HC Deb 17 December 2002 vol 396 cc688-9
35. Mr. Tom Harris (Glasgow, Cathcart)

What work is being undertaken by his Department to encourage younger people to seek a public appointment. [85936]

40. Jeff Ennis (Barnsley, East and Mexborough)

What progress has been made by his Department in increasing the number of disabled people seeking public appointments. [85941]

The Minister of State, Cabinet Office (Mr. Douglas Alexander)

The Government are committed to increasing diversity in public appointments and value the contribution that young people and disabled people can make. That is why we are taking a range of initiatives, from citizenship education in secondary schools to encouraging departments to publicise public appointments in journals such as Disability Now and Disability Times.

Mr. Harris

Given the subject matter of this question, it is appropriate that my hon. Friend is answering it. Does he agree that far too few young people express an interest in public service? Is not there a danger that, unless we can convince younger people that their opinions and experience are valued, their disengagement with the political process will only accelerate?

Mr. Alexander

I agree with my hon. Friend. Engaging young people in the political process is a challenge not only for the Government, but for all political parties. One of the particular challenges that we face is that only 10 to 15 per cent. of public appointments come up every year. We have made some progress on that, but we can make further progress, especially with regard to young people.

Jeff Ennis

Has the Minister's Department liaised with disability organisations on this important issue? What can it do to speed up the process so that at long last public bodies are truly representative of society?

Mr. Alexander

I thank my hon. Friend for that question. The Cabinet Office and the equality unit have held discussions on these specific areas. We are keen to increase the number of adverts placed in journals that address the needs of particular communities, including the disabled.

Mr. Hilton Dawson (Lancaster and Wyre)

I commend to my hon. Friend the work of A National Voice, which is the national organisation for young people in care. It explodes many of the myths about young people in care. Will he assure me that such organisations will be fully involved in the work to develop and improve the care system and on the Green Paper on services for children at risk?

Mr. Alexander

I shall certainly bear in mind my hon. Friend's observations on the care system, and I will ensure that my colleagues in government are fully appraised of the work of the organisation of which he speaks.