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Lord Inglewood: My Lords, in response to the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Merlyn-Rees, we have invited the heads of state of all those former Yugoslav republics which we recognise. All four have accepted. The invitation to President Tudjman stands for now, but is naturally being kept under review.
Lord Taylor of Gryfe: My Lords, perhaps I may return to the issue raised by the noble Lord, Lord Thomson of Monifieth; that negotiations are taking place with regard to trading agreements between Croatia and the European Union. In the light of the flouting of the arrangements of the United Nations, which are supported by the European Union, would it not be right to suspend those negotiations? Would it not also be right to withdraw the invitation to the President of Croatia, who is coming here tomorrow to join in the VE celebrations? In the light of his flouting of UN resolutions, how can one possibly support that invitation and recognise his position?
Lord Inglewood: My Lords, I fully understand the sentiments expressed by the noble Lord. As I have said, the invitation to President Tudjman is under review. As regards the co-operation agreement, the Croatians have launched an attack on the United Nations and that will have a severe impact on any matters which may need to be resolved in relation to that agreement. It is important to appreciate that events have moved very quickly. The full implications of what has happened may not yet have had time to be dealt with administratively.
Lord Hylton: My Lords, will the Government take the lead in making it absolutely clear that any new attack on the beautiful and historic city of Dubrovnik or its airport will be resisted with the full force of NATO?
Lord Mayhew: My Lords, when the review of the invitation to President Tudjman takes place, will the noble Lord take note that doubts about that have been expressed extremely widely on all sides of this House?
Lord Inglewood: My Lords, I have no doubt about the point which the noble Lord, Lord Mayhew, has underscored. I am sure that that matter will be brought forcefully to the attention of those responsible for such matters.
Baroness Williams of Crosby: My Lords, will the noble Lord tell the House whether an invitation has been extended also to the head of state of Serbia and whether that matter, too, will be kept under consideration?
Viscount Whitelaw rose to call attention, at the time of the commemoration of VE Day, to the need for service to the nation and overseas, and in particular to the valuable role of voluntary organisations; and to move for Papers.
The noble Viscount said: My Lords, shortly before he became Lord Stockton, Harold Macmillan entered the Leader's Room. "My boy", he said, which was a rather surprising welcome to a Leader of your Lordships' House, as I was 67 at the time. But I have never forgotten his wise advice to me. "Always", he said, "remember that in politics, as in life, the history of the past is a valuable guide to future action, not exact in everything but certainly not to be neglected". Of course, Lord Stockton was referring mostly to the history which he had known personally from all his long experience.
Now that many of us are commemorating VE Day we are in a similar position. We are discussing much of our own life as part of history. In moving this Motion, I do not intend to indulge in personal memories of bravery and successes, nor of tragedy and disaster. Equally, I shall not refer to amusing wartime anecdotes, of which I have no doubt there are many in your Lordships' House. Nor have I any intention of imposing on your Lordships' House details about armed services activities.
On the other hand, I hope that we can gain value from the actions taken, mainly by the civilian community, in wartime. Certainly history in this last war, and indeed in previous wars, proved clearly that the people of a nation join together with patriotic fervour when their country is at war, with many valuable results for the community. I believe that we can gain in peacetime by following their example.
If your Lordships agree with me, I hope that we may have some important ideas or valuable proposals for voluntary organisations which will be useful for the future and indeed memorable for the commemoration of VE Day.
I am very pleased to have the chance of opening this particular debate because since I left the Government I have spent much of my time concerned with charities and voluntary organisations. In particular, I have been Chairman of the Council for Charitable Support for six years, which has helped me to appreciate the problems of many charities and how much voluntary work is carried out behind the scenes by many dedicated people.
For that reason, I want to deal first with that part of the lottery arrangements which is directly concerned with voluntary organisations and the plans which are the responsibility of the Home Office. I have for some time been pressed by various charities about the plans of the National Lottery Charities Board. Indeed, I had intended today to ask my noble friend Lady Blatch to tell us more about it. But that, I am glad to say, has already been done.
It sets out its plans for applications by which the board and charities should be able to discuss their problems together. I emphasise that. It is easy to have doubts about things at the start, and there has been a great deal of rough and tumble about what was said yesterday about the board. I do not believe that that is justified. The board and the charities can get together to discuss their problems. I hope that that will be done, and I believe that that must be the next step.
I hope that my noble friend Lady Blatch will tell us more about the development of the "Make a Difference" voluntary initiative which was launched by the Home Secretary in 1994, and indeed inspired by the Prime Minister himself. I am glad to hear that my noble friend is chairing an inter-departmental committee on that initiative. Perhaps she will give us some information about her progress.
I feel that I should now turn correctly to the Women's Royal Voluntary Service. It tells me that it achieved Royal status in 1966 and is now the largest active voluntary organisation in the United Kingdom. What is even more remarkable, your Lordships may be surprised to know, is that one in 10 of its members is now a man. Its members are particularly active in hospitals, in the community and with the emergency services. All members of the WRVS in the private and public sector are committed to being the premier providers of voluntary assistance to those in need of care in their local community. I can only say that I know the Cumbrian branch very well as it has already tried to book me for a date next winter!
I turn now to two papers which have been sent to me, particularly about young people, one of which my noble friend Lord Henley has sent out from the Ministry of Defence. It is clear that good plans have been made for the young who wish to take part in the Armed Services. I know that some of my noble friends wish to talk about these in detail, and so I shall leave it to them, except to say that, if interested in the Armed Services, that is the way in which at the present time a young man can do and learn a great deal, certainly in the cadet world.
The second, on a different aspect, comes from the noble Lord, Lord Hunt (of Llanfair Waterdine)I do not know whether that is a correct description but I have no doubt that someone will tell mewho is better known as Lord Everest Hunt, and very properly so. No one deserves that title more than he does. He has written a letter to me about this debate. He much regrets that he cannot come here to speak, as I do, but he has sent me his views on the young, together with an article which he had published in The House magazine. He is well known for having studied the problems of the young and, indeed, has given much of his life to that work.
It is a highly controversial area. Some people believe that there should be compulsory military service of one sort or another. I know that that is a view which is held; indeed, I suspect that that is so in the case of the noble Lord, Lord Hunt. I believe that he was one of those who originally believed that that would be best but he has accepted over a long period of time that it is unlikely to happen. It would, therefore, be very interesting now to learn what exactly he would like to see instead. He is accepting that there is an alternative, and that was the point that he made in his article.
Personally, I hope that there may be a chance in your Lordships' House to discuss the issue of the young on some other occasion when both those views can be put forward. But I can say, with a little care and a little understanding, that now as far as your Lordships' House is concerned it is nothing to do with me. However, I believe that the value of a discussion such as we are having this afternoon shows some of the issues that will come up and some which should come up for full investigation.
Before I leave youth organisations, I should like to mentionbecause I think it is of great importance and shows great understandingthe contribution made to young people through the Duke of Edinburgh's Award and the Prince's Youth Business Trust; and, indeed, much of the work of Voluntary Service Overseas which is most helpful and valuable.
I am pleased that there are so many speakers with knowledge of these important subjects this afternoon. I am sorryI know that everyone feels something like this, but these things happenthat noble Lords will be later than they would originally have been. However, that does not mean that the debate will not be extremely valuable. I can assure noble Lords of one thing: it is now my privilege to listen to them with great interest, and that I shall most certainly do. I have one further comment to make: my Lords, I beg to move for Papers.
Lord Williams of Elvel: My Lords, the House will be grateful to the noble Viscount for tabling the Motion and also for introducing it in the way that he did. The noble Viscount will not remember itindeed, why should he?but he was Leader of the House when I was introduced here. I would like to take this opportunity to thank him for the courtesy and kindness on that occasionand, indeed, thereafteralthough I do remember occasions where that courtesy was present but the kindness only relative when I tried to make some relatively feeble intervention on party points and was put down very elegantly by the noble Viscount.
Today, the noble Viscount has spoken of voluntary organisations and linked that with the anniversary of VE Day. He spoke with the authority and humour that we have all been led to expect from him. Of course, he speaks on VE Day as one who knows, as his record of military service in the war was of the most distinguished. I have to tell your Lordships that, in that particular, I am unable to follow the noble Viscount as I have no record of any sort. However, that was not for want of trying. It was quite simply that when the war started I was six years old and when the war finished, as your Lordships will figure out by the method of simple arithmetic, I had reached the majestic age of 12.
Having said thatand I believe that I ought to say this from these BenchesI wish to join with all noble Lords in celebrating the end of the Second World War and all that went with it. Millions of men and women gave their lives, not only from this country and our Western allies but also from Germanyin battle or by bombing or in the dreadful holocaustand from what was then the Soviet Union some 20 million, so it is said. Many millions also suffered injury, both physical and psychological. We must honour, and we shall honour, all thosethe dead and the damagedregardless of race, colour, nationality or creed. And in honouring them, I hope that we will do so in the spirit that the noble Viscount introduced, not of triumphalism but in a spirit of reconstruction in trying to find out what we can do as a result of all this as well as in a spirit of sad remembrance and reconciliation. We must also recognise that what happened 50 years ago is now part of history and, however difficult it is for those who lived through the horrors of the time, we must remember that it is history for today's youth, in the same way as the Great War was history to those of my generation whose childhood was spent in its shadow.
Now there is no doubtat least I hope that there is no doubtthat at the end of the war there was a sense of community, that the war had been fought for some sort of purpose. We could not go back, it was widely said, to the 1930s. We had to find a different way of organising our affairs. It was the electoral expression of that feeling that resulted in the return of a Labour Government with Mr. Attlee, as he then was, as Prime Minister. The platform, if I may put it as such, was clear: it was to introduce a change in the way we ran our affairs. Perhaps the most potent example of this was the creation of the National Health Service, and it is a matter of record that it was Aneurin Bevan's experience with the Tredegar Medical Aid Society that set him on course to create such a service for the whole nation.
However, even leaving that aside, there was at that time general popular support for the principle that we were and are a community and that, in one way or another, we can only survive if we help one anotherin short, that we were all members of the whole agglomeration of people, military and civilian, English, Welsh, Scottish and, indeed, Irish, who had joined in the enterprise of defeating the common enemy and now wished to join together to
So indeed, was "service overseas". Our community went further than these islands, and it is no accident that we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the founding of the United Nations almost exactly at the same time as we celebrate the end of the war in Europe. Idealism, both nationally and internationally, was in the air at that time.
Since then, of course, time has moved on. Britain is no longer a world power. Indeed, there are some who would say that Britain, to use the expression in the noble Viscount's Motion, is no longer capable of remaining a nation. Furthermore, the sense of communitythat the individual can only realise his or her full potential within a communityseems to me, for some reason or another, to have been lost. There has developedand I mean no party political implication at allwhat Mr. Neil Kinnock has described as the "Me; Me; Me now" society. Public service service to the nationseems to be at a discount. Only last week I was drawing your Lordships' attention to the deterioration in the sense of service in local government. The same phenomenon, I believe, can be observed in the Civil Service. On the other hand, service overseas seems to me to be in good shape. It is certainly true of the Armed Forces that morale improves if there is work to be done, and that includes joining with others in United Nations peacekeeping operations, which our forces, in my view, do spectacularly well.
If public service is, as I say, at something of a discount, this lays an extra burden on voluntary organisations, and the noble Viscount was quite right to draw our attention to their importance and value. This theme will have particular resonance for your Lordships, many of whom are connected, in one way or anotherincluding the noble Viscount, as he has explainedwith such organisations from the Red Cross to the Boys' Brigade, or whatever organisation it may be. For myself, I have two connections. The first is historical, and dates back to wartime; my mother was a founder member of the Oxford Committee for Greek Famine Relief, which has since, as your Lordships will be aware, become Oxfam. The second is one which I have revealed to your Lordships on a number of occasions; that I am President of the Campaign for the Protection of Rural Wales.
Now it seems to me that voluntary organisations, whether operating overseas or at home, have two advantages and one disadvantage. The two advantages are simple to describe. First, there is no doubt in my mind that such organisations are able to move into areas where official organisations are reluctant to tread. There are many instances of this overseas, where Oxfam or Save the Children have been doing work of the greatest humanitarian value at times and in places where the political impediments are too great for effective government or inter-governmental operation. But this is also true in our own country, as I know from my experience with CPRW.
The second is that they are able to attract those with a sense of idealism, particularly young people, of whom the noble Viscount spoke, in a way that is not open, or hardly open, to official organisations. On the other hand, their
In conclusion, I would only say that the noble Viscount's Motion is welcome and timely. There are problems, but let us hope that we can solve them. If we do not, then I must tell your Lordships that I believe we would be betraying the trust of those whose sacrifice we will be commemorating this coming week-end.
Baroness Seear: My Lords, we in this country have a long, proud and outstanding tradition of volunteers and voluntary service. It is a tradition that has included a great many people throughout the centuries. They were often awkward characters who saw something which they believed to be wrong and were determined, in the teeth of fashionable view, to do something to put it right. There were awkward women as well as awkward men. When I think of awkward women I am thinking of women such as Elizabeth Fry who achieved rather more than some of the awkward men. But perhaps that is a partisan point of view.
In the pursuit of their chosen field, those people recruited other peoplesome of them were as awkward as themselves and that made for considerable difficultiesmany of whom were prepared to serve under their leadership until the wrongs which they believed they had perceived were at least on the way to being righted. It would be to our great disadvantage if we put that spirit in peril. It is essential that it should be preserved. It was, of course, displayed to a remarkable extent during the years of the Second World War.
I have an advantage over the noble Lord, Lord Williams, in this matter. At that time I was living in a small town in Somerset and I remember the coming of the evacuees in the first week after war was declared. Everyone in that town from the richest to the poorest opened their homes to people they had never seen or heard of before and took them in as evacuees. There was a great feeling of communityalthough we would not have used that term at the timeand of mutual responsibility, one for another. There was a feeling of beingI have never found a better phrase for itmembers one of another.
That exalted feeling was slightly tarnished 10 days later when it was discovered that the powers that be had sent us the wrong children. We had been sent children from the Isle of Dogs when we were supposed to have been sent children from Dagenham. All the Isle of Dogs children were turfed out and they sent us the Dagenham children. I recount that because it is a lesson in how important it is for the bureaucrats and those in power to get such things
This sense of voluntary effort and this commitment to voluntary effort is something that we must preserve. There was a moment in the 1960s when it looked as if it might be fading. It was as if there was a feeling that everything should be done by the state. I remember talking to a young news reporter when I was trying to get the carers' association established in a northern town. He said, "We all think this ought to be done by the state", while flaunting his red tie at me. However, I am making no party political points today. I am sure that that is not a point of view which would be supported in any of the parties in this country today. The belief today is in collaboration between the statutory, the private and the voluntary sectors.
We have volunteers and voluntary associations. They are both of the greatest importance if we are to foster and develop the sense of commitment, the use of volunteers and the volunteering spirit, which are very much part of our tradition. However, there are great difficulties confronting both the volunteers and the voluntary associations. I raise a specific point of which I have given notice to the Minister. I hope she received the message. One of the most outstanding and successful of the voluntary activities which we developed in this country is Voluntary Service Overseas. I am told that when someone on Voluntary Service Overseas returns to this country his or her right of residence is not established. If he or she needs support from the social services he has to apply, and the application be approved, because he has lost his right of residence. I am told that normally there will be no problem. When someone from this country has undertaken and completed Voluntary Service Overseas, and returns to this country, it is only right that he should be absolutely assured that he will have the same rights to social security support, if needed, as anyone has who has been living in this country all the time. It is not good enough to say that the officials will probably permit his application to be passed through as though he had been resident. If that is the positionand I checked it only this morningwould it not be a suitable gesture at this time to find some way in which that ruling could be altered? When people undertake Voluntary Service Overseas they would then know that on their return they would have exactly the same standing as any other person resident in this country throughout the time that they have been overseas.
Volunteering is not easy; it can be expensive. People need training and support for such work. My party believesI believe that there is much support for this view outside my partythat in this country we need a community volunteer scheme under which sufficient resources could be made available for young people (although I do not exclusively refer to young people) to enable them to undertake voluntary work for a period of one year, or even two years.
It is a suggestion which the Millennium Fund might consider supporting. There are many proposals regarding the Millennium Fund. However, funds to enable such a scheme to start would be a worthwhile undertaking. It would begin to meet some of the most difficult problems that we have, not only with young people but with older people. As your Lordships' House demonstrates on all Benches, we are living an awfully long time; we go on and on. Your Lordships' House provides a very good, more or less voluntary, scheme for the aged! But a voluntary scheme to which people who do not have a House of Lords to attend could give their services would surely be worthwhile and need not entail the greatest expense.
The major purpose of such a scheme would not be training but service to the community. There is no reason why people should not acquire national vocational qualifications in the process. I do not refer exclusively to youngsters. Such a scheme would involve exactly the kind of work which would give people experience from which they could obtain national vocational qualifications. That would not be the purpose of the scheme but a valuable secondary outcome.
It is not only the volunteers who have difficulties; so, too, do the voluntary organisations. In our enthusiasm to collaborate between voluntary organisations and the statutory powers, a great many additional burdens and opportunities have been presented to the voluntary organisations. I suppose that almost every noble Lord takes part in one or other of such organisations. Your Lordships will be awarethe noble Viscount, Lord Whitelaw, has already mentioned the matterthat the financial problems of many organisations are extremely acute. It is very difficult indeed for them to keep their heads above water.
Perhaps I may make at least one plea regarding the financial help that the statutory bodies give. It would make a tremendous difference if the statutory bodies would make their grants on a three-year basis rather than one year. One simply cannot plan ahead on a one-year basis. After six months, those who ought to be involved in the work of the organisation find themselves spending all their time trying to raise money for the next 12 months. It is a ridiculous way to run those bodies. I beg the House to look at the possibility of extending core funding periods, once granted, to more than one year.
Core funding for voluntary organisations is a problem experienced by all of us. One can obtain money for projects but not for the essential overheads. No one wants expensive, luxurious administration, but there must be some expenses. The refusal to give money for core
The Lord Bishop of Exeter: My Lords, I have no doubt that all the speakers in this welcome debate are familiar with the voluntary principle through personal experience, by being committed to it, or both. Taken together, the faith communities in our country form a considerable proportion of the voluntary sector. Perhaps I may take up a point which the noble Baroness made. So far as concerns faith communities, much of the core funding is in place already because the structure is there. Let us hope that the attention being focused on the financing of the Church's employees, and other problems, will not detract from the large number of volunteers to be found in the faith communities who exercise actual responsibilities. With regard to those responsibilities, one cannot draw a line as to whether they simply concern the faith community or extend to all citizens. In the Church of England alone 25,000 churchwardens, 25,000 other office holders, 8,000 readers, and, more significantly, innumerable persons carry responsibilities in parish church-based projects which have an emphasis on social action in the district. It is a notable feature which has grown in the past 50 years.
With faith communities, there must be well over 100,000 volunteers with actual responsibilities. There has been a tendency of late to regard faith communities as private organisations concerned only with their own business. Perhaps I may assure noble Lords that that is not a true picture overall. Most of those communities have a proper concern for the well-being of the citizens around, and construct programmes accordingly.
As an incumbent, I am acquainted with a back streets down town parish in a seaside town. I shall use it as an example to make a general point on the voluntary principle. My experience tells me that voluntary work can lead people to grow in confidenceI pick up the point from the noble Baroness, Lady Seearand to realise that they have gifts which they did not believe they had. That in turn can lead to them going on to gain qualifications for which they thought they did not have the ability. They can then move into wider areas of service as happened to one of the mothers in a parent toddler group that my parish church pioneered. The groups are common now; they were not 25 years ago.
The mother concerned had character but no qualifications and little confidence in herself. When I came to leave my responsibilities in the parish, the organisation of the large mothers and toddlers group was left in her hands. Later I heard that as a mature student she had gone on to gain a social work qualification. That principle is worth bearing in mind. One of the uses of the voluntary experience is that it can be a stage in people's lives.
I wish to offer your Lordships my experience at the momentthe difficulty of evoking voluntary effort in deep rural areas. There are two reasons for that. First, the rural economy is less favoured than other parts of our economy and people are busy in the deep rural areas
That leads me to another of the general points about the voluntary principle which I wish to offer. Self-effacement is an essential ingredient for voluntary work. Once the engines of publicity focus on individuals, forces and motivations are set up which can harm the integrity of the voluntary enterprise. So let the publicity be for the voluntary principle as a whole, as it is being commended in the valuable Motion before your Lordships' House.
Baroness Young: My Lords, I am sure that we would all like to thank the noble Viscount, Lord Whitelaw, for introducing the debate this afternoon. I know that it has not been easy for him to be present today, and for that we are all the more grateful to him. I shall in a moment say something about the important issues which he has raised. However, before I do so, I must say how surprised I am, on looking at the speakers' list, to find that there is only one other speaker from the Opposition Benches apart from the two Front Bench spokesmen. I am delighted to see that the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, has put his name down to speak today. But one cannot help asking oneself what the reason is for the lack of speakers from the Opposition Benches. It is surely not a lack of interest in so important a subject.
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