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Youth Volunteering

4. Mr. Kevan Jones (North Durham) (Lab): What steps he is taking to increase opportunities for young people to volunteer for public service in their community. [173053]

The Parliamentary Secretary, Cabinet Office (Phil Hope): The Government will be investing £117 million in youth volunteering through the youth-led charitable organisation v from 2008-2011. That is the biggest ever investment in youth volunteering.

In addition, we are supporting other youth volunteer programmes, including a £500,000 project for young adult volunteers to mentor young adult offenders and more than £400,000 for a project with local councils to engage young people in local volunteering activities.

Mr. Jones: I am grateful for that answer. Does my hon. Friend agree that one area in which young people can contribute is helping other young people? Will he join me in congratulating SHAID—Single Homeless Action in Derwentside—a group of young people in my constituency who give advice on homelessness to other young people? They provide a service that is not provided by any other agency locally.

Phil Hope: I am happy to join my hon. Friend in congratulating SHAID in his constituency. He is right: peer volunteering—young people helping other young people—is an important and constructive approach. I know that he plays a big role as a local champion of such projects in his constituency. The record investment is helping young people not only to help the community, but to help themselves. Those who volunteer get a huge amount out of the contribution that they make. Other MPs might follow my hon. Friend’s example and take the opportunity of this time of year to send a message of thanks and congratulations to charities and third-sector organisations that will be working really hard to support some vulnerable people in our communities.

Peter Bottomley (Worthing, West) (Con): In addition to the Government’s volunteering initiatives, will the Minister encourage all his colleagues and all right hon. and hon. Members to recognise the role of the cadet units in the armed services and the emergency services? Will he encourage people to join youth organisations such as the Boys’ Brigade, the Guides, the Woodcraft Folk and so on, and later become assistant leaders and instructors? Will he also encourage the Department for Children, Schools and Families to have positions of responsibility at all ages in schools so that pupils get used to organising themselves and others, and then go on to join the more normal volunteer organisations?

Phil Hope: I agree with everything that the hon. Gentleman has said. Many young people get a huge amount out of joining a variety of voluntary youth organisations, including uniformed organisations and many others. An opportunity to volunteer can often be a pathway: one starts by joining an organisation and
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then becoming a leader in it, gaining huge skills that help in education and perhaps in getting a job later. It looks good on the CV if someone has been part of such organisations. Many young people have increasing opportunities at school to undertake social enterprise activities that give them a chance to plan and deliver projects of their own that can help other people.

Mr. Bill Olner (Nuneaton) (Lab): How can the Minister ensure that all young people have the wonderful opportunity to volunteer to do good public service? How will he spread that message to schools and other institutions, and will he ensure that local authorities and public bodies do not put any hurdles in the way of young people who want to volunteer?

Phil Hope: I agree with my hon. Friend. My right hon. Friend the Minister for the Cabinet Office and I launched the national youth volunteering programme in November, with £75 million to be spent through v, the youth-led charity organisation to deliver volunteering opportunities through national youth organisations and youth action teams working in every local authority. I hope that every young person will have a variety of part-time, full-time and leisure time opportunities to give something back to the community and enjoy themselves in the process.

Mr. David S. Borrow (South Ribble) (Lab): Lancashire police have been very successful in recruiting volunteers. Will my hon. Friend look at ways to enable them to increase the number of young volunteers who are working with the police to give a good service to the people of Lancashire?

Phil Hope: May I congratulate my hon. Friend on the work that he does to support young volunteers in his constituency? I was involved in the “Second Wave” project in London recently, where I saw first hand a number of black young people working with the police in their community. They talked and worked together to bring about a safer community both for young people and the wider community. There is a lot more that we could be doing to engage the police with young people in volunteering opportunities to create better communities for all of them to live in.

Youth Volunteering

5. Joan Walley (Stoke-on-Trent, North) (Lab): If he will make a statement on the progress of the national youth volunteering programme. [173054]

6. Shona McIsaac (Cleethorpes) (Lab): What assessment he has made of the effectiveness of the national youth volunteering programme; and if he will make a statement. [173055]

The Minister for the Cabinet Office (Edward Miliband): The national youth volunteering programme is the main part of v’s activities and involves funding 152 organisations to recruit volunteers up and down the country and in every local authority to form a team to promote volunteering to young people. Over the coming three years, that will help v progress towards its objective of 1 million new volunteers.

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Joan Walley: May I welcome this truly record investment in the youth volunteering programme? Will the Minister tell me how many young people will benefit? Will he investigate how he can work with you, Mr. Speaker, to establish how we can lead on citizenship and volunteering? Will he visit my constituency to see how we can promote awareness of this wonderful programme?

Edward Miliband: I am certainly happy to visit my hon. Friend’s constituency to see the work that is being done there. She makes an important point about the role of citizenship in our society. Recognising the voice and talents of young people is what the v scheme does. It is run by a dynamic group of young people called v20, who control much of the programme. It is a good example of the great things that young people can do in our country.

Shona McIsaac: Last Saturday night, I was invited to watch 150 young men take part in a football tournament organised by Sport Lincs with the aim of reducing antisocial behaviour. They want to encourage young people to become volunteer coaches so that the campaign can continue. What funding is available for such projects?

Edward Miliband: My hon. Friend mentions a worthwhile project. I know from my own area that midnight football can make a huge difference to young people by providing diversionary activities from antisocial behaviour. I hope that that is the sort of thing that v will fund and I encourage my hon. Friend to apply for such funding.


7. Paul Clark (Gillingham) (Lab): What steps the Government are taking to increase training opportunities for volunteers. [173056]

The Parliamentary Secretary, Cabinet Office (Phil Hope): In the third sector review the Government committed to developing a sector skills strategy. As part of that, on 26 November my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills announced that the train to gain skills programme will be extended to volunteers. That will allow thousands of people in the third sector, paid and unpaid, to gain the skills that they need to be able to contribute fully to a thriving third sector.

Paul Clark: I thank my hon. Friend for that response. He will know that volunteers and voluntary organisations the length and breadth of the country are important in building sustainable and stronger communities, no more so than two projects in my constituency: the Activity Loft on the Vineries estate and the Sunlight centre. Both are award-winning projects. What steps will he take to ensure that they get full access to such train to gain schemes, against the pressures of time and with as much ease as possible?

Phil Hope: I can give my hon. Friend some good news. The train to gain programme, which will now include skills funding for volunteers, will make a huge difference. The Sunlight Development Trust—one of
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more than 400 development trusts with more than 15,000 volunteers—will greatly benefit from those resources. My hon. Friend hosted a reception in the Commons where those trusts presented him and other MPs with awards. They described him as a committed and hard working constituency MP who was approachable, honest and truly committed to social justice and working with the most vulnerable. I could not agree with them more.

I can only say that I agree with the organisation that said that

That organisation was the Conservative social justice policy group.

Charity Bank in the North

9. Mr. Michael Clapham (Barnsley, West and Penistone) (Lab): What assessment he has made of the effect of the activities of the Charity Bank in the North on local third-sector organisations. [173058]

The Minister for the Cabinet Office (Edward Miliband): I was privileged to attend the launch last month of the Charity Bank in the North, which aims to make over £20 million available to the third sector in the Yorkshire and Humber region. I hope very much that that investment will help third-sector organisations to grow in new ways over the years ahead.

Mr. Clapham: The voluntary sector is thriving in the coalfield communities. In particular, the Coal Industry Social Welfare Organisation offers a one-stop shop for people in mining villages and continuity for the recreation facilities provided in those villages. What advice does he have for CISWO and other voluntary sector organisations in the coalfield communities about accessing the finances of the Charity Bank?

Edward Miliband: I know very well from my constituency the good work that CISWO does. I would encourage it and other voluntary sector organisations to apply to the Charity Bank in the North for funding. I hope that that will help them to prosper in the years ahead and to improve the work that they do for communities throughout the coalfield areas.

Prime Minister

The Prime Minister was asked—

Defence Export Services Organisation

Q1.[173035] Dr. Julian Lewis (New Forest, East) (Con): Which Ministers he consulted before he took the decision to abolish the Defence Export Services Organisation.

The Prime Minister (Mr. Gordon Brown): First of all, I am sure that the whole House will wish to join me in sending our profound condolences to the family and friends of Sergeant Lee Johnson of 2nd Battalion the Yorkshire Regiment, who was killed in Afghanistan on Saturday. We owe him, and others who have lost their lives, a deep debt of gratitude.
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On changes in the defence exports organisation, I can tell the House that we have separated the awarding of export licences from the promotion of defence exports. The Secretaries of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform, Defence, and Foreign Affairs were all consulted. As the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform announced yesterday, there will be a separate defence and security group within UK Trade and Investment. It will recruit seconded staff from the Ministry of Defence and it will be ready to expand its sales by drawing on UKTI’s links with up to 100 countries.

Dr. Lewis: I entirely endorse what the Prime Minister said about Sergeant Johnson.

One name was missing from the Prime Minister’s list of Ministers consulted—that of Lord Drayson. Is not it a fact that he was not consulted, and did not give his approval for this disastrous change? Is not that why that excellent ex-Minister now prefers to spend his time going round in circles on a motor racing track, rather than doing the same thing as a member of this hopelessly failing Government?

The Prime Minister: As everybody knows, Lord Drayson remains a member of our Business Council for Britain. He left the Government for personal reasons that I hope that everybody understands. As for the defence exports organisation, I think that the hon. Gentleman should agree that it is right to separate the awarding of export licences from the promotion of defence exports. It is also right that the defence exports organisation, which operated in only 19 countries, is now able to draw on the expertise of UKTI, which operates in 100 countries. Defence exports will benefit, as the head of British Aerospace acknowledged in a statement only yesterday.

Ann Clwyd (Cynon Valley) (Lab): As a former member of the Quadripartite Committee on arms exports, and someone who campaigned for many years for reform of the DESO, I should like to congratulate the Prime Minister. He has done the right thing.

The Prime Minister: This market is worth £5 billion a year for Britain, and we account for 20 per cent. of world exports. However, it is right to separate the awarding of licences from the promotion of exports. That is what we have done. The defence exports organisation, which is now part of UKTI, will benefit from that and, over a period of time, the whole House will see the wisdom of the decision.


Q2. [173036] Tim Loughton (East Worthing and Shoreham) (Con): If he will list his official engagements for Wednesday 12 December.

The Prime Minister: I held meetings with Ministers this morning. In addition to my duties in the House, I shall have further meetings with Ministers later today.

Tim Loughton: My constituents are battling against the closure of not 18 per cent. of sub-post office branches —the national average—but in some cases 50 per cent. across the constituency, despite a well above average
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pensioner population, and the fact that the remaining Crown branches are unable to cope with demand. At the same time, my councils face a £650,000 shortfall in the bus concessionary fares scheme, West Sussex county council again has the lowest grant increase, and we are still waiting to hear which hospitals will be downgraded. Will the Prime Minister meet a delegation of my local residents to explain to them what we are doing so wrong in West Sussex to be treated so unfairly?

The Prime Minister: That is the longest spending bid from the party that wants to cut public spending, rather than increase it. As for local post offices, I understand people’s frustrations, but there is a recognised appeal system, which will involve Postwatch, and we have put in £1.7 billion to help post offices. Not a penny was put in by the Conservative Government.

Ms Dari Taylor (Stockton, South) (Lab): The Prime Minister has paid tribute to Sergeant Lee Johnson. I add mine. Lee Johnson was a constituent of mine; he served bravely in the Army for 18 years. He was due to come home this Christmas but decided to stay to finish his command tour with his serving group. Will my right hon. Friend reassure the House that Lee Johnson’s fiancée and his two children will be treated in the best way by the armed forces, and given all that a serving officer who died so bravely deserves?

The Prime Minister: I endorse what my hon. Friend said about both the bravery and the dedication of Lee Johnson. I also endorse what she says about our duties to the widows and families of those who have died. Sergeant Johnson was serving bravely in an exercise in Afghanistan that yielded great success for the expedition against the Taliban, and the whole House will want to pay tribute not just to him but to the dedication of all the servicemen and women involved.

Mr. David Cameron (Witney) (Con): I join the Prime Minister and the hon. Lady in paying tribute to Sergeant Lee Johnson, who was killed on Saturday in southern Afghanistan.

May I turn to another part of the world where British soldiers are stationed? The deadline for discussions on the future status of Kosovo expired on Monday. What does the Prime Minister expect to happen next?

The Prime Minister: There will be a discussion this weekend at the European Council; this is a European responsibility. We believe that Kosovo should move to supervised independence. It has not been possible to get an agreement between the Kosovans and the Serbians. We believe that the European Union must make resources available to match the forces already in Kosovo, and we hope we can move to what we call supervised independence—in other words, the Kosovans will have their rights met, but in conditions where we do not have violence.

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