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Active Citizens

Volume 174: debated on Thursday 14 June 1990

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To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what recent steps he has taken to help promote the concept of the active citizen.

My right hon. and learned Friend and I take every opportunity to encourage responsible and active citizens and businesses to make a positive contribution to their communities and to charitable causes, particularly through volunteering and charitable giving.

Will my right hon. Friend note the enthusiasm among Conservative Members for the concept of the active citizen, in particular the role that the active citizen can play in exercising his own responsibilities within the family and the community? The community neighbourhood watch scheme and the family can help the Government to reduce the appalling crime figures for juveniles of 15. Does he find that other Government Departments are playing their part in ensuring that the active citizen forms a central part of the Conservative party's next manifesto?

I agree with my hon. Friend. Never before in British history have so many of our fellow citizens been involved in voluntary activity. The figure is now about one in four of all our citizens aged over 16. My hon. Friend referred to the neighbourhood watch scheme. Those who run such schemes in this country are the largest group of volunteers anywhere in the western world and they should be commended. Certainly, my right hon. Friends in other Government Departments are keen to promote the concept of the active citizen. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science is doing exactly that with local management of schools. I pay tribute to all parent governors who are helping with the local management of schools.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the greater accountability brought about by the community charge will give a significant boost to the concept of the active citizen? In cases such as the recent arson attack on a school in my constituency the cost of repairs will fall on community charge payers throughout the borough. We therefore all have a major incentive to do what we can to prevent crimes of that nature.

I agree entirely with my hon. Friend. I hope that he agrees that we must also diffuse to ordinary people in their communities as much power and control as possible over their lives. We are doing that through local management of schools and by giving tenants more rights to control their own lives, and we intend to continue the process in future years.