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National Citizen Service

Volume 524: debated on Wednesday 2 March 2011

The pilots will be based in 190 different locations this summer and have a good geographical spread in regions across England. I am delighted to say that more than 11,000 16-year-olds will have the opportunity to take part.

My constituents and I are very much looking forward to the service arriving in Hastings and its environment. What are the arrangements for rolling the service out further; who will be in charge of fulfilment; and how can MPs get involved with it?

This year’s pilots involve areas represented by 400 MPs, so there are plenty of opportunities to get involved. I am delighted to say that Catch 22 and the Prince’s Trust are leading the pilots in East Sussex this year, and I very much hope that my hon. Friend will get involved because this provides a fantastic opportunity for young people in her area to participate in a very positive experience.

Anything that taps the idealism of young people in the wider society is clearly to be welcomed; it is a good thing. These pilots, however, seem to be an inadequate response to the needs of 965,000 young people who are now out of work. The scheme itself was criticised, as the Minister will know, by the university of Strathclyde, so will he at least indicate the date by which the scheme will be made universal for all young people, as the Prime Minister promised before the election?

I am sorry that the hon. Gentleman appears to have such a downer on the scheme, which provides a hugely positive opportunity for young people in this country. We are testing it thoroughly on behalf of the taxpayer—there are 11,000 places this year and 30,000 next year—with a view to rolling it out, as he suggested, to make it more widely available and so compelling for all 16-year-olds that they will want to get involved in the future.