asked the Prime Minister whether, in view of the Government's commitment to internationalism, as expressed in their policies towards Europe and the United Nations, he will, in addition to the support already provided through the Ministry of Overseas Development for longer-term volunteer service in the developing countries, give direct responsibility to an appropriate Department for encouraging and, where necessary, financially supporting youth exchange programmes, including short-term international community service projects.
I have been asked to reply.
My right hon. Friend is not at present convinced of the necessity for a new centrally organised programme but would of course be happy to consider any points my hon. Friend cared to put to him.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that in other West European countries, particularly the Netherlands, France and Germany, grants by Governments amount to as much as £80,000 for programmes of this sort? Is it not high time that the British Government gave practical support to this important social education for young people?
There are at present in this country limited funds available for some exchanges of young people. At present it is not possible to think of increasing these schemes, but my right hon. Friend will bear in mind what has been said.
Will the First Secretary recognise that this type of youth exchange and international community service to which his hon. Friend refers is a very much more effective kind of aid than straight cash and very much less expensive? Will he do everything he can to help and encourage it, since it is good for our youth and good for international understanding?
No one would question its value. At present the education departments finance the Central Bureau for Educational Visits and Exchanges. Local education authorities have authority to incur expenditure for such exchanges and the British Travel Association assists in making the possibilities known.