HC Deb 26 February 1960 vol 618 cc789-91

3.54 p.m.

Mr. Barnett Janner (Leicester, North-West)

I beg to move, That this House, in view of the serious position which exists in relation to the lack of adequate facilities and services for youth as indicated by the Albemarle Report and in view of the urgent necessity of taking steps to remedy this position, calls upon Her Majesty's Government to put into effect immediately the appropriate recommendations of the Report and to take such other action as is necessary to deal with the situation speedily. I am afraid that the time at my disposal is not commensurate in any way with the very important subject I propose to raise. Nevertheless, I am glad that the opportunity has come, even for a few moments, to draw the attention of the House to the extremely important nature of the Albemarle Report, to the conclusions to which it came and to the great and grave necessity of the matters to which it refers being satisfactorily dealt with with complete and full haste.

I should like to point out that the Report lists the main failings of the Youth Service at present as being a failure to adapt tried methods of work to the changing needs of young people; to seek out new groups in need of help; lack of money, so that clubs frequently have to function in dingy, drab premises without sufficient equipment for the job; a general lack of facilities for outdoor recreation; and a falure to measure up to the needs of the new towns and housing estates which were graphically described by one witness to the Committee as "a graveyard with lights".

I am very glad indeed that Leicester has been given the opportunity of having a training centre for youth leaders situ- ated there. I am not at all happy to know that it is the only place which has been chosen for that purpose, and I hope that the plans will be extended to other places so that the necessary number of leaders will be trained. The minimum number required is very much greater than can be produced by one institution.

The Report refers to the poverty of leadership within the Youth Service, which is due to lack of money and lack of encouragement. The Committee noted that youth leaders: seem to themselves to be in danger of becoming cut off from the march of social and educational advance. They feel unsupported and unappreciated and, despite excellent individual effort, are only too aware that, in practice, many in the nation look on their work as of little importance.

This is a very grave situation. In countries where professional leaders are adequately trained and are given the fullest opportunity of acquiring the necessary education to enable them to become effective leaders, their activities produce considerable good service for the youth movements.

The failure of the Youth Service to reach many young people today is indicated by the fact that only one in three young persons are attracted to it. Most of those attracted to it are youngsters up to the age of 16. It is important for us to appreciate that young people have energy which has to be directed in the proper way. In my view, one of the most important facts brought out by the Report is that young people should be encouraged to participate in directing their own activities as much as possible. Clubs are extremely useful, and I am the last person in the world, knowing the youth club movement as I do, who would say anything other than words of the highest praise for their activities. In Leicester today an effort is being made to have another type of club for young people which will be run by them for dancing and entertainment and I believe that in the long run this can also prove to be of use for the general development of the young people in cultural and social matters.

It is difficult for me to compress into a moment or two what I had wished to say.

The Minister of Education (Sir David Eccles)

Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will allow me to intervene. I do not want to be discourteous to him. I am sorry that he has had so little time in which to raise this subject. I merely want to say that if I had had the time I should have given the names of the Youth Service Development Council. If the hon. Gentleman will not think it discourteous to do so, I will publish them tonight.

Mr. Janner

I shall be very much obliged if the right hon. Gentleman will do so.

I hope that hon. Members on both sides of the House will appreciate that, although owing to lack of time we have not been able to have a full debate, the Motion would be effective in urging not only the Government but all local bodies to do all they possibly can to ensure that these services which are so essential to our nation's needs are provided. Perhaps it will help the Minister when he goes to the Chancellor of the Exchequer for money for these purposes.

It being Four o'clock, the debate stood adjourned.