Parliament recently held a major debate on the “Big Society” and some 40 MPs lined up to participate. This demonstrates how powerful the concept is.

For some it is a straightforward means to allow individuals and their communities to push back on the power of the state. For others, it is a debate about how a partnership between state and community can work together to enhance the quality of life for those in their community.

And there are others who say, quite rightly, that active citizens, good deeds and community involvement have always been a feature of day to day life and what the Big Society is all about is simply recognising this and building on it.
 
Everyone has a point. But surely the most important thing here is what can be done in practice to make a difference.
 
I do think that in part the Big Society is about restoring responsibility to individuals and their communities, so that they do not always need the permission of the State to get on and play an active part in bettering the lives of their neighbours.

For instance, it has come to something when two young PCSOs are held back from jumping into a pond to rescue a young boy because they did not receive the go-ahead from senior command in case they had not had swimming lessons.

This is an example of where over-dependence on state regulation takes over from natural human instinct. And so with small charitable and voluntary enterprises; they often spring up spontaneously out of local need to fill a gap. They should be nurtured, but not entangled in the kind of regulation that so often goes with government or state organised activity.
 
It has been one of the most heartening aspects of my new life as MP for Ealing and Acton to discover just how much good community work takes place at the hands of charitable and voluntary organisations across my constituency. I was thrilled to be invited to present some of the awards at the Ealing Community and Voluntary Services’ Awards Ceremony and was bowled over by the enthusiasm of many of the volunteers who were there.

I have also met a number of inspirational community leaders who give over much of their lives to organising activities for young people outside school hours.

I should mention too the young volunteers from the Tallo Centre who do brilliant work providing advice and information in our local Somali community. 

I know there is concern that reduced spending on local authority budgets may damage their chances. But the Coalition Government is determined to provide support where it is needed – most of all, it is determined to make it easier for these small operations to compete on a more level playing field with the bigger service providers, including local authorities’ own in-house services, to attract funding for various work projects.
 
But more even than finance, the debate about the Big Society is a call to action to all of us who might just find a little bit of time in our busy lives to offer our talents, whatever they may be, to something going on locally that needs support.

Businesses have a role to play too, whether it is helping with funding, or putting their own expertise at the service of the local community. The end result is not, as some cynics would have it, a new, cheap way of filling in where government has made cuts.

It is actually about enriching the lives of families and communities using all the energy, talent and enthusiasm that we can all put forward to make our communities even better than they already are.