Our new JTS aims to provide quality training for the long-term unemployed and its impact on unemployment will depend on its rate of expansion, its take-up and its success in providing the skills necessary to help participants back into jobs.
Is the Paymaster General concerned about people recruited under the job training scheme replacing people already in employment and, if he is, what safeguards has he adopted to ensure that job displacement does not take place? The right hon. and learned Gentleman mentioned quality in his reply. What, in practical terms, does that mean?
Work experience is provided by one or more employer. The training will also include quite a bit of training off the job. Therefore there is little risk of the new trainees displacing existing jobs, as the hon. Gentleman fears. We are certainly making sure that the MSC and all concerned work towards good quality schemes, because we are aiming to raise skill levels in this country. That means that we need good quality training.
Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that the one thing that unemployed people want, on the road to a proper job, is good training and that a job training scheme is an essential step in this direction in that it provides training for the unemployed if they so wish it? Will he give an account to the House of how this new scheme is progressing?
Certainly. So far almost 2,000 people have been entered into the scheme—1,992 in fact. However, it is expanding steadily and it is well on course to get up to over 200,000 trainees a year if it continues to expand at the present rate. We should like to maintain that rate of expansion, so long as we can ensure that the quality of training being given will indeed steer unemployed people back towards jobs.
Are there not structural weaknesses in the scheme which allow disreputable employers to exploit it and, by so doing, harm the interests of their employees?
As far as I am aware, the answer is no. If the hon. Gentleman knows of any example of a disreputable employer being taken on to the scheme, I should be anxious to hear about it. We hope that as soon as possible we shall move to a situation whereby all the managing agents will be approved training agencies.
I entirely agree. We could probably offer a year's free supply of beer to all the unemployed and the Opposition would oppose it. Their reaction to every positive idea which we put forward is one of carping criticism and negative attitudes.
Will the Paymaster General admit that the funding for the job training scheme at YTS equivalent costs provides for only three weeks' training in six months? That reveals the cynicism behind the scheme. It is not real training. It requires the unemployed to work for supplementary benefits. And to pay for the scheme — because there is no new money — TOPS, which provides real training, has been cut.
I am afraid that the hon. Lady has chosen an incorrect route to guide her towards an assessment of the amount of off-the-job training. In practice, for most individuals it will be substantially more than that. Of course, the length of the scheme will vary from individual to individual according to the needs of the individual and of the local labour market.
Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that Opposition attempts to rubbish the Government's initiatives on training schemes, such as the attempt which will be made tonight by Labour-controlled Norwich city council, will completely fail to conceal the success of the Government's measures in helping our young people and the long-term unemployed?
Some Labour-controlled councils turn away job experience, training opportunities and cash from the Government which would assist the inhabitants of their areas. No doubt they are encouraged in that by the totally negative attitude of the Labour Front Bench to whatever we propose.