Wales politics

Presiding officer Elin Jones backs youth parliament

Funky Dragon members visit the Houses of Parliament Image copyright Funky Dragon
Image caption Members of the former Funky Dragon youth assembly visiting the Houses of Parliament

The Senedd's presiding officer Elin Jones has backed setting up a new youth parliament for Wales.

The proposal won support from all assembly parties in a Welsh Conservative debate on Wednesday.

Ms Jones said there had been a "gap in provision" since the Youth Assembly for Wales - known as Funky Dragon - closed in 2014.

She said she was committed to setting up a youth parliament early in the current assembly term.

The Welsh Government withdrew funding from Funky Dragon in 2014, prompting its closure.

It has suggested that the responsibility for any democratically elected youth assembly should sit with the assembly.

A motion put forward by the Conservatives was backed by members of all four assembly groups, including Labour, and was passed without a vote on Wednesday.

During the debate Ms Jones confirmed her commitment "to establishing a permanent youth parliament for Wales early on in the fifth assembly term".

She said the decisions taken in the assembly affect young people's future.

"Their voice must be heard by us as an integral part of our discussions", she said.

She said there had been a "gap in the provision of a national youth assembly for Wales" since Funky Dragon ceased to exist.

Conservative education spokesman Darren Millar said: "Establishing a well-resourced youth assembly is a crucial step in ensuring future youth participation in Welsh politics.

"The political establishment have a shared responsibility to ensuring that people feel sufficiently motivated to turn out on election days."

Image caption Young people from Wales have joined UK Youth Parliament debates in the Commons

During the debate Plaid Cymru's Rhun ap Iorwerth, who was among the signatories of the motion, said: "Whilst I was very critical of the decision to get rid of Funky Dragon it wasn't a youth parliament, and that's what I want to see in Wales."

Neil Hamilton, UKIP group leader, said: "The importance of this project cannot be underestimated."

"It was frankly a national disgrace that in the referendum vote just a few months ago only about 30% of young people aged between 18 and 24 turned out to vote," he said.

"Voter disengagement is one of the great curses of our age".

He said a "youth parliament would be a half way house" between two sides of the argument on extending the franchise for voting to 16-year-olds.

A spokeswoman for the Welsh Government said: "Any democratically elected youth assembly should rightly sit with the National Assembly for Wales as the democratic body in Wales."

The spokeswoman said ministers were providing £1.8m funding to the umbrella body Children in Wales to run the Young Wales project "which enables thousands of young people to engage with ministers and policy makers and influence our work".

During the assembly election campaign, the Tories pledged to cut ministers' pay to fund a youth parliament.

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