On 26th July Tim Loughton MP, for East Worthing and Shoreham asked a question of the Government. “To ask the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, which policy areas relevant to vulnerable children and young people are under consideration in the negotiations on the UK leaving the EU.” Tim is someone who is a big supporter of involving young people in events such as the Youth Parliament attendance in the House of Commons in the Autumn, something that is opposed by many of his colleagues so it is perhaps not a huge surprise for him of all Conservative MPs to ask such a question. The answer came from Steve Baker who is the Parliamentary Under Secretary for Exiting the European Union. Steve responded saying “The Government is considering the effect that exiting the EU will have on vulnerable children and young people across a wide range of issues. It is vital that these interests are heard as we enter the negotiations. Officials from the Department for Exiting the European Union have already engaged with child and youth advocacy groups and will continue to do so in the coming weeks and months as part of our strategy to ensure that a wide range of stakeholder perspectives are factored into our approach to exit. The UK has a longstanding tradition of ensuring that our rights and liberties are protected domestically and of fulfilling our international human rights obligations. The decision to leave the EU does not change that. The Repeal Bill will ensure that our rights and freedoms will be brought into UK law and this includes the rights of vulnerable children and young people.”
For over 10 years I was Chair of a major youth charity in the South East of England, if they have been consulted I would see this as a significant step forward in terms of what Tim has requested and Steve has stated has taken place. The charity is now known as YMCA Downslink Group, perhaps they can comment if they believe they have been listened to? However Steve is also suggesting that the Government has a strategy to ensure that a wide range of stakeholder perspectives. Perhaps we can expect some form of indication of what this means for those of us who are no longer young people. After all Steve Baker is not a young person and Tim is certainly not, although he is a couple of years younger than me. The real travesty in this exchange is not that they still have a lot to do if they are to engage young people, but that both men voted with their Party on 8th December 2015 to deny 16 and 17 year olds the chance to vote in the EU referendum. So whatever noble intentions they may claim to have now, they both chose to disregard the views of young people less than 2 years ago in a matter that would have meant much more to many of the young people they now claim to be concerned about. It is perhaps time to hold them to account for such a clear failure! After all although their votes were only 2 out of 303 (253 voted to give young people a vote) at least the other 301 are not now pretending that young people matter to them!