the Opposition which of our various schemes they would abolish. Would they abolish the JTS, the YTS or community programmes? What would they do about the measures which they have been deriding for the past year, which are now beginning to succeed?

How the Paymaster General said what he has just said without blushing astounds most of us on the Opposition Benches. Almost 35 per cent. of the unemployed are aged under 25, which makes this the most exploited younger generation this century. We have a generation of people under 25 who, if they are not unemployed, are offered thin training schemes which do not lead to real skills, well-paid jobs or a secure future. The Government have offered rotten training, thin training, no skills and no jobs for this generation. The Labour Government, who will be elected in a month, will produce jobs, quality training and a future for young people as never before.

We now have good quality YTS, which has reached the stage where no 16 or 17-year-old need be unemployed. We can guarantee them a place. The new job training schemes are aimed particularly at under-25s, in order to raise their skill levels and improve their prospects of employment. I wait to hear what the Labour party will say about those training schemes. The Labour party is encouraging the TUC to obstruct the schemes in the runup to the election. Will it abolish those schemes after the election?

Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware of the substantial success of the Slough job club—which I opened officially earlier today—in finding real jobs for the unemployed, including those under 25? Is he further aware that I have found very substantial resentment at the attempts of the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley) to rubbish the success of job clubs?

We now have over 1,000 job clubs. Just under two out of three people who go to job clubs get jobs and more of them go into training and further education. It is a positive disgrace that some unemployed people are deterred from joining those job clubs by the ill-informed and hostile remarks of people such as the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersely) and his colleagues on the Opposition Front Bench.