– in the House of Commons at 8:38 pm on 28th April 1983.
I beg to move,
That this House takes note of European Community Document No. 10235/82 comprising a Commission opinion and implementing measures for the review of the European Social Fund, and the Explanatory Memoranda dated 23rd November 1982, and 26th April 1983, and of European Community Document No. 10657/82 setting out proposals and guidelines for the development of training policies and the Explanatory Memoranda dated 9th December 1982 and 26th April 1983; and welcomes the Government's intention to seek agreement on the basis of these Commission proposals to use the Social Fund to help resolve the labour market problems of the Community more effectively than hitherto, and to ensure that its training policies continue to develop to match the best practice in the Community.
I should like to begin by saying how much the Government welcome the opportunity to debate these two important European Community documents. Taken together, the documents will play a key role in the shaping of the Community's vocational training policies in the 1980s and the development of the main Community financial instrument in the training and employment field —the European social fund.
The debate is particularly welcome because it provides an opportunity to refute the arguments of those who harp on the negative aspects of the United Kingdom's membership of the European Community. The documents show that the Community, and in particular the European Commission, recognise to a substantial degree the priorities that the United Kingdom has already adopted on training and employment matters. The task that we now jointly face is to build on this favourable start.
The European social fund provides assistance towards schemes of training, job creation and the geographical mobility of workers. The fund has made a considerable contribution to the training and employment effort in this country. Since our accession to the Community in 1973, the United Kingdom has received allocations from the fund amounting to more than £960 million. In 1981, our allocations came to some £141 million, and in 1982 to no less than £258 million. Those allocations represented some 25 per cent. and 30 per cent. respectively of the total fund budget.
No less important than the financial benefits are the stimulus and encouragement which fund assistance provides towards our various training and employment schemes. For example, there has been sizeable fund support for the disabled and for the training and recruitment of adults, particularly in regions of high unemployment. Even more significant and welcome has been the very substantial support given by the fund to schemes for young people, which totalled some £160 million in 1982. This is further evidence that the fund has a proper sense of priorities. As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment said when announcing our plans for the youth training scheme last June, we assumed substantial assistance from the fund in deciding the resources required, and that is an essential aspect of the youth training scheme.
As might be expected, the bulk of fund support in this country has gone in respect of schemes operated by the Manpower Services Commission and the Department of Manpower Services in Northern Ireland. But the Government are delighted that there has also been substantial fund support for a wide range of other bodies, including private firms, voluntary bodies and local authorities. This support has grown rapidly over the last two years, and offers a convincing demonstration of the general benefits of membership of the Community.
The total size of the fund has greatly increased in recent years, and the Government, welcome the efforts in this direction of the European Commission, not least the Commissioner for Social Affairs, Mr. Ivor Richard. Yet the fund still represents only 8 per cent. of the total Community budget, while unemployment continues to rise throughout the Community and the demand for fund assistance now outstrips its resources by more than 100 per cent. This situtation provides further vindication—if any were necessary —of of the Government's firm view that there should be a shift in Community spending away from agriculture and towards activities meeting other needs of high priority such as are covered by the regional and social funds.
I have described the operation of the fund in order to emphasise the importance of the proposals before us tonight. The Council of Ministers is required to review the fund every five years, so as to enable it to tackle the most important current labour market problems within the Community.
In approaching this quinquennial review, the Government have been acutely aware of the background of high unemployment throughout the Community and of the resources at the fund's disposal which are, alas, limited. The task therefore is to maximise the impact of the fund by concentrating its resources on the problems and areas where they can do the most good.
First and foremost, the fund must contribute to tackling unemployment among young people, in particular by helping to equip them with the training and work experience which will enable them to find and keep secure jobs. Successive Councils of Ministers have highlighted youth unemployment as a problem to which the Community must give high priority, and the social fund clearly has a central role in this respect.
In addition, and of great importance, the fund should recognise the major shifts in the incidence of unemployment that have occurred in the Community over the last few years. Unemployment has become particularly acute in those areas which are affected by the continuing decline in labour-intensive traditional manufacturing and commercial activities. The Government firmly believe that such areas of high unemployment deserve greater emphasis in the allocations of the fund's resources, particularly as compared with peripheral and underdeveloped rural regions of the Community which currently receive very favourable special status under the fund. In our view, the Community still has some way to go before it gives adequate recognition to the urban and industrial problems which are increasingly affecting a number of member states.
There are, of course, other important issues at stake. The Government believe that the major task of the fund should continue to be support for training, which represents a lasting investment in individuals and is crucial to the development of a skilled work force for the future. There is certainly a role for the fund in direct employment creation, but—given its limited resources—it needs to focus such support on groups and activities which are at a special disadvantage in the labour market, particularly young people and the long-term unemployed. The review also provides a useful opportunity to simplify and speed up a number of the fund's procedures which at present are cumbersome and can deter would-be applicants.
The Commission's main proposals for the review largely meet the objectives that the Government have in mind. In particular, the proposals recognise the general sentiment in the Community in favour of comprehensive schemes of training and work experience for all school leavers, of which the Government's youth training scheme is a clear example.
Before my right hon. Friend goes any further, will he explain to a puzzled House why it is necessary for the Community to have any role at all in this area?
It is because the fund disposes of considerable funds, which are more than welcome in the United Kingdom.
I think that I should get a little further into my speech. No doubt my hon. Friend will seek to contribute to the debate later.
It is a disappointment that the proposals do not give any specific priority to the problem of youth unemployment but I hope that the Council of Ministers will be able to agree on some provision to ensure this. Reserving a high proportion of the fund budget exclusively for young people would be a clear indication of where the Community's priorities lie.
The Commission has, I am glad to say, given clear recognition to the problems of regions with high unemployment, proposing that fund assistance should be concentrated on those regions which are characterised by "particularly severe labour market imbalances".
As a means of implementing this objective, the Commission has also proposed that the fund's regional priorities should be based on a hierarchy or league table of regions, ranked largely in terms of the severity of local unemployment. The Government believe that the league table approach offers a very useful basis for discussion, but it is clear that there are major difficulties in producing data which are sufficiently comparable across the Community to command general acceptance. Whatever the outcome of this specific proposal, it remains the Government's view that the Commission is right on the general principle that fund support must be concentrated on those areas where the unemployed face the greatest difficulties.
I shall not attempt to go into the remaining proposals at this stage, but I shall be happy to answer as best I can any specific points raised by hon. Members, including my hon. Friend the Member for Northampton, North (Mr. Marlow), when the time comes to wind up this short debate. A brief summary of the state of play on various other issues is given in paragraphs 13 to 15 of the updating explanatory memorandum. I emphasise that discussions on the proposals are still continuing in preparation for the meeting of the Social Affairs Council on 2 June.
The Government very much hope that agreement will be reached on the review at that meeting, but two major issues remain outstanding—the degree of priority for young people and the future pattern of regional deployment for the fund. The Government have firm objectives on these two matters and I regard them as crucial for the United Kingdom. Meanwhile, the Government will be very interested to learn the views of the House which we can then take into account in the forthcoming discussions.
I turn now to Council document 10657/82 concerning the development of vocational training policies in the European Communities in the 1980s. This document, which was first published on 9 November 1982, sets out the European Commission's approach to training and is accompanied by a draft Council resolution proposing guidelines on the development of training policies, some to be introduced by member states over the next five years and others not subject to any timetable. The draft resolution also makes proposals for continued action by the Commission to encourage innovation and the improvement of training systems in member states. The document and the attendant draft resolution have been fully discussed by the European Community social questions working group, which includes officials representing all member states.
We welcomed the Commission's initiative on training, which coincided with the United Kingdom Government's decision to accord vocational training a high national priority, and which followed a commitment entered into by Heads of Government at the European Council in March 1982 to seek to ensure that all young people leaving school receive training or an initial work experience. Indeed, the spirit of the draft resolution is close to the United Kingdom Government's thinking as set out in our White Paper entitled "A New Training Initiative: A Programme for Action". We are keen that training in the United Kingdom should match the best European practice and, equally, we wish to see Community standards generally in this area brought up to a consistently high level. That is the way to further the Community's power to compete internationally and hence to increase Community jobs. It is also the way in which people in all member states can fully develop their skills and make the maximum contributions to the economy. So we solidly support the Commission's efforts to weld together a firm Community-wide framework for training.
I turn now to some of the specific proposals contained in the draft resolution. First, there is the proposal that over the next five years member states should ensure that minimum age school leavers will receive training or an initial work experience. This provision of the draft resolution is more than met by what we are doing in the United Kingdom under the second objective of the Government's new training initiative, the youth training scheme, which guarantees to unemployed 16-year-old leavers the early offer of a place on a year-long programme of high quality training and work experience. Employed 16-year-old leavers, unemployed 17-year-old leavers and unemployed 18-year-old disabled school leavers will also be eligible for our scheme. Furthermore, the draft resolution is, as I say, in line with United Kingdom thinking on the other two main objectives of the new training initiative—training to standards and the training and retraining of adults.
However, one major point outstanding on which we and the Commission do not see eye to eye is the suggestion that member states should commit themselves to offering young people a second period of training. The Government's view is that such further training is primarily a matter for employers. Resources are not unlimited, and our priority must be to deliver the guarantee of a year's training for unemployed school leavers, who are the most vulnerable and the ones most in need. We have made it quite clear that we cannot accept any further obligation over the next five years beyond the delivery of the guarantee, which will tax available resources to the limit, and that we believe that it will be in other member states' interest to focus on the same objective.
We are pressing our view on this in discussions in Brussels and we shall also watch carefully the implications for Community expenditure following from the Commission's proposals for experimental and pilot training projects. The discussions in Brussels are well advanced, and the United Kingdom is playing an active part in them. I shall, of course, ensure that the views of the House are given full consideration in the line we take in Brussels. The House will note that in broad terms the resolution reflects the United Kingdom's own training policies and that, particularly in regard to youth training, we are far advanced and among the Communiy leaders in this field. The German presidency hopes to have the resolution ready for consideration by Education and Employment Ministers on 3 June. I invite the House to take note of the contents of the document and to welcome the intention to seek agreement on the basis I have described.
I wish to follow the Minister by referring to document 10657/82 and particularly to the updating of the explanatory memorandum that he signed on 26 April. It is fair to say that the Government might well have used their diplomatic weight to water down the original resolution of the Council's working group.
A right to continuing training throughout the working lives of adults has been watered down to an invitation to increase opportunities for training; an entitlement for young people to have a second period of training has been watered down so much that the Government are asked only to endeavour to offer vocational training to improve their skills; and meaningful references to women and their training needs seem to have fallen by the wayside.
The original explanatory memorandum on the original document dated 9 December said under the heading of "Policy Implications";
There are particularly problems … over … the proposal that young people should have a right to a second year of training before reaching the age of 25 and … the proposal that there should be an effective right to continuing training throughout working life. The United Kingdom view is that while these may be desirable, they are matters for employers and would-be trainees to determine".
The memorandum continued:
Nor is the proposal that special training provision for women should be expanded in accordance with United Kingdom thinking: the United Kingdom view has been that while some small degree of special provision may be appropriate it is generally in women's better interests to encourage them to take greater advantage of training opportunities provided on an equal basis for men and women".
Was there ever so complacent, condescending or thoughtless a set of departmental remarks? Here, starkly, insultingly and depressingly is the departmental style of the Department of Employment. Messrs. Monkton and Macleod must be turning in their graves. It seems that in the smoke-filled rooms of Brussels the Government have connived to water down policies of relevance and
assistance to some of the most vulnerable groups in our society—the ethnic minorities and women—at a time of economic depression. We are less inclined to give the Government quite the welcome that they might have wished for the proposal.
The Minister referred at length to the youth training scheme. One effect of that scheme will be that this year it will throw thousands of school leavers on to the dole. Ambitious pupils who stayed on beyond 16 to obtain extra job qualifications will suffer. The problem arises because the Government have guaranteed a place on the scheme for all 16-year-olds, but so that it is not overwhelmed by a flood of older school leavers the Manpower Services Commission, which administers the scheme, has barred all 17-year-olds who have acquired vocational qualifications.
Those 17-year-olds, ineligible for the scheme, will now suffer an additional blow to their job prospects. When employers take on school leavers who are in the youth training scheme, they get a grant of £1,850 for each. Therefore, a firm that takes on a boy or girl who is not eligible for the grant will lose heavily. In practice, that means that firms which until now have insisted on qualifications—for example, a typing certificate—will be turning away youngsters who have obtained them. The Minister should say something about that.
We are entitled to ask where the scheme for military training that the Ministry of Defence announced stands in regard to these European documents. The military trainees will receive the same training and be subject to the same entry qualifications as regular recruits. They will also be subject to military law. But whereas regular recruits receive £44 a week, less £16 for accommodation and food, the trainees will receive a mere £25, less £10, a week.
There will be no guarantee of a job in the Armed Forces or in civilian life at the end of the training. Both the Royal Air Force and the Royal Navy have said that their services are unsuitable for such a short period of training. The Navy will take only 500 young people, the RAF 1,000 and the Army 3,700.
I should like to emphasise that there will be far fewer opportunities for girls than for boys. Only 150 girls, or 3 per cent. of entrants, will enter the scheme—50 to the Navy, 100 to the RAF and none to the Army. The Department of Employment has been coy about the scheme. It should try to answer some of those questions today. It is clear that the Ministry of Defence, not the MSC, will administer the scheme. That also means that the TUC will have no say in its running.
Neither the industrial training boards nor the MSC were consulted by the Ministry of Defence or the Department of Employment about the military scheme. I am told that the MSC still does not know all the details of the scheme. Will the trainees in that scheme receive a certificate? Will they have off-the-job training? How will the training compare with the youth training scheme course? What type of certificate is to be awarded to someone who has been a year in the Armed Forces, trained to use weapons and taught, in the end, to kill? Will the certificate be entitled "Licensed to Kill"? I think it probably will not, but the Minister owes us some explanation and details.
As it stands, the Ministry of Defence scheme is a humiliation of the MSC and the Minister's Department. It is clear that there will be an increase in military expenditure. It is an indictment of the Government that, to reduce the youth dole queues, the Government must propel youngsters in the direction of the Armed Forces.
As the Minister talked at length about the youth training scheme, I should like to ask him about the allowances that will be paid to youngsters. It is appropriate to ask him whether he is reviewing the £25 a week that is currently paid. I remind him that good training requires fair payment for today's youth. Has he forgotten that the TUC has suggested £30 a week and the MSC £28 a week? Both bodies have suggested those sums for many months.
Is it not true that the youth training board is to discuss those payments in June? The Minister should realise that, when examined by the Employment Select Committee, the chairman of the MSC, Mr. Young, said that if there were to be a general election in June, he would take advice before declaring a rise in the weekly allowance. Would the Minister care to give a commitment that the Government will not try to curry electoral favour by announcing an increase in the allowance during a general election which may well take place in June?
The Minister dealt at length with the sad issue of youth unemployment. The Government are discredited on that matter. It is a sobering background to these documents. The plight of young people in Britain has now reached crisis proportions. Registered unemployment among those aged under 18 has more than doubled since 1979, and the Manpower Services Commission states that youth unemployment will continue to increase, with 57 per cent. of 16-year-olds and 48 per cent. of 17-year-olds in the labour market becoming unemployed in September 1984. I estimate that an astonishing 287,000 men and women aged under 18 are without jobs or training. In Wales alone, nearly 12,000 youngsters are jobless.
Few would disagree that such massive unemployment is a personal tragedy for thousands of youngsters, who believe that they have been rejected without being given a chance to prove their worth. There is increasing bitterness and disaffection among many young people who have been encouraged at school to have high aspirations, only for their hopes to be shattered after leaving school. My constituency is in the county of Clwyd, which has 25,000 unemployed and where school leavers have a pitiful task to find work. They are jostling their seniors —sometimes their own parents—for scarce positions of gainful employment.
Under the Conservative Government, youth unemployment increased so rapidly that the youth opportunities programme had to be extended. About half our school leavers—550,000 young people—took part in schemes in 1981–82. The youth opportunities programme has been transformed from a short-term exercise to prepare youngsters for work to a permanent measure designed primarily to reduce the number of young people registered as unemployed at a time when jobs are diminishing rapidly as a direct result of the Government's economic policies. The Government cannot deny the fact that 500,000 youngsters do not have real jobs, yet they were elected to office on the promise that, during a five-year Parliament, real jobs would be provided for the unemployed.
The Minister of State referred to skills training. He may agree that Britain has one of the least trained work forces in the industrial world. Almost half our youngsters leave school without obtaining an apprenticeship certificate or vocational preparation of any sort, compared with fewer than 10 per cent. in West Germany and fewer than 20 per cent. in France. Yet the Department of Employment has allowed the Commission in Brussels to water down a document that was designed to increase Britain's trained work force. Under this Government training opportunities have declined rapidly. In 1979–80, 100,000 young people entered apprenticeships, but it is estimated that in 1982–83 there will be only 45,000. That is a miserable reduction of about 55 per cent. Before the present recession redundancy for apprentices was almost unknown, but since September 1980 the position has changed. The engineering industry training board states that, in 1980–81, 2,959 apprentices — 246 a month — were made redundant. In 1981–82, 1,468 apprentices-122 a month —were made redundant. In the current training year, redundancies are running at about 150 a month, despite an even larger cut in recruitment.
I remind the Minister of State that apprenticeships and other training opportunities for young women are minimal, mainly because they are not encouraged to enter manufacturing industries, but often enter service industries, which provide little off-the-job training. In 1981, of 210,000 apprentices in Britain, only 25,000— 12 per cent. — were female. Other groups such as the disabled and the ethnic minorities also fare badly. The House should remember that the Minister and the Department of Employment have specifically ruled out proposals formulated in Brussels to help women to have equality of opportunity in training and employment. Thus, the Government stand indicted of a diabolical sleight of hand.
The over-50s are the lost tribe of working Britain. They have lost their self-confidence and self-esteem. Through no fault of their own, they are on the scrapheap. Many of the 8,000 Shotton steel workers who lost their jobs in 1980 are still rotting on the dole. They need a restoration of morale. They need training and updated references. The truth is that the schemes for the older, long-term unemployed man are not good enough.
As to the new community programme, only 38,000 of 62,000 approved places have been filled. The 38,000 places are, in effect, to cater for more than 1 million long-term unemployed. For the Minister to have said that he was not going to back an effective right to continuing training throughout working life is despicable. Furthermore, for him to say that it is the responsibility of employers and would-be trainers is cruel and thoughtless.
As to the under-25s, the Minister must realise that three out of every 10 of Britain's 18 and 19-year-olds are on the dole. There is no grant scheme for them. The youth training scheme and the youth opportunities scheme exclude them. How complacent the Government are when they say that young people should not have a right to a second year of training before they reach the age of 25.
There were disappointing aspects in the remarks of the Minister of State on the European social fund. An income of £960 million for the United Kingdom from the fund in just under 10 years is small beer. Given the large rate of Britain's contribution to the Common Market, the moneys Britain receives from the fund are far too small. The TUC was right to urge the Government to obtain a much higher return, notwithstanding the fact that the 1981 figure represents an improvement. The United Kingdom is now the largest beneficiary. The Minister's statement is defective in that, in determining the guidance for the new provisions of the fund, insufficient recognition is given to the training needs of women, and the needs of adult workers retraining in new technologies.
It is regrettable that the TUC's objective of enabling trades unions to be consulted where their membership is affected by the applications has not, obviously, been conceded. Why has the Minister pointedly avoided making such a statement? Are we to assume that the Government are declaring war on the unions from abroad as well as those at home? My presumption is that Britain, as the European leader in manpower and training agencies in the form of the Manpower Services Commission, can continue to benefit from the fund more advantageously than other member states, provided that we remain in the Common Market. I suspect that when Spain and Portugal enter the Community that might not be the case. Indeed, I suspect that the Community, enlarging itself, is irreversibly changing its nature. That is possibly a matter for another debate.
I refer to the Minister's updated explanatory memorandum of 26 April regarding the social fund. Will the Minister define "job placement experts" and "development agencies" in paragraph 4?
On paragraph 5, is it correct to assume that the Government have a new seam of available funding for the youth training scheme? Might it be assumed that the glaring deficiency of the youth training scheme so far—that it is not planned to help 17-year-olds currently in manual and other jobs that have no training content—will be rectified? Dealing with paragraph 6, what formal consultations, or consultations of any sort, has the Minister had with the English, Scottish and Welsh local authority associations, and with the Secretaries of State for Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland?
As for the comprehensive reference to the "third field of activity", development is clearly small but important. Why is it that the third field of activity was surrendered to the truly irresponsible and unaccountable apparatchiks of Brussels? Perhaps the Minister would care to give us some assurances about that. In paragraph 7 there are references to geographic priorities. Is it right to assume that such schemes need not be carried out in areas of high unemployment regarding the third field of activity? Can we be assured that the Government will resist the temptation of the Commission or of Ministers to push small juicy plums the way of the fat, complacent southeast region of England? It is clear that Northern Ireland, with nearly 26 per cent. male unemployment, will feature prominently in any Common Market table of misery, because of its horrendous unemployment figures, but will any other British region be assured of financial assistance under that heading?
Under this Government the regions have taken a fearful battering. The principality of Wales suffers 19.8 per cent. male unemployment. The northern region suffers 20.6 per cent. male unemployment and the north-west of England suffers 19.6 per cent. male unemployment. The famed engine-room of the British economy, the west midlands, now staggers along with male unemployment at 19.5 per cent. Surely the Minister can assure us tonight that those regions will take a top place in the Commission's index of bleeding regions in Europe.
How are black spots defined? Perhaps the Minister will give us an answer tonight. Wrexham is heavily burdened by an overall 21 per cent. unemployment rate. My own town of Flint suffers 40 per cent. male unemployment. Would Hartlepool or Liverpool qualify? Is Holyhead likely to qualify under the heading of "black spots"? Where would the London boroughs on the south bank or the downtown areas of Birmingham come in such a definition? The plain truth is that the Government are seeking to apply a bandage, the social fund, to a wound —mass unemployment—which they have inflicted upon the nation. When it comes to training, the Government look like a shabby mendicant rattling his begging bowl all round the Common Market. The Government boast of their access to funds for training, but they conveniently forget that they abolished 17 industrial training establishments — our very own recently expired and lamented training boards. Those boards could have executed the required training of our unemployed and untrained citizens. Having abolished them, the Government praise themselves for having opened up access to cash for "job placement experts" and "development agents". Surely that is nonsense.
The measures that we debate tonight are laudable but are puny and without conviction when judged against the awesome scale of mass unemployment in our country. We have lost nearly 2–1 million jobs since May 1979. We have witnessed, in Britain's down-at-heel regions, a great social and economic tragedy of compelling and humiliating proportions. The Government have permitted the north of Britain to slide into economic and social ruin.
Economically, we need a new deal on the scale of Roosevelt's public works programme of the late 1930s. Sadly, only a major change of economic policy can save the economies of Wales, Scotland and the north of England. The Labour party document "New Hope for Britain" offers such a new deal. Tonight the people of Britain are being offered crumbs from the Brussels table.
Tonight, let the Minister ponder on the information given recently in a parliamentary answer from the Economic Secretary, who said that between 1 January 1973 and 31 December 1981 the United Kingdom had paid £8,799 million to the European Community budget and received £5,314 million. The ratio of payments to receipts was 5:3. That works out at more than £1 million every day. Is it not the case, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Stepney and Poplar (Mr. Shore) said, that Britain has paid a ransom of £3,400 million net for the privilege of belonging to a club that has exacted from us in trade and other matters very heavy costs?
A quarter of European youth are unemployed. In the United Kingdom, the figure is even higher: 28 per cent. of our young people under the age of 25 are unemployed. Rather like the hon. Member for Flint, East (Mr. Jones), some of us represent areas where unemployment is above this level and are conscious that it does not matter how many jobs a young person applies for, he is not likely to get one.
The frightening aspect of the level of youth unemployment in Europe, and most of all in the United Kingdom, where the increase is higher than that for any other European country except Germany—in the case of Germany, the figure started very much lower in 1979—is the level of long-term youth unemployment. In Europe as a whole, 1·5 million young people have been out of a job for over a year. In Britain the figure on the old basis is 312,000. By any definition, that has explosive potential for social unrest.
The House of Lords Select Committee on Unemployment referred to the link between the unemployment of young people and crime. It pointed out that for every 1,000 increase in unemployment among young people under the age of 25, there was an increase of 56 in the number sentenced to custody, over and above the crime rate. The Government claim to be a party of law and order, but their failure to deal with youth unemployment gives the lie to that claim, because one cannot expect to have law and order if one offers young people no hope.
It is worth saying that the Government's adherents are among their foremost critics. Sir Ian Gilmour, the Member for Parliament who was previously Lord Privy Seal —
I am sorry, the right hon. Sir Ian Gilmour, in the book that he published this month called "Britain Can Work"—
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Is it in order for a right hon. Member to refer to another right hon. Member by his title, christian name and surname, not once but twice?
lt is customary, as I am sure that the right hon. Lady will recollect, to refer to right hon. or hon. Members by their constituencies and not by their names.
I apologise, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I was referring to the right hon. Gentleman in his capacity as an author. If that is the best contribution that the hon. Member for Northampton, North (Mr. Marlow) can make to a serious debate, I am bound to say that it is a pretty pathetic one.
In his book "Britain Can Work" which was published earlier this week, the right hon. Member for Chesharri and Amersham (Sir I. Gilmour), a previous Lord Privy Seal, said:
We cannot allow our society to become permanently divided between a fortunate majority who can get work and an unfortunate minority for whom unemployment prospects remain bleak.
In those words the right hon. Gentleman condemned his Government. Indeed, the book makes it clear just how savage are his criticisms of the Government's economic policy.
It is true that the youth training scheme makes a brave effort to provide some sort of training for many of our unemployed young people. But it does not lead to permanent jobs. It is the failure to provide permanent jobs that is such a striking feature of all the efforts that have been made to deal with unemployment among young people, as if that were essentially a temporary phenomenon. I regret to say that it is not.
CSP International recently provided evidence for British Telecom on the impact of telecommunications on employment over the next decade. It showed the likelihood of massive further declines, both in managerial and clerical employment. Looking at only eight industrial cases, the study showed a loss of 5,000 net jobs, which in national terms would mean about 1 million jobs, offset by a net expectation of only 105,000 new jobs by the year 2000 in the telecommunications industry and related technologies.
As the hon. Member for Flint, East said, it is the prospect of continually rising unemployment with little break, increased by further redundancies as a result of technological development, that makes youth unemployment not merely a temporary crisis but a pervasive and terrifying potential tragedy. It is against that background that the European Commission has endeavoured to put forward a radical and far-reaching set of proposals which involve not only the concept of a two-year training for young people but a far-reaching concept of continuing education.
Two weeks ago I had the pleasure of attending a seminar of research directors of leading international companies in Port Sunlight which included companies such as Exxon from the United States, Shell and ICI from Britain, Matshumita from Japan, and other similar companies. The need for continuing education and for the constant intermission of education and work emerged clearly.
The hon. Member for Flint, East was right to say that the Government should have thought much more seriously before dissociating themselves from the European Commission's proposals on continuing education. Japanese and American companies have continually made it clear that the palm will go to those countries that have the most advanced concept of education and training and that there are few prospects for a country whose training standards are continually slipping, as are those of Britain.
What is the Minister's view on continuing education? Can we at least read into what he has said tonight that there is no rejection of that concept, although at the moment the Government cannot see their way to providing any resources for it? Anything else would be inadequate to match the sheer challenge, and the speed at which they are coming down the track to Britain, of the new technologies, which, if we do not adopt them, will make us increasingly uncompetitive.
It is strange that the Minister's statement should come on the same day that we discussed the Alvey report, which made it clear that information technology requires far-reaching changes in our training systems. Is the Minister's rejection of the idea of two-year training more than a temporary attempt to slow down the Commission's determination to press ahead in that field?
David Young, the chairman of the Manpower Services Commission, said only on 15 March in reply to a question from the Select Committee on Employment:
I would hope we could look forward in the course of time to a two-year training programme.
There is a certain incompatibility between that statement by Mr. David Young and the statement that the Minister has just made. I should be grateful if the Minister will clarify the matter.
With regard to women, in a statement to the Select Committee on Employment, it was said that fewer than 30 per cent. of TOPS schemes have women participants. For the skillcentres, the position is even worse. Only 4 per cent. of places in skillcentres go to girls and women. The European Commission was justified when it said that the vast majority of courses for young women were still concentrated heavily in traditional female and often low paid, low status activities. Does the Minister wish the Government to continue to support this tradition of low paid, low status activities? Unfortunately, by not adopting the Commission's proposals for the training of women, the Minister will perpetuate that unfairness.
I should like to refer briefly to the review of the European social fund. The major aim put forward by the European Commission and in particular by the social commissioner, Mr. Ivor Richard, was the creation of no fewer than 2–5 million jobs at a cost of £600 million over the next five years, with the aim of reducing youth unemployment to the level of general unemployment, itself at the appalling figure of 11 per cent. In suggesting this, the Commission, and in particular the social commissioner, put forward some extremely innovatory and far-reaching ideas. One idea was for job creation in the public sector, a view that has been urged time and again in the House. A second was for recruitment premiums, a view that has been urged time and again by the Social Democratic party and the Liberal party.
A third idea was the reduction and reorganisation of working time. In this area, some of the countries with the lowest levels- of unemployment, such as Austria, have gone much further than Britain in attempting to reorganise and reduce working time in order to make room for young people. They have taken wages into consideration as well. The reduction in working time has been financed by Government subsidy and a reduction by the trade unions in overall weekly earning. That has been accepted in Austria. The subsidy is not one tenth of the cost of keeping a single person unemployed. In every way the idea makes a great deal of sense.
The idea of a second year of training, which has increasingly been adopted by other countries such as West Germany, should not be rejected by this country. In that respect I accept what was said by the hon. Member for Flint, East (Mr. Jones). What is more important is the concept of an additional training right at a later stage in working life. The Commission proposes certification of training courses and the concept of accumulating credits which some of us have urged time and again. Without it, all the training schemes in the world are so many dead ends. Without a credit system they lead nowhere.
I should have thought that the Government would welcome the idea of young people setting up in business. The Minister has so far said nothing about it, but a great many jobs could be created through that idea. I understood that the concept of development agents went along with the idea of trying to create co-operatives and local small businesses established by young people.
In discussing the importance of these ideas put forward by the social fund and its commissioner, I should like to refer to what I regard as the strange ambiguities on both sides of the House. The Government have made it clear time and again that they will not support an increase in the size of the social fund. They believe that there must be an annual settlement of the budget unrelated to any attempt to establish a fundamental reform of the Community's financing structure. The Government must know that if there is no such reform, and if they insist on keeping within the ceiling of own resources, they will not, in practice, go along with the Commission's far-reaching youth unemployment concepts. The Financial Secretary to the Treasury said on 21 February:
We do not share the Commission's views on the need for extra own resources."—[Official Report, 21 February 1983;, Vol. 37, c. 672.]
It therefore follows that the Government cannot share the Commission's views on trying to deal effectively and radically with youth unemployment.
The position of the right hon. Member for Stepney and Poplar (Mr. Shore) is exactly the same. In the debate on the European budget, the right hon. Gentleman, in commending what he called a "resolute approach", announced that we should reduce our contribution to the level of our receipts. The strange tragedy for the Labour party is that it believes in everything that the Commission is proposing and in the impact that that approach would have on youth unemployment. It believes that all its proposals are far more radical than those which the Government are commending. However, it has announced its intention of leaving the Community, which is attempting to do so much to reduce youth unemployment.
I profoundly respect the contributions that the hon. Member for Flint, East makes to unemployment debates, but he must know, as I know, that the chances of getting from the Government anything as far-reaching as the Commission's proposals to reduce youth unemployment are absolutely nil. Therefore, there is the most astonishing contradiction in the Labour party, which with one and the same voice claims that it cares so much, as I believe it does, about youth unemployment yet also says that it wishes to leave the Community, which is proposing to make substantial resources available to reduce the tragic level of youth unemployment. I am not surprised that people as honest as Mr. Terence Duffy should speak against the Labour party's stance. Mr. Duffy said to his union today that the Labour party should rethink its proposal to withdraw from the Community because of the employment consequences in the United Kingdom.
I was very puzzled by some of the things that the right hon. Member for Crosby (Mrs. Williams) said. She seemed to be saying to the House that we have problems in this country and that the best way to solve those problems is to vest the responsibility for so doing in the institutions of the Community—not a democratically elected Government or Parliament, not the United Kingdom but the Commission. She is saying that the Commission can solve the problems of this country. As I understand it, before June next year there will be a general election in this country. If the right hon. Lady wants to go before her electorate to say that we cannot be trusted to solve our own problems so we have to give them to an unelected Commission on the other side of the English channel, I do not suppose that we shall see her come back here. If that is the view that she holds, I do not suppose that that would be any great tragedy as far as Britain is concerned.
The hon. Member for Flint, East (Mr. Jones) is a very good-looking man. I think also that he is something of a Lothario. He is like a man obsessed. He seems to have a fixation with women, training for women, money to spend on women and women not getting a fair share of jobs. Why does he have to divide society in this way? When we go round Marks and Spencer and buy something, we do not find men on the counter. Why does the hon. Gentleman not insist that we should have training programmes in Marks and Spencer to make sure that there are as many salesmen as salewomen? Why is there this sex discrimination?
I was very reassured by what my right hon. Friend the Minister of State, Department of Employment had to say. I had the feeling that what I would say to the House this evening—late at night with not many Members present, and with not many people reporting our debate—would be the end of the matter. I thought that that would be the finish and that nothing would happen. However, my right hon. Friend has promised the House that the views of each and every Member as expressed in this debate will be taken with him in his baggage when he goes to Brussels, and will be put forward with sincerity and conviction as the views of the Members of this House. My views will go with those of other hon. Members when my right hon. Friend next goes to Brussels. I am sure that he will be generous in support of what I am about to say, and I am grateful.
This is a short debate and a late debate. I have in my hands part of the documentation that we are faced with in the debate. I suppose that we are expected to read it among all the other things that we have to do. It takes time and trouble enough to weigh it, let alone read it. How much work goes into the preparation of these sad documents? How many bureaucrats and civil servants in Brussels and in London have spent their time in helping to produce them? How much of my right hon. Friend's valuable time has been spent in that way? How much money is being spent on air fares to enable Ministers to traipse backwards and forwards across the Community to produce this documentation?
What, as a Conservative, do I see as the reason for this? We are in favour of simplification, of letting the people get on with their own lives, of doing things without being trammelled by bureaucracy. We are the Conservative party and we are determined to set the people free. What is this bureaucratic monstrosity that we are debating tonight? What would previous Governments of whatever persuasion, 50 or 100 years ago, have thought about it? What have we come to that we should be debating this nonsense and rubbish tonight?
The Minister rightly said that the European social fund was important. It is important in total because we have received £960 million from it. But that has been over 10 years. In one short year—unless we have managed to resolve the problems of our budget contribution— our deficit on the budget with the European Community will be hundreds of millions of pounds in excess of what we have received from this munificent fund during the long period of 10 years. Is it really so important?
Why do we need a social fund? Why do we need a policy from Brussels on vocational training? Are we not capable of devising our own vocational training policy? Have we not in this Parliament reassessed, rearranged and reformed our training procedures in regard to vocational training in the United Kingdom? Have we not simplified them and cut out some of the bureaucracy? Have we not cut out some of the dead wood so that people can see what they are doing? Ministers have returned from Brussels with what is before the House tonight, and I should like to know why. It is against all we have done in the past. Cannot we make up our own mind about our own policies?
There is something more dangerous. There are strong vested interests on the other side of the English channel. There are people who do not want us to be nation states. They want us to be one European state. Their power, function and prestige is dependent on that happening, be they in the European Assembly, the Commission or some of the other organisations which feed off the munificence of those organisations. They want a united Europe. Ask 90 per cent. of the Members of this House—indeed, ask 90 per cent. of the population of Britain—if that is what they want, and the answer will be no. If we allow an increase in the influence of the European social fund—of a European policy on vocational training—we shall be feeding those mouths, building up the enemies of the British constitution, building up one Europe against a group of nation states working together where they have common interests within a European community, and that is not the way we want to go.
I must give the House an awful warning. We have all heard of the monstrosity of the common agricultural policy, and it is a monstrosity. I believe that if one took any hon. Member to one side and spoke to him, and he were to be frank with one, he would agree that the CAP was a monstrosity. It costs Britain—our people and in particular the poorer people—dear. When we joined the Community we were told that the CAP would be reformed, that it was taking 60 per cent. of the budget and that it would be cut to 40 per cent. I think the prediction for this year would be about 80 per cent. of the budget. More than 10 years ago Professor Mansell had plans for the reform of the CAP. It never was and it is never likely to be reformed; the vested interests are too great. Are we now to embark on a series of other policies within the Community?
The appetite only grows with the feeding. Are we going to give more funds to this monster on the other side of the Channel so that it denudes us of our own money, starts deciding what our own policies should be and starts taking over bit by bit and piece by piece the sovereignty of the United Kingdom and the lives of our ordinary people? Is that what we want, because it is what we are setting about? If we go along this little line backwards and forwards on aeroplanes to meet other people over there, great bureaucrats devising heavyweight documents and nonsense like this and spending money along those lines, that is what will happen.
I shall go into some of the few details of the measures that we have before us on the European social fund. Paragraph 8 is headed: "Financial and administrative matters." and concerns
Non-capital costs of training schemes, job adaptation for the disabled".
Have we not got schemes for job adaptation for the disabled ourselves? Do we need those from Europe? The paragraph mentions wage subsidies. Suppose that a company of mine in Northampton is having difficulty keeping its head above water, perhaps in the footwear industry. Supposing that the regional way of dealing with this fund were to say that as a region in Italy had general
economic difficulties some footwear manufacturer in Italy would be given wage subsidies, putting my constituents out of work. Is that what we mean by wage subsidies?
There is also "resettlement of migrants". What do they mean by that? Is that something for my hon. Friend the Member for Basildon (Mr. Proctor) to take an interest in? I do not know. What is it all about? What do we want these policies for?
The proposals for Community action on vocational training range widely. The document mentions
the provision of technical assistance to member States on the evaluation and planning of training provision".
Do we really need a bureaucratic monster the other side of the Channel to help us in that? There is an analysis of training requirements for trainers, vocational guidance advisers and development agents—lots of little people with European uniforms rushing around our factories telling people how to carry out the things that they know better how to do than the people who come to tell them how to do them. Is that what we want? Is that what people have to pay their taxes and good money for—for that interference and homogenisation in the community? Is what we really want
The promotion of interchange and dissemination of information on training."?
That means great meetings in hotels at great expense, and people travelling backwards and forwards across the Community with nothing better to do than talk to one another and achieve nothing. It is expenditure of our money, of taxpayers' money, which we in the House have a prime responsibility to guard as jealously as we possibily can.
This is palpable nonsense. I am sorry for my right hon. Friend. He hates bureaucracy. We all hate bureaucracy, but he is enmeshed in it, a cog in the machine. He cannot get out. Because we are part of it, he has to play his part in this dreadful organisation. I only wish that somehow we could break free. We do not want to leave the Community —I do not want to leave the Community—but there is so much in that Community that is wrong and against the interests of the people whom we represent that we must fight, fight for Britain, get British rights and not be involved in this sort of nonsense any more.
I am sorry to hear that the hon. Member for Northampton, North (Mr. Marlow) finds the documentation very heavy and tiresome to read at this time of night, but the final draft of the Commission's proposals was available early last October. I thought that there would have been ample time for the hon. Gentleman to wade through them before now.
I shall refer to the Community document reviewing the European social fund, document No. 10235. I welcome it, although at this stage it is a cautious welcome. However, the changes that are proposed in the fund need a lttle examination. I shall comment on the new method of operation.
First, I welcome the principle of a reform that alters the fund and releases resources which we hope will play a positive role in improving employment opportunities. For far too long, many areas in this country have been denied access to resources that would have gone some way towards halting and reversing their industrial decline.
As a Member of this House, and with the additional responsibilities that I also had as a Member of the European Parliament, I have long been anxious to encourage the redeployment of Community funding and move resources into the industrial sector. For a long time, I have felt annoyance and frustration at the stubbornness of both the present Government and the previous Labour Government in constantly turning down requests from areas such as the west midlands even though mounting evidence showed the need for reclassification of regional status. I regard such refusals as being shortsighted. By our own action, we deny ourselves what is often referred to as a fairer proportion of the Community budget. The tendency is then for people to complain, as hon. Members have complained tonight, that the United Kingdom is a major contributor, and to grumble about our low status as a beneficiary, although in many instances we have inflicted that low status upon ourselves.
I should like to consider some of the general proposals for the new method of operation. Last month I received a letter from Ivor Richard, the European Commissioner for employment and social affairs, telling me that the new proposals were aimed at concentrating finance into the areas of greatest need, and that there would be no linkage with regional policy classifications, which are determined at national level. That is a welcome departure from previous practice.
The Minister will be relieved to hear that I shall not once again tour the ruins to which four years of his Government have reduced the west midlands. However, it is necessary to relate the proposals to that region and to see how we might fare under the new system. The proposed new criteria have four components of equal value. There is the obvious criterion of overall unemployment levels. Unemployment in the west midlands is 3 per cent. above the national average. With the traumatic decline in the traditional metal-bashing industries in my constituency, the figures for that travel-to-work area are now well above both regional and national levels. I therefore assume that we would qualify on that criterion. Another component is long-term unemployment. Within the region there has been an increase of 380 per cent. in the numbers of those out of work for over a year. In the black country towns, the number of those unemployed for more than 12 months has risen by a staggering 575 per cent. in the last four years. The third indicator, youth unemployment, has increased by over 620 per cent. — in my employment area by over 550 per cent.—since the Government came to office. That, too, is a qualifying factor.
However, although the implementation of training guarantees is needed, it is not the solution to youth unemployment. The real solution is to combine training with job creation on a large scale, and that is entirely the responsibility of the Government.
The fourth component is gross domestic product per head of population. In this respect my region has fallen from the highest to the lowest position of all regions save Northern Ireland.
My region therefore meets all the criteria. I hope that the Minister will be helpful and tell us how long the statistical data must remain at that level before applications can be approved. I have read all the documentation, but I am still uncertain as to the period that is regarded as acceptable for this purpose.
Crucial to the success of the proposals is the procedure whereby applications are handled. It seems that the national Government is involved before proposals reach the Commission. I hope that the Government will not use any form of veto, that they will not be unnecessarily rigid and inflexible and that they will not use the prohibiting factors of regional policy classification. If those obstacles are placed in our way, we shall be back to square one and the resources will not reach those in greatest need. I am anxious to have assurances from the Minister that stumbling blocks will not be placed in our way, and I shall listen carefully to his response.
I seek the Minister's comments, too, on the special provisions for what are described as black spots —pockets of high unemployment in which the problem may be disguised because surrounding areas within the same region have less serious problems.
The documentation defines black spots as areas with at least treble the national average unemployment rate. I find that unacceptable. I hope that I am a reasonable human being and I know beter than to expect or even to want complete equity throughout the Community in the allocation of these resources. Nevertheless, it is not unreasonable to expect more justice and a better balance than is usually our lot.
As I understand it, to obtain exceptional treatment a country such as Greece needs pockets of unemployment of 15 per cent.—that is, three times the Greek national average. Yet that figure is already far exceeded in many regions of this country. Germany would need 30 per cent unemployment in its black spots, but the criterion for exceptional treatment for this country is an unemployment rate of more than 41 per cent. That cannot be right.
The Government's incompetence in Europe and their neglect of the west midlands have put us out of the race again, because the criteria will operate against those in greatest need. It seems that, while continental patients improve their economic health—so they should, and good luck to them — the doctor responsible for the patient who requires intensive care is allowing that patient's condition to deteriorate. The Government, having created high unemployment, are selling us short by accepting this recommendation.
When I raised this matter two months ago, I was told that the proposals would come before the Council of Ministers in June. The Minister today also referred to June. These proposals are still open to amendment and I look to the Minister to tell me that he is going to knock some sense into these special provisions.
I doubt that there is any way of estimating the resources that would be available to us under these proposals in their entirety. The time has come for the Community to reform its procedures, to direct its energies and resources to the provision of job opportunities and to release energies to help in the fight against industrial decline. Only by massive intervention in the industrial sector can there be positive action on the scale that we need in this country for success. Such major reform within the Community would also shift the burden of Community spending away from agriculture and ensure that this country's share of the budget was a much fairer one.
These proposals tonight are very modest, but they could form the beginning of a move in that direction, and it is that principle and that move which I have been seeking for many years that I welcome most warmly.
When the right hon. Lady the Member for Crosby (Mrs. Williams) rose to speak earlier, I assumed that I would be disagreeing entirely with what she said, because I have found in all previous debates—and indeed from my experience as a Member of Parliament—that basically she stands for all the policies and principles which I loathe and deplore. I regard her as a very dangerous woman indeed, and I believe that she stands for very bad policies.
I was therefore astonished to find that I was wholly in agreement with the right hon. Lady on the principal points she made tonight. She turned on her former colleagues in the Labour party—the people who are allied with her in closing down grammar schools and supporting socialist policies generally—and said to them, "What on earth are you doing?" She turned in particular to the hon. Member for Flint, East (Mr. Jones) and said, "What on earth are you and your sort doing by opposing this kind of thing, because this sort of thing is exactly what every Socialist should be supporting?"
The more we get papers of this kind about all the new European proposals for European regional funds, European steel policies, European policies of worker control, and all the rest of it, the more clear it is becoming that, instead of opposing these measures, the Labour party should be supporting them. These proposals, such as the social fund, which it has been said gave us a profit of £960 million, summarise all the things which true socialists should stand for, and incorporate all the things which are wholly contrary to the splendid policies being advanced by the Conservative Government at home.
What on earth is the Labour party doing opposing this kind of measure? It has got the basis of a European interventionist training programme. It is another of these grand schemes which is going to lead to more and more European policies, more and more intervention, more and more bureaucracy, more and more control, more and more subsidy and more and more lashing around of State funds to try to stimulate employment or to protect employment for so-called social reasons. Like the right hon. Member for Crosby, I ask what on earth is any socialist doing opposing this kind of thing? What we have in the paper before us is a proposal to lead on to the development of a Common-Market-wide industrial and vocational training policy.
This is one only one of a number of developments in this field, and I believe that, just as the right hon. Lady has identified this, so we are seeing the same things happening among what I would call the genuine socialist and Labour party—people like Bob Rowthan, who has written some splendid articles recently for Marxism Today, asking "Why on earth are socialists opposing the Common Market, because they can get through the Common Market the kind of things that socialists could never get through a British Parliament—such as, for example, worker control and participation?"
The hon. Member for Glasgow, Maryhill (Mr. Craigen) is certainly supporting this kind of measure. He must know that he will never get it through a British Parliament, he will never get it through a British Labour Government, but he could get it through the Common Market, and probably will.
I believe that it is high time that people like Bob Rowthan and Francis Cripps had more supporters in the Labour party of the extension of Common Market socialism, because this is something which, as the right hon. Lady said, is happening and is going to become bigger.
If only there were more intellectual honesty among Socialists who support such things, we might get a better response from Conservative Members and, indeed, the Conservative Government. We Conservatives should be complaining bitterly about this kind of Socialist and interventionist nonsense. My right hon. Friend, who is a splendid Minister, must be aware in his heart of hearts that the only reason why we support this interventionist nonsense is that it is one of the devices whereby we reduce an absurdly high net contribution.
It must be obvious to most impartial observers that our entry into the Common Market has been disastrous for jobs. We have aligned ourselves in an appalling way to Socialist measures such as the CAP, the steel policy and many others that have redirected resources and added enormously to the burdens of the British people. We have seen the emergence of an appalling trade deficit in manufactured goods. We always used to have a yearly profit in our trade in manufactures with Europe, but in every year since we joined we have had an appalling deficit. In 1982, it was £5,000 million — equivalent, according to the usual measures used, to the loss of 800,000 jobs in the United Kingdom. We are all aware that, as long as that continues, we are effectively destroying our manufacturing base.
There has also been the drain of the contributions. It angers me when Liberals and Social Democrats proclaim, "Look at all this cash that comes from the Common Market". It may provide training and help with all kinds of daft ideas, but they do not say that every pound of grant costs us about £1·80. As the hon. Member for Flint, East (Mr. Jones) rightly said, it has cost us more than £1 million a day net since we joined. Think how much we could have done for British industry and jobs had the British taxpayer not given that crazy amount of aid to the continent of Europe!
As a sincere person, my right hon. Friend must be aware of the drain on jobs because of the exit of investment. Before we joined the Common Market, we had the lion's share of Japanese investment in Europe—80 per cent. Since we have joined, there has been a disastrous and stable decline year by year. Last year we attracted only 12 per cent. of that investment, and it is continuing to decline. The major part of that investment, has inevitably flooded to the continent, essentially to Germany.
I have listened with great attention to what the hon. Gentleman has said. Would there be an increase in Japanese or American investment in Britain if we were to leave the European Community?
I am absolutely convinced, and the evidence confirms it, that, had we not been members, American and Japanese investment would have been considerably greater. The hon. Gentleman may disagree, but it is abundantly clear that our percentage share of Japanese investment has declined year by year from the day we joined, from 80 per cent. to 12 per cent.
My right hon. Friend should ask whether it is worth our while getting increasingly involved and stuck in nonsensical, interventionist Socialist schemes on a
Common Market base simply because we shall thereby receive a small amount of our crazy net contribution. How can it help jobs in Britain to have Community-wide proposals and assistance for the
provision of technical assistance to member states on the evaluation and planning of training, the analysis of training requirements of trainers, vocational guidance advisers and development agents, and the promotion of exchanges and the dissemination of information and experience on training"?
All that nonsense merely employs more and more silly people who walk round with the paper equivalent of geiger counters and waste public money.
The Prime Minister rightly prides herself on the fact that we have cut out a lot of silly boards, commissions and councils that waste a great deal of money and achieve nothing. While she is achieving miracles in Britain by getting rid of Socialism and interventionism, we are creating more and more of it through our relations with the Common Market.
I ask the Minister not to get involved in yet another European exercise. We have seen the effect of Socialist policy on agriculture. I wonder what Conservatives or the Whips, who always listen carefully to speeches except those that I might make, would say if I stood up at the Conservative party conference and said, "I have a new plan for Britain's motor industry. We shall ensure that our motor industry has been told that, any car that it produces we shall buy at about twice the present price and if we cannot sell it we shall clump it abroad at a quarter of the price that we must pay for it, thereby saving a great deal of foreign exchange.". They would say that I was either a Communist or a nutcase, but that is exactly what we do in the CAP. We pay about twice as much for our food as we should and we are destroying the economies of some of the poorest countries in the world by dumping massive quantities of food abroad at low prices. That is Socialist and interventionist. It involves protection and intervention for social reasons and it is creating an economic nonsense.
The same is true for steel. We are to have high protected prices, lots of bureaucracy and control and European steel inspectors calling in all over the place. That is exactly what our Prime Minister is trying to stop in our domestic policy.
We should tear the document up, fling it out and say that we want no more European-wide policies. We know about the steel policy which has simply raised prices, destroyed jobs and made us less competitive. We know about the CAP, which has redirected resources and cost a fortune to British consumers who are the poorest of all. We have witnessed the development of those Socialist policies which are utterly contrary to what the Government are trying to do at home. We should try to form some type of bond or co-operation with all the people of good will in Britain who believe in democracy, freedom and free enterprise and say, "We shall fight against Socialism in the Community. We shall fight hard to achieve a fair contribution system and we shall not try to get round it by setting up silly bureaucratic Socialist schemes to get a small net pay-off for Britain." I fear that that is what will happen. I am scared that the Government will follow the crazy policies that the hon. Member for Crosby advanced.
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The hon. Gentleman has constantly referred to my right hon. Friend the Member for Crosby (Mrs. Williams) as the hon. Member for Crosby. I hope that he will remember her position.
It is typical of SDP people that, when we discuss a serious issue that affects jobs and the economy, the hon. Member for Farnworth (Mr. Roper) should intervene on such a silly point. The obsession that Social Democratic Members have with the patronage and titles nonsense is dreadful. That is why they left the Labour party. They are snobs and think that they are cleverer and better than other Socialists. The hon. Lady, or the right hon. Lady as she prefers to be called, represents the root of the Social Democratic party—they are a bunch of snobs and think that they are smarter than the average Labour Member. They know all the facts about life but, sadly, they know none of the truths.
I hope that the Government will not follow the right hon. Lady's course of action. I am scared that they might. I see the Whips going around talking about it. They are building up the atmosphere so that the Government can say, "The answer to Britain's contributions problem is not to get a fair deal but to set up a lot of other Socialist nonsenses and European policies which will somehow benefit Britain.". We will have a European energy policy, not because it makes sense to have one or because that is Conservative party policy, but because there might be some device by which we shall get more cash from it than the French, the Germans or the Italians. We shall probably have a European hairdressing policy if we think that we have more people with hair and more jobs in hairdressing than the Italians. We shall set up more and more Socialist nonsense schemes, not because we want them or because they are Conservative or because they are common sense, but simply as a means of getting back some of our net contribution.
We must not do that. It is sad that the Government are burrowing round asking some of the more progressive elements in the Conservative party about new Common Market schemes that may provide us with some money. We want to follow the Prime Minister's resolute Conservative policy at home. We want to get rid of intervention, bureaucracy and subsidy because then our economy will stand on its own feet. We shall never solve our problems if we engage in more costly, bureaucratic, interventionist and Socialist schemes. That is what the social fund is, but it should be scrapped. Its throat should be cut, as should the throats of all other Socialist interventionist schemes. The British Parliament and Government should make up their own mind about how to spend their money.
I ask the Government not to be misled by the fact that if we become involved in yet another silly Socialist scheme we might receive an extra £10 million, £20 million or £30 million. There should be no increase in Community resources. We must try to stand firm against Socialist nonsense such as the social fund. We should stand for Conservative prinicples, not just at home but in our relations with the EC, and we should reject every thing for which the right hon. Member for Crosby stands, in view of her comments about what the Labour party should he doing, when we think of what such a party should be doing in supporting such bureaucratic nonsense.
The best friend or the worst enemy of the hon. Member for Southend, East (Mr. Taylor) would never describe him as a Communist, so I can only conclude that he must answer to the other description that he gave to the House—a nutcase.
The Minister of State will be sorry that he told the House that he would take on board all the opinions offered to him tonight, because he is asking us only to note this document. I served for two years on the European Secondary Legislation Committee. The resources may be crumbs, as my hon. Friend the Member for Flint, East (Mr. Jones) said, but one certainly gets a feast of papers from Brussels. I cannot see much Socialism in the papers that were provided with this document.
The Minister spoke about welding together a Community-wide approach, but will he tell the House what he means by that? The Commissioner for Social Affairs, Mr. Ivor Richard, paid tribute only this week to the youth training scheme that the Government will introduce in September, and I got the impression that the scheme will act as the lead ship for the European approach to youth training. However, the difficulty is that the Manpower Services Commission is still trying hard to stitch together a scheme for nearly 500,000 youngsters who have either left school or who will soon leave school and who cannot find full-time employment.
Little has been said this evening about the extent to which existing MSC programmes receive money from the European Community. They will receive about £160 million this year, and the MSC budget for the youth training scheme for 1983–84 is £873 million. Although the Government are blowing their trumpet about how much they are doing for school leavers, the fact is that they are investing fewer of our national resources in the scheme than is often made public. There appears to be a significant shift in thinking, because regional problems in the United Kingdom are basically urban, with our difficulties in manufacturing decline. On the continent, the regional problems are basically rural and concern the shift from the land and the need to provide alternative employment in the towns and cities. Relatively small sums of money are involved in the documentation.
More important is the way in which the Government are seeking to tackle the problem of youth unemployment. There is a remarkable degree of state intervention in this sphere. The hon. Member for Southend, East (Mr. Taylor) was correct when he said that the Government are making remarkable interventions in an attempt to provide training places for young people when they leave school.
I think the scheme will prove rather makeshift. The 12 month period consisting of 39 weeks of work practice and 13 weeks of college attendance or off the job training will not provide a sound basis for foundation training. The Manpower Services Commission hopes that by 1985 it will be able to provide a second year in the youth training scheme. The scheme has many implications as to the type of employment those young people shall move into. It is important that the employment that they move into should be closely related to the training that they underwent during the 12 months within the youth training scheme.
The basic problem that the Government face is that they cannot guarantee young people a job after the completion of their period on the youth training scheme. That problem makes a nonsense of YTS proposals that there will be a year's training after the youngsters leave school and probably another year's training before they reach the age of 25.
Are not the Government proposing that those young people who undergo a year's training in a college will be ineligible to enter the youth training scheme if they cannot find a job at the conclusion of their college training? The position will be hard for those young people caught up in that problem. Moreover, the Government are spendng considerable amounts of wasted money on their young workers scheme. Ministers have publicly stated that 90 per cent. of the youngsters who are assisted into jobs through the young workers scheme would have been engaged by employers anyway. The Manpower Services Commission wish to see that money diverted into more meaningful schemes which it is currently trying to operate. The reason for the employment subsidy to employers is to reduce youth earnings. A survey by the Department of Employment of youth earnings between 1975 and 1980 shows that average earnings for those under 18 fell from 41 per cent. to 39 per cent. of adult earnings. There is no upward trend in youth earnings. On the contrary, the trend is downwards.
Will the Minister comment on some aspects of the youth training scheme? As much has been made of the youth training scheme in Brussels, I suspect that the way in which the programme shapes up in the United Kingdom will largely colour the approach that subsequently eminates from the European Commission.
For example, there will be about 2,000 managing agencies looking after the Youth Training Scheme. This week, an article in The Times mentioned the way in which one organisation is moving in on a substantial scale to look after the interests of many thousands of young people, as a managing agency, through the youth training scheme. They will make quite a lot of money in the process. I understand that the Manpower Services Commission will give a lump sum at the commencement of sponsorship instead of reimbursing the costs incurred, as is done in so many other areas of public accounting. I hope that the Minister will deal with that point. The MSC is trying to wash its hands of as much of the day-to-day responsibility for the scheme as possible.
Furthermore, the Minister must be aware that about 550,000 16 and 17-year-olds would be unemployed at the end of the school holidays, were it not for the introduction of the youth training scheme. I am concerned about the extent to which there will be a differentiation between the so-called mode A work practice schemes, and the so-called mode B or community oriented schemes. The figures vary considerably up and down the country. I understand from the MSC that it has already identified about 83 per cent. of its target for mode A places. However, the figure for Wales is 58 per cent., for Scotland 67 per cent. and for London—presumably inner London —it is 58 per cent.
The number of mode B places will be increased in relative proportion to the hardest hit industrial areas. That is a matter of concern. Perhaps No. 10 Downing street is taking in a mode B trainee, but many areas are simply running out of employers. That is why the Government will find it quite difficult to operate the principle of additionality so that for every extra three trainees that an employer takes on, he must already employ two 16-year-olds or young people. Therefore, the scheme faces considerable difficulties.
We are getting into a terrible tangle over training. In addition to the launching of the youth training scheme, we have had yet another brochure from the MSC entitled, "Towards An Adult Training Strategy — a discussion paper". It is concerned with the plus-18 age group that we now have a problem with. Many of those who lost out on training opportunities after leaving school and who are now in their twenties or thirties, hope to acquire some form of training. The scale of the problem is formidable. The document talks about a substantial diminution in unskilled and semi-skilled operators. Indeed, it points out that in the past 10 years the number has fallen by 1 million and it is estimated that it will have fallen by a further 1 million by 1990. This is a measure of the retraining programme that will be necessary. The Government will not succeed by trying to do a second-best programme for the adults, when I am not convinced that they will provide a successful programme for school leavers through the introduction of the youth scheme.
With the abandonment of the industrial training boards, the changes that will take place with the introduction of the youth training scheme, and the latest documents seeking to review the provision made for adult training, there is a need for the House to have a proper debate on training generally. The latest epistle from Brussels will not make any significant difference to training. I suspect that it will add considerably to the number of bureaucrats who are operating in the development of manpower planning and policies in this country. It is nonsense that a Government that on the one hand are cutting back resources to local authorities are on the other dishing out money through the Community programme, the youth training scheme, and other schemes that are sometimes, at the end of the day, fairly ephemeral, contribute little or nothing to the well-being of the community, will leave many young people wondering whether they do not live in an upside-down world.
I came to the debate merely to listen and learn, and my hon. Friend the Member for Southend, East (Mr. Taylor) turned on me as I sat here innocently, and insulted me. I am glad that he left out my name, but he made me a progressive Tory. He should not have made enormous assumptions on my view either about this order or about the Common Market just because I did not rise to speak before him.
This has been one of the most insulting debates that we have had. I have been insulted by my hon. Friend, and the right hon. Member for Crosby (Mrs. Williams) insulted both the Government party and the main Opposition party, and, as usual, made the SDP appear to be above politics. We have had a wide-ranging debate, on the one side about the Common Market as a whole, and on the other about youth training and unemployment needs. What I have to say is somewhere in the middle. I would claim to be the true moderate, placed between the SDP and the Conservatives.
It seems essential that over a fairly short period we get away from the idea of lots of people sending lots of applications to a central European body, and find, one way or another, a way to ensure that the Community becomes involved with ideas that are clearly worthwhile because they are following the Government youth training scheme that should have been brought in several years ago, when the right hon. Member for Crosby had the opportunity of convincing her then colleagues that it was a good idea.
There is a general agreement that the youth training scheme ideas are good, so it clearly does not make sense for the European Community to produce an index that will be out of date, to pick up a point made by the hon. Member for West Bromwich, West (Miss Boothroyd). If there will be a five-month time lag for it to make a decision, and it will publish an index of regions in advance and have schemes going directly to it, the index will be at least a year and a half out of date, if not more.
We need to adapt the proposal, whatever it is, in detail. I understand the detail, and it is not the most sensible thing that can be done. We should get Brussels to say that it has money that it has collected in and will dish out, and the national Governments can deal with all the applications and make sure that the rationalisation takes place on which the Commission reports.
As I understand it, much of the rationalisation will be to ensure that some of the fairly artificial rules of the EC are swept away. It might have been better if the Commission or Council had stated the categories for which the EC would not fund the training. It is most important that the Government, who have proposed a comprehensive scheme for Britain, should be able to make their own decisions without too many artificial devices designed to obtain extra pennies, pounds or ecus from Brussels.
I remember going to India with the Select Committee on Overseas Aid to see how our aid was used according to our criteria. I was told that the Indian Government have a special department to shuffle projects into the right order. Those which meet our criteria are allocated to the United Kingdom, others to another donor country, and so on. In the end, India gets what it wants and the donor country is also satisfied.
The European social fund has a useful purpose. It does not create such a commonality of purpose that could not be achieved by any sensible Government, doing what our Government are—not just talking or spraying the word "radical" into every other sentence, but getting on with the job to ensure that every school leaver gets training or work experience, preferably both.
Leaving aside the robust speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Southend, East about the EC generally and how Socialist it is, one of the greatest advantages of being in the EC is that we should be able to learn from one another. I have learnt from the French and German youth training schemes that it is possible for a small employer to take on a young person. In Britain, as I understand it from reports which may be incomplete, it is not possible for a one or two-man business to take on a trainee because there is insufficient back-up to ensure that if one person is off sick or on holiday, the young person will he catered for. If that problem can be solved in France and Germany it can be solved here to. If one says that small business men have no part to play and that young people cannot get their initial experience or training from a one or two-person business, we shall find fewer people with the experience during their early working life of what it is like to be in such businesses.
Finally, passing over what I call the travel agent's clause on people flitting from one country to another, the whole family perspective is missing. If one is dealing with those who find it hard to use training, who have not done as well as they might in their formal education, and who are hard to place in employment, a common denominator for many is their family circumstances. If we are too look for innovative projects and proposals, we should try to build in what I call the family perspective. Parents can give confidence and motivation to their children during their three or four years in secondary school before they look for training or work. There is clearly a great deal that families can do. Some families feel that they cannot help and encourage their children sufficiently to ensure that they go to school. That is the level at which we must begin to help.
Probably 30 per cent. of fourth and fifth-year pupils in inner London are absent from school each day. One might allow 5 or 7 per cent. for illness, or holidays that must be taken during school time, but one fifth of our children are being lost to education even before they reach school leaving age. That is the perspective that we need to build in. It is no good relying on the schemes that start after children have left school. We do not need the EC to do that, but I suspect that we could learn from those EC countries which have given a far greater role to their families and where family representatives are involved with their Governments.
Margaret Wynn, who wrote a book called "Family Policy" 13 years ago, said that the reason why France and Germany had managed to get roughly the same proportion of their young females and males—I pick up the point of the hon. Member for Flint, East (Mr. Jones)—into training was the pressure from families. The more people, especially women, that we can get through education and training beyond compulsory school leaving age, the more benefits we will see in terms of people having longer time horizons and being able to make decisions that affect their own lives in better ways.
I regard the main debate as a draw between those who have concentrated on the needs of young people and those who are more concerned with the overall shape of the Common Market as it is today.
As my hon. Friend the Member for Woolwich, West (Mr. Bottomley) said, the debate has been a titanic struggle between two philosophically opposed points of view. I hope to steer a middle course and to raise no further ire, in particular from the hon. Member for Flint, East (Mr. Jones), by confining myself to a systematic and, I hope, not too boring or plodding attempt to deal with the specific points that have been made.
The hon. Member for Flint, East asked why there were changes in the terms of the resolution about which I commented at the end of last year. As originally drafted, the resolution's proposals were in our view unrealistic. They would have diverted the resources needed to provide school leavers, who, we think, are the most vulnerable group, with basic training. We are not watering things down but building on our new youth training scheme. We believe that the new document represents a sharper focusing of the resources instead of their being diffused and diversified.
The hon. Gentleman commented on the armed services youth training scheme. The armed services scheme will not be part of the youth training scheme but my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence will ensure that it provides training of a similar standard to the youth training scheme. The issuing of a certificate is an interesting idea and my Department is discussing it with the Ministry of Defence.
All the trainees will receive off-the-job training consistent with the broad principles applying to the youth training scheme. It will be a popular and valuable contribution to youth training, helping youngsters to find work, and will be widely welcomed in the country as a whole.
Will the Minister confirm that the 5,200 places that are being provided by the armed services scheme would otherwise have been provided by the youth training scheme? Does he agree that, to that extent, they are space invaders of the youth training scheme?
We shall have to wait to see how many people will opt to go into the armed services training scheme and whether the non-armed forces section of the youth training scheme is fully subscribed, which we hope it will be. I do not think that we will be straining resources. The problem, certainly on the main stream youth training scheme, will be to find employers to whom to give the money.
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment will make a decision on the £25 allowance after receiving a recommendation from the Manpower Services Commission. It is intended that the commission will make its recommendation in June. It would be wrong for me to comment one way or the other on what relationship the date of that announcement might have with any other announcements that may be relevant to the month of June. My right hon. Friend will then consider that recommendation.
I wish at this stage to deal with the points made by the right hon. Member for Crosby (Mrs. Williams). I must be careful not to diminish her status in view of the trouble we had earlier this evening. The right hon. Lady asked about the further year of training for young people. We firmly believe that extended vocational training must be the responsibility of industry simply because resources are limited. In our view it would not be right to divert public moneys from other areas of training to provide a second year for all young people. Apart from training for apprentices, one of the three parts of the new training initiative—the tripartite programme—is adult training, to which the hon. Member for Glasgow, Maryhill (Mr. Craigen) referred. Delivering the guarantee of a first year must be a priority. Further training for its own sake, irrespective of its use in helping youngsters to find work, cannot be cost-effective.
The right hon. Member for Crosby referred to the words of the chairman of the MSC. As the right hon. Lady knows, we share the commission's long-term objective of providing comprehensive training for all those between the ages of 16 and 18 years. That objective is set out in the White Paper. We must not try to run before we have learned to walk, and we are not prepared to sign up in Brussels as a party to promoting a scheme that we do not have complete confidence in being able to manage. No one knows exactly how the one-year scheme will work out, and before we seek to extend it we should at least have the opportunity of appraising systematically what we have been able to do in the first year.
The hon. Member for Hint, East commented on 17-year-olds and said that some of them will not be able to get in on the scheme, and certainly not under the guaranteed places scheme. The scheme is aimed primarily at young people who leave school without any vocational qualifications to enter the world or work. The 16-year-old school leaver is, and must be, our priority. The enormous resources that we have made available should be sufficient to cover some employed 16-year-old school leavers and some unemployed 17-year-old school leavers, but not under guarantee. The resources that we are putting into the scheme—they are substantial—are limited and it must be right to concentrate them on young school leavers with the greatest need for training.
I have sympathy with the appeal of the hon. Member for Flint, East that we should include 17-year-old school leavers who have taken a vocational course, but I am not able to extend the rules in that way. There may be some 17-year-olds who find work who will be subject to the £1,850 grant. One of the two who are taken on as 17-yearolds as part of normal recruiting may benefit from the three-plus-two formula. The very existence of the formula, with its spread-over of the £1,850 to the two regulars, may encourage employers who might have been thinking of dropping their school leaver, or 17-year-old recruit entirely, to come back into eligibility.
Equal opportunity for women was an important part of the contribution of the hon. Member for Flint, East; and the right hon. Member for Crosby made some interesting references to the directional motivation of women to find and to get themselves placed in certain sorts of training, professions and work. I am not able to take seriously the hon. Gentleman's implied criticism that women are being severely discriminated against in conditions of severe unemployment, especially when considered against the measures that we are bringing forward to help the unemployed. He knows as well as I do that women, as a result of the equal pay legislation, have advanced dramatically in narrowing the differential between male and female rates over the past 10 to 12 years.
The evidence is that since the equal pay legislation came into effect there has been a dramatic increase in women's rates, from an average of about 60 per cent. of men's rates to close enough 75 per cent. The percentage could go higher and we shall have to get it higher. The differentials have been narrowed and women are now much less severely hit by unemployment. I am not convinced that it is to the advantage of women that they should have specially prepared training courses and should not take advantage of all the training courses that are on offer.
But at the margin, as perhaps the right hon. Lady knows, there are powers, which the Secretary of State exercises quite regularly, to designate certain bodies in such a way as to enable them to have training courses for women only. They are designed precisely to encourage them to take training in some of the skills which have been regarded traditionally as male skills, like motor car maintenance and engineering.
However, I think that she will recall from the days when she was Secretary of State for Education that the advice she must have been receiving at that time was that much of the good or bad, from the point of view of the directional motivation of women, arises at primary and secondary school ages. Unless the school staff is systematically and consciously trying at that early stage to condition the thinking of girls so that they should consider themselves to be apt, eligible and proper candidates for some of the more traditionally male oriented courses in schools—such as some of the scientific courses—it is difficult to redress the balance once they have left school. But we are trying to do so, and I think that the gradual emphasis which is now emerging in the economy for a unisex sort of skill requirement in, for example, computer technology and assembly, may begin to move the stream together again, and I hope that it does.
I will not rise to that seated intervention. The hon. Member for Flint, East was, however, sceptical about the community programme, whereas we are confident that the places for which we have budgeted will all be taken up and filled by the end of the year, which is the target we have set. We are expecting quite an upsurge in applications now that the local authorities' new financial years have begun, which they do in March and April. This is the time when they start to bring forward expenditure programmes, and we hope that the community programme will benefit particularly at that point.
Will additionality operate here; because often, although the local authorities may benefit on the on hand from resources from the Community, they Jose it on the other because of money being taken away by the rate support grant?
I was talking not about the European Community programme but our domestic programme, which was the query raised by the hon. Member for Flint, East. The hon. Gentleman, on the other hand, has raised a wider point and I would rather not be drawn into the additionality argument at this stage, as fortunately it has not been largely debated tonight.
The hon. Member for Flint, East asked a number of questions about the documents. The Commission regards job placement experts as those who guide unemployed people into suitable jobs; it is their technical jargon for that. Development agents are those who stimulate economic growth, particularly at local level. Frequent contacts and meetings between my Department and the local authority associations have taken place in connection with the documents. A number of written representations from local authorities were received and they have all been replied to by my colleagues and myself. Naturally, Scottish, Welsh and Northern Ireland Ministers were fully consulted, and the United Kingdom position has been agreed by all the Ministers collectively.
I was asked about the third part of the proposed funds, the passage about experiments. The experiments will be available to the whole country. As with the rest of the fund, applications will have to be forwarded and supported by bodies within member states; the Commission will not be able to promote schemes on its own initiative.
The right hon. Member for Crosby referred to the Commission's proposal about an increase of 2·5 million jobs for young people. That proposal is not part of the review of the social fund matters which we are discussing. We understand that the proposal is the subject of a Commission communication which was published only last Friday, and we have not so far received the official version. I cannot therefore tell the right hon. Lady much about it.
The hon. Member for West Bromwich, West. (Miss Boothroyd) was articulate about the Commission's definition of and the reference to, the so-called "black spots". The Commission's definition of "three times the national average" will not be of use to the United Kingdom. I state that categorically. The Government are pressing for a more helpful definition, for example "two times" or "twice" the Community or national average. I agree with the hon. Lady on black spots. The Commission's proposals are far too rigid and too favourable to the peripheral regions of the Community. Although we support the Commission's general proposals to introduce a league table for the regions, which we think will help areas such as her own, the west midlands, that is one reason why we are not happy at all about the black spot proposals, and we shall do our best to get them changed.
The hon. Lady also asked about making the league table as up-to-date as possible. The Commission is currently using data updated to October 1982. The idea is that that will be updated anually. My Department will continue to forward all eligible applications. We do not and will not pick and choose in that respect.
My hon. Friend the Member for Southend, East (Mr. Taylor) made a fierce attack on the bureaucracy of the EC. Whenever I hear the word "bureaucracy", I react in the Pavlovian way in which I suspect my hon. Friend expects me to react. I do not know anybody who is in favour of bureaucracy, wherever it occurs. I remind my hon. Friend, who is fair-minded and whose mind ranges over universal dimensions and perspectives, that the problems of bureaucracy occur in Britain not only now, but would continue to occur, I am afraid, if we were not part of the EC. They occurred even when we were an old imperial power. There was bureaucracy in the days of handling the problems of Gandhi, for example. The United States is an example of an independent capitalist country with few old-fashioned international or treaty links. There has been an enormous accretion in recent years of exactly the same problem — bureaucracy. The proliferation of various federal agencies is one of the great features of the United States at present. I am afraid that it is endemic in the specialisation inherent in the development of modern economies.
What we are trying to do everywhere is to minimise bureaucracy, if possible. I should like to ensure that we have in Europe the advantages that the United States has, in spite of its federal agencies, in that great integrated common market. That is what we are all after. If we can bring the bureaucracy down, so be it. I hope that the Americans will be as successful as we shall try to be in Europe, but at the same time we have to try to get the advantage of that continental scale of integrated market that has made the United States such a formidable and unapproachable economic force in the world. That is one of the things that the common market is all about. Alas, bureaucracy is not exclusive to it.
The hon. Member for Maryhill was concerned about managing agents. This is one of the realities of the youth training scheme. The only way to deliver a high quality training scheme of the massive scale envisaged in our programme is to ask employers to take on the task of arranging the programmes.
Many have argued vociferously that the level of grant is too low and some claim that it is too high, so I think that we have probably got it about right. We have had to set a flat rate for mode A funding. The youth task group unanimously endorsed it. Any other system would have been hopelessly bureaucratic. The hon. Gentleman referred to the imbalance between mode A and mode B. Our view is clear, that we want the schemes to be employer-led where possible. However, the Manpower Services Commission will have to provide some of the training needed, alas, if the guarantee to school leavers is to be met. That contribution will inevitably vary from region to region, but we certainly want it to be as small as possible.
My concern about managing agents was in respect not of the employers but of the cowboy outfits that might well move in.
I note the hon. Gentleman's concern, but it would be difficult for me to comment in detail on a phenomenon that has hardly materialised in any substantial form.
I will do so. My hon. Friend the Member for Woolwich, West made a modest but pungent and pertinent contribution. I believe that I can reassure him on one of the points that he made. He was anxious that the smaller business — the three, four or 10-man firm —should be able to play some part in the training scheme. He seemed to suggest that some of the internal difficulties of such firms, and the smallness of their operations, might make it difficult for them to do so.
Such firms will certainly have a role to play, within the context of a programme arranged by a managing agent —perhaps a chamber of commerce or a big local firm. The contribution made by a very small firm could be included as one of the series of modules through which the trainees would proceed during the 39 weeks of the employment-based phase.
I believe that, although in a number of European countries it is possible for trainees to work with a one or two-man firm—I am not talking about five or 10-man firms—that is not possible at the moment in this country. I hope that my hon. Friend will consider that point.
I take note of my hon. Friend's comment.
I hope that I have covered most of the points that have been raised in the debate. I will carefully study the pages of Hansard, and will put pen to paper if any points remain unanwered. Meanwhile, I hope that the House will agree to take note of the documents.
That this House takes note of European Community Document No. 10235/82 comprising a Commission opinion and implementing measures for the review of the European Social Fund, and the Explanatory Memoranda dated 23rd November 1982, and 26th April 1983, and of European Community Document No. 10657/82 setting out proposals and guidelines for the development of training policies and the Explanatory Memoranda dated 9th December 1982 and 26th April 1983; and welcomes the Government's intention to seek agreement on the basis of these Commission proposals to use the Social Fund to help resolve the labour market problems of the Community more effectively than hitherto, and to ensure that its training policies continue to develop to match the best practice in the Community.