On 26 January 1987, 1,008 people were taking part in the new job training scheme pilots. An interim evaluation of the scheme is already under way. The Manpower Services Commission will continue to monitor and evaluate the new job training scheme as it is extended nationally, and the commission's sub-group will oversee that process.
Does the Paymaster General admit that he did not monitor the pilot schemes before going for expansion, because his purpose was to lower the unemployment figures, not to help the unemployed? Will he confirm that experience of the pilot schemes shows that there was difficulty with recruiting and a high drop-out rate, and that it was impossible to provide proper training with the money made available?
Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman admit that he misled the House about the attitudes of trade unions to the scheme? Their conditional approval was for a higher allowance. As the Government did not comply with that., that means that trade union leaders do not support the scheme.
We carried out sufficient monitoring for it to be quite clear that the scheme was a valuable addition to what we are offering. We found no shortage of trainees wanting to join the scheme, no shortage of work experience and no shortage of managing agents. As for the drop-out rate, as the hon. Lady describes it, 17 per cent. left before the end of the scheme, but that figure includes quite a number of people who left for the excellent reason that they had found a job. We believe this scheme to be a valuable addition that should be introduced as rapidly as possible.
We could have a sterile political debate. It is easy for me to point out to the hon. Lady that she and her hon. Friends want to delay the introduction of training schemes and the reduction of unemployment until after the election, but that is hardly a responsible attitude.
The TUC commissioners did and do support the scheme. They reserved their position on the amount of allowance to be paid, but they were much more supportive of the scheme than the Opposition in their initial reaction.
No one is refused benefit just for refusing to take part in a programme or scheme. To be entitled to benefit, Parliament demands, as it has for the past 40 years, that people should demonstrate their continuing availability for work and should not refuse good offers of employment.
Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that it makes sense to expand the new job training scheme as quickly as possible to provide many young people with the training that they need for the jobs that are now becoming available?
I agree with my hon. Friend. It is pointless to tell unemployed people that they must wait for this successful scheme to be extended simply because the Labour party has decided that it needs further monitoring. I think that we are ready to go ahead.
Unfortunately, one cannot be a fly on the wall in any discussions between Ron Todd and Opposition Members. The members of the TUC sub-group and the commission supported the scheme and its extension, subject to the proviso that the quality of the scheme should be maintained, a point with which the Government were in total agreement. The TUC reserved its conclusions with regard to the allowance. The Labour party is arguing about how much people will be paid on the scheme. That is entirely in line with the usual Labour party attitude on most of these things, but it does not represent a fundamental objection.
How can the Minister claim success for this trial scheme when he has just confessed that there is a 17 per cent. drop-out rate? That does not make sense. Does he acknowledge that the newly extended training scheme simply will not work while it continues to try to use unemployed people as cheap labour?
With 822 out of 1,008 still receiving training and benefiting from it in the pilot areas, it would be pointless to scrap the scheme or not to extend it because 100 or so have left the scheme, especially when some of them left to take up jobs. I regret the Labour party's attacks on the scheme, which I believe are motivated solely by the fact that the Labour party is perplexed by the fall in unemployment and by the extension of training and new employment prospects and is therefore trying to delay the scheme until after the election for purely political reasons.
When so many people throughout the country and in my consitituency cannot get jobs because they do not have the necessary training, and when employers would otherwise employ them, is it not curious and irresponsible for the Opposition to say that the schemes are not good and to discourage people from obtaining the qualifications that would otherwise get them employment?
My hon. Friend's last point is a very serious one and I agree with him. For years the Labour party opposed YTS and stopped many young people from getting the benefit of that scheme. If the Labour party opposes YTS it will dissuade some long-term unemployed from benefiting from that scheme. The Labour party is against it for purely party political reasons and is continuing to be irresponsible about these projects.