Consideration of Bill, as amended in the Public Bill Committee.
National Citizen Service Trust
I beg to move amendment 1, page 2, line 2, insert—
“(c) In carrying out its functions under this Act, the NCS Trust may not act in a manner which has the effect of preventing a young person from working as a volunteer on a heritage railway or tramway as part of a programme which is provided or arranged by the NCS Trust.”
Amendment 1 is the sole amendment to the Bill. Let me say for the benefit of the House, the Clerks and the Whips that I do not intend to push this amendment to a vote. I also want to put on record my full support for the National Citizen Service and for this Bill. It is something that benefits young people enormously. I hope that more and more young people in this country will take part in the NCS. It is about not just how much money we spend on it, but the skills, the experiences, the friendships and the breaking down of barriers. It has been a pleasure to meet NCS groups in my own constituency and to see them in action.
I also want to declare my interest as chair of the all-party group on heritage rail and as a representative—as Member of Parliament for Loughborough—for the Great Central Railway based in my constituency.
I thank both the Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, my hon. Friend the Member for Reading East (Mr Wilson), for the conversations that I have had with him about this amendment, and the Minister for Disabled People, Health and Work for offering to meet me and Lord Faulkner next week on the substance of this amendment, which is why I will not detain the House for too long this afternoon. I also thank the Health and Safety Executive, who have offered a meeting as well.
There are more than 200 heritage railways in this country, offering volunteering and work experience as well as contributing hugely to our local economies and to the tourism infrastructure in this country. The leading counsel advised the Heritage Railway Association last year that activities involving children are unlawful by virtue of a statute passed as long ago as 1920. The Employment of Women, Young Persons and Children Act 1920 expressly excludes the employment of children in an industrial undertaking. The definition of “industrial undertaking” includes railways and “child” is now defined by section 558 of the Education Act 1996 in effect to mean a person who has not yet reached 16. It had long been assumed that “employment” had its usual meaning of work under a contract of employment, but counsel advised that it extends to include work carried out in a voluntary capacity. The basis for his interpretation is the Education (Work experience) Act 1973. That Act, which is re-enacted as section 560 of the Education Act 1996, provided for children aged 14 to 16 to undertake hands-on work experience as part of their education. Although children undergoing such experience do so voluntarily, without payment, Parliament thought it necessary expressly to disapply the provisions of the 1920 Act to enable work experience to take place. By implication, therefore, it was considered that the 1920 Act otherwise extended to voluntary work performed by children in an industrial undertaking.
In this scenario, an entirely laudable motive in 1920, to stop women, young people and children being exploited, now stops an activity that we as a society and a country deem to be worthy. In my example, that is volunteering by young people on a heritage railway, from which they gain experience of work and working as part of a team, and often they are inspired to take up engineering or other customer service and retail opportunities. It seems that the only way around this anomaly is to change the law, hence the amendment tabled in the other place by Lord Faulkner. I have now picked up the baton in this House.
Although not changing the 1920 Act stops National Citizen Service participants falling foul of that law, this demonstrates why the law should be changed. The amendment in no way cuts across the need to safeguard young people who will be working or volunteering in heritage railways, or perhaps in other industrial heritage settings.
We have a huge heritage site in Portsmouth dockyard. Does my right hon. Friend agree that that may be a problem if the Bill is not amended?
A number of heritage sites could fall within the definition of industrial undertaking, such as shipyards and railways. I believe that canals and waterways were mentioned in the debate in the other place. When we see anomalies that are clearly a nonsense in the 21st century and we have the opportunity to correct them, this House has a duty to try to do so.
I do not expect the Minister to accept the amendment today or to commit to changing the law, but I will listen with care to his response to this debate and during my meeting with my hon. Friend the Minister for Disabled People, Health and Work next week. I hope that in due course the House can resolve the legal logjam. Those of us who want young people to be able to volunteer in industrial undertakings and gain vital skills will continue to press the case.
The question is that the amendment be made—[Interruption.] I do not know whether the flickering lights are an effect of the right hon. Lady’s oration—it would be uncharitable of me to think so—or of my standing up. Who knows?
I rise briefly to support the amendment tabled by my right hon. Friend the Member for Loughborough (Nicky Morgan), and I thank her very much for the work she does for the all-party parliamentary group on heritage rail.
Bury is home to the East Lancashire railway. We are not connected to the railway in any other way, but we do have what I think is the best heritage railway in the country—[Interruption.] I may have started a separate debate on that. Suffice it to say that the railway is an enormous attraction to the town. People come from all over to take part in the special activities that are run, particularly at weekends. The railway is well known in the town as a magnet for tourists and rail enthusiasts.
I was particularly concerned when I saw the amendment because, to be honest, I was not aware that there would be any problem. I have visited—on two occasions last year, if I recall correctly—young people taking part in the National Citizen Service. They were taking part in a “Dragons’ Den”-type exercise, bidding for funds to carry out good work in the community. I was on the panel with others, listening to the bids, which the young people put forward very professionally. It never occurred to me that young people would not be able to be placed with the East Lancs railway, which is a charity and one of the largest volunteer groups in Bury.
I can understand why the legislation to protect women and young people from dangerous activities was passed back in 1920. I think we can forget the part about women nowadays, because we send women into active service and there is no reason why they should be protected in this respect; they can look after themselves. However, I do accept that young people need protection. I am not trying to suggest that they do not. I also accept that there are aspects of the railway that young people would need special supervision for, but I am sure that that could be provided for in the National Citizen Service scheme and in the risk assessment that the service undertakes for all placements.
I particularly want to put on the record the fact that a wide variety of tasks can be undertaken on heritage railways, and in no way can they all be described as dangerous. There are all sorts of administrative and clerical roles. One only has to look at the long list of tasks undertaken by a heritage railway to see that there is plenty of scope for a young person or a group of young people who are interested in serving the community to get involved. That is particularly important in Bury. The East Lancs railway has a retail outlet, so there are sales and retail opportunities. There is also work in customer care and looking after the facilities at the various stations along the line.
We may be unnecessarily limiting the opportunities for young people. I am sure that is not the intention behind the Bill, which is laudable in all other respects. The fact that it has gone through all its stages with so little controversy demonstrates that, but I would not want the East Lancs Railway to be disadvantaged in any way as a result of a hangover from the 1920s. I hope that the Minister will look closely at the amendment tabled by my right hon. Friend and give some thought to how we can make it crystal clear that charities and organisations that run heritage railways are not disadvantaged.
I do hope the lights stay on, because I am not expecting a highly charged debate this afternoon—boom, boom!
Anyway, I am grateful to my right hon. Friend the Member for Loughborough (Nicky Morgan) for her contribution, for her fantastic support for the NCS, and for raising this issue. Like Lord Ashton in the other place, I do not want there to be any barriers to young people volunteering their time on heritage railways or, indeed, in other appropriate environments.
NCS participants often choose to dedicate their social action project to a cause that is important to them in the community. If they wanted to work, for example, on the Great Central railway—an excellent heritage railway, as Members know, in my right hon. Friend’s constituency—nothing should unreasonably prevent them from doing exactly that. Health and safety law must, of course, be adhered to so that young people are properly looked after and risks are managed. That, of course, is sensible.
My Department has spoken with the Office of Rail and Road, which is responsible for the regulation of heritage railways. It confirms that there is a long-standing role for those under school leaving age to work on such systems in the heritage sector, and I know my right hon. Friend has a series of meetings to confirm with the ORR and others whether that is the right way to go.
There is a clear benefit to young people in being able to take part in such volunteering activities: it gives them practical and social skills, develops a sense of community and social engagement, and equips them with a formative degree of knowledge of safety and risk management.
General health and safety policy makes specific provision for the assessment and management of risks for young workers. We would, of course, expect the 1920 Act to be applied and enforced practically, sensibly and in the public interest. For railways that are appropriately managing volunteer work done by young people, and otherwise complying with health and safety law, there is a relatively low risk of action against them in practice. If there were evidence of poor supervision or exposure to risk, the ORR would have the usual range of enforcement powers to deploy. Those range from verbal and written advice to improvement notices, prohibition notices and prosecution for the most serious breaches of the law.
Modifying the law in this area would carry a risk that would need to be investigated thoroughly. The NCS Bill is a focused piece of legislation, as my right hon. Friend realises, and is drafted to put the NCS Trust on a more accountable footing. It is a governance Bill working alongside the draft royal charter, so it is not the place to change the law on the health and safety of young volunteers. Moreover, the 1920 Act concerns those under 16, and the vast majority of NCS participants are 16 or over, so they are not the concern of the Bill.
With that reassurance from the ORR, I know that my right hon. Friend will withdraw her amendment.
I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
I will now suspend the House for no more than five minutes in order to make a decision about certification. The Division bells will be rung two minutes before the House resumes. Following my certification, the Government will table the appropriate consent motion, copies of which will be available shortly in the Vote Office and will be distributed by Doorkeepers.
I can now inform the House of my decision about certification. For the purposes of Standing Order No. 83L(2), I have certified the following provisions of the National Citizen Service Bill [Lords] as relating exclusively to England and within devolved legislative competence: clauses 1 to 8 of and schedule 1 to the Bill as amended in the Public Bill Committee.
For the purposes of Standing Order No. 83L(4), I have certified the following amendment made to the Bill since Second Reading as relating exclusively to England and Wales: amendment 1 to clause 13 made in the Public Bill Committee.
Copies of my certificate are available in the Vote Office. Under Standing Order No. 83M, a consent motion is therefore required for the Bill to proceed. The hon. Member for Aldershot (Sir Gerald Howarth) is nodding sagaciously along with me as I go—he is obviously very conversant with the details of this procedure, and I would expect nothing less. Does the Minister intend to move a consent motion?
The House forthwith resolved itself into the Legislative Grand Committee (England) (Standing Order No. 83M(4)).
[Natascha Engel in the Chair]
I remind hon. Members that if there is a Division, only Members representing constituencies in England may vote on the consent motion.
That the Committee consents to the following certified clauses and schedule to the National Citizen Service Bill [Lords] and the certified amendment made to the Bill:
Clauses and schedules certified under SO No. 83L(2) as relating exclusively to England and being within devolved legislative competence
Clauses 1 to 8 of, and Schedule 1 to, the Bill as amended in the Public Bill Committee (Bill 130).
Amendment certified under SO No. 83L(4) as relating exclusively to England
Amendment 1 made in the Public Bill Committee.—(Mr Rob Wilson.)
Question agreed to.
The occupant of the Chair left the Chair to report the decision of the Committee (Standing Order No. 83M(6)).
The Deputy Speaker resumed the Chair; decision reported.
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.
I am absolutely delighted to speak at this historic moment for the National Citizen Service. Passing the National Citizen Service Bill is our opportunity to embed years of hard work by delivering a programme that is cherished by so many young people. Today is the culmination of the work and ideas that have gone into the Bill from both Houses and from outside Parliament.
I thank the hon. Member for Croydon North (Mr Reed) and the Opposition for their approach to the Bill. They have been consistently supportive, and in our debates they have demonstrated a desire to make the NCS the best it can be. The unity of the House has made a powerful statement that the NCS is here to stay. I have welcomed ideas and questions, and I think we have a stronger Bill because of that.
In particular, our discussions have focused on social integration. The importance that Members from across the House have placed on social integration is absolutely justified. People from different backgrounds mixing, working together and learning about each other is an essential part of the NCS. It is part of what makes it distinct as a programme, and why it has been such a valuable addition to national life.
I have always shared the view that social integration is central to the aims of the NCS, so I am pleased that we were able to agree about how to strengthen the language in the draft royal charter. We intend to add social integration to article 3.4 of the charter, which already mentions social cohesion. By adding social integration to the objectives, we will embed it firmly in the NCS Trust’s constitution.
We have also covered the issue of the role of young people in the leadership of the NCS. The NCS Trust needs the perspective of young people if it is to provide an appealing, quality experience. As I said in Committee, 19 regional youth boards and one national youth board bring young people’s perspective to the leadership of the NCS. The network of 120 young leaders provides another sounding board. I thank the hon. Member for Croydon North for meeting me to discuss those and other points. In the light of those constructive discussions, we have agreed with the NCS Trust that it will have a representative from its youth board at all normal main board meetings with a standing agenda item. The Government will also ensure that the recruitment process for board members will encourage young people to apply. With those commitments, I hope we now have a Bill that we can all firmly support.
It is not too ambitious to say that we want the NCS to become a national institution—a recognised and valid scheme, delivered by a respected and trusted organisation. With royal charter status and the passage of the Bill, the NCS Trust can be that organisation, and we have set our goals for the programme so that hundreds of thousands more young people can be sure of the opportunities on offer.
However, we know that there is still much more to do. For example, I agree with the recent recommendations of the National Audit Office and the Public Accounts Committee on strengthening the governance, transparency and efficiency of the NCS. That is not new to us. Improving those aspects of the programme was one of the reasons we started to develop the Bill more than a year ago. It is precisely because the NCS is so valuable, both to young people and the nation as a whole, that we must ensure that the taxpayer has complete confidence in the way it is managed, what the NCS Trust does and how it spends public money. It is because of our ambition for the programme that I want to ensure it is delivered to the highest possible standards.
The royal charter gives the NCS Trust a strong remit and sets governance arrangements that provide the right balance between necessary Government involvement and the freedom to get on with the job. The Bill can give Parliament confidence in the work of the trust. The business plan and the reporting requirements will provide transparency on key areas of performance. We therefore have an arrangement that works for Government, for Parliament and for the NCS Trust.
It was a great honour to be part of the Bill Committee that saw the Bill through. I think that it strikes the right balance between accountability and trusting the NCS, with its young leaders, to deliver a programme that is relevant. Having made numerous visits to see the transformational opportunities it offers to young people, I believe it is absolutely right that we strike that balance.
I thank my hon. Friend for the part he has played in making the Bill the great success it is going to be and for his keen interest in the NCS in his Swindon constituency. He is right to seek assurances about the quality, not just the quantity, of what the NCS is providing and confirmation that young leaders will have the chance to be involved in the future.
The governance arrangements, together with the new projections for demand and the associated funding that I announced in January, are part of an ambitious yet realistic plan for the NCS. We want the NCS to grow, driven by demand from young people; we want it to provide the same quality experience to every young person as it grows; and we want it to provide value for money and transparency for the taxpayer.
I thank everybody who has helped to develop and shape the Bill and the charter, all Members of the House who have spoken in the debates, members of the Public Bill Committee, and the staff and board of the NCS Trust. In particular, I thank the chairman, Stephen Greene, who has taken the NCS Trust from its beginnings to the brink of being a national institution. That is quite a journey and an impressive achievement by anyone’s measure.
As we speak, the chairman, the board and the staff of the NCS Trust are working hard to recruit this summer’s participants. We in this House can support them and play our part in that. I ask all Members to keep supporting the NCS in their constituencies—visit it, take part in it and talk about the impact it is having on young people. By raising its profile, we can help to make the NCS the household name it deserves to be, so that hundreds of thousands more young people know about it and benefit from it.
I pay tribute to the many organisations that deliver the NCS and those in the wider youth sector who work alongside it. The scouts, the guides, the Duke of Edinburgh’s award, cadet forces and too many others to name are all part of our vision for a rich and rewarding journey of experiences that enables young people to develop to their full potential. The NCS can be one common thread in that journey—a shared opportunity in a shared society.
It is not often that we have the opportunity to establish a new part of national life, a new element of being a citizen in our country. This is one of those opportunities. It is the opportunity to secure something that is already changing lives and that has the potential to change many more.
Of course there is much more work to do to grow the NCS and to make it a rite of passage, but today we can take a vital step in the right direction, for today we have a clear statement that working together with people from different backgrounds, in the service of a shared society, should be a normal part of growing up. Today we have before us a Bill that will help to secure the investment of millions more hours of volunteering by young people in local communities, helping those who most need it. Today, we look to the future and say to young people, “We want to invest in you. We want to give you the opportunity to reach your potential.” This Government invest in our young people. More importantly, we believe in our young people.
I will start by returning the compliments paid to me by the Minister. I and my colleagues on the Opposition Front Bench are grateful to him for the consensual way in which he has dealt with the Bill. That is important to the future of the National Citizen Service, and to the people from all parties and none who have devoted a considerable amount of time to getting the organisation off the ground. That does not mean to say I do not have comments to make about how it is being run, particularly in the light of the Public Accounts Committee report published this week, but those comments should not be misinterpreted as a lack of support for the organisation or for the consensual way in which the Minister has dealt with this matter. It has been an enormous pleasure to visit NCS groups in my constituency. I have seen the positive difference that they are making to young people in Croydon North, as well as to young people across the rest of the country.
The Bill sets up a royal charter that provides a statutory underpinning to the NCS. It does not set up the NCS, because it already exists. It does not agree funding levels, as they are decided by the Government in their spending review. Labour supports the Bill because it believes the NSC has a great deal to offer young people across our country. We want the stronger governance the royal charter will provide, particularly following the concerns about governance, oversight, financial performance and value for money—all issues that we raised in previous stages, but which the Public Accounts Committee report highlighted in flashing lights.
The organisation is due to receive over £1.5 billion of public funding at a time when other youth services up and down the country have lost significant levels of funding. It is important, when so much money goes to any service, that the Government can demonstrate beyond any shadow of a doubt that every penny of public money handed to the NCS is better spent there than every penny cut from thousands of other youth organisations that were also doing good work, many with some of the most vulnerable and disadvantaged young people in the country. I will not ask the Minister to respond in detail to every point raised by the PAC, but I would be grateful if he wrote to me and responded to some of the issues I will raise this afternoon.
I agree with the Minister that it is vital that this organisation, like every other publicly funded body, delivers and demonstrates the highest possible level of value for money. The PAC found that the
“Department cannot justify the seemingly high cost per participant of the NCS”.
Given the significant amount of further money pledged to the NCS, that will require a full response in due course from the Minister. The report highlights what appear to be alarmingly high costs per participant: £1,863 per participant is very high, particularly since other funding targeted at the most vulnerable young people has been reduced.
I would just like to place on record my absolute determination to see a concerted effort to reduce the cost per unit of the NCS bill. We have been looking at that for some time. One reason for the Bill is to make the NCS much more transparent and accountable in line with other organisations that receive public money.
I thank the Minister for those assurances. It is important to put our concerns on the record following the PAC report. I fully understand that he will need some time to look at the report in detail to provide the reassurances that the House and the public will be looking for following its publication. The organisation has declared its intention to reduce spending per participant by about £200, which is significant. It is important to know how savings on this scale can be achieved while maintaining the quality of the service and support it provides.
Concerns, which the PAC report repeated, were raised that the full value of participation targets is not yet being realised. The Government reduced their original targets for the number of young people on the scheme by a third—from 360,000 by 2020, to 247,000. With such a dramatic downward shift, and given the funding going into the organisation, assurances will need to be given that the target can be achieved and that there will be no further downward shift.
Given that local authorities and schools are already active on the ground and know their communities, would Ministers be prepared to reconsider their involvement in delivering the service? At an earlier stage, the relationship was different, and although they still have a role with the NCS perhaps it needs to be reviewed to ensure their full integration into the organisation’s delivery of its services to young people.
The PAC report was critical of the Cabinet Office’s setting up of the trust without appropriate governance arrangements, but I understand that the royal charter to be established will put a governance framework in place. We argued at previous stages that there should be a role for young people in running the trust. I am grateful to the Minister and welcome the comments he made in opening about giving young people a clearer and more direct role on the trust board.
User involvement ensures that organisations remain focused on the needs of their users and do not slip into focusing too much on the needs of the provider. I am pleased to see another good way of making sure that this Government body remains appealing to young people, who will feel they have considerable say in the organisation. I look forward to seeing how the amendment will appear in the royal charter.
I welcome the Minister’s comments on social integration, about which points have been made not just by me but by many of the organisations involved in delivering the NCS. There is broad support among Members and across the sector for the NCS’s important work in encouraging social integration. Bringing together young people from different backgrounds broadens their understanding of their own country and the community of which they form a part, and it helps to build a sense of shared nationhood, which is very important for the future of our country.
It is particularly important that young people from more socially excluded and deprived backgrounds, who might be harder to engage, are fully represented in all the work the NCS does. With the focus on driving up participation, the NCS must not go only for those young people who are easier to engage but who might be in less need of its NCS support than young people from more excluded backgrounds. I know that the Minister shares my view, and I look forward to seeing what further focus is placed on the NCS to ensure that targets are met throughout the project’s delivery.
The internal evaluation of the NCS published last week showed the benefits of the scheme, but the finding that three months after completion of the spring NCS programme there had been no impact on volunteering was of concern. I hope that the Minister will look into that. Getting young people involved in volunteering is one of the key benefits of the NCS, so we need to do more to encourage those who want to give something back to their community and to ensure that they have that chance.
It is very welcome that the Government are going ahead with the youth social action review, whose chairman was named just this week. We welcome the appointment of Steve Holliday and look forward to hearing his recommendations by October.
My hon. Friend mentions the full time social action review. Does he share the hope of many of us that the Government will look at full-time volunteering and come up with as many creative ideas as possible?
Absolutely. It is important that the Government identify and try to remove possible barriers to involvement in full-time volunteering. We hope that the review led by Steve Holliday will produce some proposals.
Let me reassure the House that the points that my colleagues and I have raised are intended to help the NCS to develop and improve. We want it to succeed. We believe in the young people of this country, and we believe that the NCS can have, and is having, a real impact on those who take part in its programmes. It builds their confidence, exposes them to other young people from different backgrounds, builds valuable life skills, and strengthens their understanding of the community and what it means to be part of it. However, we also believe in value for money. There clearly needs to be a tighter grip. Given that so many cuts are now affecting young people, the NCS needs to succeed for every young person in the country.
I hope that the Bill, and the royal charter it establishes, will enable the NCS to move forward, and will help young people throughout the country to achieve their potential and become the very best they can be.
It is a pleasure to speak in support of the Bill. I should declare an interest, having taken part in a project organised by an NCS partner in Portsmouth: the Pompey in the Community team, led by Clare Martin and James Shannon at Portsmouth football club. Like my hon. Friend the Member for Bury North (Mr Nuttall), who is no longer in the Chamber, and like, I suspect, many other Members of Parliament, I was a “dragon” in the “Dragons’ Den” event organised for young people to pitch their ideas for social action projects to be run as part of the scheme. There were some brilliant ideas, and the service has led to the delivery by young people of some great projects in Portsmouth.
I have no doubt that the establishment of a royal charter body is the right way to develop the NCS. It will give the organisation a strong stature in the eyes of the public, and will help to define its independence. The intention is not to allow it to bully or dominate other organisations in the voluntary sector; it is to ensure that a public body, spending large amounts of public money, is properly incorporated. This is not a slight on community interest companies—I have the pleasure of working with several CICs, and I am a firm supporter of that business model—but a move to put the NCS on a firmer footing in view of its considerable public responsibilities. The change will improve our oversight of the organisation, and will allow us to measure it against some of the concerns expressed in the Public Accounts Committee report.
Portsmouth is a compact and diverse city, so we can draw on a real mix of people from a wide variety of backgrounds. It will be vital nationally for the NCS to be able to draw people together from across the spectrum. Getting hold of young people, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds, is a challenge, but we are achieving it in Portsmouth. That is one of the reasons I think the service is so successful. Our target is 350 this year, and we already have 171 signed up. Ours is a compact city, and people have to work together wherever they come from.
While I recognise that some concerns have been expressed about clause 9 and the involvement of HMRC, I see no great difficulty with it. Being given their national insurance details by HMRC at the age of 16 feels like a rite of passage for many young people, and it makes sense to include information about the NCS at the same time. They should also be getting the message via their schools, and I am sure that every MP can help in that regard. No one would expect the main means of learning about the NCS to come in a buff envelope with the national insurance card, but that is an additional means of engaging young people with projects that can change their lives and open the door to the world of responsibility and adulthood.
I hope that the annual report from the trust will contain some commentary on how it ensures the integrity of its data processing. That should relate not just to its relationship with HMRC, but to all sources of personal data collected and held by the NCS and its partners.
The key issues in the Bill that still give rise to concern involve the measuring of performance and value for money. As we heard from the hon. Member for Croydon North (Mr Reed), that concern arose from the PAC report. We look forward to scrutinising the business plan annually, and to seeing how the performance measures up. There must be no repeat of the unfilled places problem identified in the PAC report. We already know that 90% of the young people who are engaging with the service currently see the value of it, but I would particularly like to see how many continue to volunteer, perhaps even until the age of 21.
The challenge of the NCS will be to demonstrate the follow-on benefits of it as people get further into adulthood. We will therefore want to see in the annual reporting what the sustained impact is at age 21. This Bill reflects a desire shared in all parts of the House to help young people develop the skills they will need in adulthood, connecting them with parts of society with which they might not otherwise engage.
I have followed the debates about this Bill and its measures with interest, and I feel we have before us a Bill that should command the confidence of Members and the wider public, and I look forward to it becoming law in due course.
With the leave of the House, I will take a couple of minutes to try to answer some of the questions asked, to save me sending a letter or two further down the line. I thank the hon. Member for Croydon North (Mr Reed) for his comments and concerns, and for his support for the NCS.
On the Public Accounts Committee report that came out earlier this week, it is important to realise that the NCS delivers very positive outcomes and, by and large, very good value for money, as independent evaluations have shown. Detailed evaluations are conducted annually about the previous programme, and they are showing good value for money.
The programme has expanded extremely rapidly. As part of that rapid change it is important to acknowledge the need for change, which is precisely why we have brought forward this Bill, and indeed the royal charter. As the hon. Gentleman said, we are creating a much more robust framework for the NCS and the NCS Trust, as well as a new set of targets, which the hon. Gentleman mentioned.
The trust is going to be accountable to Parliament, which is very important, and the programme will be delivered efficiently, effectively and transparently, and these changes will help the trust to continue delivering the outcomes that make the NCS not just a justifiable programme but an important, often life-changing experience for young people.
We are working closely with the trust to ensure that new contracts due in 2018 deliver fully on value for money. The trust has undertaken a number of pathfinder exercises to look at how the NCS is delivered, and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport will continue to scrutinise the NCS Trust’s budgets. As I have said, I am determined to take concerted action to make sure we drive down costs and ensure value for money.
Schools and local authorities play a central role in promoting the NCS, and we will publish new guidance for both groups on royal assent.
The hon. Gentleman mentioned the new review under Steve Holliday. He brings a wealth of knowledge and experience of young people and skills—and the right experience—to this role, and I will work with him to secure a panel of experts from the public, private and voluntary sectors to make sure we have the right experience and knowledge to deliver what I hope will be a great report.
Finally, on public sector standards, as an independent community interest company the NCS Trust was not required to comply with public sector expectations on standards and financial reporting, but once the trust has transitioned to a royal charter body it will be required to produce a business plan at the start of each year, and produce annual accounts and annual reports for Parliament. That will create much more transparency and better accountability, which is why we have the NCS Bill.
I hope that answers the majority of the hon. Gentleman’s questions. If there are any left unanswered, I will write to him.
Question put and agreed to.
Bill accordingly read the Third time and passed, without amendment.