Youth Service (Thompson Report)

Oral Answers to Questions — Education and Science – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 25th January 1983.

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Photo of Mr Kenneth Carlisle Mr Kenneth Carlisle , Lincoln 12:00 am, 25th January 1983

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science when he expects to make his decision on the Thompson report on the youth service; and whether he will make a statement.

Photo of Mr William Shelton Mr William Shelton , Lambeth Streatham

I announced two decisions on the Thompson report in my reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Bedford (Mr. Skeet) on 17 December 1982. My right hon. Friend has now decided to extend the period of consultation on other matters in the report to 31 March 1983.

Photo of Mr Kenneth Carlisle Mr Kenneth Carlisle , Lincoln

Although it is right to have proper consultation on this important matter, is my hon. Friend aware that many people want a speedy decision on the Thompson report? Is he further aware of the great public support for the youth service and the considerable voluntary effort that goes into it? Therefore, effective action is required. Will he especially look after the interests of 11 to 14-year-olds? It is important that that group of youngsters have good occupation off the streets, but often their needs are not catered for.

Photo of Mr William Shelton Mr William Shelton , Lambeth Streatham

I welcome my hon. Friend's support for the youth service, and that is echoed throughout the country. We are aware of the great interest that has been aroused by the Thompson report. My hon. Friend was correct to mention 11 to 14-year-olds, whose case was raised in the report. I hope that the youth service has taken note of that. We shall do whatever we can to implement what was proposed in the report.

Photo of Mr Greville Janner Mr Greville Janner , Leicester West

Does the Minister accept that there is a drastic shortage of facilities for youngsters, which is only partly catered for by existing youth service organisations because they do not have the resources or the support that they need? Is he aware that those resources are especially important today when unemployment among young people is so disastrously high? Will the hon. Gentleman announce a decision, to enable the youth service to have the security of knowing that it is supported by the Government and that it will not be allowed to fail through lack of funds?

Photo of Mr William Shelton Mr William Shelton , Lambeth Streatham

The youth service should be well aware that it is supported by the Government. The funding in 1981–82 was £86 million. The figures that we have to date for this Government show higher spending in real terms per capita on youth than in the years of the Labour Administration.

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

If the youth service is well aware of that fact, will the Minister ask his right hon. Friend to appoint a Minister with special responsibilities for youth matters?

Photo of Mr William Shelton Mr William Shelton , Lambeth Streatham

As the hon. Gentleman knows, that was one recommendation of the Thompson report. We have extended the consultation period until the end of March. As soon as possible after that date we shall announce our decisions.

Photo of Alan Haselhurst Alan Haselhurst , Saffron Walden

Will my hon. Friend try to bring finality to the reorganisation and revitalisation of the youth service, in the knowledge that we have had talks about talks about consultations about consultations for as long as anyone can remember?

Photo of Mr William Shelton Mr William Shelton , Lambeth Streatham

I understand my hon. Friend's point. However, the Government have done something about it. We have set up a review group—[Laughter.] I am sure that the youth service will be distressed by the ribaldry of Labour Members in greeting the setting up of review group. It is a serious review group, and it has made serious recommendations. The time that we allowed for consultations—two months—was not enough, so we extended it to the end of March. About 25 organisations have not yet written to us, including the two local authority associations, so we are waiting to hear from them. It is not a matter for laughter. We are doing something about it at last.

Photo of Mr Phillip Whitehead Mr Phillip Whitehead , Derby North

Does the Minister not realise that the ribaldry on the Government Benches is about the Government's review of a review of a committee? Will he now say to the House that the Government accept the central principle of the Thompson report—the importance of social education—and will he say that there should be statutory back-up, as Thompson recommended? If he cannot do that, does he accept that many hon. Members will believe that the Government are stalling until a leisure committee of the MSC is set up?

Photo of Mr William Shelton Mr William Shelton , Lambeth Streatham

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman would not expect us to reach decisions without consultation, especially when we have not received—[Interruption.] The review group reported at the end of October, which is not very long ago. We have not yet received the comments of the local authority associations, and I am sure that the hon. Gentleman would wish us to do nothing until we have received them.