HC Deb 23 July 1985 vol 83 cc848-9
3. Mr. Boyes

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if he will make a statement on International Youth Year and the youth service.

Mr. Dunn

The Government are directly supporting International Youth Year by grant-aiding the four national co-ordinating committees in the United Kingdom. A very wide range of organisations, particularly voluntary youth organisations and local authorities, are involved in activities relating to the year. Many activities in Government programmes have relevance to the objectives of the year. Among positive youth service initiatives this year, the Department has issued an important circular about the planning and management of the service.

Mr. Boyes

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that John O'Leary, writing in The Times Higher Education Supplement on Britain's contribution to International Youth Year, said: declarations of support and minimal funding smack of tokenism"? Is the hon. Gentleman concerned about Britain's meagre, pathetic and contemptuous contribution to this fund, especially when small countries such as Australia can give $4 million and Canada $12 million?

Mr. Dunn

The hon. Gentleman must accept from me that youth service expenditure goes into a number of heads across the whole of local government activity, not just the local education authority service or direct funding by us. Total grant-aid from the four home education departments to International Youth Year national co-ordinating committees in the United Kingdom from the beginning of funding until the end of this financial year is expected to be greater than £500,000.

Mr. Forth

Has my hon. Friend any evidence that these so-called designated years do any good to anyone at any time? Does he share my view that they are an excuse for inactivity and the very tokenism to which the hon. Member for Houghton and Washington (Mr. Boyes) referred? Will my hon. Friend give the most careful consideration before committing public funds in future to one of these silly years?

Mr. Dunn

I feel that I should be speechless in the light of that question. However, I share some of my hon. Friend's concern. His point of view will be noted not only by me but by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State.

Mr. Foster

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the youth service, because of its rather weak statutory base, is always squeezed when the Government cut education expenditure? How does he justify the type of statements that he has made from the Dispatch Box in International Youth Year knowing full well that the youth service is being severely reduced throughout the country?

Mr. Dunn

I always speak with as much certainty as I can. Aggregate expenditure in the local authority sector on the youth service rose by 8 per cent. in real terms between 1982–83 and 1983–84, following an increase of 5 per cent. in real terms between 1981–82 and 1982–83. That does not support the hon. Gentleman's point.