National Citizen Service Bill [Lords]

Part of Bill Presented – in the House of Commons at 6:49 pm on 16th January 2017.

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Photo of Rob Wilson Rob Wilson The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport 6:49 pm, 16th January 2017

I only have a couple of minutes available, so I will push on.

We want the NCS to be accessible to every young person. A number of Members have asked about young carers and young offenders. There is a place for all of them on this scheme; every young person who wants a place can have one. My right hon. Friend Nicky Morgan mentioned heritage railways. Lord Ashton has asked the Office of Rail and Road to look into that, so I hope that that reassures her.

My hon. Friend Henry Smith asked about assistance for NCS providers to keep up the rate of participation and to promote best practice. The Department for Culture, Media and Sport is working with the trust to issue guidance to the NCS providers to help them build relationships with local authorities, schools and other local organisations. That will ensure that NCS social action projects take on the needs of communities and that young people can participate in even greater numbers than now.

There were a number of questions about the devolved Administrations of Scotland and Wales. The NCS Bill will help the NCS Trust to continue to deliver the NCS programme across England. The Government would welcome the expansion of the NCS in the future, and the devolved Administrations are considering how the programme would work for them.

Northern Ireland is supportive of the NCS. Co-operation Ireland is a separate provider of the NCS in Northern Ireland. It is a charity that supports the peace process and it has unique and long-standing expertise. The Government have licensed the NCS intellectual property rights to Northern Ireland to allow the delivery of the programme.

My hon. Friend Tim Loughton asked about the devolved Administrations, and the Bill extends to England and Wales as they are one jurisdiction but applies only to England as this is where the NCS Trust operates. The majority of the Bill therefore relates to England only, but there are some provisions relating to reserved matters, such as the clause pertaining to HMRC, that mean that the Bill as a whole does not meet the test to be certified as England-only. Though HMRC would only write to people in England, the functions of HMRC are a wholly reserved matter.

As for the question of why the same outcomes could not be achieved by running the same programme through the scouts or cadets, the recent NAO report finds that the NCS is distinct from other programmes, particularly as regards its focus on mixing people from different backgrounds. It is available, affordable and has a distinct combination of personal development and the chance to mix with people from other backgrounds. It is designed to be a single unifying rite of passage for young people that sits alongside the many other fantastic opportunities for young people.

This is a small Bill, but it is very important. It sets the framework for the delivery of a programme that will influence hundreds of thousands of young people—indeed millions in due course. Alongside the royal charter, it will ensure that there is a body that the public can trust that provides value for money and a quality programme. Public confidence is key to the success of the NCS. The Bill will help the NCS grow and become a rite of passage for future generations. Establishing the NCS for the long term is, in a small way, part of defining what sort of nation we want to be in the future. That is a nation that invests in young people, fosters social integration and believes in the values of service. More than 300,000 young people have benefited from the NCS already. The Bill is our opportunity to secure the same life-changing experience for generations to come: a National Citizen Service for everyone and a commitment to greater social cohesion, social mobility and social engagement. I commend the Bill to the House.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read a Second time.