Statement: A Youth Parliament for Wales
Gareth Bennett AM
Party: United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP)
Diolch, Dirprwy Lywydd, a diolch, Llywydd, for your statement today. You mentioned that there has been cross-party support for the idea of the youth parliament in the past and that, indeed, remains the case. UKIP continues to be supportive of the idea. You recognise that there are many challenges and issues facing young people in Wales today, and having a regular channel of communication between the Assembly on the one hand and a kind of youth wing of the Assembly on the other can be no bad thing. Now, I appreciate that we have had previous youth fora like Funky Dragon, which did carry out some valuable work, but which didn’t strictly constitute a youth parliament, so we are heading towards something new.
I was going to ask you, Llywydd, how you see the youth parliament taking shape in the future, but, of course, you did make the point earlier that one of the things you want is the parliament itself—the senedd ieuenctid, to give it its alternative name—you want that body to itself make the suggestion of how they see their role, going forward, which I think is a very good idea. So, that may limit you in what you can say on this point, but if you do have any more clarity of your own on how you envision the youth parliament going forward, that would be interesting for us to hear today.
You also mentioned the importance of diversity, which is something we also have to bear in mind, and you mentioned, I believe, an engagement programme. So, if you have any more to tell us about the engagement programme, that would also be useful.
We do have something that’s about to take place on the equalities and local government committee, which is an inquiry into disengagement from politics of various groups. I believe that one of the themes we are addressing is a general theme of disengagement from politics of the young, which was a suggestion that initially came from Jack Sargeant, whom I notice is here, so he may well expand on this. But I just wondered if our inquiry may actually help in the work you’re doing with developing the senedd ieuenctid. So, I await further developments. Diolch yn fawr.
Thank you for the support of UKIP for the establishment of the senedd ieuenctid and for the issues that you’ve identified there, and in particular the issue about the relationship between the youth parliament and our Parliament. As I said earlier, it is for the youth parliament to decide on its own priorities and its own ways of working and how it wants that relationship to happen. But I think the important point in terms of committees, this Chamber and Government as well, is that when you are undertaking work where you want the views of young people, or wish to have the views of young people, you make the offer to the youth parliament to discuss, and they may decide, ‘Oh no, we’re not interested in that at all and we don’t want to offer any view into that. We have a different priority’, at least the channels of communication are open on both sides. But it will be for the youth parliament to decide on its own priorities.
The fact that the committee you sit on is doing that work on disengagement of the young in the political process is an interesting coincidence of timing and I’m sure that the young people who’ll be elected to this first youth parliament will be interested in sharing their views. They are probably the engaged young people, but they will know of many around them who are not as engaged as they are. So, I hope that it’s a two-way process between the youth parliament and this Parliament on how we influence each other, and especially how young people get to have a direct influence on the legislation and the policy and the debates that we hold here in this Assembly.