National Citizen Service Bill [Lords]

Part of Bill Presented – in the House of Commons at 5:31 pm on 16th January 2017.

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Photo of Vernon Coaker Vernon Coaker Labour, Gedling 5:31 pm, 16th January 2017

That is a very good and well-made point, and the Minister will have heard it.

The challenge for us is to see how we can increase the number of volunteering opportunities, and how we as a Parliament can challenge ourselves to deliver the objectives. It is not a criticism to turn round and say that we have not got the numbers that we would all like; it is a challenge. It is not for us to say that the Government are wicked and the Opposition are terrible. It is for us as a Parliament to say that this is a collective view about what is good for our country and for our young people, and therefore what do we have to do to achieve our objective? That is the big challenge for us. Imaginative and different things need to be considered.

There are 1.5 million 16 and 17-year-olds in our country—my hon. Friend Anna Turley looked that up for me—every one of whom would benefit from an NCS-type programme. We are talking about how we increase participation to 360,000—again, I say to the Minister that I am not criticising him—and how that is a massive challenge and yet we all agree that it is something that we would like our young people to experience. How do we deliver that? That is the challenge and the question that we need to ask ourselves.

Finally, this business of integration and of how we bring people together is so important. Members have talked about the need to reach the hard-to-reach groups and about the worrying statistics in the NAO report. Clearly, participation is an issue, whether it is about the hard to reach or other young groups.

Integration is hugely important, whether that is between ethnic groups, social groups, hard-to-reach groups and people who are well off, and so on. I say to the Minister that we should also consider integration between the regional divides that there appear to be in our country, and the divide between urban and rural areas. The divide is not just between white and black and all those other areas in which we would wish to see it overcome—what about the generational divide?