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This Lords Library briefing provides background information about the National Citizen Service Bill [HL] (HL Bill 64 of 2016–17). It includes an overview of the current National Citizen Service and policy developments, as well as a summary of the Bill’s provisions and initial reaction to the Bill.

The National Citizen Service (NCS) was set up in 2011 under the Coalition Government and is currently open to all 16- and 17-year olds in England. The NCS consists of courses which comprise a mixture of activities—adventures, life skills and social action—which encourage the participants to engage with their community and develop for the future.

On 18 May 2016, the Queen’s Speech announced that the National Citizen Service would be placed on a permanent statutory footing. The Cabinet Office briefing notes to the Queen’s Speech explained that a National Citizen Service Bill would “expand National Citizen Service by encouraging thousands more young people to take advantage of the skills building programmes offered” and that the NCS would “benefit from a £1.2 billion cash injection”.

The National Citizen Service Bill was introduced in the House of Lords on 11 October 2016. A draft royal charter was published alongside the Bill, as a command paper, to allow both Houses of Parliament the opportunity to scrutinise its provisions in connection with the Bill. The Bill applies to England only. The Explanatory Notes to the Bill explain that the Bill aims to help fulfil the Government’s objectives in two ways. First, the Bill, in combination with the Charter, would reform the legal framework for the NCS. In particular the combination of the Bill and Charter:

  • Incorporates the new NCS Trust as a Charter body and creates a legislative mechanism to transfer the business of the Company to the new Trust. This creates a legislative framework for the NCS, with the aim of making it a national institution while preserving its independent ethos.
  • Aims to secure that the administrative and funding arrangements for the NCS Trust are appropriate for the increased level of public funds the Trust will manage, with proper accountability to government and Parliament. 
  • Aims to impose on the NCS Trust an appropriate level of government control for a body in receipt of public funds.

Secondly, the Bill would enable HM Revenue and Customs to send information about the Trust and its work to those young people who are eligible for NCS (and their parents and carers) and invite them to take part in the NCS.

Second reading of the Bill is due to take place in the House of Lords on 25 October 2016.

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