§ 3 p.m.
§ Lord Morris of Castle Morris asked Her Majesty's Government:
§ What plans they have to implement the Prime Minister's proposal to extend the Combined Cadet Force to all schools.
My Lords, as my right honourable friend the Prime Minister made clear last week, the Government wish strongly to encourage wider voluntary participation in all the cadet organisations, including the CCF. Membership of that force presently provides some 40, 000 young people at 241 schools with the opportunity to develop such vital personal qualities as leadership, self-respect, teamwork, responsibility and good citizenship. We are considering ways of increasing the scope of the cadet forces as a whole, so as to allow even more young people the opportunity to enjoy the benefits of membership.
§ Lord Morris of Castle Morris
My Lords, I am most obliged to the noble Earl for that reply. However, will he explain to the House what skills, other than skill in killing people, would be given to those young people by the extended CCF which would not be equally given to them by such organisations as the Duke of Edinburgh's Award scheme, the Outdoor pursuits centre, the outward bound schemes or their local sports club?
My Lords, the noble Lord shows an uncharacteristic ignorance of what cadet forces offer to young people. The weapons handling part of the syllabus is only a minor part of what they do. The reasons why we regard the budget on cadets as money well spent are: first, it is a good way of keeping defence in the public eye and promoting a knowledge of the Armed Forces among the public; secondly, it is a way of delivering useful training to young people within a service ethos; thirdly, it increases the level of interest in the Armed Forces among the young. All the evidence shows that the cadet movement succeeds admirably in those objectives.
§ Baroness Young
My Lords, does my noble friend agree that in his first reply he answered the supplementary question of the noble Lord, Lord Morris of Castle Morris, by setting out the qualities that cadet forces encourage in young people? Does he further agree that there is no contradiction at all in encouraging cadet forces and at the same time encouraging young people to take up the Duke of Edinburgh's Award, more 966 sporting activities and all the other outdoor activities that are so valuable in the development of character and personality?
My Lords, I am very grateful to my noble friend. I could not have put the case better myself. As she rightly indicates, cadets are encouraged to undertake adventurous activities, including expeditions, and to learn community skills such as first aid. Through the Duke of Edinburgh's Award scheme they can further their education in such subjects as the arts, engineering and computer studies. Cadet forces also offer a wide range of other academic and practical activities, many leading eventually to national vocational qualifications.
§ Lord Quirk
My Lords, is it not the case that membership of any of the cadet forces rapidly challenges the mathematically challenged, of whom we have far too many among our youngsters; and that anything that we can do which will encourage the demonstration of the practical utility of basic skills is to be encouraged?
My Lords, the noble Lord makes a very valuable point. The activities encouraged by the cadet movement provide a practical outlet for academic skills acquired in the classroom. One thinks of mathematics, applied mechanics and even military history. Many of the outdoor activities encourage a respect for conserving the environment. There are many ways in which the noble Lord's question is extremely pertinent.
§ Lord Jenkins of Putney
My Lords, is the Minister aware that, like me, John Major refused to become a cadet? He became a wolf cub. Does the noble Lord recognise that non-military bodies exist as well as the cadet organisations? For example, the Woodcraft Folk specialise in environmental matters and are an extremely valuable body. Is the Minister further aware that none of these bodies receives a cent in state support? Is it not right that these matters should be examined again on a much wider basis so that bodies established on a non-military basis can at least receive equal attention?
My Lords, I suspect that my right honourable friend the Prime Minister spent rather a lot of his time playing cricket. However, that is another matter. The noble Lord makes a very important point about youth movements generally. The Government certainly encourage those movements. It is, however, equally important to recognise that the young have a particular interest in youth movements associated with the Armed Forces. There is merit in that interest being channelled, for example, into a safe and responsible attitude towards the use of firearms and into their being encouraged to see the Armed Forces as a force for good in the defence of this country.
§ Lord Jenkins of Putney
My Lords, the other organisations need more cash. They need government money.
My Lords, they may need more cash. Whether they will receive more government money is a 967 matter upon which I should be interested to hear the views of the party opposite. Many voluntary organisations raise much of their money through their own efforts, as do many units within the cadet force movement. The sea cadets, in particular, raise at least half their funds through charitable and voluntary fund-raising.