Bill Esterson MP tells Westminster Hall debate Tory-Lib Dem gove

Bill Esterson

Sefton Central Labour MP Bill Esterson said the Conservative-Liberal Democrat Government was consigning Sefton's young people to the dole queue during a Westminster Hall debate this week.

Speaking in a debate on youth unemployment, Bill told Minister for Further Education, Skills and Lifelong Learning John Hayes that the Tory-Lib Dem government was failing a generation of young people after they axed the Future Jobs Fund and the phasing out of the Young Apprenticeship Scheme.

Bill told MPs in the debate that both the Future Jobs Fund and the Young Apprenticeship Scheme had made a major impact on employment opportunities for young people.

Bill said: "The Future Jobs Fund reduced youth unemployment, which was falling as Labour left power. The Future Jobs Fund was a success, yet still one of this Government’s early decisions was to scrap it.

"Both the Future Jobs Fund and Young Apprenticeship programmes are being phased out because of the high cost of success.

"I shall also pick up the excellent points made by my neighbour in the Chamber today and in the North West, my honourable friend Rosie Cooper, about rebalancing the economy geographically. It is absolutely crucial that we establish good employment prospects for young people, so that they stay in the region. We should do that through investment in the local economy.

"The abolition of the Regional Development Agency has created a big problem in achieving that, but there are opportunities.

"Whether we are talking about the RDA, the Young Apprenticeship Scheme or the Future Jobs Fund, the issue is about finding better ways of running such schemes, rather than just abolishing them and leaving a void that could go on for many years.

"In the North West, there was the particular problem because the recession peaked in 1981, but youth unemployment only peaked four years later in 1985. Unless we deal with these issues now, there will be a repeat of that pattern. There was success. I consider a 50% conversion in relation to the future jobs fund to be a success not a failure. We need to learn the lessons of the past if we are to get it right in the future."

Bill also raised the issue of the Tory-Lib Dem axing of the Education Maintenance Allowance.

Bill said: "The EMA was crucial to apprenticeships and to colleges. It was a core part of family income.

"Evidence from Hugh Baird college in Sefton and elsewhere in the North West shows not only that it was a core part of family income, but that it increased achievement and attainment.

"It is hard for college principals to identify who absolutely needs it and who will continue to attend without it. Those issues were not considered in the haste to make changes. The sorts of changes that have been made to the EMA, the Future Jobs Fund and the Young Apprenticeship Scheme are, as with so many other areas, too far, too fast. That is my major concern.

"I hope that such an approach will not lead to young people of the current generation paying a very steep price, as people of my generation did in the 1980s. Even now, some of those people have never found well-paid jobs or established careers. Their families have paid the price over many years.

"I hope that the minister will address those points in his summing up. We are 14 months into this Government. If we do not get it right very quickly, the time will have passed and it will be too late for this generation as well."

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