§ The Under-Secretary of State for Education and Science (Mr. Hugh Jenkins)
No firm information is available, as local authorities are not required to tell the Department of their intentions. While it is not possible simultaneously to restrain public expenditure and generally to maintain or increase the size and quality of the services provided, it is my impression that many authorities are doing their best to maintain their youth service provison in spite of the difficulties.
§ Mr. Steen
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that Opposition Members are deeply concerned about the sagging morale of the youth service and the destruction of overall activity in youth service provision? Does he know, for example, that in Liverpool the local 1114 authority has pushed voluntary youth work to the bottom of the urban aid list, and that one London borough has told a voluntary youth body that it will lose all its grant next year? Is the hon. Gentleman surprised, therefore, that young people are totally disillusioned with the Government?
§ Mr. Jenkins
Young people are not the only people who are aware that the Opposition are always asking for reductions in public expenditure in general yet oppose every element of restraint which is planned. Consequently, the Opposition have no credit whatsoever in the country. If the hon. Gentleman wishes to raise with me particulars of the specific cases he mentioned, I shall look into them. There are certain circumstances in which some authorities have found great difficulty in maintaining their youth services. On the other hand, there are others which, despite immense difficulties, have made increases in the service. It is far from true to say that the general morale is as bad as the hon. Gentleman suggests.
§ Mr. Flannery
Does my hon. Friend accept that when the Opposition weep crocodile tears and shed hypocrisy about cuts in public expenditure on the youth service, we would appreciate it if they would tell us how to have an expanding education service while cutting public expenditure in the way they tell the Government to do, almost every day?
§ Mr. Jenkins
My hon. Friend has put his finger on the point I was trying to make. He has underlined clearly what I said. But I do not think that anything that either of us can say will prevent the Opposition from continuing to make general statements about the desirability of reducing public expenditure yet asking for increases in every single service.