HC Deb 26 October 1967 vol 751 cc1874-6
1967 Mr. Hooley

asked the Minister of Overseas Development what is the reason for the decline in the numbers of Voluntary Service Overseas volunteers in

Mr. Oram

As the Answer is long and includes a number of figures I will, with permission, circulate it is the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Mr. Hooley

Will my hon. Friend agree that this is one of the most valuable forms of aid this country can give and that it should be stepped up from year to year rather than allowed to decrease?

Mr. Oram

I entirely agree with what my hon. Friend says about the value of this service and we are hopeful that the trend will continue in an upward direction. My hon. Friend will have in mind, I hope, that last year's increase was quite exceptional and the figures for the present year are well above those of two years ago.

Mr. Blenkinsop

Has there been any significant increase in the number of non-graduate volunteers as compared with graduates?

Mr. Oram

We have been getting some increase here. It is a difficult field. I have recently had meetings with representatives of trade unions and of the C.B.I. with a view to stepping this up. It is not so easy to get recruits in this field but we are doing everything we can.

Following is the Answer: It is expected that for 1967–68, 1,327 volunteers will be recruited. About 210 who went out last year are expected to stay on for a second year, and so 1,537 should be serving overseas. The numbers serving overseas in 1965–66 and 1966–67 were 1,323 and 1,719 respectively. I am naturally a little disappointed that the dramatic increase in 1966–67 has not been maintained, but the figure for the current year is well ahead of that for 1965–66. It is impossible to say with certainty why this year's figure has fallen. Uncertain political conditions in some overseas countries and increased emphasis on two-year service may well have contributed. The effect of the economic squeeze in this country may have made some volunteers more anxious than in previous years to establish themselves in jobs without any interval of overseas service. The Societies have set themselves the ambitious target of 1,950 volunteers serving overseas for the 1968 programme. The flow of information and the recruiting machinery are constantly being improved and the Societies concerned will continue to urge upon the younger generation the virtues of this kind of service. In this they can rely on my full support and I have recently held meetings with representatives of Trade Unions and of employers which will, I hope, produce practical results.