HC Deb 10 December 1991 vol 200 cc725-6
12. Mr. Simon Hughes

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Science when he will next meet representatives of youth organisations to discuss youth matters.

Mr. Atkins

I met representatives of the National Association of Youth and Community Education Officers yesterday. I shall be meeting the representatives of the Standing Conference of Principal Youth and Community Officers for the London and south-east Region on 17 December, and I am meeting representatives of the British Youth Council and the Scout Association in the near future.

Mr. Hughes

I welcome that news. When the Minister meets those representatives—if not before—will he be able to tell them that the Government support the amendment to the Further and Higher Education Bill, which has been promoted by the National Youth Agency and the British Youth Council and backed by hon. Members from all parties? That amendment would put the youth service on a proper statutory basis.

Mr. Atkins

I cannot make any such commitment at this stage. It is, I think, generally felt that the youth service is already a statutory requirement under various education Acts. I shall draw the hon. Gentleman's point to the attention of my hon. Friends who will serve on the Standing Committee on the Bill. However, I do not encourage the hon. Gentleman to entertain high hopes in that regard.

Mr. Rowe

In recent years, there has been a welcome elision between the definitions of the responsibilities of the youth service and those of the community as a whole. Will my hon. Friend join me in paying tribute to the imaginative experiment that the Lord Mayor of London is supporting this year, in which young people go into schools to help pupils with learning difficulties and those who are quicker than the rest of the class? That experiment has had a remarkable effect on the performance of both pupils and helpers.

Mr. Atkins

I defer to none in my appreciation of the work done by the youth service all over the country. The idea to which my hon. Friend refers strikes me as excellent, and I am happy to support it.