Founding Father of the UK Youth Parliament
Andrew Rowe was the Conservative MP for Faversham and Mid-Kent, without whom there would be no UK Youth Parliament. Andrew believed passionately that the young people of the UK should be given a voice on the issues that matter to them, and presented a ten minute rule bill to the House of Commons in the 1990s calling for the creation of a Youth Parliament. He then worked tirelessly to bring together a steering group of young people and representatives from key youth organisations, to support the creation of UKYP. At the first Annual Sitting, MYPs referred to him as the “Father” of all Youth Parliaments. At the 4th Annual Sitting of the UK Youth Parliament in July 2004, Andrew Rowe was appointed the first ever Patron of UKYP.
At the 2003 Annual Sitting, Andrew presented to the MYPs present his hopes for the future of the organisation…
1. Privilege. It is a real privilege to be allowed to take up some of your time when you have so much to get through. Thank you very much for inviting me. It is also a privilege for each of you to be here. You all work very hard and have a great deal to contribute to the UKYP but it is important never to forget that, however wonderful you are, you are here as representatives of your constituents and are privileged to have been elected.
2. Progress and Pride. You should feel Proud of the extraordinary progress you have made in 3 short years. I understand that over 90% of Local Authorities have now signed up to the concept, even if some of them have so far done very little in terms of practical help. Also you are now much more truly representative of your generation than when it all began. Take my own county of Kent. I reckon that its first 7 MYPs were elected by about 150 people. This year some 25000 cast their vote from an electoral roll of over 40,000 and next year it will be still more. Your success is even more remarkable when I consider how small your funding is. My last written question as MP, I asked how many staff the CYPU had and in 2001 it had over 100. Surely the Government could spare some of their funding for young people to help you build on your remarkable success. You have succeeded in getting your views across to government officials and ministers and to local authorities and you should feel proud of this. But, as one of the MYPs quoted in the excellent, joint BT and UKYP ‘Seen and Heard’ report says ‘there is no reason why just because young people have made their views known they have to be accepted.’
3. Patience. As the quote above makes clear, people’s views don’t just change overnight and getting policies altered is often a long term job. But it can be done and there are plenty of people in this organisation who can tell stories of success and of how they have gone about it. Don’t give up if your first approach does not seem to make a difference.
4. Perseverance. This is closely linked to patience but it implies a lot of hard work. If policy makers don’t seem to listen it can be because they disagree. It can be because they reckon it would be hard work to change and they are too idle or too busy with other things. It can be because they are under pressure to keep the policy as it is. That’s where the hard work comes in. You have the chance to collect the views of your generation and to come to the policy makers for a second or third time. Sometimes they will be glad of the added arguments because they are keen to change but scared to do so.
5. Partnership. There is absolutely no reason why the UKYP has to do all its work alone. One of UKYP’s Trustees, Ashley Sweetland, has shown how advantageous it can be to find a firm prepared to go into partnership with you and the joint BT and UKYP ‘Seen and Heard’ report is good for you and for them. I hope you will all try to find potential sponsors whether national or local to help you develop the UKYP. And there is no reason to stop at commercial sponsors. Why not explore partnerships with big NGO’s interested in some of the things which interest you? One of the issues which I know concerns you is the image of young people in the media and indeed everywhere. In particular, old people are often hostile. They see groups of young people in the street as potentially threatening. They hate the way young people will kick a ball into their garden and retrieve it without asking. If they are rude they get rudeness back and the whole thing escalates. This sort of gulf will be equally worrying to organisations which deal with older people. Why not try to form a partnership with Age Concern or Help the Aged to work together on common interests? I did not think of it at the time but SAGA might equally be interested!
6. Publicity. “If they haven’t heard it you haven’t said it.” This title of a book by a friend of mine remains true. Not nearly enough people know that the UKYP exists nor what it stands for. I suggest that the time has come for you to make much better use of your National status. For example, two MYP’s here today have worked very hard on the new community disorder Bill and have produced what appears to be an excellent report on it. It would not be difficult to use email to circulate their report to MYPs and seek their views. If enough of you support the report why not adopt it and then make a National splash about it? If, for example, a date was chosen in September to present the report to Whitehall, why not simultaneously present it to as many Local Councils, local Chief Constables, other relevant authorities and, most important, the local media? It would not cost a lot to do; it would undoubtedly attract interest on a scale which one presentation in one place could never do. And there must be other issues which could attract the same treatment.
7. Possibilities. I believe that there are many possibilities already open to you and that you should where possible go through doors that are opening rather than feel you have to batter doors down. First, you should make maximum use of remarks which are helpful to you. Look, for example, at the Secretary of State’s remark in his foreword to the official reply to your manifesto: “The UKYP is proving very effective in expressing the views of young people.” Quote it everywhere! But especially to the Treasury! Collect such remarks and use them for fund raising, for recruitment and for interesting councillors and other authority figures. Second, never forget that the Government is interested in the Cantle Committee’s recommendation that there should be a national debate on “shared values” led by or, certainly strongly influenced by young people. They are having understandable difficulty in formulating such a debate but, as the UK becomes ever more pluralist with its citizens originating from all over the globe and bringing here traditions of their own, the need for such a debate is clear. What is more, it is your generation whose views need particularly to be heard. That opportunity and challenge is there for you to seize. I hope you will.
8. Poverty. There are two reasons for adding this heading to my list. The first is local. The young people you most need to engage in the UKYP are the hardest to reach. Many of them are from backgrounds where lack of money is a very big player in their growing up. I hope that you will always make a special effort to reach those whom you might not naturally come across very often and whom you may well distrust. Everybody has some good qualities and if they are accepted and respected their good qualities will often grow and strangle their bad ones. Second, it is important that your generation remembers that I billion people in the world live on less per day than a cow in the EU gets in subsidy. The international dimension of your work may often seem remote from your daily bread and butter issues but it should not be. I hope that as you grow in respect and effectiveness you will prove a model for youth Parliaments round the world and before long you will have international partners to work with you.
Andrew Rowe (1935 – 2008)
• Born: 11th September 1935
• Family: Married (Sheila). One son, two step-daughters
• Education: Eton College, Merton College – Oxford
• Non-political career: Assistant Master Journalist Lecturer Parliamentary Adviser Director Community Affairs, Conservative Central Office Trustee, Community Service Volunteers Founder Member, Kent County Engineering Society Editor, Small Business
• Political career: MP for Kent Mid 1983 – 2001, Member of the British Delegation to Council of Europe and Parliamentary Private Secretary to Richard Needham (Trade and Industry Minister) 1992 – 1995.