Lord Lieutenant, Ladies and Gentlemen, I cannot say how delighted I am to be with you all in Manchester today. It has been fascinating to sit in on two of the workshops and I look forward to joining you for lunch afterwards. I know many people have put a great deal of work into organising this event, particularly Michael Aris and his team, and I am most grateful to them. All I can say is that you can't beat army leadership on these occasions! I am also enormously grateful to John Jarvis for so generously sponsoring this event, and obviously to all his staff who have looked after us so well.
It is extraordinary to think how far the Trust has come since we held our first 'Working Together' conference three and a half years ago which, if I remember correctly, took place in yet another of John's chain of hotels. What is even more remarkable is all we have managed to do since I wrote to everyone last March. I won't dwell on the details of my letter, but any of you who want to look at that interesting piece of archive material will see we have achieved nearly all we set out to do which is a great credit to all of you. Many people have played an important part in these developments, but I do congratulate all the members of the Advisory Council, and Allen Sheppard in particular, for the way they have navigated us through all these very complicated changes. In particular, trying to explain to everybody exactly what the changes are all about. It is very sad that Allen Sheppard can't be here today, and again, I am deeply grateful to him.
I hope you all like our new logo. It was not an easy task to choose it. I do want to thank Richard George for his most generous sponsorship of this particular part of the exercise. I only hope he didn't have to put up the price of Weetabix every time we changed our minds!
I am delighted at the way in which the Trust is becoming increasingly professional in all sorts of ways, both in terms of how we present ourselves to the outside world, and how we organise our own affairs. I could not be more pleased that the Trust has now won an 'Investor in People' award though, if John Moorhouse is here, he will no doubt remind us that Scottish Business in the Community got there first. Just as, Ladies and Gentlemen, the Trusts in Wales will remind me that they were the first to have a shared office!
The success of this group of organisations working principally with disadvantaged young people never ceases to amaze me. When we began in 1976 we had an idea of what we wanted to do and how we wanted to do it - but little or nothing to do it with and a great deal of scepticism about whether we could do it at all. Our principal asset was a tiny band of very enthusiastic volunteers.
The Prince's Trust did not have a single paid employee until 1987, less than 10 years ago. PYBT did not exist 10 years ago. PTV's first four teams graduated in February 1991 - just five years ago, although Community Venture began almost five years before that.
And yet look where we are today. This year alone, the two business Trusts will together help 4,000 young people to start up and run their own enterprises.
Although some of you may have heard me use this figure before, I think it is worth repeating that, put together, our hundred most successful PYBT businesses now turn over a combined total of £50 million every year, and employ more than 2,000 people across the country.
Just as remarkable is the fact that the 10,000th young person will complete the Volunteers programme this Spring. We have persuaded all the political parties to help us in this effort and will be celebrating our success at an event in June with The Prime Minister and leaders of the opposition parties.
The Prince's Trust - Action, as I must now learn to call you, has continued to grow and develop its invaluable and unique network of volunteers and yet at the same time, has lost none of its zest for innovation and risk-taking which has characterised it over the years. It was my first Trust, afterall, which gave birth to the rest of us.
Finally, in Wales, we now have a refocused organisation. The Prince's Trust - Bro, much better able to work with young people and communities in order to help them improve their local environment in a thoroughly holistic manner.
It was, of course, all this success which made the various changes of the last year so necessary. Under the single banner of The Prince's Trust we will now, I believe, be seen much more clearly as this country's leading organisation for enabling disadvantaged young people to achieve their potential.
Working more closely together also adds value to what we do. The Business Trust's recent work on reaching ethnic minorities, for example, is highly relevant to other parts of this organisation trying to reach particularly difficult target markets.
However, the rather sad fact is that all this work is now more relevant than ever. Whether through unemployment, or difficulties at school, or lack of qualifications, or, in too many cases, problems such as drug abuse or homelessness, the reality is that hundreds of thousands of young people are finding they cannot play their full part as citizens.
This matters for all sorts of reasons. We will never realise our full economic potential in this country until standards of education and training match those of our competitors. As you may have seen, we are pursuing the Study Support Programme which we established in 1991 and presenting proposals to the Millennium Commission because, without these and similar initiatives to improve standards in our schools, we will never achieve our Education and Training targets. The research on which we are basing our bid to the Commission shows that 40% of all secondary students are, quite simply, underperforming at school. As many as 15% are truant or are disruptive, and 5% have effectively dropped out of school altogether. This can hardly be the trademark of a civilised society.
Even more worrying, in my view, is the social impact on communities of 345,000 people aged between 16 and 25 who have left school and been out of work for six months or more. And the most alarming figure of all relates to the young people who simply 'disappear'. Based on the Labour Force Survey of Spring 1995, there may be as many as 100,000 unemployed 16- and 17-year-olds with no visible legal means of support. They have left school but are neither in college or higher education, not in work, nor involved in Youth Training. They seem simply to have vanished into thin air. They, Ladies and Gentlemen, are our primary concern, but are very difficult to reach.
The social consequences of this are all around us, if we care to look. I have seen them in places such as the Penrhys Estate in South Wales, in Easterhouse in Glasgow, and in some of our rundown inner-cities in England. What I have seen makes me somewhat relieved that at least my Trusts are active in these situations.
But the problem can even be on our own doorstep. The Prince's Trust in Gloucestershire recently organised a public meeting in Tetbury, the small market town near Highgrove, to talk about young people at risk from drug and alcohol abuse. Unbelievably, almost 300 people were present which just shows the relevance of The Prince's Trust's work, even in a small and relatively prosperous place like that!
As we approach the celebrations to mark the year 2000, people throughout the country are planning millennium initiatives covering many spheres of our national life. But just as important as all these at this point in our history is what we do for our most vital resource of all, the young people who will actually be living in the next millennium. As the head of the ambulance service in one metropolitan area said to me just last week, we will never regenerate our inner cities until young people care about their communities and have a greater sense of citizenship.
So all our work in this Trust is totally relevant to the needs of young people as we approach the year 2000. Indeed, it is recognised as such by many independent commentators, and by the leaders of the main political parties.
The Trust's Volunteers, for instance, are having enormous success, not just in helping unemployed people make something of their lives, not just in building the skills of young people with jobs, but in helping all the participants realise the importance of the contribution they can make to their own community and that everyone, employed and unemployed, is part of the same society. As several volunteers have told me over the years, the only fault with the programme is that it isn't compulsory for everyone!
In an economic climate where the guarantee of a job for life for young people certainly seems to have become a thing of the past, the Business Trust has given some of them the opportunity to realise their own dream of self employment. Of course, not everyone can or would want to be self employed. But what the Trust has shown is that there are many thousands who are capable of success in business, if only they can be given the chance. Most of those we have helped would not have got started but for our particular belief in them, and after that, obviously, other people begin to believe in them which is the great thing.
I am also very proud of the way in which other countries around the world are now looking at what The Prince's Trust can offer them. Last year, for example, with the support of President Mandela, The Nations Trust was set up in South Africa to see how our experience with Study Support and establishing small businesses might assist with the kind of challenges facing the former townships. It is also very encouraging that President Chirac of France has asked if, when he comes to Britain on a State Visit in May, he can spend a day looking at the work of the Trust and of Business in the Community, because he wants to see how our experience in peripheral estates in Glasgow might help tackle some of the challenges facing young people in France.
Another point I would like to make clear is that for our work to be most effective, we need to work in partnership with other bodies such as central and local government, schools and colleges, community groups, and so on. Different interest groups, when brought together in the right way can achieve far more than they could ever possibly do by themselves.
I want to single out above all the relationship with Business in the Community and, of course, its Scottish counterpart. Together they now have well over 400 of the UK's leading companies in membership, and by this summer will have taken 700 business leaders on 'Seeing is Believing' visits to see the practical ways by which they can make a difference in various communities, and this programme I think has been a great success.
Business afterall is a particularly crucial partner for all of us, not just because they sometimes have money (though not all that much, business leaders keep telling me!) but particularly because of the range of 'in-kind' help they can provide, ranging from secondees, to surplus or recycled equipment, to their practical know-how, and obviously the ability to simply crash through bureaucracy and get things done. The other point, often forgotten, is that businesses do actually care about the problems I have outlined. As one business leader once remarked, there is a very clear link between prosperous high streets and prosperous back streets.
Businesses are already great supporters of these Trusts and I look forward to building this partnership further in the future. Indeed, I saw an excellent local example of partnership between the local community, business and local government when I opened the new Salford Foyer this morning.
But by far the best advertisement for all we do, Ladies and Gentlemen, is the young people whom we have been able to help. Travelling round this country, I meet hundreds of them every year, and they are a constant source of inspiration to me.
The way in which The Prince's Trust works with them is often every bit as important as the actual things we do. For example, the marvellous contribution made by our volunteer army - the thousands of committee members, supporters and business advisers, gives us an unrivalled pool of expertise on which we can all call. Their experience, I hope, encourages others to become involved and I keep trying to encourage the business advisers of which there are nearly 6,000, to recruit a new business adviser each year.
We also have the ability to be flexible, and respond quickly to changing demands which is absolutely essential, I believe, so as to avoid stagnation.
Most importantly, in my view, we are able to take risks, not in a cavalier fashion, but in a way that gives the most disadvantaged their first proper chance in life.
It is very easy, I know, in trying to help young people, to gradually drift up-market. That is not our job. We must focus on those young people who need us most; those who haven't yet been given the opportunity to make something of their lives. Our task is to enable them to show the rest of us just what they can do if they are given a chance.
That challenging task will be better served by the kind of re-structuring which has had to take place. Most of us become somewhat unnerved by change and I know how fiercely loyal people become to their own particular part of the Trusts' operations, so I can sympathise with those who may have become anxious about all the changes. However, I can only say that it is vital, if we are to be able to make the impact we desire, to present ourselves to the outside world in the most comprehensible form possible. By calling ourselves The Prince's Trust, I believe this will help to cut down the confusion that seems to have existed. It has already proved to be enormously valuable, for instance, to have a single headquarters in London for all the divisions of the Trust, and I am sure the new logo will help as well - even though the actual shape of the feathers may not please everyone! (Thank goodness The Prince's Trust doesn't have a uniform as well!)
So thank you, more than I can possibly say, all of you, for the part you all play. The Trust has very ambitious targets but, with your help and enthusiasm, I know we shall meet in the future."