Previous Section Index Home Page

15 May 2007 : Column 579

15 May 2007 : Column 580

15 May 2007 : Column 581

15 May 2007 : Column 582

Question, That the proposed words be there added, put forthwith, pursuant to Standing Order No. 31 (Questions on amendments), and agreed to.

Mr. Speaker forthwith declared the main Question, as amended, to be agreed to.



Motion made, and Question put forthwith, pursuant to Standing Order No. 118 (Delegated Legislation Committees ),

Acquisition of Land

Question agreed to.

Mr. Speaker: I call Derek Wyatt to present a petition. Where is he? He is talking outside the precincts of the Chamber. If he comes in, he can present a petition.

15 May 2007 : Column 583

Derek Wyatt (Sittingbourne and Sheppey) (Lab): Mr. Speaker, I am rather embarrassed. I have rushed back here but left the petition in my office. I do not therefore think it appropriate to try to present it. I apologise to the House. I am so sorry.

Mr. Speaker: One requirement of presenting a petition is that hon. Members must have the petition with them. If we make arrangements for tomorrow, the hon. Gentleman’s good people can get their petition presented.

15 May 2007 : Column 584

Centenary of Scouting

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.— [Mr. Heppell.]

10.21 pm

Mr. David Amess (Southend, West) (Con): I am delighted to join others in taking the opportunity to celebrate the centenary of scouting and in encouraging people to volunteer. Before doing that, on behalf of the all-party group on the Scout Association, I should like to express our sadness at the death of Lord Weatherill. He was the president of our group and a wonderful advocate of the scout movement. Indeed, he established the excellent Speaker’s tea party, which you, Mr. Speaker, continue today. He was, in every respect, a fine man. We will miss him greatly.

The year 2007 marks the centenary of the scout movement. Scouting started in the United Kingdom and can now be found in all but a handful of countries. It is the largest co-educational youth movement in the United Kingdom, offering challenge and adventure to 400,000 young people aged between six and 25. There are also 100,000 adult volunteers. United Kingdom membership has increased in the past two years by 1.6 per cent. More girls are also joining the organisation. There are 28 million members worldwide.

Adventure is at the core of scouting. The association passionately believes in helping young people to fulfil their physical, intellectual, social and spiritual potential by working in teams, and learning by doing and thinking for themselves. Scouting encourages young people to try something new, feel the buzz of the challenge and reflect on what that means. Scouting offers more than 200 activities throughout the United Kingdom through a structured youth development programme. Crucially, all those activities are made possible by the efforts of more than 100,000 voluntary adult leaders.

The Scout Association is committed to including even more of the diverse mix of young people in the United Kingdom. In the past three years, it has supported the Muslim community in opening 15 local scout groups, and others are planned. The association currently deals with inquiries from leaders and schools about the way in which scouting can engage with the extended schools agenda. I am delighted that my two fellow officers of the all-party group are present and I hope that they catch your eye, Mr. Speaker, to make short contributions.

The year 2007 marks 100 years of scouting. The more than 400,000 young people and 100,000 adult volunteers in the United Kingdom will join in the centenary celebrations. The hon. Member for Colchester (Bob Russell) tabled an early-day motion and I am delighted to say that almost every hon. Member who can sign has signed it. However, one or two others may now feel inspired to sign it and then their names will be included in the illuminated address, which will be presented at the Speaker’s tea party and subsequently displayed at Gilwell.

Across the world in 2007, the centenary of scouting is likely to be the largest ever example of youth co-operation and one of the biggest global celebrations since the turn of the millennium. For 100 years, scouting has been changing the world for the better,
15 May 2007 : Column 585
with projects occurring all over the globe. They tackle local issues and make a difference in local communities. Examples include communicating with children about the dangers of HIV, re-educating child soldiers in Africa and raising money for homeless children around the world. Scouts in the UK have been active in supporting the projects of their fellow scouts around the world. Following the Asian tsunami, UK scouts raised more than £250,000 for scout-led development projects in affected countries.

The climax of this year’s centenary celebrations will be the world scout jamboree at Highland park in the county of Essex. I know that the Minister will be there, as will many other hon. Members. It is a private matter as to whether or not we shall stay under canvas for a night. There will be 40,000 scouts from more than 200 countries coming together in a celebration of worldwide youth co-operation and peace under the theme of “one world, one promise”. More than 8,000 volunteers will make the jamboree possible; it is supported by fewer than 30 paid staff. The jamboree will be the largest gathering of people before the Olympic games and the support of those 8,000 people helping to make it happen is an unprecedented illustration of the power and value of the volunteer. Besides raising money to attend the jamboree themselves, scouts in the UK have raised more than £400,000 to assist fellow scouts from less well-off countries to attend the great event.

Let me turn to the subject of volunteering, which is a challenge for us all. Adult volunteers within the scouting movement contribute more than 364 million hours of voluntary work each year to their local communities—and that is before the jamboree. The undertaking of the jamboree is awe inspiring in respect of how many volunteers will be required. The number of volunteers working for scouting is bigger than the combined work forces of the BBC, which is 24,000, and of McDonald’s, which is 67,000. Next bank holiday at the end of May, 200,000 scouts from the UK will simultaneously sleep under canvas during a series of adventure-packed centenary camps to celebrate 100 years of scouting. It is estimated that adult volunteers will have given up more than 5 million hours of their free time to enable the camps for this weekend alone to go ahead.

Even with all those volunteers and hours being put in, there is a waiting list of 30,000 young people who want to join the scouts, but cannot because of the lack of volunteers. We need to find ways to encourage more adults to volunteer. I understand that the Guide Association—I am co-vice-chairman of the parliamentary group—has similar numbers of young people also wanting to join. There are so many benefits to volunteering, not just for the scouts but for any youth organisation. Volunteering can help young adults to develop skills such as leadership, which will help their careers. It introduces people to a whole range of activities that they would not necessarily have considered doing before.

Mr. Andy Reed (Loughborough) (Lab/Co-op): I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on securing this evening’s debate. As he knows, until Easter I was a Beaver helper
15 May 2007 : Column 586
at my local 2nd Quorn scouts group and was proud to help. We recognise the problems that he mentioned in that many of the leaders, like myself, have had to move on because they find it so difficult to find the time. Does he think that there are any ways in which the scouting movement could be more flexible, allowing leaders to volunteer on a more flexible basis—in and out, as it were—so that they do not have to give an overall commitment? As he knows, many people in society really struggle to make the regular weekly commitments required to make scouting such a success.

Mr. Amess: I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on leading his Beaver group, which is a big undertaking. The issue of flexibility is crucial, and I am sure that the national organisation will take that into account when encouraging more people to volunteer.

That leads me to ask why more people do not volunteer. Many are afraid of making a time commitment, as the hon. Gentleman has just pointed out, but scout groups can be flexible. They will allow volunteers to give as little or as much time as they feel that they can. Other people feel that they do not have the right skills, but anyone can help. A person does not have to be a qualified rock climber to help to run a community-based scout group. Office skills are just as important, for example, and everyone can contribute something. There are concerns about risk, and a perception that leaders might be open to law suits. However, the Scout Association provides award-winning training and one-to-one support to help people to make the best use of their skills and talents and to guide them through a range of potential situations.

As the House would expect, I particularly want to praise the good work and achievements of the Southend West district scouts, led by Pete Murray—not the former disc jockey, but the district commissioner. Southend West district scouts are an amalgamation of Leigh-on-Sea district scouts and Westcliff district scouts. The amalgamation took place in September 2004, and I am informed that it is going well. Southend West district scouts are able to boast nearly 1,000 members this year—an increase of nearly 100 over the past year. It is a tribute to the organisation that it continues to be so popular a century after it was founded.

To mark the centenary, 650 scouts were recently present at the centenary renewal promise in Southend. The hon. Member for Colchester (Bob Russell) and I were present at Windsor to see Her Majesty the Queen inspect the Queen’s scouts. That was indeed a wonderful occasion. Southend West district scouts are also holding a centenary camp weekend in June and a mini-jamboree at Belchamps campsite to coincide with the world jamboree. Of the 17 scout groups in Southend, West, there are three sea scout units, two of which are Admiralty recognised. All three have excellent waterfront facilities and are fully equipped for the training of all young people. They also do a wonderful job in organising the Leigh regatta. Two of the groups also have full disabled facilities.

Despite the huge popularity of the Southend West district scout group, it lacks volunteers. So what about volunteering generally? Adult volunteering is an issue that extends beyond the scout movement. For instance,
15 May 2007 : Column 587
the Samaritans reported earlier this month that 65.4 per cent. of 16 to 24-year-olds said that they had thought about helping their community in their spare time, yet only 2 per cent. said that they would actually turn out and volunteer. That is a very low rate of return. A Samaritans volunteer survey showed that 95 per cent. of people had between one and eight hours free time every day, which adds up to between seven and 56 hours spare time each week. According to Volunteering England, the reason that many employers encourage volunteering is that it makes a big difference not only to the organisations that people volunteer for, but to those that employ the volunteers.

I want to say a word about volunteering in Southend, West. The motivations for volunteering vary enormously. Some people might want to help various organisations that have helped them in the past. We all know from our constituency contacts that that is often the inspiration behind a volunteer group. Volunteering enables people to learn new skills and to experience different areas of life. I am interested in the scouts because I was a member of the 47th West Ham group. I did more than 100 nights rough camping and got a great deal out of the organisation and, in my humble way, I want to give something back to scouting.

There are endless opportunities for volunteering that will appeal to many different people. For example, there are opportunities to help on environmental projects and others relating to animal welfare, working alongside the RSPCA. In particular, I extend my thanks to the 300 people who regularly help out at Southend university hospital. I also thank those who do a magnificent job helping Essex Air Ambulance. I pay tribute to the recent event organised at No. 11 Downing street, which was a splendid occasion, and which all those who attended thoroughly enjoyed.

There is no point having an Adjournment debate, however, if one does not ask the Government to do something. May I therefore gently ask the Minister to tell the House what plans he has to assist the voluntary sector in encouraging more people to volunteer? Do the Government have any plans to work with employers to make it easier for employees to volunteer, to which the hon. Member for Loughborough (Mr. Reed) referred with regard to flexible hours? How will the Government encourage young people to become more involved in volunteering, capitalise on the will to volunteer reported by the Samaritans, and turn that will into action?

I recognise the support provided by the Government to the Scout Association in its centenary year, and I welcome the Chancellor’s recent Budget commitment to increase the quality and quantity of opportunities for volunteering and awareness of the benefits of volunteering. I would like to hear more from the Minister, however, about how that commitment will be implemented and how its success will be measured.

Let us celebrate the centenary of scouting and do all that we can to encourage volunteering, so that this wonderful movement, which has done so much for so many people, prospers for at least another 100 years.

10.36 pm

Stephen Pound (Ealing, North) (Lab): I congratulate the hon. Member for Southend, West (Mr. Amess), not just on securing the debate, but on all his work. If ever
15 May 2007 : Column 588
there was an example of how scouting rises above all tribal divisions and unites all people, it is in the fact that we three disparate souls—the hon. Member for Southend, West, the hon. Member for Colchester (Bob Russell) and me, a slightly less honourable Member—are united, despite our political differences, in our respect and affection for scouting and in our determination to see scouting succeed. One of the most amazing things about scouting is that wherever one goes in the world, if one makes the scout sign and gives the scout handshake, one has made a friend.

The hon. Member for Southend, West mentioned his scout group, but it would be wrong for me to mention Greenford and district scout group, so ably led by Andy Norman, or even Ealing and Hanwell district scout group, equally ably led by Alan Rayner—so I will not do that. If those people who do not know about scouting, and who still hear an echo of that past when there was a feeling that uniformed groups could not be supported by certain councils, spent time with their district scout groups, as many right hon. and hon. Members have done, they would see that scouting unites everybody, regardless of age, class, colour, creed, sex or any other difference.

I also thank you, Mr. Speaker, for so ably hosting the scout tea. I think that the Maryhill group were welcomed. They certainly enjoyed their tea and, as I recall, ate most of it, as well as other people’s.

I also draw attention to the fact that the House now has a ministerial champion of scouting. I pay tribute to the hon. Member for Doncaster, North (Edward Miliband), who, on several occasions, has addressed groups of scouts and admitted to never having been a scout. He may never have been a scout, but by heaven, he is a good friend of scouting. He has done the reputation of the House much good in the world of scouting.

I congratulate the hon. Member for Southend, West not just on what he has done tonight, but on what he does all the time for that great unifying force of scouting. I add my voice to his in the call for more volunteers. What could be sadder than the thought of a waiting list for people who want to get involved as beavers, cubs or scouts? Let the cry go out from tonight—scouting needs adults. The world would be a better place for more scouting.

10.39 pm

Bob Russell (Colchester) (LD): As secretary of the all-party parliamentary scout group, I thank the two-co-chairs, the hon. Members for Southend, West (Mr. Amess) and for Ealing, North (Stephen Pound), for their contributions. I endorse all that has been said, and congratulate the hon. Member for Southend, West on the way in which he set out the case.

I will be brief, because we want to hear from the Minister. As a founder member of the 1st Myland (35th Colchester) scout group, I owe a lot to the scout movement. Hundreds of thousands of people around the world owe a lot to it, and many right hon. and hon. Members have served as scouts over many years.

Let me add an historical footnote. Before he founded the scout movement, Robert Baden-Powell was a serving officer in Her Majesty’s armed forces. We can
15 May 2007 : Column 589
understand why he had such strong roots in Colchester, because he spent much of that time stationed at the Colchester garrison.

Finally, let me record my appreciation of all the volunteers over the past 100 years, and of today’s volunteers. The message that goes out to the Government—to all of us—is that we desperately need to recruit more volunteers for tomorrow, so that the great scout movement that we have enjoyed in this country, and which the world has enjoyed, can look forward to its second centenary.

Next Section Index Home Page