Extracts from a speech to the Political Studies Association
"Those voices who are warning us about the dangers of ghettoisation in our country and a disintegrating sense of national cohesion are absolutely right. We need to bring people together and bring Britain together. I think that the best way of bringing people together is to enable them to do things together. To build something together that is of lasting value.
I am always struck when asking anyone of my father's generation who did national service by the fact that they tend to reply in a similar way. It was something we all did together - irrespective of who we were, where we lived, where we came from, or what god we worshipped. Today, university is our closest equivalent, with each campus becoming a melting pot mixing together all the elements of our country. But can that ever be enough? Isn't there more we can do to enable young people to come together and give service to their country? Look at the best examples of organisations that encourage community service, particularly amongst the young. The Duke of Edinburgh Award and Prince's Trust schemes here and the Peace Corps in America. Voluntary Service Overseas. What they do for young people and with young people is inspiring.
Why not challenge them and many other organisations - from the Armed Forces to community groups - to develop ideas for a school leaver programme, lasting a few months? Something that prepares teenagers for their responsibilities as adult citizens - that enables them to meet people from different backgrounds, and to learn about the realities of life in different communities, and which teaches them the lifelong lesson that we're all in this together, that we have duties to our fellow citizens, and that self-respect and self-esteem come from respecting others and putting their needs first.
This idea, and this approach, goes to the heart of my political philosophy. There's not a single challenge that's not best tackled by asking what can we all do about it - government, individuals, families, businesses, voluntary organisations. And that's the right approach to politics - not waiting around for the government to do things, but bringing people together to make things happen. I believe that creating a national school leaver programme is exactly the kind of positive, optimistic change we need to make a tangible reality of the important discussions on British values that you're having today.
I want us to debate what form this new national movement could take. It should build on the work that has already been done by the Russell Commission, set up to create a new national framework for youth engagement and volunteering. We should involve young people in the creation of this new national movement, to make sure that it's relevant and inspiring - not a dull, worthy obligation. We should involve businesses, social action organisations, community leaders and faith groups. But above all, we should view this new enterprise as something for every young person in our country. An essential part of growing up to be a British citizen, not just an add-on extra for a select few."