The Welsh Government has rejected calls for Wales to join the National Citizen Service, a scheme for teenagers in England that's part of the Prime Minister's 'Big Society'. David Cameron today saw youngsters from London training for the scheme in an outdoors centre at Gilwern near Abergavenny.
– Prime Minister David Cameron MP
My ambition is to offer every teenager the life changing opportunity to take part. National Citizen Service is an investment in young people – it gives them the opportunity to meet people from different backgrounds and learn about how they can make a difference in their communities, whilst all the time gaining new skills and confidence. Young people are responding to this opportunity by committing nearly three-quarters of a million hours of volunteering this summer.
– Welsh Government Spokesperson
We have no plans to introduce the National Citizen Service in Wales. The Welsh Government has always recognised that volunteers have a key role in supporting their communities and has invested accordingly. The Minister for Communities, Carl Sargeant, last year announced £2 million funding split equally between the Volunteering in Wales Fund and for GwirVol - an initiative supporting and promoting youth volunteering. Both initiatives help to make volunteering more accessible as well as increasing the number and quality of volunteering opportunities.
The UK Government intends to have 90,000 16 and 17 year olds on the English scheme by 2014 and today the Wales Office Minister David Jones urged the Welsh Government to 'take up the opportunity for Welsh teenagers'.
– Wales Office Minister David Jones MP
Northern Ireland will be undertaking a pilot scheme in the autumn. I have already encouraged the Welsh Government to get involved in the National Citizen Service scheme and hope they will begin discussions with the UK Government in implementing this scheme in Wales. I will be visiting an NCS Project in Hereford next week and would invite Carl Sargeant to accompany me so that he can see for himself how beneficial NCS is to our young people.
Despite Mr Jones' pleas, it is now clear that the Welsh Government will stick to the schemes it funds through the Wales Council for Voluntary Action, a body that pre-dates David Cameron's 'Big Society'.
During his visit to Wales, the Prime Minister was asked if the Liberal Democrats' decision to block plans to cut the number of MPs means that changes to the Assembly voting system won't go ahead. But he denied that the Welsh Secretary's consultation on her proposals is 'dead in the water'.
– Prime Minister David Cameron MP
No. I look forward to hearing the views of all the parties and then a decision must be made.
The Welsh Secretary, Cheryl Gillan, has launched a Green Paper stating her preference for cutting the number of constituency AMs from 40 to 30, in line with the proposed reduction in Welsh MPs. The number of list AMs, who are less likely to be Labour, would increase from 20 to 30.
She has stated that even if the number of Assembly constituencies isn't cut, they need to be redrawn with more equal numbers of voters, in line with the Westminster proposals which the Lib Dems say they'll block. The Welsh Government says any change should be a matter for the Assembly to decide.
The Prime Minister says he still hopes to get his plans to cut the number of MPs through Parliament, despite the opposition of the Liberal Democrats. Under the proposals the total number of constituencies would drop from 650 to 600. Wales would lose 25% of its MPs, with a cut from 40 to 30.
Mr Cameron said his focus is on the economy and he hadn't wanted months of wrangling over reform of the House of Lords, which caused his falling out with Nick Clegg. He was visiting the Gilwern Outdoor Education Centre near Abergavenny and met teenagers from London doing National Citizen Service.
It's part of Mr Cameron's Big Society project and only applies to England, though he claimed that the Welsh Government was offered funding. The Gilwern centre offers activities including climbing, orienteering and canoeing. Mr Cameron is visiting sporting centres around the UK during the Olympics.
The Prime Minister is in Wales later today. His visit comes the day after his deputy blocked plans to reduce the size of the House of Commons, including a cut in the number of Welsh MPs from 40 to 30. Nick Clegg was retaliating for the Tory revolt that's sabotaged reform of the House of Lords.
The Welsh Secretary, Cheryl Gillan, has also had her plans to reform Assembly elections put in doubt as a result. But David Cameron wants to escape the coalition's conflicts on his trip to Wales and highlight the benefits he says the Olympic Games are bringing to the whole of Britain.