The Journal of Lynton Charles, Fiduciary Secretary to the Treasury

The following is the verbatim text of a speech delivered by Mr Lynton Charles MP to the Akelas and Baloos of the Scout Association, Friday 9 June 2000

Chair (Robin Panty-Williams, Berkshire): "Fellow pack leaders, welcome back from coffee. The home-made biscuits supplied by Tring Townswomen's Guild were up, I see, to their usual high standards. As, I hope, will be the address from our next speaker, slotted in at rather the last moment, I'm afraid. It's rare for ministers to agree to speak at Scouts events, and even rarer for the request to come from them. Some of the more politically minded of you may recognise him from his appearances on Question Time and Newsnight, but I may need to remind most of those present that our special guest speaker is Lynton Charles MP, Fiduciary Secretary to the Treasury. So a big dib-dib-dob for him!"

Lynton Charles: "Mr Chairman, I am delighted to have been invited here today. I was myself, for three short months, a member of the Boringfield pack, though, alas, my career was cut short by an incident involving a Girl Guide and a woggle on summer camp in 1967. Still, I live in hope that my twins will soon join the Cubs, though until now the lure of Pokemon and Euro 2000 has been too great. You see, your activities are important, to society and to the government. Why do I say that?"

Someone from the audience: "Because you're here!"

Lynton Charles: "Well, if I wasn't here, I couldn't say it, could I? No, it's because you represent something crucial in today's globalising world. You represent the role of community. You see, we believe that we have to keep hold of the traditional values, the values that made this nation what it is, but we have - at the same time - to update them in a world which is changing rapidly. We have to embrace change, while holding on tight to our values.

"That, I believe, is what you do. I am told by our chairman that, last year, three of the 20 tests for the yellow badge were altered to take account of the modern world. You no longer, for instance, require Scouts to walk for a mile down a country lane alone and blindfolded. You are right to perceive the new dangers posed by today's traffic patterns. I was also informed last week by a local pack leader that - these days - a good half of you are gay. Thirty years ago, society might have looked askance on grown homosexuals going camping with adolescent boys, and sharing tents and nude swimming trips."

Several in the audience: "Is the man mad? Is this a wind-up?"

Lynton Charles: "I'm sorry? What I was saying is that today we allow everybody an equal opportunity to involve themselves in traditional activities. The new with the old, not opposed to it.

"In the same way, this government has sought, like you, to preserve what is best, while preparing for the world that is to come. I want to share with you some examples that you might find interesting. In 1997, when we came to power, spending on assistance to voluntary organisations in the youth area was in the region of 0.0002 per cent of GDP. Because of our prudent economic policies [Shouts of 'No, No, No'] . . . Er, where was I? Yes, we'll shortly be announcing a 75 per cent increase in that amount. We could only do this because we have ended the era of . . . "

Voice from audience: "Boom and bust?" (Laughter)

Lynton Charles: "Um, yes, boom and bust. As you say. Similarly, the combined effect of the index-linked families income tax credit guarantee will be to significantly enhance the life opportunities of the least-privileged children, many of whom you work with on a day-to-day basis. I could go on . . . "

Voice: "We know. The question is, when will you stop?" (Laughter)

Lynton Charles: "When will I stop? Er, now."

This article first appeared in the 19 June 2000 issue of the New Statesman, The New Statesman Profile - the matriarchs