I was very pleased to speak in the UK Youth Parliament’s debate in this Chamber on 14 November. The level of debate was extremely high, and I have ensured that all relevant Ministers have been made aware of the contributions that took place.
Mr Eddie Fenwick, the Member of the Youth Parliament for Newark, sends his thanks to the Leader of the House and Mr Speaker. He hugely enjoyed the day. One topic debated was the franchise and whether 16 and 17-year-olds such as Mr Fenwick should have the right to vote. Perhaps surprisingly, polls suggest that 16 and 17-year-olds do not want to vote because they feel they do not have the confidence to address the issues. Would my right hon. Friend consider providing a debate on raising the quality of political education in this country to increase confidence among young people?
I send my regards to Mr Fenwick and everybody who took part in the Youth Parliament debate, which was an extremely encouraging spectacle, concerning the level of education and commitment of young people to political debate in this country. There are strongly held views for and against lowering the voting age to 16—including among young people, as my hon. Friend says—but I continue to encourage every possible effort to raise the level of political education and discussion, including this week at the 25th A-level politics annual student conference, which a couple of thousand students attended and I addressed.
Without youth workers, there would be no election of, or support for, members of the Youth Parliament, so will the right hon. Gentleman make representations to the Cabinet Office against the destruction of youth services nationally, so that this great fantastic institution of the UK Youth Parliament can continue?
I am sure that this great innovation will continue, because it has real momentum, and young people are fascinated by it. Hundreds of thousands took part in the decisions about which motions should be debated. Local authorities have an important role in supporting the Youth Parliament, and it is important that they continue that support in whatever way they can.
Let me again place on record my thanks to all the staff who made that day so successful. I wonder whether you, Mr Speaker, have discussed with the Leader of the House the possibility of extending the opportunity for young people to speak, perhaps in another Chamber such as Westminster Hall. It has been suggested that we might afford them slightly more time in which to deal with the issues that they feel are so important.
I join my hon. Friend in placing on record the thanks of—I think—all Members to the staff of the House, who did a great deal to make the Youth Parliament possible. It is worth considering the idea of extending the time available to them by enabling some of them to sit in other parts of the House, and I am sure that we can look into that together, Mr Speaker.