Peace Corps

Oral Answers to Questions — International Development – in the House of Commons at 1:41 pm on 1st July 1998.

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Photo of Austin Mitchell Austin Mitchell Labour, Great Grimsby 1:41 pm, 1st July 1998

If she will assess the advantages of establishing a Government—sponsored peace corps of young people to assist with aid work. [46871]

Photo of Mr George Foulkes Mr George Foulkes Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for International Development, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for International Development

We are encouraged by the numbers of young people who already take a great interest in development and we are seeking ways of engaging them further in development co-operation issues. However, developing countries require access to know-how rather than inexperienced volunteers. We provide such help through our own programmes and through our support for the four volunteer sending agencies, which have more 2,000 qualified volunteers overseas.

Photo of Austin Mitchell Austin Mitchell Labour, Great Grimsby

I hope that my hon. Friend will not rest satisfied with that answer but will look at the sustained success of the American peace corps, which every year sends abroad 6,500 young people with an average age of 29 to engage in English teaching, health, sanitation and development work in developing countries and even in eastern Europe. Could we not mobilise the commitment, enthusiasm and energy of our young people and perhaps even give them a remission on their student loans for going in exactly the same way and help developing countries at the same time?

Photo of Mr George Foulkes Mr George Foulkes Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for International Development, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for International Development

Voluntary Service Overseas, as the hon. Gentleman says, and the three other sending organisations already do that. I draw my hon. Friend's attention to another organisation, British Executive Service Overseas, BESO, which sends older, experienced volunteers overseas to offer their services. I am assured by the Government Chief Whip that, if my hon. Friend wishes to do that, he would not stand in his way.

Photo of Nigel Evans Nigel Evans Conservative, Ribble Valley

The Minister mentions four organisations that do much good work with young people. Can he ensure that publicity for those organisations is increased? Ultraframe, a private business in Clitheroe in my constituency, is investing much of its own money in providing food aid in Sudan. Many other private companies wish to assist in that way, and perhaps if we could get more links between business and charitable aid organisations such as the ones that the Minister mentions, more young people could be assisted to go abroad to help in aid projects.

Photo of Mr George Foulkes Mr George Foulkes Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for International Development, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for International Development

The hon. Gentleman makes a sensible suggestion. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and I regularly meet the NGOs that are involved, and I specifically met the four volunteer sending organisations recently to discuss exactly the areas that the hon. Gentleman mentions, and also spoke about increasing the profile and participation of VSO and other voluntary service organisations.