I thank the Minister for his reply—[HON. MEMBERS: "Reading."] I can read; hon. Gentlemen cannot.
Is the Minister aware that in the United Kingdom, excluding Scotland, unemployment among the under-25s fell by 13·7 per cent. between April 1986 and April 1987, while in Scotland it is claimed that it fell by a mere 3 per cent? Is he also aware—[HON. MEMBERS: "Reading."] I can read; hon. Members are unfortunate.
Is the Minister also aware that Scottish youths have been unemployed for longer periods than their counterparts elsewhere in the United Kingdom? Scottish youngsters have been unemployed on average for more than 28 weeks. What hope can the hon. Gentleman offer those unemployed youngsters?
I am happy to be able to tell the hon. Gentleman that unemployment in Scotland among 18-year-olds fell by 12 per cent. in the past year and unemployment among school leavers is 3,700 lower than —[HON. MEMBERS: "Reading".] The hon. Gentleman asked me what hope I could offer to young Scottish unemployed people. I offer them the hope that they will find in the Fraser of Allander Scottish business survey published today, which is the most optimistic to be published since the survey began.
Is my hon. Friend aware that Conservative Members are fed up to the back teeth with the carping of Scottish Members? [Interruption.] Is he not also aware that although there may be young people in Scotland who may have been unemployed for a long time —[Interruption.]
Is my hon. Friend aware that the levels of unemployment among young people under the age of 25 in the United Kingdom are lower than in any other country in the EEC? Those of us in the north of England and other regions in the United Kingdom have similar problems, but we are not complaining so bitterly about them, while Scotland is doing so much better than we are in the northern region.
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. Unemployment among under-25-year-olds fell by 14 per cent. in the United Kingdom last year, which was much more than in the rest of the European Community. I am glad that the north of England, like Scotland and all the other parts of the United Kingdom, is now sharing in the fall in unemployment generally, the rise in economic activity and continuing low levels of inflation.
Did either the Minister or his right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland gain any impression of the scale of despair among Scotland's young people over the mass unemployment that they are experiencing? Does the Minister recognise that the two-year YTS and the fact that so many young people are driven away from their homes to find work in the south of England are utterly unacceptable? The figures do not reflect the situation and the young people in Scotland are seeing the waste of the whole generation.
The hon. Gentleman is talking nonsense. Unemployment in Scotland has fallen by 40,000 in the past 20 weeks. As I said a moment ago, the Fraser of Allander Scottish business survey is the most optimistic since the survey began. It offers encouragement in manufacturing, construction, retailing and increased employment in those sectors and more is expected in the months to come.
Given that in the Scottish Highlands historically unemployment has led to depopulation, and given that within the Highlands youth unemployment has been severely increased by the major closures such as Corpach, Invergordon and more recently Kishorn, does the Minister have any specific measures to suggest to arrest the continuing increase in youth unemployment that leads to youth depopulation?
I am sure the hon. Gentleman will welcome the fact that the population in the Highlands is increasing, as is the budget of the Highlands and Islands Development Board. The Highlands, like other parts of Scotland, can share in the youth training scheme, the community programme, the job training scheme and all the other measures that we offer that give training and job opportunities to young people.
Does my hon. Friend agree that in June 1986 the number of unemployed school leavers was 17,000, and in June this year the figure was 13,444? Is that not a sign of good news in Scotland, showing that YTS and the many other programmes are working and that the future looks much brighter than it looked some years ago?
My hon. Friend is absolutely correct. It is clear that the best prospects for the youth of Scotland lie in the continuation of this Government's sound economic policies.
Is the Minister aware that in a report published by the Department of Employment in Scotland last week 31,275 claimant and non-claimant school leavers were registered as unemployed? Is the Minister further aware that 131,000 young Scots under 25 are registered as unemployed? Is he also aware that there are only 400 registered vacancies at careers offices in Scotland? In view of that appalling record, will he bring a report before the House suggesting the steps that he might want to take to tackle that situation?
I have just told the House about the improvement in the trend of all these figures. One of the other figures that I have not yet given the House is the one about vacancies that are advertised at jobcentres. They are now at their highest level for seven years.