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Lords Chamber

Volume 622: debated on Wednesday 21 February 2001

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House Of Lords

Wednesday, 21st February 2001.

The House met at eleven of the clock: The LORD CHANCELLOR on the Woolsack.

Prayers—Read by the Lord Bishop of Portsmouth.

Deep Vein Thrombosis Diagnosis

How many hospitals in the London area are expected to have equipment operational over the Easter holiday period capable of diagnosing whether an individual has a deep vein thrombosis.

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

My Lords, all accident and emergency departments in London have access to equipment and staff to diagnose deep vein thrombosis. Of these, 25 have facilities operational out of hours, at night and at the weekend, including the Easter holiday period.

My Lords, I am grateful for that somewhat reassuring reply. However, my experience suggests that on occasions it is impossible to find any department which is capable of diagnosing a deep vein thrombosis and that the departments tend to close down during Bank holidays. Patients are then given injections for the treatment of deep vein thrombosis but that might not be adequate to deal with the dangers involved in the condition. Can the Minister assure the House that all hospitals will be informed where such facilities are available during Bank holidays?

My Lords, I accept that it is important that the fullest information is available. I said that 25 facilities were operational out of hours and that is out of 31 A&E departments in London. That is pretty comprehensive coverage. But it will be important to ensure that the ambulance service and other authorities are aware of which hospitals do not have out of hours covered.

As regards treatment, if access to testing is not available, it will be appropriate in some cases on clinical terms to start such treatment. But overall the health service is more geared up to having full facilities available during holiday periods than it was some years ago.

My Lords, although the Question is directed to hospitals in London, can my noble friend tell the House whether special equipment is available for deep vein thrombosis in hospitals which are close to airports in other major cities such as Manchester?

My Lords, I would expect every local health community to have such facilities available. Although a great deal of publicity has arisen about air travel, it is worth making the point that DVT has a number of causes. Therefore, it is important that not only hospitals near airports but all major A&E departments have those facilities. It is my understanding that they do.

My Lords, the Question refers to the Easter period, but can the Minister say whether there is a congestion of the problem during other periods? Furthermore, can be examine the need for every major airport to have a substantial medical presence—not just directions to the nearest hospital? In the case of DVT, saving minutes can save lives.

My Lords, as regards air travel, I imagine that the Christmas and summer periods are particularly busy. It is important that NHS facilities can deal with peaks when they arise. I believe that during the past few months we have shown with our intense planning for the winter period that the health service has responded well. There is a better planning system to enable us to have the required facilities.

As regards health facilities in airports, I pay tribute to my noble friend for the industrious way in which he has raised these issues during the past two years. I agree that airports need appropriate health facilities. He will be aware that a pilot defibrillator is in operation in Terminal 4 at Heathrow airport and we shall be examining the results of its use with great care.

It is also worth making the point that in addition to facilities the key is good liaison between an airport and local hospitals. That is the responsibility of the health authority in conjunction with the airport authorities.

My Lords, is the Minister satisfied that London ambulance crews are aware of which hospitals have the requisite equipment at certain times and which do not?

My Lords, yes, I would expect ambulance crews to be aware of that information. This is the normal stuff of ensuring that ambulance crews have the up-to-date information available not only in relation to the availability of diagnostic tests for DVT but in relation to the availability of beds and A&E facilities. During the past few years the London Ambulance Service has got its act together and is aware of these matters.

My Lords, will my noble friend ask the Leader of the House whether, on behalf of the House, a message of support and sympathy should be sent to the family of the noble Lord the Chairman of Committees?

My Lords, on the basis that prevention is better than hospital treatment, does my noble friend believe that the airlines are doing all they can to inform passengers about how they should conduct themselves in order to minimise the chance of developing DVT while on flights? In particular, will my noble friend confirm that it appears to make no difference whether one flies first class, business class or, as some must do, economy class and that walking about on a plane, and possibly even fidgeting, is better than sitting totally still?

My Lords, I am advised that this matter should not be termed "economy class syndrome"; rather, it is a problem of immobility for long periods. Air passengers are advised to take preventive measures; for example, they should drink plenty of water, fruit juice or other soft drinks but not alcohol; if they have suffered from a recent blood clot, have an irregular heart beat or have a replacement heart valve, they should inform the cabin crew; they should move their legs regularly throughout the flight and, if possible, stroll up and down the aircraft every hour or so. My noble friend Lord Macdonald has met airline operators to discuss this and other matters. The airlines fully understand our desire to ensure that as much information as possible is made available to passengers.

Income Tax Self-Assessment

11.13 a.m.

Why the procedures for self-assessment of income tax liability were changed for 1999–2000, and whether they have any proposals to simplify the process for 2000–01.

My Lords, the self-assessment tax return has not changed significantly since self-assessment was first introduced, except to reflect legislative changes. The Inland Revenue did, however, consolidate four separate tax calculation guides into a single guide for the tax year 1999–2000. It acknowledges that the single version has not been well received and has caused confusion. In response to this feedback, the tax calculation guide for 2000–01 will be available in two versions: a standard guide for taxpayers with relatively simple financial affairs and a comprehensive guide for those whose financial affairs are more complex. However, one does not need to use the tax calculation guide at all if one does as I do and sends in one's tax return by 30th September, as the Inland Revenue will make the calculation for the taxpayer.

My Lords, I am as ever grateful for my noble friend's advice, but some of us have difficulty in meeting the deadline of 30th September and must, therefore, do the calculation ourselves. Is my noble friend aware that last year and the year before the process was simple and I could make the self-assessment calculation in about 45 minutes but this year the task defeated me? Although the staff of the Inland Revenue are always incredibly helpful to idiots like me who struggle with the process, several times during the long day when I dealt with it they told me that this year the procedure was much more complicated and that they were fed up with it because everybody had difficulties. Can my noble friend assure the House that the process will be simple enough to enable all of us to do the self-assessment next year without having to rely on accountants?

My Lords, my noble friend is not an idiot, and I certainly do not suggest that his difficulty last year, as opposed to previous years, was as a result of any change in his capacities. As I made clear in my Answer, last year the Revenue tried to bring the tax calculation guides together within a single document. That was the source of the trouble. Previously, there was a more straightforward income tax guide for the 4 million of the 6.6 million taxpayers who use self-assessment and whose affairs are relatively simple, and there were separate guides for capital gains, for share schemes, for capital gains and share schemes combined—because they often go together—and for lump sums. I believe that it was the attempt to bring them within a single document that caused the difficulties experienced by my noble friend. As I said, it is planned to separate them again for the coming tax year.

My Lords, can my noble friend tell the House whether self-assessment has had any impact on tax evasion? Do all these complications enable people to evade tax?

My Lords, compliance with self-assessment is very high—90 per cent of returns are received on time—and the forms produce of the order of £22 billion a year, so we are talking about very large sums of money. It is difficult to say whether tax evasion has increased or decreased. Obviously, if we knew what tax was being evaded and who was evading it, we would put a stop to it; it is an unknowable statistic in the classic sense. But we have been able more accurately to target inquiries on suspicious returns than was the case in the past.

My Lords, does the Minister believe that it would be helpful to publish an "idiot's guide" to these matters?

My Lords, I do not believe that the Revenue would presume to address its main source of income as "idiots".

My Lords, the Minister states that my noble friend Lord Dubs is not an idiot; does he believe that that observation applies also to those who kept the House sitting until a quarter to four this morning? Is the Minister able to give an assessment of the out-turn—the yield—as a consequence of the change from the previous to the present system of assessment?

My Lords, I do not believe that the first question is for me. I was here until 3.28 this morning and was not best pleased, but that is really a matter for the House rather than for an individual.

As to the yield, I gave the figure of £22 billion. As compliance levels are very high, the yield depends on the demand rather than the assessment system. I do not believe that there is any particularly good evidence that yield has been affected by self-assessment. This project was introduced on time and on budget and saves the Revenue money, which enables it to demand less tax in future years. In particular, the self-assessment facility over the Internet means that the processing of tax returns is very economical because there is no extra stage of data entry.

My Lords, can the Minister say how many people—idiots or otherwise—failed to meet the 31st January deadline? Can he also say what is the anticipated bonus to the Revenue in terms of interest?

My Lords, more than 90 per cent of 6.6 million taxpayers using self-assessment met the deadline. Nearly all the others followed within a few days. Therefore, there is no particular effect on interest. It is sad that the vast majority of returns arrive very close to the deadline; in other words, they come close to the period before 30th September, the deadline for the Revenue doing the assessment, and they come close to the 31st January. Again, without calling anyone an idiot, it is perverse of people to run themselves up against these deadlines.

My Lords, the Minister referred to tax returns on the Internet. Can he tell us how many tax returns have been submitted on the Internet? Have there been any lessons learned from this year's experience that can be applied to next year?

My Lords, about 40,000 individuals submitted their returns on the Internet. In addition, 285,000 returns were submitted by agents on behalf of individuals, partnerships and trustees using the electronic lodgement service. There is still a long way to go before the full value of the Internet return system is achieved. Certainly, when I tried I was told that my tax is kept in a secure category, as are the tax returns of all Ministers and all Members of Parliament. So I would not have been allowed to use the Internet even if I had succeeded in getting a registration number.

Lord Chancellor's Role

11.22 a.m.

Whether the role of Lord Chancellor is compatible with that of a party fundraiser.

My Lords, let me say first that this Labour Party dinner was for lawyers, whom I understood to be known Labour Party members or supporters who had generally attended before. Lawyers know all the safeguards built into the legal appointments process, a system on which a former Commissioner for Public Appointments, Sir Leonard Peach, recently concluded:

"My assessment is that the procedures and their execution arc as good as any which I have seen in the Public Sector".
None the less, in order to avoid any possible, however theoretical, perceived notion of a conflict of interest between the roles that a Lord Chancellor properly has under our constitution, I decided for the first time to establish a commission for judicial appointments which will scrutinise the whole system of judicial and QC appointments and its execution. The first commissioner will be appointed next month and there will be a team of deputy commissioners. The commissioner will have access to every piece of paper, every assessment, every opinion and every interview for every applicant. His report will be laid before Parliament alongside my annual report to Parliament on judicial appointments, which was another initiative taken by me. I do not believe that anyone who attended the dinner in question could conceivably have thought that a donation could have bought an appointments advantage.

The noble Lord, Lord McNally, is a well-known supporter of state funding for political parties. Without state funding parties have no alternative but to fundraise. Every Minister, from the Prime Minister down, engages in fundraising, as did our predecessors. as do Shadow Ministers. It is not the case that Lord Chancellors are not party political. They are appointed by the Prime Minister; they take the party Whip; they speak and vote for the Government in Parliament; they sit in Cabinet; and they campaign for their party. Fundraising, unless and until the rules are changed, is part and parcel of the party-political activities of Ministers and Shadow Ministers.

My Lords, I thank the Lord Chancellor for that reply. I am sure that a number of his learned friends will want to probe him further on the legal aspects of his reply. Perhaps I may ask him two questions on the fundraising aspect. First, what precedent does the noble and learned Lord think his behaviour has set in terms of the relationship between ministerial responsibility and fundraising? Can the Secretary of State for Education and Employment write to deputy headmasters? Can the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food write to farmers? Can the Minister of Health write to junior doctors? There is a blurring by the behaviour of the Lord Chancellor of his responsibilities as a Minister and his responsibilities as a politician.

Secondly, the Lord Chancellor may have read in the Daily Telegraph this morning an extremely well-informed article attributed to one of the Lord Chancellor's friends, where it is said that he was led down this route by those rascals in Millbank. Did any of the Lord Chancellor's friends ever suggest that the best course of action for him today would be to come to this House and say that this was an error of judgment which he regrets and for which he apologises? If the noble Lord had done so he would have enhanced the respect for himself, his office and the Government. He missed the chance by not doing so.

My Lords, first, I have not read the piece in the Daily Telegraph.

My Lords, the noble Lord says that it sounds as if I wrote it. I did not. I know nothing about it. If anyone who is a friend of mine was the source and if the account of the noble Lord is correct, I would be very inclined to say, "God, protect me from my friends".

I am simply saying that I do not believe that I have done anything wrong. Nor do I believe that I have broken any current rules. If I did, I would be the first to apologise. There is no real difference between party-political campaigning and fundraising because I believe that fundraising is an inherent part of party-political campaigning. We would be unrealistic not to recognise that.

A great deal has been said about the office of Lord Chancellor being non-party political. That is simply not true. At the great age of 79, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hailsham, toured the country in the 1987 general election campaign. Lord Kilmuir was even more frequently on the campaign trail. In 1997, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay of Clashfern, took a high political profile to speak out strongly against Scottish devolution. I take the view that, unless and until the rules are changed, a Lord Chancellor is no different from any other Cabinet Minister.

If a debate arose out of this to say that a rule should develop that a Lord Chancellor should be different from all other Ministers as regards fundraising, I would listen to such a debate with a very attentive ear. In fact, I could be quite hospitable to the idea that a Lord Chancellor should be excused from the burden of fundraising.

My Lords, would the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor do it again?

My Lords, certainly, unless the rules are changed I would be willing to consider doing it again. Whether or not that would attract a furore of this kind would be a consideration that I should take into account because I believe that this furore is distracting the attention of the country from the real issues facing it. When the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, asks would I do it again, he must ask himself what are the principled reasons for a Lord Chancellor being an exception to what applies to every other Minister.

Every other Minister is deeply involved in appointments processes. There are about 30,000 public appointments which are sought after, of which about 26,000 are direct ministerial appointments. If the proposition is that the Lord Chancellor is different, those who advance that proposition have to give reasons.

My Lords, will my noble and learned friend explain to the House with precision the protections that are built into the system of appointments to prevent politically motivated appointments?

My Lords, a vast range of safeguards are built in. Every appointment up to the level of circuit judge is the subject of open competition, interview with lay persons and assessments of individuals throughout the course of their professional lives. Those assessments are there in writing and every interview assessment is there in writing. Eventually, the appointment is considered by the civil servants, who then make written recommendations to the Lord Chancellor. That is how it has always been. Those are the procedures which Sir Leonard Peach said are "as good as any" that he had ever seen in the area of public appointments.

I have gone to great lengths, which I have already defined, to strengthen public confidence in this area by being about to appoint an independent commissioner for judicial appointments who will have access to every interview, every piece of paper, every meeting, and at a higher level. This commissioner will be entitled to sit in on the regular meetings that I have with the heads of division where we consider the really senior legal appointments—that is to say, High Court Bench and above—and also all silk applications.

My Lords, does the Lord Chancellor not recognise that there is a distinction between the perfectly proper political campaigning undertaken by the predecessors whom he cited—the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hailsham, Lord Kilmuir, and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay—and the process of fundraising? Does not the Lord Chancellor's manifest willingness now to consider favourably a rule proscribing that which has just taken place illustrate the way in which his predecessors have recognised that this is an area where they should be bound by the unwritten law? Instinctively and intuitively, they would have recognised the conflict between the process of fundraising and the process of political campaigning. Is it not regrettable that the noble and learned Lord has not done the same thing?

My Lords, I have no inside knowledge of the internal affairs of the Conservative Party, but I would be very surprised if Tory Lord Chancellors had not attended fundraising Conservative dinners. It would have been completely unobjectionable for them to have done so and they would have aided fundraising by their presence. The reality is that people come to these dinners to meet, to see, to hear and to talk to Ministers. Ministers' presence is a spur to fundraising. That is the reality.

My Lords, as I understand it, the new commissioner will monitor the appointments system but he will have in himself no power of appointment. In 1992, in a pamphlet published by the Society of Labour Lawyers, the noble and learned Lord called for the establishment of a Ministry of Justice and for the selection of the judiciary by a judicial appointments commission. Why have the Government changed their mind? Do not the noble and learned Lord's present problems make the correctness of his original views even more obvious?

My Lords, I cannot think of a system of appointments that will be more exposed to public scrutiny and attract greater public confidence than the one which I have just described, with the oversight by an independent commissioner for judicial appointments. As the noble Lord knows well, and as I have said before, I have never excluded the possibility of a judicial appointments commission. It is a very controversial proposition. The noble Lord knows well that there are many who are really opposed to that proposition because of the dangers which it is said to pose to appointments on merit only as distinct from appointments which make compromises. The noble Lord is well aware of that argument. But I take this opportunity to say again that I have not closed my mind to this proposition. After the new commissioner for judicial appointments has presented his first annual report to Parliament, it will be time for us to sit back, to take stock and to see whether it is a sensible course to follow to go out to consultation on the possibility of an appointments commission in the full sense.

My Lords, I think it is the turn of the Government Benches to ask a question.

My Lords, it would be helpful to the House if my noble and learned friend could say whether he has received any complaints during his time in office about any lack of propriety in the legal appointments that he has made.

Business

11.36 a.m.

My Lords, immediately after the first debate today, my noble friend Lady Hayman will, with the leave of the House, make a Statement on the foot and mouth outbreak.

House Of Lords Financial Powers Bill Hl

My Lords, I beg to introduce a Bill to amend the Parliament Act 1911 and to make further provision on the financial powers of the House of Lords. I beg to move that this Bill be now read a first time.

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

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

Business Of The House: Debates This Day

My Lords, I beg to move the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper. Perhaps I may take this opportunity to associate myself with the remarks made by my noble friend Lord Shepherd. I shall, of course, be sending a message to the noble Lord, Lord Mackay.

Moved, That the debate on the Motion in the name of the Baroness Walmsley set down for today shall be limited to three hours and that in the name of the Lord McNally to two hours.—( Baroness Jay of Paddington.)

My Lords, on behalf of the Opposition, I thank the noble Baroness and the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd. Obviously, we wait for news of the noble Lord, Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish. We very much hope that when we return on Monday his health will be considerably better than it was in the early hours of this morning.

My Lords, those on the Liberal Democrat Benches would wish to be associated with such sentiments.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Teaching

11.38 a.m.

Baroness Walmsley rose to call attention to the shortage of qualified teachers; and to the impact of inspections and bureaucracy in schools; and to move for Papers.

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, when I was a young girl it was a maths teacher who taught me to appreciate Beethoven and Bach, a chemistry teacher who taught me to sing Gilbert and Sullivan, and an RE teacher who taught me to perform Oscar Wilde. Those things have enriched my life as much, if not more, than the maths, chemistry and RE that I learned in the classroom. Today's teachers are so burdened with bureaucracy, targets, new initiatives and responsibilities that I fear that the next generation of children will not benefit from such life-enriching experiences as I did.

Furthermore, it was a talented specialist biology teacher who inspired in me the love of the subject that led me to take a degree in biology. Too many children today are being taught specialist subjects by people whose specialism is something else. Those teachers, struggling to master enough of the content of a subject for which they were not trained, are much less likely to inspire the next generation. Many of the subjects where there are the most chronic teacher shortages are those that the country needs most: maths and the sciences, English, the humanities, modern languages. In today's debate, we are concerned with the problems of recruitment and retention of teachers and the roles of bureaucracy and the culture of the inspection process in exacerbating those problems.

First, let me outline the extent of the shortage. The number of vacancies advertised in the Times Educational Supplement last year doubled from 2,500 to 5,000. Last September, there were more than 4,000 vacancies in secondary schools in England and Wales, and it is in the secondary sector that the main problem lies. It is because of rising vacancies that pupil:teacher ratios in secondary schools are at their highest for 25 years. Analysis of the DfEE's own figures showed that nearly 5,000 extra secondary teachers would be required to return ratios to their 1997 levels. If the 4,000 vacancies and the 5,000 needed to bring up the ratios are added together, we find that 9,000 secondary teachers are missing from the system. Furthermore, due to demographic changes, secondary numbers will continue to rise until 2008. According to Education Data Services, unless something is done, this will leave a shortfall of 20,000 teachers, based on current trends.

The Minister keeps telling us that there are now 7,000 more teachers than when Labour came to power. This is because of the reduction in class sizes for five to seven year-olds. Everywhere else in the system, children have had to suffer larger classes. What is the point of having smaller class sizes at key stage 1 if the classes are overcrowded after that? If the Government's objectives for other age groups are to be achieved, they really must find ways of making the teaching profession more attractive. Results in Scotland show that smaller classes produce better educational attainment. That is why we need to recruit more teachers.

Experienced teachers are leaving the profession in droves and are not being replaced by enough new trainees. The Government have consistently missed their targets for trainee teachers. Despite the introduction of training grants and "golden hellos" for shortage subjects, applications to PGCE courses at the beginning of this month were down in every national curriculum subject except science. There is a long way to catch up. Compared with January 1997, there were 14 per cent fewer applications for secondary teacher training places in January of this year. The drop-out rate for teacher training courses has also risen to 16.1 per cent, so fewer people are actually qualifying at the end of the course. There is a hole in the bottom of the bucket and the Government are failing to plug it.

Salary drift and economic growth have compounded the problem. As teachers' traditional fringe benefits of long holidays and professional autonomy have become eroded, so at the same time new companies are looking for graduates to fuel the growth in the knowledge economy. The ever-greater strain under which teachers are being placed is reflected in sickness rates. The first national survey on teacher sickness released by the DfEE showed that in 1999 six out of every 10 full-time teachers took some sick leave. Some 44 per cent of all absences were for more than 20 working days and the average number of days' absence was higher than the average for the national workforce.

Why, therefore, do people not want to go into teaching and why are so many experienced teachers leaving our schools? The answer is not only money, although better pay would undoubtedly help. According to the TES, graduates going into teaching are paid around £2,000 a year less than those going into other professional jobs and last week's announcement about increasing starting salaries will not help because the wage gap widens after a few years' experience. The answer is to make the profession more attractive by improving the conditions under which teachers have to work.

Perhaps I may illustrate the current situation by telling noble Lords about the workload of a real deputy head of a real medium-sized primary school in a deprived inner city in the north of the country. First, he wears 11 hats. If noble Lords think that three hats are excessive for the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor, think of the burden of wearing 11. The following are his 11 responsibilities within the school: one, deputy head; two, full-time class teacher; three, curriculum co-ordinator; four, responsible for school discipline; five, maintaining consumable stocks; six, head of physical education; seven, programmes to support gifted and talented children; eight, the assessment of the performance of a group of more junior teachers; nine, in-service training for all staff; ten, work experience placements in the school for secondary schoolchildren; eleven, main mentor for student teachers on teaching practice in the school.

His regular extra-curricular activities include conducting assemblies, training and supervising the football and basketball teams, attending concerts and plays, weekly staff meetings, fortnightly senior staff meetings and dinner duty every day. Over the past couple of months he has attended courses on information technology, PE—his own subject area—literacy and numeracy initiatives, and teacher assessment skills. Every Monday morning, at least six communications arrive on his desk from the local education authority and the DfEE, all of which require action. Every day, other post needs to be dealt with. He comes into school at 7.45 a.m. and rarely leaves before 5.30 p.m. In the evening he spends two to three hours preparing lessons, writing reports and analysing test results and comparing them to national standards. This week is half term. He has already spent the best part of the past two days in school and expects to be in school for some part of every day this week. That is some holiday.

That teacher is not unusual. There are thousands like him. He is just one of the many teachers to whom I have spoken who, a few years ago, I would have said was very dedicated and loved the job. Now he says that he would get out if he could, even if he had to take a salary cut. The stress is affecting his formerly robust health. Teaching is in crisis. Young teachers are much less willing to undertake the kind of extra-curricular activities from which I benefited when I was at school. The older ones are still trying to do it, but it is killing them.

Analysts agree that the rising tide of bureaucracy and central interference is one of the biggest criticisms by the teaching profession of this Government. Since May 1997, the DfEE has set 4,585 targets which require a total of 306,480,472 measures to be monitored by schools and LEAs, many on a quarterly basis. There are 74 different targets set for every primary school pupil. When last month my noble friend Lady Sharp of Guildford asked the Minister what the Government planned to do about the rising burden of targets faced by schools, the Minister replied that the Government have targets to reduce the targets. An image crossed my mind of Mickey Mouse as the sorcerer's apprentice in Walt Disney's film. Mickey looks on helplessly at the rising tide as the spellbound broom, multiplying unchecked, fetches ever more buckets of water. Every month, buckets of targets are being poured over the floors of our poor schools and drowning the teachers in paperwork. Teachers, who should be in the classroom teaching, are not waving but drowning!

Teachers are also demoralised by the lack of resources and equipment. A recent Ofsted report found that one in 15 primary schools and nearly a quarter of secondary schools had inadequate resources. Research comparing spending on books in 12 European countries put the UK at the bottom of the league. Although the Government have begun to invest in IT in schools, provision varies greatly and is not as comprehensive as DfEE propaganda would indicate. A survey conducted by the Liberal Democrats during winter 2000 showed that there is only one computer with an Internet connection for every 56 primary pupils and 46 secondary pupils.

Gimmicks such as increasing the number of specialist schools to 46 per cent, as announced in last week's Green Paper, are simply an excuse to avoid funding 100 per cent of the schools properly. The enthusiasm with which schools have applied to become specialist schools is mainly because by doing so they receive £100,000 capital grant and more cash for each pupil. I believe that all schools matter and that all schools deserve this heightened level of funding.

The culture of blame has also demoralised the profession. It is right that those with such an important job are put under the microscope. On these Benches, we support the principle of the independent inspection of schools. However, in recent years, the way in which Ofsted has done its job has rightly generated enormous criticism. This is because of several factors: first, the stress that the process has put on teachers, partly caused by the length of notice, the length of the inspection and the amount of written evidence required; secondly, the style of many inspections, in which teachers gained the impression that the inspectors were there to catch them out rather than to help them improve; and thirdly, the efficiency and competence of the inspectors has been called into question on occasion. No one likes to be criticised, but to be criticised by someone who appears not to know what he is doing is an insult.

Fortunately, these criticisms have been loudly voiced and the Government have responded to many of them and set changes in train: shorter notice; self-evaluation, leading to shorter inspections; reduced written evidence; and a new chief inspector, who appears to have a different attitude altogether. I do hope so.

We still believe that Ofsted should be more directly accountable to Parliament and that inspectors should not be banned from suggesting ways in which teachers could improve but should be positively encouraged to do so. However, we welcome the changes. We would warn, however, that the process of self-evaluation is putting yet more strain on school management teams. They need to be given the time and, if necessary, the supply cover to do it properly.

It gives me no pleasure to catalogue this miserable litany of fact, so perhaps I should turn to what the Government are doing to make the profession more attractive to new teachers and to keep existing staff in the classroom. Sadly, the "golden hellos" and the tiny training grants have been too little, too late. Since Labour came to power, 11,000 training places for secondary teachers have been left empty as graduates, saddled with student debt and often already burdened with mortgage payments, cannot afford to train as teachers.

The Government appear at long last to have realised the inadequacy of their efforts as they announced in last week's Green Paper a further incentive to pay off one-tenth of a new teacher's student loan for every year he or she stays in the profession. This is no more than a sticking plaster over a gaping wound—and a very divisive sticking plaster at that! Imagine how a young teacher who entered the profession last year with an appalling burden of student debt will feel when grabbing a quick cup of coffee in the staff room alongside a newly qualified teacher for whom the problem has been removed—as long as he or she avoids a nervous breakdown for 10 years.

The bureaucratic overload is preventing teachers and headteachers doing their jobs effectively. The Government's proposal to halve the mountain of paper is not enough. The DfEE should be obliged to ensure that the documentation distributed to LEAs and schools is kept to a minimum and that schools are easily able to distinguish what is relevant. The Liberal Democrats would introduce a statutory requirement for the DfEE annually to review all material distributed through the department and its agencies and to withdraw any irrelevant paperwork.

To reduce the bureaucratic burden produced by the monitoring targets and to ensure that every child is treated as the individual he or she is, the Liberal Democrats believe that all national targets must be scrapped. We would replace these thousands of targets with just one; that would be a statutory requirement for schools to develop individual education plans—which already exist—for each child, with clear targets and criteria for improvement. This would put the child at the centre. The plans would be set by the school and would be accountable to parents, to the LEA and to Ofsted.

The Minister may claim that standards have risen during this Administration. If they have, it is at the expense of the teaching profession. I fear that the next straw will break the camel's back. Of course, every child matters—it is the child who must be put at the centre of education thinking and planning, not the teacher—but the teacher is the key to helping the child to learn. With well trained, well motivated, well equipped, enthusiastic, well paid teachers who are continually developing their skills, we can ensure that every child fulfils his or her potential. The future of our country is in their hands. Let us return the teaching profession to the attractive, respected, popular profession it once was. The shortages will then solve themselves. My Lords, I beg to move for Papers.

11.55 a.m.

My Lords, the debate is both timely and important and I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, for introducing it. I agree with everything she said. Her Motion is in two parts. I suspect that it will be much easier to deal with the part concerning bureaucracy than with the part concerning the shortage of teachers.

I take as my starting point the importance of teachers at the centre of education. Two members of my family taught all their lives in state schools; others have taught in higher education. I believe that teaching is one of the greatest of the professions that anyone can undertake. Standards rise in schools because of good teaching, not because of government edict. The whole education system is completely dependent on teachers; hence the importance of this debate. Good schools are good schools because of good teachers.

Today there is a crisis. It is impossible to talk to anyone in teaching without being informed that there is a crisis and a difficulty; it is not an exaggeration: low morale; more teachers leaving the profession; more unfilled vacancies; some schools on short time; and more teachers coming from abroad—some very good and well qualified, others not so good; a variable standard.

Two teachers have said to me that if all the maths students graduating this summer went into teaching, there would still be a shortage of maths teachers. Even if that is not entirely true, it is an indication of the kind of gap that needs to be filled. One hears the same story from teachers and teacher unions; it makes the most dismal reading for the local education authorities and others involved.

Perhaps I may start by making three points about teacher morale. First, it hardly helps the teaching profession if those close to the centre of government—such as Mr Alastair Campbell—talk about "bog standard comprehensives". That is not a term that I would ever apply to any school. It is completely disgraceful. It is bad for the teachers, bad for the parents and bad for the pupils. The Government are trying to encourage young people to go into teaching, but who would go into a profession which could be described, in any respect, in those terms? The remark has not been retracted. It is a very serious matter.

Secondly, we have a pitfall with the differential in pay between England and Wales and Scotland. If I was a teacher in Berwick-upon-Tweed, for example, why would I stay with Northumberland County Council when over the Border I could now get £5,000 a year more and, if I have understood the arrangement correctly, a further £5,000 in two or three years' time? This will create a serious difficulty for teachers in England and Wales and in Scotland. This issue needs to be addressed.

I have not been able to take part as I would have wished in the proceedings on the Special Educational Needs and Disability Bill and, therefore, other nobles Lords will be much more knowledgeable than I about my third point. It is quite clear that that Bill will impose further responsibilities on teachers when an increasing number of children with special educational needs come into mainstream schools. Deputy head teachers will be responsible not only for the 11 jobs described by the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, but will have others added to them. From talking to teachers, I know that they are very worried about having further tasks added to their workload.

I looked at the recently published Green Paper to see what the Government had to say about teachers. One goes quite a way into it before teachers are mentioned. On page 8, paragraph 7 of the summary, it states:
"We will demonstrate trust in the informed professional judgment of teachers"—
and the sentence then goes on—
"while maintaining a focus on accountability and standards"—
to indicate that they do not trust the teachers.

Perhaps I may give one example of not trusting head teachers. Given all the complexity of performance-related pay, teachers are required to fill in a very complicated form. Having filled it in, they are assessed by an outside assessor to see how they actively perform in the classroom. It is not good enough that the head teacher of a school says that X is suitable. If ever there were a job for a head teacher, I should have thought it was that. I do not know what the extra cost is of having an outside assessment.

The noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, has given a large number of figures about teacher shortages. To take just two, in 1992–93, 15,490 undergraduates were recruited into the initial teacher training course. This had dropped to 9,340 by the year 1990–2000. The survey of the Secondary Heads Association published last year said that secondary schools were short of their targets by 4,000 teachers; that many schools were employing teachers without recognised teacher training qualifications; that some schools were on a four-day week; and that the situation was particularly difficult in London.

In preparation for this debate, I consulted Oxfordshire County Council where I live. I asked about the position there. The situation is similar to that which I have described. I quote:
"The number of teaching advertisements placed during the academic year 1999/2000 has been 1514 compared with 1106 in 1998/99, an increase of 37%. This seems to demonstrate increased turnover … to compound the difficulties, it has become increasingly difficult to find supply teachers and many schools are using private Supply Agencies which are expensive".
The council also states:
"We know from our own Headteachers that recruitment of teachers has become a major problem, particularly for Schools in Special Measures or with Serious Weaknesses".
I now turn to bureaucracy. It is quite right to say that this is the main reason that teachers have identified for their dissatisfaction. They are told what to teach and how to teach; then they are tested on what they have been taught; they have endless forms to fill in for endless statistics. One has only to look at what the NAHT is saying to its members. I quote:
"Unrealistic expectations, frequent initiatives, last minute policy changes and duplicated demands from government, OFSTED, QCA and LEAs place a great deal of pressure on school leaders".
That must be right. The NAHT report goes on to tell head teachers how to deal with this excess amount of material.

Indeed, the Government themselves, in their report entitled Red Tape Affecting Head Teachers, state:
"We believe the main reasons for these concerns [on red tape] are: blurred lines of accountability between head teachers, governors, LEAs and the DfEE; over-complex funding arrangements; a multiplicity of reporting requirements; and inadequate administrative support for head teachers, especially in small and struggling schools".
It is difficult for outsiders to remember how few support staff there are in schools, especially in primary schools. There will be the school secretary and perhaps one other person dealing with all this bureaucracy.

It would be nice to think that the future will be better. But teacher shortage presents a demographic time-bomb. Over 50 per cent of all teachers are over the age of 45. I understand that 8,000 retired places need to be filled. That figure will rise to 17,000 by the year 2014. That is not a long way ahead; so a major long-term problem is building up. It will require a great deal more than simply a bit of extra money here and there. It needs to be fully thought-out. Red tape and bureaucracy need to be dealt with. Above all, the importance of teachers needs to be recognised.

To return to the Government's Green Paper, they state at the end, in large letters:
"The teaching profession has taken huge strides forward in recent years and is beginning to demonstrate the characteristics of a 21st century profession".
It would be difficult to find a more patronising or condescending comment. It is a classic example of "New Labour, new speak". There were thousands of good teachers before 1997 who were dedicated to the profession. I doubt whether there is one of us in this Chamber who does not recall a good teacher and a good lesson and who has not been influenced by them. We need a great deal more than that kind of rhetoric if teachers are to be given the kind of support that they deserve and if they are to receive the respect as professionals that the country needs and, above all, the pupils need.

12.6 p.m.

My Lords, I am delighted to follow the noble Baroness. However, I point out that if this Government had not spent a vastly increased sum on education since 1997, heaven knows what sort of situation we would have inherited from the previous government.

I join the noble Baroness in congratulating the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, on securing this debate. She struck a chord with me when she talked about the life-enhancing experiences outside the narrow terms of teaching. However, I was surprised to listen to the catalogue of duties of the deputy headmaster she told us about. Heaven knows what the headmaster does. The sooner the deputy headmaster applies for promotion, the better.

I rarely speak on education matters. When I was in the House of Commons a large number of Members were involved in education and my constituents would probably have expected me to concentrate on other things. However, I do occasionally speak about education, on the basis of what I believe is substantial and, I hope, relevant experience.

I taught for 17 years in state schools. I was an examiner when the CSE was introduced. I occasionally contributed provocative articles to educational journals. I taught classes in descriptive engineering when Doncaster college was required to have its engineering students back in the evening, and the engineering students did not like it. So the subject was not called English. I think I was the 13th teacher to attempt to cope with that when the academic year started. At that stage teachers' pay was not very good; it was low down on the incremental scale. I accepted the job only because I found it an attractive way of supplementing my income. I was also chairman of my professional association in the area and became chairman of governors and a passionate supporter of comprehensive education, to which I shall refer shortly.

I was the only serious applicant for my first job. The interview lasted only about two minutes, and I thought I was going to receive a vote of thanks for replying. The job was in probably one of the roughest secondary modern boys' schools in the West Riding. The school should have had a head and 15 assistants, and there were six vacancies. The headmaster spent a great deal of time, before he rang the bell at four o'clock and ran, in trying to find bodies to stand in front of classes. It was a demanding but illuminating experience.

When I began, I was in charge of a first-year form of 40 pupils, and taught English and history. I found that over half of the pupils were barely literate. Fortunately an HMI arrived a few days after I started, and I pointed out that no one had equipped me to teach classes of this size of boys who were barely literate. The inspector said, "There's a wonderful school near here. I will arrange with the head for you to go and spend a day there. You can see the wonderful, groundbreaking work they are doing". I was extremely grateful. I went to the staff room and the deputy head—a wonderful local man, the rock on which the school existed—asked me how I got on. I told him about this "wonderful opportunity". He laughed, and said, "Look at the back of the register when you return to your classroom. You will see a list of the schools from which the pupils came. Have a look and see which of them cannot read". I spoke to the inspector before he went and told him that I did not think that I would avail myself of the opportunity but that, nevertheless, I was very grateful for his attention.

So I struggled on and learnt to teach; it is a very good kill or cure method of developing teachers. A few years later the inspector returned. He had been doing some work on the teaching of reading and had been following a sample of children right across the country. He asked me whether I had a certain two boys in my classroom. The answer was yes. I cannot remember their names because it was a long time ago. I pointed out where the two boys were sitting. The inspector looked at one with astonishment. He then walked towards the other boy and became even more astonished. He said, "That boy is reading Dog World". "Yes", I said in response. He then pointed out the other boy, who was reading the Guardian, and asked why. I explained that the father of the boy who was reading the Guardian had become very active in his trade union; that he was devoted to politics; that the boy worshipped his father; and that he wanted to be able follow his father's interest.

As for the boy reading the dog paper—I brought mine in every Monday for him—I told the inspector that his father showed dogs; that he had bought the boy a dog; and that the boy was also showing dogs. You can easily ascertain the development of children's reading. The reading age of those two boys had shot up during that time, but I believe that the inspector would have been happier if it had not done so.

I then went into a primary school. Again, I was the only applicant; and, again, the people interviewing me were delighted to receive my application. However, I was old-fashioned. I told them that the current fashion in West Riding at that time was that teachers spent their time doing music and movement and that I did not particularly want to do that. I was promised that if I accepted the post that the school wished to offer me I would not have to teach such subjects. So I joined the school, but found that I had music and movement on my timetable. Fortunately, an inspector arrived some time later who was devoted to music and movement. I asked him whether he would like to take my class and show me how to approach the subject. When the class appeared to be breaking into disorder after about 15 minutes, I relieved him from that task. I do not believe that he came anywhere near my classroom again.

I discovered that the headmaster of that school, who tended to bully young teachers, did not like dogs. So, from time to time, I took one of my dogs to school and the headmaster stayed in his office all day. However, he approached me after a couple of terms and asked me to do him a favour. He said that we would have one class more than we had classrooms the following year and asked whether I would take that class, which would not have a classroom. At least the noble Baroness's deputy did have a classroom. I replied, "Well, what shall I do'?" He responded, "If it's fine you can go in the park across the road". I then asked what I should do when it was raining. He replied that I could use the school hall when possible, but pointed out that it was used for other purposes. I wondered what I should do if the school hall was in use and it was raining. He said that I could use the boys' cloakroom.

I taught for quite a while with rain dripping down my pupils' necks on occasion. It was the time of the Suez crisis and I was rather hoping that the Royal Air Force would fetch me back as a reservist. However, I then went to a new school, which had just been built. It was a position of responsibility, and wonderful. But the teaching shortage was so acute that we were cleared out and the school became a day-training college. It was an interesting experience.

In my next school I was responsible, as senior head of department, for the teacher training of student practice, and so on. We had student teachers coming in from about five different establishments. But I found that the day-training college was taking mature pupils, not necessarily with high academic qualifications. They were very good in some cases, but in many cases they were superb. Our teacher shortage in that part of the country was rapidly reduced by the injection of people with maturity and common sense. I am not suggesting that we should return to the old days. I consulted our local copy of the 1891 census just the other day. I found that some girls in the area at the time were student/pupil teachers at the age of 14. I do not believe that we should return to that practice.

My time is nearly up, and I should like to make one further point. When I served on a Select Committee in the other place that considered the attainments of the school-leaver of 1976, we looked at mathematics teaching. I discovered that there were parliamentary debates about unsatisfactory mathematics teaching in the 1860s. It was a vicious circle. I also noticed one school where the standard of mathematics teaching was superbly high and had been so for some years. The head of department had had 12 months' emergency teacher training after the war. He had people with very high qualifications working in his department, but they were not better teachers. Indeed, I know of one small boy who was very good in primary school with maths at the age of 11. However, by the end of the second term of secondary education he was barely numerate. His teachers, too, had very high qualifications.

We must ensure that we do not ignore the fact that, first, teachers teach children rather than subjects. Pupils do not go to school merely to take examinations. The noble Baroness made the point about life enhancement. I believe that the most rewarding period that I spent as a pupil was during the time after we had taken examinations both at the age of 16 and at the age of 18, when we took part in many other activities. However, these days pupils are shovelled out of the school building as soon as the ink has dried on the examination papers.

In my area there were two grammar schools, which took perhaps a few hundred children a year out of a population of 120,000. We took that small proportion and said that they were able; the rest were rejected and regarded as failures. I should like to point out to my noble friend that if we wish to see 50 per cent or more of our young people going into higher education—we must do so if we are to maximise the talents of the British people—it is no good selecting 10 per cent, and telling the others that they are inferior.

12.16 p.m.

My Lords, I begin by declaring an interest as chairman of the governors of one of the major independent schools in the country; namely, Bedford School, with 1.110 boys on the roll.

Your Lordships will recall that only last week I accused the Minister of complacency because secondary teacher training targets have not been met, and the purpose of setting a target is to try to achieve it. Noble Lords will also recall that in yesterday's Question Time pleas were heard from all sides of the Chamber to reduce red tape; indeed, those pleas have been repeated this morning by the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, and others who have spoken.

Noble Lords may also recall that my noble friend on the Front Bench referred yesterday to the trials for the procedures to be introduced in September. Although I do not have the Hansard report with me, I believe that the Minister dismissed those trials as being uneventful and not helpful. If the trials have not been a success, that seems to me not to augur too well for what I understand is to be introduced in September.

My headmaster and I were discussing today's debate and the problems of teacher training and recruitment. Obviously, this affects the independent sector as much as it affects the maintained sector. I wonder how many noble Lords are aware of the true picture from an independent source. I looked through the most useful and up-to-date guide that I could find, which is to be found in a detailed study published in December 2000—only a few weeks ago—by Professor Alan Smithers and Pamela Robinson from the University of Liverpool. Their study was entitled, Attracting Teachers—past patterns, present policies, futureprospects. Those noble Lords who know Professor Smithers will be aware of the high regard in which he and his team are held.

I shall not cover the whole of that study. I shall pick out what seem to me to be some of the key dimensions that the professor has highlighted. The first one is something about which no government can been chastised: quite simply, the more pupils go into higher education than was the case in the past, the more what one might call the "natural supply of teachers" is diminished, because so many more opportunities are open to our young people. The teaching profession, therefore, has to compete with the whole wider open market for graduates today. That is a matter of a general nature that we all have to face up to.

Secondly, Professor Smithers—and I agree with him—states that measuring vacancies is not an effective method of assessing the scale of a problem. As we all know from the schools we visit, all schools make do and do their best and try very hard to avoid sending pupils home. Of course one observes that where a school is forced to run a four-day week, it must be in dire straits.

A better way of assessing the underlying problem—for me this is the interesting table in the report—is to look at PGCE targets in relation to graduate output. The number of graduates in any one subject constitutes the finite number who may wish to teach. The table shows PGCE targets as percentages of graduate output. I shall not quote all the examples. For English, the PGCE target is 1,927 and the graduate output is 6,275; the percentage required is 30.7 per cent. For maths, the PGCE target is 1,577 and the graduate output is 4,250; the percentage required is 37.1 per cent. For geography, which is traditionally not seen as a problem area, the PGCE target is 1,062 and the graduate output is 4,536; the percentage required is 23 per cent.

The percentage of graduates required to go into teaching to meet the targets is pretty high. Therefore, something must be offered to attract them into teaching. As we can see, the PGCE target for maths requires nearly two-fifths of all maths graduates; languages require over two-fifths and English nearly a third. As for science, the PGCE target is only 2,355 out of some 24,000 graduates—just under 10 per cent. But if you dig a little underneath—that never does any harm—and consider the position in relation to chemistry, there are only 160 PGCE of the graduates and for physics there are just over 80. I suggest that physics as a subject is in terminal decline in our schools.

Furthermore, there is an additional problem in that those entering PGCE training do not all successfully reach the end. One can accept a fall-out rate of a smallish percentage, but when one discovers that in maths it is more than 20 per cent either the wrong people are being selected or the PGCE training is not succeeding. That is a problem. I hope that I shall not be accused of being sexist, but one has to note that in terms of people entering the profession today the vast majority are increasingly female. If we are not careful—I do not think that this is a good thing—this has an implication for the future in that it may be seen not as a profession for men. I think that that is something we should be aware of.

The survey concludes by stating—I suppose this is a slight surprise—that salary is not the primary factor that affects teachers; it remains job satisfaction. I find that enormously encouraging, although in my judgment the starting salary of a young teacher is still exceptionally low. The evidence shows that there is a huge problem. The question is: how do we make teaching more attractive? I venture to suggest that if job satisfaction is the key, the Government should perhaps, if they are of an open mind, think again and perhaps repeal the Act on the statute book that attempts to get rid of our grammar schools. That would bring great joy to all those who teach in grammar schools and great joy to parents, pupils and those who aspire to teach in those schools.

I had the benefit and the joy of having a number of government assisted places pupils in my school. They added to the colour and to the strength of the school. Sadly, those places are being run down now and we have to try to find another way to substitute for the joy those boys brought to my school. I say to the Minister that the independent sector has a role to play. I believe that it would be fruitful for both parties to find a way forward to work together rather than everything going one way.

It needs to be repeated that to have the Prime Minister, and his spokesman of the day speaking on his behalf, talking about bog standard comprehensives is not helpful to teacher morale. Anyone in a bog standard comprehensive will probably be a bog standard teacher; that is not a complimentary term and it is not one that I should like to see applied to any teacher. It does nothing at all to enhance the profession of those who teach. I suggest to the Minister that the time has come—it may take more time—for the Government to recognise the sheer scale of the problem. It is a problem that needs to be addressed. Perhaps the Government should even bring in the Opposition parties to see whether we can find a consensus to take forward a way to enhance the whole of the teaching profession.

12.26 p.m.

My Lords, this debate is timely. I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, for introducing it.

It is easy to use the language of crisis and I am reluctant to devalue its currency. I begin with an example. If you had gone to a certain junior school in north Portsmouth any morning last week, you would have found a diligent head teacher, who has taught in Portsmouth schools for 14 years, involved in making—either himself or through colleagues—up to 20 phone calls each morning in order to secure supply cover. That is a particularly acute example but I am led to believe that it is not entirely untypical.

I do not believe that the cause of the present crisis can be laid specifically and solely at the feet of any single party political philosophy—or lack of it. I think that the causes go much deeper and they relate to an evolution, almost by stealth, of the teacher into an unrespected and over-regulated provider of a commodity, at the mercy of a complex bureaucracy, in which parents have rights spelled out to them in detail but who perhaps live in a culture in which responsibilities are less clearly discussed. That scenario is compounded by what the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, referred to as "the culture of blame".

As I tried to point out in the debate held here three weeks ago on numbers and morale in the police force, I do not speak from a perspective of a false nostalgia. Some things have got better. Schools needed to become more accountable. Individual teachers needed specific targets. But the balance has shifted too far in that direction. The late Cardinal Basil Hume—it is good to note that his successor, Archbishop Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, receives his cardinal's hat today—often spoke of the importance of teaching as a vocation and he even suggested on one occasion that they would be respected and valued only if they were paid as well as doctors and lawyers, over and above the extras that are given here and there, or have to be argued for competitively.

As the noble Lord, Lord Naseby, pointed out, money is not everything, but it is an indicator of the place society holds for a particular profession in its midst. Teachers need to become a respected, accountable profession working in partnership with parents and the rest of the community, with an administrative loading that has a sense of proportion about it.

What are the issues which we need to address? First of all, teachers need to be respected and valued. We live in an age that is rightly critical of authority but too easily it confuses proper respect with undue deference. Moreover, I keep hearing of politicians who say that they do indeed express praise for teachers but their words are not heard. A generation of dedicated teachers has grown up with the perception—and perceptions are often the stuff of common attitudes—that they are seen if not as the enemy, then as a problem which it is the task of government of whatever colour to solve and put right. People pick up signals very quickly even if they are the wrong ones.

Many of us would not be here today had we not ourselves been the objects of educational, moral and spiritual transformation by those who taught us. My noble friend the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Blackburn said in a debate in your Lordships' House in January of last year that standards are rising despite the pressures on teachers. I think that that is still broadly true, but that kind of positive comment needs to be made more often and more publicly.

Secondly, I refer to bureaucracy. I am not sure when this word was first coined but it roughly means, "rule by the office desk". One naturally thinks here of Ofsted and of what might be called "curriculum fidgeting". There is a growing conviction that while it was probably necessary to invent Ofsted, it can with some justification evolve into a less frequent, less complex phenomenon, resulting in schools having short inspections and undergoing self-reviews.

In that regard the recent proposals of the new Chief Inspector of Schools are to be welcomed. Indeed, those telling words of his,
"Let us not value only what we can measure",
are still ringing in my ears five days on. Ofsted began life as a blunt, some would say necessary, instrument. It now needs to become a more sophisticated tool for the fine tuning of the delicate process of education.

Thirdly, I raise the question: what is education about? I alluded earlier to its potential downgrading into being regarded as the provision of a commodity. Here again it is easy to be misunderstood as giving the impression of advocating some kind of pure and exclusively visionary view of education—a vision unconnected with reality, untainted by the realities of hard cash, recruiting good teachers, and projecting a positive image in the local community, all of which are necessary and increasingly sophisticated.

Education is in one way about delivering specific goods; for example, one may be thinking about arranging a course on European history; or an IT project to increase literacy, particularly in my part of the country, involving after-school classes and courses for parents; or a cultural trip to the war graves of northern France. Those are fine examples. But education has to be about more than that. It is about leading students, of whatever age, through complex processes of understanding, growth, self-awareness, challenge—including disturbance on occasion—and, above all, deepening whatever aspect of the curriculum one is concerned with. Many of today's teachers see that all too clearly. Perhaps the rest of the community needs to be more aware of it.

Fourthly, on the subject of Church schools, many welcome the report of the noble Lord, Lord Dearing, to the Archbishops' Council on the Future of Church Schools, as well as the positive comment it has received from the Government's Green Paper which included mention of schools of Churches other than my own and those of other faith groups. Questions of funding, as always, will have to be addressed if there is to be the increase in those schools, which is strongly suggested. But I wish to make clear to your Lordships how seriously the Church of England takes the fact that so many of our schools are oversubscribed, sometimes by parents who may not have strong or specific religious commitment but know that we can run educational centres of high quality and spiritual awareness.

Our response to the Dearing report will inevitably involve looking closely at how we in the local dioceses can better support and resource Church schools—whether in Freshwater on the Isle of Wight or St Luke's Secondary School in inner urban Portsmouth. Bishops and diocesan directors of education meet constantly with head teachers. Perhaps such encounters should be extended. Support and resourcing might well focus on the teachers themselves, providing effective chaplaincy and so on but, above all, encouraging young people on the lookout for a career to consider entering the profession.

I began by referring to a crisis. I would not be speaking from these Benches with a cross around my neck if I did not see a crisis as a real opportunity for growth and change. I want to conclude by quoting one of the many aphorisms of that half-don/hall-prelate figure, Mandell Creighton who became Bishop of London at the end of the 19th century, as I believe that his words apply to the matter before us. He wrote:
"Character is an atmosphere rather than a sum of qualities. It is revealed in crises. The great marks of character are teachableness and a capacity for growth".

12.36 p.m.

My Lords, like other speakers in the debate, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, for introducing the subject. It is timely both in view of the importance of schools to the future of our country and of the national debate taking place. I agree with the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Portsmouth on the danger of education becoming a commodity and the importance of the nature of education.

I should like to make two major comments, both of which will be somewhat critical of the Government. Before doing so, let me preface my remarks by saying that I believe that the Government can be justly proud of a number of successes over recent years in the field of education, including the improvement in literacy and numeracy in primary schools, the expansion in information and communications technology and various reforms to improve the status of the teaching profession. I welcome the Government's welcome of the Dearing report on the future of Church schools and their view of the significance of specialist schools.

However, my first criticism has to do with the increasing burden of bureaucracy faced by heads and teachers. Virtually every speaker has referred to it. I believe that that is no accident. When this House debated the School Standards and Framework Bill, it was clear that new detailed powers would be given to the Secretary of State and the local education authorities to prescribe precisely what schools could and could not do in a large number of different areas. I believe that that Act was based explicitly on a philosophy of central government intervention. In implementing the Act, the LEAs were required to draw up plans, the form of which was set out centrally. Each LEA was required to produce no fewer than 17 different kinds of plans dealing with matters as diverse as school standards, childcare, special needs, lifelong learning, asset management, behaviour support and so on.

Before the plans for standards, for example, could be approved, six groups of constituencies needed to be consulted; and before the plans for access could be approved 13 different constituencies needed to be consulted, including in both cases the heads and governors of all LEA schools. For an authority such as Surrey County Council, that would have meant consulting well over 1,000 different bodies. In addition, the local authorities themselves have been asked to come forward with, for example, a crime and disorder strategy and community plans, all of which made demands on schools.

In addition, the noble Lord, Lord Dearing—a respected Cross-Bencher—said in his report last year:
"The extensive consultation in which we have engaged has given us a particular concern about the heads of small primary schools, which are typical of village communities and whose well being matters very much to the character and identity of the whole community".
He went on:
"The burden on heads of running the school"—
including small schools in urban areas—
"and at the same time coping with this flow of statutory requirements and initiatives … can be overwhelming. That strain is reflected in the level of long-term sickness, early retirement and the small number of good candidates for headships".
The report concluded that anything that could be done to remove or reduce the personal administrative load was a good thing. The increasing paperwork, bureaucracy and form-filling puts heads under pressure.

Last week, the Government produced a Green Paper. I went carefully through it twice and jotted down on the back page the number of initiatives that it claims have taken place in just under three years. The total is 51. The Green Paper concludes:
"The reforms since 1997 have been driven from central government".
I accept that the Minister will respond that the Government are making a commitment to reducing red tape and will point to their efforts to increase the autonomy of schools. The penultimate paragraph of the Green Paper goes on to say that as schools are able to earn greater autonomy,
"the role of government will not become less important, but it will change".
It then lists eight separate "key functions", including:
"To establish the regulatory and accountability framework within which increasingly autonomous schools play their part … to design strategies for reform to enable successful change … to monitor the progress of the system at every level and intervene on behalf of the pupils wherever necessary".
Once again, as we look forward to greater autonomy for schools we can look forward to more regulation, more intervention, more control, more paperwork, more meetings and more distraction from teaching.

My point from all those examples is simply that the increase in bureaucracy faced by schools, which we all acknowledge, is not an unintended consequence of the new change of direction that the present Government have brought to schools policy. It is not an accident. The Government did not plan a light system of control that somehow went badly wrong. The increase in bureaucracy is the inevitable result of a centralised, top-down, interventionist approach to the running of schools. It is inherent in recent education legislation, in the compulsory plans demanded of the LEAs, in past initiatives and even in the future outlined in the Green Paper.

I looked for a recognition of the problem in the Green Paper. All that I could find was:
"At times our reforms have created increased workload and administrative burdens".
Not only is the problem far more serious than the Government will admit; it is endemic to what looks like an almost Napoleonic enterprise to control the running of our schools.

Because of that, the claim that the reforms in the Green Paper will lead to greater autonomy and freedom for schools, cutting red tape and giving heads more discretion, must be judged very carefully. Having presided over such an interventionist and dirigiste approach to schools, the Prime Minister cannot in all honesty then champion freedom, autonomy and independence for school heads. It is intellectually inconsistent and incompatible on the one hand to argue that we need strong intervention in schools to raise standards and on the other hand to say that alongside that it is possible to have greater autonomy, freedom and independence.

That leads me to my second point, which is teacher shortages. The increase in bureaucracy is a clear disincentive to anyone entering the teaching profession. I was a university teacher for 20 years. Teachers across the education spectrum have been taught to think for themselves and express themselves and are attracted to the job by the independence of it. By definition, the art of teaching is something creative. I took a great interest in education under the last government but one, advising the then Prime Minister. I was also chairman of the School Examinations and Assessment Council for two years in the early 1990s. I found that the Department for Education had at its heart an ethos of interventionism. That is why I am sceptical about the comments of the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, about small changes remedying the situation.

My time is almost up, but we should not underestimate the importance of salaries when dealing with teacher shortages. This is not a party political point. Globalisation is having a tremendous impact on our economy. Teaching is part of a competitive market for graduates. I know that there are other factors involved, but we cannot attract teachers into schools unless there is a new settlement with the teaching profession. The best way to do that is to provide much greater freedom for individual schools to decide how much to pay.

12.47 p.m.

My Lords, I am very grateful to my noble friend Lady Walmsley for introducing the debate. I must declare an interest as a governor of Christchurch Church of England primary school, which sits at the junction of Brixton Hill and the South Circular in South London. It has single-form entry and a third of its pupils have special educational needs. It has a very committed, dedicated and impressive staff.

Since this Government came to power, there have been many changes at the school. Some of them have been positive. On balance, the numeracy hour and the literacy hour have been positive developments. We have also seen the beginning of additional resources coming through to the school.

However, along with those positive elements there have been two major problems, which are the subjects of the debate today. First, there is a problem with recruiting staff. At one point last year, fewer than 50 per cent of the teachers at our school were permanent staff. Secondly, there is the problem of increasing bureaucracy.

As a general principle, I do not believe that fundamental resource shortages can be resolved by cutting bureaucracy. That is not my main argument. The Liberal Democrats believe that greater financial resources are needed in the public provision of education. We shall argue that point at the next election. However, bureaucracy in education is wasting resources and, just as importantly, depressing morale. As a number of noble Lords have said, low morale is deleterious to existing teachers and reduces the attractiveness of the profession, making existing teachers much less likely to tell their friends that it is a career for them.

I shall give an example of the nonsense of the existing bureaucratic framework by talking about the performance management regime for heads of primary schools. For the benefit of mere mortals, performance management is the annual appraisal of a head. For all heads, the law requires that that procedure is carried out under an amazingly rigid framework and under the guidance of an external adviser who is employed by a single company, Cambridge Education Associates. The appraisal procedure has in that respect been privatised. The first part of the procedure is for a school to give Cambridge Education Associates a huge raft of material that that company already has because it also carries out reports on the school. It has to have the latest Ofsted report and PANDA report. A huge amount of paper has to be produced and sent to the company.

The chosen adviser spends a morning at the school with two governors and the head to discuss the head's performance. The main purpose of that is to set targets for the year ahead. There have to be at least three targets, relating to leadership, pupil progress, and training and development. The procedure lasts for four hours. When I asked, rather innocently, whether I might leave before the end of the procedure if it ran a little late because I had a meeting to go to, I was told that the law required two governors to be present at every point. I felt rather like a naughty schoolboy who had asked whether he could leave the room but was told that he would have to wait until the end of the lesson. By the end of the procedure, we had fortunately succeeded in setting objectives for our headmaster under the various headings. Not surprisingly, the objectives flowed from the previous year's Ofsted report and were priorities for the head and the school in any event. However, we all felt that the procedure—two governors taking half a day's leave and the headmaster wasting a morning—was a complete waste of time.

The Government are keen on introducing private-sector practice where possible. However, it is inconceivable that a successful private firm would bring in an external consultant to tell the non-executive directors how to appraise the chief executive. Yet that is exactly what is required in every school in the land.

The procedure is even more ridiculous because of its link with the setting of performance-related pay. Our headmaster, who has been in post for a long time, is ineligible for performance-related increases because he is at the top of the individual salary range, which can be set outside that for a range of schools of a particular type only if the school is in special measures or has serious weaknesses, which is not the case with. our school. The maximum permitted pay increase that he can be allocated is 2.37 per cent, despite another year's excellent performance.

In frustration at the procedure, the headmaster wrote to the Secretary of State to ask how an increase of 2.37 per cent was expected to improve his motivation and how the recruitment and retention of staff in a difficult area such as Lambeth would be assisted by the fact that governors' flexibility on pay was in many cases completely tightly circumscribed. Incidentally, his letter, which was sent on 10th October, is still awaiting a reply. Again, that is not a very motivating response from the Government.

Why have the Government got into such a mess? I suspect that they have done so with the best of intentions; namely, they wish to raise standards. 'That is obviously a laudable aim with which everyone in education agrees. The Government have had some success in some respects.

In relation to targets, league tables may work for some narrow purposes, but for a school such as ours they can be deeply demotivating. With single-form entry and an increasing number of SEN pupils, which we have, it is completely impossible to improve pupils' outputs, however good the school's teaching and the wretched performance appraisals. For example, a class in our school contains a boy who is autistic but who does not get full-time support. The teacher obviously has to spend a huge amount of time and effort dealing with that boy as well as with all of the other pupils. t is difficult, if not impossible, for the teacher to end up with the same output in terms of exam results as that which would have been achieved with a different class composition. Targets are deeply dispiriting in such cases because one can quickly fall below them through no fault of the teachers.

Ministers and officials have clearly decided that the only way in which to improve performance is to impose such rigid uniformity—I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Griffiths, referred to it as Napoleonic uniformity. That cannot be the best way to proceed. The effect on good schools such as ours is not to raise performance but to lower the morale of the teaching staff. Moreover, it does not work in relation to less-successful schools and it does not prevent problems. In Lambeth, a school that has run up debts of approximately £250,000 has to be closed and restarted because nobody spotted the debts in time to do anything about the problem, despite the appraisal system. One wonders about that headmaster's appraisals relating to financial management.

The system simply is not working for clear reasons: the reasons why rigid bureaucracies fail everywhere. In weaker schools with weak leadership, the rules simply are not followed because of the quality of the people. Governing bodies are not strong enough. In our school, there is a three-line whip to attend governing body meetings, and, if one does not, one feels that one has let people down. However, in many schools in Lambeth, it is difficult to get more than a quorum of people to attend governing bodies. Imposing rigid rules on governing bodies and individual governors simply does not work because the appropriate system is not in place.

The system is failing because too much time is spent on pulling up the roots to see how successfully a school is operating rather than on concentrating on areas of weakness. What, in a nutshell, should be done? The Government should loosen up. They should let good schools and teachers get on with their jobs without such an intolerable bureaucratic straitjacket. They should reallocate the money saved in a useful direction, such as giving my headmaster a sensible incentive or giving our teachers additional SEN help, which they desperately need.

12.57 p.m.

My Lords, I, too, thank the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, for introducing the debate with such informed and metaphorical vigour.

In preparing for the debate, I was reminded of the essay by E. M. Forster entitled, Two Cheers for Democracy. One cheer was because democracy admits variety, and the second was because it permits criticism. Three cheers were elusive because perfection—the ideal—is difficult. The same might be said of education strategies. One admirable fact about recent speeches made by the Prime Minister and others is that they recognise that we can and must do better. So two cheers are in order. I shall later explain why three cheers are not appropriate. I shall also comment on teacher shortages, inspections and bureaucracy and use examples from a local education authority and two schools.

Like my noble friend Lord Hardy of Wath, I have taught a variety of subjects, including music and movement and A-level modern languages—not at the same time, I hasten to add—in a variety of schools. I, too, believe that all schools matter and, like the noble Baroness, Lady Young, that teaching is a noble profession. I have come across many aspiring and dedicated teachers, and I continue to do so.

The Government deserve credit, which is sometimes not acknowledged, for their determination to raise standards. High standards are what education is about. As noble Lords have already said, that is significant in primary schools. I, too, am a governor of a primary school in a deprived area of London. At a governors' meeting last week, it was encouraging to learn that the school was one of 281 that were singled out by Ofsted for excellence in learning and teaching and for raising children's self-esteem. Academic results have been rising steadily and are now among the highest in the country. Management is strong, extra-curricula activities abound and structures are robust. That enables the school to cope well with inspections and bureaucracy. There is no shortage of teachers or of creativity.

Inspections have been stressful for staff but they are delighted to have their achievements recognised and publicised, as are the parents. And confirming success is an important feature of inspections, as is identifying shortcomings. Parents have every right to know how a school is performing. Some of us who had children going through schools in the mid-1980s would have been delighted to see more rigour in schools and, yes, more inspections and more bureaucracy. That was sadly lacking and many children suffered as a result. Of course it is not all about measurement but measurement does not necessarily cut out inspiration or make teaching a commodity.

At the same governors' meeting, the director of education's report pointed out three areas of concern about teacher turnover and shortage: London weighting, affordable housing and controlled parking zones. It is not necessarily what is going on in the classroom which affects the recruitment and retention of teachers, certainly in London and certainly among teachers in their 30s. That is not a new phenomenon, as a recent series of articles in the Guardian pointed out.

I recently visited the town where I grew up and attended the small grammar school where very few of the intake, mainly working class, went on to higher education. While there, I was given a most encouraging Ofsted report on the new local education authority which stated:
"In April 1998 when the LEA was established, it inherited a formidable legacy of under-performance … at inception 15 schools required special measures … all have improved and consequently been removed from these categories … improvement rates at the end of Key Stage 2 are amongst the highest nationally".
The report praised the LEA for its,
"monitoring, challenging, support and intervention",
and its high quality of data to schools. I do not know how it is possible to improve standards without data, without monitoring, without challenge and without praise when things are going well and intervention when they are not. That inevitably involves inspection and bureaucracy. Bureaucracy is a pejorative term by implication only rather than by actual meaning. The dictionary definition is that it is a system of administration based on organisation and routine. There is nothing wrong with that. I am not sure what Napoleon might have said.

I come on to why I give only two cheers to educational strategies. Some changes in schools and the education system have been necessary in order to raise standards. Every teacher and head teacher I know and speak to would agree with that. Some would say, however, that the rate and pace of that change has been too quick and some heads feel drowned in paperwork, as do some school governors. I too have just been conducting an assessment of a head teacher. It is undeniable that the rate and pace of change has been extremely rapid.

A good friend of mine who is a successful head teacher of a large community school is taking early retirement due to a number of pressures. She is tired of having to make bids for extra funding. She is disappointed by local disparities in funding. She feels worn down by initiatives. She supports change to improve entitlement for all children. She has dealt with inspections and bureaucracy very well but it is the intensity of constant change which is her problem. That discontent must be addressed. Her discontent is only partly, and not necessarily at all, about inspections, teacher shortage and bureaucracy.

I give two cheers then for current education strategies. One cheer is missing because problems still exist. Can the Minister assure me that those problems will be addressed?

1.4 p.m.

My Lords, I too thank the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, for initiating this debate. As other noble Lords have said, it is a very important and timely debate.

I speak today as the leader of Essex County Council, one of the largest local authorities in the country. I am also the vice-chairman of the Local Government Association. Therefore, one is living with those problems all the time.

In Essex, we are already in crisis. We have problems on the borders of London, particularly in the area around Epping and Loughton, where the vacancy rates have trebled compared with those in other parts of the county. The crisis is getting worse—and I must describe it as a crisis for my county.

My county is one of the largest local authorities. It has 11,000 teachers. There has been an Ofsted inspection of the local education authority, which received a very good report. Therefore, we are trying to do a good job within our county but there is a real problem in relation to teacher recruitment and retention. Over the past year, the vacancies in our schools have doubled. This morning, I looked at the figures for January. The number of vacancies has increased again. The main problem is that young teachers are not remaining in the profession. We are perhaps able to recruit and keep some of them but after a year or two, they become disillusioned and leave the profession. We must try to analyse and solve that.

We have heard a lot about bureaucracy and problems this morning. I particularly agree with what the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, said in her opening speech about the "bucket loads" of targets. I agree also with my noble friend Lord Griffiths who talked about the enormous number of plans that we must prepare as local authorities and which the schools must also prepare.

But one area has not been covered at all; that is, the increased amount of bureaucracy involved in schools obtaining their money. There are more and more specific grants, and teachers and head teachers have to fill in a great many forms in order to obtain very small amounts. I was talking to the head teacher of a large comprehensive who said he had filled in 10 forms in order to obtain £70. Obviously, he was trying to obtain every single grant that was available to him. But with the increasing number of specific grants, there is an increasing amount of bureaucracy. That has not been touched on by any noble Lords this morning. So there are three areas which we should be tackling: the large numbers of targets and plans and also the provision of moneys. There should be a simpler system of providing moneys to schools rather than staff having to deal with the current enormous amount of paperwork.

We have all paid tribute to teachers and I should have started with that. I want to do that now. What we must not do in this debate and in other debates over the coming months while we try to tackle this problem is to make the morale of teachers any worse. I t is not good at all.

In Essex we have a select committee which is looking at education. Last week the teaching unions said in evidence:
"There are indications of in excess of 200 teacher-vacancies across Essex at the start of this term … This presents major problems for the schools concerned, hiding a greater picture of temporary arrangements and the use of supply cover in many schools. There are many reports of primary classes having different teachers each day and non-qualified teachers covering specialist classes in secondary schools. The normal pool of supply teachers has dried up as they are called in to cover unfilled vacancies".
Last summer, the unions commissioned two areas for consultation, headed "Coping with Teacher Shortages" and "Talking Heads". Several problems have been identified. Teacher shortages are not showing up in the vacancy figures, primarily because head teachers are adopting a number of strategies to cope with the problems of vacant posts. They include actively seeking out the staff who are available through networking, pre-emptive appointments, stealing a march on colleagues, using student placements to head hunt and appointing without seeing. They are using part-time, temporary and supply appointments; relying on overseas staff; modifying the curriculum to fit staff vacancies raising class and group sizes; reducing non-contact time; increasing the amount teaching staff are asked to teach outside their subject. On occasions, they are using technicians and Ethnic Minority Achievement Grant staff to teach.

It was found that supply teachers covering unfilled vacancies were often teaching lessons without proper qualifications. Primary classes are often split. That has consequences for children's education, which can have an impact on behaviour. We have seen a reliance on overseas teachers. There has been a particular impact, as several noble Lords have said, on special schools which find it difficult to recruit staff anyway.

What can we do to solve the problems? I endorse the comments that several noble Lords have made in relation to pay. I first became involved in a local education authority in the 1970s when both political parties tried to restrain teachers' pay. I was a member of an awful committee, called the Burnham committee, that used to meet for hours to try to sort out teachers' pay. We did not do very well, and at that time teachers were not well paid.

At the end of the 1970s, there was a recognition that something had to be done. I remember teachers taking on two jobs. One could find a teacher also being a part-time barman. Such a situation is arising again, so it is vital that the problem of pay is tackled. I agree with several noble Lords who have said that we need a fundamental look at teachers' pay. Speaking of my own county, how can one expect to retain young teachers when they can earn £1,000 or £2,000 more in an IT firm? We have to tackle the problem of pay.

Another problem that must be tackled is the amount of bureaucracy, as other noble Lords have mentioned. We must go to the root of the matter. We cannot continue to ask people to fill in more and more forms. We have to free up teachers and schools so that they can get on with their jobs. We have to find a simple way of increasing the money flowing into schools and a simple way of setting simple targets for schools, as many noble Lords have said. We must also stop increasing the number of plans that have to be prepared. In the end, schools will be so plan-dominated that they will be impossible to run. As my noble friend Lord Griffiths said, we are becoming much more centrally dominated.

There are several points of action that I hope the Government will take up. Schools are in crisis now. As my noble friend Lady Young has said, this is a time-bomb because within four or five years 50 per cent of teachers will be over 50 and if we do not keep young people in the teaching profession, what will happen? This is a timely and an important debate. Let us hope that we have started a process in which, over the next few months, people will sit down to sort this out. If the vacancies continue to increase at the rate that I have described, in another year there will be a real problem for our children and our schools. I suggest that today we have an opportunity to widen the debate. I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, for initiating this debate.

1.13 p.m.

My Lords, I begin with an apology because Essex will feature in one or two of my illustrations as that county forms a substantial part of the diocese that I serve. I add to the expressions of gratitude that have been expressed by other noble Lords to the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, for introducing this debate, which is vitally important. It comes at a time when morale in the teaching profession is low. The noble Baroness said that teaching is in crisis, but as my fellow Prelate said, crisis is also about opportunity.

I want to focus on two matters. First, there is a long-term issue about the recruitment of good candidates, not least younger ones, to the profession. That is influenced by pay and conditions of employment for teachers and by the public perception of them. I thoroughly endorse the comments of the noble Baroness, Lady Massey, about the provision of housing for teachers in the London and Home Counties area. There is a particular problem in attracting and retaining teachers today, caused by the shortage of affordable housing, in which young teachers want to live and to establish roots.

Too many young teachers work for a short time in the area of London and the Home Counties and then move out to other parts of the country, where housing is cheaper or, sadly, they move into other occupations where financial rewards are higher. The noble Lord, Lord Hanningfield, has already referred to the acute shortage of teachers within the county of Essex. A four-day week has been threatened due to the lack of available resources, such as insufficient numbers of supply teachers.

So we need imaginative schemes to help teachers to establish themselves and their families in early to mid-career in the part of the country in which they start teaching. Some church diocesan boards of education have been working with schools and local authorities to address that issue, but much more needs to be done by schools and local communities to make teachers who are new to the area feel welcome and part of those local communities.

My second key point relates to teachers in mid-career from which our head teachers and deputies will be drawn. Too many experienced teachers become disillusioned by a combination of the pressures of work in the classroom, the inspection process, the perceived increase in bureaucracy, schools hit by paper or electronic mail from all directions and the increasing failure of parents, pupils and society in general to respect and value their work and all that they seek to offer to the education system. Often teachers are expected to act as social workers and, at times, as substitute parents, as I have seen on a number of occasions.

I am reminded of a discussion that I had a few days ago with a deputy head teacher who described to me the parental pressure and abuse that he and other teachers in his school had to endure. He said that essentially money was not a problem—although he would not for one moment deny that it is part of the overall pattern and concern—but that the constant demands and denigration by some parents of the role of the teacher in the school was so demoralising.

A change of culture is needed. We need to move away from the culture of blame—a phrase already mentioned—to a culture of affirmation and support of those in the teaching profession. We should take a leaf out of the book of our neighbours in France where there is a strong drive to emphasise the importance of civility, manners and treating others with respect.

My grandfather was a head teacher at a secondary school in Bow in East London, the Old Palace School, which was destroyed during the course of the Second World War. The motto of the school was "Manners maketh man". I believe that today within our communities and within our society we need to empathise with that motto. I believe that the importance of civility, respect, good discipline and valuing each person—not just the successful ones but, even more importantly, those who need to be affirmed in other gifts that they may have—should be taken up in our schools.

Not surprisingly, at the moment there is a widespread reluctance on the part of teachers to apply for posts of responsibility. In particular head teachers and deputy head teachers are in short supply. Many schools find it difficult to appoint them and often, where there are applicants, the quality is not as high as it should be. Not surprisingly, those in posts as head teachers can be prey to stress-related illnesses. In our own county and in our fine church schools, of which there are over 140, 10 per cent of the heads are off work with stress-related illnesses.

A great deal of support must go into schools, many of which are oversubscribed because they are popular. I have no doubt that the situation is reflected in other schools, too. Schools' advisers, sometimes having to relate to as many as 30 schools, are often at their wits 'end in trying to help plug the gaps.

In order to establish higher levels of moral, and thus slow down the rate at which experienced teachers are leaving the profession, there needs to be more public support for teachers in the task which they perform on behalf of our society. There needs to be a more developmental and supportive atmosphere in the whole inspection process and a genuine reduction in unnecessary bureaucracy, particularly in monitoring progress. There needs to be a greater commitment to the coherent and rounded continuing professional development of teachers from LEAs, government bodies and central government. Finally, there needs to be a strengthening of partnerships in our communities between schools and every other part of the local community.

The Church will be a willing partner in this work through its Church colleges, its diocesan boards of education and the work of its national schools teams. The Church's contribution is focused not only on the needs of teachers currently working in Church schools, but also on the recruitment and retention of Christian teachers working in all schools. The Church has a particular concern to encourage the vocation, the calling, to teach and has been pleased to work with the Teacher Training Agency in initiatives in this area.

Finally, it is of the utmost importance that the teaching profession is given afresh the honour it deserves and all the necessary support so that our present and future teachers can play their vital role in helping the formation of the lives of our children and young people, and thereby strengthening the fabric of our society, and, as a result, being able to do so with greater confidence, a greater sense of self-worth and effectiveness.

1.23 p.m.

My Lords, other noble Lords have spoken of bureaucracy. In my capacity as a governor of a primary school, I, too, have witnessed stress among teachers. I have also witnessed the puzzlement of the teachers who, having undergone the stressful process of inspection, have been faced with a splendid report. However, because the inspectors had to find five aspects on which to comment, their fifth comment was about dog mess on a pathway well away from the school on the route to a playground. That seems to me to encapsulate some of the nonsense which one comes across.

I want to follow the remarks of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chelmsford by dealing in particular with the shortage of teachers in London, especially the part played in that by the shortage of appropriate housing. I base my remarks on a report published yesterday by the Greater London Authority, of which I am a member, entitled Key Issues for Key Workers. It examined affordable housing in London for workers in a range of public sectors.

I was a member of the committee which undertook that work and I was shocked by a good deal of what I heard. We considered not only teachers but also at nurses, bus drivers and police officers. In connection with teachers, we heard that vacancy rates are at their highest for a decade and that in some schools the staff turnover is 30 per cent a year. We heard of a school in a London borough where the headship at a salary of up to £60,000 had attracted only three applications. We heard that nationally the readvertising rate for head teacher posts is 26 per cent. That is staggeringly high, but in London the figure is 40 per cent. We heard that in difficult schools—that is not a scientific term but refers to schools which are regarded as difficult—it is not unusual for posts to be readvertised three, four or five times. We also heard that 40 per cent of all teachers expect to leave London within the next five years and that 48 per cent, almost half, are planning to look for another job within the next 12 months.

Why is that? It is not merely because of what they face as part of their jobs—the bureaucracy, their perceived lack of status and the stream of directions coming from the DfEE—but in many cases because they cannot afford housing in London which meets their aspirations. We heard that young teachers are prepared to put up with a poor level of accommodation because they want to experience the buzz, the excitement, of living in London. They are at an age when they have the energy to enjoy it and are not too much deterred by crumby living conditions. However, from their mid to late 20s, and certainly in their 30s and 40s, they are looking for different things. London is failing to house our professionals, including our teachers.

I regard the matter as important not only because of the overall shortage but also because of issues such as the stability of staff in any given school. The age range of those left in schools is low; there are often many young teachers but not many older ones. Furthermore, we are not easily able to ensure that teachers and their schools are at the centre of their local communities, as many of us would want.

We found that retention was far more of an issue than initial recruitment. I mentioned the word "aspirations" and it arose again and again. As these professionals advance in their careers, they are aware of issues such as quality of life. They want to have children and to bring them up with a good quality of life and they want to own homes. I shall not in this debate discuss what I see as the reinvigoration of the private-rented sector. However, at present such people aspire to home ownership. The director of education of one London borough said that,
"there is one factor above all else that has always been there but has become overwhelmingly important in the last year which is now such a large issue that it overshadows everything else in terms of recruitment and retention of teachers in London. That is the issue of the cost and availability of housing. You could, overnight, pay all teachers in London double the current threshold payments and it would not make a difference to this issue".
I cannot cover all the committee's recommendations and I am aware that there has been much creative thinking among, for instance, the London chief education officers. As regards London weighting, it has not been reviewed as a whole since 1974 and there is inconsistency across the public sectors. The reaction among teachers when, towards the end of last year, the police were awarded an increase of £6,000 was, "What have we done to be in this position?". It may be more cost effective to have a system which accurately reflects the relevant cost of living in London rather than a proliferation of schemes. The committee called for the Government to undertake a review in order to clarify issues which should be addressed by a consistent formula and to try to distinguish issues which are structural from those which relate to the economic cycle.

The detail of weighting causes problems. We heard from the head of a school in what is for administrative reasons an outer London borough. However, the school is close to the centre of London, where inner London weighting is available for jobs only a mile away. Of course, there will always be problems of boundary but these seem to be particularly acute.

We come to the question of whether we are using the available skills. I refer in particular to refugees. I understand that refugee teachers need to obtain an offer of employment before they can undertake the one-year course that is required for retraining, which seems to be quite unrealistic. The unemployment, or under-employment, of refugees is estimated to be between 60 and 75 per cent. It would be to the good of the country as well as the individuals who seek refuge to make use of that available resource.

I turn to the use of land in the public sector. We believe that it is sensible for the public sectors to cooperate more than they are able to do at present to provide the kind of accommodation that we understand is required. For example, Treasury rules as they relate to land held by hospital trusts in the health service require that the highest price be obtained. That land might more effectively be used for housing teachers as well as health service workers and police officers. The Government have emphasised their support for starter homes for key workers, but we believe that they have failed to grasp the scale of the requirement. For most areas of London the scheme that is planned would not even buy a one-bedroom flat. The rules need to be reviewed and relaxed to ensure that reasonably priced family-size housing is available for the key workers we need.

Finally, one turns to shared ownership. We believe that the Government are in a very good position to support and sponsor the development of model schemes which are acceptable to lenders and are quite clear to purchasers so they understand that they can have the benefits of full ownership similar to those that they would have if they bought a whole house, subject to a mortgage, in a cheaper area. Central government could sponsor schemes with a broader range of financial instruments that draw on good practice across funders, employers and overseas experience.

Not all the solutions to the shortage of teachers are matters for the DfEE, but if (to use the jargon) the department joins up with others we can see something very productive.

1.33 p.m.

My Lords, I join in thanking the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, for stimulating this debate. I add my thanks to the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, for detailing me to come and join it. One of the recurring themes of this debate is the need for respect. Alf Robens, a former Member of this House, was appointed chairman of the National Coal Board at a time when the industry was in great travail and did not stand high in the esteem of the nation. He called together all the staff at Hobart House, the headquarters, and addressed them. One of those present, who had been so impressed by one of the greatest motivators of people at that time, told me that Lord Robens said to those assembled that when they sat on the beach on holiday and the man next to them asked for whom they worked their response—that they worked for the Coal Board—should be heard with respect. That goes for all of us, including teachers. It is much more significant than "nice", and it has real effect.

I suggest that it has three effects. First, it affects the way that I perform. If when I stand in front of a difficult class of teenagers I do not have the right to their respect, my task is that much more difficult. If I am to perform day in, day out I need respect to be most effective. Secondly, it affects recruitment. Again and again I hear from teachers, and sometimes their children, that they do not in conscience feel able to recommend to their students that they enter the profession. Thirdly, it affects retention, because it is relevant to job satisfaction and to what is happening in the classroom. It is a sad fact that if the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, the Secretary of State, or even the Prime Minister, made a speech in praise of teachers, probably it would not get front-page headlines. If we are to change that, it must be a shared undertaking.

I was delighted that the two right reverend Prelates attended the debate. Having a modest role in advising the Church, I am concerned that it should play its full part in raising the respect for and the esteem of the teaching profession and the realisation that we love teachers for what they do. One of the right reverend Prelates referred to the way in which those in the Church should seek to affirm their relationship with parish churches, whether they be Church of England, Roman Catholic or community churches. Care must be shown not just by the incumbent but the members of the parish. In the discharge of their duties bishops should show their care for teachers by meeting them and inviting them to visit.

We have a part to play in education on Sunday. Reference has been made to a report on which I am currently working. One chapter is concerned with teachers. It is not headed "Teachers" but "Teachers, teachers, teachers", because that is the beginning and end of it. We must affirm our care and respect for them. There are others in this Chamber, in local education and on school governing bodies who can be proactive in showing that respect.

I have been a governor on two occasions. Looking back on it, I asked myself what I did to show my concern, affection and care for the individual members of staff, as opposed to attending governing bodies and looking at the pile of papers for which we had been responsible. I believe that local education authorities, which have great powers and responsibilities, can be more proactive in showing concern and respect for teachers. Perhaps as a governor I might have done more to encourage parents to show that concern and respect. I suggest that that is something in which we can engage proactively to good effect.

In my dozen years spent in education, mainly as an observer, I served two governments, both of which were passionately concerned to lift standards. Both made progress and a valuable contribution. My experience was that both were enthusiastic about securing change by means of a great number of new initiatives, perhaps forgetting that schools are small places and not powerful government departments full of good bureaucrats (if I may say so as a lifelong member of that profession). "That's my trade, guv'nor", but that is not the trade of teachers.

I remember being invited to look at the national curriculum. Teachers were best pleased when I stumbled across something called "attainment targets". Teachers had to record the progress of each pupil against each attainment and sub-attainment target. As a man of influence at that moment I said, "Down with tick lists", and they went. That was perhaps my best service to teachers in my dozen years.

Reminiscing again, never having run a coffee shop, once upon a time I was made chairman and chief executive of the Post Office, which is no small undertaking. I found that there was a great deal of change needed. Chairman Dearing sat in his great office, surrounded by many very able bureaucrats in the Post Office, saying, "We will do this" and "We will do that", and, coming from the chairman, it was done. It took me about three years to realise that while all these changes were valid and desirable, I was being very dysfunctional because the machine down there could not cope with the avalanche of desirable change.

Perhaps one of the most significant decisions I took was to take myself aside and say, "Dearing, this will not do. You must be highly selective. You must be a little clever too. You must make sure that there are other able people in the headquarters who do not fill the vacuum with initiatives of their own". It is the easiest thing in the world facing, as I was, thousands of post offices, or a bureaucrat, to say, "We need to know this", or, "Let us do that", without realising that they are little places out there.

A few years ago I went to a primary school in Northumberland. For reasons I cannot recall, I asked to see the safe. Out came an Oxo tin. It did not even have a lid. They are little places without great systems, and so on.

I admire much that the Government are doing. I support them. I read with enthusiasm much of what was written 10 days ago in the Green Paper on secondary schools. I should like to point out to Ministers that the hours that teachers work have been increasing steadily. As befits a non-political Cross-Bencher, I say that the weekly hours of primary classroom teachers between 1964 and 1966 went up by two hours, and between 1966 and 2000 they went up another two hours. It was not quite so much in our secondary schools, but enough. If we are going for more change, let us concentrate on the changes that really will make a difference. Let us eschew making large numbers of changes that we should like to make in the interests of getting what matters most.

I come back to my first point. I once heard Dr Jonathan Sacks, the Chief Rabbi, say that frontiers are defended by soldiers. Civilisations are made in schools. If we care for the well-being of our civilisation, we shall care for the well-being of our teachers.

1.43 p.m.

My Lords, I am delighted to add my name to those noble Lords who have congratulated the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, on instigating the debate at this opportune moment. It is of vital importance and if the noble Baroness had not tabled the Motion, one of my noble friends would have done so.

It seems inconceivable that a government that came to office putting "education, education, education" at their heart should, after four years, have produced a crisis in the profession. I am sure they had the best of intentions but, whether it was incompetence or arrogance, the Government have created a situation where Downing Street believes that our schools are bog-standard. I hate that phrase, but what an indictment!

I have the highest regard for teachers. I believe that the ability to teach is a talent and a special gift requiring patience, tolerance, serenity and pastoral qualities, in addition to those needed by other professions. I would have made a hopeless teacher, as my husband would agree, but thankfully our children were blessed with being taught by many dedicated and wonderful people. I shall always be grateful for the part those teachers played in their upbringing.

Today the state of affairs is dire. Teachers are leaving the profession in droves, worn down by the daily burden of more and more bureaucracy. One has to look only at recent copies of the Times Educational Supplement to be aware immediately of the vast number of teacher vacancies. I understand that since 1997, 100,000 teachers have left the profession, some going on to take such employment as lorry driving and chauffeuring. It does not take much imagination to understand their state of mind if they have abandoned their chosen career as a result of the pressures that have been placed upon them.

I was interested to read the comments of Doug McAvoy, the leader of the National Union of Teachers. He said:
"While the economy is buoyant, young people are rejecting the stresses and strains of teaching for more financially rewarding employment which offers them greater career development and far better working conditions than is currently the case for teachers".
In addition to the problems that teachers face, pupils are losing out. In many cases classes are lumped together, pupils are sent home early and temporary and supply teachers are trying to plug the gaps. There are schools where a four-day week is more than an idle thought. Many schools have staff numbers haemorrhaging to a dangerous and unacceptable level. It is no good the Government underplaying the crisis with such complacency. Emergency measures need to be taken to address the desperate situation in which many heads find themselves.

The problem has not just arisen. Last year a survey by the head of a secondary school revealed that government targets were short by 4,000 teachers. The Secretary of State, David Blunkett, said that schools came close to breaking point. The noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, apparently did not accept that view and complacently called the crisis "a little exaggerated".

Behavioural problems abound in schools today. It must be horrendous facing a class when disruptive pupils cause mayhem for everyone. I know it is not helpful to hark back to one's own schooldays, but I find it amazing that many children today have no respect for teachers and are certainly not in awe of them as I was. Discipline in the classroom is essential if high standards are to be achieved. One troublesome child can be like the bad apple infecting others. In the end there is frustration and chaos—the teacher cannot teach and the children cannot learn. Teachers must be able to hold the attention of the class, impart knowledge in an acceptable way, enthuse the children and literally get them onside, as I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Hardy of Wath, did when he was teaching.

That can be done only if teachers are of high-calibre and well-qualified, and if not experienced eager to be so. But a shortfall of applicants necessarily results in heads having limited or even no choice. It therefore follows that if there are insufficient full-time appointments, supply and temporary staff have to fill in. No doubt pupils take advantage of the circumstances.

Increased violence in the classroom is a worrying problem. It is a disgrace that children assault not only each other but members of staff. Teachers should not be subjected to such treatment. Whenever an assault takes place it should be dealt with quickly and fairly, and if exclusion is the answer then that should happen.

The Government do not appear to understand what is happening on the ground. It is not possible to have targets for exclusions. Each offence should be treated on merit. It is not fair to allow disruptive pupils to harm the education and welfare of everyone else. DfEE guidance should not place bureaucratic hurdles in the way of schools taking the required action. Members of staff should be protected and supported. Everyone should be made aware that such behaviour is unacceptable and will not be tolerated.

The Government's performance-related pay initiative has been widely criticised, including by the High Court. Mr Justice Jackson stated that the Secretary of State had bypassed Parliament, the National Assembly for Wales and the teachers' review body. It has been seen as a sham and is, in reality, a £2,000 pay award. It would have been more honest and much less costly to make it so than to institute this monstrous and bureaucratic system of assessment incurring millions of pounds in expenditure. I understand that 90 per cent of applicants will qualify for it so, of course, the majority have applied—who would not? As Doug McAvoy said on the "Today" programme,
"they have been put in an impossible situation".
But we as Conservatives believe that it should be left to head teachers to decide their own pay packages and performance rewards.

We all remember so well the phrase, "Crisis, what crisis?" It was the beginning of the end of the last Labour government. How ironic it would be if the Government's flagship policy—education, education, education—was the very issue that discredited this Government.

1.50 p.m.

My Lords, I join other noble Lords in thanking my noble friend Lady Walmsley for so very ably introducing the debate.

Many statistics have been thrown at us. We know that the crisis is greatest in our secondary schools. Secondary schools face the largest class sizes for 25 years. Despite "golden hellos" and other blandishments, applications for teacher training are 14 per cent down on 1997. I should like to put those statistics into context.

There are 24,000 schools in this country. We have 450,000 full-time teachers and 50,000 part-time teachers. In the period 2000–2012, approximately 8,000 teachers will retire. Last year, 30,000 teachers left the profession. Many of them were not taking early retirement. They just packed their bags and left the profession. We know that 50 per cent of our 450,000 teachers are over the age of 45. We know also that, in about 10 years' time, when the cohort between the ages of 45 and 50 reaches retirement, there will be a real problem in terms of filling the vacancies.

At the moment, recruitment is not hitting targets. The noble Lord, Lord Naseby, referred to the difficulty in particular subject areas. Science and maths are frequently mentioned. However, as we now know, the problem arises not only in science and maths but also in history, geography and English. Maths has been in crisis since 1983. Ever since 1983, targets for recruitment in maths have failed to be met. At key stage 3 in most secondary schools—the vital 11 to 14 age group—there is a one in four chance of a child being taught maths by a specialist maths teacher.

The noble Lord, Lord Hardy of Wath, said that one needs to teach children; one does not need to teach a subject. He is absolutely correct. We have some brilliant maths teachers who trained in other subjects. My own daughter, who went on to read engineering at university, took A-level maths and was awarded an A in it. She was taught, and very well taught, up to A-level by a PE teacher. But perhaps that is an exception.

A survey last year by the Department for Education and Employment revealed that in the past two years 60 per cent of all our teachers had taken time off and 44 per cent were away for more than 20 days. Among the teaching profession, 2.5 million days were lost through stress-related illnesses. We heard from the noble Lord, Lord Hanningfield, how difficult it is to get supply teachers. I know of two schools in Guildford—one a secondary school and the other a primary school—which on occasion operate for only four days a week because when there is illness there are no supply teachers to fill the vacancies.

It is a question not just of recruitment but of retention. Someone entering the teaching profession at the age of 21 could teach, potentially, for 40 years. The average length of time teachers spend in the profession is 15 years. We face a crisis of recruitment and a crisis of retention in this country.

What are we going to do about it? As the right reverend Prelate suggested, a crisis is an opportunity; and it is one that should be seized. One important issue is red tape. I say to the noble Lord, Lord Griffiths, that I found hypocritical what I heard from the Conservative Benches. It was the Conservatives who introduced the national curriculum, with all the detailed "tick" targets that came with it; it was they who introduced testing for many children and league tables for schools which had to be published; it was they who set up Ofsted, with all the detailed requirements for Ofsted inspections. But the Conservatives then stand up and criticise the Government for what they have done.

I shall not refrain from criticising the Government because they have carried forward those policies even further. That is the terrible thing about it. With all the regulations, directives and targets, we have gone almost from the frying pan into the fire. We were at it this morning until 3.45. We were looking at more plans to be produced by schools; more plans to be produced by local education authorities; more targets and more ticks. We on the Liberal Democrat Benches want to see a bonfire of these targets.

My noble friend, Lord Newby, referred to what a one-form-entry primary school has to do in terms of all the paperwork. He asked why it was all introduced. The answer is, "standards". We acknowledge that the literacy hour and the numeracy hour were relevant, are good and have achieved things. We would abolish a great many of these targets. We would leave in place one target alone. By value-added standards, every child must show progress every year. That means that the children must be monitored. It means that one has to monitor and evaluate what is going on. It means that there must be external evaluation. We do not: want to get rid of Ofsted. We do not want to get rid of local education authorities. But we do want to return trust to the head teacher to run the school.

When, back in the 1960s, I first became involved in education there were notices at the doors of schools saying, "Parents not beyond this point". There was something called the "secret garden" of the curriculum. It was left to head teachers to run their own schools. We recognise that there were problems with that. Nevertheless, let us go back to trusting the teachers. Teachers must be valued. It does not help if the Prime Minister's press secretary, echoing presumably what the Prime Minister thinks, refers to our secondary schools as being "bog standard".

I am entirely with the noble Lord, Lord Hardy of Wath. We want to honour the comprehensives for what they have achieved. In the days when only 10 per cent were selected and we had grammar schools, which is the answer coming from the Tory Benches, 90 per cent were rejected. Many of the problems we face today arise from that rejection. There was a famous article called "Pygmalion in the Classroom". Two groups were set up. They told the teachers which group was regarded as being the brighter and which was regarded as being the dimmer. However, they swapped them over, so that the teacher taking the dimmer group thought she had the brighter group, and vice versa. Can your Lordships guess which of those two groups did better after a year? It was the "dimmer" group that did better and the "brighter" group that did worse. Children's self-image is so important. At the age of 11, we should not discriminate between those who are bright and those who are regarded as being dull.

Class size matters. Discipline matters. Paperwork takes away from the time the teacher can give. I think back to the days when I spent more time on education. Michael Rutter showed in the early 1970s that teachers who had time to spend with the kids achieved better results. One of the problems with all the paperwork is that our teachers do not have enough time to spend with the children, talking to them about the problems that they face. It is vitally important to give back to teachers that time, as well as returning to them the respect and trust that they used to enjoy.

In that respect, pay matters and it is vital that we look again at rates of pay. However, performance-related pay moves away from the collegiate atmosphere of the classroom and is not the answer. It sets teacher against teacher and head teacher against teacher. We should think very seriously whether that is the answer.

From time to time, the Minister has said that the Liberal Democrat Benches never come up with any new ideas. I shall now put to her two ideas of how to tackle the problems of recruitment. First, we promote the concept of a training salary. If one leaves university to train for the law, one goes into chambers and receives a training salary. The same is true for accountancy. While we would not suggest a salary of £20,000 a year, a training salary of £15,000 a year to attract teachers into the profession would be useful, such is the nature of the crisis. In addition, a training salary has two other advantages: for those who are switching careers, a training salary offers the great advantage that it will help to pay the mortgage and, above all, it maintains both national insurance and pension contributions. Those factors would be attractive to those considering a career change. We need to attract and bring in many more mature people into teaching, some who may have spent their first career in accountancy or another profession.

Secondly, let me pick up the idea put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Hardy of Wath; namely, "grow your own". He is quite right to say that at the time of the post-war emergency, many people came into the profession, to its great advantage. Today many enter as nursery assistants and so forth whom we could train to become teachers.

Teachers are a vital part of our society. It is they, above all, who inculcate into the new generation the mores and culture of our society. As this debate has shown, I am not alone in admiring those who today carry the profession forward and in worrying that somehow we have lost the thread and got it wrong. In our public services—not only in teaching—I do not think that we can ever hope to match the levels of pay offered in the private sector. Instead, we need to rely on altruism and on a sense of service. People join the teaching profession because they like the kids and they want to do something worth while. But if that is the case, we must return to the relationship of trust which has been lost in the profession. I believe that this is the most important message that has come through in this debate.

2.2 p.m.

My Lords, I, too, should like to thank the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, for initiating this debate. The noble Baroness made a powerful case for teachers in education and her speech was underpinned by impressive research. We congratulate her on that. I shall try not to overburden the House with too many statistics, although some statistical reference in a debate on staff shortages and unnecessary bureaucracy will be inevitable.

In response to a point made by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Portsmouth concerning the nature of education, in addition to academic and cultural achievement, education must also concern itself with raising awareness of the spiritual and moral dimensions in learning. Furthermore, it must concern the deepening of intellect. Without a moral and spiritual dimension, education can be no more than an and arid clinical experience.

My Lords, I was agreeing with what the right reverend Prelate had to say. I certainly was not taking issue with him.

My Lords, are not we all? As I have said, I wished only to reinforce the points made by the right reverend Prelate.

This debate gives me an opportunity to redress the balance of my response last week to the noble Baroness when she repeated a Statement in this House. Apart from being in a state of shock as a result of what the Secretary of State announced in the Statement, in particular when I compare those proposals with the stand taken by the Labour Party in opposition, when many of the proposals contained in that Statement were opposed tooth and nail, when a Statement is made in this House, time is always the enemy, as indeed it is today. It does not allow for a full response. Perhaps I may take this opportunity to be a little more positive in order to counter the charge made by the noble Baroness that I was all too negative.

We welcome the Government's announcement of more selection. We welcome the Government's announcement of more specialisation, although some doubts have been expressed about the management of that programme. We welcome the emphasis on establishing more Church schools. We welcome the involvement of the private sector in education, especially in seeking solutions for the more intractable problems faced by schools in our inner cities. We welcome the opportunity to select talented and able pupils so that they can benefit from the new specialist academies. We welcome the provision of more instrumental music tuition for children, a point to which I shall return later in my remarks.

We welcome, too, the contribution made by my noble friend Lord Harris of Peckham who, in addition to his support for education through city technology colleges and university colleges, is now working to create exciting new educational opportunities in his birthplace, Peckham, following the tragedy of young Damilola Taylor. Furthermore, a number of friends are co-operating with the Government on similar projects.

Nevertheless, my welcome is tempered by a sense of caution, for this is a Government who speak with a forked tongue. For example, we know that No. 10 Downing Street supports opportunities for selection, while the Secretary of State does not. Then there is the use of rhetoric to support diversity and choice compared to the vendetta against our grammar schools and the abolition of grant-maintained status in schools; and the use of rhetoric to support devolution to schools, when in practice education has become more centralised and interventionist, a point well made by my noble friend Lord Griffiths of Fforestfach.

The degree of second-guessing of head teachers, teachers and governors is almost reaching crisis point. It is certainly impacting on the morale of those working in our schools. Teachers should be free and their professionalism should be allowed to flourish.

We know the Government's line on teacher shortages because we have heard it many times in this Chamber. It is the same as the line on anything: spin, deny the unpalatable truth and then scorn the critic. On 7th January, the Prime Minister said that,
"This is not the great problem".
The Secretary of State declared in Hansard that:
"This is not a crisis".—[Official Report, Commons, 111/01; col. 1220.]
Like my noble friend Lady Seccombe, do I hear echoes of the words, "Crisis, what crisis?"?

However, a different story is told by those who know what is happening in the real world outside the lobby briefing room. For example, in January, Mr David Hart, the General Secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers said that teacher recruitment was "approaching meltdown". Mr Dunford, the General Secretary of the Secondary Heads Association, said in December that:
"The teacher supply crisis is having a substantial effect on the education of thousands of pupils in secondary schools. Shortages exist across the country".
We should listen to the view of the National Union of Teachers, which has stated that:
"England and Wales are facing the prospect of the worst shortage in teacher supply for many years".
Hear, too, the view of the Director of Education in the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead, who commented that:
"The threat of sending home pupils because staff are not available to teach them is imminent. We are facing a crisis".
The Secretary of State may not believe that there is a crisis, but the people in the front line, as the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, has already pointed out, quite rightly know that there is.

We have seen far too much evidence of children being sent home early, schools becoming completely reliant on supply teachers from abroad and many schools on four-day weeks. We have seen a proliferation of unqualified and non-specialist staff. That is the reality on the ground. When she comes to reply, the Minister will deny that the Government are complacent and then go on to take issue with those of us who believe that there is a crisis. For example, last autumn the department was saying that only 1,000 vacancies existed across the country. However, a survey conducted by the Secondary Heads Association showed that there were 4,000 vacancies, a figure four times that produced by the department.

Whatever the Minister tells us about applications for training, it is not only a shortage of trained teachers that we face but a shortage of trainees. On initial teacher training I need only cite the words of the new Chief Inspector of Schools, Mike Tomlinson, in his first annual report which was published this month. On page 74 of the report he states that:
"The total of secondary trainees recruited in all subjects in both 1998 and 1999 remains substantially below target. Teacher Training Agency data for 1999 shows shortfalls of 41% in technology, 33% in modern foreign languages and 23% in mathematics … Headteachers in many secondary schools inspected reported growing difficulty in recruiting either experienced or newly qualified teachers to posts in the above subjects, but also in music, religious education and, in some London schools, even English".
Before the Minister blames the previous government, let me remind the noble Baroness that in 1992–93, 15,500 undergraduates were recruited into initial teacher training when the population of children was much lower than it is today. In 1999–2000, the figure was only 9,340. The number of teachers recruited in 1999–2000 was 11 per cent lower than the target set by the Government.

No doubt the Government will say that they are taking action. We welcome some of the steps that have been taken, belated though they are, but, as the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, said in another context, too much of the action that has been taken is putting sticky tape over the wound.

The problem is not only about recruitment but about retaining teachers. Why are teachers leaving in droves?—largely because of the workload caused by red tape and bureaucracy and interference in the classroom. I stand culpable of the criticism from the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, but, in my term of office in the DfEE up until 1994, working alongside the noble Lord, Lord Dearing, we did a great deal to tackle that first introduction. When it was introduced it was out of our hands, but when we were in control we did a great deal to reduce it. We supported very much the abolition of box ticking. I wish that the 10-level scale had gone with it, but I was defeated by the noble Lord, Lord Dearing.

I can do no more than cite the words of one desperate headmaster in Chelmsford. He said:
"We don't seem to be able to do anything in schools these days without filling out forms … We are now living in a bureaucratic nightmare".
Whatever is being said about reducing bureaucracy, this is the reality on the ground in our schools.

Teachers need to be left free to teach. Indeed, only a matter of hours ago, we piled yet more regulations and red tape on the education establishment through the Special Educational Needs and Disability Bill that we discussed yesterday.

However, against the background of this debate, many of the government initiatives will be doomed if the crisis in teaching is not addressed. Whenever the Minister and the Secretary of State respond to questions and debates on the issue there is an air of complacency. Looking through Hansard, one reads expressions such as "We must get this in perspective"; "There are more teachers in our schools than ever before"; "The percentage of vacancies in our schools is only nought point something per cent". In our schools and classrooms things are very different indeed. The word "crisis" is common parlance among teachers and governors.

It is not enough to look simply at the number of vacancies; one must also take into account the number of temporary teachers in posts that are deemed to be filled; the low number of applicants for vacancies, which is having a real impact on the choice and quality of appointments; the number of teachers in post teaching subjects for which they are not trained; the disproportionate number of vacancies in key subjects, on which the increasingly high technical and competitive world depends—maths, science, technology, Ianguages and so on.

I said that I would return to music. The announcement by the Secretary of State to give all children more instrumental tuition will be achieved only by a great deal more money and more staff. Where are they to come from? So many schools which value the importance of music in the curriculum go to great lengths to employ musical expertise among the staff. However, because of the curriculum subjects that have to be covered, music so often is an additional talent of, for instance, an English, maths or history teacher. Of course lateral thinking can produce solutions, but there are about 25,000 schools, all of which will expect access to musical instrument teaching.

As has been said by many noble Lords, the morale of teachers is also an issue. For the Prime Minister's office to use the phrase "bog standard comprehensives" was not only extremely inelegant but it did nothing to raise the morale of staff, parents and children in our schools across the country. Although one suspects that there is much embarrassment about such language coming from the Prime Minister's office, as my noble friend Lady Young said, there has, as yet, been no retraction of that phrase.

Schools should be freed from bureaucracy; freed from central control; freed from their core funding, which is constantly being hived off to fund yet another initiative; freed from the second-guessing of government and government-sponsored quangos.

I thank most warmly the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, for bringing forward the debate and for the excellent way in which she introduced it. She has provided the House with an opportunity, which noble Lords on all sides have used well.

2.14 p.m.

My Lords, I, too, am extremely grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, for giving the House the opportunity to discuss this important topic. I am grateful also for the contributions of all noble Lords who have taken part in the debate.

I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Young, that teaching is at the centre of everything that we do in education. I agree also with the noble Lord, Lord Hanningfield, that we have to pay tribute to our teachers for the excellent work that they do right across the country in our primary and secondary schools. But, like the noble Lord, Lord Dearing, I fear that when we pay tribute to teachers, when we praise them, when we say how much we appreciate their hard work and the efforts that they are making to raise standards in schools, it does not get much coverage.

It has been a stimulating debate, although some of the claims that have been made are not supported by the evidence. I am sure that all noble Lords who have contributed would expect me to respond on behalf of the Government by providing accurate facts rather than ones gleaned from the newspapers, which, as we know, do not always report accurately.

The January 2000 official census and surveys carried out by my department at the beginning of the autumn 2000 and spring 2001 terms show that the number of vacant teaching posts remains below 1 per cent. Saying that is not in any way to suggest complacency. I have confirmed that fact to noble Lords because it is important to keep the difficulties that we face—there are undoubtedly difficulties—in context.

The Government do not deny that some schools find it difficult to recruit teachers in the numbers and of the quality that they would like. Quality is as equally important as numbers. It will be high quality teachers who will do the jobs that need to be done to raise standards in our schools. That is especially true of schools in challenging circumstances and higher-cost areas; and, as noble Lords have reminded us, in certain subjects too. I have acknowledged this in your Lordships' House before and I do so again, but it is important to maintain perspective.

It is also important for governments to try to act as early as possible to address emerging problems. I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, for acknowledging that there are some parts of the Green Paper she is able to welcome. She also welcomed some of the steps we are taking to deal with the problems of teacher recruitment and retention. We have taken decisive steps to prevent recruitment problems turning into a recruitment crisis.

Perhaps I may remind noble Lords of some of the steps we have taken in the past year alone to recruit more people into teaching. Last September, we extended our successful "golden hello" scheme. Previously, maths and science graduates received £2,500 during training and £2,500 on taking up a teaching post. These incentives resulted in a 9 per cent increase in the numbers recruited into initial teaching training in these subjects in 1999–2000. This year most graduates—whatever their subject—will be eligible for a salary of £6,000 while they are training.

I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, for explaining her ideas, which included the payment of training salaries. The Government have introduced training salaries, albeit not at as high a level as the one proposed by the noble Baroness. We consider that to be rather unrealistic for someone who is not qualified. Those training and completing their induction years as maths, science, technology or modern language teachers can receive an extra £4,000.

These initiatives and the new funding we have made available to support school-based training have reversed eight successive years of falling recruitment to teacher training. There are now nearly 2,300 more people in initial teacher training than at this time last year. Of these, more than 1,000 students are doing school-based training and working as teachers while they qualify. More than one-third of these are in shortage subjects.

In August, my right honourable friend announced a dedicated package of measures to promote teacher recruitment in London. This included money to double the number of school-based training places in the capital and to support 350 returners to teaching through refresher courses. Earlier this month, my right honourable friend made more funding available to extend this scheme to an additional 500 returners in other parts of the country.

On 12th February, the Government published a Green Paper setting out proposals for the longer-term development of school education. We are now proposing a scheme to help new teachers in shortage subjects who enter and continue in employment in the maintained sector to pay off their student loan debts. We are also looking at options for providing extra support for undergraduate training and at proposals to open up new routes into teaching. The Green Paper seeks consultation views on some of these new options, including: providing a training salary; waiving fees for trainees on fourth-year BEd courses leading to qualified teacher status: paying a salary for fourth-year trainees working in schools; and allowing the award of QTS to exceptional fourth-year students, who can then be paid as teachers before the end of their first degree. So a number of proposals are being taken forward.

The noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, questioned ITT recruitment targets and said that they had consistently been missed. We know the challenge. That is why we are taking action. This has resulted in recruitment against the target improving. The shortfall was 14 per cent in 1988–99; 9 per cent in 1999–2000; and 7 per cent so far in 2001. As to next year, applications are not down, as the noble Baroness suggested—quite the reverse. Data published earlier this month indicated that graduate applications are up by 12 per cent compared with the same time last year. Within that, science applications are up by 20 per cent and technology applications by 53 per cent. In quoting those figures, I do not want to be accused of complacency. What I am doing is setting down for the record exactly what the position is so far as new recruitment is concerned.

I turn now to our proposals for tackling shortages. Some of the measures I have already described—for example, the expanded graduate teacher program me—offer immediate help to schools as well as encouraging entry to the profession in the longer term. The Government are helping in other ways, too. In November, a special unit was set up within the DfEE to offer help and advice to schools and LEAs with recruitment problems. In the few cases where it has been called on, it has been extremely effective.

Last month, my right honourable friend the Minister for School Standards announced proposals that will make it easier from summer 2001 for overseas-trained teachers to work in schools. For those who want to develop longer-term careers here, a new programme will be set up to allow up to 450 experienced overseas teachers a year to gain qualified teacher status. She also announced funding to raise from 66 to 85 the number of recruitment strategy managers working within LEAs to develop planned solutions to local teacher supply needs, rather than having to react when a crisis occurs.

I turn now to pay. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Naseby, the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Portsmouth and others that pay is not the only thing that matters to people who enter the teaching profession; however, I agree also with the noble Lords, Lord Griffiths of Fforestfach and Lord Hanningfield, that pay is important. I thought the most amazing contribution to this entire debate came from the noble Baroness, Lady Seccombe. I never thought that I should live to hear a Tory spokesman deriding the whole idea of performance-related pay and of rewarding teachers who are doing a good job, and citing the National Union of Teachers in support of her argument. It really was an incredible experience.

All this is on top of our programme of reforms to improve and modernise the teaching profession. I shall not dwell on the proposals for teachers' pay announced by my right honourable friend on 2nd February. They are subject to consultation. However, I would note that, besides increasing pay for all teachers by more than inflation for the third year running, without staging, the proposals take particular account of how financial incentives can help schools to recruit and retain teachers; for example, the three London weighting allowances have all been increased by almost 30 per cent. We have heard contributions from the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, and others about the particular problems in London. That reference to 30 per cent is not a typing error in my speech. London weighting has increased by almost 30 per cent—more than 10 times the rate of inflation. Moreover, schools will be freed from all restrictions on their ability to offer recruitment and retention allowances. That includes the new fifth allowance, the value of which is over £5,000. Schools can pay the allowances as a single payment of up to £15,255 to teachers who stay in challenging jobs for a specified period.

The noble Lord, Lord Hanningfield, asked for a fundamental review of teachers' pay. That is exactly what we have been doing. We have undertaken a review over the past two years and we have come up with some very substantial improvements. Perhaps I may reiterate: teachers' pay has been increased by more than inflation for the second year running. We plan a further increase for next year. Pay over point 9 is now 20 per cent higher than in 1997, and will be 25 per cent higher from next year. Starting pay for most new teachers is now 11 per cent higher than in 1997, and will rise by a further 9 per cent next year. I do not want to bore the House will too many statistics, but it is important that we set on record what we are doing in this respect. We are also giving substantial pay increases to head teachers, who have also been mentioned in the debate. Nor is it true, as was claimed from the Liberal Democrat Benches, that there has been a reduction in teachers applying for headships. As a result of the changes that the Government have brought in, there has been a substantial increase in the past 12 months in people coming forward wanting to be head teachers.

Many speakers referred to the issue of bureaucracy. I want to reassure my noble friend Lady Massey of Darwen who asked for some reassurances that we would reduce burdens on teachers. The noble Lord, Lord Griffiths of Fforestfach, made a great deal of this. However, I remind the noble Lord that he was once an adviser on education to a previous Prime Minister. I think the noble Lord, Lord Dearing, was very even-handed in what he said about the importance of governments of all political complexions avoiding putting too great a burden on teachers. It was the noble Lord, Lord Dearing, who had to sort out the mess that derived from an over-prescriptive national curriculum under which schoolteachers were burdened with thousands of documents.

I think we all agree on the need to strip out bureaucracy from our schools. We must allow teachers to concentrate on teaching and preparing lessons, and allow heads to concentrate on providing the leadership and strategic vision that we want to see in schools. We are determined to remove unnecessary paperwork and burdens from the classrooms. That is why we have pledged that we shall this school year cut by a third the number of documents and by a half the number of pages that we send automatically to schools. Last term, primary schools were sent 490,000 pages of material, which is a reduction of 1,170 pages compared with the same term last year. Moreover, secondary schools also received a substantial reduction in the number of pages sent to them.

This is why next year's standards fund, which goes live in under six weeks, has been radically simplified. We have put an end to all the bidding and claiming involved with that fund. All the grants are now allocated by formula, and returns have been kept to a single sheet of paper to be updated just three times in the cycle. We are also allowing schools to transfer money between most of the grants to target the areas of greatest need, and allowing them to carry over funds to the end of the school year. Monitoring is carried out against existing targets and audit. It will be by sample. The only doubts that I have heard expressed by schools are that it cannot be as simple as it sounds. However, I offer my personal guarantee that it is as simple as it sounds.

To make life easier for classroom teachers, we have put model schemes of work on our website. These are entirely voluntary, but allow teachers either to use them immediately or to customise them to meet their specific circumstances. We are now planning to launch a series of web-based specimen plans further to simplify the process of lesson preparation; for example, we have joined forces with the Cabinet Office on a project to cut out unnecessary paperwork. Bureaucracy did not come out of nowhere. The major workload factors—the national curriculum and Ofsted—are a legacy of the previous administration. We are working, and have already worked, to reduce the burden that they left on our schools.

The issue of inspection is also part of this debate, although it is one that has attracted rather less coverage from noble Lords than some of the other subjects. I was grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, for admitting that the Government have listened in this area and for acknowledging that they are taking action to reduce some of the impact that burdensome inspections can have on our schools. Ofsted has strengthened its advice to schools against over-preparation for an inspection. Its guidance to inspectors now makes it very clear that demands on schools—for example, for pre-inspection paperwork—must be kept to a minimum. Again, I hope that that move will be welcomed.

I turn now to teachers leaving the profession. The measures that the Government are taking to help to recruit more teachers, and to encourage serving teachers to stay, are substantial. Noble Lords will be aware of reports in the media, and of the claims that have been made by some participants in this debate—for example, by the noble Baronesses, Lady Blatch and Lady Seccombe, among others—that teachers are leaving the profession in droves, and that more teachers are leaving than are joining. Again, the facts are somewhat different.

The official census in January of last year showed that there were almost 405,000 teachers in England and Wales—that is 7,400 more than in January of 1999. So how can it be that more teachers are leaving than joining the profession? I should remind the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, that it is quite untrue to suggest that those extra teachers are all to do with reducing class size in our infant schools. More than half of them are working in secondary schools. Indeed, the latest data available suggest that the rate at which teachers leave the profession has remained relatively stable over recent years. However, that is not to say that we do not want to reduce it; of course we must do so. I believe that we shall bring forward more sensible policies if we do not overstate the problems and come out with over-the-top "facts" that do not stand up to the evidence.

Of course the Government want good teachers to develop long-term careers in the profession. To encourage them to do so, we are listening to teachers' concerns, and acting upon them. I should also like to correct a remark made by the noble Baroness, Lady Seccombe, regarding what my right honourable friend David Blunkett said. He did not say that schools are heading for breaking point; he said that teacher training had been approaching melt-down, but that that had been averted by government action to introduce training salaries. I do not disagree with that; indeed, I have been at pains to recognise the problem, to put it into perspective; and to support the action taken by my right honourable friend.

Perhaps I may conclude by saying that teacher shortages are not an invention of this Government. In January 1991, 5,500 teaching posts were vacant in England and Wales—almost twice as many as in January of last year. There were appalling shortages in primary schools in the early 1970s, but my noble friend Lord Hardy of Wath talked about shortages in the profession many years before that time, at the beginning of his teaching career.

Only a handful of schools have resorted to reduced hours this year because of recruitment difficulties. However, in all those cases, the schools were back to a full timetable within days. Although I am by no means complacent, I am confident that the major reforms that we have put in place, together with the plans described in my right honourable friend's proposals for teachers' pay and in our Green Paper on schools, will help further to ease the pressure on teacher supply over the coming months and years.

2.37 p.m.

My Lords, I thank the Minister for her outline of what the Government intend to do about the teacher crisis. However, I have echoing in my ears the clang of a stable door. I should like also to thank all noble Lords who have taken part in this most interesting debate today. I thank especially the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Portsmouth who has given me a new phrase for my vocabulary. I am sure that I shall use the words "curriculum fidgeting" at some future date.

I hope that the whole House will join me in thanking every teacher in the country for what he or she does for our children. I beg leave to withdraw my Motion for Papers.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.

The Chairman Of Committees

My Lords, it is with very great regret that I must tell the House the very sad news that Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish, the Chairman of Committees, has died. I understand that Lord Mackay collapsed on his way to the House this morning. He was taken by ambulance to St George's Hospital in south London, but, sadly, he did not survive the journey. I know that many of us will wish to take the opportunity to pay proper tribute to the right honourable Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish. That opportunity will be available on Monday afternoon when the House resumes after the brief recess.

Foot And Mouth Disease Outbreak

2.38 p.m.

The Minister of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food
(Baroness Hayman)

My Lords, with the leave of the House, I should like to make a Statement about the outbreak of foot and mouth disease in Essex. The Statement is as follows.

The Government's Chief Veterinary Officer last night confirmed the presence of foot and mouth disease in pigs in an abattoir and in cattle on a neighbouring farm near Brentwood in Essex. Emergency movement controls are already in place, prohibiting the movement of livestock in the five mile surrounding area. A wider infected area, taking account of geography and the risks of airborne spread, is being imposed.

The State Veterinary Service is urgently undertaking epidemiological tracings, to try to establish the original source of the disease, which is likely to have been brought into the abattoir during the course of last week. The premises takes pigs from all over the United Kingdom, so we cannot assume that the disease started in Essex.

Foot and mouth disease is highly virulent in pigs, cattle, sheep and other ungulates, spreading rapidly by contact between animals, transmission via people or transport, or through the air.

It is essential that farmers and all those handling animals in markets or abattoirs should be vigilant for signs of disease. These include the development of blisters in the mouth, causing considerable salivation, and, on the feet, resulting in lameness. Death is unusual but animals quickly cease to gain weight, and milk production in dairy animals falls. I am placing a detailed description of the symptoms in the Libraries of both Houses, and on the ministry's website. If they spot these symptoms, farmers and those handling animals should report them as soon as possible to their vet or to the local MAFF animal health office, from which advice can also be sought in cases of doubt. Owners must examine their animals regularly and look out for any signs of problems—time is of the essence if we are to limit the spread of this disease. When disease is suspected, the animals and other contacts are slaughtered and full compensation is paid.

We are in close touch with the European Commission and our EU partners and I anticipate that temporary controls on the export of live animals, meat, milk and other animal products from the UK, and on movements from the county of Essex, will need to come into force later today. This is normal precautionary practice for disease control purposes in outbreaks of foot and mouth disease.

Foot and mouth disease is not a public health issue. I am advised by the Department of Health that, although human infection of foot and mouth disease has been reported, cases are rare and of no health significance. The last report of human infection appears to have been in the 1960s. The Food Standards Agency has advised that there are no implications for the human food chain.

The department is putting in place emergency operational arrangements broadly following the pattern of last year's classical swine fever outbreak. We shall provide the fullest possible information to Parliament, the media and the affected communities. The Chief Veterinary Officer is establishing a regular meeting of key stakeholders.

As those who remember 1967 will know, a widespread outbreak of foot and mouth disease can be extremely serious for the whole of the farming community. MAFF, working closely with the devolved administrations and local authorities, is taking every step it can to control the disease and to minimise the damage and disruption it can cause.

2.41 p.m.

My Lords, I am shocked at the awful news given by the noble Baroness the Leader of the House. The one thing that our friend would have said is that the show must go on.

I thank the Minister for reading the Statement on this potentially damaging outbreak. I have personal experience of the disease in cattle in Argentina. While it is not normally lethal, it is debilitating to the animals concerned and highly infectious. I hope that the Government have learnt the lessons from the recent swine fever outbreak. The most immediate and important of those is that compensation must be guaranteed now to make it emphatically worth while for farmers to report the disease and, even more important, to inhibit them from trying to avoid being affected by bans on the movement of animals away from the prophylactic zone round the outbreak. I am grateful that the Statement contains an assurance about the payment of compensation for animals which are slaughtered. I hope that the Minister will be able to give a further assurance about those whose businesses are being ruined.

There must be absolutely strict control on the movement of other animals, particularly cattle, sheep and goats, within the area concerned. I welcome the imminent imposition of the ban on the export of live cattle, pigs and sheep, stringent though it is and awful shock though it will be to farmers still reeling from the swine fever and from such bad trading conditions.

Where this came from and whether the proper action was taken to control imports of fresh meat will be the subject of further inquiry. At the moment it seems likely that the source was infected meat from South Africa. When did the Government know about the outbreak of foot and mouth disease in KwaZulu? Is it true that the European Union did not immediately ban the import of beef from South Africa, although many of South Africa's neighbouring countries did so last September? When did a ban on imports of fresh meat from South Africa into the EU take place? How can the Government explain the delay? Do we still have a policy of slaughtering and destroying all infected herds? It seems so from the Statement, but what is the policy in other EU countries? Have there been any recent outbreaks of the disease in any other countries of the EU?

The infected pigs seem to have come from two different farms in Buckinghamshire and the Isle of Wight. Is this not worrying and an indication that the disease might already have spread round the country? Can the Minister say how long the pigs in Brentwood have been infected? When would they have been exposed to the virus? Would that have occurred in Buckinghamshire?

This situation could be very serious and points once again, I fear, to the lax regime we have regarding control of imported food and its sources: first, there was the outbreak of swine fever and now foot and mouth. Conservatives are already committed to cracking down on the import of substandard food products. When will the Government do likewise?

2.45 p.m.

My Lords, we on this side of the House express our concern about the outbreak. This is a serious disease indeed. We welcome the early Statement. All of us want to ensure that the Government are responding quickly. They seem to be doing that on the basis of information already made available by the Minister this afternoon.

We are confident that our farmers will take the matter seriously and will be vigilant. We want to know what is being done to find the cause of the outbreak, to isolate it and to prevent it from spreading now that there is evidence that another farm is likely to have been affected.

We are also worried that this is a big setback for our farmers who are already suffering. We do not need to call for any new measures—these are already in place—regarding insurance and so on. We just need assurances from government that these mechanisms will be used to help the farmers without delay.

Is the Minister able to give any indication whether the source of infection has been identified and whether there is a link between different farms and the abattoir which has already been mentioned?

2.47 p.m.

My Lords, I am grateful for the questions of both noble Lords and for the recognition from the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, that we made the Statement quickly. Unfortunately, that means that I do not have answers to all of the questions that have been posed. All of them are correct questions and we are, of course, investigating as a matter of the greatest urgency the strain of the disease, the possible locus of the outbreak and, therefore, the areas where we need to impose restrictions.

The noble Lord, Lord Luke, should be careful as regards jumping to conclusions about the spread of disease given that the pigs that were found in the abattoir came from different farms. Those pigs were in the lairage of the abattoir for some time. We do not know where infection occurred. That is exactly the kind of information that it is crucial to find out. As I said in the Statement, a large number of farms from all over the United Kingdom supplied that abattoir in the course of last week. A large number of lorry movements were involved, all of those will have to be traced and all of those farms examined. We cannot now give definitive answers on that matter.

I shall, if I may, write to the noble Lord, Lord Luke, on the exact details of the South African outbreak. There has only been one recent outbreak within the EU in Greece last year. That was successfully contained. There is at the moment no known disease within the EU, which would suggest that the source of this was beyond the EU. However, I say to the noble Lord, Lord Luke, that I was slightly disappointed with his final comments when he introduced party politics into the matter. I do not believe that this is a matter of party politics. It is not a matter of substandard food products being imported. It is illegal to import food products from any area where there is foot and mouth disease. We have to be rigorous about policing that measure. Those would be illegal imports if they had occurred and that was the source of the infection. However, we should not prejudge the source.

Of course, we need to learn from last year's swine fever outbreak. We were in the process of doing so. The Chief Veterinary Officer held a round-up meeting recently about action which needed to be taken forward. We know some of the networks we have to bring into place. It is a very serious challenge for veterinary and other staff. I assure the House that we are devoting all the resources necessary to take that challenge on board.

My Lords, I appreciate that it is difficult for the Minister to be precise. However, my noble friend Lord Luke repeated something that I heard on the BBC radio this morning: that herds were believed to come from Buckinghamshire and the Isle of Wight. I declare an interest. Is it possible for the noble Baroness to be more precise?

My Lords, no. Urgent investigations are going on at the farms from which pigs came which had symptoms in the abattoir. As I sought to explain earlier, there is no certainty that the animals were infected on farm. Indeed, the initial veterinary surveillance has shown no symptoms of clinical disease among animals on those farms. That is why we may be dealing with a more complex route of infection than the simple identification of the farm of origin of infected animals in the abattoir.

My Lords, it comes as a shock to know that we have foot and mouth disease in this country after some 20 years of freedom from it. I am sure that a number of lessons will be learned from this new outbreak. The Minister will agree that protection of this country against these highly infectious diseases demands eternal vigilance by the surveillance authorities, especially the veterinary profession and the government veterinary services.

I am confident that the nature of the virus and its origin will be quickly determined by the Pirbright laboratory—the animal virus research laboratory—a foot and mouth reference laboratory which works globally in this respect. Can the Minister assure the House that there will be no further erosion of support for surveillance services for animal disease in this country? My noble friend Lord Luke referred to the potential import of highly infectious exotic diseases. That issue requires continuous surveillance by the surveillance authorities. The noble Baroness mentioned the swine fever of a few months ago, and now foot and mouth diseases; and others of which we need to be aware lurk potentially on the horizon.

My Lords, I agree with the noble Lord. We allow commercial imports only from countries which are guaranteed free from foot and mouth disease. We are considering all the possible routes of entry of illegal imports, including personal imports. We are in discussion with the Association of British Travel Agents and airlines about this, as well as the more conventional routes.

I hope that I can reassure him on the issue of veterinary surveillance. Last year we issued a report for consultation. I was at a meeting yesterday of the board which is steering the drawing up of a new veterinary surveillance strategy. In that strategy, on which we shall consult publicly, we shall take on board the issues to which he referred, including eternal vigilance.

My Lords, it is devastating news. My sympathy goes to the Minister's department—a department in which I was involved some 40 years ago. First, are veterinary staffing levels adequate? Secondly, will similar methods be used to stamp out the trouble? My noble friend referred to compensation. Will compensation be considered?

My Lords, first, we have the laboratory facilities to which the noble Lord, Lord Soulsby, referred. We have a great deal of veterinary expertise. If necessary, we can call on veterinary expertise from the private sector in this country and from abroad. We had considerable help from America and other countries during the recent outbreak of classical swine fever. We shall take the advice of the Chief Veterinary Officer on this matter. We shall, of course, obtain additional support if needed.

Equally, I recognise the need for a clear and decisive slaughter policy in order to bring the disease under control as swiftly and effectively as we can. We shall be paying compensation at full market value for any animal slaughtered to control disease.

It is only right to pay tribute to the responsible attitude of the farming community in East Anglia during the recent outbreak. I am sure that it will be mirrored nationally among the farming community in recognising the terrible dangers of allowing the spread of the disease and the need to co-operate. That has been demonstrated by its early responses to MAFF and veterinary action.

My Lords, will the Minister confirm that it is unnecessary for the British Government to obtain any kind of permission or approval from the European Commission before the Government take what action they consider necessary?

My Lords, the appropriate way to proceed—as we have done—is in partnership with the EU. We need appropriate action; and we are taking that appropriate action. Equally, we need to be able to guarantee that appropriate action will be taken against other countries in similar circumstances. That is what we would expect and the Community would rightly expect that from us. It is not a question of either/or. We are of one mind.

My Lords, can the Minister assure the farmers of this country that the Government will pursue a slaughtering policy? Can the Minister give that assurance to the industry?

My Lords, I have heard no questioning of the need for continuation of the slaughtering policy. How that policy is carried out on outdoor pig units and disposal of pigs when carcasses can be infectious pose technical and practical problems. But the need to slaughter out any potentially dangerous contacts and infected animals is understood and accepted.

Drugs And The Law

2.59 p.m.

rose to call attention to the case for a Royal Commission on the misuse of drugs in the light of the Police Foundation Report: Drugs and the Law (the Runciman Report); and to move for Papers.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, a number of people have thought that it was reckless of the Liberal Democrats to call for a debate on drug policy in the shadow of a general election. All the pundits tell us that there are no votes to be had from drugs except by making the most macho of condemnatory noises. We have some experience of that. Seven and a half years ago, in 1994, the Liberal Democrat conference passed a resolution calling for a Royal Commission on drug policy—a call that we echo again today. The result of us raising the issue was an attack by the popular press and political opponents, who suggested that we were soft on drugs.

That was seven and a half years ago. We have still not had a Royal Commission, yet the report before us makes the damning finding that,

"We have been forcibly struck by the lack of research and the weakness of the information base about drug use in the United Kingdom".

My first duty is to pay tribute to the Police Foundation and to Lady Runciman and her colleagues for going where successive Home Secretaries have feared to tread in producing an excellent and thought-provoking report on drugs and the law. As in 1994, our aim is not to provide flip answers, but to promote an informed debate. We share with Lady Runciman and her committee the hope that such an informed debate will produce law that is less intrusive, less detrimental to the individual and more enforceable. We also share the committee's ambition for laws that are more effective in targeting the most dangerous drugs and the activities related to them.

I hope to initiate a rational debate, free from gesture politics. Our initial call has been for a response from the Government—I look forward to that later today—although sometimes gesture politics has a role. For example, no icons of the drug culture should cross the threshold of No. 10 or feature in the honours list. In the early 1960s, the then British Government sent a message to organised crime about how we intended to police our gaming industry by banning the film star George Raft. The Home Secretary could send a similar strong message to Britain's young people about the seriousness of our drugs law by refusing entry to Britain for the American pop star Eminem, when he attempts to return for the Brit awards next week. At a time when the latest research shows British teenagers at the head of the league table of drug users among 30 European countries, it is not acceptable for those who so influence the young to promote the message that drug taking is cool, when so many wrecked lives and ruined bodies and minds show the contrary to be true.

In the totality of the issue, that would be gesture politics, but it is a gesture worth making, because we are in a war, with our own children in the front line. I do not doubt the Government's sincerity or determination. Like Lady Runciman and her committee, I welcome the 10-year strategy put in place by Keith Hellawell and the work of his unit. I must confess to having some doubts about bandying about the title "drugs tsar". Appointing a tough, no-nonsense copper with a nice macho title and an Elliot Ness image seems the kind of response tailored to the fears of the focus groups of middle England, where all too often the Prime Minister's political courage resides. Yet one is bound to ask whether, under the current legal framework, we are simply asking Mr Hellawell and the authorities to run up the down escalator. Does our present legislation reflect the reality of the statement in the Runciman report that:

"eradication of drug use is not achievable and is not therefore either a realistic or a sensible goal of public policy"?

Are we on course to win the drugs war with a 10-year strategy, or are we going to fail because we are asking law enforcement to carry out tasks for which there is no popular consent? I do not know. All that one can say is that all the evidence shows that things are getting worse, not better.

Two chilling statistics from the report concern heroin addiction. First, it says that in the late 1960s,

"the difficulty was almost entirely confined to certain sections of London and involved not more than 1,000 known addicts".

The report goes on to say:

"Between 1973 and 1996, the total of new and re-notified addicts increased by over 1,000 per cent".

The Runciman report tells us that we have 200,000 problem drug users, of whom the majority are heroin users. The largest increase in problem drug use over the past five years has been among those under 21.

In the past 30 years, drug abuse has moved from being an isolated fringe issue to being a major public health issue, a major cause of crime and a major threat to our social stability. The issue impacts on two distinct levels. At the individual level, drugs damage health and are a major cause of delinquency, including the dramatic rise in juvenile crime and more general crimes of theft and violence. At the macro level, drugs provide the financial engine room for organised crime. Drugs are thus a twin menace that can simultaneously destroy individual lives and destabilise whole societies.

I have already referred to the recent research that shows that 36 per cent of boys and girls in Britain aged 15 and 16 have taken drugs. Dr Martin Plant, director of the Alcohol and Health Research Council, is quoted as saying:

"One of the problems we have is that drug taking has now become so commonplace that it is widely regarded as socially acceptable".

The increasing availability and use of illegal drugs and large-scale alcohol abuse are related to crime in our society. In particular, there is a strong link between illegal drug abuse and acquisitive crime to pay for those drugs. There is also a strong link between alcohol abuse and the level of violent crime in society. Although drug and alcohol abuse may themselves be related to wider social problems faced by individuals, there is a clear and direct relationship to crime.

The Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs estimated that in 1996, 25 per cent of those on probation had drug misuse problems associated with their offending and 70 per cent of those said that they had taken drugs of some kind, with 23 per cent saying that their offending had sometimes been influenced by the need to take drugs.

I could take a lot of time going through the various Home Office reports, but it is beyond peradventure that there is a clear link between drugs and crime. There is also a strong connection between drug use and unemployment and other social deprivation.

We have a problem. The question is whether we have moved on since 1994 in our capacity to answer three questions: Can the Government strategy work within the framework of existing laws? Do some of the laws need strengthening? Do some of them need relaxing?

My response to the first question is that those are exactly the terms that I would give to a Royal Commission. It is ironic that the Minister probably has in his brief the stock Home Office response that a Royal Commission would take too long, yet if one had been appointed in 1994, when the Liberal Democrats first called for it, or even when this Government came to office in 1997, it would have reported already. One of the advantages of the Runciman report is that it has done a lot of the ground-clearing work for a Royal Commission. There is no reason that a Royal Commission could not build on Runciman and report very quickly.

The answer to the second question—whether some laws need strengthening—is also undoubtedly yes. We need to turn the full might and power of all our law enforcement agencies, including our secret services and financial regulators, on attacking drug trafficking and the oil that lubricates the wheels of the drug trade—money laundering. The 1998 UN drug convention, the European Council's drug strategy and the UK's Drug Trafficking Act 1994 are all applicable. Quite simply, if we want to stop the drugs supply, we must cut off its blood supply—hard currency. Is it unreasonable for banks and other businesses to identify a source of capital, especially when a large sum of money is involved that falls outside typical business accounts? The first crime committed in any drugs transaction is not the creation of a drug but the financing of materials and people to create the drug. The pressing question becomes: when will it be more expensive to pay for treating the symptoms of drugs use than to spend money on stopping the causes of the disease?

The Professor of International Criminal Law at the University of Notre Dame, and the former Assistant Attorney-General in the United States, Jimmy Gurule, discussed the problem and said:

"In order to apprehend and prosecute these international drug offenders successfully, law enforcement officials must abandon traditional techniques in favour of bold and innovative counter-narcotic strategies. Any such initiative must include two principal components. First, this new law enforcement strategy must be international in scope. Second, it has been long recognised that 'if law enforcement efforts (directed at international organised crime) are to be successful, they must include an attack on the economic aspects' of drug trafficking and other related crimes".

Thus, any effective strategy must criminalise money laundering and deprive drug traffickers of their illicit drugs profits through enforcement of tough asset-forfeiture laws. Furthermore, both of those objectives must be aggressively pursued on an international scale; otherwise, without co-operation among all nations that are affected by illegal traffic, traffickers can defeat domestic forfeiture simply by removing all of their illicit wealth from the jurisdiction in which it is generated.

Runciman states:

"We have concluded that the most serious deficiency in the law against drug trafficking is a pragmatic rather than a legislative one. It lies in the current ineffectiveness of the procedures by which the assets of drug traffickers are confiscated under the Drug Trafficking Offences Act 1994".

I hope that the Minister will address that point. Our current laws and international agreements are not being pursued vigorously enough, perhaps because 80 per cent of the resources that are available for attacking the drugs culture is aimed at attacking the use of cannabis.

Runciman asked the big question, and it is worth pressing the Minister for an answer today: are we really using the resources that are available in the anti-drugs war in the right way? The Runciman report calls

for cannabis to be downgraded to a Class C drug with an appropriate change in guidelines about how enforcement agencies should treat possession for personal use. That recommendation deserves careful study. That does not involve going soft on drugs—not even on soft drugs. It is merely to ask—to adapt a phrase that is used in another context—if we are serious about our war on hard drugs, whether we need to replace the present day blunderbuss of legislation with Armalite.

My Lords, the noble Lord makes an important point. When he said that the Runciman report's recommendation of downgrading the classification of cannabis deserved careful study, did he mean that he supported that recommendation or not?

My Lords, that is precisely why I want a Royal Commission to be established. I am not an expert on drugs law. The noble Lord's knowing smirk suggests that he feels that he has scored a tremendous goal. Part of the problem is that the government whom he supported and the present Government have taken knee-jerk reactions to the problem.

The first point in the Runciman report is that there is not enough research. I fully accept—the Minister will probably say this later—that long-term mental damage and other long-term health problems may be caused by cannabis use. I am in no way advocating the use of cannabis but I ask whether we have trained our resources—our big guns—on the real problem. The real problem is the 1,000 per cent increase in heroin use and 200,000 heroin users. It is not worthy if, each time we debate drugs, someone says, "They are going to turn us into pot-heads". We must have a rational debate and establish whether the policy is working, whether it has any hope of working and whether there are proposals that could help to change the situation.

The Runciman report adopted the right approach—it suggested that we should at least examine the issue. If the noble Lord wants my view, I believe that we should look carefully at the case for an immediate relaxation in the law relating to the medical use of cannabis. I know that research is being carried out at the moment. I hope that the Minister will tell us when the trials will be completed and when a decision will be taken. My noble friend Lord Clement-Jones will discuss that matter more fully.

On other matters, I acknowledge the efforts that the Government have made. I know that there are no guarantees of success about whether we should change our laws or stay in the present position. There are questions that need urgent answers. Why is it that people who are free of drugs when they go into prisons come out as drugs users? How can organised crime launder its money through our banking system with such apparent impunity? Perhaps the noble Lord the former Chancellor of the Exchequer will have an expert opinion on that. Have we the political will to provide the resources to enable us to direct problem drug-users into treatment rather than into prison? The latter is rather like sending an alcoholic to a brewery. Will we give appropriate priority and resources to education, particularly in relation to the relevant health consequences, which may be the real sanction that young people will listen to?

We again call for the setting up of a Royal Commission safe in the knowledge that Runciman has done much of the groundwork. Last Sunday the Prime Minister stated his ambition in this regard. He said:
"We want Britain to be the hardest place on earth to deal in hard drugs".
I believe that there is a possibility creating a broad cross-party consensus in relation to that objective so long as Ministers approach the task with open minds and with knees that are free from jerks. We should heed the warning in the Runciman report, which states:
"We welcome the new research programme of the latest national plan; but until it begins to yield significant results and embraces some of the issues raised in this Report, discussion of the policy options will continue to be hampered by the need for more research and better evaluations than we have at present".
Is that not Dame Ruth Runciman's more elegant way of warning us that we are running up an escalator that is going downwards? Runciman declares two objectives in calling for reforms: to reduce the harm that drugs can do to individuals and to reduce the harm to which, in that Committee's opinion, the present law is leading. The Runciman report could have been written in response to the Liberal Democrat resolution of six-and-a-half years ago. However, the Runciman Committee was not a Royal Commission and it does not have the authority of a Royal Commission. We believe that appointing a Royal Commission is the best way forward to achieve the national consensus that is needed to win the drugs war and the other objective of Runciman; namely, to
"bring the law into line with public opinion and its most loyal ally, common sense".

My Lords, I beg to move for Papers.

3.19 p.m.

My Lords, this is a timely debate in which I am delighted to participate. I begin by congratulating the noble Lord, Lord McNally, on initiating the debate on the thorough and well written report, Drugs and the Law. Although much of the report is perfectly sensible, the conclusions and recommendations that received all of the media attention were, to use a legal term, unsafe and unsatisfactory.

I start by telling noble Lords where I am coming from. I spent 35 years as a police officer, mainly in the CID. Part of that period was spent as the head of the drugs squad in my force. So I have seen at first hand the misery, suffering, anguish, grief and pain caused by using drugs, not just to those who use them but to those around them and, in particular, those who are left behind to pick up the pieces. You only have to talk to Paul Betts, as I have done, about the loss of his daughter, Leah, to start to understand the sorrow of losing a loved one in such very difficult circumstances. In this debate we are addressing the best way to mitigate that misery and suffering as a society, particularly with regard to the well-being and development of our young people.

It may surprise your Lordships to know that as a former police officer, I am a libertarian. I believe that individuals should be allowed to do what they wish without interference by the state, provided—and it is a big proviso—that no other individual or society in general is harmed as a consequence. I submit most strongly, however, that taking mind-altering substances does do harm to other people as well as to society as a whole.

Nevertheless, we know that there can be damaging effects on health. Indeed, ecstasy and LSD have led to a number of deaths. As regards cannabis—the noble Lord referred to cannabis in his speech—I can do no better than quote from Professor Heather Ashton in a BMA report in December 1997. She said:
"Smoking cannabis leads to 3 times greater tar inhalation than tobacco. Chronic use increases risk of cardiovascular disease, bronchitis, emphysema and lung cancer".
A World Health Organisation report states that there is a 50 per cent greater chance of getting cancer by smoking a joint than by smoking a cigarette.

So there is harm to society because valuable medical resources are used to treat those self-inflicted illnesses. This is all at a time when we have changed the culture of smoking in society. What used to be macho and sexy is now spurned, as we see from small huddles of excluded smokers standing outside offices getting their fix. Surely we do not want to reverse that trend by encouraging smoking, which is the most common way of taking cannabis.

But there is also a risk to other people individually. I have said already that relaxing penalties, in my view, would give a green light and increase usage. I do not believe that that can be denied. What about those people who decide to drive or use machinery in the workplace after indulging in a night on cannabis?

I know that it is illegal to drive under the influence of drink or drugs but we do not have a road-side testing device for drugs as we have for alcohol. The technology has not yet moved that distance. DETR research in 1998 showed that almost one in five persons killed in traffic accidents has illicit drugs in the body. In my submission, that figure would rise significantly without the ability to combat it. To change tack now and give the green light to using drugs would be irresponsible at a time when serious consideration is being given to reducing the alcohol limit for driving.

I believe that we all agree that any drugs can be harmful—both lawful drugs, such as tobacco and alcohol, and those drugs at present deemed unlawful to deal in, distribute or even possess. The Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 categorises different drugs according to their relative harmful qualities.

The nub of the argument this afternoon is whether, by relaxing controls on some of the so-called softer drugs, the fight against the harder, more dangerous drugs can be more focused and successful.

If we were starting from a clean sheet, we should probably not legalise alcohol and tobacco. But that debate has moved on and we cannot put back the clock. However, we can avoid making the same mistakes again. Basic economics tell us that by relaxing controls and increasing availability, the price would fall. That would lead to an increase in demand and usage.

Indeed, proponents point to the Netherlands as some perfect example of what can be achieved. I have spoken to Dutch police officers and it is difficult, at times, to make direct comparisons with this country. But since the 1980s, cannabis use has trebled in Holland since decriminalisation. In Amsterdam, which is the drugs capital of Europe, drug addicts are responsible for 80 per cent of all property crime. Because of drug problems, Amsterdam requires a far larger police force than comparable cities. Holland supplies virtually all the ecstasy and 80 per cent of the heroin flowing into Britain.

It is significant that the Dutch authorities have reduced the overall number of coffee shop outlets and the quantity of cannabis which can be bought in any one transaction. I understand also that the Dutch are having a serious rethink about their liberal drugs policy because of the social ills caused.

Incidentally, the active ingredient of cannabis—THC—was about I per cent in 1960. It is now almost 30 per cent in some cases.

We often hear quoted the problems during the prohibition on alcohol in the United States in the 1930s. In my view, that is a false analogy because the USA was a dry country in a wet world whereas our policies on drugs are in line with UN conventions on narcotics. If anywhere is out of step, it is the Netherlands.

What is to be done? When this Government were elected in 1997, one of their early appointments, as the noble Lord, Lord McNally, mentioned, was the anti-drugs co-ordinator, the so-called drugs tsar, Keith Hellawell. In April 1998, he produced a White Paper, Tackling Drugs to Build a Better Britain, which said that making a lasting difference was at least a 10-year project. In consequence, he produced a 10-year strategy which, incidentally, was endorsed by the Police Foundation Committee.

The Government have developed a coherent programme and measures to deal with those issues, including new drug treatment and testing orders to break the vicious circle of drugs and crime, to which the noble Lord, Lord McNally, rightly referred; minimum seven-year sentences for repeat drug dealers and more investment in effective treatment and education.

There is evidence that that is working. Very recently published research by the school health education unit at Exeter University, in a report Young People and Illegal Drugs into 2000, is encouraging. Researchers who have tracked patterns of childhood drug-taking for the past 13 years have reported that use among pupils, particularly older pupils aged 14 and 15, has fallen for the past two years. The researchers have christened that the "tsar effect" for obvious reasons.

Without being complacent, that is very positive news which was not in the public arena when the Police Foundation made its recommendations. The foundation report admits:
"We have been forcibly struck by the lack of research and the weakness of the information base about drugs use in the United Kingdom".
That is the main strength of the argument today for a Royal Commission to which I have no objection at all. The more information we have, the more decisive action we can take. But having said that there is no information, the Runciman report goes on to recommend radical new departures from the status quo. That is, I submit, asking us to take a dangerous leap in the dark.

In conclusion, we need to invest in a massive education programme for those under 10 years; we need to provide escape routes for those addicted; and we need to change the drug culture in society as we did with smoking tobacco and drink-driving.

It has been a pleasure to participate in the debate, which I think will be well informed and very measured.

3.28 p.m.

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord McNally, for introducing this important debate. At the outset, I should declare the fact that I am chairman of the charity, Action on Addiction, the only UK charity which exclusively funds research into the root causes of addiction.

I welcome with some reservations the findings of the Runciman report. But if, as the report points out, 25 per cent of 16 to 29 year-olds say they have taken drugs in the past year—and I believe that figure to be a low estimate—it is certainly an issue worthy of national debate and government attention.

I have no doubt that a Royal Commission would take the debate further and challenge the orthodoxy of drug policy in this country. But I wonder what additional evidence could possibly be forthcoming or what additional recommendations could be added to the 81 recommendations on pages 128 to 136 of the report. Some of my misgivings may be allayed were it to be a permanent, continuing commission, keeping drugs firmly on the national agenda, but not an excuse for time-wasting. I cannot help but feel that the time has come for more action and not more words.

Simon Jenkins, a member of the Runciman committee, concluded his article in The Times of last week on the new film that covers drug crime, called "Traffic", by saying:
"This film is modern. The only sadness is that it was not made in Britain, under the noses of the complacent Home Office. Britain has the biggest hard drug market in Europe, deregulated and wide open to the traffickers of the world. Jack Straw's prisons are its largest single customer. Traffic tells us why. It is not history, nor even metaphor. It is the truth".
There is an urgency to Simon Jenkins' words and the whole tone of the Runciman report. We are already falling behind other countries in the effectiveness of our drug policy. We must look again at research and evaluation of treatment and at training and prevention. From that we can better inform our decision-making on issues such as drug reclassification.

I do not argue that Customs and domestic policing policies are not important—indeed, they are vital—but I believe that so many of the decisions that need to be made on UK drug policy follow from better research, scrutiny of policy and getting the best treatment procedures in place. What can the Government do now in those areas ahead of any further talk, discussion or Royal Commission? As the noble Lord, Lord McNally, has pointed out, and as the Runciman report highlights, I believe that the key is in the area of research and information.

The Government should allocate 1 per cent of the total annual drug budget to research all aspects of the drug problem, mirroring the percentage of its budget that the NHS dedicates to research. Just 1 per cent would inject £14 million a year into drugs research, considerably more than committed on a year-by-year basis in Mr Hellawell's first annual report and national plan. The current balance of investment between supply reduction and research is simply out of proportion.

Why would more money spent on research help? For a start, a bigger research budget would, in part, evaluate the cost-effectiveness of those all important supply reduction initiatives. Research and independent evaluation will provide the critical tools by which the coherence of our drug policy can be assessed. Currently, 75 per cent of the drug budget is spent on law enforcement within the United Kingdom and the prevention of drug trafficking. But there is little evidence to suggest that drug use has decreased or that we are preventing drugs from entering the country. Indeed, the estimate of Customs and Excise is that it intercepts just 5 to 10 per cent of drugs coming into this country.

On the other hand, there is clear evidence that research has benefited the treatment of drug users, the education of our young people and our understanding of the causes of drug problems. Research has shown us, for example, that for every £1 spent on dedicated specialist drug treatment services, £3 is saved by society in hospital admissions, social security costs and prison places.

Anyone who works in the addictions field will tell you of the invaluable contribution made by the National Treatment Outcome Research Study, NTORS. That study proves how research can lead to a consistent, evidence-based treatment policy and be a significant critical assessment tool. But that is just the starting point. Most importantly, any increased funding for research must be long-term funding. It should include, as a minimum, provision for specialist, independent centres dedicated to researching the key domains of drug policy expenditure; that is, supply reduction, treatment and prevention.

Let me take one example from the National Addiction Centre, for which our charity, Action on Addiction, provides funding. One of our bright young researchers has worked on three completely different and unrelated research projects over the past three years. There is absolutely no coherence to her career development or continuity to her research. She is forced to follow the funding, wherever it goes and against whichever project. How can we expect quality research of a consistent nature when our brightest and best researchers are forced to operate in this way?

In addition, we are falling behind other countries. In Australia, for example, there are two nationally funded research centres, whereas in the UK there is only the National Addiction Centre and there are very few long-term research posts at the centre that are government funded. Indeed, when methadone maintenance was first considered in the UK, it was Australian, not UK, evidence that was utilised in the policy decision-making.

I call for the UK to spend 1 per cent of its drug budget on research, but in the United States more than 4 per cent of their budget is dedicated to research and that has been criticised by the General Accounting Office as inadequate. Eighty-five per cent of the world's research in that area now comes from the US, research that we have to "translate" into the UK context where there is a different society and a different culture.

I would also call upon the Government to ensure that a permanent independent body oversees the allocation of the drug budget on the basis of demonstrable effectiveness. Such a body must be independent if objectively it is to assess the effectiveness of policy implementation, to advise the Government on an ongoing basis as to how the drug budget should be allocated and to criticise government policy when it fails to follow the implications suggested by research.

Will the National Treatment Agency meet that brief? Will it be truly independent and able, therefore, objectively to view the effectiveness of drug policy? As its role develops, I hope that it will not just become a clearing house for bed placements at in-patient drug units, important though such places are.

A grace note on the need for a consistency of drug policy with that of alcohol and tobacco is that there is no national alcohol strategy. We have had promises, and we have even seen drafts, but now we need to see a firm strategy that is consistent with and allied to our drugs policy.

I also want to urge the Government to increase investment in both substance treatment and treatment evaluation. It is not enough to say that treatment works; we need to know when, why and for whom. To do that, we shall need higher levels of staff training, dedicated research and a greater commitment to independent audit and evaluation of treatment provision.

As with research, our treatment provision lags behind the US. That is most clearly demonstrated by comparing the methadone treatment programmes in both countries. In the UK, methadone treatment is little more than a prescription, whereas in the US, any prescription for methadone is accompanied by help with health, employment, housing and counselling, all provided by highly trained staff.

In conclusion, now is the time for action. The Runciman report has highlighted the urgency of the reevaluation of our drug policy. I urge the Government to review, to evaluate and, where appropriate, to implement their recommendations. Do not let talk of establishing a Royal Commission—whether it be right or wrong to establish one—be yet another reason to delay increased expenditure on research, to delay the establishment of an independent body to agree the allocation of the drug budget and to delay more expenditure on both substance treatment and treatment evaluation. As the Runciman report vividly displays, time is no longer on our side.

3.38 p.m.

My Lords, I too am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord McNally, for initiating this debate. My diocese, being predominantly urban, has more than its fair share of drug-related problems, so I read the Runciman report with particular interest and I was impressed by its knowledge, wisdom and moderation. I believe that it addressed the real issues and made some far-reaching recommendations. On these Benches, of course we do not agree with all the recommendations, but we agree that they deserve serious consideration. I, for one, 'was rather disappointed by the timidity of the response of the Home Office, although I understand that in the run-up to a general election no politician wants to frighten the electorate.

It may bring comfort to politicians on all sides of the House to know that the electorate is becoming quite resilient on the issue of drug misuse. I cite in evidence the fact that two years ago in my diocese we published a report, The Chemical Generation: Understanding Young People and Drug Use. We sent a copy to each of our 400 or so parishes. That report covered similar ground to that of the Runciman report and it made a number of recommendations. I must tell your Lordships that I watched the publication of our report with some trepidation, for I can at times be as cautious as any Home Office civil servant or Minister. I need not have been so anxious for, in fact, hundreds of ordinary Church people have now discussed our report in an open-minded and calm manner. They have not been disturbed or frightened by challenging recommendations and certainly, as a result of this extensive exercise, they are much better informed.

It may be helpful to share with your Lordships some of the key questions which have provided most interest in this consultation. First, there is the question of whether or not prohibition is preventing people having access to drugs. Government statistics, as the Runciman report points out, show that the UK has the highest incidence of drug use in Europe. About half of our young people have at least tried drugs and a significant proportion use them regularly. The figures also show that the price of drugs on the streets has not increased significantly for years, although drug seizures have increased. This must surely mean that the supply has increased proportionately. So it seems that current legislation has not prevented those who want drugs having access to them.

However, if the law has failed so far to limit the supply, might this objective be achieved by making the penalties more severe? That seems to be the position of the Home Office. Penalties for drug trafficking are already so severe that the senior Scottish judge, the noble and learned Lord, Lord McCluskey, has publicly questioned why someone convicted of cannabis trafficking is likely to receive a prison sentence four times as long as would be imposed for rape.

The Government also have the power to confiscate money and property from convicted drugs traffickers and are considering giving themselves more powers to do so in the future. We would support those proposals. Yet, even with those extra provisions, there must be a real question as to whether the police will ever have the expertise or the resources to make serious inroads into this multi-billion pound industry.

At present, 90 per cent of drug-related offences are concerned with possession not trafficking, and the possession of softer drugs at that. In my urban diocese we see only too clearly how the present law on cannabis possession bears most heavily on young black inner-city youth. It criminalises large numbers of otherwise law-abiding young people and damages police/community relations, getting in the way of the easy flow of information and intelligence which is so often the key to solving other crimes. The recommendations of the Runciman report to change the law on cannabis possession should, I believe, be given serious consideration.

Of course there is a counter argument. The Home Secretary, for example, has argued that legalising some or all drugs would send out the wrong message, giving drug use tacit official approval. And this is really the nub of the argument. Although half of our young people have tried drugs, the other side of the coin is that half of our young people have not tried them.

Are those people deterred from using drugs because they are illegal? That is a very difficult question to answer. Survey evidence suggests that people who do not use drugs are more persuaded by the negative health and social effects of the drugs than by their illegal status. However, the fact that these drugs are illegal undoubtedly reinforces their poor image—although for some young people that poor image may act in the opposite direction as drug use becomes part of their expression of rebellion.

The law is rather a blunt instrument for educating people, however, and many believe that the billions of pounds spent trying to enforce an unenforceable law might be better spent on education and treatment, which have historically been chronically underresourced. However, it is good to receive the Government's assurance of extra spending in this area.

At present, 62 per cent of the total drugs budget is spent on enforcement, while only 13 per cent is spent on treatment and education. Even where these funds are available, they are not always used well or at all. There is a rumour to the effect that the Prison Service is actually handing back to the Home Office money earmarked for drug rehabilitation because the service is not able to organise all the projects needed. It would be good to have the Minister's comments on that rumour.

Certainly last year's Wedderburn report from the Prison Reform Trust on women prisoners pointed to a great shortage of community drugs programmes. There is general dismay that the Government do not seem to be paying attention to the Wedderburn report. If true, that would be unfortunate because in a real sense Wedderburn and Runciman are related and need to be considered together if there is to be an effective strategy for combating drug misuse in prison.

The Church, of course, has been practically involved in drug rehabilitation work for years. In my own diocese we have projects aimed particularly at young addicts: specialised housing where addiction can be tackled in a community setting; projects making contact with young addicts while they are still in prison, meeting them at the prison gates, and providing them with a home and care in the vital weeks following release. We know all too well from firsthand experience how demanding this work can be and it would be foolish to pretend that there are easy answers. But I have no doubt that many more resources must be deployed in such a way.

This is a very serious issue but I am not totally convinced that the establishment of a Royal Commission would take us much further forward. I remember a Leicestershire farmer responding to the advice of a keen young ministry adviser by saying, "Son, I already have more advice than I know what to do with". My question is: what new information would a Royal Commission provide which the Runciman report does not already give us? What is lacking is not information but the political will to consider far-reaching changes. I hope that Ministers can be encouraged to revisit the issue in the calmer days following an election.

Certainly, we know from our own diocesan consultation that people are very concerned for those who are harmed or killed by drug use. But people are concerned about how otherwise law-abiding people can be criminalised for using something which, by arbitrary criteria, has been prohibited. For example, it seems to be particularly iniquitous that people suffering from diseases such as multiple sclerosis, whose symptoms can be relieved by cannabis, are prosecuted. That must be a nonsense.

Finally, as citizens of south London, people are concerned about the social effects of drug use. Young men are being shot on the streets of Harlesden and Brixton as drug-related turf wars are fought. We have no wish to bring up our children and grandchildren in such a dangerous environment. We cannot allow such violence to become endemic. There must be better ways of tackling the issue.

On a subject such as this it is easy to bury one's head in the sand. The noble Lord, Lord McNally, has done your Lordships' House a service in drawing attention to the Runciman report and encouraging further debate. I hope that the Minister in his response will be able to indicate ways in which the debate can be taken forward. It is too important simply to languish while less sensitive issues are addressed. That may be good politics, but it is not good sense.

3.38 p.m.

My Lords, I, too, thank the noble Lord, Lord McNally, for bringing the matter before the House for debate. I must first declare an interest. Until recently, I was chairman of a drug crisis agency, City Roads, a 24-hour pan-London facility to treat people in acute crisis.

I agree with noble Lords, in particular the noble Lord, Lord Chadlington, who said that we need much more money for treatment. Although I never took an interest in the detail of what City Roads did—it did things better than I could ever do—I understand that it is a nightmare for such an agency to be paid for the work it has done. So many different agencies are involved and the Government are notoriously late payers. I can tell stories about that but I shall not. Because the Government do not pay on time all kinds of problems are caused.

First, I believe that we should have secure payment for the people who are treated by drug agencies and, secondly, that we ought to have more agencies. This is very delicate and time-consuming work. As the right reverend Prelate said, the people who do that work are dedicated. It costs a lot of money, but that cost is not as great as the harm caused by drugs if people are not treated. Therefore, we should adopt some sensible economics when dealing with drugs. I hope that there will be more small dedicated drug centres across the country where people can be treated. I have seen data which show how people who have been treated do not return to drug addiction but are integrated into the community. City Roads has a success rate of 70 per cent.

I also agree that much more research is needed about addicts who have been treated. Far too much attention is paid to whether people have ever smoked or taken drugs. To give a slight analogy, we have had problems in gathering poverty statistics. The most important statistic is not whether a person is, or has ever been, poor but whether he or she continues to be in poverty. Headline numbers, quick counts and one-off sample surveys do not answer that question. The people concerned with poverty statistics and drugs statistics should get together and compare notes. But the important point is that we need to know much more about addicts rather than new entrants. Far too many people believe, naively—or perhaps not—that every entrant into drug use is for ever an addict.

Since I am not, and never shall be, a Minister I do not mind saying that long ago I smoked cannabis, and several times. It has not done me any harm. I have also drunk alcohol and smoked tobacco. I am neither an alcoholic nor a cigarette addict. We should stop talking nonsense about cannabis. A disproportionate amount of resources, police time and statistics are devoted to the lighter side of the drug problem; it is polluted by the insistence that we regard cannabis as a very dangerous substance. Heroin, crack cocaine and powdered cocaine are much more dangerous than cannabis will ever be. We must be sensible on this matter. I am sure that a secret, no-names survey among politicians to ask whether they have ever taken drugs would reveal much more truth.

I do not know what the problem is. I did not inhale cannabis or tobacco because I was not competent to do it. The question is not whether one inhales. I should like to emphasise that Clinton and Bush are two examples of people who have taken drugs and survived to become president of their country. It did not destroy them; they emerged from it. We should concentrate on the harder drugs and on people who are caught in persistent drug use, rather than one-off users. If one includes one-off users with addicts one exaggerates the size of the problem and misdirects resources. I hope that we shall have both better statistics and resources for treatment.

Finally, it is a great pity that our drug statistics come mainly from crime surveys. We choose to make this a crime, but it is a health and social issue, as the right reverend Prelate said. I believe that we should change both the direction of our research and also the perception of politicians, not keep talking about headline cases where kids have died. Of course kids have died. If one headlined every case in which someone was run over and killed by car drivers—23,000 cases—one could argue for the banning of all cars. Should we ban driving? No. We must get this in perspective. A Royal Commission is perhaps a way of avoiding doing something. We need to do some rethinking, admit that there are serious difficulties and avoid frivolous headlines about what is a very minor part of the problem.

3.55 p.m.

My Lords, one of my main reasons for taking part in today's debate is the utter unwillingness of the Government to take seriously the conclusions of not just one but two excellent reports on the subject of cannabis: the first is the report by the Committee on Science and Technology on cannabis for medicinal purposes which reported in late 1998; the second is the Runciman report on drugs and the law which appeared this time last year, about which many noble Lords have spoken today. The latter report makes clear that when debating drugs, as with many other aspects of public policy, we need to talk about priorities, not moral or legal absolutes.

The logic of the Runciman report is impeccable. The committee asks: is total eradication of drug abuse achievable? If not, one needs to accept the need to focus on the drugs that cause the most harm to users and society. When formulating objectives one must face realities. As the report says, there is a significant difference between the public perception of cannabis use and other drugs. We need to focus on the most harmful drugs, heroin and cocaine, which give rise to most of the violent criminal behaviour and have the greatest effect on the individual user.

That type of harm reduction strategy has been successfully used in other cases; for example, with HIV/AIDS, where needle exchanges have been set up which have diminished the prevalence of HIV among drug injectors. One of the key objectives of the committee's considerations was to try to find ways to separate out the market for cannabis from heroin and crack cocaine in particular. The need for the setting of priorities is demonstrated in my own borough, Lambeth. Of all the drugs related charges in Lambeth last year, 77 per cent related to cannabis. These offences dominate the operations of the police against drugs, yet by far the most important activities in Lambeth at the present day relate to crack cocaine and heroin dealing. Arrests for cannabis possession are easy pickings for the police when faced with fairly heavy performance management targets for drug offences, but surely their efforts should be directed towards the violent crack dealers and heroin suppliers, not those in possession of cannabis.

The Runciman committee did not advocate the legalisation of possession of cannabis but its depenalisation, which is a word that we have all come to understand in recent months. Its recommendation to move cannabis from class A to class C under the 1971 Act would mean that possession of cannabis would cease to be an arrestable or imprisonable offence. Denis O'Connor, whom I know and respect, was formerly assistant commissioner in the Met and covered the Lambeth area. He entered a note of dissent at this point, saying that it might cause operational problems for the police, but he clearly remained open to persuasion. The Chief Constable of Fife, however, was also a member of the Runciman committee and did not dissent on the record.

The key question in all of this is whether picking up a suspect for possession gives the police the opportunity to investigate other more serious offences. That is a matter that needs serious discussion, but let us debate it and look at the realities. On the contrary, the Government condemned the idea out of hand. Ann Widdecombe's response, derided by most of her Shadow Cabinet colleagues, but perhaps not by the noble Lord, Lord Lawson, who I see is not in his place, was even more extreme—that there should be an increase in the penalties. I suspect that at the time the Government had something rather similar up their sleeves, such as "three strikes and you are out" for cannabis possession. Why not criminalise the whole population while we are about it?

We on these Benches resent the attempted rubbishing of the Runciman report, particularly before Ministers found that they had to backtrack to avoid being rather more illiberal than the Daily Mail and the Daily Telegraph. The report specifically says that cannabis is not harmless. It is quite clear that there are considerable adverse medical effects, which I do not seek to minimise. There are cognitive effects, motor impairment effects, effects on the cardiovascular system, respiratory problems and problems with the immune system. I simply demonstrate that we on this side of the House fully understand those matters. There are physical and psychological risks from long-term use. The carcinogenic qualities of cannabis are now becoming better known. There are other side-effects on mental health noted by the Royal College of Psychiatrists. However, as the report says, we need to compare the key essentials—mortality, morbidity, toxicity, addictiveness—with other drugs such as heroin and cocaine and indeed even with alcohol and tobacco. Cannabis is less harmful, and that bears repeating. Cannabis is less harmful than alcohol and tobacco. After all, 33,000 people a year die from the effects of alcohol. Alcohol is, in the words of the noble Lord, Lord Mackenzie, "a mind-altering substance". In the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 the three-tier classification, which is unique in Europe, recognises the relative risks of different drugs, which need to be more accurately distinguished in terms of current scientific and sociological knowledge.

Quite apart from the recommendations of the Runciman report, the other major area of disagreement is on the medicinal use of cannabis. An excellent report by the Select Committee on Science and Technology of this House, which reported in 1998, recommended—the Runciman report agreed with this—that cannabis should be transferred from Schedule 1 to Schedule 2 under the regulations relating to the misuse of drugs to allow doctors to prescribe it. It also recommended that the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs should be consulted on the proposed change. In the meantime there are glaucoma sufferers, epileptics, asthmatics and MS patients who are waiting for relief.

The Government were extremely negative in their response. They claimed that GPs would be pressurised to prescribe cannabis for recreational purposes when, after all, heroin can be prescribed by GPs. In fact until 1971 cannabis was prescribable. The Government have agreed that clinical trials should go ahead. These are taking place. But, as I argued back in 1998, simply to wait for the results of clinical trials is inhumane. Such trials could take five years or more to come to fruition.

Since that report was published, there have been two years in which patients could have had their symptoms alleviated by the prescription of cannabis. Should we leave MS suffers and others deprived for this period at a vital period of their lives, or do we force them to become criminals?

Where we can thankfully agree with the Government is on the vital role of education in breaking the culture of drug-taking among the young. The European School Survey Project on Alcohol and Other Drugs, published yesterday, confirms the importance of that approach. The results of the survey—they are fairly horrifying—show that British teenagers are the most likely to use drugs in Europe; 40 per cent of British teenagers have taken drugs by the age of 16, compared with 35 per cent in France and 26 per cent in Italy.

There is no doubt that some resources have gone in this direction since the Government took office and that some success is being demonstrated. But progress needs to be faster. The Runciman committee stated that the most dangerous message of all is the message that all drugs are equally dangerous. When young people know from their own experience that part of the message is either exaggerated or untrue, there is a serious risk that they will discount all the rest. The Runciman committee is entirely correct in stating that. It is a great pity therefore that we cannot have a greater consensus on the way forward. That is caused clearly not by evidence of what works and what does not, but by fear of tabloid newspaper retribution through appearing to be soft on drugs. We should have the mature and rational national debate that Lady Runciman has called for.

Legalisation of any drug in particular should be considered only after a major public debate through a process such as a Royal Commission which would look at the consequences in the round. I welcome the open-minded approach of the noble Lord, Lord Mackenzie. to the idea. More research is needed in a variety of areas. In that respect I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Desai. Personally, I would be opposed to legalisation of cannabis on the current state of our knowledge on health grounds. However, I could be persuaded with the right evidence. That is what a Royal Commission is for. It examines the issues in a dispassionate way. We need a Royal Commission to establish the facts, build a consensus and implement an effective drugs policy, one that even the Daily Mail might recognise as having some legitimacy.

4.5 p.m.

My Lords, I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord McNally, on his choice of subject, election looming or not. I declare several interests. For 30 years I was an NHS general practitioner in an area of north London where many patients had drug and alcohol problems. I was a Member of your Lordships' Select Committee which inquired into the medical uses of cannabis. I am a trustee of the Medicinal Cannabis Research Foundation.

The tendency of humans to take substances which reduce anxiety and induce feelings of calm or wellbeing has always been with us. I have even seen a documentary showing chimpanzees enjoying themselves getting drunk on fermented fruit. Having a large brain gives us the power to make conscious intelligent choices in our daily lives in a possibly challenging physical or social environment. But this sets up psychic tension—which choice shall I make? Might I be wrong? Living as a social being has a downside as well as an upside. It is gratifying to obtain some relief from this tension. Sometimes the relief obtained, compared to the stress of reality, is so good that we are reluctant to stop taking the substance that gives us that relief. That is why problems of alcohol, tobacco or other substance abuse are greater among relatively deprived sections of the community where stresses are worse.

I have read the Runciman report. It is a detailed and persuasive document. One of its main thrusts is that the classification of controlled drugs and the severity of the penalties that they attract should correspond to the harm that they do. Other important critical points include emphasis on the huge predominance of offences under the Misuse of Drugs Act which concern cannabis, already referred to, averaging some 80 per cent of all charges, and also the heavy concentration of resources on enforcement—at 62 per cent—rather than treatment at only 13 per cent.

The inquiry team looked at the relative harm done by each of the main control drugs to individuals and society. The criteria for grading involved assessing the likelihood of each drug causing harm under nine headings. To save time I shall not enumerate those; they are in the report.

At present, the Misuse of Drugs Act divides controlled drugs into three classes of harmfulness. Class A includes hard drugs, such as cocaine, opium and heroin, but, surprisingly, also cannabinol and its derivatives. Class B includes amphetamines and cannabis herb and resin. Class C includes benzodiazepines (valium and similar drugs) but, surprisingly, also an opiate, buprenorphine which can be very dangerous if it is injected. The report reminds us that, although the general criteria for this classification are the likelihood of a drug being misused, there appears to be no explicit set of criteria for deciding which drugs are more harmful than others and so should go into Class A rather than Class B or C. But in 1970 the noble Lord, Lord Callaghan, when Home Secretary, said on introducing the Misuse of Drugs Bill, now an Act, that,
"[it] will provide for changes in the classification to be made in the light of new scientific knowledge".
In fact only two small changes have been made in the 30 years that the Act has been operative.

The Runciman committee subjected each drug to the nine criteria I outlined earlier, classifying, for illustration, tobacco and alcohol as if they were also controlled drugs. The ranking resulted in the classification of alcohol among the most dangerous Class A drugs and tobacco in Class B. Some drugs were reclassified, with cannabis and its derivatives moving from Class A or B to C. On the other hand, because of their harmful effects, two other drugs were moved up a class.

A few words are in order to explain the reclassification of cannabis. The Science and Technology Select Committee heard evidence about its adverse effects. It concluded:
"The acute toxicity is very low; no one has ever died as a direct and immediate consequence of recreational or medical use".
We heard about some other adverse effects from long-term and heavy use. However, most of those did not seem as serious as was suggested by the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones. There is a slight impairment of reaction time and fine movements become clumsy. But drivers compensate for that by taking fewer risks, which is the exact opposite to what happens to drivers affected by alcohol. The most serious long-term effects arise because the substance is smoked like tobacco. We have not so far seen cases of chronic bronchitis, emphysema or cancer in any numbers, but it has not perhaps been smoked for as long as cigarettes; we may see these problems in the future. However, methods may be developed for the administration of cannabis by means other than smoking. Some dependence can occur with heavy use, but cannabis is nowhere near as addictive as tobacco. Doctor Philip Robson, of the regional drugs dependency unit in Oxford, said in evidence to the Select Committee:
"I do not meet people who are prepared to knock over old ladies in the street or burglarise houses to obtain cannabis".
Cannabis is therefore not completely harmless and full legalisation is not an option at present. However, to make possession and small scale social supply or production into non-arrestable offences (which transfer to Class C would achieve) would allow a major shift of police effort to concentrate on hard drug trafficking.

I am sorry that the Government have rejected the recommendation to reclassify cannabis, as they also did with the recommendations made by the Select Committee.

Several European countries have made changes in their drug laws, which have a similar effect to reclassification. In no case has consumption of cannabis risen noticeably. In the Netherlands, separating the supply of cannabis from heroin and other hard drugs has resulted in the level of new young users of heroin falling steadily.

I shall close my remarks with a few words on the treatment of heroin abuse. The National Treatment Outcomes Research Study has shown impressive results. After one year of treatment burglary had come down 87 per cent. It was estimated that for every £1 spent on treatment, £3 was saved by the criminal justice system. The improvements were largely maintained after two years. The United States and Switzerland can show equally impressive data on the benefits of effective treatment of heroin addicts.

As the noble Lord, Lord McNally, has shown, there is a great need for more new thinking on this subject. That is crucial to our whole system of law and order. After the election, I hope very much that the new government will seriously consider this matter because present policies are expensive and are leading us nowhere.

4.14 p.m.

My Lords, with the leave of the House, I should like to make one or two points. I should very much have liked to speak at greater length, but circumstances have conspired to prevent me giving this opportunity presented by the noble Lord, Lord McNally, the attention it deserves.

My main interest has always been in drug treatment. I declare that interest as chairman of the Drug and Alcohol Foundation and of the Addiction Recovery Foundation. I also serve on the board of Mentor International, which is the largest non-governmental drug agency in the world. I chair its British arm, Mentor (UK). Furthermore, for some years I have served as vice-chairman of the All-Party Group on Drugs Misuse.

In the field of drug treatment, we have made quite a good deal of progress. There is now a high standard of treatment available here in Britain, but I should tell noble Lords that the size of that field and the availability of places have not grown at all over the past 10 to 15 years. The vast majority of drug users in this country will never come into contact with an agency that can help them. Indeed, although we always talk of drugs as a young people's problem, still only one unit exists in the entire country specialising in the treatment of adolescents. That is extraordinary and rather worrying.

In the excellent report produced by Lady Runciman's committee, the point is made that one lesson we can learn is that the benefit of treating drug demand as a primary health problem counteracts the social exclusion of young people caused by drug offending. The report concludes that,
"Demand will only be significantly reduced by education and treatment. not by the deterrent effect of the law".
If that conclusion is considered controversial, it should not be, because it is universally recognised by all those who have knowledge of these issues.

I believe that the reason why treatment services in the UK have not developed in the way they should have is because, as stated in the report,
"The largest part of the drugs budget is spent on enforcement without the necessary resources being applied to the proper evaluation of its success or failure".
In other words, we waste too much money on enforcing a law that is demonstrably unenforceable and not enough on the healthcare that can and does produce the benefits we know it produces, both for individuals and for society. The report makes this point forcefully and repeatedly. It states:
"Despite large increases in the number and quantity of seizures of all drugs, there is no strong evidence that drugs have become harder to obtain or more expensive".
Again, all the evidence suggests that the law plays a minor part in deterring demand. The report goes on to state:
"But we see no evidence that severe custodial penalties are deterring traffickers or that enforcement, however vigorous, is having a significant effect on supply".
Indeed, specifically in respect of cannabis, the report states:
"Our conclusion is that the present law on cannabis produces more harm than it prevents".
I agree with that. My own conclusion is that the 30 year-old framework established by the Misuse of Drugs Act has failed completely and utterly to restrict or eradicate drug use in this country. More than that, it is now preventing us developing the quantity and quality of treatment services and prevention initiatives that we need and which are our only hope of making a real impact.

The report is rather more measured in its language. It states:
"The eradication of drug use is not achievafle and is not therefore either a realistic or a sensible goal of public policy".
The problem is one that no government or senior politician seem able to admit in public, although one or two may do so in private. The obsession of politicians of appearing to be tough on drugs is where the problem lies. Prohibition and the war on drugs have failed to curb drug use, have resulted in the largest black market the world has ever seen, and have seen a corresponding rise in organised crime and the violence associated with that, along with a rise in acquisitive crime to generate the funds needed to buy those drugs. The failure to admit this is the principal reason why the two main political parties cannot make any real progress towards solving the problem of drugs in our society and why they avoid debating what for them is almost taboo, but what the rest of society increasingly regards as the obvious route to follow.

In all senses, the report of the Police Foundation is an immensely useful piece of work. Let us hope that, in replying, the Minister can contribute in an equally useful way, rather than churning out the same old excuses that serve only to reinforce the lack of realism at the heart of government.

4.18 p.m.

My Lords, from time to time your Lordships' House discusses matters of serious concern. Today's debate is no exception. So far I have not heard a single speech which goes against the grain of what my noble friend Lord McNally has proposed.

On the matter of drugs and the law, opinions are divided. There are many issues that are directly related to drugs. Indeed, a number of noble Lords have pointed out the level of crime and disorder and its relevance to drugs. On this, there is no dispute. The increasing availability and use of illegal drugs, along with large-scale alcohol abuse, contribute to crime in our society. Looking at any part of our criminal justice system, one can find example after example of links between illegal drug abuse and crime to pay for those drugs. It is as clear as the link between alcohol abuse and the level of violent crime.

Equally, it should come as no surprise that public debate is often emotive. In the maze of differing and conflicting views, the report of the independent inquiry into the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 has done a public service. As my noble friend Lord McNally pointed out, Lady Runciman and the members of the Police Foundation should be congratulated on the report.

It is an authoritative report based not on assumptions but on hard facts resulting from discussions with some of the foremost experts and professionals in the field. It would be a shame if we were to dismiss its recommendations, not on the basis of evidence produced but on the basis of what is politically acceptable.

The Government's job is to lead; it is to provide leadership; it is to confront difficult issues with a view to seeking solutions. We simply cannot take the blinkered view that drugs are a bad thing and therefore there is nothing to discuss. The public concerns will not go away. The drug dependency culture cannot be swept under the carpet. It is exploited by drug barons and drug dealers with the sole aim of making money, as my noble friend Lord McNally pointed out. In many cases, laundered money is used to buy arms to support wars in many parts of the world. Large communities are often displaced, with the resultant poverty and the flood of asylum seekers. The issue of drugs is a serious problem which requires serious consideration.

Research findings ably demonstrate the effects of drugs and alcohol on young people. It may not come as a complete surprise to many of us that children and young people have a more detailed knowledge of drugs and their effects than their parents. There is therefore a wide gap between the solution that parents seek and the knowledge that young people possess. It clearly demonstrates the need for an informed debate in which young people are consulted.

I am disappointed with the Government's response to the Runciman report. They missed the opportunity to modernise our drug laws; they ignored the balanced and research-based evidence, thus missing the opportunity of better and more effective use of resources. Fundamentally, although public opinion is comfortable with open and honest discussion, the Government have slammed the door, thus preventing such a debate.

Research carried out across Europe for the inquiry demonstrates that we in the United Kingdom are increasingly out of step with developments in drug laws. The Government want to adhere to international conventions on drugs but refuse to follow the example of other countries where there is greater flexibility within these rules. Belgium and Portugal are demonstrating different approaches. They focus on drugs as a public health issue, with prevention and treatment as key tools, and place less dependence on criminal law.

We welcome the valuable work being done by the UK drugs co-ordinator, which was referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Mackenzie. We welcome the long-term strategy for tackling drugs to build a better Britain. Look at the targets that have been set up: halving the numbers of young people using drugs, especially heroin and cocaine; halving the level of reoffending by drug-misusing offenders to protect our communities from drug-related, anti-social and criminal behaviour; doubling the number the drug misusers in treatment; and halving the availability of drugs, especially heroin and cocaine, on our streets.

These are laudable aims—we support them—but what is the reality today? Can we put our hands on our hearts and say that the levels of drug use have declined? There is evidence that the use of hard drugs has increased. It will continue to increase as long as the massive supply of hard drugs finds its way to the United Kingdom through the Middle East. There is also evidence that young people who regularly use drugs are likely to consume cannabis.

Public attitudes to drugs are now quite different from those held a few years ago. Perhaps I may quote from an article by Dr Russell Newcombe in the Druglink magazine about support for reform. It stated:
"Though public support for legalisation of drugs in general has changed little over the last decade, relaxation of the laws on cannabis is now supported by a third of the British population and by over half young adults. Recent research also indicates that about four in ten young adults have now used cannabis (over half in their sixties), and that the majority have friends who use cannabis".
Yet the Government's new 10-year drug strategy, Tackling Drugs to Build a Better Britain, mentions neither decriminalisation nor legislation, nor does it refer to the growing public support for such major reforms of drug policy. It is confusion of this nature that calls for a more informed debate. The issue will not go away.

The Runciman report pulls no punches. It proposes the reclassification of individual drugs and suggests that associated penalties,
"should be adjusted to reflect current scientific understanding of the relative risk they pose".
I am glad that my noble friend Lord Clement-Jones pointed that out. It does no good for middle-aged, middle-minded and middle-class people simply to preach to young people. Lady Runciman had this to say:
"When young people know that the advice they are being given is either exaggerated or untrue in relation to less harmful drugs, there is a real risk they will discount everything else they are told about the most hazardous drugs including heroin and cocaine".
While recognising that cannabis is not a harmless drug, the inquiry argues that the existing law and maximum penalties against the possession of cannabis produce more harms than they prevent. The report comments:
"Even with the use of discretion, the laws implementation damages individuals in terms of criminal records and risk to jobs and relationships to a degree that far outweighs any harm that cannabis may be doing to society".
The Government are missing a valuable opportunity to bring our drug laws into the 21st century. Adopting a more balanced and evidence-based response as advocated by the Runciman report would ensure that resources are better targeted and more effectively used. That point was made by a number of speakers.

The report is widely seen as injecting a breath of fresh air into the debate about illegal drugs. It proposes the reclassification of a range of drugs in line with a more accurate assessment of the harm they cause. The whole basis of a fair system of criminal justice should be proportionality between the severity of penalties and the seriousness of the harm involved in any criminal act. The Government argue that downgrading certain drugs would send out the wrong signal. But what kind of signal does it send out when the Government refuse to proportion penalties to a careful consideration of the relative dangerousness of different drugs? That can only bring the law into disrepute.

Making cannabis possession for personal use a non-imprisonable offence and normally dealing with it by cautions or fixed-penalty fines, which do not carry a criminal record, also fits in with concepts of fairness and proportionality. It is clearly disproportionate that young people found in possession of cannabis for their personal use should be prosecuted—and in cases of repeat offending sometimes imprisoned—for behaviour which is undoubtedly foolish and may damage their health, but is usually less so than the abuse or heavy use of legal drugs such as alcohol or tobacco. It is even more disproportionate that, if convicted, they should have to declare such convictions for years afterwards when applying for jobs—and, if they are applying for jobs in the care professions which are exempted from the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act, they have to declare them for the rest of their lives.

Perhaps the most important recommendations of the inquiry are those relating to the treatment of drug-dependent offenders and the need for a substantial reallocation of resources to provide far more treatment facilities. Bearing in mind the findings of recent studies, it clearly identified that the number of offences committed by addicts reduced by one-fifth when proper treatment was available.

Treatment programmes are best carried out in the community. However, when drug-dependent offenders do go to prison, it is vital that they have ready access to treatment in prison and effective resettlement on release. Although the number of treatment programmes in prisons has increased in recent years, there is still a long way to go before we can be satisfied that prisoners with drug problems are receiving the help they need.

We welcome the setting up of the CARAT programme (counselling, assessment, referral, advice and throughcare) in April 1999, which aims to provide counselling and assessment in prison and continuing support on release for drug-dependent offenders. We hope that the Government will look again at the findings of the Police Foundation inquiry. Its emphasis on a balanced, proportionate and effective response to the harm done by illegal drugs will do far more to reduce drug misuse than punitive approaches, which increasingly lack credibility with law enforcers, the general public and the drug addicts whom we are trying to reach.

All these matters point to the need for an informed debate. The Government have failed to provide this. Only a Royal Commission would have the freedom to take into account all aspects of the arguments for and against change.

4.30 p.m.

My Lords, today's debate has been a most interesting one. I hope that it will make a useful contribution towards the wider national debate on the subject. Clearly there is a serious problem in the United Kingdom, especially among our young people. We were reminded of that in newspaper reports this morning by mention of the Edinburgh Research Centre report, which also ensures that we see the drugs problem as part of the wider problem of young people's addiction to tobacco and alcohol, as well as to drugs.

Broader even than that, the problem needs to be seen in the context of the decline in standards of all kinds, which we have discussed often enough. Such debates are usually led by my noble friend Lady Young. Too many of our young people have lacked disciplined leadership and the self-discipline that one derives from it over the years. The profoundest thought needs to go into such considerations. But we must also think about the individual aspects of the problem; and today we are considering the drugs aspect.

There have been two useful recent reports: one from the Royal College of Psychiatrists and the other from the Police Foundation, which forms the basis of today's debate. The work of both those bodies, and of others, helps to highlight the problem. That is both welcome and necessary. I hope that our debate today will make its own small contribution, as of course did your Lordships' Select Committee on Science and Technology.

Given all that work, and the emphasis that this Government, like their predecessor, have given to the matter, I do not believe that a Royal Commission would do any good. However, many of the recommendations of the Runciman report have, rightly, been accepted by the Government. I do not want to say much in the brief time available to me about the medical uses of cannabis. Although we all want doctors to relieve suffering, I believe that the Government are right to be cautious about extending permissions in that field.

I also very much sympathise with the case for more research, especially into the effective treatment of addiction. My noble friend Lord Chadlington made some shrewd remarks in that respect. However, as has become clear this afternoon, the controversial recommendations are about the reclassification of cannabis in particular. Those are the ones that I disagree with most strongly.

It is argued that matters have advanced so far that the criminal sanctions against cannabis should be lowered and that the law should concentrate on trafficking as regards cannabis. That does not seem to me to be a logical position to take. If something is legally useable, its supply cannot sensibly be made illegal. We have to face up to the decision as to whether or not we want cannabis to be legally purchased and used for recreation. If, as I believe, the answer is no, possession should remain illegal, as in the case of selling it. It makes no economic sense to try to limit supply without also limiting demand. There is no doubt that cannabis in its various forms is essentially harmful and addictive; and, indeed, that it sometimes leads people to take other drugs.

The noble Lord, Lord McNally, outlined the links to crime, as did the noble Lord, Lord Mackenzie. If we legalised the possession, but not the supply, of cannabis and move in the suggested direction, I believe that it would only be a few years before some great person produced a report arguing that it was inescapable that we should legalise trafficking. One can imagine the reasons—poor quality of drugs, the crime involved, and so on. No doubt the Treasury would spot a new source of tax revenue and also go along with the idea.

I realise that the proposal is that, while lowering the penalties by reclassifying the drug, we should step up our efforts against harder drugs and as regards education and treatment. But it seems to me to be the weakest message imaginable to say to our young people, "We no longer regard the possession of this drug as criminal or as a serious offence. But we do advise you against it on certain health grounds". That will not persuade any young person that I know of the wisdom of that course of action.

But, in any case, like the noble Lord, Lord Mackenzie, I do not think that habits are static. When one reflects on what has happened with regard to smoking over the past few years or with regard to drinking and driving, one sees that change in public attitudes is possible. What is acceptable behaviour at one time can become unacceptable a few years later. In the case of drinking and driving, law enforcement—I refer to the breathalyser in particular—has been extremely important in changing attitudes as well as government propaganda campaigns and so on.

It is a defeatist attitude to say that many people have tried, and are trying, cannabis and. therefore, we should allow it. It is said that eradication of drug use is not attainable. Of course it is not, nor is the eradication of murder or burglary or vehicle crime. That does not mean to say those crimes should no longer be considered offences. The aim is to reduce drug use, not to eradicate it. That is a realistic aim.

We are also told that the police have effectively decriminalised cannabis because in many cases they only caution. I like the idea that a caution should always be accompanied by compulsory attendance at a treatment centre. Similarly, treatment in prisons should be improved as much as possible. We should do all we can on this matter in all fields: education, rehabilitation and treatment, as well as imposing effective criminal sanctions for both possession and trafficking.

I noted what the noble Lord, Lord McNally, and the right reverend Prelate said about the coming general election. I heard Viscountess Ruth Runciman interviewed on the radio this morning. The interviewer tried to lead her into saying that because we are near to an election no sense on this matter could be expected from any politician. That struck me as profoundly undemocratic. This will be the first general election for 30 years in which I have not been a candidate, so I know a little about elections. Of course they result in issues being simplified, and sometimes distorted in the process, as much by the media as by politicians. However, Ministers and legislators in another place are drawn closer to public opinion at election times.

In your Lordships' House only the Bishops have an identifiable constituency to which they return every week. The right reverend Prelates are not required to be re-elected. We should respect what the voters say. I am quite clear what that is. Voters and parents want a tough line to be taken on drugs as well as treatment when things go wrong. What is more, the voters are right. That is why those who seek votes will not advocate the lowering of criminal sanctions. Even the Liberal Democrats held back in that regard, as we witnessed when the noble Lord, Lord McNally, was interrupted by my noble friend Lord Lawson and stepped back a little. As I say, the voters are right. We need to step up rehabilitation and treatment, research into addiction and the other matters that have been mentioned. However, we should not step down the criminal law at the same time.

The noble Lord, Lord McNally, spoke of the importance of laws against money laundering and other international financial laws, which I support. My party has also put forward some proposals for strengthening the law which I hope that the government in power in two or three months' time will implement, whatever government that may be. I refer to a new offence of substantial possession to enable the police to charge those who have large quantities but where there is too little evidence to press a charge of intent to supply; a specific law against driving with drugs in the bloodstream, as recommended by the Magistrates' Association, and several other similar proposals, including the strengthening of the law against crack cocaine houses to enable them to be treated like opium or cannabis houses. We want to see mandatory minimum sentences for those convicted more than once for selling drugs to children and orders to keep such offenders away from schools. I see no value in a Royal Commission, but the noble Lord, Lord McNally, has done a service to the House in raising this matter.

4.40 p.m.

My Lords, I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord McNally, on securing this debate today. Like him, I should own up to an addiction—not to cannabis but to Third Division football clubs. And mine won one nil.

It has been a thoughtful and thought-provoking debate with many important insights and a good deal of consensus on the subject. That is to be welcomed, although there may be differences of detail in the way in which we approach some matters. It is clear that we all favour the continued criminalisation of cannabis. No one argued that we should go the whole hog and decriminalise it. It is also clear that there was a strong consensus for tough action against drug dealing and the war against drugs.

From the Dispatch Box I shall not trade the "We can be tougher than you" approach. The subject is too important. In general, I do not think that my Government have approached the subject in that way despite some of the comments today.

It is sometimes cynically suggested that a Royal Commission is a device used by Government to kick into touch an issue that is too difficult to handle. In one sense, there might be a temptation for a government minister to do exactly that—not least because several Members of your Lordships' House are convinced that there will be a general election fairly soon. Another reason for establishing a Royal Commission is to examine issues on which a government lack a clear strategy. In my reply, I hope that that reason will be demonstrated plainly not to be the case.

With the important and valuable contribution of the Runciman report to the debate, on many of these issues—the noble Lord, Lord McNally, made this point—the ground has already been laid. It has been raked over and examined carefully. And with the report before the House, the report of psychiatrists and so on, I do not think that we need a Royal Commission. The Government have a clear vision. As the noble Lord, Lord McNally, was happy to concede, the Government have a clear 10-year strategy to tackle the drugs problem. It is a strategy which I believe is working.

There were many notable contributions to the debate today. The noble Lord, Lord Chadlington, made a strong plea for additional research. That plea was widely welcomed. He wanted to see a dedicated budget. The right reverend Prelate said that governments at this stage of their lives seek not to frighten the electorate. I suppose that is true; I do not wish to frighten the electorate. But we should have an intelligent debate on the subject, as we have demonstrated today.

I enjoyed the short contribution of the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft. The comments by the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, about the relationship between cannabis use and certain medical conditions were important, an issue which picked up on earlier research work. I listened with great interest to the comments of my noble friends Lord Rea and Lord Desai. As ever, the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, brought a strong whiff—perhaps that word is appropriate in these circumstances—of common sense to our debate along with the trenchant views expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Mackenzie of Framwellgate, with his insights into law enforcement.

I wish to set out our approach. The Government did so in the national drug strategy report published in 1998, Tackling Drugs to Build a Better Britain. It is a 10-year strategy for tackling drug misuse which has four aims: to help young people resist drug misuse in order to achieve their full potential in society; to protect our communities from drug-related anti-social and criminal behaviour; to enable people with drug problems to overcome them and live healthy and crime-free lives; and to stifle the availability of illegal drugs on our streets. That is hardly a strategy with which Members of your Lordships' House would want to disagree. It has the benefit of being clear in its intent.

The strategy is backed with £217 million of new money. Many noble Lords, notably the noble Lord, Lord Chadlington, have pleaded for new money this afternoon. The strategy balances harm, demand and supply reduction policies and sets stiff targets under each of the four main aims across the 10-year period. Although it is still early days, there are already encouraging signs that the strategy is on track. It is worth going through some of the key achievements to date.

Some 93 per cent of secondary and 75 per cent of primary schools now have a drug education policy, up from 86 per cent of secondary and 61 per cent of primary schools in 1997. Secondly, there has been a steady increase in drug misusers attending treatment services—there was an increase of around 7 per cent during the six months from March to September 1999. There are also targeted new drug prevention services for young people at risk of drug misuse in the 11 first-wave health action zones, which were set up in 1997–98 to improve public health in areas with high levels of deprivation and inequality. There are often high levels of drug misuse in such areas. The fourth element of our achievements to date is the £1.2 billion of Class A drugs that were prevented from reaching our streets in 1999–2000 by co-ordinated law enforcement. That is a significant increase of 33.5 per cent on the previous year. I am sure that noble Lords will join me in congratulating the police on the arrests that were announced yesterday of individuals believed to be the main suppliers of crack cocaine in this country.

I have sometimes heard it said that drug misuse is spiralling out of control, but that is not true. Drug misuse remains an uncommon or short-lived activity and there is evidence that it is stabilising. For example, one of the best indicators of changing trends—drug use within the past year—shows that within the 16 to 24-year age group, prevalence has remained at 29 per cent over the three British Crime Surveys conducted between 1994 and 1998. The BCS is a very accurate indicator of activity. Further evidence of that stabilisation can be seen from the results of the recent European school survey project on alcohol and other drugs, published yesterday. The report showed a drop in the number of British 15 and 16 year-olds who have tried illegal drugs since a similar survey in 1995.

Of course, the Government recognise that there is still a long way to go. We must continue to build on and drive forward our programme of work under the national strategy if we are to make a lasting and sustainable difference to the problem of drug misuse.

The Government have made it clear that we welcome the report of the committee set up by the independent Police Foundation into the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971. The report contributes to our thinking on the effectiveness of our drugs laws and policies. Much of the report chimed with Government thinking or represented work already in hand. Some 20 of the 81 recommendations have found favour with the Government in some shape or form.

It is perhaps interesting that the noble Lord, Lord McNally, has allied his current call for a Royal Commission to the Police Foundation's report. The Police Foundation inquiry might feel that it had done the job of a Royal Commission.

The Government and the Police Foundation agree on many things. For example, the Police Foundation concluded that the eradication of drug use was not achievable, realistic or a sensible policy goal The Government agree. The noble Lord, Lord Cope, appeared to agree as well. The Police Foundation also suggested that the aim of the law must be to control and limit the demand for and supply of illegal drugs. Again, the Government agree. The Police Foundation concluded that our drugs laws must enable us to fulfil our international obligations, and that the laws should reflect the latest scientific understanding. Once again, the Government agree.

Much has been made of the areas in which we rejected the Police Foundation's recommendations. It was also erroneously suggested that by announcing our rejection of the recommendations relating to the re-classification of cannabis, ecstasy and LSD, the Government were somehow giving the report short shrift. That was not so. The decision to establish a working group chaired by the UK National Drugs Coordinator, Keith Hellawell, to consider the detail of the report is powerful evidence to the contrary. However, recognising that the consideration of so thorough a report would take some time, the Government felt that it was important not to allow speculation to gather about their attitude to those particular recommendations.

Those who favour a Royal Commission into drug misuse argue that the rationale for the current system of prohibition should be examined. Indeed, while there are shades of grey around models in which the law is to a greater or lesser extent enforced, the only alternative to the current system of prohibition is legalisation.

The Government have a clear and consistent view about the damage that drugs can cause to individuals, their families and the wider community, about the link between drugs and crime—that link was ably established by the noble Lord, Lord McNally—and about the corresponding need to maintain firm controls. However, we have never shied away from debating the issue surrounding legalisation. For example, it is sometimes suggested that decriminalising or legalising currently controlled drugs would reduce the harm that they cause and the market for them. The present Government and previous governments, and successive governments throughout the world, have rejected that argument.

The biggest single danger of legalising drugs involves the risk that consumption would significantly increase as a consequence, which has attendant public health and social costs. Common sense and the lessons of history support such a prognosis. For example. it is estimated that there are currently some 1.25 million people in this country who have used cannabis during the past few months. We should contrast that with the 10 million or 11 million people who smoked tobacco during a similar period. Prohibition does not eliminate the use of drugs, but it would be a nonsense to suggest that it does not limit or deter use.

It is also suggested that legalisation would at a single stroke eliminate the extremely lucrative criminal activity that is associated with drugs. Substituting a legal supply of drugs for the current illegal supply would clearly have some impact on criminal activity but it would be naive to assume that the black market would disappear altogether. Criminals would attempt to undercut legal producers and the UK would become an attractive base for organised crime. Moreover, there would still be law enforcement costs, unless one has in mind a model of legalisation in which even children have access to drugs.

The social and possible health consequences of increasing consumption by legalising drugs, and the limited effect on criminal activity, are fatal flaws in the legaliser's argument.

I shall try to respond to one or two of the many points that were raised in the debate. The noble Lord, Lord McNally, discussed money laundering that is associated with criminal activity. We completely agree with him about the need to strengthen the Government's response. For that reason, the Prime Minister asked the Performance and Innovation Unit to examine the issue. As the noble Lord knows, it is for that reason that we wish to set up a national confiscation agency, following the enactment of the Proceeds of Crime Bill.

The noble Lord also discussed the balance of enforcement between cannabis and hard drugs such as heroin and crack cocaine. The national strategy on drugs focuses on drugs that cause the greatest harm, especially heroin and cocaine. That is accurately reflected in our approach to enforcement. We must focus on those drugs that cause the most harm. Hard drugs do that—they break up communities and scour the lives of individuals in communities. Our target is to reduce substantially the reported use of all illegal drugs. We believe that we should concentrate on those that do the most harm. We and the noble Lord are at one on that point.

The noble Lord, Lord Chadlington, called for more resources for research. We share that view—it is a common concern. About £966 million will be set aside as a result of SR2000 to tackle the drugs menace. We are investing far more as a by-product of the drug treatment and testing order regime, which will come into effect during the next few years.

I believe, and it is a fundamental belief of government, that the pre-figure for drug treatment and testing orders represents a major expansion in treatment programmes. I think that that is an assumption which is commonly shared. It is clear that, with the development of the National Treatment Agency, that will become a major part of its work and a major preoccupation. In a sense, it is an important response to concerns about the speed with which additional treatment capacity can be met.

The agency will set standards of treatment and provision and will commission performance monitoring and develop a unique system tackling variations in treatment standards. It will ensure that there is ready access and availability of those treatment programmes across the nation.

Some interesting issues were raised in relation to resources. The noble Lords, Lord Chadlington, Lord Desai and Lord McNally, looked at that issue in their comments. At present, 62 per cent of drugs expenditure is on enforcement work; 13 per cent is spent on treatment and rehabilitation, and there was much debate about the balance perhaps not being quite right; 12 per cent is spent on education, and we all agree that that is an extremely important area; and 13 per cent is spent on international supply reduction, which is clearly an important element in the national anti-drug strategy.

The aim is to shift drug-related expenditure, over time, away from reacting to the consequences of the drug problem and towards positive investment in preventing and targeting drug abuse.

The noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, touched on the legalisation of cannabis. As I said earlier, we do not believe that it would be beneficial to do that. I believe that there is a consensus on that point, although the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, made a strong plea for the medical uses of cannabis to be given greater attention and thought.

That is a view shared by the Government and for that reason we provided a licence for research into that matter. Although that licence has some time to run, it is our expectation that in 2002, there will be a report on the potential medical benefits of cannabis. I believe that we should be science-led in relation to that matter. If the recommendations suggest that that is a sensible course of action, then it will make the greatest sense for us to follow that recommendation because, as the noble Lord said, in certain circumstances, heroin can be prescribed.

In all, this has been a valuable, well-informed, thought-provoking debate. I know that the noble Lord, Lord McNally, is extremely sincere in his desire to say that our drug laws and policies are as effective as possible. The Government share that desire and believe that their 10-year national drug strategy is on track, even though we fully recognise that there is a long way to go and little room for complacency.

If we were to seek to take stock now by establishing a Royal Commission, it is our view that that could only harm the strategy and it would send quite the wrong message to the many people on whom the strategy depends—the health professionals, teachers, prison staff, police and Customs officers, community leaders, voluntary workers and parents. It would sow the seeds of confusion at a time when there is already clarity.

This subject is far too important for us to hesitate in our drive to tackle the drugs menace. Those people deserve our support and now is not the time to waver.

4.58 p.m.

My Lords, I have one minute left of our allotted time so I can just thank all noble Lords who have contributed. There was an astonishing degree of consensus from the Back-Benches on this matter. This debate will well merit reading. This is the second time today that I have tried to put the Government on the path of righteousness and, although slightly rebuffed on both occasions, I shall continue on that path. I beg to leave to withdraw the Motion.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.

Psychotherapy Bill Hl

5 p.m

My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.

Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—( Lord Alderdice.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.

[THE DEPUTY CHAIRMAN OF COMMITTEES (Lord Skelmersdale) in the Chair.]

Clauses 1 to 10 agreed to.

Clause 11 [ The Education Committee]:

moved Amendment No. 1:

Page 9. line 27, at end insert—
("(5) The Education Committee shall establish sub-committees to give authoritative advice on the educational, training and continuing professional development requirements of the various modalities of psychotherapy.
(6) At the outset, sub-committees shall be established in the following modalities—
  • (a) Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy, Psychoanalysis and Analytical Psychology,
  • (b) Cognitive and Behavioural Psychotherapy,
  • (c) Family and Systemic Psychotherapy,
  • (d) Group Psychotherapy,
  • (e) Humanistic and Integrative Psychotherapy,
  • (f) Experiential Constructivist Psychotherapy,
  • (g) Hypno-psychotherapy, and other sub-committees may be established as the Council deems appropriate.
  • (7) The Education Committee may, with the agreement of the sub-committees, modify the system of sub-committees set out in subsection (6)(a) to (g) above.").

    The noble Lord said: At Second Reading we addressed, at some length, the principle of regulation of the profession of psychotherapy. There was a gratifying welcome in your Lordships' House for the principle of regulation of psychotherapy, but with regret and concern it was noted by a number of noble Lords that this process had failed to reach fruition some 30 years after the publication of the Foster report, which had been such a crucial early marker.

    One reason for the failure has been the diversity of therapeutic approaches that fall within the bailiwick of psychotherapy. During the past couple of years, much of my endeavour has been directed towards persuading the various psychotherapy organisation and representatives to accept a relatively limited but coherent list of modalities. Indeed, one of the reasons why the wording in this amendment was not included in the Bill when it was first presented to your Lordships' House is that discussions have continued up until the last week or two to try to reach an agreement.

    The amendment, which sets down a number of modalities, does not permit or require registration by modality. The notion of modality is imported by way of sub-committees into the area of education and training and the purpose is to recognise the different requirements of education, training and continuing professional development of the different approaches to psychological treatment. Here I have taken on board the valid concern raised at Second Reading by the noble Lord, Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts, that education is not the same as training and that continuing education is now a proper requirement of all professions. By inserting subsection (5) into Clause 11, the amendment emphasises those three important components of professional education, professional training and continuing professional development.

    The advice that the sub-committees would be required to give is described as "authoritative". While to a lawyer, like my noble friend Lord Wedderburn of Charlton, that description may appear something of a hostage to fortune, its purpose is to emphasise the view of professional groups that the advice tendered by their modality sub-committees should be taken seriously. I know it would be their wish that within the confines of their modality, the advice tendered should be regarded by the education committee and the council pretty much as the authoritative word.

    Returning to the main burden of the amendment—the setting down of modalities—I emphasise that, despite the amendment, registration would not be by modality. The Bill gives legal protection to the title "psychotherapist", and with the exception of those already registered with the GMC, would require those who wanted to used the title "psychotherapist" to register with the General Psychotherapy Council. However, I repeat, as there has been some misunderstanding about it, that the indicative registration, as the Bill stands—I cannot say what may happen in the future—is not for the different modalities but for the title "psychotherapist" itself.

    The modalities described in the amendment are psychoanalytic psychotherapy, psychoanalysis and analytical psychology; cognitive and behavioural psychotherapy; family and systemic psychotherapy; group psychotherapy; humanistic and integrative psychotherapy; experiential constructivist psychotherapy and hypno-psychotherapy.

    I want to make it clear that I do not regard that list as being complete for all time, nor as satisfying the wishes of all therapists. The amendment gives the committees a substantial position—in some ways a starting position—but it clearly leaves open the possibility of the merging or de-merging of the subcommittees and of adding others. I believe that the flexibility for the development of new ways of working is important indeed. This Bill is not intended to create stagnation or rigidity but to create regulation. However, even as matters stand, I fully admit that some problems remain. We shall come to Amendment No. 2 and I shall want to make some remarks about it.

    At Second Reading, a number of noble Lords expressed concerns about the position of analytical psychology. I advised the House that I was aware of the problem and that I would try to address it specifically. I have met and corresponded with a substantial number of representatives of that and other traditions and it seems clear that unions—that is, practitioners of analytical psychology—are somewhat divided on the question. Some want to be separated into a separate modality, as proposed in the amendment standing in the name of the noble Earl, Lord Caithness, and the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, but others do not want to be divided from their colleagues. At least, that appears to be the current position. Although what we have is not perfect, it may be the best that we can have at present. More work needs to be done in that regard, but we shall deal with it later.

    There are those who would suggest that the semi-federal nature of my model would be directed better if it were described in the form of a collegiate structure rather than a modality arrangement. I have no doctrinal difficulty with that. I adopted a modality approach because of the substantial problem of using the current organisations as a basis for a collegiate structure. Many of the current organisations compete and overlap with each other and, try as I might, I have yet to see a model of how a collegiate structure might be put into a workable form.

    More difficult still, I have yet to understand how it can be constructed in a way which does not conflict with the European Convention on Human Rights because there are smaller organisations—some of which are established on the principle that they do not like organisation and are particularly opposed to regulation—which yet might well be able to claim coverage under the European convention.

    For those reasons, I have focused on the registration of individuals rather than the recognition of organisations or of colleges. But I remain, as I trust the Minister does, open minded about which model might work. If propositions are put which are workable and reasonable, and which conform to the proper legal regard, I shall happily embrace them. Neither the instrument of legislation nor the model for regulation is one to which I have a doctrinal attachment. I simply want something which will work and be proper.

    In summary, the amendment comes out of my discussions with the various organisations. To some outsiders, the disputes and divisions within the psychological world may appear as esoteric and quaint as do the procedures of your Lordships' House to the uninitiated, but they are all based on matters of substance—sometimes of history and relationships, broken or otherwise, and sometimes of genuine intellectual debate. Overcoming them is no easy matter and this amendment does not claim to be a perfect instrument. However, it is the best I have been able to achieve to date and at this point is substantially better than the alternatives. I beg to move.

    moved, as an amendment to Amendment No. 1, Amendment No. 2:

    Line 8, leave out ("and Analytical Psychology") and insert—
    ("() Analytical Psychology.").

    The noble Earl said: Sadly, I was unable to take part in the Second Reading debate so I shall take this opportunity to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Alderdice, on bringing forward the Bill. When one is trying to help and to do good, it is always difficult to be buffeted around on all sides. I apologise to him for that but I am one of those people who are trying to make the Bill a little better. I certainly do not want to deter the noble Lord from pursuing the Bill in his discussions.

    It gives me particular pleasure to have my amendment supported by the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis. For years, we were on opposite sides of the Dispatch Box hammering away at each other and it makes a pleasant change to be on the same side for once.

    I turn first to Amendment No. 1 which is a welcome step forward and a significant improvement to the Bill as it was at Second Reading. However, I believe that the amendment can be improved upon. My amendment seeks to make a separate modality for analytical psychologists who are the followers of Jung. We now start to enter what may be a very difficult and complicated area, and I shall try to keep it simple. Although I may err, I believe that it will be simpler for everybody to understand.

    It is common knowledge that Freud and Jung parted acrimoniously in 1913 and went their separate ways to form completely different theoretical bases for their approaches to analytical work. Jung moved away from Freud's biological determinism, as did Adler and Rank. But Jung transcended the theory of these biological forces and that led him to consider other forms of energy, apart from the sexual energy on which Freud focused, including power, nutrition and other forces. He looked at many metaphysical concepts and studied many cultures. His views accepted and embraced the complexity of human behaviour but not in the limited way that he believed Freud saw it. He also moved dream analysis into a different league. Perhaps a summary of his goals is best seen in the autobiographical Memories, Dreams and Reflections. Jung is not alone but his contribution is fundamental and unique.

    It is quite natural that out of the two different theories of Freud and Jung have evolved different techniques and institutions worldwide. At Second Reading the noble Lord, Lord Burlison, when talking about analytical psychology, said:

    "That is a branch of psychotherapy with a distinct and different training".—[Official Report, 19/1/01; col. 1354.]

    To force the followers of Freud and Jung some 80 years later to cohabit in the same modality is, I believe, unworkable and a recipe for disaster. If we look at the UK alone, the BCP and UKCP voluntarily split in 1992, only some nine years ago. I also say to the noble Lord, Lord Alderdice, that to lump them together in the same modality will create confusion in the mind of the public, who increasingly see analytical psychology and psychoanalysis as two discrete modalities, and that confusion will militate against the Bill's aim to protect and educate the public.

    I move away from the UK and look at the international scene for a moment. There are two international bodies: the International Psychoanalytical Association and the International Association for Analytical Psychology. To support my contention that these should be split in the UK, I quote the current International Journal of Psychoanalysis:

    "For the International Psychoanalytical Association: the term 'psychoanalysis' refers to a theory of personality structure and function and to a specific psychotherapeutic technique … based on and derived from … Sigmund Freud".

    That is not what the followers of Jung believe, and that is why they deserve and should have independent recognition. The noble Lord, Lord Alderdice, himself recognised that at Second Reading. He acknowledged at col. 1334 that the two disciplines were a divided profession. Referring to analytical psychology, at col. 1356 he said he appreciated that,

    "it would not help matters for it to be 'muddled in' with other things".

    I believe that there is a very strong case for keeping these two specialist modalities separate. They are different and should remain so. Given the huge differences in philosophy, education, training and therapy, surely what the followers of Jung and Freud have put asunder the noble Lord, Lord Alderdice, should not join together. I beg to move.

    5.15 p.m.

    I am delighted to speak in support of the amendment moved by the noble Earl, Lord Caithness. He is right that we have not always agreed I welcome him to the cause of progress—but I am genuinely delighted to be on the same side today. Although we have a difference with the noble Lord, Lord Alderdice, that does not mean that we do not want to come to a rapprochement with him; of course we do. The noble Lord has given me an assurance—I believe that the same applies to the noble Earl, Lord Caithness—that between now and the enactment, we hope, of a Bill such as this, he will enter into further dialogue with everyone concerned with this difficult matter.

    It is true that all the therapeutic modalities under the proposed umbrella see themselves as members of a healing profession and have its integrity and the interests of their patients at heart. With that, I suppose, there will be no dissent whatsoever.

    The Bill encompasses many diverse means towards the aim of mental and emotional healing. It is extremely important that they are all recognised and acknowledged in their own right. The proposed amendment seeks to do exactly that. It acknowledges and supports the wish of the practitioners of analytical psychology—the Jungians—to be a separate entity and not to be subsumed into a grouping together with the psychoanalysts and the psychoanalytic psychotherapists, whose theory, practice and training differs fundamentally from their own.

    The analytical psychologists are smaller in number, albeit world-wide. They do not feel that their interests or those of their patients would be best served in cohabitation with much larger numbers of practitioners who are not on the same wavelength.

    I make no value judgments in supporting the amendment; neither does my noble friend, on this occasion, Lord Caithness. I merely uphold the right of an important branch of the profession who perceive themselves to be different and who have a very different approach from psychoanalytic practitioners, to be recognised as such in the mind of the public—their potential clients—by according them an independent identity within a modality in their own right.

    I hope that the further discussions which the noble Lord, Lord Alderdice, has described will prove to be constructive and that the outcome will be helpful, because a rapprochement between the different sectors in this particular field is of the utmost importance. If it does not occur, the Government will tell the noble Lord, Lord Alderdice, where he can get off. Of course they will. I want to see the Bill, or something like it, eventually enacted, as does my noble friend, on this occasion, Lord Caithness.

    Although I believe that Amendment No. I is a real improvement to the Bill. I very much support the amendment moved by my noble friend Lord Caithness. He has put the case so clearly that, as a surgeon, I do not think I should muddy the waters any further. I support my noble friend.

    I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord McColl, on the brevity of his contribution.

    Perhaps I may present the Government's view on the two amendments. I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Alderdice, on his achievement so far in shaping the proposals for regulating the profession of psychotherapy. He has done immensely valuable work in addressing most of the concerns of the different branches, or modalities, of psychotherapy. His amendment is very much at the heart of that attention to the concerns of the professions and it demonstrates his commitment to the better development and regulation of psychotherapy in its many forms.

    The noble Lord referred to 30 years of delay. I want to assure him and the Committee that the Government are in favour of better regulation of the psychotherapy profession. There is no doubt that that is needed. We are aware of cases of poor professional practice and also of cases involving the abuse of patients. Fortunately, such cases are rare, but we need to guard against them. I do support the principle of better regulation for psychotherapists.

    However, we have to consider the matter in the context of the Government's position on regulation generally, which was stated in the NHS Plan. We want to make regulatory bodies smaller and more strategic to home in on essential issues of public safety. We want them to be faster to respond when things go wrong, to minimise the risk to patients from unsafe professional practice. We want them to develop meaningful accountability to the NHS, where that is appropriate, and to the public, who are the users of the services. We also want regulatory bodies to develop common approaches to common problems. It is unfair and confusing to the public that professional malpractice can be handled in such different ways by the current different regulatory bodies. We are setting up the United Kingdom Council of Health Regulators to promote collaboration and a common approach by health regulators and to spread good regulatory practice.

    In that general context, I have to say that, well intentioned as the Bill is—it is very well intentioned—it is not the way that we would wish to go forward, in that it seeks to establish a free-standing statutory regulatory body for psychotherapists alone. We are committed to the regulation of psychotherapy but we do not think that a stand-alone Bill, even with this amendment, is the right way forward.

    It is worth recalling that the Health Act 1999 contained special powers to provide for regulation by order under that Act. That was done so as to provide a fast, responsive way of regulating health professions so that concerns about patient safety can be addressed as quickly and as sensibly as possible. It is faster both to set up such a body and to make any subsequent changes to it by using an order rather than an Act in this way. But the order-making power still allows for discussion of the issues during and after extensive consultation, with wide input from all stakeholders. I was interested in the comments made earlier by the noble Lord when he stated that the modalities he had proposed should not be seen as a list that would be complete for all time. Part of the problem of regulation in the past has been that, when such regulation has been established by Parliament, it has been difficult to put into place any necessary changes and flexibilities. That was the reason why Section 60 was introduced into the Health Act 1999. It allows for that flexibility.

    We need to discuss a second issue. Essentially, the Bill proposes to cover only a part of those engaged in this important area of healthcare provision. It is the intention of the Government to explore ways of regulating what has come to be known as all the "talking therapies", bringing them together under one body. I can assure noble Lords that it is our intention for officials of the Department of Health to discuss the concerns of psychotherapists, psychologists and counsellors over the coming months.

    Before my noble friend moves on to his next point, what will happen if he is unsuccessful in his efforts to secure a rapprochement between the Jungians and the Freudians? I hope that the contrary will be the case, but if he is unsuccessful, then what will be do?

    I should like to make two points in response to that question. If rapprochement could not be secured, the impact would as great if we were talking about the Bill as proposed by the noble Lord or if we were progressing along the route favoured by the Government; namely, a Section 60 order. It is clear that what is necessary is that we must build on the enormously valuable work already undertaken by the noble Lord, Lord Alderdice, to try to build consensus among the various modalities.

    Everything that we have learned over the past few years in the field of regulation demonstrates that, while the primary concern is the public interest—that must be our primary aim—equally, without ownership among the professions themselves, it is not going to work effectively.

    Before my noble friend moves on to his next point, could he clarify one matter? The point raised by my noble friend Lord Clinton-Davis surely ranges even wider? The interests of the public, which must come first, are surely primarily the interests of the patient. In that respect, we have today heard a plea for less action which pushes people into the same bed or onto the same couch and so forth. I addressed that point in my contribution on Second Reading, as did the noble Lord, Lord Alderdice. What benefit will be gained by insisting that counsellors be a part of this move, and what benefit would derive from presenting an order which cannot be amended in either House, given that it has been demonstrated, in the progress of this Bill, how much greater progress can be made in an area where delicacy and gentleness of approach are perhaps more important than tidiness?

    I shall respond by saying that, in relation to the desire to see the professions being regulated together, I believe that the NHS Plan sets out clearly why we need to break down barriers between different professions in the health field. Many advantages are to be derived from that. Examples are already in place in the draft order. A proposal has been put forward to establish the health professions council. That will be published as soon as possible. It is intended to bring together 12 professions, building on the professions already regulated under the Council for Professions Supplementary to Medicine. In an era when we wish to see consistency between the different professions, it is well worth considering whether the appropriate way forward here is to bring together psychotherapists, psychologists and counsellors.

    In relation to the order-making power, perhaps I may say to my noble friend that I believe distinct advantages may be gained because of the flexibility such an order-making power would give us to respond to changes that will take place over the years in professions and in public perceptions and expectations. The process of laying an order is extensive. In relation to the health professions council, which is a model, we have engaged, first, in extensive consultation with the stakeholders; there has then been public consultation. Following that, a draft order will be published for consultation. Only following that will an order, which has to be approved by affirmative legislation, be laid. I believe that that is an acceptable process. It allows for considerable debate and, at the end, it will allow your Lordships and another place to come to a view.

    So far as concerns the noble Lord's proposals to establish an education committee for each of the seven groups of modalities for psychotherapy, I fully support what one might describe as a "federated" approach which allows specific professional input where it matters into training and education issues. As we have heard, the modalities proposed by the noble Lord do not have the support of all the relevant groups. However, I believe that the approach he has taken is the right one. Certainly, the Government will want to build on that approach when we come to make more specific proposals in relation to regulation.

    Amendment No. 2, which has been brought forward by the noble Earl, Lord Caithness, and is supported by my noble friend Lord Clinton-Davis, meets the concerns of many analytical psychologists who wish to have their modality recognised separately from that of psychoanalytic psychotherapists, although my understanding is that some analytical psychologists would prefer to remain closely linked with psychoanalysts, as reflected in the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Alderdice.

    In relation to this point, I hope that, as a result of this debate today and the discussions which will undoubtedly take place, it will be possible for the different groups to come together and to agree an appropriate way forward. Certainly so far as the Government are concerned, it would be our intention over the next few months to hold discussions with all of the appropriate professional groups to take forward the enormously valuable work that has already been undertaken.

    Perhaps I may pick up on two elements. First, as regards Amendment No. 2, I indicated that I would say something further when the noble Earl, Lord Caithness, and the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, had spoken. The example that they have given shows something of the complexity of dealing with such historical professional matters.

    Perhaps I may explain the picture as I understand it. There are those analytical psychologists—Jungians, as they are described after the name of their founder—who want a separate modality; they want, as it were, to paddle their own canoe. That view has been represented to me by a number of their organisations, in particular the Association of Jungian Analysts, the Independent Group of Analytical Psychologists, the Confederation of Analytical Psychologists and the analytical psychology section of the United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy. In total those groups represent, by their own account, some 185 therapists.

    Then there are those analytical psychologist organisations which are associated with the British Confederation of Psychotherapists—that is, the Society for Analytical Psychology and the union division of the BAP. At the moment, they appear to be much less sure that they want to separate from their colleagues in psychoanalysis and psychoanalytic psychotherapy. They claim a membership of some 240 therapists. On those figures, they would appear to represent a majority in the union community.

    I am not interested in whether it is a question of majorities or minorities—that is not important—but it is clear that there is a division within the union community. It may be a division that can be resolved among themselves in time—it may not even be a long time; I do not know—but I did not enter into this legislation to create further divisions: there are more than enough already. The purpose was to try to bring people together. If Amendment No. 2 were to be accepted, whatever the numbers game, the effect would certainly be, not to reach agreement all round, but simply to have a different set of somewhat disappointed analytical psychologists.

    I fully accept that what we have proposed does not solve the problem. I am grateful to the noble Earl for his kind words in relation to the Bill as a whole, as I am to the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis. However, I say to them that I have been in discussions, and l wish to continue those discussions, with the representatives of the different elements of analytical psychology and with the other groups to try to see whether we can reach some further understanding that will take us beyond this problem.

    I hope that on that basis the noble Earl may feel able to withdraw the amendment, because there are further implications to pressing that view. For example, the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, mentioned the position of psychoanalysis. It is not an entirely unified body. Freud is certainly the father; but most families have divisions in them even when they recognise the same father. The Kleinians take a different line from the Lacanians; and even among the Freudians there are divisions between the more classical approach and the more modern approach. So there are dilemmas.

    I may be wrong, but I do not really doubt that if the analytical psychologists had a modality of their own, psychoanalysts would then say, "In truth, we ought to have one, because psychoanalysis is something rather different from psychoanalytical psychotherapy". Then, one would quickly find that among the other modalities where some degree of compromise has been reached in bringing together different streams, they themselves would begin to say that what is sauce for the goose ought to be sauce for the gander, and that they, too, ought to have two, three or more modalities. All the work that we have been trying to do to bring together this somewhat fissiparous profession would begin to unstitch.

    I fully acknowledge the proper concerns that are pointed up by the amendment. But I appeal to the noble Lords to withdraw it, on the basis that we continue to work on the matter. I do not see my amendment as being the end of the story. I see it simply as a basis from which we can work. But it would be unhelpful simply to find ourselves unstitching all that has thus far been put together. We need to continue to work on it.

    Perhaps I may briefly respond to some elements of what the Minister said and perhaps respond more fully to it in relation to one of the other amendments. I am grateful to the Minister for his recognition that this is a piece of work that needs to be done and upon which we must build. I am encouraged that he talks about building on it over the next few months. Time passes, and other matters become priorities. I shall want to hold the Minister and his colleagues to the commitment that the work should be done over a relatively short period of time.

    I also welcome the Minister's comments about trying to build on the modality approach. We may want to return to this matter. I find it difficult to see how we can find another way of working. If we do, that is wonderful. But at least we have something on which we can begin to work and build.

    I welcome the responses and the considerable interest in these proposals and the constructive response of the Minister to date, although I want to pick that up a little further. I appeal to the noble Earl to withdraw the amendment at this point and we can continue to work together on the matter.

    I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, and to my noble friend Lord McColl of Dulwich for their able support for my amendment. Having heard the Minister's remarks, I must congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Alderdice, even more strongly than I did to begin with. The noble Lord, Lord Wedderburn of Charlton, put his finger on the pulse: if the Minister intends to use Section 60 of the 1999 Act, we do not have a hope of having a discussion anything like we have had this afternoon in this kind of atmosphere, constructively trying to get some agreement. We shall be presented with an affirmative resolution, which we either take or leave. We cannot amend it; and we shall not have any sort of sensible discussion on these issues. Indeed, what the Government decide will be forced upon us.

    By bringing forward the Bill and allowing for such discussion, the noble Lord, Lord Alderdice, has not only done this House and Parliament a huge service; he has also done the whole of the psychotherapy world a bigger service than I expected. I hope that the Minister will not kill the Bill too prematurely. I believe that this sort of discussion is extremely beneficial. It will also benefit the Minister's negotiations with the bodies concerned. They will be mightily confused because, after having talked to the noble Lord, Lord Alderdice, for so long, they will now have to face the challenge of having to talk to the Minister's civil servants.

    The reason for my amendment was confirmed by what the noble Lord, Lord Alderdice, said at the beginning of his remarks. He said that the results of the discussion of the sub-committee would be an authoritative word on the subject. When you have two bodies of the Freudian and the Jungian sets, if I may so describe them, that are divided—my division is more 50:50 compared with that of the noble Lord, Lord Alderdice; but that is immaterial—by such a longstanding philosophical split, I think that such a subcommittee offering the authoritative word will lead to many problems.

    In view of what the Minister said, I believe it would be quite wrong for me to press my amendment at this stage. The more discussion that can take place between now and a later stage—indeed, even at a later stage—the greater the benefit will be. I am so glad to note that we are all on the same side as regards trying to get a sensible solution to the problem. I wish the noble Lord, Lord Alderdice, well in his discussions before we reach the next stage. I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.

    Amendment No. 2, as an amendment to Amendment No. 1, by leave, withdrawn.

    On Question, Amendment No. 1 agreed to.

    moved Amendment No. 3:

    Page 9. line 27, at end insert—
    ("() The Education Committee may, where it deems fit, establish Advisory Committees in respect of particular patient groups or settings.
    () The Education Committee shall in the first instance give consideration to the establishment of Advisory Committees for—
  • (a) psychotherapy with children,
  • (b) psychotherapy within the National Health Service, and
  • (c) psychotherapy within the criminal justice system.").
  • The noble Lord said: My Lords, aside from the differences occasioned by different psychological theories and by the range of skills and procedures that may be brought to bear on psychological disorders and on their sufferers—we have already discussed something of the range involved—there are also differences occasioned by the varying settings and patient groups.

    As someone who has worked both inside and outside the NHS, I am aware of the special and more onerous responsibilities usually borne by NHS facilities and practitioners. This was a matter mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Burlison, on Second Reading. Forensic psychotherapy is also practised in a setting—namely, the criminal justice system—which has very particular problems and requirements. Moreover, working with children is much more than just working with small adults. Indeed, working with young people is a specialism that is quite separate from that of working with children or with adults.

    Those reasons have led me to propose Amendment No. 3, which would open up the possibility of advisory committees dealing with particular groups, or settings. That would include psychotherapy with children, psychotherapy within the NHS and psychotherapy within the criminal justice system. These are not intended to be separate modalities with separate theories, and so on. In a sense, they are cross-cutting issues that bring together therapists from different backgrounds and modalities who might, nevertheless, be working with the same group of young people, people in the criminal justice system, or whatever.

    On Second Reading, the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, mentioned his own extensive experience in working with young people. I believe that both he and others in that field will be aware that those who work with young people do not necessarily do so in all the same modalities. There are some who come with group-work background; there are some who come with a humanistic background; and there some who come from a more psychoanalytical background. The proposal for advisory committees is an effort to try to help bring these cross-cutting issues together. They are not separate modalities but they constitute no less important differences. That is why I have opened up this new way of addressing them in the structure of the Bill. I beg to move.

    5.45 p.m.

    I speak in support of the amendment. It was my privilege some time ago to visit Bully House, Centrepoint's facility for homeless young people with high support needs; for instance, young people who self-harm or who have previously drifted from hostel to street to hostel. For several years a psychotherapist working with the staff as a group helped them to make sense of the troubling behaviour of their residents and the sometimes disturbing feelings that behaviour called up in the staff. Before and after my visit I heard from several practitioners in the field—workers with young homeless people—about how very good Buffy House was at preventing troubled young people returning to the street. I have met on several occasions one resident who was in the habit of harming herself. She still has crises but she is sufficiently recovered to exhibit and obtain commissions for her art work. The staff of Buffy House were recorded as taking the least sick leave of any within the whole Centrepoint organisation. They worked with its most challenging clients.

    I welcome the amendment because it provides the flexibility to include within this legislation innovative practice in different settings of the kind I have described.

    I, too, support the amendment which is a very constructive one.

    I welcome the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Alderdice. The suggestion that advisory committees be established is a sensible one. However, in specifying the areas where committees should be established, is there not a danger of being inflexible and over-constraining the work of what in the end will be a self-regulatory body?

    I respond to the comments of the noble Earl, Lord Caithness, on the Section 60 process. At the moment I am examining Section 60 processes in relation to the Health Professions Council which includes professions such as physiotherapists and chiropodists. Great care is being taken to talk with the professions and to take them and consumer interests with us in this matter. I am sure that the process of having a draft order before an order is eventually laid allows for a great deal of discussion and for picking up some of the issues in relation to how much is put on the face of any proposal and how much is left to the self-regulatory body.

    I am grateful to the Minister for giving way. I do not dispute what he says. I well remember undertaking those consultations myself. However, when the measure comes to the Chamber, there is nothing we can do about it. Therefore, our discussion is limited. We have to accept what the Government have produced for us or else reject the whole order.

    I am not sure whether my noble friend has finally sat down. I address a specific point in his remarks. Words matter and this debate matters a great deal to the forward march of the proposals among those who are perhaps by custom prone to disagree. He said that the measure is too inflexible. I ask the following question which deserves an answer. How would the order be more inflexible than setting up advisory committees in regard to groups and settings? How would he be more flexible than that?

    I think that there is a great argument for flexibility in the arrangements, certainly as far as any Section 60 proposal is concerned. One might take the view that it should be left to the regulatory body itself to decide in the first instance which advisory group should be set up. That was simply my point.

    An interesting question has been raised both by the Bill and by the Minister's response in terms of the use of Orders in Council and, indeed, by the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Wedderburn of Charlton.

    In another setting, I have a measure of responsibility for legislation going through a unicameral assembly. That is also the case now in Scotland. We have increased the number of scrutiny opportunities, which were somewhat limited under the original Act. I suspect that we shall follow the good example being set by our colleagues in Scotland who have moved to pre-legislative scrutiny. It almost appears that a Private Member's Bill gives the opportunity for pre-legislative scrutiny of a possible Order in Council. What goes round comes round, as they say. I still want to hold the Minister to his promise that some measure will be brought forward.

    Perhaps I may press the amendment. The noble Lord, Lord Wedderburn, made this point. My amendment states that,
    "The Education Committee shall in the first instance give consideration".
    It does not state that such committees shall be formed but simply that the committee "shall give consideration". Why? It is perhaps a sad reflection on our society that only a small number of therapists work with children. Anxiety has been expressed on many occasions that in the hurly-burly of the psychotherapeutic world the interests and concerns of those who work specifically with children might have relatively little weight. Therefore the Bill requires that someone who has a qualification in child psychotherapy shall be on the education committee. That is to reassure the relatively small minority who work with children that they will have their say.

    The same argument applies to those who work in psychotherapy in the criminal justice system. Psychiatry in the criminal justice system is in a small minority. In Northern Ireland, during a period of serious civil trouble, there was no forensic psychiatrist let alone a psychotherapist. There is reasonable concern among those who work in relatively small specialisms. These provisions address that concern.

    Whereas in most health professions the overwhelming majority of practitioners are employed within the NHS and only a small number are employed outside, in psychotherapy the overwhelming majority of practitioners work in the private, community and voluntary sectors. Only a small minority of those who call themselves psychotherapists are employed within the NHS. Many others—doctors, nurses, psychologists and social workers—practise psychotherapy within the NHS. But most of those who fall within the remit of the Bill and who wish to describe themselves as psychotherapists work outside the NHS. The NHS is the specific responsibility of the Government and Parliament. That is why the concern needs to be addressed, although in the most permissive way that I could devise.

    I am grateful to noble Lords for their thoughts and responses. I commend the amendment.

    On Question, amendment agreed to.

    Clause 11, as amended, agreed to.

    Clauses 12 to 43 agreed to.

    In the schedule:

    moved Amendment No. 4:

    Page 31, line 14, at end insert—
    ("() One of the persons appointed by the Privy Council under sub-paragraph (1)(b) above shall be a trained counsellor in good standing.").

    The noble Lord said: In moving the amendment, I speak also to Amendment No. 5. At this late hour of the evening, perhaps we can group the two amendments together, particularly since Amendment No. 5 is relatively technical. At Second Reading, the issue of whether psychotherapy should best be regulated by itself or in conjunction with other professions was raised. The Minister has directed himself to that issue today.

    On Second Reading, the noble Lord, Lord Burlison, seemed to suggest that bunching psychotherapy in with the new health professions council might be the best way to address the problem. I have read and reread the noble Lord's comments. He referred to effectiveness of treatment, which is a separate issue that has nothing to do with regulation. He also referred to the practice of psychotherapy by a range of other professionals. Again, that is not a matter to which the Bill refers. He also expressed the view that at certain levels there is no difference between counselling and psychotherapy, which will attract the bristles of psychotherapists and counsellors at various levels. As a professional, I felt some confusion about that response. I have listened with some interest to what the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, has said.

    After Second Reading, I was contacted by the Society of Chiropodists and Podiatrists, who understandably were not wholly taken with my reference to their work. They entirely agreed that a one-size-fits-all health professions council was not a practical proposition. I wonder whether one reason that we still do not have regulation after 30 years is that we have tried to put too many things together. I have been accused of that this evening, so I recognise that the Government face a difficult dilemma.

    I accept that there are shared borderlines and professional interests. Amendment No. 4 would ensure that counselling was represented on the general psychotherapy council. It is not a solution to the problem, but a demonstration of my recognition that the borderline between counselling and psychotherapy is difficult to define and that there is a real need to take into consideration the range of professions, as the Minister said. I do not turn aside from that.

    On Second Reading, the noble Lord, Lord Burlison, made much of the range of those involved in talking therapies and the relationship between them. I accept that. Amendment No. 5 is a tidying-up amendment consequential on the reference in paragraph 11(1)(a) of the schedule only to the Royal College of Psychiatrists and the Royal College of General Practitioners. That shows that the aim of the Bill is to bring people in, not to exclude them.

    I accept that a number of bodies outside those specific to psychotherapy have an interest in the issue. As the Minister has said, it may be that the need for regulation of psychotherapy can be addressed along with the need for regulation of psychology and ultimately of counselling, although I do not believe that counselling is yet ready for the regulation that psychotherapy and psychology now need. I hope that the Government will recognise that not all of that needs to be done at the same time. We may be able to capitalise on some progress, bank that and then build on it.

    I do not doubt the commitment of the Minister and the Government to regulation in psychotherapy, if for no other reason than that this Government have as great a leaning as any in recent times towards the regulation of most things. However, that does not mean that they will be successful or that they will do it in the best way possible. I am encouraged by the Minister's comments about consultation and commitment and by the fact that he envisages early movement, not a dilatory approach. I beg to move.

    6 p.m.

    I am grateful to the noble Lord for his comments. I confess to him that I am responsible for better regulation in the Department of Health, which is a process designed to see what regulations we can drop to reduce the burdens on industry. I await with great interest his comments on our record on regulation.

    I firmly believe that we should build on the noble Lord's valuable work. The regulation of psychotherapists is important and should be pursued. We also need to assess progress in relation to the other professions that the noble Lord mentioned. Discussions are needed about where and how it is best to regulate the professions, whether they should be brought together in one body and, if so, how. That is the next matter that needs to be discussed with the professions.

    We need to address the concern, which is common in the NHS, that the majority of effective psychotherapy may be provided by professionals who do not call themselves psychotherapists. The noble Lord rightly said that whatever mechanism is chosen, one has to accept that not every profession will march to the same timetable. Flexibility is needed to pick up professions when they are ready for regulation.

    My interpretation of the Bill and the composition of the general council is that six lay members will be appointed by the Privy Council, although one of those members will be a medical practitioner. The amendment would mean that a second professional, a counsellor, would be appointed. I understand and support the noble Lord's reasons for saying that it would be useful if a person such as a counsellor served at the general council. However, with regard to regulation more generally, we are seeking to have an overall majority of one among the lay membership. That approach has been adopted in relation to the Central Council for Nursing, Midwifery and Health Visiting and the health professions council. We shall need to deal with that matter in our more detailed discussions in the coming months.

    I welcome the Minister's response, and in particular his comments on everyone not having to move at the same speed and his commitment to the process of regulation. I fully accept his comments on the relative lack of lay representation in this regard. That point was made on Second Reading by the noble Lord, Lord Hodgson, and correctly so. I sought to address the problem but realised how many consequential amendments would have been required to fill out all of the numbers. Members of the Committee would not have thanked me at this hour on a Wednesday evening if I had brought forward all of the necessary consequential amendments. I accept I he Minister's comments and I do not doubt that they will be an important component in forthcoming discussions.

    I welcome the Government's response. I promise that my colleagues and I will hold the Minister and the Government to the relevant commitments. If there is a small way in which I can continue to assist in the regulation of the profession, which is in many ways a governmental rather than a parliamentary responsibility, I look forward to our continuing to work together. I beg to move.

    On Question, amendment agreed to.

    moved Amendment No. 5:

    Page 31, line 15, leave out first ("the") and insert ("a").

    On Question, amendment agreed to.

    Schedule, as amended, agreed to.

    House resumed: Bill reported with amendments.

    House adjourned at five minutes past six o'clock until Monday, 26th February.