Orders of the Day — Youth and Community Bill

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 1st February 1974.

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Order for Second Reading read.

11.5 a.m.

Photo of Alan Haselhurst Alan Haselhurst , Middleton and Prestwich

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

This is the first legislative attempt since the Education Act 1944 to do something towards improving the services for young people in this country. It could be said, and may well be said, that under the original Act everything was possible in that the powers were there, but in practice the story has been very different. It is, therefore, in my belief necessary to take further action in order that the gaps can be filled in and standards can be raised.

In 1960 there was the very important Albemarle Report, which is the basis of much that is valuable in the youth service as we see it today. After that there was no major report until the appearance of "Youth and community work in the '70s", which was a production of the Youth Service Development Council. Even that is now five years old. It was not acted upon by the central Government although it contained many good ideas. Some of those ideas are reflected in the proposals which I am now placing before the House in the Bill.

It does not require great deduction to observe that this subject is not one that has had the highest priority. When Albemarle reported it was calculated that out of every pound spent on education a penny—that is, an old penny—was spent on the youth service. In 1972–73 1·2p was spent on the youth service for every pound spent on education. Yet, in the passage of time, it has become clear that new needs have been identified, but there is not yet any coherent policy from the centre for dealing with those needs. Some local authorities have responded excellently to the challenges, but others have left things to drift along in the old pattern, perhaps because there has been no guidance and direction from the centre, or from the House.

It may be asked why it is necessary that action should be taken in the form of legislation. The absence of effective provision in many areas of the country owes, in my belief, something to the vagueness of the relevant provisions, Sections 41 and 53 of the 1944 Act. The time has come to update the Act, as I believe was probably always intended. It may be said that sufficient powers are contained in the Act. The authorities which are sensitive to the problems have used those powers, but other authorities have shown a lack of urgency, and when cuts have come it has been all too easy to make the youth service the first victim. The result has been that the problems have grown faster than the implementation of means of coping with them.

But ways have been invented to cope with many of the problems as some local authorities, to their great credit, and many voluntary organisations have clearly demonstrated. My concern primarily is to translate what has been best in current thinking into the norm which should be attained universally. My purpose is also to try to achieve a co-ordinated approach to all the problems affecting young people.

It may be argued—I expect it will be—that we should not be singling out young people for special attention. I am sympathetic to those who say that the problems of the young should be looked at and solved within the context of the Community as a whole. Therefore, I am not saying that it is the perfect answer to seek to legislate expressly for young people. But there are some services which are necessary for young people, just as there are some which are necessary for other groups in the community. We supply meals on wheels to old people. No one is seriously suggesting that this is an appropriate service for other age groups. So I believe that there are special needs identified relating to young people which require special attention.

One would also have to say that we in this country do not suffer from bands of vandalistic grannies going round the country causing distress and damage to the community, but it is observable that there are antisocial activities performed by some young people, and those concerned in the youth service are anxious to try to eradicate such tendencies.

In any case, I hope that the philosophy behind the Bill is not to separate youth and put it on a pedestal. It is to try to discuss these problems and the appropriate solutions in the context of youth in the community and not apart from it.

My third aim—I do not believe that this is a less important aim—is to lift the morale of the many people who are involved in some way, whether statutorily or in a voluntary capacity, in providing services for the young. The history of neglect to which I have alluded briefly is an understandable reason for their frustration and depression. These feelings have certainly been conveyed to me in the fullest measure, and I suspect that they have also been conveyed to many right hon. and hon. Members since the Bill was first introduced.

There are certain constraints on a private Member in introducing a Bill, and I have tried to recognise these as fairly as possible. First, it is a daunting time to be introducing a Bill of this kind. My intention to do this was ahead of the Chancellor's intention to cut public expenditure by £1,200 million. I am, therefore, acutely aware of the money problem involved. That is why there are certain omissions from the Bill which, in my view, in the best of all possible circumstances, should not be omissions. The lack of training places available, and the consequent shortage of youth and community workers, is perhaps one of the first things to which one would point in addressing oneself to these problems, but I have not felt able to deal with this effectively in the Bill. I have had many representations on this question, and I dare say that in the course of the debate we shall hear various points raised in connection with it.

I have also been obliged to omit any clear statement on the age range which should cover the youth service. I will come to what I have included, but I thought that it was not right to do what many people urged me and to put a realistic age bracket on the youth service in the light of what we now know in the 1970s, because it would clearly mean that there would have to be further direct expenditure. So I have had to restrain myself in this respect.

Because of the money problem I have had to include Clause 7. I hasten to add that it is not included to increase the difficulties of local authorities. It is there as an acceptance of the realisation, although I still nurture a tiny hope, that my right hon. Friend will be unable to make more money available from the central Government.

To those who would, because of the money problem, charge me with a lack of realism in some of the proposals I am putting forward I have to make certain specific points. The first and most obvious of these is that most of the items I am including in the Bill are things which are being done already by some local authorities. I maintain that if they can be done by some it is not too farfetched to suppose that they can be achieved by all.

Secondly, I do not believe that local authorities have taken adequate account of the costs of delinquency in their areas. I have practical examples from my constituency of how the expenditure of hundreds of pounds only on a holiday play scheme has saved many times that amount in windows that have not had to be replaced because of breakage and other such damage. I have also had reports that where such schemes have been in existence the police have been able to withdraw special patrols and the fire services get hundreds fewer calls than they have otherwise experienced. If we are talking about money we must take into account these savings as well before it is said that we cannot afford to do some of the jobs that I am suggesting in the Bill should be done.

My third point is that there could be rationalisation from a co-ordinated approach. If only local authorities will look at the problems of young people from the point of view of all their various departments I think that they will find that there is some overlap which could be avoided.

Fourthly, there are many points in the Bill which could be met not by extra expenditure but, for example, by the better use of existing facilities. Anyone who has talked in his constituency or to national leaders concerned with youth problems will have heard in the first few sentences of the discussion how galling it can be to have wonderful facilities often available within a community to which they cannot have access. We need a determined assault on that problem. To do so would be inexpensive.

Fifthly, on the money problem I have tried in the way that I have framed the Bill to project extra expenditure where it is going to be needed into the future. The scheme called for under Clause 2 necessarily pushes forward the time when action will be required in respect of certain of the deficiencies. I believe that could project us into a time when the economic climate is better. By examination of some of the needs, I believe that there will be created a determination in local authorities to do something as soon as possible rather than put it off to some never-never time in the future.

Sixthly, I would argue that there should in any case be a shift of expenditure. I do not believe that the present money is being spent in the right way. The present money, even though it may be cut in the future, could still be allocated to better effect. If there is the most tiny shift of resources from the field of formal education into the wider field of social education we could be achieving more for the young people who would be affected, and thereby for the community, than is achieved at present.

Seventhly, I believe that local authorities—I stress this in the Bill—should use the talents and enthusiasm of the voluntary organisations much more than they do at present. Many of the voluntary bodies have access to funds which come from outside public expenditure but could be harnessed to imaginative projects in which the voluntary bodies are able to play a co-ordinated part from the very beginning. More money will be needed in the long run, but I do not believe, for the reasons I have stated, that money need be a fundamental objection to our deciding to move ahead and put provisions of this kind on the statute book.

Another constraint under which a private Member labours in these matters is to bring about a truly comprehensive reform in a field in which there has been so little attempt to remedy defects. One of the most obvious problems when we address ourselves to the problem of youth services is the boundaries between departments at both Government level and local authority level; and, in my view, this has obstructed a realistic view being taken of what should be done.

I cannot attempt in a Private Member's Bill to solve what the structure should be at national level, but I hope that attention will be paid to this debate, because I believe that action is needed at national level to co-ordinate policies towards young people.

Having said that, I believe that a start can be made that need not compromise more far-reaching overall plans which I know many people have in mind who are dedicated to the youth service. I do not want to compromise any of the grander ideas which may be put forward. I hope that I can make a start in their direction and promote the case for further action in due course.

My approach to the Bill has been based on certain homespun ideas and certain circumstances which I have come across or been introduced to in my constituency, which have convinced me that more could be done. Since I have had the benefit over a year or more of deliberate contact with the people in my constituency who have been concerned with these matters, I have received the benefit of a great deal of advice and help. I was convinced, when the opportunity came to introduce legislation, that it was a worthy matter on which to take action.

I realise that there are many people with greater experience in these matters than myself whose ideas may go beyond what I have felt able to include in the Bill. Nevertheless, I should like it to be on record how grateful I am for the help which those people have given in passing their experience to me. At the same time I acknowledge the many organisations and individuals who have contributed ideas, comments and suggestions for the formation of the Bill.

I have tried to make the Bill a truly democratic participatory exercise. I think that hon. Members will bear out that throughout the country there has been a spontaneous move to put forward ideas in the hope that better legislation will result from wider consultation.

Photo of Mr George Lawson Mr George Lawson , Motherwell

The hon. Gentleman has obviously made a great effort, and I compliment him on doing so, but why does he think that Scotland should not be included?

Photo of Alan Haselhurst Alan Haselhurst , Middleton and Prestwich

I was going to address myself to that point. I have received much advice from Scotland, for which I am grateful. It would have been difficult for me, as a poor Sassenach, to combat the problems of Scottish education and the youth service. I thought that I had problems enough in England and Wales. I shall say something more about Scotland later. I do not see why Scotland should not benefit from any helpful ideas which the House puts forward in the context of England and Wales.

I was about to say, before the hon. Member for Motherwell (Mr. Lawson) raised the point, that I have tried to consult as widely as possible. Scotland has not felt in any way inhibited from making its contribution. It is difficult to have wide-ranging consultation when, as an ordinary back bencher, it is necessary to work almost single-handed. In other circumstances Government Departments have many more hands to work for them in ensuring that no one is left out of consideration.

I must pay my special thanks, without prejudice to others who have helped me, to two professional bodies of youth workers—namely, the National Association of Youth Service Officers and the Community and Youth Service Association. I hope that no individual will take it amiss if I pay publicly my thanks to Sandra Leventon, the honorary secretary of the CYSA, who has been a tower of strength to me in administration and in bringing forward ideas for the proposals before the House. I do not say that merely because she happens to be a constituent of mine.

The point came when ideas had to be finalised in the form in which they are now before the House. I shall not be the inflexible champion of every word and every subsection in the Bill. I should like to think that I have reached reasonable conclusions on all the evidence which has been submitted to me. I shall be undogmatic towards suggestions for improvement.

Photo of Mr John Wilkinson Mr John Wilkinson , Bradford West

I am interested particularly in Clause 5, which deals with housing as opposed to the youth service, social education, recreational facilities and the other matters included in the Bill. Will my hon. Friend explain why the laudable objectives of this clause, which we all support, are included? They seem to be a bit different from the rest of the measure.

Photo of Alan Haselhurst Alan Haselhurst , Middleton and Prestwich

I will come to that, if I may, in the context of my explanation of the clauses.

I recognise the difficulty of laying down certain ways of doing things when different solutions may be appropriate in different areas. The last thing which I wish to do is to interfere with an authority which has met in other ways the objectives of the Bill. I have tried to cope with as many situations as possible in framing the clauses, but I recognise that I may still receive representations in that respect.

Clause 1 and the schedule are concerned with the setting up of a joint committee. One of the points which was put to me most consistently and most strongly by the voluntary organisations—again I must add the rider that some local authorities are very good but that others have varying standards, and that, in general, I am not trying to criticise those who are taking a sympathetic approach to the problem—is that there is insufficient co-ordination of effort. The organisations say that they are not taken into consultation at an early enough stage of the planning process. The importance of Clause 1 is to find a form in which there can be better co-ordination than in the past.

The rôle of the voluntary bodies in the services for youth is tremendously important. I was horrified when I was asked during a radio interview whether I was diminishing the rôle of the voluntary bodies. The opposite is the truth. I am trying in all ways to enhance their rôle. Nevertheless, I believe that there is a need to improve liaison. That includes a right to be consulted about the contents of the scheme which local authorities are required to submit under the terms of Clause 2. I suspect that there will be argument about whether it is right to set up what might be termed a statutory committee, which goes against the whole trend of local government in recent years. I respect the general argument, but it seems that we cannot uphold the general principle and continue to ignore problems which might be able to be solved only in that way.

I am told that there is now no statutory housing committee; but how can housing be governed in any area except by having a housing committee? Unfortunately, many local authorities have shown that they are prepared to deal with the youth service without having any effective committee. That is what needs to be remedied. That is why I resist those who say on a doctrinaire ground that we cannot have another committee.

Clause 2 is my attempt to up-date the list of services which a local authority should be seeking to provide in its area in the mid-1970s whilst looking forward to the 1980s. I refer to the provision for social education. It might be helpful to the House if I attempt to define what I mean by that term. There is an attempt to do so in the clause. I believe that social education means showing how political action can be effective through democratic processes, where the lines of communication are and how they can be used. It means facilitating constructive co-operation within a community group. It means the art of establishing and managing personal relationships and evaluating the pressures to which one is subject from other members of society or from groups. It means encouraging people to have a compassionate view in their approach to society, and directing the gaze of people to the needs of others and showing that in an interdependent society our behaviour, speech or action may well affect others for good or ill.

Photo of Mary Holt Mary Holt , Preston North

Will my hon. Friend explain why he has not included a definition of social education in the provisions of the Bill? It is obviously necessary to explain those words to the House.

Photo of Alan Haselhurst Alan Haselhurst , Middleton and Prestwich

In Clause 2(2)(a) I am attempting to provide an abbreviated description of social education. I have tried to simplify that in my last few remarks for the benefit of the House. But I am sure that we can debate this subject during the day and, I hope, at a later stage.

We need to concentrate on the concepts of social education and understand their relative importance to that of the narrow field of formal education. I refer in Clause 2(2)(b) to "facilities". I admit to an omission in that "equipment" is not mentioned. Perhaps it should be so that no wrong assumption is made about that. Subsection (b) is not an invitation to vast new expenditure. As I have said, many facilities exist already and need to be pressed into service for the greater benefit of the community. It is a sad reflection that the people who have had most control over the development of social education have been the caretakers of schools. Local authorities have even admitted voluntary youth bodies into schools and establishments, but have not allowed them to use the equipment in them. That point was forcefully put to my hon. Friend the Member for Stretford (Mr. Churchill) at a meeting which he recently had with youth workers.

We need also to encourage the use of adventure playgrounds. Here the National Playing Fields Association has taken a prominent lead. Such playgrounds can be of practical benefit in leading to a diminution of anti-social activities.

I refer in Clause 2(2)(c) to the appointment of workers. That provision is so obvious that it needs no elaboration. However, in Clause 2(2)(d) I have attempted to raise formally the concept of the detached youth worker. This has been a much under-played job in the past. The best definition of it which I have seen appeared in a job description coming from Heanor, in Derbyshire. It states: This worker"— the detached worker— will be required to make contact with young people who are not members of any youth organisation especially those who are in need of help as a result of either personal or environmental inadequacies. They will include young people who may be involved with drug taking, are on probation, are unemployed, have domestic difficulties, have left home or have aggressive attitudes to society. Contacts will be made at those places where such young people choose to meet—public houses, discotheques, cafés, parks, recreation areas and the streets. It is expected that the worker will operate in a counselling rôle, referring to other agencies—such as careers or probation services—acting as an adviser, offering friendship and support and using normal Youth Service facilities. It is recognised that the total number of young people who will be in contact with the worker at any one time will be quite small. That effectively describes the kind of job which needs more and more to be done in the community. I was delighted when, in replying to a debate in the House on 1st November, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science lent emphasis to the important emerging rôle of the detached youth worker. Alas, some local authorities do not have the same appreciation of its importance as my right hon. Friend. I hope to remedy that defect by the Bill.

It is important—and I reflect this point in Clause 2(2)(e)—that we should concentrate more on counselling services for young people, which go a little further than the careers advisory service as we know it, because for some of the young people concerned the term "career" is a mockery. They go from job to job with no thread or connection between them. They need more practical, more realistic advice. There is a need to improve information and advice about welfare services. I should like to think that local authorities will see their way to setting up information centres to which young people can go for advice on many of these problems.

I refer, in Clause 2(2)(f) to international youth exchanges. This is a function which can, in many ways, be facilitated by voluntary bodies working in co-operation with local authorities. There is no need for me to dwell on that point.

I turn to the special needs identified in Clause 2(3). I am concerned that greater responsibility should be felt for helping handicapped young people. I have seen the progress made by the physically-handicapped/able bodied groups. This is a worthwhile development. It is sad that in some parts of the country they have not had the encouragement which they might have been given to work effectively. I hope that the Bill will give further emphasis to the need to help the handicapped.

I refer to ethnic minorities as having special needs. I believed in the past, together with the late Iain Macleod, that one of the best ways of approaching the creation of racial harmony in this country was not to distinguish in any way between one citizen and another. However, the point has been brought home to me, particularly by representatives of the Community Relations Commission, that if we are to cope with the particular needs of some of the young black people in our society we have to provide special services so that they may fit properly, in the long run, into the community. I therefore believe that their needs should be categorised as special.

The final description in Clause 2(3) is my attempt to put into legislative terms the concept of young people at risk. In the Daily Telegraph on 30th January there was a report about Sir Alec Clegg's reference to one category of young people who are at risk. He referred to hundreds, possibly thousands, of pupils suspended from secondary schools because the teachers were unable to cope with them but who had not come within the jurisdiction of the courts as they had committed no wrong. Unless special attention is paid to the problems of such people, it will be only a short time before they drift into delinquent or criminal behaviour. I was encouraged to find at an early stage of consultation that Sir Alec Clegg gave his blessing to my efforts to act in this respect. Many hon. Members and people in the country will respect his views.

I try to stress in Clause 2(4) the rôle of the voluntary organisations. I believe that they should be used to the full, and specific provision is made for that in the Bill. It is not a question of all these services having to be provided by the local authorities. The voluntary bodies can provide many of them, as they do now.

By Clause 2 a duty is laid on local authorities to compose a scheme for services in their areas. The justification for this provision is that it will cause the accumulation of important information in a way which has not been done in many areas. It will bring people together to do some thinking about needs in their areas. It will obviate the barren housing estate, by which I mean estates, examples of which exist in my constituency and, I am sure, in many other hon. Members constituencies, which are planned without any thought for youth needs. There have sometimes been even grosser omissions than that in the planning of estates. Some authorities have paid insufficient attention to the problems of young people and have then expressed surprise at a high rate of vandalism in their areas when they have imported a large new population.

There should be early consultation with voluntary bodies on their more effective participation in the preparation of such a scheme. The existence of plans would provide a spur to action which could be used by people who are anxious that improvements should be made. I understand that there may be a manpower objection to such a formalistic procedure. I hope that objection will be explained to the House, because the importance of the arguments I have put forward is such that formidable arguments on the other side will be needed to overturn them.

Clause 3 deals with youth assemblies. It is my attempt to achieve participation by young people in our democratic processes and in community development. I approach it with caution. It is an experiment, but I am utterly convinced that it is an experiment that we should embark upon. It is tempting to go much further than I have gone, but I have had much advice and I think it is right to start cautiously.

We already have many youth councils, and they are brought together under the auspices of the National Youth Assembly. In its words: A local youth council starts with young people … who care about what goes on locally. These people are not usually happy to let others run their lives for them. There are already over a hundred youth councils—often called "council of youth"—in the United Kingdom at the moment. Most of them are made up of representatives from schools and youth organisations—youth clubs, Scouts, Guides and other uniformed groups, 18 plus groups, charity groups such as Shelter, church groups and many other different organisations. More and more youth councils are now involving not only individual young people, but representatives from student and young political groups. That used not to happen so often.

Photo of Patrick Cormack Patrick Cormack , Cannock

That is laudable. I should welcome it if the Bill said that every local education authority shall "encourage the establishment of", but to say that every local education authority "shall establish" is going a little too far.

Photo of Alan Haselhurst Alan Haselhurst , Middleton and Prestwich

I am coming to that. I have provided in Clause 3(5) that this requirement shall not apply to a local education authority which satisfies the Secretary of State that it has established some other assembly which performs the same functions as those of a youth assembly. I am not being dogmatic about this. I was impressed by what I was told in Liverpool of the efforts to involve young people in a meaningful way, giving them an opportunity to contribute to community development. I do not want to impose upon such an authority another framework which would be inappropriate to what it had already worked out. This is experimental, and we shall have an opportunity to talk further about it.

I have not imported youth councils as such into the Bill. I prefer to use the term "youth assemblies" because I want to make a new departure. I am grateful for the help and advice I have received from the National Youth Assembly. That assembly should have no difficulty in adapting its structure to what is proposed in the clause.

Photo of Rear-Admiral Morgan Morgan-Giles Rear-Admiral Morgan Morgan-Giles , Winchester

My hon. Friend is putting forward extremely interesting ideas. Does he agree that it is desirable that parents should be involved with the assemblies? He may say that the Bill would not be needed if parents all acted responsibly, but I am sure he will agree that we must not seem to be diminishing or seeking to replace parental and family relationships.

Photo of Alan Haselhurst Alan Haselhurst , Middleton and Prestwich

The clause is in no way directed to breaking family links. It is an attempt to overcome the alienation that many young people feel towards the institutions of society. I am trying to remedy that deficiency.

I have left the details of the make-up of the councils to regulations to be issued by the Secretary of State, no doubt after consultation with local authorities. I have particularised the membership proportion that any one group might expect to have, because I am mindful that it might be argued that someone would attempt to take over. In the experience of the youth councils that has not happened, and that example should be borne in mind by hon. Members.

It might be wise to add at a later stage a provision to the effect that political groups are expressly allowed to be represented on the youth assembly. Local authorities have not been sympathetic to youth councils that have on them political representatives. That is a travesty when we are talking about participation, and I certainly hope that there will be no such bar in what I propose. I do not refer to the meetings being public or to the Press, but these omissions can be put right at a later stage. In reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Cannock (Mr. Cormack), there is an optional arrangement in the clause which I hope will overcome any rigidity.

Clause 4 deals with the servicing of the youth assembly and the joint consultative committee by local authorities. The cost will be small and it can easily be found within existing budgets. Alternatively, the National Council of Social Service administers the youth organisation committee in Liverpool, and that is an example that could no doubt be followed elsewhere.

My hon. Friend the Member for Bradford, West (Mr. Wilkinson) referred to Clause 5. I acknowledge that there is difficulty in having this provision separated off in this way. My justification for including the clause is that I do not accept that it is possible to talk about the totality of the problems of young people without mentioning housing, when all the people who deal with these problems say that there is an increasing number of young homeless, especially in the cities. Housing cannot be set apart as though it were entirely separate from all the other problems of young people. I realise that this leads to difficulties because a housing authority is supposed to have regard to the needs of everyone in the community. It would be an extraordinary omission to attempt to debate in totality the problems of young people without reference to housing. It would have surprised and shocked all the many people who have advised me.

Clause 6 introduces the concept of community service. I mean by community service not some cheap welfare organisation through which old people get their cottages painted and the town council gets its derelict areas nicely turfed. I am more concerned with a community service that affects the giver rather than the receiver.

Photo of Mr Ivor Stanbrook Mr Ivor Stanbrook , Orpington

To what extent has my hon. Friend consulted trade unions on this clause? Sometimes where community service is available and desirable local trade unions insist upon the use only of paid labour for a particular project and the project, therefore, is not achieved.

Photo of Alan Haselhurst Alan Haselhurst , Middleton and Prestwich

I have not had time to consult the trade unions, but I shall be happy to remedy that deficiency, and other deficiencies of which I have been guilty in the preparation of the Bill. I hope that local authorities will tackle the problem by setting up a clearing house, to which reference was made in the Bessey Report of 1965, which is the source of many of my ideas.

It has been put to me that the clause might endanger the community industry projects which have been pioneered in some local authority areas. I have no wish to do that, and I toyed with the idea of making special reference to community industry projects. I do not see that as an obstacle to my purpose, and I hope that we shall be able to accommodate the rôle of the community industry project at a later stage.

In recent years there has been a lot of debate about the need to give young people something worth while to do. Some people who yearn for the days of national service suggest that there should be a national community service into which all people would go willy-nilly. I do not believe that is the right approach. If there is to be a meaningful community service, it should be on a voluntary basis. I do not see why local authorities should not be encouraged to experiment with the idea of running courses in community service for young people. I also commend the Trident scheme which combines community service with work experience and self-development activities in an imaginative and useful way.

Photo of Mr Jerry Wiggin Mr Jerry Wiggin , Weston-Super-Mare

I do not know whether my hon. Friend will agree that the Territorial Army makes a useful contribution in many of the ways he has mentioned but that sometimes local authorities do not recognise the part it plays in the local community—and occasionally do not even allow their own employees to take part in Territorial Army activities. I hope that when the Bill progresses further we shall seek to focus more attention on this aspect of community service.

Photo of Alan Haselhurst Alan Haselhurst , Middleton and Prestwich

I am grateful for what my hon. Friend said. If he looks at the schedule to the Bill he will see that the joint committees should be concerned with the needs of young people within the community and also that the provision gives power to co-opt. One might need to be more specific. There are people in the community who have an interest in these matters—my hon. Friend mentioned the Territorial Army—who might not fit into the definition of the earlier part of the Bill. I should be happy for this matter to be discussed further.

Photo of Sir Edward Brown Sir Edward Brown , Bath

Before my hon. Friend leaves Clause 6, I am interested in subsection (4) and should like to know why this provision should begin at the age of 21 when the age of majority is recognised as 18.

Photo of Alan Haselhurst Alan Haselhurst , Middleton and Prestwich

It is not intended that it should start at the age of 21. That provision should be read with other clauses which make it clear that the upper limit is to be extended from 21 to 26. We shall be dealing with a wider group of young people than is traditionally thought to be the base of the youth service. If we are seeking to set up a clearing house to encourage community service, there is no reason on expenditure grounds for excluding a slightly wider range.

In Clause 8 I deal with the definition of the phrase "young people". I have used this form of words because it is the only realistic way in which, because of public expenditure constraints, I can attack this problem. The range of 14 to 20 years inclusive is no longer an adequate age range; the problems start much earlier. We should be realistic and face up to the wider definition. Apart from the exceptions I have outlined in regard to youth assemblies and community service, I felt that I should stick to the range 14 to 21 years but give local authorities the option to go below the age of 14 which is the crucial area. Some local authorities which already take this view should be encouraged to continue to take action on these lines, and other local authorities should be given every encouragement to act in a similar fashion.

It will be noted that in Clause 9 I seek to exclude Scotland and Northern Ireland. In view of the helpful comments and encouragement which I have received from organisations in Scotland, if the ideas set out in my Bill are thought to be worth while I hope that at a later stage they will be adopted in Scotland.

I apologise for speaking at some length on the Bill. I am attempting to set new standards—not standards conjured up out of the blue, but standards which may be seen from the practical experience of local authorities, voluntary bodies and individuals. Because the advent of higher standards has not been general throughout the country, I feel that it is necessary to legislate. I do not believe that the matter can be left to good intentions and Government circulars.

I have been impressed by the enormous response which the Bill has had. This has demonstrated that a large number of people share a great deal of common thought on this subject and recognise a need for action.

There is a need at two levels. The amount of crime and anti-social behaviour in the young is increasing and is a matter of concern to the House and to the community as a whole. Therefore, in the interests of the community we must stem the decline into vandalism at the earliest age. There are practical examples of what can be achieved. I am referring not to dewy-eyed idealism, but to practical ways in which it is possible to curb vandalistic instincts. Some of these methods can be carried out quite cheaply, but above all they are carried out because the people who want to take part in them are dedicated. They need all the encouragement they can get.

Secondly, we must help young people to find their way in society. We must give them the opportunities to do constructive and valuable things. Many people want these opportunities. They are not without hope, but in many areas they are without inspiration. Our aim should be to have a community in which good neighbourliness is the uppermost theme.

I hope that it is not too hackneyed to say that youth is our most valuable asset. Disraeli put it so well when he said that the young of the nation are the prosperity for its future. By a co-ordinated approach to the needs of the young we can help them to become an asset to themselves and to those around them. But there must be a policy, not a patchwork of uncordinated departmental provisions. I commend the Bill to the House in the modest hope that it may be a small step in the right direction.

Mr. Deputy Speaker:

The House will have noticed the great interest in this debate and will be interested to learn that I have a daunting, but not entirely impossible, list of speakers. Therefore, if hon. Members wil confine themselves to 10 minutes, I am sure that they will earn at least the temporary gratitude of those who follow them.

11.57 a.m.

Photo of Mr Barry Jones Mr Barry Jones , Flintshire East

I am glad to follow the hon. Member for Middleton and Prestwich (Mr. Haselhurst), whose speech was positive, interesting, practical and, in my view, indicates that he has carried out much homework and research. The hon. Gentleman obviously had access to shrewd and professional advice, perhaps very near to his own constituency. He has done justice to that advice and professionalism.

The Bill is overdue. Indirectly it is as relevant to the future of Britain as is the current struggle to bolster up our beleaguered economy. The youth service has been a Cinderella service and needs a boost. The key question relates to the people who do not join the youth clubs and other current facilities. We know that as many as three-quarters of young people of the ages 14 to 20 are often outside the influence of the youth service. We know that many of them live in regions where there are more people unemployed and where young people have boring, repetitive, often noisy and somewhat dirty jobs.

I pay tribute to the youth service as it now exists. Its full-time organisers and leaders have been trail-blazers, equipped with above-average patience and professionalism. They do not deserve a stereotyped and uniform image. They, above all others, know what the score is. There has been a collapse in the authority of the parent, the teacher and the priest—those who have been traditionally regarded as having some responsibility for setting high standards in the community. Our young people have their substitute parents and mentors, albeit at long distance, who bestride the media and commerce. It might be Mary Quant and Twiggy for fashion, Mick Jagger before the stage lights, George Best in sport, John Lennon and everybody else—the list is endless. It is as if by proxy they control the life styles of hundreds of thousands of young people. They have formalised quite skilfully the alienation of young people from the rest of the community.

I see the Bill as a positive attempt to tackle a growing problem. The young are not popular, and provision by local education authorities is, to put it mildly, variable. I am glad to say that the Bill will make it more difficult for them to dodge the column of adequate provision.

More is required in the service than merely ping-pong, discos and billiards. I do not think that clubs in themselves should be the be-all and end-all in the service. Yet we know that the service is already overstretched. For that reason we must be clear in our objectives.

It is a fact that more and more young people today live in a closed society of their own. However we attempt to provide for them, they will insist that the often-hated school and school attitudes do not seep into the activities of the service.

I turn now to the specific provisions of the Bill, and I deal first with housing. I do so only briefly because of Mr. Deputy Speaker's plea for brevity. I think that the clause dealing with housing is unique. I find that the evidence of my surgeries in my constituency is that more very young newly married couples are presenting themselves for help in housing, as are an increasing variety of young single people. In one way, taking into account the struggle of the whole population for better housing, I see this clause as the major one. If the nation will act on it, it can triumph in the objectives of the remainder of the Bill.

I turn next to youth assemblies. I see the provision in the Bill as being nothing short of revolutionary, and I am glad of it. It can be the introduction to democratic procedures and a source for young people of civic education so that youth and the establishment—in which I include teachers, police, doctors, councillors, Members of Parliament and prospective employers—can meet on equal terms. Only good can come out of it.

As a Member of Parliament, I am not blind to the electoral implications. I say this in a non-partisan spirit across the Floor of the House. This body could be the fountain-head of a modern children's or youth crusade. It could be the source eventually of the block vote of the 1980s. I hope that it will be a source of civic education at least.

My third reference is to services to the community. I am sure everyone agrees that we have a massive and growing problem in our overcrowded geriatric wards and among our mentally and physically handicapped citizens. I do not forget the incompetent, the lonely and even the outcasts of our individual communities up and down the country. I see no reason why we should not aim at persuading young people increasingly to help those in need. If John F. Kennedy could create his Peace Corps. I should have thought that a youth service for the 1980s could participate meaningfully in a policy to try to help the less fortunate.

At the same time I must accept, if no one else will, that we may be ill advised to put more pressure on the young to conform to our idealised standards unless we as older people are prepared to do more ourselves.

As I see it, the case for the Bill is overwhelming. The question is whether it can get on to the statute book in a meaningful form and become operative quickly and effectively. I hope that it will, and I should like to see the Department of Education and Science moving a little faster in this connection. Too often it is a gentle giant. Let us see it shake itself out of its lethargy. Let us see it take the initiative quickly.

We ought to have a Minister appointed with special responsibility for the youth service and the community. Our youth service leaders should have better career prospects and a decent salary structure. I do not believe that they want an improved status for themselves. However, our society would be the better if they had it.

Overall, I see finance as the key. To skimp will be to destroy the seed corn. I see the Bill as a marvellous opportunity for Britain.

I cannot forget that every year thousands of youngsters at 16 years of age go down pits, into great factories and into soulless and demoralising employment. At that age they are very young to be thrown into the deep end of life. The Bill can help many of them towards a better life.

The Bill is relevant, forward-looking and progressive.

12.5 p.m.

Photo of Mrs Elaine Kellett Mrs Elaine Kellett , Lancaster

I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Middleton and Prestwich (Mr. Haselhurst) most warmly. Never have I heard a Bill, let alone a Private Member's Bill, so cogently and powerfully introduced, and never have I seen the Government benches so crowded on a Friday morning.

My hon. Friend seeks to set new standards and to bring together strands which at the moment are divided. All his proposals are sound and not sloppy, and that is immensely important.

I welcome the emphasis which my hon. Friend has put on the variety of work which the voluntary organisations do throughout the length and breadth of the land. In this connection we are especially lucky in my part of the world. We are great believers in volunteers. Our Girl Guides, Boy Scouts, cadets, lads' brigades and many other youth groups flourish. We have also a less formal organisation known as New Planet City, which I know my hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, West (Mr. Selwyn Gummer) has visited. It is run more on the detached youth leader principle which my hon. Friend the Member for Middle-ton and Prestwich described.

The part of the Bill in which I am especially interested is Clause 2(3). It asks local education authorities, when preparing schemes, to have regard to the special needs of young people who suffer from disabilities of one kind or another.

I am very proud to have in my constituency Borwick Hall which is the finest residential youth centre in the country. If it is not already that, certainly it is fast on the way to becoming it. One of the activities at which the youth centre excels is the PHAB course to which my hon. Friend referred. For those who are not familiar with the language, it is a joint course for the physically-handicapped and the able-bodied. Courses of this kind have been held in the Northwest for the past seven years. Over the past two years, two courses per year have been held at Borwick Hall and have been an enormous success. The variety of activities in which the two groups of young people can engage has to be seen to be believed. Perhaps I might extend a cordial invitation to my hon. Friend to come with me to one of these courses, at some time in the future. In the very nature of them, courses of this kind require a great deal of planning and organising. Like so many youth organisations at present, Borwick Hall is stretched to capacity in terms of both cash and staff.

The Friends of Borwick Hall have been incredibly hard-working and generous both in the actual work they do and in the way in which they raise additional funds for bursaries for students who could not otherwise have attended these courses, and for many other purposes. In addition, these voluntary helpers have transformed outbuildings in the grounds and they have made workshops where previously there were only old and dilapidated outbuildings. Also we have had many courses for voluntary youth leaders, and all these have been very successful.

However, if there is to be the expansion which is needed in all directions, at least two more fully-trained professional workers are needed in this project alone, and at the national level nothing like enough young people are coming along for training as youth leaders. There are many vacancies in my county, as there are in the nation as a whole. I hope that the Minister will encourage his right hon. Friend to do all she can—although this is not within the confines of the Bill—to encourage the training of more youth leaders who, as my hon. Friend the Member for Middleton and Prestwich rightly said, channel young people's energy in the right direction and do valuable work for the whole of the community.

I wish to be brief because Mr. Deputy Speaker asked us to be so in order that other Members may have their say. I wish to refer to the question of housing for homeless young people. I was the vice-chairman of a borough housing committee and subsequently the chairman of its welfare committee. I know the extent of this problem. But I believe it can be cured within the confines of the Housing and Planning Bill which makes specific provision for it and which will be passed in the not-too-distant future. I therefore suggest that by liaison possibly between my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science and the Minister for Housing and Construction we can and must solve this problem.

I cannot express too highly my admiration for the work which my hon. Friend has put into his Bill and my support for it, and I hope that it will be received with acclamation by the whole House.

12.12 p.m.

Mr. David Weifzman:

This is a good Bill and I congratulate the hon. Member for Middleton and Prestwich (Mr. Haselhurst) on introducing it, and particularly on the interesting way in which he outlined its provisions. As the hon. Lady the Member for Lancaster (Mrs. Kellett-Bowman) said, the fact that there are so many Members here on a Friday morning—including the strong representation of the Liberal Party—indicates the very great interest which is taken in this problem.

The hon. Gentleman referred to the powers in the Education Act 1944. As he rightly said, the powers are there, but unfortunately they have not been exercised by a number of local authorities. It is true that many local authorities have used them and many have done excellent work. I am particularly conscious of the fact that the London Borough Council of Hackney has been extremely vigilant in this matter. The Bill, however, seeks to ensure that those powers, or many of them, are used in a mandatory fashion, and that is very important.

It is a truism that youth is constantly in revolt, and anything which will assist young people in their ideals and aspirations is praiseworthy. There are many organisations throughout the country which cater for youth, and I believe that all would agree that those organisations do yeoman work. However, I understand that only about 26 per cent. of young people come within the ambit of existing youth organisations, whether they be evening classes, recreation centres, Boy Scouts or the like. There is, therefore, no doubt that there is vast scope for the extension of those services for the sake not only of the youth but of the community itself. Too few young people are encouraged to engage in community work. They ought to be encouraged to participate far more in that sort of work.

I therefore welcome Clause 2 which puts a mandatory duty on every local education authority to prepare a scheme for providing a comprehensive range of services for young people in its area. The services set out in Clause 2(2) are certainly comprehensive. We all recognise that there are many useful tasks which the young can perform—in hospital services and in helping the aged, the pensioners, handicapped persons and, indeed, the young themselves. These are only some examples of the sort of community services in which they can help.

Clause 2(2)(a) provides for social education and instruction in the means of participating in the community, and in Clause 6 there is placed upon the local authority the duty to facilitate and encourage young people to give the sort of service which I have just mentioned and to provide lectures and tuition for that purpose.

I like the duty in Clause 2(2)(b) to provide advisory services. There is a great need for this. In my view, there should be a sort of citizens' bureau for the young ready to advise them in their problems concerning such matters as sex, the facilities open to them for recreation and training, the services which they can ren- der to the community and many kindred matters.

Clause 5 is of great importance—reference has been made to it in previous speeches—concerning the duty of local authorities to consider the provision of housing accommodation for young people who have no permanent residence. I am in favour of that. It has been much neglected. We all know how difficult the housing situation is, particularly in London. We are aware of the large number of young people who have no homes and who sleep out. We know of the young who leave their parents, who want to be independent and live on their own.

One realises that it may be very difficult for such provision to be made by local authorities already faced with vast housing lists and with the need to provide housing for so many people, but a good deal might be done, for example, in the building of new estates where it might be possible to allot part of an estate to the young.

I am very attracted to Clause 2(4), which was mentioned so graphically by the hon. Member for Middleton and Prestwich, with regard to the needs of the young suffering mental or physical disability. This is a very real problem. To some extent this provision is complementary to the provisions of the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act 1970 which was introduced by my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Wythenshawe (Mr. Alfred Morris) and which has enabled much good work to be done, although certainly not sufficient. A provision such as this, if it were carried out in realistic fashion, would be of immense value to the disabled young.

May I say a word about the provision to have regard to the needs of ethnic minorities. This is very important. Education and the need for integration in the full sense of the term are a vital necessity in dealing with the problems of our coloured population. Any measure which will assist in this direction is sure to be welcomed.

Many things could be done by the joint committee proposed in the schedule to help the existing voluntary organisations. In my constituency there is a large voluntary organisation comprising members of both sexes. I am told that school buildings and fields which are readily available for the young during term time are not available at weekends and during holiday periods, that playing fields cannot be used in the evenings because floodlights cannot be provided and that grant aid is not available for the young over the age of 21.

One appreciates the difficulties which the promoter of the Bill has faced in drafting it so as not to include any provision for finance from the central Government, but I notice that Clause 6(4) states that persons up to the age of 26 years shall be deemed to be young people. Perhaps that will be a good hint to the Government to try to assist in this direction.

One appreciates that there is a great deal which must of necessity be discussed in Committee. I have no doubt that the hon. Gentleman, particularly in view of the immensely interesting way in which he dealt with the provisions of the Bill, will have regard to any valuable amendments that are suggested. It is time that the development of a new service was tackled in a comprehensive way. The Bill seeks to do that, and I hope that it will receive a Second Reading.

12.22 p.m.

Photo of Mr John Cordle Mr John Cordle , Bournemouth East and Christchurch

I, too, warmly congratulate and pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Middleton and Prestwich (Mr. Haselhurst) on introducing the Bill, and I know that the country as a whole will welcome it after giving the measure its full consideration.

I am not one of those who tend to knock the youth of today. There is a great deal to be said for them and for the way in which they are conducting their affairs. They have much more leisure at their disposal and a great deal more money to spend than our generation did, and perhaps it is an indictment of this country that, because we have not until today introduced a Bill such as this, they lack guidance and direction. Judging by the number of organisations which have written to me about the Bill, I have no doubt that it is giving a great deal of publicity to what is needed most.

At the present time of national crisis it is commendable that this House can look beyond the immediate problems and consider a long-term idealistic measure such as the Bill. This measure seems to have two distinct facets. First it contains provisions for the benefit of young people, and secondly it affords advantages to the community as a whole. Although those two facets are interdependent, I should like to talk about them separately.

The first four clauses of the Bill impose a binding obligation on local education authorities to provide services for young people. Regrettably, Clause 7 prohibits any grant from the central Government towards the cost of those services. The local authorities will, therefore, have to find the money.

Nevertheless, the effect of the Bill will be to realign our priorities in spending and to realign them in the way that is needed most, because it is the "young people"—that is, persons ranging in age from the early teens to the early twenties—who are the most mercurial in our society. They are breaking, or have broken, away from their ties with their parents. Some of them may have put down roots of their own, but the majority have not.

This is the age group which contains the greatest percentage of delinquents and persons who rebel against any kind of authority. It also contains idealists and youngsters who will voluntarily go out from their schools, homes or colleges to help the old and the handicapped. For so many young people, the real choice is between themselves and extremes. They can either involve themselves in the service of the community or they can rebel against it. The object of the Bill is obviously to promote the former course of action.

I should like to mention one creation of the previous Government which has worked well and successfully, namely, the Young Volunteer Force which was set up as groups to work with 20 or 30 local authorities around the country. The purposes of these groups are similar to the objects of the Bill, namely, to coordinate and encourage community service by young people, to provide social education and to help those youths who become detached and rootless, if possible by occupying their time.

Any organisation such as the YVF depends largely for its success upon constant and smooth liaison with local authorities. Indeed, the YVF groups operate only in areas where the local authority has invited them. If the Bill is passed, and I hope that it will be—imposing as it does mandatory obligations on local authorities—the YVF and similar groups will gain in terms of money and prestige, must surely be a good thing, and they will therefore become more effective.

There are, of course, numerous organisations which cater for young people. Some are sponsored by the Churches while others, such as the Boy Scouts, are secular in origin. Obviously the local authority in each area will deal mainly with the larger and more influential organisations. In my view, it would be unfortunate if any religious denomination were to gain a monopoly or exclusive control over the operation of this new law in any given district, but I have enough faith in the Churches and local authorities to be sure that that will not happen.

As to the second aspect of the Bill, it serves not only the young people but also the community. Although we are a sophisticated Welfare State enjoying a higher standard of living than any former generation, the fact remains that official State agencies are incapable of catering for the welfare of all those in need, and our young people have a need today. Our dependence on voluntary work is very great. I have in mind people who visit the elderly, run hostels for ex-prisoners and do countless other tasks which the State cannot perform. Hopefully, the Bill will give recognition to the work that people do. Hopefully, too, it will increase their number.

I strongly support the Bill as a valuable piece of social legislation aimed at the age group which needs it most. If it does anything to reduce the incidence of alienation amongst the young, it will be worth the extra expenditure which local authorities must incur.

In my view, the Bill will increase the facilities that our community provides for the young and will foster the services which young people render the community as a whole. Therefore, I urge the House to give the measure its full support without loss of any time.

12.30 p.m.

Photo of Mr Clement Freud Mr Clement Freud , Isle of Ely

I should like to add my congratulations to the hon. Member for Middleton and Prestwich (Mr. Haselhurst) in introducing the Bill. It is excellent in concept.

The youth services in this country tend to be punch-drunk in that each blow to our economy causes them to suffer. Any legislation aimed to help must be greeted totally by all of us as a realistic advance. I welcome the Bill for what it aims to do, although it would be wrong to ignore its limitations. I welcome it inasmuch as it will require local authorities to have a new look at youth services. If one consults Clause 2 one will note that Every local education authority shall prepare … a scheme for providing … a comprehensive range of services …". There is nothing in the Bill requiring a local authority to implement that provision. It is a great danger. I realise that the hon. Member for Middleton and Prestwich, with ministerial aspersions, had to tread gently.

As Liberals——

Photo of Alan Haselhurst Alan Haselhurst , Middleton and Prestwich

I hope that in the totality of the provisions, if the voluntary organisations had the power to object, which, the hon. Gentleman will notice, is included in the Bill, this would make it improbable that any local authority would stand out against the implementation of what had been determined as the needs of its area. That is why I have not gone further.

Photo of Mr Clement Freud Mr Clement Freud , Isle of Ely

As Liberals we welcome most facets of Clause 2, in particular the subject of international youth exchange. As the hon and learned Member for Stoke Newington and Hackney, North (Mr. Weitzman) rightly said, the Liberal Party is well represented in the House today. As ever, percentagewise we outnumber any other party, although in all fairness I saw 50 per cent. of the Scottish Nationalists having tea a few minutes ago. As Liberals we welcome much of Clause 2 and, I repeat, the international youth exchange provision. But this is already happening. What is needed is a Bill which demands that such provision should be made by every local education authority.

I believe that the greatest potential danger lies in Clause 3 in that it seeks to create a youth assembly, which is an excellent proposition. But it appears to me to seek to create this without power. With great respect, we have in this country a sufficiency of talking-shops, like this House, without introducing legislation for more. To succeed, a youth assembly must have power to raise money and to spend it. Above all it must have power.

Youth assemblies do not need palaces, something which was not fully appreciated by Albermarle. I went recently to a youth hostel which I thought was spartan and uncomfortable. I went with a young man who said what a splendid place it was. Many of us overestimate the material demands that youth needs. What is necessary for youth is good and dedicated youth leadership, which we have in this country. I should like to join the hon. Member for Flint, East (Mr. Barry Jones)—who seems to have gone like the rest of them——

Photo of Mr Clement Freud Mr Clement Freud , Isle of Ely

He seems to have moved—when he says that if any career should receive more money it is that of the dedicated youth leader, whom we treat financially as shamefully as we treat anybody else who works because he or she has a vocation.

I move briefly to Clause 5 on housing for homeless young people, something which we all welcome. But have we got to a state of government which requires legislation by a Private Member's Bill to provide a roof over a young man's head? I hope not.

When I talk about the teethlessness of the Bill, it is nowhere better demonstrated than in line 3 of Clause 6 where it says that a local authority may provide or arrange for the provision of lectures and other forms of tuition and may collect and disseminate information". Apart from the fact that local authorities already have this power, I say that the clause is superfluous.

I move on to paragraph 1 of the schedule. There are so many voluntary organisations already in being that it would be ridiculous to have equal numbers of local authority and voluntary representatives. I do not understand the purposes of this condition. Perhaps it can be explained. As an academic exercise it is an admirable piece of proposed legislation. It has generated great interest, even in Cambridgeshire where we have one of the most enlightened local educa- tion authorities. Many youth leaders have written to me urging me to support the Bill, which I do wholeheartedly. But while I support the Bill, and any other measure which will give rather than take away from youth, what is needed is realistic legislation. Only then will we have real progress.

In supporting the Bill I hope that when it reaches Committee it will receive additional clauses requiring certain other things to be done, but nothing should detract from the hon. Member's lucid and intelligent introduction of the Bill.

12.38 p.m.

Photo of Mary Holt Mary Holt , Preston North

The Bill at least offers a charter for young people. It recognises what has been done in the past for them and the many services which are now provided for young people. It also acknowledges the great need for much more extended services than have been provided in the past.

In principle, I approve of the two main duties imposed on local education authorities by Clauses 1 and 2. First is the duty of setting up a joint committee with the object of co-ordinating services provided by existing voluntary organisations and other services provided by a local authority. Secondly, there is the duty of preparing a scheme for providing … a comprehensive range of services", in the hope that more and better services would be provided in the future. That is better in both the qualitative and the quantitative senses.

Anyone who has visited a youth centre or youth club knows what a valuable service these provide for the community as a whole in keeping young people off the streets, enabling them to mix with other young people of their own age and in occupying their leisure time. But many of the clubs are provided voluntarily by churches, chapels and other organisations. In my constituency, as in those of other hon. Members, Boy Scouts, Girl Guides, Wolf Cubs and others keep young people profitably and amusingly entertained.

However, more youth workers are needed. As the promoter of the Bill, my hon. Friend the hon. Member for Middleton and Prestwich (Mr. Haselhurst) said, there is a crying need for more professional youth workers. There are excellent voluntary workers, and many clubs are splendidly run, but even so, the need is for more whole-time youth workers. I noticed that the hon. Member for Flint, East (Mr. Barry Jones) considered that the status of youth club leaders needed to be upgraded. However, their status is already very high, and they hold a special place in the affection of the communities in which they work. But certainly they need a better pay structure. Many local authorities have not appointed the full complement of youth workers which they could have appointed, possibly because of the difficulties of obtaining more youth workers who are suitable people. If we had more services for young people we should have far less vandalism and far fewer young criminals than we have. Youth clubs offer a guide to living with other people in society. We need more leisure centres—not necessarily more coffee bars or discotheques.

However, I take exception to a number of matters in the Bill. The definition of "young people" is given in Clause 8 (2) as persons who have attained the age of fourteen years or such lower age as may be determined by a local education authority or a local authority for the purpose of any of the provisions of this Act but have not attained the age of twenty-one years. I cannot understand why we in this House cannot fix the lower age. Why must we leave it to some other authority? It is bound to lead to discrepancies and variations throughout the country. I should have thought that it would be far better if we defined it for the entire country.

There is considerable evidence that children younger than 14 need provision to be made for them. At one church club in my constituency children of 10 years and upwards were constantly trying to get into the club though they were below the lower age limit. It is in the age group of 10 years to 16 years that vandalism is most rife. We ought to lower the age at the lower end of the definition to below 14, and lower it at the upper end to 18. Eighteen years ought to be the limit.

Parliament has fixed the age of majority as 18. The argument was that people were sufficiently mature to vote, to own property and to decide their own affairs at the age of 18. If that is so, they are old enough and sufficiently mature at 18 to provide their own occupations in their leisure time. The absurdity of setting the age at 20 years and not 18 years is emphasised by Clause 5, under which local authorities are required to have regard to the need to provide accommodation for young people who no longer reside with their parents or guardians. Many 18-year-olds have already married. It is anomalous that local authorities should have to give special consideration to them as young adults over and above the consideration given to other adults. Furthermore, there is obviously some need to amend the Bill in respect of the age limits because the age is not even consistent throughout the Bill as a whole. Clause 3 deals with local youth assemblies. The definition of a young person given in subsection (3) is A person who has not attained the age of fourteen years or who has attained the age of twenty-six years or more shall not be qualified to be appointed as a member of a youth assembly. I cannot understand why a person over 18 who in other respects is qualified to vote and is an adult, entitled in every way to participate fully in the life of the community, should nevertheless be enabled to participate in these youth assemblies. It is clear that anyone over 20–25, for instance—will dominate the youth assembly.

Photo of John Gummer John Gummer Vice-Chair, Conservative Party

Just as my hon. Friend feels that provision for people under 14 years of age is suitable, although 14 is a reasonable lower level in this case, does not she agree that there are two levels? Many of those who are just over 21 are so intimately concerned with the running of the Boy Scouts, the Girl Guides or other organisations that it would be of great benefit to have their views and attitudes on such a youth assembly. Far from wanting one fixed age throughout the Bill, is not it sensible to be flexible rather than rigid?

Photo of Mary Holt Mary Holt , Preston North

With respect, I do not agree with my hon. Friend. On the first point, I do not agree that 14 is a sensible age to fix. It ought to be below that age in respect of the services to be provided. Second, at the upper limit, I do not agree that adults are included in youth. These so-called young adults are nevertheless adults in law and in every other way. They should not take part in youth assemblies when we are being put to the expense of providing services for youth and young people.

With respect to my hon. Friend the Member for Middleton and Prestwich, the youth assemblies strike me as a totally unnecessary expense. Under Clause 3 they are described as being: a forum for discussing the services which are or should be made available to young people within the area of the authority or the part thereof with which the assembly is concerned and the needs of the local community. I am very interested in the words "should be made available". By whom should the services be made available? Presumably they are to be made available by ratepayers. Yet the youth assembly is not to have any powers of raising money to implement its needs. It strikes me as an absurdity to have an assembly which is to have various representatives to express its views but is not to have the power to implement its wishes by raising money or in any other way.

My hon. Friend the Member for Middleton and Prestwich has already mentioned the local youth councils which exist. The youth assemblies now to be formed will be costly and unnecessary. In support of my view that they will be costly, I cite Clause 4, under which a local education authority will have to provide the youth assemblies with administrative and secretarial services. When one considers that at present everyone in the community is having to tighten his belt, it seems a disgraceful waste of ratepayers' money to provide administrative and secretarial services for these unnecessary youth assemblies. One way of dealing with this matter would be to allow the joint committees which are to be set up under Clause 1 to receive representations from the local organisations. Indeed, they will receive them in any event. The result will be just as good as having joint assemblies.

Despite those few criticisms, there are some excellent ideas in the Bill. It is particularly necessary when parents today have more leisure time than ever before but time which they want to devote to themselves more than ever, instead of to their children, that local authorities should give a lead in training children whose parents will not do so in living in society.

Clause 2 deals with the services to be provided. I am a little disturbed to find no mention of religious education. Many people, of whom I am one, think that religious education is the best foundation for social and personal relationships. In a Christian country the least that we can do is to ensure that in any of these schemes religious education is available for young people who wish to avail themselves of it.

Like many hon. Members, I welcome the fact that in the formulation of the scheme provision will be made for young people who suffer from handicaps. Like other hon. Members who have already spoken, I should like to see special provision for the integration of young handicapped people in activities with able-bodied young people.

I also congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Middleton and Prestwich on emphasising that, in the preparing of schemes, services should be provided, as far as possible, by voluntary organisations. I congratulate my hon. Friend not only on this aspect and on the ideas behind the Bill as a whole, but also because he has endeavoured to assist young people in living better and fuller lives.

The young people of this country are our best investment and deserve our best endeavours. The Bill will help them to achieve their highest aspirations.

12.50 p.m.

Photo of Mr Frederick Willey Mr Frederick Willey , Sunderland North

I shall not join the hon. Member for Preston, North (Miss Holt) in her discouraging criticism of the Bill, but I am a little less than euphoric about it. It is no more than a modest, though useful, measure. This is in no way a criticism of the hon. Member for Middleton and Prestwich (Mr. Haselhurst), for we all know the difficulties of private Members' legislation, and I acknowledge that he has made very good use of his luck in the Ballot.

The main significance of the Bill is that it does something to offset the discouragement caused to the youth service by the Government when they disbanded the Youth Service Development Council. This new approach will help to reinvigorate the youth service.

I support the Bill for many reasons, the first being that I have been asked by youth organisations in my constituency to do so. When we talk of the need for involvement, we should try to ensure that something is given in return for that involvement. We often ask people to become involved yet expect to have no responsibility in return. This is an important point. We should congratulate ourselves on the fact that so many hon. Members have responded to approaches made to them.

I have been approached by representatives of youth officers, and I am concerned about the serious shortfall in recruitment which they expect within the next few years. The Bill will do little to deal with that, but it will cause more attention to be directed to the youth service, and in that way it will be helpful.

I also support the Bill because of many constituency experiences. Recently there has been excessive vandalism in part of the town which I represent. I am glad to acknowledge that the Home Secretary has approved the provision of a purpose-built centre within the district to which I refer. The centre will be a help. But what has shocked me—it is relevant to what is occurring in the district—is the absence of facilities for youth. Everyone, above all the police, recognises the need for youth work, but it is difficult to carry out this work if facilities are not provided.

Again an experience a few months ago, when I was concerned about drug addiction in my constituency, left an impression on me. Incidentally, I was surprised to find that the drug addiction problem was so extensive in Sunderland. One of the drug addicts whom I saw impressed upon me what is clearly a direct social need. Although there is ample provision in my constituency, I am happy to say, of pubs and clubs, the addict told me that many youths find this type of social intercourse unattractive. The needs of such youths ought to be met. People talk of not wanting coffee-bars and discotheques, but some social provision must be made. The lack of such provision is, in fact, the cause of much present-day trouble among youth.

Photo of Mary Holt Mary Holt , Preston North

I did not mean to say that I did not want any coffee-bars or discotheques. My point was that I did not think that provision of facilities for youth should consist exclusively of coffee-bars and discotheques.

Photo of Mr Frederick Willey Mr Frederick Willey , Sunderland North

I am not seeking to criticise the hon. Lady. I am merely making a different emphasis. This social need has to be divorced from social education, and the rest, and it is a real social need which exists in my constituency.

My constituency has been plagued for many years by serious unemployment. I am greatly impressed by the work of Community Industry in my constituency. It is a good example of what I have always pleaded for—the working together of voluntary and public authorities. I advise any Government that this represents an economical use of funds, for two reasons. First, the voluntary work has not to be paid for, and, secondly, voluntary organisations operate on a shoe string and can make money go much farther than public authorities often can.

Looking into the difficulties of youth employment, one is disturbed by the stresses and strains put on those young people who have little hope of getting a permanent job. They probably get a job as a pump attendant at a garage, but after a few months find they are out of work for several months, and then a similar job is offered to them. Community Industry has done excellent work in Sunderland in circumstances such as these.

In the light of my constituency experience, I am attracted by the proposals in the Bill about housing. I know of steps taken regarding housing in countries like Denmark, and of the effectiveness of those steps. Problems experienced by individual young people in the context I have described are often aggravated by tensions and strains between different generations in the home. Housing provision on the lines carried out in other countries is attractive to constituences like mine in which young people are undoubtedly subjected to strain to which they may not be subjected elsewhere.

These experiences all illustrate the fact that in our Welfare State society the most deprived section of the community is youth. The hon. Gentleman in introducing the Bill, referred to social education and to the Albemarle Report. I remind the House what the Albemarle Report said about social education: There is a striking lack of logic in an arrangement which gives the benefits of social education to those who remain with the ordered society of an institution for full-time education but gives the most niggling provision to those who need it most. This is why I believe that within the Welfare State society youth are those who are the most deprived.

A few years ago I took part in an inquiry into student relations. Those taking part in the inquiry were encouraged by the fact that many students were aware of the disparity which exists, but we were particularly aware of it. We must realise that one of the most divisive factors in society is that those who are privileged and remain in full-time education are, quite properly, given ample social facilities and opportunities, but others at the moment they cease full-time education—particularly young people in constituencies such as mine—are thrust on to a rough, inhospitable society, and they find that they get little aid and succour.

I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on the Bill. It would have helped me in Sunderland in the past had there been such bodies as a joint committee and a youth assembly through which I could have put forward my views about what could have been done for young people in the area. It would have helped me enormously, and it would also have helped everyone else involved. As we have found in dealing with handicapped people, the more that we know of a problem and its reality, the more likely we are to tackle it.

1.0 p.m.

Photo of Mr Timothy Raison Mr Timothy Raison , Aylesbury

I think it will help the House if I intervene at this stage and set out the Government's views on the Bill.

I most warmly congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Middleton and Prestwich (Mr. Haselhurst), not only on his luck in the Ballot but on the eloquence with which he moved the Second Reading of the Bill. His speech was a remarkable performance.

We have had an extremely interesting debate so far on the Bill. What has emerged is the concern that is felt by hon. Members on both sides for the needs of young people and, in particular, a feeling that it is not only desirable that more should be done for youth but also that youth should be able to do more for others.

I share this concern. On a personal note, perhaps I may be allowed to say that I have returned to dealing with the youth service after the passage of a decade. I was a member of the Youth Service Development Council when it was first set up after the Albemarle Report. At that time I closely followed what was going on. Then I got involved in other things.

Since coming back into this area I cannot help feeling that the post-Albemarle promise has not been fulfilled. There is a sense of disappointment. This is partly because Albemarle did not give all the answers. It was a very good report in many ways. It was a remarkably literate and interesting report, but I am not sure that in every respect it has stood the passage of time. I believe that today there is a feeling of uncertainty as to what the youth service should be all about.

This is not to say that there are not many good things being done by many people. However, there are doubts. These doubts concern the question of resources, training, status, pay, career structure, and so on. I recognise that all of these are genuine areas of concern. The doubts also concern the underlying philosophy behind the youth service.

My Department is at present actively considering all these questions about the rôle and structure of the youth service, and in due course we shall move on to consultation, not only with the other Departments which have interests in this matter, but with the whole range of people involved. We would hope in time to establish a new form of consultative machinery.

Even if the Bill did nothing else, it will at least have served to start a very important debate on the future of this service. The Bill raises all sorts of vital questions. It raises the question, for example, whether we want to have what might be called a tight education-based service or a wider community-based service. This is a very important question which my hon. Friend dealt with in a very interesting passage of his speech.

The Bill raises the question of the relations between the statutory and the voluntary sectors. It raises the question of the special needs of certain groups which are itemised in the Bill and on which we have had some interesting contributions—the disabled, the ethnic minorities, the alienated, and so on. In other words, the Bill puts before us the question of the whole definition of what the youth service should be today. It also brings up the very important consideration about what forms of participation we should like to see.

The Government welcome the general approach taken by my hon. Friend in presenting his Bill, and we shall certainly not oppose it in principle, although, as I shall explain, we have reservations about a number of its detailed features, including its implications for local government. We shall be able to consider these at a later stage if the Bill is accorded a Second Reading.

I must also say frankly at this stage that the public expenditure aspect of the Bill will present serious problems, to which I will return.

I turn to the Bill in a little more detail. I again stress that if I have to point out some of the difficulties which undoubtedly exist this in no way diminishes my feeling that there is much of value in the Bill.

As regards Clause 1, the establishment of joint committees of representatives of the local education authority and voluntary organisations which provide services for young people in the area seems to me to be a sensible suggestion on the way in which local education authorities might consult voluntary interests. The word "suggestion" is appropriate here, because I have some doubt about the wisdom of supporting a proposal that local authorities should be required to adopt this form of organisation. It might work well in one place and not in another where a different form of organisation might be more suitable. Moreover, what may look a sensible piece of organisation today might not look so sensibly in a few years' time as conditions change.

Photo of Mr Charles Morrison Mr Charles Morrison , Devizes

Can my hon. Friend identify in a little more detail what alternative he is thinking of in this respect rather than a joint committee?

Photo of Mr Timothy Raison Mr Timothy Raison , Aylesbury

We are anxious in our general approach to local government not to force local government into particular patterns. We took the view in the Local Government Bill, which was the main reorganisation Bill, that we do not want to go beyond a certain point in prescribing the way in which local government should organise itself. I think it preferable to try to leave the possibility of different forms of option for local authorities rather than being too rigid at this point.

The Government believe that local authorities are responsible bodies and must be treated as such. We have been shedding all sorts of controls and restrictions on the way in which local authorities organise themselves and set about their duties. It would hardly be consistent with this to start once again to pile up detailed organisational requirements such as those in Clause 1 and the schedule to the Bill. If authorities wished to go about their consultations in this way—no doubt many of them would—they have all the powers they need to set up advisory committees under Section 102(4) of the Local Government Act 1972.

I turn to the very important Clause 2. One of the main aims of the Bill is, clearly, that local education authorities should prepare schemes for providing, or making provision for, a comprehensive range of services for the young people in their areas. It might be helpful if the functions of local education authorities in relation to young people were more clearly stated, and this seems to me to be one of the real merits of the Bill.

The main statutory provisions under which local education authorities at present provide services and facilities for young people are Sections 41 and 53 of the Education Act, 1944, as my hon. Friend pointed out. These are drafted in very general terms and provide little detailed guidance of what authorities may do. Many authorities interpret the provisions of these sections very liberally in deciding what services to provide, but there could well be a welcome for more specific guidance.

I also have sympathy with the principle that local authorities often need to make a concise assessment of the strengths and weaknesses in their provision for youth.

As to the range of specific services prescribed in Clause 2(2), I am still a little uncertain what my hon. Friend has in mind in his reference to "social education". I welcome my hon. Friend's indication that he would give a more detailed account of his views on this and also about the social training mentioned in Clause 2(2)(b). I am sure that this will be an important part of our Committee discussions, if we reach that stage.

We all recognise that advice on careers and occupations is of the very greatest importance to young people. This is a matter which comes within the province of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment. The responsibilities of local education authorities in this field were defined in the Employment and Training Act 1973. The Manpower Services Commission established under the provisions of that Act is, as part of its duties, concerned with advice to young people who left the education system.

In the light of this, I hope my hon. Friend may consider that the relevant provision in the Bill should be omitted. I agree with his wide point on the notion of the scheme, and I agree that there is considerable merit in giving authorities advice on the range of services which could be made available to young people, but I am not certain that the right way to proceed is by a scheme which is subject to the provisions of Section 42 of the 1944 Act, which sets out the procedure under which effect may be given to local education authority schemes for further education. That is a matter which I should like to consider further. It may well be that there is a simpler and more effective way of achieving the objective which my hon. Friend has in mind.

There has been some measure of disagreement about the youth assembly. In formulating the provisions to be made for young people it is right that the voice of youth should be heard. It should not be left solely to their elders to decide what should or should not be done or what is or is not good for them. The value of the knowledge and experience of those who work for youth for many years must not be underrated, but many who claim to know what young people need are far removed in years from the youth themselves. Despite their understanding, it is often difficult for them to put themselves in the position of those whose needs they are trying to meet.

Equally, we want to be sure that young people are not treated as an exclusive group whose problems need to be handled in isolation from society as a whole. There is a possibility that the establishment of youth assemblies would tend to emphasise exclusiveness by making some kind of distinction between young people and the rest of the community. For that reason I am not sure whether youth should be singled out from other identifiable groups in the community, such as the old, widows and unmarried mothers, and provided with a statutory assembly of its own. That is something which we must consider in Committee.

Photo of John Gummer John Gummer Vice-Chair, Conservative Party

We are agreed that young people show considerable alienation from the political and social life of the community and that that alienation makes them different from any other section of the community. Does my hon. Friend agree that to give them a chance to participate in society would be extremely valuable? Further, does he agree that that applies to none of the groups which he has mentioned. It is perfectly reasonable to say that a youth assembly is appropriate for young people, but that could not be said to apply to unmarried mothers.

Photo of Mr Timothy Raison Mr Timothy Raison , Aylesbury

As I have said, I think that young people should have an opportunity to make their views known. That is a desirable feature of the philosophy within the Bill. Whether they should have a unique mechanism of the kind which is proposed could constitute a valid Committee point. I was glad that my hon Friend was not dogmatic on how we can best achieve the objective which he has in mind.

It is evident from our debate that there is real concern on both sides of the House about homelessness among young people. The House will be pleased to learn that my right hon. Friends the Secretaries of State for the Environment, for Social Services and for Wales have prepared a joint circular. It is designed to secure that more is done to prevent homelessness and that the problem will be dealt with if it should arise. The circular has been the subject of consultation with the local authority associations and a wide range of voluntary bodies. I understand from my right hon. Friends that it will be issued very shortly. I ask my hon. Friend to await the circular as it will deal with the whole range of the problems of the homeless. It will deal specifically with the problems of the single homeless person and with ways of alleviating them, but it sets those problems in the general context. I am sure that that is the right approach.

Photo of Mr Edward Leadbitter Mr Edward Leadbitter , Hartlepools, The

The Minister's statement will be of considerable interest to the House and to the country. Will he assure the House that the circular will deal positively with the obduracy and difficulty that arises with local housing authorities when this kind of problem arises? The circular will not suffice unless there is an element of enforcement or a positive directive from the Government that the nonsense should stop.

Photo of Mr Timothy Raison Mr Timothy Raison , Aylesbury

The hon. Gentleman cannot reasonably expect me to reveal the full details of a circular from my right hon. Friends in other Departments. I can assure him that the circular is expected very soon. There will be time for us to examine it and possibly to discuss in the Committee the sort of points he has made, should they seem to be relevant.

Photo of Mr Michael Grylls Mr Michael Grylls , Chertsey

The Government have already given a fairly good grant to student co-operative dwellings. That is an important matter in the context of student housing. It is one which most Members would like to see developed so that further help may be given to enable more student housing associations to be formed under the aegis of the student co-operative dwellings. That is the sort of project which, if expanded, could help to deal with homelessness amongst students.

Photo of Mr Timothy Raison Mr Timothy Raison , Aylesbury

That is a point on which many people have strong feelings. It is an important subject. If I were to embark upon a discussion of that matter I should be straying somewhat outside the scope of the debate.

Photo of Mr George Lawson Mr George Lawson , Motherwell

Mr. Lawson rose——

Photo of Mr George Lawson Mr George Lawson , Motherwell

The Minister will agree that I have sat here all morning and that I have not sought to intervene. He has made a statement about homelessness and has referred to a circular. Have his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland and the Scottish Office been consulted? Have they co-operated in the drafting of the circular? Will the circular apply to Great Britain or will it apply only to England and Wales?

Photo of Mr Timothy Raison Mr Timothy Raison , Aylesbury

I have just told the House that the circular will come from my right hon. Friends the Secretaries of State for the Environment, Social Services and Wales. It will not be a Scottish circular. The Bill, as my hon. Friend has pointed out, does not cover Scotland.

Photo of Mr George Lawson Mr George Lawson , Motherwell

This is a matter which applies to us all.

Photo of Mr Timothy Raison Mr Timothy Raison , Aylesbury

I appreciate the strength of the hon. Gentleman's feelings but I cannot incur the wrath of Mr. Deputy Speaker.

On the topic of homelessness, the approach of the Housing Act 1957, in Section 91, is to place upon local housing authorities a broad duty, namely, to consider housing conditions in their district and the needs of the district with respect to the provisions of further housing accommodation and … to prepare and submit proposals". That broad approach does not distinguish categories of need such as large families, old people or the homeless since it embraces them all. It might possibly be inconsistent with that approach to provide a specific statutory provision relating solely to the young who are homeless. I hope that having drawn attention to the problem my hon. Friend, when he has seen the forthcoming circular, will feel that it is not necessary to proceed with Clause 5.

Clause 6 deals with service to the community by young people. I recognise the vital importance of involving young people in service to the community. This is a matter which has already been well stressed. Therefore, I welcome in principle the proposals contained in Clause 6. However, I sound two warning notes. First, as the clause stands it would have implications for the Community Industry Scheme which is run in a number of areas by the National Association of Youth Clubs with financial support from the Department of Employment. That is a scheme which was mentioned by the right hon. Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey). As the right hon. Gentleman said, the scheme employs young people who find it difficult to get jobs on local projects of value to the community. In considering the details of the Bill we would have to make sure that we did not in any way upset what seems to be a successful arrangement.

Secondly, the clause lays a duty on all principal authorities—that is to say, on counties and districts and, in London, both the GLC and the London boroughs—and enables them to delegate that duty to a voluntary body. It is an interesting approach. It is common practice to give concurrent powers to two levels of local government but not to give concurrent duties I cannot help feeling that there is the risk of confusion, and conflict would be further complicated by a power, which was necessarily in broad and general terms, to "delegate" the duty to a voluntary body. I do not know whether my hon. Friend has consulted local authorities about this provision, but it would seem that that consultation was appropriate.

I turn briefly to a major problem—the implications of my hon. Friend's proposals for public expenditure. I do not know to what extent he has consulted local authorities m preparing his proposals generally or how far they would be acceptable to them, but of one thing I am certain. Authorities will object strongly to the proposal that the expenses incurred in implementing the Bill should not attract rate support grant. Apart from objections in principle, there are technical difficulties in excluding certain types of local authority rate fund expenditure from rate support grant.

But whether or not rate support grant is involved, the Government are unable to accept my hon. Friend's proposals involving an increase in public expenditure, particularly as cuts have already had to be made in other areas of social policy of high priority. The implementation of my hon. Friend's proposals, in so far as they involve local authorities in expenditure, must wait until the financial situation improves. However, I repeat that that does not affect the Government's support for the Bill's broad principles. If it becomes law, the new local authorities which will come into being on 1st April will be able to take full account of its provisions in the planning which they are undertaking with regard to youth services and related community services.

I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Middleton and Prestwich for his valuable and constructive proposals. I fully appreciate the great amount of work which he and his colleagues have done in a very short time on the problem of formulating the Bill's proposals so clearly and succinctly. The Queen's Speech made at the opening of the present Session stated that it was the Government's intention to seek to encourage increased opportunities for voluntary service and to support activities organised by and for young people. The Bill has provided the House with the basis for legislation which accords with that intention, and I thank my hon. Friend for it.

1.22 p.m.

Photo of Miss Joan Lestor Miss Joan Lestor , Eton and Slough

I join in the general congratulations which have been offered to the hon. Member for Middleton and Prestwich (Mr. Haselhurst) on introducing the Bill. To me, what was most important was not what the hon. Gentleman said—I do not underestimate what he said—but the way in which he said it. He was very persuasive in his arguments but not dogmatic. I am, therefore, able to support the Bill, knowing that he realises that when it gets to Committee, as I hope it will, with the Government's blessing, we shall be able to make additions to it and subtractions from it and perhaps go a little further in some directions than the hon. Gentleman has been able to go.

I appreciate the inhibitions on a private Member in introducing a Bill such as this. Knowing the hon. Gentleman's view, some of the omissions were more eloquent than some of his remarks. I am sure that we all give a warm welcome to the Bill. We have been inundated with letters of support for it from our constituents, both individuals and organisations.

I am glad that the Bill has received a certain amount of Press coverage. Today there is a large number of young people in the Public Gallery, more than we usually see. Therefore, I hope that members of the Press who are present will give commensurate coverage to the debate, which is very important to the young people who have taken the trouble to come here and to those throughout the country who wish to pursue their many ideas.

The debate has been so constructive and the House so lovey-dovey—perhaps I should not have said that—in its generous support for the Bill that I hesitate to introduce a note of dissension, but we must guard against adopting an attitude of paternalism towards young people. It is a pity that more young people are not Members of the House, but we cannot take the view that we know what is best for them. The reason why we changed the age of majority and why we have gone so far forward in our attitudes to young people is that we recognise that they are responsible people and can make up their own minds about what they want. If only a quarter of young people are members of youth or young people's organisations, it is perhaps because we have not listened sufficiently to their views about what they want and involved them enough in making provision and decisions.

It is right that young people should question our values and the values which perhaps have applied to earlier generations. We did that, and the present generation of young people will do it, and it is right that they should. None of us has the right to say that the views of the free thinkers, of religious bodies or of humanists should prevail. We must, with them, make a variety of provision, and young people will show by their demands and responses whether the provision is adequate. They will make up their own minds about what they want.

I wish to make a general comment about something said by the spokesman of the Liberal Party, the hon. Member for the Isle of Ely (Mr. Freud). I welcome the international aspects of the Bill, but the hon. Gentleman said that much of what is proposed in it was happening now. The question is, to whom is it happening? The young people who are benefiting from international advantages often are those who stay on at school. I believe that the youth service should be comprehensive and should include all young people, whatever their background or interests, and we must bear in mind that many of the advantages available for young people have gone to those who are not lacking in the privil- leges of society. The statistics should not delude us into thinking that many of these opportunities are available for all, because they are not.

Photo of Mr Clement Freud Mr Clement Freud , Isle of Ely

The point which I made had nothing to do with money. I was referring simply to the fact that we are now members of the Common Market and there are now many more exchange schemes between this country and the rest of Europe than there were before.

Photo of Miss Joan Lestor Miss Joan Lestor , Eton and Slough

I did not wish to quarrel with the hon. Gentleman. We can perhaps discuss this matter later. So much of what is available goes to people with certain educational backgrounds and opportunities in higher education and not to young people who leave school at 16 years of age.

I particularly welcome the reference in the Bill to handicapped people. We are beginning to talk generally about including handicapped people and people with special difficulties in all aspects of society rather than excluding them by definition, but we have not taken full account of the way in which people with a variety of handicaps can be involved in youth service and youth work, either partaking of it or being involved as youth leaders. We have not been anything like as vigilant as we might have been in this respect.

No Government can be proud of their youth service record. I am very disappointed that the proposed Youth Service Development Council does not exist. We should be considering what is said in such publications as "Youth in the Community" because some of the ideas incorporated in them are excellent and we have not done much about them.

I am glad that the age is not to be fixed but is to be flexible. One does not go into a shop to buy a pair of shoes for a girl or boy of 8; one goes into the shop for a pair of shoes that will fit the child. Although the age of majority is 18, many young people are not fully mature at 18, and many mature long before then. Some are made mature before then by circumstances. That is why flexibility is so essential.

We have to be careful about the provision of facilities for ethnic minorities. I know exactly what the hon. Member for Middleton and Prestwich means, and I do not disagree with it, but we must recognise that growing up m our society are children born of parents who have come from a different culture, and those children will have different expectations from their parents about their involvement in our society. It is evident that we have been unsuccessful in involving in youth organisations, voluntary or statutory, any great number of young people of different cultural backgrounds, and that is a matter for regret. Special consideration needs to be given to the cultural interests and needs of ethnic minorities, but this should come from within the youth service rather than from special organisations set up for the purpose. Young immigrants tend to group themselves together rather than join a general group. We do not want this to happen, and we must make clear that all young people are welcome within the youth service and that no doors are closed to them.

One useful thing that the youth service could do is to try to understand the special difficulties of young people who have been brought up in one culture yet find themselves beckoned by another culture although the pressure of their own culture is strong upon them. The youth service, the youth workers and the young people themselves could make a special contribution to overcome these difficulties.

Many immigrant parents, particularly women, have not mixed freely in our society, and they have an unfortunate view about how young people in Britain behave. They get their ideas from the mass media, which often highlight the more undesirable behaviour of young people. I hope that the Press will give as much attention to the constructive attitudes of the majority of young people as it gives to the undesirable behaviour of others.

The hon. Gentleman spoke about young children at risk because of inadequate social conditions. In the few months when I was in the Department of Education and Science I visited many youth clubs. I was particularly struck by two attitudes I met. I went to a school in North London at which teachers had opened a club for young people which met from 4.30 until 6.30 p.m. There had previously been a great deal of absenteeism and vandalism in the area. After the club had been established, many local stallholders reported a drop in the pilfering that had previously occurred between those hours. Youngsters would come out of school at 4.30, and, because mother was at work and they had nowhere to go, would spend their time misbehaving themselves in the locality. The setting up of the club had a great influence on their behaviour.

I met the other attitude at a club where I was told by a voluntary youth worker "We do not have very much trouble in this club because we try to keep out anyone who has been in trouble with the police". There, the very people we want to help are excluded. Any club can have a good record if it excludes people who are likely to indulge in anti-social activities. I am sure that attitude is not common.

No doubt in Committee we shall have much to say about what we mean by "Social education". An important part of this is the personal relationships with and attitudes of young persons to people in authority. We all know of people who are terrified to exercise their rights and to approach organisations because they fear that their inadequacy will be seen and they will appear to be incapable of looking after their own needs.

The job of a detached youth worker is highly skilled. No one has yet got it right. We are trying to help people who do not want to be helped and who want to be detached from society. That is society's fault rather than their own. More money needs to be spent on research into why young people feel like this. Youth services have great difficulty in attracting the anti-social, the delinquent and the cynical. There is a link between education and these attitudes of mind. If we do not study the way in which, perhaps unwittingly, we give the impression that some people are not as worthy or as important to society as others, we shall go on producing these difficulties. Education is closely linked with overcoming attitudes of superiority and inferiority.

I was glad that the Under-Secretary of State gave the Bill a limited welcome, although he underlined some of the difficulties. Housing is closely linked with this subject, and I hope that before long there will be some proposals on homelessness.

The hon. Member for Middleton and Prestwich, by introducing the Bill, has given the House, the country and the youth service a chance to discuss this subject. Let us be honest and say that we have not given as much attention to this subject as we should have given, and in this I include both political parties. I hope that the Minister's comments are not just vocal support. We wish the Bill to go to Committee, where we can add to and subtract from it, and we want it to be implemented.

1.40 p.m.

Photo of Mr Gilbert Longden Mr Gilbert Longden , South West Hertfordshire

I am glad to have the privilege of adding my congratulations to my hon. Friend the Member for Middleton and Prestwich (Mr. Haselhurst) for bringing in the Bill and of thanking him for having asked me to be one of its sponsors. I wish to say a few words in support of it. They will be very few words—not because I am other than wholeheartedly in support of the Bill, but because its provisions were so admirably, lucidly and comprehensively introduced by my hon. Friend and there is not very much more I can add.

In a nutshell, the purpose of the Bill is to give young people more opportunity to help themselves and others; to participate more fully in the life of the place where they happen to live and, perhaps above all, to be closely involved in all decisions that affect them. The last is covered by Clause 3 of the Bill. It is obvious that the needs of different places will vary. The needs and conditions of Birmingham are in no way comparable to those of Broadway, or even of Brighton.

It is therefore appropriate that the duties specified in the Bill should be placed on local authorities, and I wish to give my support to Clause 7 because this involves essentially a local task, and its cost should fall on the ratepayers. That cost, as my hon. Friend said when introducing the Bill, need not be all that great. I was glad that he mentioned school caretakers who help a great deal. The reason why local authorities are not anxious for schools and playing fields to be used out of hours is that they have to be looked after. This would mean employing deputy caretakers and this would not prove to be particularly expensive.

In return for saddling local authorities with the cost of this service, if I had my way—and I hope that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science will not be too horrified to hear me say this—I would transfer the whole cost of teachers' salaries from the ratepayer to the taxpayer. Education is essentially a national service and a service which on the whole people cannot undertake for themselves. I believe that the cost should be borne nationally, and I have always taken this view.

To leave the matter to local authorities may mean that the purposes of the Bill will be achieved in an uneven fashion. We have already heard the youth service referred to as the Cinderella of local authorities but some local authorities make better provision than do others. We have a Young Volunteer Force operating in Watford and in South-West Hertfordshire, and it has the co-operation of the local authorities, but, unfortunately, has been starved of money. One also has in mind the community project of the Cumberland County Council.

Clause 5 of the Bill is particularly welcome, and, with great respect to my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Education and Science, I hope that it will not be dropped from the Bill. The Bill places a duty on local authorities to consider the need to house the young homeless. They have, of course, had that duty for some time. After giving full credit to the Government for the many ways in which they have helped the under-privileged and the poorer-off, I believe the biggest failure in our social services is that there many people who are homeless and many others who are housed in wretched conditions. I include "tower blocks" in which to bring up a young family as wretched conditions—and I called them "obscene" in my last election address. Over the years I have asked a number of Questions about homelessness. Last year I tabled three Questions on this subject, and the hon. Lady the Member for Eton and Slough (Miss Lestor) supported me. Therefore, I was extremely glad to hear what the Under-Secretary of State said on this subject.

I conclude by saying that I was glad to hear my hon. Friend the Member for Middleton and Prestwich, in introducing this Bill, say that he had no intention of "singling out" the young or of patronising them in any way. I am glad that that is his view, because too much patronising of the young may well have a back-lash effect. Today's Daily Telegraph supplement contains an article entitled "No need to pity Granny." It seems to me that the back-lash against the elderly is now beginning. There is no need necessarily to pity granny. It is ridiculous that we should assume that because a woman reaches the age of 60 or a man 65 they at once become incapable of helping themselves. That is the gist of the article. There are occasions when old people need help, and the more help we can give those ones the better; but it is ludicrous to put them all in the same category. Therefore, let us not lump the old together in terms of need; let us not pauperize the old or patronise the young. The fact is that most young people are as good as, if not better than, the earlier generation. But they, too, can benefit from the Bill since it will enable them to help those of their contemporaries who are less fortunate. I strongly support the Bill.

1.48 p.m.

Photo of Mr Edward Leadbitter Mr Edward Leadbitter , Hartlepools, The

In the years immediately before the war it became a matter of increasing public concern that our youth services needed to be developed.

It is right and proper for the House of Commons to discuss this legislation which has been so commendably brought before us by the hon. Member for Middleton and Prestwich (Mr. Haselhurst). Having heard the speech made by the Under-Secretary of State for Education and Science, I think it can be said that the Government's view is: "We support the Bill—but not yet."

I am not seeking to criticise the Government—at least not on a Friday afternoon—but I am saying that we must look at the realities of the situation. We must look at the ways in which we can avoid any delay in implementing these proposals—and there may be reasons for delay in the Government's view—so that we can give the subject a greater priority, emphasis and edge than it appears to have in the present climate. We must seek to fertilise the ideas set out in the Bill and to examine whether they come before us at the right time and in the right climate.

It follows that we should examine the natural evolution—this is why in historical terms I began by referring to the view that was taken before the war—of the institutions of which every parliamentary democracy is aware, and we must closely examine the kernel of the problem.

These matters which we are discussing today begin by voluntary action, by an awareness on the part of ordinary men and women in any ordinary town and village in the country that some deserving situation or the other must be put right. From that kind of situation there would be a spontaneous action, a public response and a sense of public responsibility. In turn, as a result, there would be State involvement.

It is because that is the natural order of progression that it is important to consider whether voluntary responses, public support and State involvement become harmonised to the point where we can establish an effective youth and community service which is equitable and meets the needs of the whole country.

All Ministers receive criticism of varying kinds, some of it merited, some of it undeserved. For that reason I wish to put on record my pleasure that the Secretary of State has taken the trouble on a Friday to come here to listen to our debate. It is important to us.

It is also important to ask again whether there is that voluntary public and State involvement which means that we can have a service to meet all our needs. Without questioning the intentions of anyone and without attempting any critique of policy, it is as well to consider whether history shows that we can have confidence in what we are discussing in such a way as to satisfy the promoter and sponsors of the Bill.

In 1939 the then Board of Education issued a circular with a view to setting up a youth service. All the elements that I have discussed were as valid then as they are now. However, in the view of many people the need was more urgent then.

Arising from that circular proposing the setting up of a youth service there was a great deal of enthusiasm. It was felt that there was a need for a welfare service for youth as an integral part of the education system. That is in no way in conflict with the objective of the hon. Member for Middleton and Prestwich. We want it to be part of our education system. But the interesting feature arising from that circular was that we got what we seem to be seeking now—a youth service made up of a partnership of voluntary organisations, local authorities and central Government.

It might be said that history is repeating itself. However, as a historian, I know that history never repeats itself. There are merely similarities. In highlighting a matter of this kind where the objectives are so similar, we have to bear in mind factors which may damage the objectives in the Bill just as they did the similar objectives of the Board of Education's circular in 1939.

The war intervened. In 1944 we had the Education Act, which repeated the call for a youth service. Those of us who were involved in education at the time felt that the youth service was here to stay. The hopes and aspirations of the 1939 directive, which had been diminished because of the effects of the war, were raised again. With the passing of the 1944 Education Act, we felt new hope for the youth service. Unfortunately, after only a few years, with the economic crisis of the early 1950s coming upon us, the priorities began to alter and the youth service was held back. Lacking financial support and finding that their enthusiasm was not backed up by central Government, many local authorities began to lose interest.

Naturally enough, once again importance was placed upon the need to create for our youth the best social and economic conditions possible in which their talents and personalities could develop. As a result, we had a resuscitation of the idea of promoting a youth service, and in 1958 a committee was appointed under the chairmanship of Lady Albemarle. Its report was produced in 1960.

The terms of reference of the Albemarle Committee were to review the contribution that the youth service of England and Wales could make to assist young people to play their part in the life of the community. My only comment is that there is no change in the objective. The commendable objective always has been how best to provide a situation in which young people can be of service to the community.

I have chosen, purely for brevity—[Interruption.]— several recommendations of the Albemarle Committee. The committee decided, as part of its overall recommendations, first, that a national committee, a Youth Service Development Council, should be set up to advise the Minister on a 10-year development programme; second, that a building programme should be started which should provide, besides new buildings, more attractive furniture and decorations and better equipment; third, that expenditure by local education authorities should be enough to sustain the momentum of development; fourth, that the Ministry of Education should make larger grants to national and voluntary youth organisations; fifth, that arrangements for training part-time youth leaders should be improved; sixth, that a long-term scheme for training full-time youth leaders should be started and that there should be an emergency scheme for a big increase in the number of leaders by 1976; seventh, that a representative committee should be appointed to negotiate salary scales and conditions of service for full-time youth leaders; eighth, that a national campaign for more voluntary helpers and the development of the voluntary principle at every level of activity should be organised; ninth, that there should also be opportunities for young people to participate as partners in the youth service.

May I state in parenthesis the story thus far—[Interruption.] I have listened to the hon. Member for Lewisham, West (Mr. Selwyn Gummer); he has often bored me stiff, and I have not had a chance to answer him back.

Mr. Deputy Speaker:

Order. The hon. Member has already exceeded by more than any other hon. Member the limits suggested at the beginning of the debate. Will he kindly get on with his speech?

Photo of Mr Edward Leadbitter Mr Edward Leadbitter , Hartlepools, The

I have been discussing this matter with colleagues of mine who felt that it was important to develop this theme, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and I am satisfied that if you require brevity—and I respect your request—it will be achieved if there is less interference from the Member for Lewisham, West.

May I state in parenthesis the expenditure situation against the background of this story of the attempts to achieve a youth service. The position is very simple. First, during pre-Albemarle there was considerable variation in the expenditure by many local authorities per head of the population because there was not a satisfactory level of servicing. A few were making headway. The achievements of the vast majority of the local authorities were relatively average, but too many were not doing much work at all. After the Albemarle Report there was an improved situation for some time, but still we did not have the acceptance of a national norm of expenditure to place on local authorities an obligation to provide a high standard of service.

I have at least developed a new theme in the House on this Bill. Enthusiasm by itself is not enough. We should recognise that both major political parties in the past have fallen short of their aspirations in this House. The House, therefore, has a duty to the hon. Member for Middleton and Prestwich to say that steps should be taken to give this Bill priority and that nothing in the Bill should be excluded.

May I refer to two further points? The first is homelessness. While I respect the Minister's response when she said that a circular is to be issued, the fact remains that those of us who have been in Parliament and in local government for some years know that, unfortunately, there is an obduracy and difficulty among many local authorities to relax some of their stringent rules when considering the provision of housing for young and unmarried people. Therefore, it is important to emphasise that this part of the Bill has a major place in the development of a youth service, and there is a need to make clear that the provision of homes for young people is a right and is not a matter purely for consideration.

The second important aspect of this Bill is the question of an assembly. The Minister did not appear to feel very enthusiastic about it, but in my part of the world some years ago we set up what was known as a Teesside parliament in which young people played a great part and tried to show by their procedures that they were emulating the best in the constitutional practices of local and central government—indeed, pursuing the concepts of a parliamentary democracy, having debates of the most interesting kind from which we who were in local government at that time gained great benefit.

I commend the Bill. It must be supported against the background of the history of previous attempts to establish a youth service, in such a way that the money shall be forthcoming. I sincerely hope that the Bill will not only receive a Second Reading but will pass through all its stages and will be implemented within this Session.

Photo of Mr William Baxter Mr William Baxter , West Stirlingshire

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I have been listening to a number of the speeches which have been delivered in favour of this excellent small measure. I have heard no voices raised in opposition to it. It would appear to me that there is continuous repetition of a point of view in favour of the Bill, for one particular purpose and one purpose only: that is, to prevent the possibility of an excellent measure prepared by some of my Scottish colleagues—the Scottish and Welsh Parliaments Bill—being debated here today. Be that as it may——

Mr. Deputy Speaker:

Order. The hon. Gentleman knows that this is not a question for the Chair. As long as hon. Members are in order, the Chair allows them to speak.

Photo of Mr William Baxter Mr William Baxter , West Stirlingshire

Further to that point of order. I understood that if there was continuous repetition of a particular theme——

Mr. Deputy Speaker:

Order. It is for the Chair to say whether there is tedious repetition. I have heard nothing out of order so far.

Photo of Mr William Baxter Mr William Baxter , West Stirlingshire

Further to that point of order——

Mr. Deputy Speaker:

I have ruled on that point of order.

Photo of Mr William Baxter Mr William Baxter , West Stirlingshire

Further to another point of order, then——

Mr. Deputy Speaker:

Will the hon. Gentleman kindly resume his seat? He is taking a great deal of time from Members who wish to speak in the debate. He should not pursue the matter any further.

Photo of Mr William Baxter Mr William Baxter , West Stirlingshire

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Concerning the Bill which is in the name of the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond), which is supposed to be discussed today, I should like to know whether there is a possibility of that Bill in fact being discussed today.

Mr. Deputy Speaker:

The hon. Member's forecast is as good as that of the Chair.

2.20 p.m.

Photo of John Gummer John Gummer Vice-Chair, Conservative Party

I am sure that the hon. Member for the Hartlepools (Mr. Leadbitter) will understand if I do not take up what he said but, instead, come to the key issue of the Bill, which is most important. The aim of the Bill is to move from the present situation, in which it is merely the duty of a local authority to provide some sort of youth service, to a greater definition of the kind of youth service that is necessary.

I have been fortunate enough at about 20 meetings to have met youth officers and people working in voluntary bodies and statutory organisations all over the country. I have listened to their views, and I know what they regard as important in the service for which they work. What interested me was that money was not the first thing for which they asked. There are all kinds of ways in which more money could be spent, and I am not suggesting that those who believe that this is an important service would not like more money, but their first demand was that there should be a clear aim in both national and local government about what the youth service was supposed to do. They want to feel that there is a purpose behind their work and some sort of national policy for the youth service.

I am sure my right hon. and hon. Friends will agree that since the Albemarle Report there has been a kind of flattening out of the pressure for a better and more effective youth service. The Bill, if it does nothing else, concentrates the minds of people in the education world and outside on the need to have a youth service which is effective and which accepts that it is sad that the very people for whom the education service as a whole has been least effective—those who have left school at 16—are those who then find the least amount of provision made for them.

It is important to face that fact. Even if it means re-allocating existing resources—I am not asking for that, because I hope that ultimately this will mean new resources—that should be done, because we owe more to those for whom so little is done and for whom so much is needed. I therefore make a plea to those concerned in the Department that, because of the overwhelming strength of those whose interests lie in academic education, in the traditionally formal education, they should not look aside from the importance of the youth and community service.

We are in some difficulty with local authorities. There are good authorities and, frankly, there are some appalling ones. The service provided by Cambridgeshire is excellent—it has been concerned for many years with providing a decent youth service—but there are other local authorities in whose area it is difficult to discern a major interest in youth. There are some who take no notice at all of youth provision in making their arrangements for planning. They prepare, build and fill new estates without ever discussing whether, with such youth provision as they have, there is any need for help in the new area. There are other authorities which have taken no interest at all in the development of a youth service in their area.

I must therefore ask my hon. Friend to think again about the warning he gave. I do not believe that it would be satisfactory merely to "recommend" that authorities should set up some kind of advisory committee. We have had far too much of recommendation in the youth service. I do not believe that there is any local authority which would not benefit from the kind of advice to be gained under Clause 1. If there is such an authority, I hope that my hon. Friend will tell us, because it is an odd authority which would not benefit from such advice.

It is important to highlight what my hon. Friend the Member for Middleton and Prestwich (Mr. Haselhurst) said in his remarkable opening speech. We must consider the way in which we misuse the provision that we have. School, university and polytechnic buildings and sports facilities lie disused at weekends and during holidays. I know of authorities which do not provide even a cupboard in which voluntary organisations can leave overnight or during the week the materials they use when they have permission to use school buildings. I know of other local authorities where, when the caretaker believes that the time has come for the youth facilities to end for the day, he rings a bell and says that within five minutes everybody must be out. Schools and other places are a community provision and should be treated as such. The Bill will help us to ensure this.

We cannot any longer think of schools merely as places where children are taught formally between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. They must be regarded as part of the provision of the community. I commend to the House the experience of the Cumberland authority in what it has done to integrate the school into the community. Cambridgeshire, of course, has much longer experience of that than anyone else.

It is important also to consider the matter of age limits which are referred to in the Bill. This is one of the strengths of this measure. Many local authorities know that unless young people are introduced to voluntary activity at an early stage they do not continue during the difficult ages of 14 and 15. The age of puberty has decreased, and it is important that young people should be integrated into community provision rather earlier than used to be the case. The school leaving age was formerly 14, but that is no longer a suitable age at which to start provision for youth services.

We ought to consider carefully the provision for detached youth workers, and I am pleased that my hon. Friend has included this in his Bill. It is difficult if someone is working apart from other people, instead of working with them in a special building, and people have to go to him if they want his services. It is important to make provision for people to work where young people gather. I say this because it is difficult to prove to a local authority that someone who is not working in a youth club is effective.

If there is a youth club, and if the youth leader is able to say that 100 people meet there every night, the local authority knows that to be a fact. If there is a detached youth worker, it is difficult for him to explain what he does and how effective he is in his work. It is therefore important for Parliament to set the seal of approval on this kind of work, because many local authorities find it difficult to justify to their ratepayers the use of this kind of worker.

We ought to emphasise the participation of young people. I understand and respect the worry that has been expressed that if we are not careful we shall cut young people off from the rest of the community. We must not think in terms of ghettos, of calling people by bureaucratic nomenclature. We should not talk about OAPs and unmarried mothers as though they were different from other members of the community.

It is essential that young people should be introduced to the democratic method of working in our society. They should realise that by discussion, argument, pressure and public statement they can change the world in which they live. The biggest worry on both sides of the House is that so many young people no longer believe that our system can be changed for the better or influenced. Young people must be given a chance not only to air their views but to discuss them with other young people across the board, and local authorities must make the provision that is necessary.

I commend the concept of young assemblies. It would be wrong to remove them from the Bill. I hope that my hon. Friend the Minister, who had some doubts, will be convinced and converted in Committee, because the experience of the youth councils has been such that we can now show what an effective way this is of ensuring that young people are involved in the community.

Lastly I believe that the Bill expresses a major change in the attitude of Government and Parliament to young people. I share many of the reservations which people inside and outside the House have about the Bill. I wish that it could in some ways go further. Many improvements are needed in addition to those made in the Bill. However, the Bill takes a fundamental step which we have lacked for so long by showing that the youth service is a recognised and important part of community provision by national and local government.

The Bill ensures—I believe that this trend was fundamentally started in the Albemarle Report—that the youth service is not to be treated as the first service to be cut in the event of any cut-back. It will no longer be treated as the poor relation of the ordinary education service. It is no longer possible to exclude it from the school, polytechnic and university provisions which we make. Above all, it will no longer be possible for us to say that the youth service is something to which a local authority merely needs to pay lip service.

That is why I ask my hon. Friend the Minister to look with great care at the provision which directs local authorities to investigate and prepare a plan for youth provision in their area. I do not believe that such a plan, having been produced, could fail to be implemented.

When the people in a locality hear of the problems, what ought to be done and what provision should be made, they will not let their local representatives leave the desired provision unmade. That is the best way to ensure that the youth service both meets the needs of the locality and also remains part of the national whole.

When the Bill is passed—I believe that it will be accepted substantially as it is—we can use the period of grace while local authorities calculate their provisions to consider several other matters which, because of the regulations governing Private Members' Bills, could not be dealt with in today's Bill. We should look at what is, I believe, the unhappy state of training of youth officers. It is essential that we should examine more closely a national planning scheme and the way that it could be implemented.

There is a shortage of people working in the youth service. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has done much in that direction, but these are important priorities which, unfortunately, could not be included in the Bill. However, the Bill contains the necessary statement that the country is no longer prepared to treat the youth service as a second-class service—second-class because it has always been subsidiary, although it has not been specifically singled out for that rôle. There is a pressing need for more trained people. It is important that every local authority should be brought up to the level of the best and that the best authorities should be encouraged further to improve the provisions they make.

2.26 p.m.

Photo of Mr Bob Mitchell Mr Bob Mitchell , Southampton, Itchen

Last night in Southampton 1,000 people, mostly in the 40 to 50 age range, attended a dance. Another 500 had wanted to come but were unable to do so because of the limits on the size of the hall. If I am bleary eyed today it is because I was with those people until the early hours of this morning. Hon. Members may ask "What has that to do with the Bill?" In fact it is very appropriate because the dance was a reunion for those active as either members or organisers in the youth service in Southampton from 1940 to 1950.

It was an interesting evening. Many people who had not met for 10, 15 or 20 years renewed old acquaintances, talking over the times when they were in the youth service and when they took part in the activities of youth clubs. The fact that there was such a tremendous demand for the dance and the success of the function displays something of the lasting value of the youth service.

I welcome the Bill although I am critical of some of its provisions. I find it a little paternalistic. But it gives us an opportunity to debate the youth service, and that is always of great value. The important provision is Clause 2, which makes it mandatory for every local education authority to prepare and submit a scheme. This gives the youth service a status which it probably did not have before.

Like the hon. Member for the Isle of Ely (Mr. Freud), I believe that it is not much good preparing and producing a scheme if no one puts it into operation. I am not entirely convinced by the argument that no authority would dare not to put such a scheme into operation once it had been prepared. I can think of some local authorities that might well take a different view.

The Bill is a little toothless without the money and facilities to go with its provisions. Often in the past the youth service has been the Cinderella of the education service, and whenever periodic cuts are ordered the youth service is often the first to be hit. I remember an example of that about four years ago in my own town where a relatively small cut was made in the overall education budget. This is the only political point that I shall make in the debate. At that time the Conservative Party was in control of my council, and I am glad that that is no longer the case. When those small cuts were made at that time our youth service was emasculated. After that we had buildings and youth leaders but when one wanted to bring in an instructor to teach judo or coach football there was nothing in the kitty.

I believe in a fully-trained youth service. We need more fully-trained youth organisers. However, I do not want to lose the expertise we have in the youth movement of the part-time person who is doing another job during the day and has gone through the Bessey training scheme.

The youth service can draw, for example, on the expertise of the policeman, the man who works for the Ordnance Survey or in the docks, all coming in for part-time youth work; such people are invaluable to the service. While we appreciate that we want more fully-trained youth leaders to organise the whole scheme, we do not want to lose these important part-time people in the process.

There has been conjecture among youth service personnel about where its future lies. Does it lie with education or should it break away and become part of a new leisure service run by a district council? One of the dangers in Clause 7 is that it says that a local education authority "shall not attract rate support grant". That could, if interpreted wrongly, be the first steps toward taking the youth service from the rest of the education service. That would be a pity. Although I said earlier that it can in certain circumstances be the Cinderella of the education service, I am inclined to believe that if the youth service remains part of education its chances of getting money and facilities may be greater than if it tries to break away and become part of the leisure services of a district council.

In any case, it will have the facilities available for the education service. While I do not believe that it is necessary to have youth clubs centred completely on a school, the facilities available in a school must always be available for the youth club. My preference is for purpose-built buildings in the grounds of a school or, perhaps, just outside them. The people I want to see attending youth clubs, who would not normally attend them, do not want to go back into a school atmosphere after having left it. The Bill does not really cater for those youngsters who come from a pre-war housing estate, such as those with whom I used to be associated in a youth club. Such people will not very easily be brought into participation in community youth councils and so on. But it is these people in whom I am interested. Some of us used to call them the "unattached". They are people who have no associations. Not many years ago a pamphlet was produced which dealt with these unattached people.

The main part of the Bill is Clause 2. I am also concerned about the present lack of training facilities for full-time youth workers. Various organisations have expressed concern about this matter. Although perhaps it may not be appropriate to mention salaries today, one must do that. We shall not get the sort of fully-trained youth service we want without a proper career and salary structure. They have not achieved this yet. As with so many other social workers, the salaries tend to be rather below what is desirable.

A subject which has not been dealt with very much today is international youth exchange. I am sorry to quote my town continually, but in 1948 we set up in Southampton something called the International Youth Rally. We exchanged young people on a home-to-home basis. That is the best of ail bases for international youth exchanges The scheme grew from two countries to six countries. It now involves eight countries. About 15 to 20 youngsters from eight different countries come to Southampton for a fortnight each year. Our youngsters visit the various other countries on a home-to-home exchange basis in the following fortnight.

Those of us who are interested in this matter and co-operate in this rally in Southampton arrange all sorts of activities. For five years my wife and I acted as youth leaders and took parties abroad to the various other countries.

This sort of thing is invaluable. The benefit gained by the youngsters is tremendous. It was even more in the early stages because there was not then the fully developed range of school exchanges and visits which take place now. This scheme is still going strong after 25 years. Last year we added the United States to the range of countries as a new venture. It is a wonderful fortnight in Southampton when all these youngsters meet together from seven European countries and the United States. I wish that other local authorities and towns would operate the same type of scheme.

The scheme receives a grant from the local authority. Now that the old Southampton local authority has ceased to exist, I hope that the grant will be continued by the new authority. But a large amount of money is raised by all sorts of functions in Southampton, and many people co-operate in this matter. This is a very valuable part of the youth service, and I wish it could be extended elsewhere.

I have some doubts about Clause 3 and the youth assembly. I am not sure whether the provisions will add very much to what is done in many places. It may be that in some backward areas there is a need for something of this nature. If I happen to serve on the Committee, perhaps other hon. Members will be able to convince me of the necessity for these provisions.

I am not entirely convinced about the provisions of Clause 1. My experience is that setting up too many joint committees for youth work can be a handicap rather than an asset. Obviously, we want to bring into youth work in any area a combination of the statutory and the voluntary. Sometimes there are difficulties in doing that because the statutory and the voluntary clash. We all have experience of that. But I am not sure whether we want to set up a formalised committee structure to do this.

I give a general welcome to the Bill, but I hope that there will be a number of changes before it reaches the statute book, as I hope it will.

2.36 p.m.

Mr. Nicholas Winterten:

I join right hon. and hon. Members on both sides of the House in congratulating my hon. Friend the Member for Middle-ton and Prestwich (Mr. Haselhurst) on introducing this very progressive and much needed Bill. I hope that it will be enthusiastically sped on its way to the statute book by its Second Reading today.

I do not share the reservations which have been expressed on both sides of the House, particularly by my hon. Friend the Member for Preston, North (Miss Holt). I have a deep interest in young people. I believe that the example which they are set in the early and formative days of their lives, the influences which they meet and the sort of community in which they live can affect their behaviour and outlook for the rest of their lives. This belief has been strengthened by my experience on a youth club management committee in a mining village and during three years as the chairman of a county education committee's youth service sub-committee. Even as a Member of Parliament, I am delighted to have been able to have close regular contacts with organisations catering for young people.

As president of the Macclesfield Boys' Club, which is affiliated to the National Association of Boys' Clubs, and as one of two parliamentary representatives on the advisory committee for the Duke of Edinburgh's Award Scheme, the problems, needs and aspirations of young people are very readily brought to my attention. The need for further and improved provision for young people in the community is undeniable.

The main objective of the Bill is to achieve a greater degree of co-ordination between the professional and the voluntary services concerned with youth. My hon. Friend the Member for Middleton and Prestwich is right; there is a wealth of untapped voluntary help which could be mobilised if only the statutory youth service would get off its high horse and co-operate with the many voluntary organisations and would involve in a meaningful way the voluntary organisations in achieving a comprehensive range of services for young people in any particular area.

When I first became the chairman of a county youth service sub-committee, I put in hand a policy of encouraging voluntary organisations, so many of which had lost their enthusiasm because the statutory body had given the impression that they were no longer needed and because, in so many youth projects, the statutory body had not even sought their advice. That matter has been covered already by other hon. Members who have spoken in the debate.

There is no point in setting up a statutory youth centre in competition with a voluntary organisation. It is wasteful of money and very wasteful of personnel. How much better it would be to advise and co-operate with the voluntary body and to assist in its expansion through public funds.

Too often insufficient attention has been paid to local expert knowledge which is available from people who are already undertaking various activities. Often buildings have been erected without the necessary prior consultation, and, in consequence, many of our large building provisions for young people have turned out to be white-elephant institutions while the basic neighbourhood needs have still been unrecognised. Too often we may have been setting up pale shadows of evening institutes rather than places where young people can learn about themselves and the community in which they live. The philosophy behind the Bill will change all that.

Surely all local authorities must promote schemes for young people which are as wide as possible in concept and in operation, and which recognise the unique contribution of the uniformed voluntary organisations, such as Boy Scouts, Girl Guides, Church Lads Brigade, cadets and Girls Friendly Society, and many others, which must always be an important sector of youth provision and community work.

The contribution of churches through deanery and diocesan youth organisations and committees offers great potential. However, I direct the attention of hon. Members to the Duke of Edinburgh's Award Scheme. I use this as an example of how in youth and community provision we can bring about the co-ordination between statutory and voluntary agencies and encourage the involvement of young people in community affairs. The scheme is a programme of activities open to all young people in the age range and is not limited by membership, religion, race, physical and mental abilities, or any other such conditions. Therefore it cuts across many boundaries, thereby combining a wide range of professional and voluntary services. For example, a teacher who is running an award scheme in school calls in the local Red Cross or St. John Ambulance officers to instruct in first aid or child care. Another example is that of a probation officer who involves a young person in the scheme through a youth club or youth group run by a volunteer adult.

When it is considered that the Duke of Edinburgh's Award Scheme operates through schools, youth organisations, firms, factories, the Armed Services, with the physically handicapped, with young people in care, young people who are unemployed and those who are in socially deprived areas, it will be seen that the success is dependent very largely on the degree of active co-ordination in a particular locality between the statutory services responsible for youth and the vast army of volunteer adults who help the scheme as leaders, sponsors, instructors and assessors.

Voluntary help by adults is necessary in the youth service, as can be seen from a calculation based on the year 1972. If every adult who helped young people through the Duke of Edinburgh Awards had been paid for doing so during that year at the going rate for part-time local education authority instructors, the cost would have been over £10 million. This is an indication of the vast army of adults who act voluntarily in the scheme.

It must be recognised, and is recognised, that the volunteers need the training, help and guidance of the professional youth and other services. This is being achieved by the Award Scheme by setting up local award committees where all involved with the scheme, statutory and voluntary, work and plan together.

There is a vast potential for the recruitment of adults to provide more opportunities for all kinds of young people. This can be a kind of bridge for the much-talked-about generation gap. But it takes time and effort, and more staff would be needed attached to the local authority youth department to recruit and train adults and co-ordinate the work on the ground. But that it can be done is evidenced by a report of a three-year project carried out jointly by the National Association of Youth Clubs and the Duke of Edinburgh's Award Scheme, financed by the King George Jubilee Trust.

The Bill sets out to widen the opportunities for young people to carry out community service and to promote involvement for young people in community affairs. It may be contended that by doing the former one automatically achieves to a large degree the latter objective. The Duke of Edinburgh's Award experience is that many young people taking up various forms of community service for the scheme continue to be involved in such work long after they have gained their awards, and in the process they get to know the agencies dealing with the needs of the community, such as the Women's Royal Voluntary Service, Old Peoples' Welfare organisations, hospitals and many other bodies.

Mention has been made in the House and elsewhere during the past few years of the need for the re-introduction of some form of national service for young people. This has never made headway because the conception in the public mind is still geared to service in the Armed Forces. But if, without making it compulsory for all young people, encouragement could be given to more teenagers to undertake service to the community, this would be popular with the young and would be of inestimable benefit to the country.

The Award Scheme, as many hon. Members may be aware, is growing apace, not only in the United Kingdom but in many other parts of the world. It is the voluntary service opportunities offered that appear to be capturing the imagination of young people today, whereas when the scheme was first introduced in 1956 many would have said that it was the expedition section which was the appeal. If this is true of the Award Scheme, it must be true of young people throughout the world.

The new local authorities which take office on 1st April this year have great responsibilities. Although we are experiencing severe economic problems, these new authorities have an important responsibility to make adequate provision for young people which must not be shelved or overlooked. In my experience, too many authorities have failed to make provision in the past and have failed to communicate with young people or to motivate the inherent good instincts of young people. Frustration and apathy are too often the result. We are not merely in need of money to provide buildings, sports facilities and leisure facilities, although these are badly needed in my constituency, in the Borough of Macclesfield and, no doubt, in many other areas. There is also the need for people, co-ordination and cooperation.

I am convinced that the Bill can play an important part in changing the present circumstances, and it has my full support.

2.48 p.m.

Photo of Mr Willie Hamilton Mr Willie Hamilton , Fife West

I hope that the House will not regard me as being something of a trespasser because I am a Member for a Scottish constituency intervening in a Bill which specifically excludes Scotland. I intervene because I happen to be an Englishman and have been a teacher in a series of English schools. I was a member of the National Union of Teachers and a youth organiser when I was in the teaching profession.

I look at the Bill with no great enthusiasm, although I must compliment the hon. Member for Middleton and Prestwich (Mr. Haselhurst). The good intentions are undeniable, but we suffer from a surfeit of legislation, and the Minister went near to saying something like that. If anyone in the House, or outside, thinks that the millenium is coming for youth within the next decade as a consequence of the Bill, he had better quickly get rid of his delusion.

Photo of Mr David Steel Mr David Steel , Roxburghshire, Selkirkshire and Peeblesshire

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Is it in order for a Scottish Member to address the House on a Bill that does not extend to Scotland when the next Order of the Day is an important Scottish measure for which we are waiting?

Photo of Mr Oscar Murton Mr Oscar Murton , Poole

It is perfectly in order for any hon. Member to speak on any measure which is before the House.

Photo of Mr Willie Hamilton Mr Willie Hamilton , Fife West

I hope that nobody else in the House is as parochial as the hon. Member for Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles (Mr. David Steel). He has only just entered the Chamber. The House meets at 11 a.m. on a Friday. The hon. Gentleman entered the Chamber within the last 10 minutes or so. The hon. Gentleman had better not make that kind of intervention too often when I am on my feet.

Photo of Mr David Steel Mr David Steel , Roxburghshire, Selkirkshire and Peeblesshire

We know why the hon. Gentleman is on his feet.

Photo of Mr Willie Hamilton Mr Willie Hamilton , Fife West

I am on my feet because I am interested in the youth organisations in England and Scotland, part of which I have the honour to represent, and I am making a case which I think it is legitimate to make. I am here almost every Friday in the Session, unlike the hon. Gentleman, who is hardly ever here. Of course he has his alibis—he always has. Nevertheless, I propose to make my speech at such length as I will determine and nobody else—[Interruption]. It will be the longer because of the kind of sedentary interventions that the hon. Gentleman is making.

I was in the course of saying that I do not believe that much will come of the Bill in the short term and perhaps not in the long term. I recall the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Bill which was introduced by a private Member during the term of office of the last Labour Government and which promised to do all kinds of things for all kinds of people who were handicapped in one form or another. For a variety of reasons, local authorities have not carried out their statutory duties.

I have been idly counting the number of times the word "shall" is used in the Bill. It is used on more than 40 occasions—the local authorities "shall" do this, the local authority "shall" do that. The Under-Secretary referred to this when he referred to Clause 1, which provides for the setting up of joint committees and says that local authorities shall submit a scheme. The hon. Gentleman said that the Government prefer to give local authorities greater freedom and have been doing that all the time.

My mind went immediately to the provisions qua rents. The Government have taken out of the hands of local authori- ties for the first time in their history one of the most important powers they had to fix their own rents in their own area.

However, I appreciate the difficulties facing a private Member in drafting a Bill of this kind. The hon. Member for Middleton and Prestwich made no pretence as to the estimated cost of implementing the Bill. I may have missed that part of the Minister's speech where he made an estimate. I do not know whether he made an estimate or whether it is even possible to make an estimate of the cost of the full implementation of the Bill.

Even if it were possible, it is a singularly inopportune time for a private Member, especially a Conservative private Member, to introduce a Bill proposing an increase in public expenditure.

Every Conservative Member has supported the Chancellor of the Exchequer in slashing public expenditure, particularly local authority expenditure. The Bill goes out of its way to fly in the face of all that; it says "You shall provide this service. You shall provide the other service. However, it must all come out of local rates. There will be no rate support grant from the Exchequer."

I said earlier that legislation will not of itself necessarily solve this problem or even go in large measure towards its solution. I remember that when I was a young boy there was not this kind of legislative provision, but I played football for a local team. I was in the local cricket club, which had a youth section. I was in the local YMCA, where I could play all kinds of indoor games and engage in activities of one kind or another. There was no question of the local authority's intervening.

I agree so much with the hon. Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton) that the voluntary organisations are more important in this respect than is the local authority. The local authority ought at best to be given discretionary powers to do the kind of thing proposed in the Bill. If the local authority chooses not to set up the joint committee suggested in Clause 1, if it chooses not to prepare a scheme, there are no enforcement provisions.

Local authorities all over the country are saying "We have no money to do so many of the desirable things that we want to do." I had a letter from the Scottish Office recently saying that there is to be a slowing down of the building of a health centre in West Fife because of the Government cuts. There must be local authorities in England in the same position. If a local authority were to say "We are going to provide a youth centre where there can be a discotheque, a coffee bar and a dance hall. As a consequence of building that we shall not be able to provide a health clinic", I for one would object. If I were in the area of that authority, I should take the view that the health centre should come first. It is a question of priorities. Local authorities are increasingly facing these dilemmas of how to allocate their resources.

The Bill enables us to discuss one service which local authorities may or may not provide. The Bill does not allow the local authority that discretion. It says "You shall provide this service." If I had been lucky in the Ballot I should have said "You shall provide a health centre in any area with a population of more than 5,000", say, or 10,000.

It has been said repeatedly in the debate that the youth services have been the Cinderella of the social services locally and nationally. We find other examples of where social services have been neglected for one reason or another—where those involved have been inarticulate or have not got a vote or have not any kind of political power or pressure group behind them.

I was interested in the Minister's remarks about the insertion in the Bill of Clause 5 dealing with the compulsory provision of housing for single persons who had left home for one reason or another. In housing the Government's record has been one of shocking failure. Any provision to the effect that, despite the needs of homeless families throughout the country, especially in large cities, local authorities shall be under a mandatory obligation to provide homes for single people will be objected to strongly by large numbers of people on housing lists. This problem, and particularly in large conurbations such as London, is virtually insoluble. The young people are drawn to London as if it were an enormous magnet. The young think that if they go to London they can sort out all their problems. To say to the local authorities in London and, for example, Liverpool that they must make special provision for such youngsters is unreasonable.

Photo of Mr George Lawson Mr George Lawson , Motherwell

If local authorities were making such provisions, does my hon. Friend agree that there would be many fewer youngsters running off to London?

Photo of Mr Willie Hamilton Mr Willie Hamilton , Fife West

That might well be so, but that is a matter which must be left to the discretion of the local authorities. There are certain matters on which it would be inadvisable to say "You shall do this." If there is evidence of a certain problem in a community, and if local government means anything at all, surely the local authority must decide how it is to solve its own problems.

I think that the Bill will go into Committee. As I said to the sponsor of the Bill, the hon. Member for Middleton and Prestwich, Scotland is in some ways in advance of some of the provisions in the Bill. If the Minister cares to consider what is done in Scotland he will find that England is backward in many matters. We have problems of vandalism and increased crime amongst young people. If provisions of the kind which are proposed in the Bill would do anything at all to reduce the extent of those problems it would be a worthwhile exercise. It would be advisable to warn the country that for a decade at least there will be little done in this sphere as long as public expenditure is so tightly controlled.

3.1 p.m.

Photo of Mr John Sutcliffe Mr John Sutcliffe , Middlesbrough West

How right was my hon. Friend the Member for Middleton and Prestwich (Mr. Haselhurst) to introduce a Youth and Community Bill and how well he introduced it. He merited the fulsome praise which has been bestowed on him from both sides of the House.

It was interesting to hear a somewhat different point of view from the hon. Member for Fife, West (Mr. William Hamilton) in the face of such unanimity, but I believe that the youth service lacks co-ordination and direction. If only the Government will allow the Bill to go through, the youth service can be given a positive policy. We want to be sure that that is the right policy.

Photo of Mr William Baxter Mr William Baxter , West Stirlingshire

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. There is apparently no disagreement on this measure. Even the Government have given it a warm welcome. There should be no question in the minds of any Member as to whether it will go to Committee for revision. There has never been a voice raised against the measure. I appeal to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that it is the duty of the Chair to protect the minority in the House. That minority is waiting to express a point of view on an important constitutional Bill which will be presented by the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond).

Photo of Mr Oscar Murton Mr Oscar Murton , Poole

Order. Provided that Members keep within the rules of debate, it is perfectly in order for them to continue to give their views on the legislation which is at present before the House for discussion.

Photo of Mr William Baxter Mr William Baxter , West Stirlingshire

Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I want guidance. This is an important constitutional point irrespective of the measure in which I am interested. Do I understand that it is not within the power of the Chair to ask for a Division or an indication as to whether there are any voices raised against the measure which is now before the House? I cannot understand why the occupant of the Chair cannot put the Question when he feels that the voice of the House has been heard. It has been heard in unison today in favour of the measure before the House. We are now being subjected to continual repetition, although other phrases are being used, of the theme which was first propounded by the sponsor of the Bill, the hon. Member for Middleton and Prestwich (Mr. Haselhurst).

Photo of Mr Oscar Murton Mr Oscar Murton , Poole

Order. I regret to say that the hon. Member for West Stirlingshire (Mr. Baxter) is not entitled to use that phrase about repetition. It is not within the competence of the Chair to bring the debate to a close before the appointed time if hon. Members desire to continue to discuss the legislation which is at present before the House.

Photo of Mr David Steel Mr David Steel , Roxburghshire, Selkirkshire and Peeblesshire

Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Is it not within the competence of the Chair to accept a motion "That the Question be now put"?

Photo of Mr Oscar Murton Mr Oscar Murton , Poole

The hon. Gentleman is correct. It is within my competence, but such a motion would have to be moved. In normal circumstances, I should not have thought that it would be appropriate to put the Question at this stage.

Photo of Mr David Steel Mr David Steel , Roxburghshire, Selkirkshire and Peeblesshire

May I ask you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, to accept a motion, "That the Question be now put"?

Photo of Mr Oscar Murton Mr Oscar Murton , Poole

I am advised that it would be most unusual for Mr. Speaker to accept such a motion before four o'clock.

Photo of Mr William Baxter Mr William Baxter , West Stirlingshire

Further to the point of order. As I understand it, Mr. Deputy Speaker, whoever is in the Chair has power to accept or reject a motion "That the Question be now put". As no voices have been raised against the Bill now before the House, is there not some justification for your putting the Question?

Photo of Mr Oscar Murton Mr Oscar Murton , Poole

The matter is entirely within my discretion. However, other hon. Members wish to catch my eye and I have no knowledge of the point of view which they may wish to express, either for or against the Bill.

Photo of Mr George Lawson Mr George Lawson , Motherwell

On a point of order. Is it not most illiberal for the Liberal Party to seek to gag discussion? Is it not obvious that Tory Members are not trying to stop the next Bill from being reached? There is no interest in that Bill.

Photo of Mr Oscar Murton Mr Oscar Murton , Poole

I have made my observation on the general principle involved in continuing discussion on the Bill.

Photo of Mr John Sutcliffe Mr John Sutcliffe , Middlesbrough West

Having sat in the Chamber all day, I resent obstruction to prevent me from making what I hope will be some constructive suggestions on the Bill.

We want to be sure that the policy is right and that we do not repeat mistakes from which we should have learned. If, as the hon. Member for Fife, West said, there is only a limited amount of money to spend, let us spend it to better purpose.

Three years ago I was Chairman of the North Riding and Teesside Voluntary Association. I have not since been actively involved in the association, but I am very much connected with it and with the Scout movement in Teesside.

I have noticed two things. One is the lack by some, certainly not all, local authorities of a will to help those prepared to help themselves. Some authorities seem to be out not to help but to hinder voluntary effort. I hope that the Bill will change that.

Secondly, I have noticed an abysmal failure to prevent at an early enough age anti-social tendencies from developing. I agree with my hon. Friends the Members for Preston, North (Miss Holt), Lewis-ham, West (Mr. Selwyn Gummer) and Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton), who spoke up for the under-14s. One does not have to advocate regimentation or indoctrination to draw a lesson from the Chinese. They start the process in childhood and not with teenagers. They do not bide their time until alienation sets in.

I agree with the right hon. Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey) that Community Industry in the North-East has been most impressive. I have followed its progress very closely, and I should like it to be expanded. The right hon. Gentleman also spoke about vandalism in Sunderland. It is extremely difficult to get up-to-date figures, but I hazard a guess that the damage done in one year to school buildings alone—never mind the rest—in Teesside costs the ratepayers not less than £40,000. The police have done a great job by giving talks in schools, but this is wanton damage that is caused largely by groups of children attending these schools. They are in the main children under 14, and probably most of the wilful damage is done by children under 10.

One asks why, ever since Albemarle, public resources have been concentrated to such an extent on young people in their teens, and on only a small percentage of them. The figure of 26 per cent. has been mentioned, and those resources tend to be spent on the more sociable and responsible teenagers. Far too many children have already become unattached and unresponsive before they attain the age range prescribed for the youth service, and they have proved to be beyond its influence. We need to make a far more imaginative approach to children under 14, rather than seeking to influence as teenagers those who are already unattached and anti-social.

Five years ago the Youth Service Development Council reported on "Work in the 70s" and stated: The problem of the under-14s is a special one. It posed the question: could resources be diverted from the older to the younger age group? The council went on to express: the strongest hope that an investigation into the needs of the under-14s will be set in train urgently. That was five years ago—five years wasted.

I want to see a diversion of resources, a reallocation. I want my hon. Friend to consider deleting the reference to age 14 in the definition of "young people" in Clause 8. I want to get right away from 14 years as the prescribed age limit. I go so far as to say that as the lower limit it has been responsible for more problems in the youth service than has any other single factor. It is an arbitrary definition of youth and not remotely relevant to the needs of the young.

I know from my own experience that emphasis on the 14-plus age group has seriously prejudiced the effectiveness of voluntary organisations dedicated to developing the potential of children, whom they recruit at about the age of 8. For example, in Teesside there has been massive slum clearance and people have been dispersed to new housing estates. Thriving Scout groups have been uprooted and have met with nothing but discouragement in trying to re-establish themselves and their work. They have not been provided with the facilities that they so badly need in the areas that have been redeveloped. These groups are manfully struggling on without even the right to use existing school buildings and in areas of little else but brick and concrete. They have not had the help which they might justifiably have expected.

It is no good the Bill leaving it to the discretion of the authorities to set the age limit, if they so wish, below 14. As the Bill is drafted, I do not believe that it will persuade the backward authorities to rethink or alter their priorities in youth expenditure. Faced with the problem of resources, they are not likely to include in their schemes voluntary organisations working with young children.

If there is not scope—and, clearly, at the moment there is not—for increasing the expenditure, there is scope for reordering priorities within existing expenditure. In the financial year 1972–73 in Teesside county borough donations to youth clubs and community centres were over £36,000, but that figure excluded expenditure on wardens, leaders' salaries, premises, running expenses and debt charges, and these amounted to nearly £289,000. In the same year voluntary associations, including the Scouts, received just over £5,000 out of a total for donations and subscriptions to voluntary effort as a whole of approximately £143,000. I hope that my hon. Friend can see sense in my argument and will do something in his Bill to put the balance right by making it explicit that more needs to be done for those under 14. Much needs to be done to promote fully integrated training schemes, a young entry age and a large catchment area on which a firm base for a youth service can be built.

I shall not take up very much more time, but I wish to deal with one or two aspects of the Bill as drafted. I have spoken of the problems of the towns. The needs of rural areas are important, and there should be more youth and community workers to cover these areas. I hope that the words "existing facilities" in Clause 2 will be sufficient to cover not only universities and schools, but the improvement of community buildings in rural areas.

Clause 2(2) is rightly devoted to the needs of the handicapped. The work of the NAYC has shown the great benefit to be derived from handicapped people being accepted by those who are not handicapped and from their joining together on courses and outings. The benefit is by no means confined to the handicapped.

Turning to the joint committees proposed in the Bill, I wonder why the Bill has divided the local authority members from the voluntary organisation members. I refer to paragraph 2(3) of the schedule. Surely local government and voluntary members should be kept together as a united body and the committee as a whole should appoint its chairman right from the start. This would make paragraph 4 of the schedule redundant. Similarly Clause 2(4) of the Bill implies that the local authority, rather than the joint committee, should be given the responsibility for evaluating the services of a voluntary organisation. I see no good reason for that. Nor do I see any good reason for making the local authority rather than the joint committee responsible for deciding matters of delegation to a voluntary organisation under Clause 6.

Then, in Clause 3, in my view it should be the joint committee which is required to take note of the observations and recommendations of the youth assembly.

Finally, I ask why the youth assembly should be represented on the joint committee and not the joint committee on the assembly. Each should be represented on the other.

All these are matters which my hon. Friend the Member for Middleton and Prestwich can consider at a later stage. In no way do they diminish my support for his Bill.

3.20 p.m.

Photo of Sir Sydney Chapman Sir Sydney Chapman , Birmingham Handsworth

I too wish to congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Middle-ton and Prestwich (Mr. Haselhurst) not only on his Bill but on the excellent way in which he introduced it.

The Bill has particular relevance for our cities, especially for those areas where there are large numbers of immigrants. I therefore welcome the potential in the Bill for a city such as Birmingham.

I agree with my hon. Friend that whatever the Bill costs—it need not cost a great deal—it is a good investment on any economic assessment, even though that is not the main reason for it, and that if there were only a slight shift of resources from the more formal types of education to the youth service this would be no bad thing.

I wish to make special reference to some of the clauses. Clause 1, for example, deals with the requirement to set up joint committees composed of representatives of local education authorities and voluntary organisations. This provision is not only of real importance; it is also of psychological importance. Many voluntary organisations doing excellent work feel that they are left out on the sidelines when decisions are taken affecting the youth service or youth organisations.

In that respect, perhaps I might be a little parochial for a moment. The Birmingham Adult Education and Youth Service Committee deserves credit for introducing recently a proposal to include the staffs of organisations specialising in community service, such as the Birmingham Young Volunteers, in regular meetings of youth workers employed in the local authority. This has proved invaluable.

As for the services to be provided, there is one point which I would re-emphasise about Clause 2. It concerns the use of existing facilities. I feel strongly that we are under-using many education and other establishments. When one considers the tremendous cost of these capital projects, it becomes clear that we must devise a better system for the more intensive use of these buildings.

Just outside the boundaries of my constituency is Aston University. Just inside the boundaries of the constituency is the North Birmingham Polytechnic. Many millions of pounds have been and are being spent on these commendable education establishments. Yet for literally weeks in the year and hours in every day many of the facilities provided there are completely unused. We need a more positive approach on this problem, as we do on careers advice. I welcome the reference to this in the Bill because we need that kind of positive approach. I also welcome the international youth exchanges which I believe to be a valuable part of such a Bill.

In Clause 8 I see that my hon. Friend dares to define "youth", and I noted what my hon. Friend the Member for Middlesbrough, West (Mr. Sutcliffe) said. I always define "youth" as meaning anyone who is younger than a year older than I am myself. However, I understand the reasons which prompted my hon. Friend the Member for Middleton and Prestwich to identify the exact ages of youth.

I have already referred to the Birmingham Young Volunteers, and perhaps I might illustrate one or two of the problems which that organisation has, since they will emphasise not only the importance of the Bill but how it may be necessary to scrutinise its provisions to ensure that it has the greatest possible impact when it is enacted. The Birming- ham Young Volunteers is the second largest organisation of its kind in the country. It is also certainly one of the oldest. It is nearly 10 years old, and it was founded by Mr. L. C. Bailey, a pioneer in youth work.

My second point about the Birmingham Young Volunteers is that it is very much a part of the department of the Council of Social Service in Birmingham and, therefore, it has a very sound structural base. In spite of this, however, it is living not only from year to year but from month to month on a shoe-string, and its very survival is in question in connection with the work it is doing, quite apart from the desperate need for its work to be extended.

The involvement of the youth service in the community service, as my hon. Friend said, is less than that of schools. The trouble is that although schools are doing a good job in bringing community service to the attention of their pupils, because they are more successful by reason of the lack of resources which the community service has, young people tend to forget about community service when they leave school. That is one of the fundamental reasons why the Bill should be supported.

Consider the work which the Young Volunteers are doing under the guidance of Mr. Paul Chaplin, the organiser, and Mr. M. C. Matcham, the General Secretary of the Birmingham Council of Social Service—the residential holidays which are organised on this shoe-string, the assistance which is given to the elderly and the handicapped, the adventure campaign for deprived young children, the special projects to help blind people in the city and the personal help which is given to people, in ways like decorating their premises. All these services need to be doubled and, indeed, quadrupled in view of the size of some of the social problems in a city which is the biggest all-purpose local authority, at least until 1st April, and even after that date it will be the biggest district council in the new local authority structure.

It is when one recognises the size of the problems which we face in Birmingham that I suggest with the greatest humility to hon. Members on both sides of the House that this is a very important reason for ensuring that my hon. Friend's Bill gets on to the statute book.

Although we cannot solve problems by making laws, I believe that the Bill will provided the opportunity, the weapon and the resources for many thousands of people who do voluntary work, to enable them to help conquer some of the real social problems in our country.

3.28 p.m.

Photo of Mr Michael Grylls Mr Michael Grylls , Chertsey

I apologise to my hon. Friend the Member for Middleton and Prestwich (Mr. Haselhurst) for not being in my place earlier today. I was unable to be here then, and I look forward to reading the report of his introduction of this Bill which has been so highly praised.

I believe this Bill is the right approach to the problem, particularly because it takes a positive view of the position of youth in the community. I believe that in the past the provision for youth has been rather negative. I notice, for instance, according to the Howell youth and community service report, that it was a matter of keeping youth off the streets, attracting it into youth clubs and doing something about young offenders—a rather negative approach instead of a positive one.

I welcome the Bill because it takes a new initiative and seeks to set up a new structure for the service. There has been much argument about whether it is right to have a formal structure set up by central Government which all local authorities should have to adopt willy-nilly. I tend to think that the Government should propose a framework within which youth provision should be made. I agree with those who have said that, although there are good authorities, there are many bad ones, and that this matter is too urgent to be left to the rather haphazard arrangement of good authorities doing something to help while the bad ones leave things undone. I hope that the Minister will reconsider what he said and realise that even a limited framework has a rôle to play.

I was a member of the Inner London Education Authority, and about four years ago we proposed a new approach to youth provision. Some of our ideas are relevant to the Bill. We suggested that there should be a community education service for the promotion of both formal and informal education in the broadest sense, in a community-based setting, to provide for younger and older members of the community to work together and enjoy themselves in the same place.

When one suggests such a radical change—and the Bill is every bit as radical—it means that changes are called for by people in the service. There will need to be a change of attitude by youth workers. It must be made clear that the important thing is to help young people in a formal sense in recreational institutes, community centres or youth clubs, and informally in the community generally. I hope that the Bill will enable that sort of thing to happen.

The statutory and voluntary services should come together to learn more about each other's work and have a better understanding of what each service is trying to do.

The Bill will be a spur to the setting up of new organisations for young people. It could spark off and be the motivation for an integrated community service which will bring youth and adult services together. It has been said that it is not a good thing to compartmentalise youth, and that should be considered.

There is a danger that in the '70s youth could be isolated, as it has been in the past, into youth clubs instead of mixing with the rest of the community. As the age of majority is now 18, we should look for a fuller and more rewarding participation by youth in our community generally. The young and old should work and study together. We should get away from too much formal structuralisation.

We have here a good basis for setting up the framework that has been lacking for so long. We have had the Albemarle and Howell Reports. Many people are sad that those reports have not been acted upon, and the Bill could become an extremely useful part of our legislation.

If we can get a real community youth service going, we shall make a significant contribution towards a happier and more worthwhile society in which youth can play a fuller part.

3.34 p.m.

Photo of Miss Joan Vickers Miss Joan Vickers , Plymouth, Devonport

I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Middleton and Prestwich (Mr. Haselhurst) on bringing in the Bill, although he knows that I do not agree with everything in it. Nevertheless, I hope that my hon. Friend will have better luck than I did. When I introduced my first Bill, six Members stood outside so that I should not get my quorum, so the Bill fell.

I want to make some further inquiries about the local co-ordination committees. The Local Government Act will make a great difference to large conurbations and counties such as Devon. I am not happy that the local education authorities should be dealing with the proposed legislation. I should like to see district councils have that responsibility, because it is the district councils which have to work with the youth in their areas. In a county like Devon, where Plymouth is the major industrial centre and the rest is largely rural, things will be very difficult unless we can have a system of agency powers.

I have received a letter from a local county councillor who said: The reorganisation of Local Government has brought home to me some of the weaknesses of the present legislation and if we fail to persuade the county to decentralise this Service"— he was referring particularly to the Bill— and give control to the locality and representatives of the Voluntary Organisations, then in my view the good things in the present Youth Service will suffer. My hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, West (Mr. Selwyn Gummer) visited Plymouth recently, and I am sure he would agree with me that the city council has an excellent youth service, so we do not want it destroyed.

Clause 2 of the Bill states: Every local authority shall prepare and submit to the Secretary of State a scheme for providing or making provision for a comprehensive range of services for young people in their area. But what happens if the Secretary of State turns down a scheme? Do we then have to go back and try to make another scheme? How much flexibility will he allow in the plans? There is a great deal of difference between the county of Devon and the city of Birmingham, for instance. I am not in favour of schemes having to be submitted to the Secretary of Slate. I consider that they should be left to local authorities.

Clause 2(2)(c), concerning youth and community workers, is particularly important. We are already 800 workers short. It would be difficult, without extra appointments, to fulfil all the requirements of the Bill.

Clause 2(2)(d) refers to "the formulation of projects". The city of Plymouth has a leisure services committee which does many of the things which are now being recommended.

No one seems to have thought about the rural areas, where the Federation of Young Farmers is active. In a large county it is advisable to get the industrial and rural areas together, but that will be extremely difficult and extremely expensive. Every area is different. Rather than have to submit to the Secretary of State schemes, which obviously will have to change from one area to another, I should like the procedure to be on the lines of consulting local people. When the Opposition were in Government we had an excellent document entitled "Consult the People". Since then we seem to be getting further away from the people who have to run the various organisations in our society.

The reorganisation of local government has shown the weakness of present legislation in decentralising other services, and it would be unwise to do this with the youth service.

I hope that if the Bill becomes an Act the Secretary of State will let us know exactly what powers are available and whether the Minister can turn down schemes and require local authorities to produce other schemes. To what extent can the Minister enforce any schemes on the local authorities concerned? I hope that my hon. Friend will consider my point about district councils in the future.

Plymouth's leisure services committee has a provision for the promotion of cultural and leisure-time facilities, including sports, recreation, parks, playing fields, swimming pools, boating and sailing. I mention that because these facilities are not available to all other areas.

Whatever programmes are provided in the future, they must, I suggest, be flexible and suited to the area concerned. This is why it should be within the powers of the local authority to decide for itself what schemes are needed.

I turn now to the subject of housing for the homeless. I would have preferred to see hostels but I hope that my hon. Friend will note that on Tuesday next we are to debate the Housing and Planning Bill, which will incorporate this point. He will be pleased to note that it is a Government Bill, and as such it will help the future needs of the homeless.

Regarding the setting up of committees, I do not want to reiterate many of the points which have been mentioned previously but I am not happy that the first chairman of the committee should be elected by local authority members. I should like to see joint chairmen from the organisations concerned and from the local authorities. That is done in quite a number of organisations which have joint committees. I am not very happy about the chairman holding office for one year only. That is not long enough. The schedule states that The office of chairman shall not be held in two successive years by a local authority member or by a voluntary organisation member but shall alternate between the two. This will not be very workable. Therefore, if we have to have this type of setup, they should be joint chairmen.

I hope my hon. Friend will consider the point of view, which has not been expressed so far, that in large areas, particularly those such as Devon, we shall have considerable difficulties if the legislation is passed as adumbrated in the Bill.

3.40 p.m.

Photo of Mr Charles Morrison Mr Charles Morrison , Devizes

I shall be brief. First, like all other hon. Members, I add my congratulations to my hon. Friend the Member for Middleton and Prestwich (Mr. Haselhurst) on the excellent speech which he made in introducing the Bill. My credentials for taking part in the debate are that I happen to be the chairman, at present, of two national organisations—the Young Volunteer Force and the Conservation Corps.

It is clear that the Bill has a number of themes which stand out and which have been identified by a number of hon. Members. There is the theme of social education, of co-ordination of effort by local authorities and voluntary organisations and agencies; and there is a desire for flexibility of approach and the acceptance of the necessity for suitable agencies to monitor and to react to changing needs and changing social conditions.

Against that background, the development of the Young Volunteer Force is not entirely uninteresting. I take no personal credit for that development. A great deal of it is due to the staff concerned and to my two predecessors as chairman, namely, the right hon. Member for Sowerby (Mr. Houghton) and the right hon. and learned Member—for the purposes of this debate, I imagine that I may so refer to him—for Wirral (Mr. Sewn Lloyd), strongly supported by the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond).

Together, the staff and the chairmen have allowed the foundation to develop to cope with the needs that it met. The chairmen did not insist that the organisation kept to some preconceived and predestined course. Originally it was set up to be a young volunteer force with the simple objective of matching the desires of some young people to undertake tasks on behalf of other members of the community which had been sought out for them. But very soon it began to work in areas where few if any volunteers came forward. The concept of volunteering was not so easily understood. The organisation therefore turned towards social education and became involved in detached youth work and community development work.

More important, however, and coupled with that development, was the understanding that the primary purpose of community involvement by young people was the education and personal development of those young people. Services rendered to the community are a happy but accidental spin-off and bonus. However, with education and personal development there tends to grow a political interest and a questioning of both the causes of social problems and the means provided, generally and specifically, by the youth service and other services to overcome the problems.

In that respect I welcome Clause 3, in particular, very strongly. That clause will provide the opportunity for young people to express their opinions in an assembly and to have those opinions heard.

I shall omit many comments that I wish to make about that clause, but one thing which is missing from the Bill is any mention of co-ordination betweeen the proposed youth assembly and the proposed joint committees. It is very important that the joint committees should have a statutory obligation in the Bill to listen to and take note of the views expressed in the assembly.

I tend to agree with hon. Members who feel that Clause 5 is misplaced. The subject of the clause is of great importance but it would be better dealt with in a housing Bill.

Clause 6 is good as far as it goes, but the problem of community service is not only to encourage young people to give service to the community. The problem is at least as much to find community service opportunities which are of adequate variety and quantity for young people to undertake. Sometimes the problem is that of cost or of a lack of faith by statutory bodies—local authorities, for example—in the capabilities of the volunteers. A sustained effort is needed by the Government to encourage the potential providers of tasks and opportunities to come forward with offers.

The present form of the Bill, is an excellent start to its progress through the House, and I hope that it will be given a Second Reading. It is as important for what it provides for specifically as it is for the general subject to which it draws attention. It is an extremely useful step forward which should help to create a better climate and again alert local authorities in particular to their responsibilities towards young people. I trust, therefore, that it will have the support of the House.

3.47 p.m.

Photo of Mr James Wellbeloved Mr James Wellbeloved , Erith and Crayford

One of the problems confrontng all local authorities is how to strike the right balance in providing services and facilities to the varying sections of the community. The Bill will substantially encourage local authorities to get the balance right. We are all aware of the substantial steps forward in recent years in providing facilities for the older citizens in the community. Those steps may not have been sufficient, but improvements have taken place. The Bill will begin to push forward means to meet the legitimate needs of young people.

We hear much criticism of young people. However, my experience is that overwhelmingly they wish to play a part in community life. They may not be traditional in their manners and activities, but they wish to meet the social needs of their time.

I welcome and wholeheartedly support the spirit behind the Bill. It will contribute to co-ordinating and bringing together all the various groups which cater for youth in the community. In my constituency, in the London borough of Bexley, an enormous amount of voluntary work is carried out by youth leaders, and good community services are provided by a wide variety of young people's groups. I know from personal experience of the contributions made by the Boy Scout and Girl Guide movements to community service. I hope that the Bill will receive a Second reading.

My only reason for speaking in the debate is that the services to be provided by local authorities will not qualify for rate support grant. Thus they will have to be provided out of revenue raised from ratepayers. I am all in favour of this, whether the facilities be for the young or the old.

When we welcome and pass measures of this sort, we should be prepared to return to our local communities and say clearly to the local ratepayers that we are approving legislation that will result in increased rates. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] Some Tory Members nod and some on this side say "Hear, hear". I hope that all hon. Members, whatever their politics, will stop this continual knocking of local authority rate precepts. That is an exercise which is engaged in for purely party political reasons in an effort to gain local advantage because an authority has increased the rate to provide the services which the public and the House are demanding.

I hope that in that spirit of determination we shall all return and defend local expenditure for purposes such as this, and that the Bill will be accorded its Second Reading.

3.51 p.m.

Photo of Mr Laurie Pavitt Mr Laurie Pavitt , Willesden West

I apologise to the House for not being here earlier in the debate. I was in my constituency.

I support the Bill and wish to make only two brief points. First, I spent a period of my life as a member of the Standing Conference of National Voluntary Youth Organisations. I know how important the provisions of the Bill are. Second, I pay tribute to the youth work which is going on in my constituency and which I am sure the Bill will enhance.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read a Second time.

Bill committed to a Standing Committee pursuant to Standing Order No. 40 (Committal of Bills).