Barry Gardiner, Labour MP for Brent North, yesterday accused the Liberal Democrat led Brent Council of intimidating members of Brent Youth Parliament. He raised a point of order in yesterday evening's debate on the European Communities Act:
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Mr. Speaker has given his full support to the work of the Youth Parliament and I seek your ruling, Mr. Deputy Speaker, as to whether it is in order for a public body to seek to intimidate its members in any way.
Recently, my hon. Friend Ms Butler invited young people who were members of her Facebook group to visit her in Parliament. Many of those young people were also members of the Brent Youth Parliament. Shortly thereafter, members of the Youth Parliament received a letter from Brent council's senior lawyer. The letter stressed that Brent Youth Parliament is supported by the London borough of Brent and it counselled them as follows: "You will obviously need to give careful consideration as to whether you wish to align yourself with a particular person or group and what impact this may have on others' perception of you as a Brent Youth Parliament member. If you do decide to participate in local politics, you will need to give consideration as to which person or group you are willing to be connected with and any implications of this."
Many of these young people have been frightened by the letter and regard it as a warning shot. They have previously believed that Brent council was encouraging young people to become politically active, but they now consider that it encourages them only if they are sympathetic to the Liberal Democrats. What action can this House take to ensure that these young people are not bullied in this way by a local authority?
The Deputy Speaker advised Mr Gardiner to write to the Speaker about the issue.