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As for the hon. Member for Plymouth, Sutton (Mr. Streeter), not only was he patronising and full of cliches, but he continued where he left off in the Bill. He reminded me of something that Mae West once said: "His mother should have thrown him away and kept the stork." Until tonight, I did not realise who she was speaking about. It is obviously the hon. Gentleman. He is the man who said that young people were living blissfully on £27.50. The hon. Gentleman, each and every lunchtime or evening, will spend more on a meal than we expect young people to live on for a week. That is the reality. He said that they should be looking for meaningful jobs.

The Government have destroyed 3 million full-time jobs in the past 16 years. There have been two recessions in the lifetime of the Government. Some 40 per cent. of manufacturing industry has closed; 150,000 apprenticeships have been lost; and sackings in privatised industry have so far cost the taxpayer £1 billion in unemployment benefit--and the hon. Gentleman talks about meaningful jobs. After 16 years of Tory Government, he talked about the drug culture undermining young people. Thatcherite policies have led us to the crime and drug culture, denying opportunities to thousands of our young people.

6.15 pm

Ms Rachel Squire (Dunfermline, West): Does my hon. Friend agree that the hon. Member for Plymouth, Sutton (Mr. Streeter) has been directly responsible for encouraging the Government to cut 10,000 jobs from the Rosyth area by constantly calling for defence cuts to be made in Scotland and not in his part of England? That shows me that he is not, in fact, in favour of a United Kingdom but just wants everything centred on Plymouth.

Mr. McCartney: The hon. Gentleman shows callous disregard to anyone seeking employment.

The Minister herself has revealed again today not only callous indifference to the situation but the Government's sanctimonious view of the "deserving" and "undeserving" poor. For every year in which the Conservative Government have continued, there have been more and more "undeserving" poor. It is all an excuse to exclude people from the system. So far this year, benefit disqualifications have doubled to 113,000 because of inadequate job searches. It is interesting to note that the Economic and Social Research Council said that the problem is one not of a lack of commitment or keenness by young people but of insufficient jobs in training places being provided by the Government. That is the truth. The problem is simply that the Government do not care after 16 years about the future of our young people. For that reason, the Government will go down at the next election, and deservedly so, and we will have a Labour Government, who will invest in and have a commitment to all our young people.

Miss Widdecombe: The worth of the new clause is proved by the utter feebleness of the debate from Opposition Front Benchers. First, they started by talking about 7,900 jobs that have been lost. Will they tell us, please, about the 1.9 million jobs into which people were placed last year? Will they tell us how many jobs have been created per new day? No, they want to talk only

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about lost jobs. They want only to depress people, to trade on people's misery, for political advantage. We can always tell how well things are going by how glum and dismal the Opposition look. The hon. Member for Streatham (Mr. Hill) said that youth unemployment was about 20 per cent. Let us look at the very labour force survey that he used. Let us look at the International Labour Organisation definition of unemployment. It includes, as he will know if he studies the survey more closely, many people who are in full-time education. If he looks at the latest figures for autumn 1994 in the same survey, he will see that only 8 per cent.--I repeat, 8 per cent.--of 16 and 17-year-olds were not in education, in jobs or in training. Furthermore, he tried to depress his constituents by saying that the Government, after the South Thames TEC had gone into liquidation, were making no effort to replace it or to cover the provision that it had made. He knows that that is not accurate. Indeed, were I not constrained by parliamentary tradition I might use a word other than "not accurate".

The hon. Member for Birmingham, Northfield (Mr. Burden) asked whether it was true that guidance had been issued saying that officers of the Benefits Agency or the Department of Employment may not raise the issue of whether a young person should apply for benefit. I am pleased to confirm that no such guidance has been issued, nor will it be. At present, some severe hardship payments are dealt with by the Benefits Agency. The agency has specialised staff to help young people to make their claims, and the careers service is under a contractual obligation to endeavour to identify potential benefit claimants and then refer them to the appropriate agency. The reverse of the hon. Gentleman's suggestion is true; once again, an attempt to frighten the vulnerable simply will not work.

The hon. Member for Northfield also asked whether it would count as "good cause" if a young person turned down a training place because the employer involved did not recognise a trade union. That is most unlikely to constitute good cause. If a trade dispute were in progress, we should probably take into account exactly the same considerations as we apply to adults in a different clause. The hon. Member for Makerfield said that our youth cohort study was based on a selective sample. In fact, it was based on responses to postal questionnaires from between 15,000 and 20,000 16 and 17-year-olds. Moreover, it was conducted on behalf of the Department of Employment and the Department for Education by Social and Community Planning Research. Is the hon. Gentleman impugning that body? If he is, he will have to refute--

Mr. McCartney rose --

Miss Widdecombe: I shall give way in a minute.

Mr. McCartney rose --

Miss Widdecombe: I shall give way in a minute.

Mr. McCartney rose --

Miss Widdecombe: I shall give way in a minute! Sit down. Mr. McCartney rose --

Madam Deputy Speaker: Order. The hon. Member knows full well that if the Minister, or any other hon. Member, does not give way he must resume his seat.

Miss Widdecombe: I am most grateful to you, Madam Deputy Speaker, for containing this disorderly behaviour.

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I was merely saying to the hon. Member for Makerfield that if he wished to impugn the veracity of the research of the body to which I referred, he would be impugning a good deal that he often prays in aid. I shall now give way to him.

Mr. McCartney: Those whose veracity I am impugning are the hon. Lady and other Ministers. The fact is that, as Mr. Maples said, no one believes what they say any more.

Miss Widdecombe: If that is all that the hon. Gentleman can say, it is clear that what he has said about our cohort survey has been utterly defeated. Moreover, the fact that he was forced to struggle in that way says something about the hopeless quality of the Opposition--a hopeless quality that we have observed throughout the debate.

The hon. Gentleman told us that some young people could not make the seriousness of their position understood. He did not tell us that there were specially trained officers to assess all applications by 16 and 17- year-olds--officers attached to every branch of the Benefits Agency, who will be attached to jobcentres under the new rules. It is simply not true that, as the hon. Gentleman claimed, young people leaving care are denied benefit and left on the streets; it is not true that, as he told us, housing is not taken into account; it is not true that, as he told us so many times, we force people on to inadequate training schemes.

Let us be clear about this. I repeat what I said earlier: 78 per cent. of trainees who complete their training go on to jobs, further education or training. That cannot be poor quality. The YT programme provides quality training to NVQ2 level, and 71 per cent. of trainees who complete their planned training in England and Wales obtain qualifications. Those are the facts, together with the fact that I have just mentioned: the cohort study showed that 78 per cent. of respondents considered their training either excellent or good. Young people themselves reject the Opposition's claim that training is inadequate. The Opposition's own ILO survey, to which the Trades Union Congress is so attached, rejects their claim that more young people are unemployed than we say. We have lower than average youth unemployment.

The fact is that, in two hours--of which the hon. Member for Makerfield took nearly an hour--the Opposition have established not a single fact that would cause any rational person to reject the new clause. I urge the House to support it.

Question put, That the clause be read a Second time:--

The House divided: Ayes 268, Noes 230.

Division No. 113] [6.24 pm


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Ainsworth, Peter (East Surrey)

Aitken, Rt Hon Jonathan

Alison, Rt Hon Michael (Selby)

Allason, Rupert (Torbay)

Amess, David

Arbuthnot, James

Arnold, Sir Thomas (Hazel Grv)

Atkinson, David (Bour'mouth E)

Atkinson, Peter (Hexham)

Baker, Nicholas (North Dorset)

Banks, Matthew (Southport)

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Banks, Robert (Harrogate)

Bates, Michael

Batiste, Spencer

Bellingham, Henry

Bendall, Vivian

Beresford, Sir Paul

Booth, Hartley

Boswell, Tim

Bottomley, Peter (Eltham)

Bottomley, Rt Hon Virginia

Bowden, Sir Andrew

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Bowis, John

Boyson, Rt Hon Sir Rhodes

Brandreth, Gyles

Brazier, Julian

Bright, Sir Graham

Brooke, Rt Hon Peter

Brown, M (Brigg & Cl'thorpes)

Browning, Mrs Angela

Bruce, Ian (Dorset)

Budgen, Nicholas

Burns, Simon

Burt, Alistair

Butler, Peter

Carlisle, John (Luton North)

Carlisle, Sir Kenneth (Lincoln)

Carrington, Matthew

Carttiss, Michael

Channon, Rt Hon Paul

Chapman, Sydney

Churchill, Mr

Clappison, James

Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford)

Clarke, Rt Hon Kenneth (Ru'clif)

Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey

Coe, Sebastian

Congdon, David

Conway, Derek

Coombs, Anthony (Wyre For'st)

Coombs, Simon (Swindon)

Cope, Rt Hon Sir John

Cormack, Sir Patrick

Couchman, James

Cran, James

Curry, David (Skipton & Ripon)

Davies, Quentin (Stamford)

Day, Stephen

Deva, Nirj Joseph

Devlin, Tim

Dicks, Terry

Dorrell, Rt Hon Stephen

Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James

Dover, Den

Duncan, Alan

Duncan-Smith, Iain

Dunn, Bob

Durant, Sir Anthony

Dykes, Hugh

Eggar, Rt Hon Tim

Elletson, Harold

Emery, Rt Hon Sir Peter

Evans, David (Welwyn Hatfield)

Evans, Roger (Monmouth)

Evennett, David

Faber, David

Fabricant, Michael

Fenner, Dame Peggy

Field, Barry (Isle of Wight)

Fishburn, Dudley

Forman, Nigel

Forsyth, Rt Hon Michael (Stirling)

Forth, Eric

Fox, Sir Marcus (Shipley)

French, Douglas

Fry, Sir Peter

Gale, Roger

Gallie, Phil

Gardiner, Sir George

Gill, Christopher

Gillan, Cheryl

Goodlad, Rt Hon Alastair

Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles

Gorman, Mrs Teresa

Gorst, Sir John

Grant, Sir A (SW Cambs)

Greenway, Harry (Ealing N)

Greenway, John (Ryedale)

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