In addition to a number of bodies concerned almost solely with this topic, there are many local youth organisations as well as schools which include practical service of this kind among their activities. No record is kept of their numbers.
Would my hon. Friend agree that this exciting development, as he called it in the debate on the Consolidated Fund Bill last month, needs very careful and detailed analysis by the Department so that we can discuss how we can best give Governmental support to the development of this work?
It was because of that that I asked Mr. Bessey to chair a working party which has reported to me. On the basis of that report, I formulated a scheme about which I am engaged in consulting local authorities and youth organisations.
Does my hon. Friend recognise that many people welcome his personal close interest in the development of this work, but hope that those carrying the main burden of what is now happening throughout the country will have the opportunity of full consultation before any irrevocable decisions are made?
That is in fact happening. I specifically consulted the youth organisations which I thought to be very much involved in this type of work, and at this moment I am consulting S.C.O.N.V.Y.O., which collectively represents those youth organisations.
This phrase "a national voluntary service" is a contradiction in terms. There are opportunities for people to give long-term service of six and twelve months if they wish to. I want to encourage that. Much more to the point I wish to encourage the hundreds of thousands of youngsters to take part in short-term voluntary service in evenings, weekends and holidays. It is to that end that I am directing most of my energies.
This is very much in the forefront of Government thinking at the moment, and I hope that an announcement that I am making shortly will give emphasis to these organisations.