My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for her response and to all noble Lords who have participated in this short but important debate.
I have two or three responses. With regard to petitions, there is a specific reason why I tabled the amendment. I understand that the Minister would not wish to have separate sets of rules for elderly people, disabled people or whoever. The rules pertaining to petitions are for electors-therefore, people over 18. I am suggesting that there should be some means for people younger than 18 to be able to petition.
On youth councils, I was delighted to hear what the noble Lord, Lord Tope, said about what is happening in his council, and clearly there are things happening up and down the land. The fact is, though, that this is good practice but it is not everywhere. The Minister on behalf of the Government, we as the Opposition and indeed society should be doing more to ensure that young people are aware of what is happening. So often it is the same young people who participate in youth parliaments as participate in youth councils. I do not denigrate what they are doing-it is fantastic-but there are many other young people who we need to draw into this magic circle. We need to look together at innovative ways to do that. I trust that the Minister might go away and ask her officials to think about how we can ensure that there is a wider store of people whom we can enthuse about democratic engagement and engagement in our society.
The noble Lord, Lord Tope, was right that so often we claim that we are going to listen to what people say, especially young people, but do not act upon it. We have to exhort decision-makers at every level, including at local council level, to take into account what young people are saying.
I am afraid that I have to return to a political point. I realise that the Government want to do their utmost to consult young people about the services that they want in their local areas, but the fact is that the cuts are such that there is no longer any money for this to be carried out by local authorities. Young people have needs that they can and do identify, but the answer that comes from local councils is, "We're afraid we can't do this because the money simply isn't there". As I said earlier, quite often local councils turn to charities and volunteers. I salute the fantastic work done by charities and volunteers, but we cannot rely on them alone. We have to have a proper youth service, properly financed up and down the country.
I plead with the Minister to go back to her officials and try to ensure that local authorities take youth services into account when they are looking at their budgets for next year. Youth services are too easily cut. At the moment, young people in our society are often not heard when they are making their arguments to people in authority, and I plead with the Minister to try to ensure that local authorities listen both to the arguments put by young people and to their needs in our society. With that, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 195ZAZMAA withdrawn.
Clause 42 : Duty to hold local referendum
Tabled by Lord Beecham
195ZAZMB: Clause 42, Page 38, line 17, leave out "one or more" and insert "at least one-third of the"