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Lords Chamber

Volume 620: debated on Wednesday 20 December 2000

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House Of Lords

Wednesday, 20th December 2000.

The House met at half-past two of the clock: The LORD CHANCELLOR on the Woolsack.

Prayers—Read by the Lord Bishop of Bath and Wells.

Maternity Services

What measures they are taking to improve the state of maternity services.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health
(Lord Hunt of Kings Heath)

My Lords, we have an extensive work programme to develop and improve many aspects of maternity care. This includes improvements in safety through clinical guidelines on caesarean sections, foetal monitoring and induction of labour and improving midwife staffing levels, recruitment and retention.

My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for that Answer and I am encouraged that there is a work programme ahead. However, does he agree that one of the difficulties is that midwives are fed up, disillusioned and leaving the service because small maternity units are being closed and childbirth schemes are being discontinued? Will he and his colleagues intervene to prevent such closures and ensure that such units continue?

Will the Minister also ensure that the regulations which will come before the House in January reflect the wishes of the Royal College of Midwives? Those are: a distinct register for midwives; a distinct committee for midwifery under the UKCC; and a supervisor of regulation of midwives, with a small team to support her. Will he ensure that those provisions are included in the new regulations? Otherwise I fear that the safety and well-being of women and their babies will be in jeopardy.

My Lords, I well recognise the contribution of midwives in the provision of services. The individual responsibility which they take provides a model for the way in which we want the workforce to develop. Therefore, it is important that we support midwives in their responsibilities.

I recognise the popularity of small maternity units both among women and midwives and I know that a considerable number throughout the country provide art effective service. The noble Baroness will know that there have been issues around the recognition of such units for training purposes which have brought into question their long-term viability. However, I want to reassure her that we are discussing with the Royal College of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health and the Royal College of Midwives the best way to work together on broader issues around maternity units' staffing and configuration, which I hope will ensure that small units can be provided in future.

As regards regulation, we have recently finished the consultation exercise. I shall listen carefully to the views of the Royal College of Midwives. The regulations are concerned with upholding the public interest in the regulation of professionals but I believe that each profession must have confidence in those arrangements. I shall seek to ensure that that happens.

My Lords, does the Minister agree that good quality maternity care in the 21st century must more effectively address the post-natal needs of mothers? Does he also agree that although mothers may be effectively monitored up to childbirth, they may find themselves almost abandoned thereafter, isolated, depressed and anxious?

My Lords, I hope that the picture is not as bleak as the noble Baroness has painted it. I believe that the role of midwives and health visitors and primary care generally is as crucial after the birth as it is before. As part of the comprehensive development of midwifery services, including aspects after the birth, we want to ensure that women receive support during what can be a challenging period. I also hope that the development of primary care trusts will enable us to ensure a consistency of approach in primary care throughout the country.

My Lords, picking up the point made by my noble friend Lady Cumberlege, does the Minister accept that nothing that is done in setting up the new nursing and midwifery council should jeopardise the recruitment or retention of midwives?

Perhaps I may press the Minister further. In considering the new structure, will he bear in mind the need to establish a mechanism to ensure that issues pertaining solely to midwifery—in particular education and training—are overseen by a committee which is dedicated to midwifery?

My Lords, the noble Earl tempts me to disclose the results of the Government's decision-making in relation to the consultation process. I am afraid that I am not yet in a position to do so. I understand the points he makes in relation to a statutory midwifery committee and can tell the House that that is being carefully considered alongside the views we have received from midwives and those in other nursing professions in relation to regulation as a whole. Perhaps I may reiterate that effective regulation in the public interest depends also on the professions having confidence in those arrangements. I am determined to ensure that they have such confidence.

My Lords, does the Minister agree that a distinction should be drawn between nursing and midwifery, in that in general nurses deal with sick people whereas one hopes that midwives deal with healthy young mothers who produce healthy babies? Does the noble Lord agree that the difference between the two professions should be maintained so that pregnant women are not regarded as being sick?

My Lords, I understand the point that the noble Countess makes. I expect those issues which are solely concerned with the responsibilities of midwives to have a focus within the regulatory responsibilities of the new nursing and midwifery council and that the views of midwives in particular will come to the fore. Equally, there are many areas in which nurses and midwives can work together within the new council. That is also the key message at local level. Although midwives have a distinct role to play, they are also part of a team, and team-working between nurses, midwives and health visitors is absolutely crucial.

My Lords, are the Government in favour of or against women having their babies at home?

My Lords, I have had two babies at home. I should say that my wife had the babies but I was an enthusiastic spectator. The Government want to ensure that, where it is clinically appropriate, if a woman wishes to have a home birth she should receive the appropriate support from the health service. At the end of the day, it must be the woman's choice.

My Lords, notwithstanding the Minister's earlier response to my noble friend, what can I tell the health visitor when she sees my wife next week about the future of her profession and how many people will enter it? In spite of the response of the Minister, people are not given any real hope that there is a future for this profession.

My Lords, I hope that the noble Earl will reflect on this matter and give the health visitor or midwife encouragement, because both professions have an enormous future role to play. The Government's policy outlined in Saving Lives: Our Healthier Nation to develop health promotion programmes depends crucially on the role of health visitors. Midwives have set a model for other professions in the independent professional responsibilities that they undertake. We need to support that with professional education and training programmes and flexible working and build on the pay rises which have so recently been awarded to them. I believe that the future is good for them.

London Underground: Investment

2.45 p.m.

What progress has been made to ensure that investment in London Underground is facilitated speedily and in a manner that commands public confidence.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions
(Lord Whitty)

My Lords, the best and final offers for the two deep tube contracts were received by London Transport on 20th November and were invited for the subsurface contract on 18th December. The report of the National Audit Office into the financial analysis has been received, and London Underground will shortly submit its safety case for the PPP.

My Lords, is the noble Lord prepared to comment on whether the much-publicised proposals by Mr Robert Kiley, the new Transport Commissioner for London, who is credited with having revived the New York subway, are being seriously considered by the Government? Does the Minister agree that those proposals contain what appear to be some very considerable beneficial features, such as maintaining the unity of the management and responsibility for running the Underground, raising money externally without recourse to public funds and bringing in substantial private sector expertise?

My Lords, recently the Deputy Prime Minister and Mr Kiley had two useful and constructive discussions on the future of London Underground during which those points were raised, and they intend to have further contact in January. Both recognise the valuable work carried out by London Underground on the PPP. The Government want to consider the points that Robert Kiley put to the Deputy Prime Minister and have asked for further information. However, all of that is within the process of the PPP, which is going ahead.

My Lords, is the Minister aware that the District and Circle lines, which I and no doubt many other noble Lords use every day, have not been running properly for months? Yesterday's excuse was a shortage of train operators, which I presume means drivers? Surely, that is a question of management, not investment. Do the Government have confidence in the present management of London Underground not only to run the system as it is now but to accommodate the proposed new investment?

My Lords, there have been operational and management problems within London Transport for some time. That is why we have made radical proposals to change its structure. We recognise that the problems of London Underground arise not only from under-investment, important though that is, but also from its structure, which makes it difficult for it to invest efficiently. Senior management within London Transport has been changed over the past two years in anticipation of the PPP, which is intended to solve the problems of structure, management and also under-investment.

My Lords, does the Minister agree that it is more important that arrangements for London Underground should be right than that they should be immediate? In the light of that, is the noble Lord able to say whether the approach described as "son of PPP" will be given full consideration?

My Lords, I said in my first response that the points raised by Mr Kiley were being given serious consideration by the Government. The constructive discussions between Mr Kiley and the Deputy Prime Minister have involved looking at the process and possible areas in which we can agree the way forward. However, the contract process is going forward. It is important that we do not rush these matters. We have the terrible example of the political pressures which caused the previous administration to rush into the privatisation of British Rail, and we do not wish to make the same mistake. We shall give due consideration to what is being said by Mr Kiley and others while we continue to work with those who have bid for these contracts.

My Lords, in the light of articles in today's newspapers about the report of the National Audit Office, which appears to suggest that investment in London Underground has not been in particularly short supply but has been poorly and ineffectively applied, is the Minister satisfied that when the new structures are in place they will improve the record and effectiveness of the investment so that we do not have a similar report at a future date?

My Lords, I have already indicated that the problem is not simply the quantum of investment; it is also the management of that investment. In the past couple of years the Government have invested over £500 million in the core of the London Underground network each year, compared with an average of £370 million over the period of the last few years of the previous administration. During those last years investment was run down drastically and was planned to run down to zero this year. Therefore, there is a problem of quantum of investment. But I accept that there is also a problem with the management and correct application of that investment.

Baa Airports: Service Standards

2.51 p.m.

Whether the standard of infrastructure services provided to passengers and airlines by BAA plc (and by extension Heathrow Airport Limited) at Heathrow is satisfactory.

My Lords, the Government announced last month that we favour modifications to the current regime for economic regulation of BAA's London airports to enhance incentives for timely investment in capacity enhancement, where appropriate, and improved quality of service. The Civil Aviation Authority is taking account of this in its preparatory work towards setting the next price cap, which will apply for the five years from April 2003. The CAA will also take account of BAA's investment programme, which BAA updates annually, striking a balance between capacity enhancement, quality of service and the level of charges to users.

My Lords, I am pleased that the Minister has these issues clearly in his sights. From first-hand experience as a passenger, and having spoken to operations personnel at Heathrow—some believing that the airport functions only at 60 per cent efficiency—why must we accept major computer breakdowns, air bridges and walkways that seemingly never consistently work all at the same time, inadequate standards of baggage transfer and carousels which do not function, and, I am sorry to report, poor standards of cleanliness, for example, in the lavatories? Should government shoulder some of this blame? And is it healthy that the operator is a subsidiary of the owner of the airport?

My Lords, the quality of service is clearly part of the regulation which the CAA is looking at. During the future period of that regulation it will take into account any shortcomings on the current quality of service. Although there have been shortcomings, the quality of service at London's airports, particularly in the baggage handling area, have improved substantially and are competitive with major airports around the world, many of which are under less pressure of capacity than Heathrow.

The review of competition took into account the structure of the BAA airports. We concluded that it was unlikely that if the airports were independent they would be able to compete more vigorously for traffic than they already do. Therefore, the benefits of the quality to users and passengers would not be that obvious. We decided not to pursue the possibility of break-up of BAA, at least for the time being, and to concentrate on better regulation.

My Lords, can my noble friend ensure that BAA employs enough people, particularly in the lost property division, so that people who make oral representations by telephone are not kept waiting indefinitely for a reply on what for them is a very important issue? Can my noble friend ensure also that this matter is brought to the attention of the chairman of the BAA, because the situation is Car from satisfactory?

My Lords, while it is not really the role of government to directly indicate to the private operator, BAA, where it should employ its staff, we have set the airport, and the aviation industry in general, a 10 point challenge about service to the travelling public. That includes better information, better care for delayed passengers, reducing the number of lost bags, improving the levels of compensation and speeding up check-in and baggage collection. There are a number of areas of passenger service which the Government have already asked the airports to address. That is in addition to the CAA's review of the regulatory framework.

My Lords, perhaps my noble friend, when looking at the infrastructure, will examine the provision at Heathrow and other major airports of adequate medical support for passengers arriving on incoming flights who find themselves in difficulty. I am delighted that the noble Baroness, Lady Wilcox, is in her place because she chaired an excellent report on health in aircraft. I was told at Heathrow, in connection with a matter in which I was deeply involved, that the airport had access to Ashford hospital. But that is some miles away. What is needed is immediate medical attention for those who need it at the airport.

My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend. One of the points in the 10-point challenge is to provide better information on health issues associated with flying. The points made by my noble friend about health service will be drawn to the attention of the airport operator.

My Lords, given the increasing volume of traffic at Heathrow particularly, is there not something seriously wrong with the maintenance situation where travelators, lifts and escalators are switched off for days and days and no maintenance contractor seems to move a finger to remedy the problem?

My Lords, the question of servicing, as well as providing investment in the infrastructure, is one of the matters that the CAA will have to consider in its future regulatory framework. I am aware of the kind of problem to which the noble Lord, Lord Molyneaux, refers. I repeat that if one makes a comparison with an airport with a similar throughput Heathrow is not bad. Improvements can be made. The Government and the CAA have responsibilities to ensure that the regulatory framework achieves those improvements. However, let us not say that the entire experience of being at Heathrow airport is a disaster; it is not. It is one of the better airports in the world.

Iraq: Turkish Incursion

2.57 p.m.

Whether, as a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, they have received notification by the Turkish authorities of an incursion into Iraq by Turkish troops as required under Article 51 of the United Nations Charter.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office
(Baroness Scotland of Asthal)

My Lords, we are aware of press reports of a Turkish incursion into Iraq across the border at Habur on 16th December. We have asked our embassy in Ankara to investigate these reports. We are not aware of the UN Security Council having received any notification by the Turkish authorities of an incursion into Iraq by Turkish troops. We have closely monitored previous incursions, including one in May and one in August. We shall continue to do so.

My Lords, does the Minister agree that it is a requirement of the United Nations charter that any action across an international frontier should be the subject of a notification to the Security Council by the state engaged in that action? The Turkish authorities have crossed the frontier into the Kurdish enclave of northern Iraq on numerous occasions in the past, sometimes without any notification at all, and occasionally, after prompting, with notification. Does the Minister agree that that is a dangerous precedent to set? If the Security Council takes no action against Turkey in respect of those incursions, other states may be encouraged to cross international frontiers in a like manner. Thus there could be a danger to world peace.

My Lords, I agree with the noble Lord that, pursuant to Article 51, a duty is imposed on countries to notify the United Nations. I can reassure the noble Lord that Turkey is well aware of that duty. We are not aware of Turkey having reported any incursions to the United Nations under Article 51, but we are aware of past communications from the Turkish authorities to the president of the Security Council in response to letters from the Iraqi authorities. I can assure the noble Lord that Turkey is aware of the concern which has been expressed in that regard.

My Lords, can my noble friend confirm that the area which the Turkish troops have entered is part of the safe haven in which we are giving some protection to the Kurds from Iraq? Can she say whether safe haven protection will be given in respect of incursions from countries other than Iraq, such as Turkey and possibly Iran?

My Lords, I should make it clear, as I did in my first Answer, that we have been made aware of reports of a Turkish incursion into Iraq across the border. We have asked our embassy in Ankara to investigate those reports and give us a clear expression of what has occurred. As soon as we have confirmation of those facts, I shall be in a better position to advise the House about that issue.

My Lords, I support the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Avebury. Will the Minister confirm that representatives of our embassy in Ankara were recently able to go to the Tur'abdin area of south-east Turkey? Is she aware that the position of Kurds and other groups seems to have improved in recent months; and will she welcome that? Will she also welcome the recent collaboration between the British Council and Bilkent University in organising a worthwhile seminar on the issue of human rights? Does she agree that Turkey's decision to take human rights more seriously will stand it in better stead with its friends and enable any application for membership of the European Community to be taken far more seriously in the future?

My Lords, I am most happy to agree with the noble Lord in relation to those issues in terms of improvement and collaboration on human rights. We very much welcome the fact that since they came to office in May 1999 the Turkish Government have taken steps to improve human rights. As a result of those developments, the military judge has been removed from the state security court and the maximum sentence for torture has been increased. There is now increased dialogue on these issues between the government and non-governmental organisations. All those matters must be welcomed. I agree with the noble Lord that the hope of possibly joining the EU seems to have been a catalyst for productive change.

My Lords, in view of the welcome development of better attitudes to human rights in Turkey and the obvious desire of Turkey to be considered as a serious candidate for membership of the European Union, will the Minister draw to the attention of the Turkish authorities the necessity of keeping and maintaining the rules of the United Nations which Turkey has possibly breached in this case? Will she also draw to their attention the success of the United Kingdom Government in accepting a different language and culture in Wales while still recognising that Wales is part of the United Kingdom?

My Lords, I can certainly say to the noble Barones that these are important issues and that we have raised them with a number of countries seeking accession to the EU. The dialogue will be ongoing. It will be critical and, it is to be hoped, beneficial in the long term for all the people of Turkey.

My Lords, will the Minister be supporting a strengthening of sanctions, as has apparently been called for by Secretary of State-elect Powell; and, if so, what would she hope would be achieved by such a strengthening?

My Lords, I take it that the noble Viscount refers to sanctions in relation to Iraq. Although I am not dealing with that question today, I can certainly assure the noble viscount that full consideration will be given to all comments made by Preside-elect Bush and those whom he has appointed to act on his behalf.


3.2 p.m.

My Lords, after the first debate today, my noble friend Lord Hunt of Kings Heath will, with the leave of the House., repeat a Statement which is being made in another place on reforming the Mental Health Act.

Commonhold And Leasehold Reform Bill Hl

My Lords, I beg to introduce a Bill to make provision about commonhold land and to amend the law about leasehold property. I beg to move that this Bill be now read a first time.

Moved, That the Bill be now read a first time.—(The Lord Chancellor.)

On Question, Bill read a first time, and to be printed.

Business Of The House: Consolidated Fund Bill

My Lords, I beg to move the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper.

Moved, That, in the event of the Consolidated Fund Bill being brought from the Commons, Standing Order 46 (No two stages of a Bill to be taken on one day) be dispensed with to allow the Bill to be taken through all its stages today.—(Baroness Jay of Paddington.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

The Historic Environment

3.4 p.m.

rose to call attention to the report Power of Place—The future of the historic environment published by English Heritage; and to move for Papers.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, over the past 50 years or so I have addressed your Lordships' House many times on heritage and environmental issues and so I hope that my well-known involvement in the heritage issues will suffice as a declaration of interest.

Today I feel particularly pleased in initiating this timely debate on the report on the future of the historic environment, only published last week by English Heritage, the organisation of which I had the honour to be first chairman, from 1983 to 1991. First, I must congratulate most warmly the present chairman, Sir Neil Cossons, and his working party—some 20 strong—on producing such a comprehensive report, whose main recommendations most people will endorse, although I, and I suspect many others, may have certain reservations when the details are discussed.

English Heritage must be commended on assembling such a comprehensive working party representing all interests and walks of life, including the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London, and on carrying out such a large-scale consultation. Most importantly, the report sets out the results of the Mori survey about English people's reactions to their heritage. Over the years, politicians of all parties have been a little ambivalent to the heritage, fearing that if they promoted it too much they would be accused of elitism and favouring certain classes. On the other hand, there was a general assumption by others that the people were not really interested. Unfortunately, recent teaching, or rather lack of teaching, of history in our schools was hardly designed to give pupils an interest in their past. So the general objectives of the Mori research were to establish the general perception and attitudes towards the heritage and what it meant to people and to assess the people's participation in heritage activities and not least the attitude towards the heritage by people from newly arrived ethnic minorities.

Contrary to previous beliefs, the results were no less than sensational and fully justified to those who knew what the real situation was. The results showed that 98 per cent thought that all schoolchildren should be taught about England's historic environment; 88 per cent thought that it created jobs and boosted the economy, that it was right that there should be public funding to preserve it and that it played an important part in promoting regeneration in towns; and 76 per cent thought that their own lives were richer for having an opportunity to visit and see it. So I submit that the heritage is not a party political issue—nor should it be—and so I hope that from now on politicians will accept that the results of the Mori poll prove that the vast majority of people do care about and value their historic environment. It behoves us all to see that it is conserved for future generations.

So where do we go from here? There are 18 headline recommendations, supported by a number of detailed action points, only a few of which need legislation. I intend to cover only a few this afternoon; namely, that the only constructive and sensible way forward is by partnership and better consultation and co-ordination between central and local government, public and private institutions, government agencies, the developers and the professionals. Positive conservation and re-use of buildings certainly leads to renewal of whole areas and experience shows that it can unlock the value of buildings which are not used to their full advantage within the familiar fabric of our towns and cities.

There is no doubt that many historic buildings are capable of better economic use and consequential listing often adds to the value of such buildings. In addition, well-loved historic buildings in familiar surroundings, which add character to an area, difficult though it is to measure, are nevertheless recognised as giving employment and customer satisfaction.

The report frankly acknowledges the worrying backlog of maintenance and repair which threatens the continuity and survival of many heritage assets. I support, therefore, the proposed comprehensive audit and thereafter regular monitoring of the historic environment as a basis for prioritising policies, programmes and the assessment of funding needs. However, it is important that those funds continue to be available on a year-on-year basis.

An enormous amount of repair and renewal of buildings will be needed in the years to come. This country must have the skills to carry them out. Opportunities for training, in particular apprenticeships, are desperately needed to satisfy future demand. Management should be given greater incentives to provide training. Unfortunately, although there are many different professional bodies in craft training relating to the historic environment, the resulting complexity of qualifications is confusing to all those concerned. Therefore, the proposed national conservation training forum would bring together institutions providing training and removing inconsistencies. It goes without saying that every local authority must have a qualified conservation officer with the expertise to ensure that all concerned are given leadership to produce the right results.

One cannot emphasise enough the part that the historic environment can play in education. Historic environment teaching should be fully integrated with all other relevant subjects. There are enormous opportunities to include environmental teaching in the national curriculum, as well as in teacher training, and similarly to co-operate with museums and historic house owners to provide guidance on educational programmes. Incidentally, it is worth saying that it was the private owners who initiated educational activities long before the National Trust or English Heritage did so. Although much more can be done, I am delighted that historic buildings and the environment now form a major part of the school curriculum, and that school visits are also planned accordingly, even from France.

Indeed, the report acknowledges that it was the achievements of the private sector which has inspired the well-deserved international reputation of heritage conservation in Great Britain. Over 1,200 privately owned houses are now open to the public, many of them on a regular basis and others by appointment, attracting 10 million visitors a year. The saving of our historic houses, which faced such a gloomy future in 1945, is one of the great success stories in the history of conservation. Elsewhere in the world, great houses have been vandalised by neglect and have been left to decay. Here, however, private owners have been in the vanguard of saving great houses, which are undoubtedly Britain's most important tourist attraction.

However, this has been achieved at a price. The average owner faces maintenance bills of over £40,000 a year and periodic major capital repairs of up to £1 million every 15 to 20 years. At present, not forgetting English Heritage grants, most repairs are funded from the owner's taxed income or from sales of works of art, which are further major losses to our heritage. Incentives are needed to prevent the further dispersal of assets. The single most frequently raised issue during consultations for the report was the situation of VAT. Although the Chancellor said as late as last month that he was keen to preserve Britain's rich built heritage for both current and future generations, one wonders how he proposes to do this, as repair work is still subject to full VAT while, ironically, new build is VAT free. One wonders how any government's policy for the heritage can be taken seriously while such a regime exists. Indeed, owners face a penalty on the cost of repairs to their houses when it is well known that a stitch in time saves nine and an annual programme of maintenance not only creates employment and new skills, but also ensures the future of the house, at a more affordable cost.

Sensibly, the report advocates a single harmonised rate of 5 per cent VAT for all building work and those concerned were encouraged by the Chancellor's recent announcement of his intention to reduce VAT to 5 per cent on the cost of converting empty residential buildings and, in particular, on the maintenance of 11,000 listed places of worship. However, there are some 350,000 other listed buildings, so VAT rules will continue to discourage other listed building repairs and, further, will discourage regular maintenance, thus promoting new build at the expense of re-use. This makes no economic or environmental sense and it is interesting to note that Britain is the only country in western Europe which does not give fiscal relief for the maintenance of historic properties. The sooner that VAT is equalised on all building work, the fewer historic buildings will be lost.

It is also unfortunate that the Chancellor has decided as from next April to end the so-called "one estate election", by which maintenance costs on the principal house can be set against estate income. This is going to have a very serious effect on the resources available for repairs and private owners are extremely concerned. In addition, private owners are discriminated against, because although their houses are technically eligible, they are almost never considered for heritage lottery funding, unlike the National Trust and other such bodies.

The report identifies the problems in the countryside, in particular as a result of changes in farming methods and the collapse of farm incomes. Since 1945, some 20,000 ancient monuments have been destroyed and thousands of other monuments in the countryside are at risk. These man-made objects can be sustained only by active management. Landowners and farmers need to be given incentives to keep the landscape continually renewed and in good repair. There are considerable public benefits of managed landscape from which, of course, tourism can benefit. I certainly agree with the recommendation that it is essential to switch funding under the common agricultural policy from production support to environmental measures, which in the long term would be effective in supporting farm incomes.

I am delighted that my noble friend Lord Renfrew, a past colleague in English Heritage, will be speaking shortly in the debate. No doubt he will comment on the report from an archaeological point of view.

There are two recommendations about which I am concerned: first, the proposal to give statutory force to the duty of care on the owners of listed buildings and to conservation plans and management agreements for individual listed buildings and registered landscapes. But I am glad to see that the report recommends that any statutory duty of care would be tied explicitly to the wider availability of grants and the provision of fiscal incentives to encourage maintenance. In any case, owners of listed buildings are already subject to an implicit duty of care, in that they can be served with repairs notices and can, in certain circumstances, have their property compulsorily acquired, although local authorities are extremely reluctant to pursue that course. The report recommends backing this implicit duty with financial incentives, making it explicit and widening it to include other categories of designated site.

Secondly, while I support the specific proposal to reduce permitted development rights in conservation areas, it cannot be stressed enough that people still have to live and work in conservation areas. It makes sense for planning authorities to make their decisions according to local conditions. Conversely, some local authorities can be criticised for being too strict. For instance, although government policy clearly states that redundant farm buildings can be converted for use in light industry and other such activities. time and time again one sees that local authorities refuse to comply with that policy.

Management agreements provide a means of simplifying the regulatory system for owners of complex listed buildings. However, when one is dealing with a group of buildings, it seems ridiculous to have to secure separate planning permission for each particular building. I am sure that that system could be simplified.

There are several recommendations with regard to facilitating better access for everyone in the country. Already, special educational facilities exist in most places and access for the disabled has been improved dramatically. Nevertheless, it must be wrong to damage the architectural heritage of a building by putting in, say, electric lifts in the main living areas. However, I am confident that all those concerned with opening their houses to the public will wish to continue to do their very best to provide for the disabled and the disadvantaged.

The report emphasises the need for better access to information about the heritage. We need to go further. We must encourage, from the cradle to the grave, knowledge and understanding of its significance, which will in turn ensure support for funding its conservation.

Finally, it is most important that the Government should seriously and urgently consider this report. I understand that they will formally report their conclusions in March, when I hope that we shall see action rather than endless further consultation. There is no doubt that they could do much by showing a lead, by following the advice of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport on the care of their historic estate and by ensuring co-ordinated action by the various departments whose policies impact on the historic environment.

The really important fact that emerged from this review is how much English people value their historic environment. Now is the time for the public sector to demonstrate its commitment by, for example, finding and funding future uses of the Government's historic estate, whether redundant hospitals or Ministry of Defence buildings. Those who value the historic environment do not oppose change, but recognise that change can be managed in more thoughtful ways so that their children can continue to enjoy familiar and loved surroundings. I believe that this report will be recognised in the future as being the first foundation stone of new attitudes towards our historic environment. My Lords, I beg to move for Papers.

3.20 p.m.

My Lords, I am delighted to follow the noble Lord, Lord Montagu. I congratulate him both on his initiative in securing the debate and on his detailed comments on the report. English Heritage stated that it had been given a once-in-a-generation opportunity to comment on these important matters. It has seized that opportunity and offered wise suggestions which I hope the Government will view with sympathy.

I am particularly pleased that the importance of history has been recognised, a matter referred to by the noble Lord. As a former teacher who enjoyed teaching history, I welcome enthusiastically that important part of the report. My speech will be narrower than that of the noble Lord. I shall not follow him in regard to historic houses, except to say that I listened with great interest to his remarks because one of the most important stately homes in the country—certainly the most important building in my home county of South Yorkshire—is Wentworth Woodhouse, which is barely a couple of miles from my home.

I shall confine myself largely to the issue of our landscape. I shall concentrate perhaps more on the rural landscape than the urban, although I believe that there is far too much clutter in the urban scene because of road furniture, the proliferation of advertisements and so on.

I am concerned about the landscape. It is vital. People—perhaps fewer than many imagine—are insufficiently aware of the role of British landscape and natural features in providing inspiration for art, music and literature. We should not allow despoliation to limit that potential.

There are two aspects of the landscape problem to which I wish to draw particular attention. The first aspect concerns the short-term destruction we have seen by allowing in the past excessive urban sprawl and agricultural changes to take place on very short-term considerations and perhaps unlawfully. The destruction of hedgerows is an example of that. If one calculates it, the area of land added to agriculture by the destruction of hedgerows is just about the same as the area of land we have expensively put into set aside. We have spent a great deal of money on that rather imprudent approach. I know that new hedgerows are being planted—that is to be welcomed—but it is a pity that so much was obliterated for so little long-term value.

The second problem concerns the historic devastation caused by old industry. I was born and live in the Dearne Valley, where a whole area was devastated as the main collieries were sunk around 1870 and the coalmines, coking plants and marshalling yards obliterated what old documents and old maps show as being a very attractive area. Those have all gone. All the pits went in a shorter period than the very short one in the 19th century when the large pits were sunk. Their closure created economic devastation and social corrosion. We have not yet got over those problems, but jobs are being created on the land which is being restored. Our experience there certainly strengthens my view that we should give a much higher priority to the redevelopment of brownfield sites rather than extending unnecessarily into greenfield sites.

So far as concerns greenfield housing, we should recognise that more houses are needed, not necessarily because of huge population growth but because of the decline in marriage, the break-up of marriage and the wish of people to be independent so that they leave the family home much earlier than they used to do. We need more houses, but that does not necessarily mean that we must have a low density of housing per acre. We need not gobble up quite as much greenfield land as some people imagine.

The potential for brownfield development is there. Perhaps I may give an example. Some two years ago I moved a couple of miles to a brownfield site once occupied by Cortonwood colliery. It has been interesting watching what has happened there. The colliery closed in the mid-1980s, leaving 260 acres of largely derelict land and squalor. I was then involved in obtaining the funds for the civil engineering to transform the site, turning it into a moonscape. That ended and development began. On the low ground we have the edge of the A1/M1 link road which opens up the Dearne Valley to economic development; on the side of the road we have a well-planned commercial development, where more jobs are now being provided than were lost when the pit closed. Most of the area is reserved for housing and for open space.

It is the open space which attracted me to the area. What was once a colliery spoil heap, which had been smouldering red-hot for decades, is now a well-contoured hill, with sensitive tree planting along its sides and a lake necessarily serving as a balancing reservoir. In two years it has brought to the area a range of wildlife I would not have expected, from common blue butterflies and pigmy shrews to cygnets and dragonflies.

The reference made by the noble Lord, Lord Montagu, to local authorities causes me some concern. I do not think that my own local authority has quite recognised what has happened within its borough in the past two years. I make the point because out of that squalor has come economic opportunity and an advance in landscape and social provision which should be properly recognised. This kind of advance should be promoted more by the Government as an alternative to excessive encroachment on the green belt.

The noble Lord, Lord Montagu, referred to buildings. Hooper Stand was built by the Marquess of Rockingham to commemorate the quelling of the Jacobite rebellion and the establishment of a just and balanced peace in Europe. In another debate I mentioned that Mr Hague, the Leader of the Opposition, was brought up in the shadow of that structure. It is the highest building until one gets to the other side of the North Sea, and has superb views. The local authority and the owners are opening it up for occasional public visits. I am concerned that the occasional public visits will be accompanied by a great deal of litter. As I have said before, the dropping of litter is the most common criminal offence in Britain today. If we are to see power of place, we need pride of place—and the present extent of litter in our country should not be tolerated much longer. I hope that Her Majesty's Government will take that into account as well.

3.28 p.m.

My Lords, I, too, congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Montagu of Beaulieu, on initiating the debate and on his excellent timing. However, to use a phrase borrowed from the Home Office, I would describe this document as "a load of pants". The Minister is scowling at me. However, I use this facetious comment because on the flysheet—

My Lords, I use this facetious comment because on the flysheet it sets out quite clearly that it is a consultation document. It goes into detail about the number of experts involved. I have talked to a number of those experts and they believe that many of their recommendations and the recommendations put forward by the working group have not been included in the final document. There seems to be a degree of anger that the document was twice rewritten by senior members of English Heritage. I include in my starting statement the fact that on the first page—a letter sent out by Sir Neil Cossons—it states in the second paragraph:

"This is not an English Heritage report".
I believe that it is.

This is to some extent confirmed by the fact that there was an emphasis on secrecy and that the document should not be leaked in correspondence by English Heritage. I find that surprising. Most of the report seems to lack any substance at all. Some 90 per cent of it follows practices already in operation. However, there are some extremely fine pictures.

The most serious failure of the report is that it does not address the resource implications of some of the longer-term recommendations. Could that be because the authors do not wish to spell out what they are? We might all welcome, for example, the suggestion regarding the introduction of a statutory duty of care on owners of listed buildings, scheduled monuments and registered parks and gardens. But the proviso about the need for it to be supported by fiscal incentives and the wider availability of grants is not discussed in any detail; and there is no consideration of the financial implications.

Sustainable tourism is discussed in the report; but sustainability is dependent on sound finances. Without a change in lottery financing—not merely to finance capital but to tackle the problem of long-term running costs—there will soon be crises at many lottery-funded sites. A recommendation for the lottery to supply endowments to sites to meet running costs should have been set out so that it could be included the next time the running of the lottery is discussed.

Another weakness of the report is that there seems to be no clear justification for a number of the recommendations. I have mentioned Recommendation 6 on the duty of care. But there is a vagueness about Recommendation 12, which hardly explains why there is an advantage in integrating planning and heritage controls. The same lack of justification is present—or absent—in the areas of so-called area-based characterisation.

The report contains some sound recommendations, such as the need to reduce VAT on listed building repairs—a subject raised by the noble Lord, Lord Montagu. This has been shown time and again to be relatively income neutral and is an issue that has been raised in this House on more than one occasion. The report's mention of marine archaeology, which will be covered in the forthcoming recreation and heritage Bill, is welcome.

The report points out a variety of ways in which responsibility should be in the hands of local communities and local authorities—which is good. It suggests that one way in which the Government could promote possession by local people is by reducing the role of English Heritage and increasing the role of local authorities instead. Some of the most important archaeological initiatives in recent years have come from community-based archaeologists working with local communities, and not from nationally headquartered organisations such as English Heritage. However, I can see no reference in the report to that kind of initiative.

It is good that the paper highlights the failure of joined-up government; yet it skirts around the problem that although MAFF pays to protect the natural environment, it has failed over the past few years to build in measures to protect the archaeology of the rural environment by prioritising payments for the archaeological landscape when the historic component of the environment is every bit as fragile as the biological component.

Few references appear in the document to the archaeology of England—a subject close to the heart of the noble Lord, Lord Renfrew. I wondered whether that was because the report was written without consulting the archaeologists in English Heritage. Archaeology is close to my heart; I studied it at Newcastle. The report fails to address a whole series of issues relating to archaeology. For example, the application of PPG 16 to most archaeological work in this country means that no requirement is placed on the developer—who now pays for most archaeological excavations here—to provide access to information recovered by the approved contractor. Surely the opportunity should have been taken, especially bearing in mind the apparent emphasis on access and inclusion in the report, to ensure that this was made a duty. There is an urgent need to overhaul PPG 16, yet no reference is made to this.

Greater prominence should have been given to the recommendation of a statutory responsibility to maintain sites and monuments records. Even the previous government recognised, in their 1996 Green Paper, Protecting Our Heritage, that that task should be taken on by local authorities. That is urgently required. The idea receives only lukewarm support in the report; reference is made to "historic environment centres". The report states, at page 39:
"In the short term, we need to ensure that all local planning authorities have access to a properly curated Record Centre. In the longer term, they need to be placed on a firm statutory basis".
That is hardly original. Why cannot the Government introduce a statutory responsibility now and why, rather than providing access merely for local planning authorities, cannot access be provided for everyone? After all, we are concerned here with access to archaeology, which should be for the people.

If information and openness are at the heart of the report, as is claimed, why is there no reference to the excellent portable antiquities recording scheme? The scheme has been supported by the DCMS and, in terms of pound for pound spent, is much better than most English Heritage initiatives at involving the public.

It is a matter of concern that some of the clearer and better explained points in the report are not included in the Culture and Recreation Bill. One good thing is that we shall probably not have to wait until March for the Government's response; in the case of sites and monuments records we may be able to add amendments to the forthcoming Bill.

3.36 p.m.

My Lords, we owe a debt of gratitude to my noble friend Lord Montagu of Beaulieu not only for introducing the debate, but also for his distinguished tenure as the first chairman of English Heritage.

I was one of the commissioners who served under the noble Lord's chairmanship, and I confess that initially I felt a concern that with his record of outstanding success with his own stately home, and indeed the National Motor Museum, he might be more concerned with the historic buildings part of the work of English Heritage; I feared that the ancient monuments side, dealing with the field monuments, archaeology and the rural landscape—emphasised by the noble Lord, Lord Hardy—might be neglected. Within the work of English Heritage and its predecessors, going right back to the Ministry of Works, there has traditionally been a difficult balance to establish between the built environment—the historic urban centres—on the one hand and the rural environment and earlier history and prehistory on the other. But, happily, that was not the case during my noble friend's tenure, and I and others admired the balance which he established.

With the appointment of his successor, Sir Jocelyn Stevens, there was the same initial concern. Indeed, in the early days of his tenure it was heightened when, during an interview with the press, he spoke a shade dismissively of some of England's field monuments—those barrows and earthworks which are among the most conspicuous products of British pre-history—as "bumps in fields". But Sir Jocelyn soon became a doughty champion of the heritage and we are all in his debt for his pertinacity in pressing on with the Stonehenge project, to take one major example.

It is a pleasure to welcome the new chairman of English Heritage, Sir Neil Cossons, who has had a distinguished career as director of the National Maritime Museum and then of the Science Museum, and as a noted industrial archaeologist. It is to be hoped that he, too, will establish the necessary balance between the rural and the urban and the ancient and the more recent historic environment in the work of English Heritage.

But in welcoming the report, I have to say that the balance that was earlier maintained by my noble friend and by Sir Jocelyn Stevens has apparently been lost. I very much agree with the remarks made by the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, in his exceedingly well-informed critique of the report.

The report has many merits. It accurately documents the real interest which the majority of Britons have in Britain's past and Britain's heritage. It rightly emphasises that monuments and buildings have to be looked at in context. It is right to ask, "Whose past?", and to ensure that we consider the heritage or heritages of different groups, including ethnic minorities. The report expresses those aspirations well. All of its recommendations have merit and I commend them.

However, the report has defects—such that many of those concerned with England's historic and prehistoric heritage will view it with deep disappointment. Rural England is substantially neglected. Among all the townscapes illustrated there is not one rural landscape depicting those memorable and significant "bumps in fields". Further, its vision would have the past begin around 1400 AD. Where is there an awareness of England's Saxon origins, or of the Romans, or of the vast stretch of prehistory? Just one picture out of 33 goes back beyond the time of the medieval parish church, while no fewer than eight relate to the industrial archaeology of the 19th and 20th centuries.

The "historic environment" is a valid concept if it takes in the entire sweep of history and prehistory. But the view of Britain's past in this report falls into the trap that my noble friend and Sir Jocelyn successfully avoided. When we speak of England's heritage, it forgets that there has to be a balance between, on the one hand, the ancient monuments and, on the other, historic buildings. It rightly proclaims that the concept of the "historic environment" can embrace both, but then it loses the plot.

I have been trying to discover who actually wrote this document. I have spoken with the chair of one of the working parties involved who assures me that she and her group made strongly the very points that am making. The noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, made that observation. I have spoken to the one archaeologist who was a member of the steering group, which contained not one single university historian, who said much the same thing. I have also spoken with the chair of English Heritage's own Ancient Monuments Advisory Committee which shares some of these concerns. So who is responsible for this imbalance?

Within English Heritage there are first-class experts who know all of this. They know that the ancient monuments protection programme, with the uphill task of listing the most important of England's ancient monuments, has fallen far behind through underfunding. They know, as the report states, that England has been losing one archaeological site a day for the past 45 years. They know that the losses due to plough damage have not been adequately assessed or mitigated through underfunding. The Royal Commission on Historic Monuments for England, now absorbed within English Heritage, has experts in aerial photography who know of the thousands of sites discovered in Britain's countryside by this technique—which the report fails even to mention. The archaeologists within English Heritage know of the uphill battle to recover knowledge of our past though rescue archaeology. Where is their voice here? The report sells them short.

On Monday I went for the fourth time to the Millennium Dome and, again, I enjoyed my visit.:But one of its shortcomings is that it is, in effect, a "past-free zone". There is no mention of Shakespeare or of Newton, of William the Conqueror or Cromwell. of Winston Churchill, Clement Attlee or Beveridge, nor even of Crick and Watson. By definition almost, we find no mention of Romans or Saxons, no glimpse of Stonehenge or Avebury. Curiously, and less appropriately, there is something of that spirit about this report. It fails to appreciate that the true heritage, the true historic environment, is knowledge based: it is what you know about the past, not just what you see when you look around outside Winchester Cathedral or Battersea power station.

That is how the report can overlook one of the most important initiatives in the heritage field of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport; namely, the Voluntary Finds Reporting Scheme, by which metal-"detectorists" and others are encouraged to report their discoveries to finds officers, as indicated by the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale. That is how it can fail altogether to mention the UNESCO Convention on the Protection of Cultural Property of 1970, about which a DCMS working panel reported just two days ago.

There is much to admire in this report and I would support all its recommendations. But it has done only half the work. In substantially ignoring rural England, in overlooking the past beneath our feet, and all those early millennia in the making of England, it misses a thousand opportunities. It has done justice to Britain's historic buildings, but it has failed to do justice to Britain's historic and prehistoric past. I endorse the point made about the requirement of a statutory provision for sites and monuments records, which creeps into the report and then disappears. It does not even make it as one of the substantial recommendations, which I believe to be lamentable.

In my view, English Heritage needs a serious rethink if it is to maintain the standards established during the time of my noble friend Lord Montagu, or indeed those established under the redoubtable Sir Jocelyn Stevens.

3.44 p.m.

My Lords, as a former chairman of the National Trust in the 1970s and 1980s, I thought that I would consult those in the trust regarding what they thought was the most important recommendation in this report to which they were important contributors. Their most emphatic reply was that the recommendation to reduce the rate of VAT on repairs to listed buildings was the most urgent and important recommendation of all. On VAT reform, the report says:

"No government should be taken seriously as respecting the historic environment in all its guises if repairs to historic buildings are taxed at 17½% whilst alterations to them arc tax free".
We debated this matter in your Lordships' House in March last year when everyone agreed that the problem needed to be solved. A note of hope came at the end of the Minister's speech. After chiding some of us, including myself, for our failure to understand—as he saw it—that it was the net effect on public expenditure that mattered, he cautiously said:
"I do not say firmly and finally that there is no prospect of change in Section 33 [of the VAT Act]. We shall continue to look for possibilities of change".
—[Official Report, 29/3/00; col. 880.] He added that those of us who thought that there could be a quick fix were deluding ourselves.

It seems to have been possible to find some sort of a fix in the case of repairs to historic churches, for which the Government intend to seek a reduction in VAT. No one is more delighted by this wonderful news than I am. I was treasurer of the Historic Churches Preservation Trust for many years. But as there are about 11,000 listed churches out of nearly 400,000 listed buildings, this wonderful news does not address the main problem. It seems to show that the principle of no change in VAT, whether by reducing it or by exempting buildings from it, is not as difficult as we are sometimes told. I hope, therefore, that the Minister will continue to press our case. He is perhaps the most redoubtable of all the Government's wicket keepers when facing your Lordships' bowling. When it comes to arguing with his colleagues, I am pretty sure that he is equally unsurpassed.

I have just one further point to make on the report. In general, I give it a hearty welcome, despite the deficiencies referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Renfrew. I heartily support its main proposition that understanding and cherishing our environment will create a better country. I hope that my years with the National Trust, and other conservation bodies, will establish my credentials as a fervent conservationist when I add, as I must, that I have one important reservation. There seems to me no real acknowledgement in the report of the need for balance when measuring the claims of conservation against the need for acceptance of change. For another valid claim is that of the freedom of the individual from the power of the state which prevents a citizen living in a listed house from adapting his or her home to present-day requirements of comfort or, indeed, of economy.

Of course, there should not be freedom for owners of important historic buildings graded one, or even graded 2 starred, to alter them as they wish. But if there are, as we are told, getting on for 400,000 buildings listed as grade 2, these are part of the general housing stock. If we make it too difficult for owners to make alterations, whether for comfort or economy—or even, in some cases, as a matter of taste—these buildings will ultimately become unpopular to own or to live in. How then will the objective of conservation be achieved?

Therefore, I hope that the Government will implement many of the report's recommendations. But I hope also that they will be cautious about legal enforcement of too inflexible a system of control, to which I believe the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, referred. When one asks for flexibility, one is asking for good judgment. To expect that from every single bureaucrat is to expect the unattainable. Much can be done through training and education, which the report recommends. But education alone does not always produce common sense.

One would like to see guidelines that encourage planners and their English Heritage advisers not to enforce too hard and fast rules in the less important cases. Many historic buildings have evolved through the years and must go on doing so if they are to continue to be used. This means that, sometimes, additions must be made but also that they must sometimes be removed.

We all have anecdotes of inflexibility. The architect, Robert Adam, writing in The Times last Saturday instanced a case where the conversion and restoration of a medieval house was obstructed for the sake of a pre-war partition. That is typical of a number of the cases about which one has heard. There was a more debatable case of a fine Palladian mansion in the West Country, the name of which I forget, on to which a good Victorian architect had added a pair of wings mainly featuring two very large bay windows. The owners wanted to remove the additions, no doubt for economic reasons, but perhaps also for reasons of taste, preferring an unaltered Palladian design. They were, however, prevented on the ground that the additions were part of the house's history. There are good arguments on both sides of the case. But I suggest that where arguments and, indeed, legitimate points of view are evenly balanced, or fairly evenly balanced, the wishes of owners who live in the houses should be given serious weight.

I was impressed by the last sentence of Robert Adam's article in The Times. I quote it as it is relevant to the whole of this subject. He concluded:
"It is time to realise that no change is the most devastating change you can make".
That is something we all should bear in mind.

3.51 p.m.

My Lords, the word "heritage" is defined as what has been or will be built; in other words, what we build today is the heritage of tomorrow.

The first point that should be made is that a keen sense and knowledge of the lessons of the past is indispensable if we are to learn to live in the present, let alone cope with the future. Those who mock, deride or denigrate the past do an injustice not only to themselves but also to the great stock of buildings that this nation possesses which bear comparison with any in the world and which are the envy of many in the world, beginning with the greatest cultural glory this country possesses; namely, the 42 Anglican cathedrals; the churches, large and small, many of which are sublime; the castles; the manor and country houses; the bridges and many other examples of industrial architecture and design.

It is so important to pay attention to such matters. No less than 73 per cent of tourists who visit these shores do so for the specific purpose of seeing for themselves the great buildings and monuments that have been created over the centuries.

I never cease to be inspired by the restoration and in some cases resurrection of projects, large and small, undertaken by English Heritage which puts them back into first-class order and, where appropriate, finds alternative use for them. I applaud the Government's campaign to increase accessibility, thus giving us an enhanced awareness of our own identity. If I have a concern, it is that some of the workplaces of our greatest artists are overlooked, fall into decay and, ultimately, oblivion. Only a year or so ago this fate was about to befall Down House in Kent, for 40 years the home of Charles Darwin, one of the greatest Englishmen who ever drew breath. It was only as a result of the concerted efforts of the Natural History Museum and English Heritage that it was saved for the nation at the 11th hour. But what of Elgar's home, or the studio of Francis Bacon, arguably the greatest British painter of the 20th century? Are they not also to be preserved for posterity? I find it inconceivable that any other country in the world would allow them to wither on the vine.

Some 10 years ago in my Arts Council days I put forward a proposition to successive Secretaries of State at what is now the DCMS, to the former chairman of English Heritage, Sir Jocelyn Stevens, and in various newspaper articles. However, I am sorry to say that that proposition fell on deaf ears. I put it forward again today for your Lordships' consideration for better or worse. The notion is a simple one: the grant-in-aid to English Heritage should be top-sliced by a nominal sum, say, fl 0 million per annum. That sum should be placed in a European pool of money. Member states of the EU would each contribute the same amount. The initiative, which would be led by English Heritage, would then identify specific projects in order of priority, throughout Europe, to which the funds could he applied.

Since talk of a European army and a rapid reaction force is topical, I propose such a force, not of soldiers but of craftsmen trained in this country under the guidance and supervision of our master craftsmen in all aspects of restoration: guilders, enamellers, wood carvers, stone masons, joiners, plasterers and so on, which would become a peripatetic workforce moving throughout Europe and working on European projects, as was done in the Middle Ages. I know that there may be problems with terms of reference and with current legislation, both of which would have to be adjusted, but your Lordships may feel that the benefits of job creation and the undeniable effects of a British-led initiative stemming from this House in particular, which is perhaps the ultimate masterpiece of Victorian artistry and craftsmanship, outweigh technicalities and underlines the proper way forward for our credentials of European collaboration., It might, too, just receive unanimous support—a rare event in European politics.

My Lords, I am glad to have the opportunity to follow the comments of my noble friend Lord Palumbo which gave us considerable food for thought in a highly original idea—

3.57 p.m.

My Lords, I believe that it is my turn to speak.

I am grateful for this opportunity to debate the historic heritage. North of the border—if I may mention that place—we have a strong and "in your face" historic and cultural heritage. We also have that perverse phenomenon of the indigenous population feeling uncomfortable about their heritage, the so-called "Scottish cringe", while that self-same heritage is one of the world's strongest tourist products.

What does need to be raised is the subject of endowments and the raising of funds for endowments. Before going any further, I need to declare three interests: first, I am the chairman of the Clackmannanshire Heritage Trust which owns Alloa Tower; secondly, I am an elected member of the Council of the National Trust for Scotland, which leases Alloa Tower, and, thirdly, I have made an informal loan of family portraits and furniture to Alloa Tower.

To get back to the subject of endowments, I recall a recent discussion about the creation of new public footpaths. The situation is that while funds are available for footpath creation, there are no funds available for footpath maintenance and repair. The conclusion has to be that footpath creation is irresponsible, for the initial asset will quickly become a disreputable burden and a liability.

In a substantial way the same seems to be happening with the historic built heritage. It is inevitable that funds will become available for the repair of historic fabric, provided that there is something that looks like a business plan attached to the project. The projections may well be optimistic and will usually take time to achieve. At the same time, it is usually undesirable to push too many visitors through the property, both for the sake of the visitors and staff and for the sake of the historic fabric itself. The usual conclusion is that some form of revenue support is necessary. This can be achieved from a number of sources: retailing, catering, and public authority economic grant. Revenue support, because it supports employment, is attractive. Since 1996 the National Trust of Scotland has leased Alloa Tower from Clackmannanshire Council for 25 years with guaranteed fixed revenue support.

When it comes to finding funds for an endowment, the situation becomes difficult. Endowments are not sexy; they are boringly responsible. One cannot open an endowment in front of the press or stick a brass plaque on it. Yet without an endowment the heritage project will fall apart. Like the footpaths mentioned earlier, the new cultural and tourism assets will become a liability and ultimately a waste of resources. For Alloa Tower, the first anticipated call on an endowment will be the repainting of all the external woodwork and then the upgrading of the display material.

The reluctance to finish off the project—for that is what the endowment is—seems to be widespread. I had better declare a further interest. The Clackmannanshire Heritage Trust has applied to the Heritage Lottery Fund to help with an endowment. At present that application is neither accepted nor rejected. However, the Heritage Lottery Fund commissioners seem to have a "no endowments" policy; and they are not the only ones.

My point is this: it is quite unfair and unbusinesslike for historic heritage projects to be funded for the repair phase and not for the long-term maintenance phase. There has been a rash of headline-grabbing heritage projects in recent years as new funds became available. Lovely brass plaques and photo-opportunities have abounded. But what will the reaction be when that lovely brass plaque falls off the wall as the building decays in the future? I strongly refute the idea that any project's business plan can realistically include earning an endowment. The reality is that it will have difficulty in breaking even on an annual revenue basis. Most will always require annual revenue support.

We all have a responsibility for the maintenance of and accessibility to our respective heritages. My contention is that endowment funding is central to every heritage repair and accessibility project. We must bequeath a strong heritage to all our successors—a heritage that they can enjoy, be interested in and proud of, and which is secure and not a huge and embarrassing liability. Endowment funding must become a mainstream and laudable heritage activity.

4.2 p.m.

My Lords, I apologise to the noble Earl, Lord Mar and Kellie, for purporting to be him for a moment or two. I am pleased to have the opportunity now to follow rather than precede his excellent speech on which I congratulate him. I also congratulate my noble friend Lord Palumbo on his far-reaching idea.

The report has been subject to some far-reaching and in-depth criticism from those more expert than myself. The noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, examined it very closely indeed. It was later held up to the light by my noble friend Lord Renfrew. Having heard his critique of the report's failure to address critical parts of not just the built heritage but also the historic landscapes of the United Kingdom makes me glad that I never had to show my noble friend an inadequate essay at a supervision held by him at Jesus College, Cambridge. I do not think that I would have enjoyed that experience.

I shall not repeat those well-made criticisms. The authors of the report had a difficult task. As my noble friend Lord Montagu of Beaulieu pointed out in his excellent introductory speech, it is difficult to satisfy everyone. However, substantial lacunae in the report need to be addressed. I hope that we shall have a further report in two or three years' time, putting right some of the criticisms levelled at it, and updating us on the progress made. If that were to occur, I hope that the steering group will contain a wider range of people. I thank the members for their hard work in producing the report. However, I hope that the group will include also university teachers, archaeologists and one or two independent expert voices from outside the heritage industry who would subject some of the arguments to rigorous analysis.

Not only are there gaps in the report but there is an unfair concentration on what the Government should do. I shall attempt to bring a pre-Christmas smile to the face of the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh of Haringey. He need not be alarmed; I am not about to show too much sympathy or support for the Government. I do not wish to destabilise him in any way. However, I thought that it was wrong that Part 1 states on page 5:
"We look forward to the Government responding quickly and positively to the recommendations we have made"—
as though it were only the Government who should respond to the recommendations in the report. I believe that a number of the heritage bodies in what may loosely be referred to as "the heritage industry" should consider their role to see what more they could do.

I take one example. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Gibson, as a distinguished ex-chairman of the National Trust, will forgive me if I take the National Trust as an example and raise a question mark or two about its role in heritage matters. To do so may be thought by some to be somewhat impolite—rather like questioning the purposes of the monarchy or doubting the holiness of His Holiness the Pope, neither of which I do. However, I think that the National Trust needs to consider whether its contribution to the heritage can be further refined.

I shall not attempt to use the National Trust as a peg on which to hang criticisms of that body. Today there are demonstrations about field sports outside this House. If my noble friend Lord Kimball were present, I am sure that he would encourage me to debate that. I shall not do so. I shall not talk about the criticisms in the national press of the National Trust and its treatment of tenant farmers or the alleged élitism of its governing council. It is true that there are not many minority players in the higher reaches of the National Trust. That is probably a pity. However, the National Trust is the largest landowner in the United Kingdom with 612,000 acres, 600 miles of coastline, 1,100 tenants and heaven knows how many houses and monuments to look after. There is a severe danger that such a body is now too big to fulfil the historic purpose for which it was set up in 1907. I do not think that any of your Lordships' predecessors in 1907 would have dreamt that the National Trust would become so large and sometimes so distant from London—any more than an 18th century Whig magnate would have dreamt of having an estate of 612,000 acres. Across the country, that has led—alas!—on occasion to a certain cultural and historic homogeneity in the way in which the National Trust has treated its properties. There is sometimes a politically correct interpretation in the way in which it sets out its houses and landscape properties.

Having been mildly critical of one part of Sir Neil Cossons's words, perhaps I may refer to his introduction, in which he says:
"Good history is history that is based on thorough research and is tested and refined through open debate".
There is not enough of that in the National Trust's huge estate. I hope that during my lifetime the National Trust will consider forming trusts for the eastern counties, the south-western counties and Tyneside, and becoming more locally based, as are the Scottish and Welsh trusts. The noble Earl, Lord Mar and Kellie, hinted at that. If the trust ran itself in a more federal way, that would benefit the people, the landscapes and the buildings of the regions.

4.10 p.m.

My Lords, I, too, welcome the report, with its five main messages. I thank my noble friend Lord Montagu of Beaulieu for providing us with the opportunity to debate it, as well as for all his work in the past and present and, in anticipation, all his work to come on this important aspect of our heritage.

regret the absence of Lord Chorley, who would have spoken with great authority about the National Trust, and many others, including the Earl of Clancarty. who always took a great interest in these matters.

I do not intend to enter into the separate debate initiated by the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, on the provenance of the report or its balance. Whether it is an English Heritage report is irrelevant. The important thing is that we have had consultation on the issues and we now have a practical analysis of action that can be taken, following hard on the heels of the Government's White Paper, Our Towns and Cities: The Future. The report is valuable in that it raises awareness and spurs us on to necessary action.

For anybody who is not aware, my interest in the subject stems from the fact that I am a trustee of the National Museums and Galleries on Merseyside. Liverpool has a splendid new conservation centre with training facilities, as well as an emphasis on minority cultures. We have this country's only museum of Atlantic slavery, as part of the Merseyside Maritime Museum, and the newly refurbished Museum of Liverpool Life has a section that concentrates on the ethnic minority groups in Liverpool. Many may be surprised to learn that Liverpool has the oldest Chinese community in the country. That is proudly manifested in the museum.

I am also president of the European Foundation for Heritage Skills, which, under the umbrella of the Council of Europe, seeks to carry on the work of the Pro Venezia Viva Centre, which was started by my late noble friend Lord Duncan-Sandys and aimed at ensuring that there are adequate centres in Europe for training in such skills. The noble Lord, Lord Hardy of Wath, who, I am sorry to say, is not now in his place, is familiar with the project. It ties in with the suggestion of my noble friend Lord Palumbo for a European initiative.

The foundation has created a database of all the centres of conservation and training in conservation skills throughout Europe. It also works on other ways of raising awareness by means of seminars and conferences.

I shall focus on paragraph 2.3 of the report and recommendation 7, emphasising the importance of opportunities for training, particularly craft apprenticeships, which are needed to meet future demand. Employers, particularly in construction and landscape management contractors, need to be given an incentive to provide training. My other point, which was made by my noble friend Lord Montagu in opening, is the importance of a national conservation training forum to bring together the institutions that provide training and validation, removing inconsistencies and preventing duplication.

That ties in to an extent with the Government's White Paper, Our Towns and Cities. I hope that the newly formed urban regeneration companies will take the recommendations into account when moving forward to projects.

The Minister will not be surprised that I have one or two questions for him. Does he expect these issues to be part of the Bill that is to be laid before us in the new year? It will cover a wide variety of subjects, including cultural heritage. What financial underpinning does he envisage to carry forward the recommendations? How does he think that more interest in heritage can be stimulated among young people and our ethnic minority communities?

Those are the main issues that I wish to focus on. but I should like to make a passing reference to VAT, which is a problem, as my noble friend Lord Montagu said, because the present system discourages maintenance. The report's emphasis on prevention rather than cure is very important. I remind the Minister of the anomaly under which regional museums are exempt from VAT, but national museums are not, hence the dilemma for national museums with regard to charging entry fees, without which no VAT can be reclaimed.

I look forward not only to the Government's response but also to the nation's response. This is an important report and I hope that the nation will be fully aware of it.

4.17 p.m.

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Montagu, is the most appropriate person to introduce the debate, having done so much over many years to reinterpret our heritage to the public. I declare an interest, as my wife is, inter alia, actively concerned with the preservation of our historic landscape. I acknowledge her advice.

Like my noble friend Lord Gibson, I am sure that the Government, having made a welcome start on reducing VAT in this sector, have understood that it is essential to equalise VAT at 5 per cent for all building work. I believe that the Government see the force of the argument, not to mention the injustice, that improvements to a window, for example, are VAT-free, while repairs still attract 17.5 per cent. I trust that the Minister, who will be going to Brussels on behalf of us all for our places of worship, can say something equally encouraging today about repairs to all listed historic buildings.

The report is about the involvement of people in their historic environment. An encouraging finding of a MORI survey is that the vast majority of the population recognise that our historic environment enriches our lives, supports our economy and creates jobs and that there should be public funding to preserve it.

However, we cannot be complacent because many people still feel excluded from it. Leaving aside the lottery, the Government have not yet had an opportunity to support the heritage as much as it requires. The programme extends for many years, even possibly beyond the life of new Labour. The authors of the report should be congratulated on looking so far ahead.

The sense of ownership of our heritage must be extended to all groups in society. I say that with sincerity as someone who believes in citizenship and as an owner who has supported the extension of public access in recent years. Someone who is "lucky" enough to inherit property soon becomes aware of the duty laid upon them. I have a personal debt to my uncle, the late Sir Michael Culme-Seymour, who had a remarkable intuitive sense of the privilege of public stewardship that is conferred on private owners.

However, there is a balance to be drawn. Like the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, I do not think that the report has got it quite right. Although Recommendation 6, which introduces a statutory duty of care on owners of listed buildings, is attractive, it concerns the owners particularly of smaller houses and listed buildings and registered parks and gardens, who are already struggling with a maze of national and local regulations. It is not enough to be offered fiscal incentives and grants if more and more strings are to be attached. Of course, there must be planned maintenance and surveys according to the accepted criteria, and I commend this Government's emphasis on providing advice and strengthening partnership between owners and statutory bodies.

I also agree with Recommendation 10, which asks the Government to improve their consultation and participation procedures. We must enable more people to take part in the planning process. I applaud the recommendation that local authority planning proposals should be less opaque. That ties in not only with the evident and required accountability of local authorities to the general public but also with the training of local authority officers and their councillors.

I turn now to the training of conservation officers. Although English Heritage has built up a cadre of trained inspectors in the built heritage, it is only in the past few years that it has addressed the importance of training in historic gardens, parks and landscape. English Heritage is to be congratulated on its new policy of having a landscape architect in each region. However, that policy is not yet complete—not all the regions have a landscape architect, and further training of its building inspectors would be welcome.

With regard to training, it is equally important that local authorities increase their level of awareness of the historic environment. This wide term means more narrowly focused training, in particular in the interdependence of historic landscape, parks and gardens with their built structures. I have in mind the recent case of Downe Hall near Bridport in Dorset in which the English Heritage guidelines on enabling development allowed inappropriate development around a historic house and garden and so destroyed its historic environment, despite the widespread local and national protest.

English Heritage has since changed its guidelines to a presumption against enabling development. However, a wider appreciation of, and education in, the historic environment should ensure, first, that planning mistakes such as Downe Hall should not recur, and, secondly, that local authorities should be able to respond to the evident and close public interest in the preservation of heritage.

I applaud as an immediate priority the recommendation that targets should be set for English Heritage and local authorities to clear the backlog of repairs to buildings, monuments, parks and gardens which are at risk, and to make public bodies more accountable for their performance in maintaining their historic estate. It is often too easy for public bodies to pursue new and fashionable policies at the expense of the less glamorous but essential maintenance and repair of the old.

I welcome new policies that seek to protect, for example, our natural environment or that permit planning proposals which enhance job creation and urban regeneration. But in the Pantheon in Rome is a famous injunction against disrespect for the historic environment:
"Quod non destruere barbari destruere barberini".
And here, in this excellent report—whatever its omissions, which I fully concede—we see a renewed mandate from the general public to preserve our heritage and ensure that neither the untrained nor the young Turks deprive future generations of its richness and diversity.

4.23 p.m.

My Lords, I thank my noble friend Lord Montagu for providing the opportunity for this interesting debate. As an Australian, I come from a country which has only 200 years of history. Like all tourists who come to this country, I have always been totally fascinated by its history and its stately homes, and I have done my best to visit as many of them as possible.

For many years I served on the historic buildings committee of the GLC. We had a fascinating group of unelected members: Sir John Summers, the authority on Georgian London; Sir Hugh Casson; Sir John Betjeman; and Osbert Lancaster, who was a great character. When the GLC had gone, I transferred to the Heritage of London trust, where I found all the same people who had been on the GLC historic buildings committee. Therefore, I have always had an interest in this subject.

I welcome the report and the attention which it draws to the need for greater awareness of the importance of heritage to this nation. It is a wonderful concept and great in theory, and the report sets out 18 valuable recommendations. However, I find that there is an element of impracticality and unreality in the text. Those who have written the report are so absorbed in the whole concept of saving our heritage and creating an awareness of its importance that they tend to overlook the situation of most people and the way that life is lived on an everyday basis.

As my noble friend Lord Montagu mentioned, Part 1 of the report refers to the 3,000 people whom MORI surveyed. It would have us believe that the public are strongly supportive. Perhaps I may put a current scenario to your Lordships. Westminster Council has recently had to consider the plans for the redevelopment of the Paddington Basin and the 13 acres near Paddington Station. Should it allow tall buildings? What view should it take over the conflicting interests of retaining the Mint Wing of St Mary's Hospital or allowing it to be replaced in the interests of producing a new, larger hospital to provide the essential National Health Service for the local community and the wider group of patients who will attend the new special treatment centres planned for the site?

The Mint Wing originally housed the horses which worked on the railway and the canal. The horses walked up the ramp to the first floor. I found that concept very romantic. I was involved when the building was converted for hospital use and I believe that the ramp was retained.

The new plans for the area are intended to improve the local environment by providing open spaces, easier access to the major rail centre and interchanges, and a better living environment, including new housing. All new buildings must now undergo an environmental and amenity assessment to ensure that they are so-called "healthy" buildings.

MORI questioned 3,000 people for the report. Westminster Council sent out 17,000 questionnaires to seek people's views on the matter. It received 58 replies, mainly from amenity groups—sometimes two from the same group—with a few from individuals. What can he said about the views of the 16,942 people who did not reply? Are they happy with things as they are? Are they prepared to leave decisions to others, or are they simply uninterested? I believe that 17,000 is so much higher a figure than the 3,000 in relation to the MORI poll that we must think about that particular point.

I return to Part 1. Section 05 states that,
"most people believe change is necessary and desirable".
In Section 06 we read an idealistic text about how judgments should be made. To some extent those, alas, are always subjective because human beings are making the decisions. Let us consider the Durbar Court and how it would have been lost but for the fact that no one got around to demolishing it. Now it is one of the joys of London. Let us compare the Bankside power station—now the Tate Modern—with the Battersea power station, which, sadly, is declining.

My personal opinion of listings is that the early ones were splendid and I strongly supported them. However, in London, which I know best, I noticed that, having got the listing urge, those responsible felt that they must keep going and the buildings that were listed became less deserving. Conservation areas abound. Your Lordships may recall that one London borough tried to have the whole borough designated as a conservation area. Conservation is good, but on the historic buildings committee preservation was always referred to as "the dead hand of preservation".

In Oxfordshire, where I have my home in an attractive village, the house was not listed when I bought it and it had a current planning permission for an extension. I did not build the extension and, after a few years, the house was listed as a Grade II building. When I applied to renew the planning consent for the extension, I was told that it was no longer appropriate for a listed building and the renewal was refused. However, 10 years later I now have a different consent. I find that hard to understand. If I had already built the extension, it would have been listed as part of the established house—appropriate or not. If it had existed, it would have been included in the listing.

That seems to me to indicate—I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Gibson, made many of the points that I am about to reiterate, and I agree with everything that he said on the matter—that there is a need for more careful assessment of what is listed. One should inquire whether a whole building is precious or only part of it. An example is Centrepoint. For years that building has been a landmark and the exterior is part of the central London scene. However, it was kept empty for a long time and the interior became quite useless. Why could not listing cover the retention of the exterior and the fenestration, which is the attractive feature, but allow normal planning controls to apply to internal changes? The noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, said that he could not reconcile planning and heritage controls. That is where recommendation 12 comes in. A management statement for each listed building would identify the important features so that one would know whether it was the whole building or just one feature that it was really important to retain.

A recent widely reported court case covered the obligation of an owner to retain ugly glass-louvre windows in a porch replacing the original historic ones. It is important that it should be possible to live comfortably in a property with central heating, modern plumbing, and wiring, which are desirable for normal living conditions. Adequate heat and warmth should always be allowed, with sympathetic positioning.

History is fascinating and absorbing and I agree that it should be part of education. But we do not want to turn the country into a museum. It is a nonsense not to allow buildings to continue to be viable. The best protection for any listed building is for it to have a current, economic use which provides an adequate return on investment, either in terms of personal occupancy or some other use.

The noble Lord, Lord Gibson, said that he found no reference to balance in this document; I did, In my view, paragraph 9 makes the most important point in the document. It states:
"We must balance the need to care for the historic environment with the need for change".
Paragraph 10 refers to understanding and says that the value that people ascribe to historic buildings must be assessed and that there is no intention to fossilise or increase existing controls.

4.31 p.m.

My Lords, I too add my thanks to my noble friend Lord Montagu for giving us the opportunity to debate this matter this afternoon. We owe a great deal to my noble friend not only in relation to his work for English Heritage but also in relation to all the other heritage organisations with which he has been involved.

The new chairman of English Heritage, Sir Neil Cossons, told me earlier this year that he was determined to produce a concise report. That perhaps answers the question by the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, as to why the report is not bigger and why so many things have been knocked out of it. The point of that was to try to ensure that everyone actually read the report. Sir Neil and his steering group have succeeded admirably in that and have produced a document with a series of interesting proposals.

It is more than just an English Heritage report. One can see that the members of the 20-strong steering group are all senior figures involved with the historic environment. They all contributed greatly; there is no question about that. My successor as chairman of the Joint Committee of the Amenity Societies was on the steering group and was sometimes represented by the very effective secretary of the joint committee, Matthew Saunders.

One of the suggestions in the report is that,
"heritage organisations must work more in partnership",
and that the sector is "fragmented". That is the reason that the joint committee was set up in 1972. Apart from the eight societies which are members, including the Georgian Group, of which I am president, other organisations attend those two monthly meetings and they include English Heritage, the DCMS, DETR and the Historic Houses Association, which all attend as observers. The joint committee co-ordinates responses to government papers and, indeed, will be doing so in relation to the recent rural and urban White Papers.

It is possible that more could be made of the joint committee. I know that there is to be a meeting in the spring to discuss how the committee might help to bring about a closer working partnership between heritage organisations.

Last year, the joint committee commissioned a helpful report entitled VAT and the Built Heritage, which is referred to in the report we are discussing today. It is also recorded that the single most frequently raised issue on the consultation for the report was VAT, a point made by my noble friend Lord Montagu.

The joint committee report argued for a single harmonised rate of 5 per cent for all building work of whatever kind, and Power of Place endorses that view.

Indeed, since the joint committee's report, the Government have moved on VAT and are currently seeking a reduction in the rate of VAT on repair and maintenance of listed places of worship. That is very good news indeed but it is tempered somewhat, as the noble Lord, Lord Gibson, said, by the fact that there about 11,000 listed places of worship out of 370,000 listed buildings. For all of us in the Chamber, the VAT problem is an old chestnut but I hope that the Minister will bring us up to date on the VAT issue.

The Minister will be as encouraged, as we all are, by the result of the MORI poll commissioned by English Heritage. As my noble friend Lord Montagu said, it really should put to rest any thought that heritage is not significant. The noble Baroness, Lady Gardner, had queries in relation to the MORI poll, but having worked for George Gallup on Gallup public opinion polls, I can tell her that MORI uses a very different system than that used in the particular poll to which she referred. There is no reason to suppose that the MORI poll is not entirely accurate or to within the normal 5 per cent figure.

I hope that the MORI poll will strengthen the hand of the Minister and the Secretary of State more easily to fight the heritage corner with that incredibly clear message about how important the vast majority of people in this country consider our heritage to be. Of course, that presents government with a great challenge, which has substantial cost implications. Various aspects of the report would clearly cost a lot of money to implement. That is no doubt one aspect at which the Minister and his colleagues will look in particular in the next few months.

As several noble Lords have said today, the report is by no means perfect. There are omissions and there are areas which need careful scrutiny. The noble Lord, Lord Gibson, the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, and the noble Baroness, Lady Gardner, referred to recommendation 6 which says that the Government should introduce a statutory duty of care on owners of listed buildings. I suspect that that is far too draconian a measure and certainly needs to be looked at very carefully.

We should welcome this report and I very much look forward to hearing the Minister's views on Power of Place.

4.38 p.m.

My Lords, I follow the noble Lord, Lord Crathorne, in his praise for the noble Lord, Lord Montagu. He is a true professional in this field and he provided us with an excellent introduction to this debate in your Lordships' House.

Perhaps I may illustrate the impression that I have of the noble Lord, Lord Montagu. Last summer, I was invited to his motorcycle day at Beaulieu, together with the noble Lord, Lord Jopling, and our wives. We went on our motorcycles to his motorcycle day where he entertained us very well. It was an extremely successful weekend, as one would expect. We saw there the excellent balance which he has achieved in preserving an estate of enormous historical value alongside the imperatives of tourism which he has managed to satisfy so well. There can be no better person to have introduced this debate today.

An important point which he made during his speech, which again shows the balance which is required and which is perhaps not brought out by the report, was in relation to the difficulties of access. Of course, there should be wide access to all our heritage sites. The noble Lord gave the example of access given to disabled people. That must be balanced against the possible damage done to the fabric of the house or monument in question. It is a matter of sensitivity.

The matters contained in the Power of Place—I much prefer the title Pride of Place as suggested by the noble Lord, Lord Hardy of Wath—that have been dug out by English Heritage and put in the press release are extremely important. Whether all the recommendations are met with equal enthusiasm is doubtful. The fact that such matters are important is reflected in the interesting and well-informed speeches in the debate.

I shall not follow my noble friend Lord Redesdale in the energy of youth that he showed in criticising the report. I believe that it is far too full of adjectives, superlatives, political correctness and in particular a kind of vagueness. One example of that vagueness that could have been couched in different terms appears on page 33, under the heading "Make more use of character appraisal". That concept requires some amplification. In its encouragement for the Government it says:
"Encourage local authorities to use spatial masterplans based on character assessment by including them as Best Value performance indicators".
That appears to be a candidate for the Campaign for Plain English. It does not encourage one to read further or to find out much more about character appraisal.

Many noble Lords have shown fear of causing the Minister to scowl. I too do not want to see him scowl. More often he is to be found smiling, as he is now and when responding to debates of this kind, in a most amiable way, although this is a vigorous debate in which vigorous views have been expressed.

All of the speeches have been good and some interesting points have been raised. One of the most interesting and telling remarks was made by the noble Lord, Lord Renfrew, who said that what one knows must come before what one sees. I could not agree with him more. That fact has been brought home to me since the summer Recess as I have been reading an excellent history of the 100 years war by Jonathan Sumption in two volumes—soon to be three. He is an excellent historian as well as a practising QC. I recommend him to your Lordships.

Over many years I have travelled in France in a motorcar and on a motorbike, particularly in the Dordogne, an area dealt with in the history and in the 15 days of the Christmas Recess I shall revisit some of the sites. The movements of the great companies of the Black Prince, the fights against the forces of the King of Navarre and the King of France and the difficulties of the dauphin, and so on, have been brought alive for me through my reading so I shall now visit those historic monuments, the bastides and the towns—the scenes of such conflicts—with new eyes. I have been encouraged to see them again.

If the imparting of knowledge is carried out correctly one can see things in a new light. When one visits places it is hoped that one is encouraged to learn more about them, although that is not always the case. Often what one sees, particularly on television, does not encourage one to learn more, although recently there have been some excellent historical programmes.

I am disappointed not to see the noble Lord, Lord Rees-Mogg, in his place because I believe he would have made an interesting contribution to the debate. About two or three years ago I happened to meet him in an airport where we struck up a conversation about the built heritage and some of the matters that we are debating this afternoon. I remarked to him—this relates to the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Renfrew—that it is strange that there are so many medieval and Roman remains in Europe. Roman architecture and monuments are to be found in Provence, and Italy has numerous towns that have been well preserved and conserved with new developments apart from the old centres. The noble Lord, Lord Rees-Mogg, expressed the view that one must understand that the British, like all with a long history of mercantile and industrial development, have a compulsion to clear the decks to start something new. That could explain why there is much less medieval architecture, and certainly Roman, in Britain compared with France and Italy. After the late 17th century and the great events of that period, we moved into our commercial and industrial period when there was a new growth of architecture and urban development that today we are concerned to preserve. The speeches about the new and the old relate to the report, but I was impressed by the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Hardy of Wath, when he spoke about the landscape, the urban deprivation and the way in which they are dealt with.

In the 18th century, which was the burgeoning period of architecture and landscaping in terms of great and new patrons and an era of a great widening of the society of patronage, the great landscape artists, such as Capability Brown, followed by the greatest of them all, Repton, looked upon the development of the landscape as an integral part of what they were required to do with the built structure. That contributed to the development of the new cities. Together with the portrait painters of that period, the interior decorators, the Grinling Gibbons and so on, they created a new civic vision for the polite society that was emerging as a result of the commercial development in the West Indies which, unfortunately, was based on slavery. I am surprised that that was not mentioned in the report.

There is much political correctness in the report. I believe that it is extremely condescending to the West Indian community; political correctness is often condescending to those whom it is supposed to help. I believe that it was inappropriate to put a picture of a market in Brixton on the front of this document. I do not suggest there should be a picture of a castle, a palace or a monument, but in my view that picture was too arch, so I add to the criticisms in that way.

Once the irritation of the form in which the report is presented has been overcome, important decisions must translate the enthusiasm of the debate and the enthusiasm of the report. That will require much focus, as the noble Baroness, Lady Hooper, said in her customary good-sense way. Much thought will have to be focused and a sensible strategy will have to be developed. The Government will have to bear much of the responsibility for implementing the decisions, the focusing and the strategy. The 18 recommendations are not a bad start. Some noble Lords have expressed doubt about them, but at least they provide a springboard. I am hopeful that the Minister, who has been smiling almost throughout my speech, will give us some encouragement for the future.

4.49 p.m.

My Lords, I, too, thank my noble friend Lord Montagu of Beaulieu for making it possible for us to have this debate. I congratulate him particularly on being able to obtain it within a mere week of the report's publication.

In their critique of Power of Place this afternoon, noble Lords addressed the vital questions contained within it: what is the value of our historic environment? Who is responsible for its guardianship? What measures should be taken and by whom to secure its future? How and when should those measures be taken?

My noble friend Lord Palumbo, more eloquently than I could, pointed out that the historic environment has a vital place within our culture. It helps us to know who we were, who we are now and who we may be in the future. It has within it an intrinsic value.

It is important to maintain a balance of conservation with a determination not to preserve the past in aspic—something my noble friend Lady Gardner of Parkes made clear in her canter round the issues of planning and listing. Houses, field monuments and the rural landscape evolved over generations. We should not want them to be frozen in time.

Heritage sites also have an economic value. History has a magnetic pull. Last year 51 per cent of the population visited an historic attraction, compared with only 17 per cent who went to a football match; 73 per cent of our overseas visitors visit historic buildings during their stay. Knowing that I have the eyes of my noble friend Lady Gardner upon me, I can say that those were recorded visits and not survey figures.

As we on these Benches pointed out in the foreword to our tourism strategy earlier this year, tourism is a pervasive industry. In Britain it draws upon our distinctive cultures and traditions. It is vital to the preservation and promotion of landscapes and historic buildings. It acts as a force for renewal and regeneration in both cities and the countryside, and in helping to create a positive image of Britain it enhances, more widely, inward investment.

Earlier this afternoon my noble friend Lord Patten made it clear that we all have a responsibility towards ensuring that our historic environment survives to inform and enthuse future generations. The historic environment is enjoyed by the whole population. But it is created, managed and maintained by a limited number of owners and organisations, whether it be the National Trust or others.

Also, it is important to recognise the value of the work of the volunteer; the strength and depth of the voluntary involvement in the historic environment of England. Indeed, as noble Lords pointed out, it is the envy of the world. The voluntary sector has been a spur to public action and a rich source of new insights. Yesterday when reading The Times, who could fail to have been charmed by the story of the discovery in the Isle of Wight of a village the whereabouts of which had been lost to us for centuries. The discovery was made by an amateur archaeologist who won a trip in a Piper Club aircraft. He took the opportunity, while flying around the area near his home, to take photographs from outside the craft. Those photographs proved the existence of the village. Thank goodness for people like him who realise the importance of "bumps in fields".

I can assure my noble friend Lord Renfrew that I take his words this afternoon very seriously. I hope that we shall have the opportunity to consider his important argument within the passage of the Culture and Recreation Bill.

The report—Power of Place—considers what needs to be done and by whom. It concludes that there is no need for immediate legislation, but that there is need for immediate action. The irony is that we may get the immediate legislation but, welcome though some of that may be, we shall not get immediate action.

Noble Lords referred to the fact that the report recommends that the remit of English Heritage should include marine matters and that funds be provided for effective protection. That echoes the recommendations made by my right honourable friend Virginia Bottomley in the Green Paper, Protecting Our Heritage, published in 1996. I am pleased that the Government intend to endorse those recommendations in the forthcoming Bill. Perhaps it is a case of better late than never—or even, better never late. I look forward to the opportunity to examine those proposals in detail in the new year, just to make sure that the policy intention is achieved and is achievable.

This afternoon my noble friend Lord Crathorne pointed out, as did other noble Lords, that the single most frequently raised issue during the consultation prior to the publication of this report was VAT. The report recommends equalising VAT at 5 per cent for all new build, repairs and maintenance. I look forward to hearing the Government's estimate of the cost of that to the Treasury.

The Government stated in their Pre-Budget Report that they are,
"attracted to the idea of offering a reduced rate of VAT for the repair and maintenance of listed buildings which are used as places of worship, and has written to the European Commission today to make its position clear".
The charging of VAT with regard to churches was the subject of a Starred Question in this House on 22nd July last year. The noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, then stated that,
"Annex H to the Sixth Directive cannot be applied retrospectively; in other words, it is not possible for us to add to the list of exemptions which existed before 1992, when Annex H was adopted".
—(Official Report, 22/7/99; col 1126.] My simple question on that convoluted quotation is: what is the Government's understanding now of the legal position? Can they go ahead and add to the list of exemptions as they seemed to promise in the Pre-Budget Statement? What are their plans to extend that extension to other listed buildings? If they do not have such an intention. what is their rationale for not so doing?

References have been made this afternoon to the Heritage Lottery Fund. I cannot let them pass without a reference to the order which the Government put through this House last Thursday. That order will snatch from the grasp of the Heritage Lottery Fund money that we on these Benches intended should reach it after the Millennium Commission had finished its millennium year work. At the moment, the New Opportunities Fund takes 13⅓ per cent from the pot designed for the original good causes. After August next year, it will take 33⅓ per cent. Without the New Opportunities Fund, the money would have been divided up amongst the original good causes. The Heritage Lottery Fund would have received 25 per cent of lottery proceeds; now it will receive only 16⅓ per cent. I regret that.

Several noble Lords commented on the recommendations with regard to training and education. I endorse all they said, particularly the words of my noble friend Lady Hooper in relation to training in conservation skills. Without that, we would have no heritage in the future to preserve; indeed, it could fall apart and be lost to future generations.

I was pleased to hear my noble friend Lord Montagu point out the vital part that education should play in putting the historic environment at the heart of education in schools and lifelong learning. Last month I had the pleasure of visiting Leeds Castle in Kent at the invitation of the trustees to find out more about their work. It is a charitable foundation with no extra source of funding other than that it receives from its 500,000 visitors a year. I was impressed by their proposal to renovate the pavilion in order to create a dedicated education centre. The project will turn a derelict building back into one with a useful purpose, without materially affecting its appearance. At the same time the proposal will create a special education centre, leading to the better understanding and interpretation of all aspects of Leeds Castle's work and history. It is primarily aimed at school children aged five to 11. I wish them well with the project. It shows how vibrant the built heritage sector is today.

I was also pleased to see in the report references to the importance that owners should place on ensuring that people with disabilities can visit and enjoy historic properties in an easy and dignified way. In saying that, I declare an interest as patron of the Tourism for All Consortium.

My noble friend Lord Renfrew referred to the section in the report which covers the recommendation that the Government should lead by example; they should ratify and implement relevant international charters. I look forward to hearing from the Minister in his reply whether or not the Government intend to sign up to the UNIDROIT Convention of 1995 as recommended by the report, or whether they will accept the recommendation made on Monday by the Illicit Trade Advisory Panel that they should not sign up to it.

Noble Lords throughout the House asked vital questions on the report. I look forward to hearing the Minister's response.

5 p.m.

My Lords, I join noble Lords who congratulated the noble Lord, Lord Montagu of Beaulieu, on the excellent timing of the debate, on the way in which he introduced it and on his lifetime service to the historic environment. I hope that he has been pleased with the debate because, as the noble Viscount, Lord Falkland, said, it has been vigorous and there has been outspoken criticism of the report. Therefore, at a time when the Government: are beginning to consider the recommendations, it is particularly important to hear responses from those in this House who know what they are talking about.

I do not want to duck out of our responsibility in requesting the report in the first place. It was an initiative of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions, both of which have responsibilities in this area. Earlier this year, both departments asked English Heritage to produce the report to a tight timetable. That was to some extent extended but it was admirably met. The departments asked English Heritage to assess a wide range of key issues and to submit the formal report to the Government.

They also asked English Heritage to consult widely not only within the heritage sector but also beyond. We wanted the debate to encompass not only those for whom the heritage is a day-to-day concern—those responsible for running the heritage and those who live among it—but also others who bring a different perspective to bear—those in industry and commerce and those involved in the development and planning process, the tourist industry and individual members of the public whose lives are touched by different aspects of our heritage.

We are pleased that English Heritage took consultation so seriously and that it set up such a wide steering group. I was a little surprised by some of the criticisms made about the composition of that group. The noble Lord, Lord Patten, for example, described the report as coming from the heritage industry. I believe that it was much more than that: it covered planning and development interests, local government, natural heritage bodies, land-owning interests, the Country Landowners' Association, tourism interests, Church bodies and ethnic community representatives. In view of the comments made about archaeology, I should add that the president of the Council for British Archaeology, Dr. Francis Pryor, was a member of the steering group.

I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Crathorne, was right in saying that a wide range of interests were represented on the steering group and therefore it was to some extent responsible for the report. I know that the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, believes that the report does not represent those bodies and I hope that he will talk to us about that. I am not familiar with the charges he makes but they deserve to be investigated.

In addition to the steering group, five discussion papers went out to more than 4,000 people. Responses were received from 630 organisations representing a wide range of bodies which care about the historic environment. Furthermore, there was the MORI poll. The noble Baroness, Lady Gardner, contrasted it with Westminster City Council's consultation on the Paddington Basin, but as a survey researcher for 40 years I can assure her that it was a highly professional poll. Response rates were of a proper level and there was a mixture of quantitative and qualitative research, which one would expect. Although there is always temptation for people in response to express socially acceptable views, the degree of public support for the historic environment which is shown in the survey is remarkable. The degree to which the public support is expressed by a wide range of people in this country of all social classes, in all regions and of all ethnic origins is also remarkable. Therefore, in terms of the range of interests which have taken part in the production of the report, English Heritage has nothing to be afraid of.

The report was launched only on 14th November last year, an event which was attended by Ministers from the two departments. They said that the Government would study the report most carefully. As was emphasised by the noble Lord, Lord Patten, and I agree with him, many of the recommendations are not just for government; they are for the heritage sector generally, for local authorities, regional bodies and owners. We look forward to seeing how they respond to the report.

As regards the recommendations affecting government, clearly the whole of Whitehall must be involved and until the spring our time will be taken in meeting our commitment to respond urgently. The noble Lord, Lord Montagu, was right in saying that what is now required is action, not more consultation.

Of course, in forming our view we shall take into account the views expressed in today's debate. For example, the noble Lord, Lord Palumbo, made an interesting suggestion about, as my note reads, "top-slicing for the European army". I do not believe that that is quite what he meant, but he referred to European projects. I shall be interested to hear what English Heritage thinks about losing 10 per cent of its budget for European projects but, the suggestion coming from him, I take it seriously, as always.

We should not be drawn into thinking that legislation, in particular the Culture and Recreation Bill which is to have its Second Reading in January, is an important part of our response to the Bill. There are areas where that Bill is relevant, notably the provision for transferring policy for underwater archaeology to English Heritage and the merger between English Heritage and the Royal Commission on Historic Monuments in England. But, on the whole, few of the recommendations, even those which are for government, will require legislation. I should not want to raise hopes that the Culture and Recreation Bill will be changed as it appears before the House in order to respond to the recommendations of this report. There are many other actions which government can and must take, but it is not always necessary to legislate. I give as an example the point about the importance of training, made by the noble Baroness, Lady Hooper, and with which we entirely agree. Legislation for that will not be required.

It is also important to consider our response to the report in the light of the other government initiatives which are taking place. I want to refer in particular to the urban and rural White Papers. There is criticism that the illustrations in the report emphasise the urban rather than the rural historic environment. I thought that that was unusual and interesting rather than sinister. I certainly did not believe that there was neglect in the text of the rural environment. Where the rural White Paper recognises the importance of conservation-led regeneration, it fits in well with what is stated in the report. In the same way, references in the urban White Paper to the historic environment as a means of making urban regeneration more effective fit in well with the report's recommendations. The urban White Paper points out that historic buildings, parks and open spaces make a great contribution to the character, diversity and sense of identity of urban areas, which fits in, too.

We must not neglect the Countryside and Rights of Way Act, which received Royal Assent at the very end of last month, and the relationship to which my noble friend Lord Hardy referred between the built historical environment and the natural environment. The Act contains many provisions which are directly related to the value, conservation and management of the natural and built environments. Therefore, the Government are not taking action simply in response to this report.

I turn to one or two more difficult areas of public policy which are highlighted in the report: first, the planning system. The noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, is not alone in believing that there should be more integration of planning and heritage controls. But surely there is already considerable integration. Heritage policies are a material consideration in planning decisions. The planning system handles planning applications for listed building and conservation area consent. The report notes, quite rightly, the importance of the planning system in delivering heritage objectives. However, all of that arises in the context of the streamlining of the planning process which the DETR is undertaking under the agenda set out in Modernising Planning.

The noble Baroness, Lady Gardner, drew attention to what she regarded as anomalies in the listing process. It is already possible for particular features of a building to be listed without prejudice to changes in other parts of the building which may not affect them. I am sure that that is as applicable to Centrepoint as it is to the noble Baroness's house in Oxfordshire. After all, this is reflected in the report's comments on the approach to conservation plan management agreements. We believe that that is worth further investigation. We are also looking at demolition controls in conservation areas and heritage notification arrangements, which are referred to in the report.

I was perhaps teased by the noble Lord, Lord Gibson, about VAT. I was fairly robust in my defence of government when the House debated Section 33 and the possibility of some reform of VAT. It was generally recognised that the Government had made progress with their proposals to reduce VAT from 17.5 to 5 per cent for repairs to listed places of worship. However, I cannot give the further news which the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, and the noble Lord, Lord Crathorne, seek. The European Commission is still considering the proposal and we do not have a date for its conclusion or the timing of possible UK applications. We shall consider that matter again in the new year. I can assure noble Lords that we shall not let this matter drop.

Despite the welcome for that limited movement, the Government recognise—the noble Lord, Lord Gibson, noted that recognition—the considerable pressure for further change in the VAT regime, which has again been reflected in the House this afternoon. It is government policy to offer financial assistance to the built heritage through targeted grant aid and capital taxation relief. In pursuing the VAT reduction for listed places of worship, the Chancellor not only recognises the historic importance of those buildings but explores how far it is possible to go with the European Commission.

I note the point raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Hooper, about VAT and entry fees in relation to national museums. We have debated that matter on many occasions in the past. I do not know that that is directly relevant to this afternoon's debate, but the noble Baroness's contribution will not be overlooked. There are very difficult issues of public policy involved.

In conclusion, I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Gardner, that in this process we do not want to turn the country into a museum or equate the built heritage with "theme park Britain". On the contrary, the historic environment in this country forms the backdrop to people's everyday lives. All the work that English Heritage has done in producing this report, in particular the MORI survey to which reference has been made, confirms how much people care about their heritage. It makes clear the extent to which people view the heritage in terms of places immediately around them, not simply individually designated historic sites and buildings.

I believe that the choice of Electric Avenue in Brixton as the front cover of the report is proper. It is better to show where people actually live than to show castles, however admirable they may be, which they can visit only on occasions. It is important to recognise how close these buildings are to people's lives. I do not in any way underestimate the importance of the observations of the noble Lord, Lord Renfrew, about bumps in fields and the historic aspects of the environment. Unless one knows why things are there one cannot appreciate them properly. The training of people who work in the environment and the children in our schools about the country in which they live and its historic features is of critical importance.

We must not view heritage as an impediment to modern life. Conservation of the best of the past is an integral element of the process of renewing our towns and cities and promoting social inclusion, which is a very important aspect of the report. There is no reason why conservation should stand in the way of good quality development. The Government firmly believe that it is of enormous importance to protect both the best of the past and to create the heritage of the future.

I repeat the non-political point with which the noble Lord, Lord Montagu, began the debate. Great progress has been made over the past 20 years in recognising the important public interest in taking firm action to protect the natural environment. We now want to make similar progress to protect the historical environment, which has significance for all of us. We shall do everything we can to ensure that the policy statement to be published in the spring reflects that and does full justice to the issues raised in the report.

My Lords, I thank the Minister for his reply and other Members of the House who have joined in the debate this afternoon. I believe that we agree with most of the report but are worried about its omissions, which we hope can be dealt with in years to come. The historic environment should lie at the heart of all government policies. Although everybody is interested in our heritage, there is concern about the future and not the past. We have a great international responsibility, as England's heritage is in many respects the world's. We shall have a richer future if we recognise the value of our historic environment and manage it thoughtfully, efficiently and proudly. I beg leave to withdraw the Motion.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.

Mental Health Act: Reform

5.19 p.m.

My Lords, with the leave of the House, I shall now repeat a Statement made in another place by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Health. The Statement is as follows: "With permission, Mr Speaker, I wish to make a Statement on the Government's plans for new mental health legislation, set out in the White Paper Reforming the Mental Health Act which my right honourable friend the Home Secretary and I are publishing today. This includes our plans for managing patients who are dangerous and severely personality disordered.

"Millions of people—perhaps as many as one in six of the population—face a mental illness at some point in their lives. About 630,000 patients with serious mental health problems are being cared for by specialist mental health services across England and Wales at any time. For every individual with serious mental health problems, there are many others—families, carers, friends, and the wider public—who are affected, sometimes with tragic consequences.

"It is for these reasons that the Government have made improving mental health services a key clinical priority for the NHS.

"First, we have made investment a priority. For the first time, ring-fenced funding is expanding what have for too long been Cinderella services within the NHS especially for those who are most seriously ill. By April next year we will have in place almost 500 extra secure beds, at least 320 extra beds staffed 24 hours a day, 170 assertive outreach teams and every patient with complex mental health needs will have access to services 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

"We have already recruited 3,000 new staff in mental health services. The NHS Plan we published in July announced a further £330 million investment in those services over the next three years. There will be further substantial increases in staff and new investment in specialist community health services and improved primary care services for all people with mental health problems. This investment will ensure public safety and improve patient care.

"Secondly, we have made reform a priority for mental health services. Last year we published the Mental Health National Service Framework to give local health and social services for the first time clear national standards. It will tackle the lottery in care which means some patients in some areas missing out on services and treatments that others receive as of right. It provides a clear statement for patients and their carers about what services they can expect wherever they live. It has been widely welcomed by patients, carers, clinicians and managers.

"The White Paper we are publishing today will now underpin those improvements in mental health services with reforms to mental health law.

"Good quality care and treatment is the key to making sure that most people with mental health problems never need to fall within the scope of mental health legislation. Despite public perceptions to the contrary, the overwhelming majority of people with mental illness are a threat to no one. Indeed, many mentally ill patients are among the most vulnerable in the community. Reducing the stigma which attaches to people with mental illness should be a priority for any caring, civilised society.

"There will always be some people, however, with serious mental disorder who do not seek care and treatment when they need it. Sometimes they do not recognise how ill they are; sometimes they are so disabled by their mental illness that they are not able to seek help; and sometimes they choose not to do so. In some cases, this means that a person with serious mental disorder will pose a significant risk to other people in their family or in the community as well as to themselves.

"The Government have a duty to protect both individual patients and the wider public where a person poses such risks. Mental health legislation should do just that.

"The current 1983 Mental Health Act is largely based on the last major review of the mental health legal framework which took place in the 1950s. Since then the way services are provided has dramatically changed. More seriously the current laws have failed properly to protect the public, patients or staff.

"Under existing mental health law, the only powers compulsorily to treat patients are if they are in hospital, but the majority of patients today are treated in the community. Public confidence in care in the community has been undermined by failures in services and failures in the law.

"The policy lost public confidence because in too many cases neither services nor the law properly protected either patients or the public. There have been no requirements for local health and social services to exchange relevant information about patients. Services have too often worked in isolation from one another. Too often, severely ill patients have been allowed to drift out of contact with mental health services altogether. Many patients have failed to comply with treatment. Clinicians have had to wait until patients in the community became ill enough to require admission to hospital. This has prevented early intervention to reduce the risks to both patients and the public. In particular, existing legislation has failed to provide adequate public protection from those whose risk to others stems from a severe personality disorder.

"As a result, patients and the public alike have been put at risk. They have been denied the protection they need. The tragic toll of over 1,000 suicides and 40 homicides every year involving patients who have been in touch with mental health services in the previous 12 months graphically illustrates the failure of the old legal framework. It is outdated. It is in desperate need of reform.

"Our proposals clarify the circumstances when care and treatment should be provided without the consent of a person with mental disorder either in their own interests or in the interests of public safety. They introduce new safeguards to protect a patient's rights where care and treatment is given without their consent.

"We have consulted widely over the last year on our plans for reform. They will mean major changes in four areas. First, safeguards will be improved for patients. Removing an individual's liberty against their will is a very serious step to take and must be balanced by suitable safeguards which are fully consistent with the Human Rights Act.

"For the first time then all decisions to apply compulsory powers to treat a patient for more than 28 days will be subject to independent scrutiny by a judicial body—the new mental health tribunal. The tribunal, which will be chaired by a senior lawyer, will consider the care and treatment plan proposed by the clinical team. It will take independent advice from medical and other experts and from patients or their representatives. Its decisions will be binding on the NHS and will be regularly reviewed. Patients who are subject to compulsory powers will as now have the right to free legal advice. They will also for the first time have a right to help from a specialist independent advocacy service.

"A new commission for mental health will also be established with a clear remit to monitor the quality of decision-making and whether the powers in new legislation are being used in a way that is consistent with the key principles that underpin it. The commission will provide new safeguards to protect the rights of people with long-term mental incapacity who are in need of specialist treatment for mental disorder but who are not able fully to participate in decisions about how that care is provided. The commission will be fully independent and will report annually.

"Secondly, there will be new safeguards to protect patient and public safety by extending compulsory treatment powers from the hospital ward into the community. The complexity of current laws which mean that there are several routes to compulsory treatment will be simplified. In future there will be a single entry point to compulsory treatment based on a full and fair assessment of each individual's care and treatment needs.

"New care and treatment orders will mean that patients subject to compulsory treatment, whether in hospital or in the community, will have to comply with the terms of their treatment programme. Refusal to do so could result in the patient being readmitted into hospital. Care plans will take into account a patient's best interests and any risk that they pose to other people. Compliance with treatment and contact with services will both be enforced under the new legislation in a way that was never possible under the 1983 Act.

"Care and treatment orders in the community will allow clinical teams to intervene earlier to prevent a patient's condition deteriorating. The risk that patients may pose to themselves or to others should be reduced as a result.

"Thirdly, public protection will be further strengthened by introducing new duties, backed up by robust safeguards, to cover the disclosure of information about patients suffering from mental disorder. Inquiry after inquiry has demonstrated that a breakdown of communication between local services responsible for a patient's care has been a significant factor in many of the homicides and suicides committed by severely mentally ill patients. This situation cannot be allowed to continue.

"There will be new powers to exchange information between statutory agencies to parallel the other steps the Government are taking to improve co-ordination between health and other local services.

"The Government are also committed to improving the level of service provided to victims generally and to giving proper recognition to the needs of victims of mentally disordered offenders in particular. The new legislation will allow victims of mentally disordered offenders to be given appropriate information about the offender's discharge as well as his detention. We also aim to enable victims to make representations to the mental health tribunal when it considers discharging the offender from hospital.

"Fourthly, there will be new criteria giving clear authority for the detention of patients who pose a significant risk of serious harm to others as a result of a mental disorder. That will include the detention of dangerous people with severe personality disorder. The Government are determined to deal with the challenge to public protection posed by this small group of people.

"Our proposals have been the subject of extensive consultation following publication of the joint Home Office and Department of Health document in July 1999. At present neither the law nor services are geared to cope with the risks posed by dangerous people with severe personality disorder. Many cannot be compulsorily detained in hospital because under the current law they can be defined as untreatable. Many are sent to prison after committing a serious crime and are a danger to the public on release. As a consequence, there has been a gap in the protection that mental health laws should afford the public, a gap we will now close.

"In place of the flawed concept of treatability, new criteria will separate those who need treatment primarily in their own best interests from those who need treatment because of the risk they pose to others. In cases involving those who present a high risk of harm to other people, the use of compulsory powers will be linked to a care and treatment plan which describes how to treat the underlying mental disorder and manage behaviours arising from that disorder. Compulsory treatment can go ahead only after a full assessment by doctors and with the agreement of the independent mental health tribunal. Those high-risk people who are before the courts for an offence will be able to be remanded for assessment and treatment.

"Similarly, my right honourable friend the Home Secretary will have powers to direct those already serving a prison sentence for assessment and treatment. Subject to the new mental health tribunal, dangerous people with severe personality disorder will be able to be detained for as long as they continue to present a high risk to others—if necessary, indefinitely. It should go without saying that the full range of safeguards which I outlined earlier to the House will apply to this group of people.

"The Government recognise that taking new powers to deal with those posing the greatest risk to the public will not by themselves be enough to safeguard the public. New specialist services are needed too. In the recent spending review, £126 million has been allocated across the Department of Health, the Prison Service and the Home Office to develop assessment and treatment services for this high risk group.

"The extra resources will allow extra staff to be employed, provide 320 new specialist places in high security settings within the Prison Service and the health service as well as 75 specialist hostel places. New approaches to the assessment of this group are currently being piloted in both the Prison Service and the NHS. Treatment pilots will begin next year. The evidence will be used to inform future decisions about how best new services should be structured.

"These changes amount to the biggest shake-up in mental health laws in four decades. They will strengthen the current law. They will introduce new safeguards for patients. They will improve protection for the wider community. Taken with the major investment and reforms that are now taking place in our mental health services, these proposals will enhance the safety both of patients and of the public. I commend them to the House".

My Lords, that concludes the Statement.

5.33 p.m.

My Lords, I welcome the White Paper and thank the Minister for repeating the Statement.

The House should be in no doubt of the importance of these announcements for the future of mental health services in this country. I agree with the Government that mental health is a clinical priority for the NHS and that the legal framework is outdated and in need of reform. The Opposition will back fully many of the proposals and aims adumbrated in the Statement. In particular, we agree that as much as possible should be done to reduce the stigma attaching to mental illness. Get rid of the stigma, and you are more than half way to achieving what in general we lack at present, which is an attitude of acceptance and tolerance of mentally ill people by the community at large.

We also agree that all patients who are mentally ill should have access to treatment appropriate to their needs in the most appropriate clinical setting. We acknowledge and welcome the new resources that the Government are directing to the delivery of care. That said, we are dealing here with some extremely complex and troubling issues. Since the publication of the Green Paper on mental health just over a year ago, many people have been worried that the prime focus of government thinking and of government pronouncements appeared to be on the issue of dangerousness and on the need to introduce mechanisms for compulsory detention of those with a severe personality disorder who pose a risk to others or to themselves. Although the Statement makes it clear that such people are small in number compared to the large number of people with a treatable mental condition, the whole balance of the Statement is, I think, regrettably skewed towards this subject and away from others of at least equal importance. The impression that this creates is perhaps a little unfortunate. I do not wish to underplay the need to protect the public where that is necessary. This is a very real concern. But it does little to advance the cause of reducing stigma if we dwell too much on dangerousness and compulsion at the expense of those many other people who represent no danger at all and who simply want, and who deserve, better treatment and a better service.

In seeking to protect the public from dangerous individuals, we must also beware of putting new mechanisms in place that lean too far in the other direction; in other words, mechanisms which allow far too readily for the indefinite detention of people who have done no harm to anyone and indeed may never do so.

I welcome the proposals for the creation of a new mental health tribunal and of a commission for mental health. But I should welcome, too, the Minister's clarification of the whole issue of compulsion. Although there may be place for compulsion in extreme cases, both compulsory detention and compulsory treatment should be regarded as a last resort.

Can the Minister also enlarge on a passage of the Statement which is unclear to me? It speaks of introducing new criteria to replace the concept of treatability, which up to now has determined whether or not a patient can be compulsorily detained in hospital. It may be right that treatability is no longer an appropriate criterion in this context; but if that is so, why does the Statement go on to refer to people with severe personality disorder obtaining treatment under a care and treatment plan? I thought that the whole issue with PD was that what we call personality disorder is made up of those categories of mental disorder that are considered untreatable. Can the Minister explain what lies behind this part of the Government's thinking?

Can he also say what place the Bournwood judgment has in the White Paper and whether in particular the Government acknowledge the need to build in a coherent set of provisions to take account of a patient's mental capacity in determining whether or not treatment can be compulsorily administered? What place do advance directives have in the Government's plans in this area?

In speaking of a single point of entry for compulsory treatment, as the Statement does, what arrangements do the Government envisage for initiating what I could perhaps be forgiven for terming loosely the "sectioning" process in an emergency? Will a psychiatrist or clinician, acting alone, be permitted to detain a patient in the first instance, as the current Mental Health Act provides for?

I welcome the Minister's acknowledgement of the value of advocacy for mental health patients. Does he agree that in this context safeguards should be in place to enable patients to receive full information about the treatment that is proposed for them, including the risks of that treatment and its possible side-effects? As the Minister will be aware, there are strong feelings among mental health charities and organisations that special safeguards should continue to apply to psychosurgery, electroconvulsive therapy and longterm drug treatment and perhaps should be extended to such areas as polypharmacy and force feeding. Does the Minister also agree that if we are to focus, as we should, on the needs of the patient, it is important to provide the patient with access to an assessment of what are his or her needs?

There is much here that we can welcome. We look forward to contributing to the debate on these important matters over the weeks and months ahead and, in due course, to the introduction of the new legislation.

5.40 p.m.

My Lords, I thank the Minister for repeating the Statement. I am sorry that our principal spokesman on health matters, my noble friend Lord Clement-Jones, is unavoidably absent and thus unable to reply to the Statement. We welcome much of what we have heard and, in particular, the way in which the Government have progressed from their position in the Green Paper to take greater account of the response of the Select Committee.

This is a very difficult area in which it is vitally important to balance the rights of individuals to their liberty with the rights of those in the wider community to their safety—something which has exercised many, for example, in the Russell case. It also concerns caring for extremely vulnerable people and I agree with the noble Earl when he said that this is a much wider area than simply the protection of the public.

There is much in this White Paper that we welcome and that will be welcomed by clinicians, patients and carers in the field of mental health. We welcome the proposal to establish an independent mental health tribunal to scrutinise, within 28 days, cases in which compulsory powers have been taken to treat a patient. We also welcome the provision of specialist advocates and legal aid to patients.

Nevertheless, we have a series of questions. We remain concerned about the criteria for the detention of patients who are deemed to pose a risk to others. I wonder whether the Minister could clarify what those criteria might be? I note also that the Government speak of,
"the detention of dangerous people with severe personality disorder".
Can the Minister comment on the statement by Dr Mike Shooter of the Royal College of Psychiatrists that,
"the link between severe personality disorder and dangerousness is extremely tenuous and poorly researched … most people with a severe personality disorder are not dangerous and most people who are dangerous … will not have a severe personality disorder".
As the Minister has himself said, most patients with mental illness are in fact very vulnerable and often pose a greater danger to themselves than to others. Can the Minister comment on the difficulty of identifying and treating those who might be a danger to others? Can the Minister also say a little more about how his proposals would fit in with the Human Rights Act?

Given the positive proposals in this Statement, can the Minister comment on how long it may be before parliamentary time might be made available for this legislation, and when it might be implemented? Can the Minister also tell us what might be done in the meantime to provide atypical drugs with less severe side-effects to promote compliance in treatment where appropriate among mental patients?

Will the Minister also give the House further information about the provision of resources to support these measures, especially when hearing in mind the current severe shortage of psychiatrists and psychiatric nurses? However positive some of these proposals may be, if they are under-resourced, they will mean little. Given that the last mental health Acts were passed in 1959 and 1983, I am sure that the Minister would agree that this is a once in a generation opportunity.

5.44 p.m.

My Lords, I should like, first, to thank the noble Earl and the noble Baroness for their welcome for the broad principles contained in the Statement and, indeed, for their constructive responses this afternoon. Perhaps I may say to the noble Earl that I very much agree with him as regards the priority which mental health is to be given in the National Health Service. I believe it i s significant that mental health is one of the three core priorities of the health service, alongside coronary heart disease and cancer services. It is very important that everything we seek to do in relation to legislation is underpinned by a proactive development of services in the National Health Service. The one goes with the other.

I also accept that the issue of stigma is one that we have to tackle with great energy and perseverance. The fact that so many people in our country suffer some degree of mental illness at any one time is surely the foundation on which we need to build. We need to work together with statutory agencies and voluntary organisations to promote a much more positive attitude towards mental health and towards those who suffer from mental illness.

The noble Earl was right to say that we are dealing with complex and troubling issues here. I felt that the Statement struck a balance between necessary concern as regards safeguarding individuals from self harm and protecting the public in general from risk. However, in order to see a balanced picture of what we seek to do in this area, noble Lords need to take the Statement together with our intention to reform mental health legislation alongside the priority generally being given to mental health services within the NHS and to the publication of a national service framework which will enable us, over the 10-year time-frame of the national service framework, to produce a much higher quality and more robust service.

The noble Earl asked me, quite rightly, about a number of issues relating to the safeguards that necessarily will be made available for people who may be affected by compulsory treatment orders. I believe that the establishment of a new independent tribunal, which will review on a regular basis those decisions, the right of an individual to seek help from independent advocacy, the establishment of a new commission for mental health which, most importantly, will oversee the operation of these proposals, along with tighter criteria on the use of compulsory powers, will all ensure that a proper balance is struck between public safety and individual safety and the rights of individuals.

The noble Baroness, Lady Northover, asked me about these proposals in relation to ECHR considerations. My understanding is that Article 5.1 of the convention declares that,
"Everyone has the right to liberty and security of person".
This right to liberty is subject to express exceptions such as the lawful imprisonment of convicted criminals. A further exception to the right to liberty is the law for detention of "persons of unsound mind". Under that exception, a person suffering from mental disorder may be deprived of his liberty by being detained in hospital. The first essential is that such a detention is lawful and has been carried out under a procedure prescribed by law. This is to guard against arbitrary arrest. Of course, we shall ensure that any legislation brought before your Lordships' House is compliant with the Human Rights Act.

The noble Baroness went on to ask when legislation is likely to be brought forward. I am afraid that all I can say at this stage is that it shall be done at the earliest possible moment. Obviously, implementation will follow the legislation.

The noble Baroness also asked me about resources and staffing. Both the noble Baroness and the noble Earl were right to pinpoint these particular issues. I believe that there is good news in relation to staffing in the mental health field. Over the past two years we have been able to bring in 350 more consultants and over 2,000 more nurses. It is also significant and important to note that 21 per cent of the total number of new nurse consultant posts that have been approved come from the field of mental health. That is important both in itself and in the leadership that nurse consultants can give. It is also important in terms of giving a signal to people who wish to come into nursing that mental health is a particularly crucial field. Clearly, we want to attract high calibre people who will, as we know, have to work under extremely stressful situations. We want to see more consultant posts in the future. We have committed £300 million in the first three years in relation to the national service framework and we shall be looking to ensure that we have the resources necessary to implement those programmes.

The noble Earl, Lord Howe, asked about the issue of compulsion. I accept his point that it is very much a last resort. Our aim is to improve the overall quality of mental health services in the NHS so that people who may have come under an order in the past, or even in the present, can be treated in the normal way and an order will be a last resort.

The noble Earl asked about the issue of treatability. The change in approach that we want to make will aim to ensure the flexibility for compulsory powers to be used in whatever way best meets patients' needs and is consistent with any risks that they pose to themselves or to other people. It will also help to ensure that patients who require care and treatment under mental health legislation are not excluded because of too narrow a definition of mental disorder. One of the effects of the change will be to move away from the narrow concept of treatability that applies to certain categories of mental disorder in the 1983 Act.

So far as concerns the issue raised by the noble Earl in regard to the assessment and treatment of people with severe personality disorders, two pilot exercises are currently being undertaken, in Rampton Hospital and HM Prison Whitemoor, which are looking into the assessment and treatment processes and interventions to evaluate what actually works. This will very much inform the process of assessment and treatment in the future. I understand that it will be another 18 months before the pilots come to fruition, but they will be extremely valuable in enabling us to take forward these important issues. I hope that that answers most of the points raised.

5.53 p.m.

My Lords, perhaps the Minister will be able to help me on one matter. Over the years, I have drawn attention to the report of Lord Butler's committee in 1975 dealing with the mentally ill prisoner and recommending a reviewable sentence, a new form of indeterminate sentence which would operate on the basis of the prisoner being obliged to be reassessed every two or three years and not being allowed his liberty until the reviewing authority said that it was safe for him to be allowed to leave. On every occasion I have raised this matter, I have been told that the Government are giving earnest consideration to the Butler report and how it can be used and modified. It has been referred to from time to time during inquiries of the kind to which the Minister has referred, where murder has been committed by persons who have been given their liberty after being discharged from prison.

Can the Minister explain how this fits in with these proposals? I heard nothing which indicated that there was to be a new form of indeterminate sentence to deal with this problem. If there is not to be a new form of indeterminate sentence on the basis of or analogous to the reviewable sentence, there would seem to be a large gap in this proposed legislation.

I should also like to know how the compulsory detention of someone who is untreatable, and is known to be untreatable, can fit in with the ECHR legislation and fundamental rights. The suggestion that someone should be incarcerated without limit of time, having committed no offence at all and not being incarcerated for treatment because, ex hypothesi, there is none, seems to raise a very difficult question.

My Lords, as regards the noble and learned Lord's second point, we certainly wish to ensure that whatever proposals we bring before your Lordships' House will be complicit with the European Convention on Human Rights. A very important safeguard throughout these processes will he the role of the mental health tribunal and its ability to review cases and, for the person subject to such an order, the help of advocacy in relation to the issue to be decided by the tribunal.

As to the noble and learned Lord's first point, the new legislation that we propose will provide for the Home Secretary to direct a prisoner to undergo a specialist assessment for mental disorder, in addition to powers to transfer to hospital for treatment. Such a specialist assessment will take place in an appropriate environment, which could be in a hospital or in a designated section of a prison. In particular, this will allow for specialist assessment of prisoners who are high risk before decisions on possible transfer to a specialist mental health unit are considered.

When a transferred prisoner reaches the date on which he or she would have been released from prison, authorisation for continued care and treatment would be subject to the clinical supervisor submitting an application for approval by the mental health tribunal in civil proceedings, as outlined in the White Paper. Where the patient remains subject to compulsory powers on expiry of his or her restriction direction because of the risk of harm they pose to others, the tribunal ordering continuing care and treatment will be able to require that decisions on discharge, leave and transfer should be referred to it for prior approval.

My Lords, things have moved on an awful long way in the 15 years since I first became responsible for mental health within the noble Lord's department, both in the thinking about mental health issues and in the treatment and care of mentally ill patients. But, as I understand it—following on slightly from the noble and learned Lord's point—there has always been a problem with psychiatrists in the prison service.

The prison medical service has over the years had varying numbers of psychiatrists. The most important thing for a prisoner is to be identified as mentally ill or not. The only person who can do this is the prison psychiatrist. Are prison psychiatrists currently up to strength, or is this something that some of the extra £100 million-odd mentioned in the Statement will be spent on?

The Minister mentioned in the Statement the secure beds scheme and prided himself on an extra 500 beds. Does that mean 500 beds from now on, or are the beds already there? If so, from when, and do they exist in every health region?

My Lords, the noble Lord raises an important issue; namely, the overall quality of prison health services, particularly prison mental health services. There is no doubt that we need to see improvements in the overall quality of the service. In March 1999, the report on the future organisation of prison healthcare set out a number of recommendations for improving services overall, including an examination of both the quality of the service and the number of staff who should be employed, including consultant psychiatrists.

We accepted the report's recommendations. We have established a joint task force and a policy unit, which is working hard at visiting every prison and each healthcare centre, identifying those prisons where major investment needs to be made in terms of either capital or staffing. The important development is the endeavour to have the health service link with a local prison, so that there is a stronger interrelationship between local services and prison services. It means that the prison healthcare service is less isolated. It also enables people to transfer, so that there can be rotations of staff—people can perhaps work part-time in the health service and part-time in the Prison Service or they can go in for tours of duty. That will be the way in which we shall tackle some of the problems that the noble Lord rightly identified.

The noble Lord is right also to raise issues regarding the number of secure and medium-secure beds. The 500 beds are additional beds that we want to see brought in. I do not have the details of the timing and when that plan will come to fruition; clearly, it remains an important part of the whole process of improving mental health facilities that such facilities should be available. One of the problems in relation to prison healthcare services is, for instance, the backlog of prisoners who sometimes need to be transferred to other facilities. However, I am confident that we shall be able to make progress on that. It will be important, as was suggested, that facilities are placed in different parts of the country.

My Lords, I should like to probe further into the second point raised by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Ackner; namely, the position of those who are detained or threatened with detention because they are alleged to present a risk of harm to the public because of a severe personality disorder.

As I understand it, the term "severe personality disorder" is used to describe people who are guilty, or thought likely to be guilty, of anti-social behaviour on a significant scale but who do not suffer from any identifiable mental illness. What will the position be if such people have no convictions? What standard of proof will be required to authorise their detention? The Statement talks about a "high risk of harm". We need to know how high is "high". Does it mean the virtual certainty that they will commit acts of violence in the future—in other words, proof beyond reasonable doubt? If the standard of proof is lower than that, how can their detention be justified? Can we really detain someone because we think it more likely than not that in future that person will commit some act of violence, or perhaps even that there is a significant risk falling short of probability? Those are important aspects and I await the Minister's response.

My Lords, the noble Lord is right to identify this as an important issue. I am sure that when we debate the Bill in this House it will be a subject for the closest possibly scrutiny. I accept that the balance between the risk to the public and ensuring that people's individual rights are upheld becomes a crucial issue.

The consultation paper that led up to the White Paper and the proposal for legislation outlined the need for a systematic approach to the determination of whether an individual has a severe personality disorder and the level of risk that is posed to others. It said that any treatment needs would be assessed, leading to a plan of care and management to take account of public safety and the full range of interventions required.

The concept is that a screening assessment would take place in the Prison Service for those detained in prison and in the NHS for those detained under the mental health legislation or for those living in the community. The purpose of the screening assessment would be to establish whether there is sufficient evidence of someone having a severe personality disorder to justify a longer term intensive assessment and to establish whether the individual is sufficiently robust to undergo a full assessment. As part of the screening assessment, an individual's history would be considered and there would be an interview with clinical staff to assess suitability and to screen out more immediate mental health needs or other issues around treatment. The screening assessment would take place alongside the full diagnostic and assessment screening as to whether someone indeed had severe personality disorder and was dangerous.

I refer the noble Lord to the pilot work that is being undertaken in the NHS and in Her Majesty's Prison Whitemoor. These very ideas are currently being tested. At the end of that process we shall have a much clearer idea of where the balance is to be drawn. I accept that it is important to get that balance right. It is important that we also have the necessary safeguards—such as a mental health tribunal—to ensure that cases are subject to the appropriate review by people who are expert in these matters.

My Lords, as a former member of the All-Party Mental Health Group, I warmly welcome the intentions of the Government in this matter. For too long, the mental health service has been something of a Cinderella service.

However, will the Minister expand on a problem of which I had some experience as a constituency MP? I refer to the person who is allowed into the community but needs to take medication if his case is not to get much worse and who fails to do so: all kinds of problems and nightmarish scenarios can then occur. What in practice will be the position under the new legislation? Will that person have to report to a doctor's surgery? Will a mental health worker have to call at his house? How will that situation be dealt with in practice, bearing in mind that he may have to take medication three times a day?

My Lords, there are two issues here. One is the question of monitoring and reviewing the progress of someone who is subject to an order. The important point to make is that alongside the order is a care/treatment plan—the two will go together. It will be up to the responsible authorities to ensure that, when an order is made, a care/treatment plan is also put into practice. That will involve the various mechanisms in place to develop appropriate mental health services in the community, including assertive outreach teams. That allows for 24-hour contact seven days a week with vulnerable people.

At the end of that process, there is no question of medication being applied compulsorily within the community. But if the process breaks down and it is clear that an individual is not following the treatment programme and the order, it is possible to ensure that the person comes back into an institution where such medication can be given.

My Lords, I refer back to the question posed by the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart. I may not have followed the Minister's response carefully enough, but I am unclear about the situation of someone who has been declared "untreatable" but who has committed no offence and has not been charged with any offence. If it is decided that it is necessary to detain such a person, where will he be held? Will it be in hospital, despite the fact that he is untreatable, or in prison?

My Lords, it will depend on the circumstances of the individual concerned. We are piloting this approach in two different institutions—one in an NHS special hospital and one in a prison—to enable us to study the different experiences in relation to each institution. As part of our evaluation of the whole assessment and treatment process, we shall be able to form a judgment as to where the most appropriate provision is made. At the end of the day, it is most important that we have specialist provision available. In addition to the resources that we are investing in mental health services more generally, we shall be investing further resources in specialist places to ensure that we provide the right kind of circumstance in which those people can be properly looked after and treated.

My Lords, following on from the question just put by the noble Lord, Lord Cope, can the Minister say whether those who are sent to prison, although they have committed no crime, will be given better treatment in prison in terms of food, and so on, than prisoners who have been detained because they have committed a crime?

My Lords, that is not a matter to which I have given consideration. I do not have any particular experience of life in prisons. Indeed, in essence, such considerations would have to be a matter for the prison authorities, although I should have thought that there would be some practical difficulties in terms, if you like, of a two-tier system. The key safeguard in relation to anyone affected by the new legislation will be the position of the mental health tribunal, which will be able to review these matters on a case-by-case basis.

In addition, the establishment of a mental health commission, which will also be part of the programme of reforms, will allow the Government to have an advisory body that will consider all these matters to ensure that the legislation is being operated appropriately. It will also have a very important role in relation to the training of staff. Wherever staff are involved in the process, whether it be in prison, in the tribunals or in relation to the assessment teams that need to make such judgments, it is important for us to have as highly-trained staff as possible.

European Enlargement

6.13 p.m.

rose to call attention to the sections on political criteria in the progress reports from the European Commission of 8th November on the candidates for enlargement; and to move for Papers.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, the House has had many opportunities to talk about Europe, but I believe that I am right in saying that this is the first occasion upon which either your Lordships or another place have debated specifically the political criteria for accession.

The Nice summit removed all the remaining institutional obstacles to enlargement. As the Prime Minister said in another place on 11th December:
"It is extraordinary to think that, a few years ago, those countries in central and eastern Europe were still under the communist yoke of the old Soviet bloc. Today, there is the real prospect of uniting western and eastern Europe for the first time in generations".
—[Official Report, Commons, 11/12/00; col. 349.] I congratulate the Government on this achievement and also on opening up a debate on the Foreign Office website, to which any member of the public can contribute, on Nice, generally, and on enlargement in particular.

At Copenhagen seven years ago, member states agreed on enlargement in principle, and laid down the political criteria which had to be satisfied before accession. The applicant would have to achieve,
"stability of institutions guaranteeing democracy, the rule of law, human rights and respect for and protection of minorities".
Since 1997, the Commission has submitted annual reports to the Council on the progress achieved by each country, and these are the basis for the Council's further negotiations with candidates. At Luxembourg in 1997 the European Council decided to bring Turkey into the enlargement process and outlined a specific European strategy for Turkey. Then, last year, the Helsinki summit concluded that all the 13 candidates, except Turkey, had fulfilled the political criteria. At the General Affairs Council on 20th November this year:
"The President noted delegations' attachment to the Helsinki timetable, i.e. 1 January 2003 as the date for welcoming the new Member States".
The first question that I have for the Minister is this. Should we conclude that continuing to examine the candidate countries' adherence to the Copenhagen criteria is merely a formality, because they have already sat the examination and passed, and that the first wave are to be admitted in three years' time whatever their record on human rights during that period? The Commission did launch a "Dialogue on Europe" last March, but will it make any difference what is said about the political criteria, when they had allegedly been satisfied by all the candidates before the dialogue had even started?

It is entirely right that the former communist states of eastern Europe should be brought into alignment with our standards of democracy, human rights and the rule of law. We should take the once-and-for-all opportunity afforded by enlargement of looking closely at their approach to these standards. But we have no idea whether the Commission is doing this job properly on our behalf. I suspect that it is just going through the motions, now that the matter is res judicata. I appreciate that the European Parliament has the last word on the subject, and I hope that my noble friend Lady Nicholson will say more about its powers in that regard. But when the time comes, it would be very difficult for the Parliament to impose any delay because of non-compliance with the political criteria when the candidates have all been told that they passed the test in 1999.

If adherence to the criteria is still relevant to the final decision on a candidate's accession, there ought to be far greater transparency in the formulation of the Commission's reports, so that member states and their citizens could evaluate the process for themselves. Mr Keith Vaz, the Minister for Europe, said that, together with the information provided by the member states themselves, the material the Commission had from a range of NGOs and the monitoring of news sources, it had enough information to form a judgment on the extent to which any candidate was meeting its commitments against the Copenhagen criteria. But no one outside the Commission knows what sources have been consulted. The Director-General, Mr Landaburu wrote to me saying that the Commissioner,
"shares your opinion that all documentary information relevant to candidate countries' compliance with EU human rights conditions should be readily and easily available for consultation by any individual within the member states of the European Union, as well as the people of candidate countries".
Will the Government now ensure that that is done, and that the website, which deals with the Commission's reports on enlargement, is expanded to include references to all the documents that it has used in the compilation of such reports?

The countries due to enter in 2003 are Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Poland and Slovenia. In the case of the Czech Republic, there are serious reservations, both about the process by which the Commission assessed their compliance with Copenhagen, and their actual eligibility. Although reference is made to the treatment of the Roma, the author of the report is satisfied that the fulfilment of most of the measures on the Government's 1997 Action Plan was an adequate response.

The Commission report notes that Roma children make up 70 per cent of those sent to special schools for those with learning difficulties; that Roma unemployment is between 70 per cent and 90 per cent; that health and housing conditions are much worse among the Roma than for the population in general; that district court judgments continue to display prejudice against the Roma; and that the inter-Ministerial Roma Commission has no budget, no executive power and very few permanent staff. The long term strategic action plan lists tasks for various ministries but, again, it has no budget. The Government launched an anti-racist programme in December with a budget of a mere £175,000, but we are not told of any specific results that have been achieved.

We have no idea whether the Enlargement Directorate consulted the report of the OSCE High Commissioner for National Minorities about Roma and Sinti. That was a detailed and thorough piece of work and the ODIHR has a contact point for Roma and Sinti issues whose activities included just the other day a seminar in Prague on Roma political participation.

The OSCE Copenhagen Document—not to be confused with the Copenhagen criteria—requires participating states to take the necessary measures to prevent discrimination against individuals, particularly in respect of education, on the grounds of belonging to a national minority. We need a joined-up Europe in which the various institutions work together. There is no sign of this happening or of links being created between the OSCE and the Commission with regard to the political criteria.

The same is true of the Council of Europe. It has important responsibilities with regard to human rights, the treatment of minorities and fighting racism. The Czech Republic has signed up to the Framework Convention on National Minorities which requires the parties to,
"create the conditions necessary for the effective participation of persons belonging to national minorities in cultural, social and economic life and in public affairs, in particular those affecting them".
How this is to be achieved was spelt out in the OSCE's Lund Recommendations, and in the Report on Constructive National Arrangements for Minorities by UN Special Rapporteur, Asbjorn Eide. Yet the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination recently expressed its concern about the lack of provisions outlawing discrimination in the Czech Republic in education, health and social services, the prisons and in private interactions between citizens. It states that the courts have no ability to prevent and punish racial crimes.

One reason that the European Union may wish to play down the human rights abuses against the Roma in the Czech Republic and other eastern European countries is that it wishes to portray all Roma asylum seekers coming to these countries, including Britain, as economic migrants. There were 1,790 applications for asylum from citizens of the Czech Republic in 1999 and they were unsympathetically received by immigration officers, egged on by the tabloid press. If we had asked the Czech Republic to comply with its freely accepted obligations to minorities before we gave it the Copenhagen seal of approval, it would have weakened the argument for almost blanket refusal of these refugees.

I now turn to the far more difficult problem of Turkey, where I agree with the Commission's latest report that the situation on the ground has hardly improved over the past year, contrary to what was said at Question Time by the noble Lord, Lord Alton, with whom I normally find myself in agreement. The treatment of the Kurds is the most glaring instance of Turkey's lack of political will to adhere to European principles of human rights. They do not even accept that the Kurds are a minority, or allow them to use their own language; to have mother tongue education; to broadcast in Kurdish; or to have any degree whatever of self-government. For 15 years they used ferocious military power to contain a Kurdish rebellion in the south east, forcibly removing an estimated 3 million people from their homes and demolishing 3,000 villages and hamlets.

The Accession Partnership document, on which I understand—my noble friend will correct me if I am wrong—there were no consultations with the Parliament, does not mention Kurds or even use the term "minority", and it does not require the Turks to implement the full range of the OSCE's Copenhagen Document of 1993. It is equally short on substance when it comes to freedom of expression, calling on Turkey to,
address … the situation of those persons in prison sentenced for expressing non-violent opinions".
Yet the Turks have been deaf to the pleas of the Inter-Parliamentary Union on behalf of Leyla Zana, Hatip Dicle, Orhan Dogan and Selim Sadak, who are serving sentences of 15 years' imprisonment for advocating a political solution to the conflict in the south east. My friend and that of the noble Lord, Lord Rea, Sanar Yurdatapan, is in prison today because of his advocacy of free speech and the blind writer Yagmurdereli is serving a prison sentence of 30 years which does not expire until 2020.

The document calls on Turkey to,
"strengthen opportunities for legal redress against all violations of human rights".
What matters is not the mechanisms that exist on paper but how they work in practice. A woman who was strung up naked and sexually abused and whose two year-old son was given electric shocks in front of her did file a complaint but it was summarily rejected by the public prosecutor who took no statement from the complainant and refused to look at the medical reports. Amnesty International said that this case illustrated the scale of the impunity still experienced by victims of torture in Turkey today. So the approach of the Commission is too legalistic. It relies on the courts which are shown to be ineffective in this and in many other cases. One measure of the actual scale of the problem is the number of cases brought against Turkey at the European Human Rights Court in Strasbourg. The Kurdish Human Rights Project, of which I have the honour to be President, has recorded 25 judgments against Turkey, and in 20 of them the Court found a violation of Article 13, the right to an effective remedy. In 1999 alone, 18 judgments were recorded against Turkey and no fewer than 655 new cases were registered against them.

Will the Minister tell us what measures are open to the Commission to secure,
"respect for and protection of minorities"?
How can progress on the ground, as opposed to plans and declarations, be measured? Will the Government promote closer links between the Enlargement Directorate and appropriate institutions of the Council of Europe and the OSCE, particularly ODIHR and its contact point on the Roma and Sinti, and the High Commissioner for National Minorities? Will they try to secure greater transparency in the process of looking at applicant states' compliance with the political criteria? Could there be a senior official in the Enlargement Directorate to liase with NGOs and could that be a two-way process with feedback from the Enlargement Directorate to the NGOs instead of it being all one way?

Since your Lordships' Select Committee on the European Communities has already reported on enlargement in general, perhaps it could now examine the ways in which the Commission assesses compliance with the political criteria. I am glad to note that the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, the committee's chairman, is present. Do we still have any leverage with the 12 states which have now entered the negotiations, or have we thrown away the bargaining power we had with them by deeming them to have satisfied the Copenhagen criteria? If so, it is all the more vital that the peoples of the European Union do not allow the Commission and the Council to repeat the same mistake with Turkey. There is already a strong lobby in favour of admitting Turkey as soon as possible, regardless of its political eligibility, and of beginning negotiations without insisting on strict performance of the criteria, or interpreting them in as lenient a way as possible for that purpose.

I hope that this debate will serve to underline the importance of respect for human rights in an enlarged Europe, the need for much greater transparency in the process of examining those seeking to join and the concern felt by people throughout the Union that political imperatives are in danger of overriding those considerations. My Lords, I beg to move for Papers.

6.28 p.m.

My Lords, 1 congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, on introducing the debate. It is a wide-ranging subject and he has chosen to address two specific areas, the Roma and Turkey. I echo his comments.

The reports on the countries we are discussing distinguish between political criteria, economic criteria and the ability to assume the obligations of membership. These distinctions are to some extent artificial, as I shall demonstrate. I want to refer to the obligations of membership which also concern civil society although they do not come under the strict heading of political criteria. However, noble Lords will no doubt forgive me if I trespass in that area.

I begin by congratulating the Foreign Secretary, Robin Cook, on the initiative he took during the United Kingdom presidency. I refer to the second half of 1998. At that time the TUC, of which I was then an official, asked the Government whether they would use the presidency to initiate a conference of social partners including all the countries of eastern Europe, all the candidate countries, to look at the transposition arrangements for the acquis communautaire. That raises the problems and dilemmas of leverage, a point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Avebury.

The outcome of the initiative by Robin Cook was the convening of a successful conference in Warsaw in March 1999 of trade unions and employers from 30 countries. Most had never attended such a meeting at international level or, in some cases, even at national level. The European Commission facilitated the arrangements for the meeting. Although the Commission is often criticised in this Chamber for various sins of omission or commission, it is indispensable in the developments about which we speak, including these somewhat comprehensive reports on the countries.

At the end of the Warsaw Conference an agreed communiqué set out the broad principle that the social partners should be involved in the transposition of the acquis—in other words, the implementation in each accession country of all the accumulated law and practice of the EU. It is a major undertaking. It includes the rights of part-time workers. In the social field we have an impressive list of matters which would be covered by the transposition of the acquis. The European TUC had a hand in pushing forward the issue of racial discrimination. We held a conference in Poznan on the treatment of immigrants, raising the rights of the Roma people. That issue has, rightly, moved up the agenda.

Why do I say that the involvement of the social partners in the transposition is of such key importance? In my experience, there are several powerful reasons. First, in the absence of such involvement, those at the receiving end will be unable to digest the mountains of paper in the acquis. That will send the wrong signal to the civil society: that laws and arrangements providing a major part of the framework of that society can be parachuted in (if I may mix my metaphors) as if from Mount Sinai.

It is clear that although the candidate countries vary enormously, they all have in common the fact that until 10 years ago anyone who was anyone in public life was a member of the Communist Party. Whatever else democratic centralism meant, it did not mean that there was a lot of scope for grassroots involvement in the development of social partnership.

Is the situation today in most of these countries in that regard overwhelmingly different? Of course it is different and it is better. But let me dwell on this point because it is not a rhetorical question. The answer is that there is still a long way to go. That should not get in the way of enlargement. On balance, Nice marked a good step forward by setting dates in 2002, 2004 and so on. But one does not change to a different culture by magic. There are the day-to-day problems of practice and culture.

Perhaps I may say tongue in cheek that we in Britain are conscious of the high regard in which we are held by less fortunate parts of the world. Even if that is the image we have of ourselves, this country does not have an ideal way of dealing with industrial change. I mention Vauxhall and Coates Viyella from two different sectors to illustrate the point. The problem in eastern Europe is compounded by the fact that the economy of those countries starts at 25 per cent to 40 per cent of the EU average level.

Given that the acquis is not the same as the Maastrict guidelines on economic performance, that economic disparity means that there is a mountain to climb by mountaineers who are not too well equipped to climb it. One specific problem is the challenge of the representative capacity of trade unions and employers. Not all of the trade union and employer structures from the old regime were consigned to the scrap heap of history. Indeed, in Poland and Hungary in different ways the contrary is the case, and not for bad reasons. There cannot overnight be a representative TUC and CBI, but we have to nurture the green shoots as best we can.

I concentrate on the transposition of directives in the social field. However, one could adduce the same principle to the economic and industrial spheres. We have made great progress in the European Union in the past two years through what might be called "voluntary intergovermentalism" in the follow-up to the Amsterdam Treaty. Even such a paragon as Britain has found the process of economic education of enormous value, in particular the employment pact and employment guidelines as regards employability, and so on. How much more valuable that process will be for countries with no experience of involvement in such exercises.

An additional consideration should commend itself to governments and social partners alike. We hear the argument that the acquis is felt to be too detailed and inflexible. One answer must be to give as much scope as possible to the role of framework agreements at national level. We in Britain, for example, would have been more likely to have reached an accommodation on the issue of working time if we had gone down the framework route rather than that of a detailed directive. Moreover, there are wider advantages in what I call "learning by doing". There is no better way to become familiar with an issue than to become involved in the process of drawing up an agreement on it—building up a network of people who are familiar with the issue and the practical constraints on how to handle it.

At the time of the Warsaw Conference, the commissioner, Padraig Flynn, said that the response to the challenge has to be home grown and that we must understand that the European social dialogue is built on widely different national systems and practices. There is no one model that could be imposed. Each national system in the EU has contributed to the social dialogue at EU level.

I return to the problem raised by the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, of drawing a line between transposition of the acquis and what might be regarded as interference in the internal affairs of an applicant state. Is this a new imperialism? I have heard that argument put forward. The noble Lord used the word "leverage", and rightly. There is leverage at this stage. People in the economic and social sphere are considering jumping some hoops to be part of the club. There is no gainsaying the fact that we are establishing European benchmarks which not everyone in Poland or Latvia will like—any more than we do in Britain or France. But there is an overwhelming case for setting benchmarks for minimum standards. The change in the number for qualified majority voting after Nice will also be borne in mind as we approach 2004. That will concentrate minds in all parts of Europe with much of the negotiating process to be completed by 2002.

Do we have any extra resource or leverage to help? The TUC has been involved in training programmes in Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary and elsewhere. We are aware that there is also a challenge for the multinationals to play a role. They are the main vehicle not just for direct investment, but for the transfer of technology and other aspects at the softer end of know-how into those countries.

It would be useful if the Government asked in the European institutions what the multinationals are doing to monitor and report on how the applicant countries are finding the extension of the issues covered by the acquis on a voluntary basis until they become member states and how the transfer of know-how is developing. Multinationals are often the only employers with experience of the western system, which is unknown in many parts of eastern Europe.

As Padraig Flynn pointed out in Warsaw,
"the social acquis … will allow structural change to be a process, not a battlefield".
He added that it must be integral to the accession agenda. Implementation needs to be carried out on the ground, in the workplace. The EU is looking for support from the mainstream PHARE funds. Funding from that programme, which has been developed over the years, is accession-driven, in line with the priorities of each country's accession partnership. Help with preparing for participation is also available from the structural funds, including the European Social Fund.

On the key question of social partnership involvement in the transposition of the acquis, I shall quote one example from the report on Hungary and one from the report on Poland. The report on Hungary states, on page 53:
"Social dialogue is not accorded the requisite importance and this situation needs to be addressed. The new structures need to be used in a way that permits effective social dialogue. There is a need to actively promote sound developments in social dialogue within the country. The lack of effective consultations at national level is harmful to social dialogue".
The report on Poland states, on page 57:
"Social dialogue requires considerable further effort if it is to be developed so that it facilitates the implementation of the acquis at local level. This will also entail the reinforcement of the Government's administrative capacity".
As part of the enlargement exercise, perhaps we could have a progress report on the sort of information being put together in the light of the Warsaw declaration. Perhaps the second anniversary of that declaration, in March 2001, would be an appropriate time for that. Will the British Government follow up their important initiative of two years ago by putting that in hand, even though the progress report may turn out to be a "progress and difficulties of progress" report? We need to walk the tightrope between too much interference in internal affairs and making sure that the European benchmarks do the job that they were intended to do.

6.43 p.m.

My Lords, I have the honour in the European Parliament to serve as vice-president of the committee for foreign affairs, human rights and common defence and security policy. Our task incorporates enlargement. In my work there, I have been nominated as rapporteur for Romania—one of the applicant countries. I therefore work closely with all Members of the European Parliament, with Commissioner Verheugen and his team and with the Council of Ministers, meeting regularly with different Foreign Ministers of the applicant countries as well as of the members states. I can say categorically that the European Union is determined that no new division of Europe should be allowed.

Freedom in Europe was achieved only when the rule of law and human rights—two pillars of all our essential freedoms—were firmly in place. The year that is now ending has marked the 10th anniversary of German reunification. The European Union, which has been enlarging from its inception to its present enlargement, faces its largest challenge yet. Now we number 350 million citizens. In future we shall be an additional 170 million, enlarging froml5 countries to at least 27, and shortly thereafter to 28. Subsequently, we aim for 700 million citizens and a possible 35 or 36 countries. The enlargement project is irreversible. It is not a question of whether we enlarge, but how and when. The Union's commitment to enlargement is irrefutable, profound, reflective and courageous. It is not an easy task. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, for the opportunity to talk about the challenge of enlargement, with special reference to the political criteria, which are the most important ones.

The link between the Council, the Commission and the Parliament, on enlargement as on all other matters, is secure and close. How does it work? In the Foreign Affairs Committee, for example, we have regular reports on enlargement from the Commissioner and from the Council. The presidency Foreign Minister comes regularly to the committee, as does Commissioner Verheugen. I have complete confidence in Commissioner Verheugen, in Mr Landa burn, his director-general and—taking as my key example Romania, where I have worked hard this year—in Ambassador Fokion Fotiadis, who is the Commissioner on duty for us all in Romania.

We have a window of opportunity with Romania, with a new government just elected and now taking power. The new Prime Minister, Adrian Nastase, his team of Ministers and President lliescu are fully committed to the Copenhagen criteria.

The noble Lord, Lord Avebury, has summarised the Copenhagen criteria. I shall enlarge a little on that. The main priority areas identified for each state relate to its ability as a candidate to take on the obligations of meeting the Copenhagen criteria. They state that membership requires that the candidate state has achieved a stability of institutions, guaranteeing democracy, the rule of law, human rights and respect for and the protection of minorities. The existence of a functioning market economy, as well as the capacity to cope with competitive pressure and market forces within the Union, are also essential, as is the ability to take on the obligations of membership, including adherence to the aims of political, economic and monetary union. I must say clearly that failure to meet the Copenhagen criteria would, without doubt, cause candidate countries to drop out of the accession process. That is the precise reason why Turkey is not in the accession process in terms of opening chapters of the acquis communautaire. Turkey has not yet fulfilled the political criteria.

The noble Lord, Lord Avebury, is right. The Copenhagen political criteria are the stand and fall dimension of enlargement. However, we must and will succeed in enlargement. Therein lies the dilemma: I; ow to succeed in the vital, the superordinate goal of enlargement without sacrificing the community of values that makes up the European Union.

Why is enlargement so important? It is important because together—the Union, with Romania and the other applicant countries—we shall succeed in transforming lives that have been hallmarked by corruption, instability, poverty of aspiration and inadequacy of even the basic necessities of life. Together, we shall have transformed those lives into lives of peace and security so that every child can have a future that is worthy of its aspirations.

I turn briefly to Romania. The Commission deepened the accession process with Romania following Helsinki in December 1999. Romania is the poorest of all the 12 candidate countries. Forty-four per cent of her population subsists on a European Union poverty minimum of 4 dollars 30 cents a day. Year-on-year inflation ran at 43 per cent last month—the highest in the region and well above the initial 27 per cent planned. The lei currency now stands at some 25,500 lei per US dollar, compared to approximately 200 lei in 1991.

Let us not think that opening up the accession process is an easy path to immediate prosperity for citizens of the applicant countries; it is not. It is a tough, difficult and arduous road. I pay tribute to the citizens of the candidate countries, such as Romania, where, despite the privations of entering a freer market economy and a freer world, 80 per cent of her citizens wish to join the Union immediately.

Today, we are examining whether the political criteria still reign supreme in the eyes of the European Union, given the imperative of succeeding in the enlargement process. I can prove that that is still the case. I quote from the 1999 Commission regular report on Romania's progress towards accession, which concluded that:
"Romania still fulfils the Copenhagen political criteria although this position will need to be re-examined if the authorities do not continue to give priority to dealing with the crisis in their childcare institutions. The Commission will monitor closely recent decisions by the government to provide the necessary budgetary resources and to carry out a structural reform, which puts childcare in Romania on a secure and decent basis, and in full respect of human rights".
In a word, the Union concluded that institutionalised children's access to decent living conditions and basic healthcare is a human rights issue.

Human rights are at the heart of the Copenhagen criteria. As rapporteur, therefore, I, too, took that issue as my priority. In my regular report on Romania, which went through plenary session in the European Parliament on 4th October this year, I declared that,
"although there have been improvements, the problem of children in institutions continues to be a great cause for concern and a human rights problem which affects the accession procedure".
Indeed, in its regular report which went through the plenary session of Parliament and was published on 8th November this year, the Commission stated that its 1999 composite paper reaffirmed the principles that I have just outlined with regard to institutionalised children's access to human rights. It stated that that issue was identified as a priority in the 1999 accession partnership.

The Commission report of 2000 then discusses over several pages the work that took place subsequently in Romania as a result of the 1999 Commission report's important highlighting of a critical human rights problem within the Copenhagen criteria. At a meeting of the Foreign Affairs, Human Rights, Common Security and Defence Policy Committee later in November, Mr Verheugen declared that the subject of children in institutions, orphans, street children and abandoned children was a matter that he personally had dealt with thoroughly throughout the whole year.

I can confirm that that is so. I can tell the House that I, the Commissioner and our Commission ambassador to Romania, Mr Fotiadis, have worked hand in glove together with the Government of Romania to tackle this key imperative of children's rights, with the full support of the European Parliament.

I am delighted to say that the Romanian Government have risen to the challenge. The new Government and new Prime Minister have already agreed that they will support solemnly and unequivocally the full protection of the rights of all Romanian children. They will place their health and welfare at the head of the Government's programme of work for the people of Romania. Finally, they wish their Government to work in close partnership with the European Union on child-related and all other accession processes.

Without accession, I do not believe that we would have been able to open the window of opportunity to Romania to fulfil willingly and without any hesitation her human rights commitments to her children. The closed window of the communist era and the concatenation of Ceausescu and communism have left a scar deep in the hearts and minds of the Romanian people that is difficult to eradicate. Indeed, as we look further to the east towards Russia, we see the traumas and tragedies again on an even larger scale.

We cannot stop the accession process at 27 or even, eventually, at 35 member states. We must incorporate Russia. That is the task. Do we have the right to keep to ourselves the values of the European Union and the Community? We do not. The world of tomorrow demands that we enlarge the Union. There, the tripartite bond between the Parliament, the Commission and the Council of Ministers will stand us in good stead in the future.

6.58 p.m.

My Lords, first, I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, on his very good luck. He won two ballots for today's business, first. for the topical Question, and, now, for tonight's debate. He should place some of his money with Camelot for tonight's draw, but perhaps that would be pushing his luck too far.

The noble Lord has been most perceptive in raising this issue. The progress reports, mentioned in the title of the debate, on the candidates for enlargement offer us an opportunity to consider a whole range of social, legislative and economic aspects of the countries concerned. Like most other noble Lords, I shall concentrate on human rights and the treatment of ethnic minorities.

I have only had time to look at two of the reports—those on the Czech Republic and Turkey—so I shall be following along some of the same lines as the noble Lord, Lord Avebury. Of course, the Czech Republic is in the first wave while Turkey is still some distance away.

The issue in the Czech Republic which concerns me, as others, is the situation of the Roma. That is very similar to that in many central and eastern European countries. The attitude of Czechs to the Roma in their midst was brought home forcefully to me on a visit to Prague about six years ago when the daughter of two very fair-minded and cultured friends revealed a degree of racist hate against gypsies which surprised me, considering that her parents had been persecuted first as Jews and then by the communists, although they had originally been communists and held important posts in the first post-war government.

The problem is now recognised by the Czech government and the progress report stated that the Czech inter-ministerial Roma commission reported recently that the vast majority of the measures in the 1997 action plan to improve the situation of the Roma had been fulfilled.

Nevertheless, the report says on page 26:
"As regards the overall situation of the Roma in the Czech Republic, further efforts are needed, in particular to combat anti-Roma prejudice and to strengthen the protection provided by the police and the courts. Estimated Roma unemployment remains very high at 70–90%. Health and housing conditions are still much worse in the Roma community than amongst the general population. Attitudes at local level are largely unaltered, as illustrated by some recent district court judgements. The inter-Ministerial Roma Commission still has no budget to implement policies, no executive power and few permanent staff. The longterm strategic action programme essentially comprises a list of tasks for individual ministries, but contains no overall budgetary provisions".
The situation of the Roma and Sinti in the OSCE area was also described in some detail in the April report of the OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities, who is Max Van Den Stoel, and also in the subsequent report of the seminar of the Roma in Bratislava in June this year. Both of those reports make quite moving and fascinating reading but they show what a long way there is to go.

But they also give examples of good practice. Sadly, those are too few and far between. For example, a really successful project is the Gandhi Secondary School in Hungary. It is aptly named because, of course, the Roma originate from India. It is dedicated to Roma children alone but brings them up to a good pre-university standard which is equal to or better than normal secondary schools as well as educating them about their own cultural heritage.

What is useful about this report that we have been discussing is that, while the Czech Republic is still a candidate for EU membership, it gives a critical commentary on progress with suggestions for improvement. What is not clear is whether there are set goals by which to assess progress, failing which admission might be postponed or denied. We understand now that there is no chance of that. But I should value my noble friend's comments on whether, perhaps, we should not require the achievement of definite stated goals in, for example, progress with the Roma community.

Of course, we cannot expect perfection. For that, we should first need to remove the beam from our own eye which is very much there. One only has to look at the Macpherson report. But surely evidence of steady progress must be a minimum requirement and progress which has developed, I suggest, a momentum of its own, so that it cannot be reversed. Like the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, I am concerned that the inevitable timetable has been set out and that depends on economic criteria which overrule everything else. But once inside the EU, perhaps efforts to improve the situation of the Roma will slow down or stop. That is our worry.

Turkey is much further from fulfilling the Copenhagen criteria in terms of democratic institutions, the rule of law and the tolerance of national minorities as well as in a number of economic areas. The report on Turkey, while praising it on progress in several directions, still presents a formidable list of areas where much more progress is needed.

There is no time to go into those in detail but they include, for example, the need in the political sphere to end procedures by the chief public prosecutor to dissolve two legitimate parties—the pro-Kurdish Hadep Party and the moderate Islamist party, Fazilet. Both of those parties have been reborn after their predecessors were banned. The report lists several areas where the judicial system also needs to be much improved.

In the field of human rights, there is a great deal amiss, which is reported; for example, Turkey's non-accession to important human rights documents—the European Convention on Human Rights, Protocol 6, which abolishes the death penalty, although we acknowledge that the death penalty has not been used by Turkey since 1984, including the case of Abdullah Ocalan. Secondly, it has not signed the convention on the elimination of all forms of racial discrimination or the Council of Europe's convention relating to the protection of national minorities.

The situation regarding torture arid ill-treatment is reported to be potentially unchanged since previous reports and that is despite several reports on torture by a committee of the Turkish grand national assembly. As the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, pointed out, there is a climate of impunity for law enforcement officials in torture cases.

As those who have read the Guardian this morning will know, the situation in prisons in Turkey is in crisis. There is gross overcrowding in Turkish prisons with 72,500 in custody, of which some 12,000 are political prisoners, according to Kurdish sources.

I understand that legislation has been drawn up to offer amnesty to quite a high proportion of prisoners but we do not yet know which prisoners are to be released. There is now—and this is one of the causes of the trouble—a prison rebuilding programme. Human rights associations fear that the new system will isolate prisoners with no opportunity to socialise. That can, in itself, be a form of inhuman treatment which may already, I suggest, be being used in some cases in preference to physical torture.

Abdullah Ocalan, at his trial, after five months isolation, which still continues one and a half years later, was a pale shadow of his former militant and competent self. There were suggestions that drugs had also been used on him. Of course, that is much easier if someone is being held in isolation.

The current attack on prisons should cause great concern. Apparently, according to credible human rights organisations, the security forces carried out armed assaults on at least 13 prisons in the early hours of yesterday morning. Excessive, disproportionate force and live ammunition have been used and approximately 17 prisoners and one prison guard have died. As my noble friend is aware, the Kurdish human rights project has written to my honourable friend Peter Hain about that, asking for the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture to make an immediate visit to look at the situation in Turkish prisons.

The assaults were undertaken to break a long, nonviolent hunger strike against the new F-type isolation cells and other violations of human rights in prisons. The desperation of the prisoners is shown by the fact that some apparently set themselves on fire rather than submit. There is still a serious restriction on press freedom. The report says:
"There is still a serious problem with regard to the freedom of expression, including that in the political sphere. Existing legislation, as confirmed by many judgements of the European Court of Human Rights, still leads to interpretations that violate the freedom of expression as guaranteed by the European Convention on Human Rights. Turkish courts continue to restrict the expression of views with which the State disagrees, notably when it concerns the situation of the population of Kurdish origin".
There is some improvement in the south-east. On page 19 the report states:
"The authorities have also shown the will to allow a partial return of the population in villages and hamlets evacuated in the past for security reasons".
However, I have a report from the Kurdish human rights project that the village of Senlikköyü near Lice, which was rebuilt by returning inhabitants, was again forcibly evacuated and burned by an army raid on 3rd October. I could give a great deal more detail but time is marching on.

I turn briefly to deal with Cyprus. Over the past 12 months five rounds of proximity talks between the Greek and Turkish Cypriot leaders have taken place but so far there has been only marginal progress. Before the European Court of Human Rights there are over 150 cases brought by Greek Cypriots against Turkey for not allowing access to property. In the case of Mrs Loizidou, judgment has been found against Turkey, but the Turkish authorities have refused to recognise the verdict and still will not allow the owner access to her land.

Cyprus is on track to be admitted to the EU in the first tranche despite the Turkish army's occupation of 37 per cent of the country. As my noble friend knows only too well, there are numerous Security Council and other UN resolutions requiring Turkey to withdraw its armed forces. We should insist upon those resolutions being carried out as a precondition of Turkey entering the EU.

Turkey needs to change in so many areas. It will be an uphill task and will take, I suggest, at least a decade and possibly longer. However, many in Turkey want the EU to insist that Turkey reaches standards that comply with European conventions. We must not let them down by admitting Turkey too soon.

Of course, there is a view that within, rather than outside the EU, Turkey will be more easily persuaded to change. I do not accept that and nor do a great many people inside Turkey who strongly favour Turkey's eventual acceptance. As with the other candidates for admission, we should not allow strategic or economic considerations to override the urgent need for Turkey to reform its whole approach to human rights and the need for it to end its illegal occupation of northern Cyprus, if only for the sake of its own people.

7.14 p.m.

My Lords, I am sure that all noble Lords are grateful to my noble friend Lord Avebury for introducing this subject and for emphasising the centrality of the criterion for membership of the European Union: that the candidate country has achieved stability of institutions, guaranteeing democracy, the rule of law, human rights, and respect for, and protection of, minorities.

Earlier this year I was forcefully reminded of how important it is that the enlargement of the European Union is an enlargement of values and not simply a process of added value. In other words, the enlargement of the European Union is about the values expressed in the Copenhagen criteria and not just about the enlargement of GDP, the market opportunities, the raising of standards of living and so on. It is easy to slip into a vision of enlargement that is simple economic arithmetic and to ignore the critical dimension.

That was brought home to me when I was at a conference in Germany of young British and German people—the Young Konigswinter Conference. In the discussion groups it was alarmingly clear that the majority of young Germans and Britons had no idea that there was such a dimension to the enlargement of the European Union. They were quite shocked to discover that the criteria existed and that it was not possible for a country to join the European Union unless it was a democracy and offered protection for minorities.

To begin with they were slightly confused by that discovery. Was that a form of cultural, democratic imperialism? Were we being arrogant in imposing conditions? It then bore in on them that that was at the heart of the character of the European Union itself. Either the Union had to embrace those values or it should not exist.

During that conference I was reminded of another experience when Greece was ruled by the military junta. Your Lordships will recall that Greece negotiated membership of the then Common Market but when the colonels took over the country that possibility was immediately suspended for the duration of the dictatorship. I can recall, as a journalist in this country, interviewing people from Greece—for example, Helen Vlachos—who testified to the real importance of the fact that membership of the EU had been put on hold in applying pressure to Greece so that people in Greece understood that the junta could not continue indefinitely and, were it to do so, it would permanently exclude Greece from the community of Europe.

In the process that is beginning to evolve there are two dangers. The first has been referred to already: as we near the deadline set by Nice the pressure to succeed, to complete, will become extremely great. That will be a pressure not only on applicant states, but also on the existing states of the EU. Already one can see the officials of the Commission struggling with that pressure. I shall quote two examples of that. The first is from Romano Prodi, speaking to the European Parliament last year:
"The Copenhagen criteria are so fundamental that the European Council meeting in Luxembourg and Cologne recommended opening further accession negotiations only with countries which meet them. If we apply this recommendation to the letter, it rules out opening negotiations with most of the remaining applicant countries since they do not fully meet the economic criteria".
He then added significantly:
"In the changed … landscape of Europe, especially in the Balkan region, some countries may also let slip the progress they have made towards democracy and human rights, and the European Union will have seriously failed the people of those countries".
He says that if the Commission and the Union take that hard-line approach, the danger is that countries may not enter the process of negotiation unless they have met the criteria. He is struggling with the tension between those two things.

Even more dramatically, last year Commissioner Verheugen, who has been much quoted in this debate, was speaking about Turkey. He said:
"We all know that [Turkey] does not fulfil the political criteria laid down in Copenhagen. The issues are well-known: human rights, the Kurdish problem. the role of the armed forces, which remains enshrined in the Constitution, Cyprus and the outstanding bilateral issues with Greece".
Then he added:
"At the same time there are the geopolitical and strategic arguments that make it imperative to support Turkey's affiliation with Europe, bring about democratic change … I think we can all agree that we want a stable, Europe-oriented Turkey. We want a Turkey where democracy and the rule of law comply with European standards … We should give ourselves a chance of achieving this objective".
He is describing the process of leverage which has been discussed and focused on in this debate.

What is the danger in that? It is clearly that, as the pressure to succeed with the process of enlargement mounts, there may be a softening of the key Copenhagen criteria on human rights and democracy. I am sure that we shall be looking to hear from the Minister in a few moments that our Government, in any case, will be determined to ensure that there is clarity and continuity on that issue.

The second danger is that, in assessing progress on the Copenhagen criteria, the EU relies only on progress on the statute books of the applicant states. It was clearly stated in the European Parliament's debate on the Malmström report, for example, that decades of Communist rule in many of those countries showed that fine pronouncements—including those on the statute book—on human dignity and fraternal solidarity are one thing; practice can be something quite other.

The importance therefore, to which my noble friend referred in relation to Romania, is to ensure that through monitoring, on-the-spot observation and careful co-operation and partnership with the applicant states, we are not just looking at progress on the statute book; we are also looking at progress on the ground. We need to monitor and check.

In that regard it is important—perhaps the Minister could briefly comment on this—if I have understood it correctly, that in the new accession strategy, no acquis chapter is actually closed until the completion of the entire process. Therefore, we continue to monitor even when the basic negotiations on the chapters have been completed.

The importance of that is underlined by the experience in Romania. I had the honour with my noble friend Lady Nicholson to serve on the High Level Group looking at the children's problems in Romania. When looking at that directly, one is clear that the reason why it has been made such a priority now in Romania—it has been, is and will continue to be so under the new government—is two-fold. First, the Ministers concerned are genuinely persuaded that something has got to be done and they are therefore motivated as human beings and as politicians. Secondly, 80 per cent of the Romanian people are determined to join the European Union and unless they can get this right, they will not be able to do so. It is as simple as that. That is real leverage and pressure.

Although this may be a controversial observation, it is my own conviction that in the economic sphere, the convergence criteria for the euro applied a beneficial and helpful pressure on those countries which have moved into euroland, to ensure that their economic houses were in order. Some Members of this House, let alone those in another place, have been surprised by the progress made by some of those countries to that end. There is a kind of parallel here. In this sphere, in this dimension of convergence—a convergence of democracy and of standards—enlargement is the pressure.

However, in addition we must look at two other matters. It is important for us, in the existing European Union member states, to avoid double standards. It is easy to slip into a lecturing and hectoring tone which assumes that everything in our garden is perfect; that racial prejudice, the maltreatment of minorities and the failings in democracy occur only in those unfortunate states now standing in a queue to join the European Union. In fact we know that is not the case. It is important, if we are to have credibility with the populations of the applicant states, that we are honest and frank about our own problems and continue to monitor ourselves as strictly and carefully as we promise to monitor them.

The second danger—this is extremely important—is that we are careful always to avoid any impression, let alone the reality, that we may be focusing on this Copenhagen criterion because we would like to postpone the day when we have to share the economic benefits of the Union with the applicant states. If there is a suspicion in the applicant states that the high morality of the European Union stance is a disguise for the low morality of trying to hang on to trading benefits which might possibly be jeopardised in some way by the enlargement of the Union, again we lose all credibility.

Tonight we are discussing an essential part of the transformation of Europe. The Copenhagen criteria are the guarantees that this transformation will be real. If it is anything less than that, we have created a monster. If we have achieved this, if this criterion really does help and we have brought to an end decades of abuse of human rights and denial of democracy, the European Union really will have achieved something of great historical importance.

7.27 p.m.

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, for initiating this debate, not only on an important subject but also one that is near to my heart. Enlargement towards eastern and central Europe has been on the agenda for a long time.

When I was in the European Parliament in 1989 we witnessed one of the most important political milestones in my life; that is, the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of the totalitarian police states hiding behind the Iron Curtain. We all knew what that meant; that the forgotten Europe, as it was known to some, would soon be rejoining the fold of the European Union of 12. Little did we realise that more than 10 years later not one of those countries would have become a member, even though progress has been made towards the goal.

As A. N. Whitehead said,
"The art of progress is to preserve order amid change, and to preserve change amid order".
It was never going to be easy. The progress from a command to a market economy was always going to harbour serious problems. We were all well aware of future problems for the applicant countries as well as the changes needed from within the European Union. I remember in the Foreign Affairs Committee's final meeting in May 1994 in the European Parliament, of which I was a member, we debated deep into the night on whether Austria, Sweden and Finland should join or whether it was essential to have the institutional reforms in place first. The vote is history. I tell that story because many do not realise that one of the few responsibilities the European Parliament has is the final say on enlargement.

The Copenhagen political criteria have to be fulfilled before an applicant country may be admitted, as we heard from various speakers this evening. That requires major changes. However, an important fact is often forgotten: that at the Luxembourg Council in December 1997 it was agreed that there should be two "waves" for the timing of entry. Neither the first nor the second was to be a rigid block. It should be that as and when an applicant state attained the democratic and economic criteria it would be free to join.

That flexibility is most encouraging for the states in the second wave. States such as Romania and Bulgaria should not be linked together. We heard in the interesting speech of the noble Baroness, Lady Nicholson, about all the serious problems which Romania still has to face.

It is a pity that today we have such a short time to discuss all 13 applicant countries as there is so much to cover. We have heard reports from several noble Lords on the Czech Republic, Turkey and Romania. If your Lordships will forgive me, I shall concentrate on the one country, Bulgaria, which I know quite well and visit regularly. It has not been mentioned tonight. It is still in the second wave but might well soon be considered in the first wave by the admirable progress that has been made. I stress that, as that progress has been made through great hardship and discipline of the government and the people.

In the spirit of the Neill committee, I should declare some interests, even though I receive no financial reward. I am a governor of the American University of Bulgaria and I am a member of the Council of the Foreign Office body, the British Association of Eastern and Central Europe. I took all the Bulgarian Europe agreements through the European Parliament and was vice-president of the delegation while I was there.

The benefits of enlargement are already visible. Stable democracies have emerged in both eastern and central Europe. Some are more democratic than others but they are, we hope, robust enough that they will not relapse into authoritarian regimes.

Bulgaria continues to fulfil the Copenhagen criteria. It has made progress in adopting secondary legislation necessary to implement the Civil Service law. The adoption of the Child Protection Act in June 2000, which creates a stage agency for child protection, is another step forward. The upgrading of the judiciary is still in progress. As in most of the countries which suffered under communism for so many years, corruption is still a problem which will take time to eradicate.

According to the report, the adoption of the framework programme for the integration of the Roma last year, as mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Rea, has led to some progress. But the administrative capacity of the National Council of Ethnic and Demographic Issues to implement the programme remains low and the limited financial means allocated for implementation make effective performance of its task difficult.

We had a seminar at the British Association of Central and Eastern Europe on Community integration for the Roma in the United Kingdom in October. Eight participants, including those responsible for education in Bulgaria and representatives of the Roma community, came to examine the ways in which ethnic minorities are integrated into a wider society. Two successful days were spent in Leicester, hosted by Leicester City Council. That is one example of what the European Union should be about.

Perhaps Bulgaria's biggest success over the past few yeas has been its policy to promote regional cooperation and good relations with its neighbours. This enhancement of regional stability must be welcomed. The signature of a joint declaration between Bulgaria and Macedonia is particularly significant. It has effectively put an end to the language dispute and brought about an historical transformation in their relations. The Turkish minority is now well represented in both the national parliament and local government. This inclusive approach is a far cry from the forced assimilation used by the former communist regime in the eighties, and one which has led to a strong relationship between Bulgaria and Turkey. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Watson, that Turkey is important to the European Union and should be supported.

Progress in transport has accelerated compared with previous years. Steps have been taken in all sectors and work has started on maritime safety. The longstanding issue of the second bridge across the Danube to Romania was resolved with an agreement between the two in February this year. In financial terms, billions were lost as the result of the recent war in Kosovo. The damage to the bridges makes navigation of the Danube still a hazardous affair.

The restructuring of the energy sector has gained momentum this year. Nuclear safety has been an ongoing problem with Kozloduy. The commitments for the early closure of Units 1 and 4, made by the government in the understanding of November 1999, mark an important step in its pre-accession course.

Bulgaria has made considerable progress towards becoming a functional market economy. It has established a satisfactory track record of macro-economic stabilisation and performance. Good progress has been made in privatisation, especially with regard to banks, property and a major reform of health and pension systems has begun.

It is the third largest of the eastern and central European applicant countries. It has a comparatively small population of 8.3 million. Its annual inflation rate of 2.6 per cent is the second lowest. The leva has also been pegged to the deutschmark, now the euro, for some time.

Finally, Bulgaria has partially fulfilled the large majority of short-term accession partnership priorities relating to the aquis. I have not covered everything; there are huge economic and social difficulties in transforming both the economy and society.
"The European talks of progress because by the aid of a few scientific discoveries, he has established a society which has mistaken comfort for civilisation".
How appropriate are Disraeli's words of more than a century ago.

That is a condensed description of Bulgaria's position, from which we see that it has already started to address some of the medium-term accession partnership priorities. I am glad that we have had the opportunity to discuss the political criteria from the progress report. Of course the report does not deal only with the political criteria; it is but one element of the whole accession progress. In time, we will no doubt discuss the other parts of the report and I look forward to that.

7.38 p.m.

My Lords, I, too, welcome the opportunity for the debate and add my congratulations to those proffered by other noble Lords to the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, not least for his good fortune in arrangements for today's business. I welcome the importance placed on enlargement by all noble Lords, particularly the supportive and helpful comments made by the noble Baroness, Lady Rawlings, who speaks today on behalf of Her Majesty's loyal Opposition.

As the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, and other noble Lords have made clear, as members of the European Union we are members of a Union which,
"is founded on the principles of liberty, democracy, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms and the rule of law".
Those words are from Article 6 of the Treaty on European Union and it is right that it has been cited on more than once tonight.

The Copenhagen European Council reflected those values in 1993 when it set out the criteria for accession to the European Union. I was particularly reassured and pleased when the noble Lord, Lord Watson, was able to enlighten the Young Konigswinter Conference participants of their importance. We attach such importance to these criteria that candidates cannot even begin accession negotiations until the political criteria are met. This is why Turkey has not yet joined the other 12 candidates in accession negotiations.

I reassure the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, in particular that the criteria are not merely a formality. Scrutiny of the political criteria does not stop when accession negotiations begin, as the noble Lord, Lord Watson, so ably set out. Candidates must continue to maintain their standards and are expected to deal with any areas that give rise to concern.

The noble Lord, Lord Avebury, raised a number of questions about the role of the Commission in the enlargement negotiations. Enlargement negotiations are a formal series of intergovernmental conferences, with the 15 member states on one side and the individual candidate countries on the other. The Commission has an important role as a facilitator of the negotiations and a source of expertise on the large body of EU legislation that new member states must adopt, but the key decisions in the enlargement process are for the member states. It is the member states which decide which countries should be deemed candidates for membership, when to open negotiations with individual candidates and the conclusion of negotiations. It is also for the member states to decide, in the event of a candidate failing to live up to all—I stress that word—its commitments under the Copenhagen criteria to suspend or even terminate negotiations. To answer the noble Lord's specific question, the fact that 12 of the candidates have been deemed to meet the Copenhagen political criteria is no guarantee of admission. If it came to light that a candidate had failed to meet the criteria it would be open to the member states to delay its accession until it had rectified those matters.

I welcome the clarity that has been provided by a number of noble Lords in this debate. The noble Baroness, Lady Nicholson, explored this issue further. I hope that we are ad idem that there is no going back in relation to the criteria. For example, last year the Commission recommended that the opening of negotiations with Romania should be conditional on reform of childcare institutions by the end of 1999. This year the Commission recognised Romania's political commitment to addressing the problems and progress, including the development of a national strategy.

But in this year's progress report the Commission reiterated its commitment to continue to monitor developments closely to ensure that positive policy developments result in comprehensive reform and an improvement in living conditions for the 100,000 children in care in Romania. We are very much aware of the difficulties of childcare in Romania and the valuable work of the noble Baroness, Lady Nicholson, and the noble Lord, Lord Watson, in this important field. We are glad that Romania is rising to the challenge, as the noble Baroness so eloquently pointed out. The Government have committed £3 million in bilateral assistance to childcare in Romania over the next three years. In our dialogue with the new Romanian Government we shall continue to raise the need for further improvements.

The Commission's progress reports are an invaluable resource both for member states and candidate countries in assessing how well candidates meet the criteria for membership. They also set out clearly and in detail what still needs to be done, and they are also effective. The 1999 progress report on Estonia criticised that country's language law as discriminatory. The Estonian Parliament amended the law in April 2000. The Czech Republic was told that it needed to develop a comprehensive long-term policy to fight discrimination and social exclusion of the Roma. That issue has been raised by many in this House tonight. In June 2000 the Czech Government adopted a draft outline for a long-term policy which envisaged a strategic action programme for 2001 to 2020.

The preparation of progress reports is a huge task, particularly when it comes to subjects such as the rule of law or human rights. I hope I can reassure all noble Lords of this Government's high opinion of the work of the Commission in this respect. I endorse the comments of my noble friend Lord Lea that the assessments and work of the Commission are absolutely indispensable. I also welcome the warm comments and congratulations of the noble Baroness, Lady Nicholson, who also spoke of the Commission's work.

The noble Lord, Lord Avebury, asked about the sources used by the Commission in putting together the reports. As the progress reports indicate, the Commission has drawn on reports by the Council of Europe, the Organisation of Security and Cooperation in Europe and a number of nongovernmental organisations, both international and national. It has also paid heed to the deliberations of the European Council and the European Parliament on this subject. Every element of the report is meticulously cross-checked. Elements are included in the progress reports only when there is clear evidence from at least two independent sources to reinforce the objectivity of the process.

To ensure that all candidates are assessed against the same standard, checklists are used which divide the criteria into detailed elements, such as the ratification and implementation of relevant treaties and conventions, the situation of minorities, active policies to integrate minorities and many other criteria. This Government have always found the Commission's progress reports thorough and fair. The 100 to 150 pages of each report provide a clear and comprehensive account of the candidate's progress towards accession. This does not mean that we accept them blindly. The Government are in close and regular touch with the Commission about the enlargement process, including the progress that candidates make towards fulfilling the Copenhagen criteria.

The noble Lord, Lord Avebury, raised an important point about the relationship between the Commission reports and the reports of other European institutions working in the area of human rights, such as the Council of Europe and the OSC. First, I am pleased to say that the Commission has assured us that the reports of the Council of Europe and OSC are among the main sources for the preparation of its reports. Secondly, the Commission works closely with both the Council of Europe and the OSC on a number of practical projects to support democracy and human rights. However, the competence of formal human rights dialogue both with the other international organisations and the candidate countries themselves lies with the member states, not the Commission.

My Lords, perhaps the Minister will permit me to put one question. Does she include among the institutions with which the Commission has contact the High Commissioner for National Minorities, whose particular expertise in the field of the Roma is unparalleled? The commissioner's report on the Roma in Europe is an extremely important source of information on that subject.

My Lords, yes. The noble Lord raised an important point about the way in which the Commission presents its progress reports. The noble Lord said that it was impossible to tell from the reports which sources had been consulted and how much weight had been given to them. We are happy to ensure that the Commission is made aware of the noble Lord's point about the transparency of the process and to encourage it to explain in as much detail as possible to interested NGOs how its assessment is produced.

I also reassure the noble Lord that if we felt that a Commission progress report did not tally with our own assessment of a country we would want to discover why. Our embassies in candidate countries follow the political and human rights situations closely. That is true of Turkey where the situation is of particular concern. A number of noble Lords, including my noble friend Lord Rea, dealt with that issue. Noble Lords will be aware that the political section of Turkey's progress report covered a range of areas in some depth. These included an account of recent political developments in Turkey, an analysis of progress in democracy and the rule of law, including the judiciary and the role of the National Security Council. Another section on human rights and the protection of minorities covered in detail vitally important areas of Turkish reform, such as the death penalty, freedom of expression, torture, prison conditions, freedom of association and assembly, religious tolerance, cultural and language rights and equal opportunities.

The report looked at these issues in the context of individual rights for all Turkish citizens and in particular examined the treatment of Turkish citizens who are members of religious or ethnic minority groups, including Kurds. I understand that, among other sources, the Commission drew upon the work of the Kurdish Human Rights Project, of which the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, is honorary president. In each case the Commission's report clearly highlighted various shortcomings in Turkey's legislation and practice.

The report recommended ways in which these issues could be addressed in order to bring Turkey into line with EU standards. The Government welcome the Commission's report and believes that it gives an accurate representation of Turkish efforts to align with the European Union's legislation and practice—the acquis communautaire—as well as indicating areas for future work.

The progress report is an invaluable basis for the formulation of the European Union's Accession Partnership for Turkey, the contents of which were agreed by the Council on 4th December, subject to consultation with the European Parliament. The Accession Partnership sets out clear, short and medium-term priorities for Turkish action across a broad spectrum of areas.

We look forward now to receiving Turkey's own national programme for the adoption of the acquis, which will set out how it contends to meet those priorities. I am confident that the European Union accession process remains an essential spur to reform Turkey, as it has been to all candidate countries.

I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Rawlings, for raising the issue of Bulgaria and for her remarks about its progress in these areas. We support the work of the British Association for Central and Eastern Europe and the involvement of the noble Baroness.

This year's progress report on Bulgaria points out areas that need further work, in particular strengthening the rule of law and the protection of human and minority rights, especially that or the Roma population. The report rightly recognised that Bulgaria still has much to do to integrate its Roma community. The signing of a framework agreement for the integration of the Roma community into Bulgarian society in April 1999 was a positive step welcomed in last year's progress report. Bulgaria has set up a governmental working group on the Roma issue which is preparing a draft anti-discrimination law. Bulgarian state TV is now broadcasting some programmes on minority issues. Experts on minority issues have been appointed by 24 out of the 29 regional administrations. Therefore, the Government believe that the progress report on Bulgaria gives an accurate picture. We shall continue to monitor those issues in Bulgaria and we shall continue to try to ensure that it fully meets the criteria.

The Commission and the member state's scrutiny applies equally to countries which started negotiations in 1998, as to those which started this year, such as Bulgaria, or those which have not yet started, such as Turkey. The noble Lord, Lord Avebury, will know that the Commission's progress report on the Czech Republic notes that, while the Czech government are making significant efforts to combat discriminatory practices especially in terms of Roma access to education, these need to be sustained over time.

The Commission also funds important projects in this area. We and our EU partners have a regular dialogue with the Czech government to review progress and spread best practice. I am pleased to tell the House that the High Commissioner's report on the situation of the Roma and the Sinti in the OSCE area issued in March 2000 was one of the sources used by the Commission in compiling its progress reports. So it is an issue which is very much to the fore.

The noble Lord, Lord Lea, asked about the involvement of social partners, including trade unions, in the accession process. The progress reports cover that in most detail in the section on Chapter 13, "Social Policy and Employment". Many candidates have set up arrangements for involving social partners in the adoption and implementation of the acquis. In some countries these arrangements work better than in others. That is reflected in the reports. The progress reports also cover trade unions in the political criteria under the section on economic and social rights.

The Government believe that bringing the countries of eastern Europe into a union of democratic states is the best way to ensure that the principles of democracy, human rights and the rule of law become firmly embedded, not only in their laws but in their institutions and in their cultures.

The enlargement process, the process which will lead to greater stability, security and prosperity for current members as well as for new ones, is about to enter a new phase. Earlier this month the Nice European Council agreed to inject new momentum into enlargement negotiations in the hope that the first new members would be able to participate in the European Parliament elections in 2004. That was a direct echo of my right honourable friend the Prime Minister's historic words in Warsaw in October. The Government will continue to be a champion of enlargement. We shall continue to look to the Commission's annual progress reports to provide a clear and comprehensive assessment of each country's progress towards membership. We shall not see the worth of that membership devalued by lowering the standards required of the applicants.

My Lords, it only remains for me to thank most warmly all noble Lords who have taken part in the debate today. We have reaffirmed our view that there should be no softening of the Copenhagen criteria. The Minister had the opportunity to put on record that we continue to scrutinise most carefully the performance of African countries even after they have been deemed to satisfy those criteria. We have said that there should be improved and more extensive monitoring. As my noble friend Lord Watson said, that monitoring should cover not only statutory provision but also what happens on the ground.

I hope today's debate was a useful contribution to the issue of enlargement and that our words will be reflected in the activities of the Commission. I hope that my noble friend will take back to Europe some of the important issues which have been raised in the debate. I beg leave to withdraw the Motion for Papers.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.

Financial Statement And Budget Report

7.57 p.m.

My Lords, I beg to move the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper.

Moved, That this House takes note with approval of the Government's assessment as set out in the Financial Statement and Budget Report 2000–01, the Economic and Fiscal Strategy Report 2000–01 and the Pre-Budget Report 2000 for the purposes of Section 5 of the European Communities (Amendment) Act 1993.—( Lord McIntosh of Haringey.)

My Lords, in accepting this Motion on behalf of the Opposition, I should like to make it clear to the House that we are not approving the contents of the assessment.

My Lords, I wish to make it entirely clear that the wording used in the Motion does not imply approval of the content; it merely implies approval of the selection of documents which will be used for the purposes of Section 5.

My Lords, I am much obliged to the Minister for that response.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Consolidated Fund Bill

Brought from the Commons, endorsed with the certificate of the Speaker that the Bill is a Money Bill, and read a first time.

Then, Standing Order 46 having been dispensed with (pursuant to Resolution of today), Bill read a second time; Committee negatived; Bill read a third time, and passed.

City Of Newcastle Upon Tyne Bill Hl

Returned from the Commons agreed to. House adjourned at eight o'clock.