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Helping Young People into Work: Covid-19

Volume 700: debated on Tuesday 7 September 2021

4. What fiscal steps he is taking to help young people into work as part of the economic recovery from the covid-19 outbreak. (903238)

19. What fiscal steps he is taking to help young people into work as part of the economic recovery from the covid-19 outbreak. (903253)

It is absolutely right that we remain relentlessly focused on helping young people into work, and our plan for jobs does exactly that with a range of initiatives. I would just draw colleagues’ attention to the fantastic youth offer that our jobcentres are rolling out, providing 13 weeks of intensive tailored support for those young people who enter universal credit and creating 140 dedicated youth hubs across the country.

In Bury, Ramsbottom and Tottington, the Government’s plan for jobs is working, saving jobs and getting people back into employment. As chair of the all-party parliamentary group on youth employment, may I ask my right hon. Friend to update the House specifically on how schemes such as kickstart are helping young people with employment and training opportunities throughout the country?

I thank my hon. Friend for all the work he does as chair of the APPG on youth employment, and I thank him and his colleagues for their advice as we have developed these initiatives. He is right to highlight kickstart. This is a signature initiative of this Government, providing Government-funded, high-quality jobs for young people at risk of long-term unemployment. It has got off to a fantastic start, with 50,000 kickstarters already having started and thousands more to come.

That initial response is helpful, and of course I commend the Chancellor and his Treasury colleagues for their financial support to some businesses over the last 18 months, and I realise important announcements from the Treasury and the Prime Minister are imminent. However, in a city such as Lincoln with such a vibrant hospitality sector, the cumulative impact of successive lockdowns has hit my constituents hard, especially young people, and my right hon. Friend knows that they are disproportionately employed in those businesses that are forced to close. Does the Chancellor agree that we must do everything possible to keep the economy open so that instead of paying young people not to work, we focus on creating well-paid jobs for them?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right to highlight the importance of hospitality in employing young people, which is why, together with our VAT cut for that sector and indeed £16 billion of business rates reductions, we have helped support all those jobs. He should also know that employers do not pay employers national insurance on those young people under the age of 21, nor on most apprentices up to the age of 25, demonstrating our support to those employers to keep young people in work.

When I was a very young MP, a Conservative Prime Minister introduced a windfall profit tax on the banks. When will this Administration and this Chancellor of the Exchequer have the imagination and leadership to introduce a windfall profit tax on those who have done very well over the last few years, and put it into green apprenticeships, green training and green skills, and do it now?

Talking about young people and financial services, I was recently in Glasgow talking about young people starting exactly what the hon. Gentleman described: new apprenticeships in the financial services industry, growing in Glasgow, supported by this Government who have put more money behind apprenticeships than any previous Government.

I am hearing from colleges that fewer level 1 and level 2 students are going to college as they are going straight into work and that is to be commended, but we know that having a level 3 increases people’s earnings potential in the long term and therefore opportunities to obtain that level 3 must be available to those young people as they get older. How can they achieve that, however, when the Chancellor has cut the adult skills budget by half since 2010?

I point the hon. Lady to the Prime Minister’s speech on skills last year when he unveiled this Government’s lifetime skills guarantee, which delivers exactly what she is asking for. Those 10 million adults without a level 3 qualification, who she is absolutely right to highlight, will, for the first time, be able to get one, fully funded by this Government. That is a Conservative Government delivering for people, giving them the skills and opportunities they need.

The combination of the furlough scheme, the kickstart scheme and the youth offer the Chancellor has just discussed shows that his efforts are leading to the UK having one of the fastest economic recoveries in the world. Will he commit to working globally to ensure that the confidence and opportunities this brings are available globally as they increasingly are in the UK?

My right hon. Friend is absolutely right, and I want to thank him for two things. First, when he was a Minister he created traineeships, and he will be pleased to know that this Government are tripling the number of them to give young people the best possible start in life, finding new skills and opportunities. Most importantly, this year, because of his success in making sure this country had the fastest roll-out of a vaccine anywhere in the world, we are enjoying the fastest opening up and the fastest economic recovery, and I pay tribute to him for that.

The Government announced the kickstart scheme to much fanfare. However, at the moment they publish the kickstarter statistics breakdown by gender and perhaps by race, but why do they not do so by disability? Will the Chancellor rectify that?

I am always happy to look at what more we can do to improve the transparency of our statistics. However, with regard to kickstart in aggregate, I would just say that there have been 50,000 starts and, when compared with previous versions of similar schemes such as the future jobs fund under the last Labour Government, kickstart is delivering more young people into more jobs at a much faster pace and, importantly, many more of those jobs are in the private sector, not just the public sector.