House of Lords
Thursday, 1 March 2007.
The House met at eleven o’clock: the LORD SPEAKER on the Woolsack.
Prayers—Read by the Lord Bishop of St. Edmundsbury and Ipswich.
Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990
My Lords, we plan to publish a draft Bill to update the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act during the current Session. Drafting is under way and we will publish as soon as possible. We have made clear that we intend to present the Bill for pre-legislative scrutiny.
My Lords, do the Government still intend to go ahead with the misguided proposal to merge the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority and the Human Tissue Authority into a single regulator? Do Ministers not recognise that these two arm’s-length bodies have entirely different purposes, that they are concerned with entirely different issues of public policy, that they address entirely different client groups and that they are concerned with entirely different branches of science? What possible advantage will the Government gain by shoving these two bodies into a single body as a regulator?
My Lords, to respond to that very briefly, we think it is possible to take the best of what has been done by both the current regulatory bodies—and I pay tribute to their work—and pull them together, while at the same time delivering a more cost-effective approach to regulation.
My Lords, there are times when it almost appears as if the Government are obsessed by the production of new acronyms—this new body will be called RATE. Does the Minister agree that, as the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin, said, this new merged authority can function only if it establishes within itself two committees, one concerned with human fertilisation, embryo research, stem cell research and the rest, formerly the province of the HFEA, and the other concerned with the removal and storage of human tissue and organs and with transplantation? If two such committees have to be established, what is the point of the merger?
My Lords, primary legislation will be required, and we will bring it forward in due course. It is quite clear that we will have some interesting debates when it comes to your Lordships’ House. We believe that there are real advantages in bringing together the work of these organisations. They will clearly need expert advice. The machinery under which that expert advice is to be given will need to be considered as part of our current deliberations. However, I do not think it follows that two separate committees will be needed or that we ought not to be doing what we are proposing to do.
My Lords, I declare an interest as a holder of a stem cell licence, granted by the HFEA. Does the Minister not agree that, whatever body finally regulates this important area of clinical medicine and research, it is really important that there is better public engagement? One of the concerns, which I am sure my noble friend shares, is the ludicrous failure to explain the chimeric embryo. As my noble friend will know, there is no possibility whatever that such an embryo could form a viable organism. It seems to many people that the HFEA has completely failed to provide the information that Parliament requires under the 1990 Act. Can we do something about better public engagement in the future?
My Lords, I hear what my noble friend says. Overall, I pay tribute to the HFEA for the work that it has done. There is no question that the legislation that we have and the work of the regulators have been very much a part of building confidence in this whole area and the reputation of the UK. It is very important that there should be public engagement. I am sure that we will want the new authority to focus very strongly on that. The whole purpose of pre-legislative scrutiny is to enable parliamentarians to take a very full look at the proposals that the Government will be bringing forward.
My Lords, I, too, declare an interest as a former member of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority. In this legislation, it appears that the Government are going to propose that Parliament should define some limits or criteria to apply to the testing of embryos for medical purposes. Can the Minister tell us whether that is likely to remain the case, given that the Government appear to have given way on the human-animal embryo research? If it is, how does the Minister explain that, given the enormous amount of healthcare regulation that we rightly have in this country through professional bodies such as NICE, the royal colleges, and clinical and ethics committees?
My Lords, I do not understand “have given way”. We have made it absolutely clear that we will be making proposals for pre-legislative scrutiny that we hope will be ready in May. It is now much better to let the path that we have set out take its course, and to allow for there to be full and proper public debate. That will lead to legislation being brought before Parliament as soon as possible. That really is the best way to test out the propositions that the noble Baroness has put forward this morning.
My Lords, the free vote question will have to be decided by the appropriate channels in due course, although I do of course understand that many of the issues involved in such legislation are matters of ethics and personal conscience. Your Lordships’ House has taken part in some really quite excellent debates in this area in the past. On the timetable, as I said, we aim to publish a Bill in May for pre-legislative scrutiny for the 2006-07 Session. As ever, I cannot say when we will then expect to bring forward legislation, but we clearly want to do that as soon as is practical. We are also committed to the new authority, to which the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin, referred, coming into being in the 2008-09 financial year.
My Lords, could the Minister be a little more forthcoming and convincing in his statement of the actual advantages that will result from dismantling these two organisations and replacing them with another? Incidentally, when it comes to deciding whether to whip certain legislation, surely the Minister in charge of that legislation is very much a part of the usual channels.
My Lords, that is right. All I said was that these matters fall to be considered when the time comes. I am sorry that I was not convincing. Let me have another go at it. We think that the establishment of this new authority provides an opportunity for the creation of a single regulatory body responsible for the regulation and inspection of all functions relating to the whole range of human tissues, blood, organs, tissues, cells, gametes and embryos. By doing that, we are pulling together the very best expertise that is currently available in the two organisations, to which I pay tribute. It will also deliver a more cost-effective system of regulation. I would have thought that that is a pretty convincing argument.
Israel and Palestine: Talks
My Lords, at the quartet meeting on 21 February, United States Secretary Rice discussed her trilateral meeting with Prime Minister Olmert and President Abbas on 19 February. At that meeting, Prime Minister Olmert and President Abbas agreed to meet again. The quartet has said that it hopes the dialogue will continue in the framework of a renewed political process, with the aim of defining more clearly the political horizon and launching meaningful negotiations. We fully support that approach.
My Lords, I thank the Minister for that Answer. The quartet is often accused of bias, with preconditions imposed on the Palestinian Government but not on Mr Olmert, who understandably presses for full official recognition. Should the UK and the EU not persuade Israel to take some goodwill confidence-building steps now, meeting its nearly 40 year-old international legal obligations with reductions in checkpoints, occupation forces, apartheid entry roads and illegal settlements to help secure direct talks in the near future?
My Lords, the quartet’s requirement that there should be recognition of the state of Israel and a peaceful process is an entirely legitimate one, but it is quite clear from the quartet’s views that Israel understands that it, too, needs to make serious progress. Some of the issues are of the kind that the noble Lord has just described. It must halt its settlement activities and the construction of the barrier on Palestinian land because those practices are also contrary to international law. There is unquestionably a balance of obligations on both sides.
My Lords, following the recent contact between the Prime Minister and Mahmoud Abbas and Ehud Olmert, there were suggestions in the press that the British Government might now be reconsidering their attitude towards contact with the democratically elected members of the Palestinian Authority. Will the Minister please confirm the British Government’s current policy and, following on the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Dykes, say whether we still require Hamas to declare a renunciation of violence? If so, what we are doing to persuade the Israeli Government themselves to renounce violence which has created Palestinian fatalities in the last two weeks?
My Lords, we have been absolutely clear that the Israelis are bound by international law to behave in a proportionate way as they defend themselves from attack. They are also under attack and that is not to be forgotten. The Prime Minister has made it very clear that if it is possible for the new coalition Government to deal with the quartet on the basis of genuinely meaningful requirements for the negotiations to have any prospect of success, we will deal with all the parties in that joint process. That is, I believe, a step which is well within scope now for anybody who believes that the peaceful route is the route out of the impasse.
My Lords, the Minister will recall that one of the recommendations of the Baker-Hamilton report on Iraq talked about the important role of religious leaders in bringing about cross-community peace and reconciliation. He will also recall the important role played by the Maronite Church leaders in the Lebanon. Will he therefore comment on the prospects for peace in Israel-Palestine of the continuing exodus of Christians from that region, particularly Christian professionals? Will he also say how both government policy and the policy of the quartet are addressing this worrying trend and its implications for the peace process?
My Lords, in the whole of the peace process it has been well understood that a number of parties—religious leaders are among the forefront of those parties—play a significant role. There is no question that the energies of those parties need to be engaged. I do not know what will persuade people of any religious community not to leave an area if they feel under threat, but if we can get this peace process moving more directly and rapidly, and can engage religious leaders in that process, perhaps confidence will grow that staying is a real option.
My Lords, will the Minister go further on the outcome of the Mecca agreement, which was brokered by the Saudi Arabians? Has the new Administration, which includes Al Fatah and Hamas, been put in place? Is it in a position to speak for the Palestine Authority as a whole? What role are the Russians playing? Are they still part of the quartet because they seem to be pursuing a bilateral relationship with Hamas outside the quartet process?
My Lords, there may well be some discussions between quartet members, including Russia and Hamas, but I think that everyone has pledged themselves as matters stand to the quartet process. We have welcomed Saudi Arabia’s efforts to broker the agreement between Hamas and Al Fatah, and we welcome the extent to which that is producing intra-Palestinian reconciliation. The work on constructing a government is well under way. A number of ministries are now designated and some are still to be decided, but I believe the progress is now substantial.
My Lords, do the Government accept that the situation in Palestine is now increasingly unstable? I have received on the web today an analysis of the Palestinian economic and social crisis from the excellent Crown Centre for Middle East Studies at Brandeis University—not a particularly pro-Palestinian centre. It emphasises just how rapidly social and economic positions in the Occupied Territories are deteriorating, and calls on the quartet to reopen debate on the assistance provided and the border controls. They are leading to such rapid deterioration in conditions in the Palestinian territories that I fear violence will break out again.
My Lords, I share the fear that unless there is serious economic progress it is very likely to be a more and more disrupted region. There are obligations on all parts. On our part, aid is still going in substantial quantities from the United Kingdom to the president of the Palestinian entity. We believe that there is an obligation to stimulate economic activity on the part of Israel. I was looking at information on Rafah and Karni, the two key crossings. They are routinely shelled by Palestinian terrorists, which is how they are kept closed on a regular basis. To come back to the fundamental point; everyone has to step back from those things if there is to be real progress. We will do our level best to ensure that we are even-handed in achieving that result.
Battersea Arts Centre
My Lords, as the Government spokesman for Wales in your Lordships’ House, I wish everyone a very happy St David’s Day.
Battersea Arts Centre makes a valuable contribution to the cultural and artistic life of Wandsworth, London and the UK. Through Arts Council England, the Government provide it in the region of £500,000 grant-in-aid support. I am pleased to report that Wandsworth Borough Council has agreed to extend its lease and grant to the centre, and I understand that the board of Battersea Arts Centre intends to take the building into a trust.
My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend for that Answer. Does he agree that the enormous amount of public support and enthusiasm for the Battersea Arts Centre, not only in Battersea but throughout London, has helped to persuade Wandsworth council to change its mind? However, the future of the arts centre is not yet totally secure. Will my noble friend further comment on the fact that, possibly as a result, the Wandsworth Museum is to be closed, which would be very detrimental to the cultural and historic sense of local community? What is the future of Wandsworth Museum?
My Lords, my noble friend is right. It was the outcry from all parts of the political spectrum that seems to have saved Battersea Arts Centre, which is obviously a good thing. I can confirm that Wandsworth council has decided to close its museum. The decision was made by democratically elected members and, however wrong we think the decision, we have to accept it. Mr Mark Taylor, chief executive of the Museum Association, said yesterday:
“The whole process of closure of the museum is financially driven and it shows that local councillors clearly accept no responsibility for helping local people to understand their own culture and sense of place”.
My Lords, I declare an interest as a Battersea resident. I was delighted to hear what the Minister said about the museum. He did not mention any time limit, or how long it would definitely remain open. Does he realise what an asset that museum is to the children of that neighbourhood, who learn their local history and a great many other things through visiting it? Equally, if by some very unfortunate chance the museum were to close, where would the exhibits go?
My Lords, the noble Baroness is absolutely right. First, on the arts centre, the council has agreed to grant £85,000 next year and to extend the lease until March 2008. However, a group of trustees is now working with the council so that it can pass into community hands. My view, knowing the centre well, is that it will survive because it is such an extraordinarily important arts centre—something that cannot be said about all arts centres.
As for the museum, the decision has been made by the executive and is to be ratified by the full council on 17 March. If it is closed, 15 people will be made redundant and 10,000 objects dispersed. For those reasons, when a museum closes it can never be re-opened. The sadness is that about 30,000 people a year are visiting it, and 20 per cent of those are people of ethnic origin who want to look at exhibits telling them about their pasts. So, it is a great pity.
My Lords, in supporting the strong case that the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, made and in welcoming what the Government have said, I declare an interest as a patron of the JMK Trust. This unique charity annually awards prizes to the best young theatre director of the year, providing them with golden opportunities to mount performances at the BAC under the guidance of established colleagues. Surely, the Minister is aware that substantial parts of the audience who not only enjoy these performances but who support and learn from that quite remarkable charity are Battersea residents. Will Her Majesty’s Government do what they can to persuade and reinforce the changed position of Wandsworth, urging it to recognise the unique value that BAC has to its own community as well as to the wider community of arts?
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness for that question. One characteristic of the campaign has been national figures pointing out that this is an absolute centre of excellence, and that it must continue. My feeling, which others share, is that the council has realised this and will make sure that the museum’s future is secure. If there is any hint that that will not happen, then the outcry will continue.
I should point out that the outcry is not just local. I have an article here from the Daily Telegraph about the possible closure, arguing that it shows how the Conservative Party really needs to develop a new arts policy, and that if it does not, it will run into such problems with boroughs like Wandsworth. That comes not from the New Statesman, but from the cultural correspondent of the Daily Telegraph.
My Lords, as the Minister has praised the Battersea Arts Centre, would he be able to prepare a document that would tell other groups outside the country how they would be able to match its performance? Surely that would be one thing that could be taken out of this—a positive example to others, to ensure that they have a thriving arts centre and somewhere delivering the performing arts.
Asylum Seekers: Democratic Republic of Congo
My Lords, every asylum claim is considered on its individual merits, in accordance with our international obligations and taking full account of the conditions in the country concerned. Information obtained from a wide range of sources is provided to asylum decision-makers in country information reports, which are published on a regular basis. The latest report on DRC was published on 14 February 2007 and can be accessed on the Home Office website.
My Lords, the Minister and her department—including in the material that it publishes—always make Kinshasa sound like Dorking, in my experience. Have the Minister and her department asked themselves why every individual and body with first-hand experience of Kinshasa and N’Djili airport—and I was frightened there myself when I passed through it, and I am large and male—and who know the DRC, find the mantra-like assurances of the department simply incredible?
Will the Minister check what may be the answer to my question— the evidence given to me that all the assurances on which all the EU countries and the UNHCR base this advice is very probably based on the evidence of a single individual, who gains financially from it, and whose NGO, Voix des Sans-Voix, does not have a presence at N’Djili, although the Home Office regularly says that it does. Is the Minister aware that a country guidance case, listed for 28 March, will hear fresh evidence of ill-treatment, torture and rape of returned refugees, both at the airport and at associated holding centres? Will she say that returns will be ceased until that hearing at the end of March? Will she give an assurance that the safety of those returned this week will be carefully monitored?
My Lords, of course I hear what the right relevant Prelate says about the DRC, and I share with him the concerns in relation to any country that has had difficulties. But I have to tell him that all the reports that we have—and they do not come from just one source—reassert and reinform the information that we have that there is no objective evidence that those returning to the DRC are being specifically targeted for abuse simply because they have sought asylum. The right reverend Prelate knows that that decision was arrived at by the EU Heads of Mission investigation and by all who have entered into this field. But I can certainly assure the right reverend prelate that we are anxious to make sure that the information on which we make the in-country assessments is genuine.
My Lords, is there a memorandum of understanding between our Government and the Government of the DRC? Is the Minister aware that there is a considerable gap between the time when a decision is taken to deport and the time when a person is deported? In such cases, will she ensure that in-country reports prepared by NGOs are taken into account at that stage and that there is some system to monitor what happens to individuals when they are sent back?
My Lords, first, the noble Lord will know that we have a very detailed procedure in relation to appeals. For instance, in relation to all the 38 returnees most recently on a flight, all of them had an opportunity to appeal, 10 took advantage of the judicial review process, and the process was brought to an end. I assure the noble Lord that if any specific allegations in relation to returns are raised with us, they are investigated fully.
My Lords, the in-country assessments are already available. They are on the website and can be seen. In relation to the individual cases, they form part of the data in relation to those individual cases. We are taking every step to ensure that the in-country assessments are as robust and real as we can make them.
My Lords, I should like to press my noble friend further on the difference between in-country assessments, which are generalised, and the fate of individuals against whom there may have been particular threats or persecution. I declare an interest: some years ago I was at the Refugee Council, where we tried to follow the fate of people who had been return to the Democratic Republic of Congo, and on one or two occasions we lost track of them. I fully appreciate the Government’s difficulties but is there anything they can do to reassure themselves and us that they can monitor the fate of individuals who have been returned in these difficult circumstances?
My Lords, as my noble friend will know, we have to decide each case on its merits. There is an assessment whether each individual should or should not, could or could not, be returned in safety. That is why we are still granting asylum cases; there have been 45 grants of asylum and 80 of discretionary leave, and those matters will continue to be considered. The fall in applications from the DRC has been 47 per cent. I remind the House that the Democratic Republic of Congo has for the first time in 40 years its own democratic Government, and that 70 per cent of the people there voted for them. We would aspire to have that sort of figure in this country.
My Lords, I have no specific information on that matter; I am quite happy to take it back and to investigate what, if anything, we know about it. We are very clear that returns will be looked at individually and the risks explored appropriately.
Offender Management Bill
Brought from the Commons; read a first time, and ordered to be printed.
Business of the House: Debates Today
My Lords, I beg to move the first Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper.
Moved, That the debates on the Motions in the names of Baroness Valentine and Lord Lloyd of Berwick set down for today shall each be limited to two and a half hours.—(Baroness Amos.)
On Question, Motion agreed to.
Northern Ireland Policing Board (Northern Ireland) Order 2007
Pension Protection Fund (Pension Compensation Cap) Order 2007
Occupational Pension Schemes (Levies) (Amendment) Regulations 2007
Occupational Pension Schemes (Levy Ceiling) Order 2007
Representation of the People (England and Wales) and the Representation of the People (Combination of Polls) (England and Wales) (Amendment) Regulations 2007
Local Authorities (Mayoral Elections) (England and Wales) Regulations 2007
Police (Northern Ireland) Act 2000 (Renewal of Temporary Provisions) Order 2007
Northern Ireland Act 2000 (Modification) Order 2007
Social Security, Occupational Pension Schemes and Statutory Payments (Consequential Provisions) Regulations 2007
Social Security Contributions (Consequential Provisions) Regulations 2007
Social Security (Contributions) (Amendment No. 2) Regulations 2007
Olympic Games 2012
rose to call attention to the actions needed to ensure that, in staging the Olympic Games, London and the United Kingdom secure a lasting legacy of economic and social benefit; and to move for Papers.
The noble Baroness said: My Lords, like most noble Lords, I was delighted, if somewhat amazed, when on 6 July 2005 London won the vote to host the Olympics in 2012. I am proud that the organisation of which I am chief executive, London First, contributed to that victory by helping to rally business support for the bid. I am still delighted. London’s staging of the world’s biggest sporting festival in 2012 is the best opportunity in a generation to transform the fortunes of a part of our city.
Since the heady euphoria of that day some 20 months ago, there has been much heat expended but little light shed on the costs of 2012. You will be relieved to hear that I do not intend to add to that heat. It is safe to say that some clarity on the costs would enable us all to focus more on the benefits—and we should focus on the benefits. Why did so many people support London’s bid for the Games? Was it to get one over on the French, to contribute more tax in order to pay for the Games, or to wave our plastic union jacks at the opening ceremony? No, we supported it for the benefits that the legacy could bring. There is an urgent need for clarity now on what those long-term benefits are, and whose job it is to deliver them.
What does our Olympic and Paralympic legacy include? It includes first, of course, the sporting legacy, both the tangible of the new facilities, and the intangible of the participation in sport; secondly, the opportunity to show off London and the UK to the rest of the world; thirdly, the transformation of east London; and lastly, the opportunity to train people in new skills. My primary concern rests with the last two of these points—the opportunity to regenerate one of the most interesting but disadvantaged areas of the country, and to equip its people with the skills for success. The first two points are important too, however.
I shall first deal with the tangible sporting legacy, which relates to pristine new facilities. The Athens and Sydney Olympic facilities have been branded white elephants by some, but they were disproportionate to the needs of those cities. After all, Athens and Sydney have populations of some 3 million to 4 million, in countries of 10 million and 20 million respectively, whereas London and the south-east alone account for 20 million people. Thus the planned facilities are entirely appropriate.
David Higgins, as chief executive of the Olympic Delivery Authority, is doing an impressive job of planning for these facilities, but his task would be made that much easier by resolving the chairmanship of that organisation. It needs a strong, independent-minded chair with solid business experience who can weigh up the complex web of stakeholder interests, while supporting David and his team in delivering those facilities on budget and on time. I am delighted that the Department for Culture, Media and Sport has recently advertised this position. I encourage anyone who fits this description, and wants to play a part in this historic event, to apply. I also encourage all your Lordships to work with the DCMS to hunt down this shy paragon.
The intangible elements of the sporting legacy are linked to inspiration from and participation in sport. Although it may be hard to believe now, I was once an Oxford athletics blue. Sport gives people an outlet; sporting role models are an inspiration. A successful London Games, Olympic and Paralympic, can expose more of our young people to these sporting role models, thus inspiring a new generation.
If I may summarise in an indelicate way, sport helps to get us off our backsides. It helps address the current epidemic of youth obesity. This of course plays into employability, too. For young, disadvantaged adults in some of our cities, sport can provide the motivation to get up, get out and engage with a world beyond the streets, crime and anti-social behaviour into which they may otherwise drift. We want fewer couch potatoes and more runner beans.
In 2012, the eyes of the world will be on London and the UK. We must prove that we can deliver a big and complex project on time, and we must put on a world-beating show. I have every confidence that Paul Deighton, as chief executive of the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games, will achieve just that, but the rest of the country needs to show itself off in the best possible light at that time, so that we can attract future visitors and investors to our country.
I come now to the primary area of my concern: the opportunity to regenerate one of the most interesting but disadvantaged areas of the UK, through both physical regeneration and local employment opportunities. The Games can provide a catalyst in transforming this area from a place where people have no choice but to live, to a place where people choose to live. I shall turn first to physical regeneration.
East London lies in the path of the huge growth of London to the east. The population is expected to expand by 700,000 in the next decade. That is like bolting on a city the size of Leeds to the capital. Many will settle in the Thames Gateway and will help to supply the growing workforce demands of the City and Docklands. Government need to fire the starting pistol for investment, thus releasing private sector investment, by funding and building infrastructure. At the moment, the Olympics are the responsibility of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. If noble Lords think that regeneration sounds like a strange focus for this department, then I agree. It demands action from the Department of Health to build health facilities, from the education department to build schools, from the Department for Transport to build bridges, and so on. Top athletes achieve their goals through ruthless focus. You win at team sports by having an inspirational captain. What we need is a Cabinet-level Minister totally focused on achieving the legacy as well as the Games and who has the skills to lead a talented group of individuals from across all the agencies involved.
Finally, we must aim for a lasting impact on skills and employability. London has unemployment of 8.2 per cent at the moment. That is the highest of any English region and is shocking for a city which is currently booming to the point where it is threatening New York. Unemployment in the Olympic boroughs is far higher; indeed, in some wards less than 50 per cent of the working-age population is economically active. The Olympics will have succeeded only if those without work in east London and elsewhere win some of the jobs connected to the Games, from hard-hat plasterer to chef’s-hat caterer, from receptionist to translator. That success will be embedded if, having serviced the Games, they can take those skills and experience into permanent full-time employment. I would like to see between now and 2012 every employer in east London and beyond, in construction or catering, ask themselves, “What steps can I take, however small, to bring more of the unemployed on my doorstep over the threshold of my business?”.
The public agencies in turn need to put behind them their historic turf battles and work together to make these people just that bit more employable. Private and pubic sectors need to work together too, to find pragmatic solutions that suit both employer and employee. After all, working together is a guiding principle of both business and sport.
I began by looking back to 2005. If I may, I would like to take noble Lords back still further. We can and should learn from past experience, such as the rebuilding of London after the war. Coincidentally, the 1948 Olympics were a triumph for London—they also heralded the forerunner of our current Paralympics—as were the Docklands developments of the 1980s. I do not have some noble Lords’ memories of post-war London but I can just about remember the Docklands developments. So what are the learning points for our current Olympic project?
The London Docklands Development Corporation had independence, resources and influence. It was able to pursue its vision with the minimum of interference. I know that sometimes it seemed to ride roughshod over local sensibilities, and I am not necessarily advocating such a headstrong approach, but the LDDC was effective.
So where is the equivalent body with responsibility for regeneration centred around the Olympics? The relatively recently created London Thames Gateway Development Corporation oversees regeneration in the neighbourhood of the Olympic Park, but it has much less power, much less resource and much less influence over the long-term future of the Olympic site. To create a realistic catalyst for action, national, London and local government need to put their support behind a strengthened Thames Gateway development corporation, with an extended life to 2020. Answering the question about who is in charge of regeneration of this area between 2012 and 2020 is fundamental to locking in the legacy for east London.
What can we learn from the Millennium Dome? It is a beautiful building, built on budget and on time. Clearly, these measures alone are not sufficient for success. From the moment of the Dome’s conception, its future beyond 2000 was nobody’s responsibility. We must not repeat that mistake. Now the 02 is committed to employing local people in the repurposing of the Dome site, but far more benefits could have been achieved at much lower cost if the future of the Dome had been thought about and planned while it was being built.
These two examples lend themselves to a final point; that of the role of transport infrastructure in maximising regenerative impact. The original Docklands developments were unlocked by the Docklands Light Railway. Without the DLR, Canary Wharf would have been an unattractive investment location, separated from customers, workforce and community. Indeed, without the DLR, Canary Wharf simply would not have happened. Similarly, the Dome created a deadline for completion of the Jubilee Line extension, unlocking additional regeneration potential in both the Greenwich peninsula and the Isle of Dogs.
At the risk of gaining a reputation for railing crossly about Crossrail, I return to it again. Without proper transport infrastructure in the gateway there is little opportunity for sustained investment in sustainable communities. Crossrail is far and away the most effective investment. It enables higher density housing to be built, accessible to the thousands of jobs in central London, and provides land value uplift, which enables imaginative and affordable master-planning of areas in the gateway.
To conclude, London and the UK fought hard to win the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. They did so with good reason. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity not just to host the greatest sporting festival in the world’s calendar, but to bring lasting change to the physical fabric of east London and to the fortunes of some of Britain’s most disfranchised citizens.
If the Games are a success and their legacy endures, London and the nation will have much more than memories once the spectators, the journalists, the sportsmen and women, the medals and the torch have gone home. I beg to move for Papers.
My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for securing this very important debate. She is a powerful voice for business in London and when she tells us that the conditions and arrangements for proper business engagement with the 2012 Games are not right, we should pay attention to her.
Like the noble Baroness and very many other people in the UK, I am delighted that the 2012 Games will be held in London. I congratulate all those organisations, principally LOCOG, the Mayor and the Government, which secured the Games for the capital.
I am also delighted that the Government placed such strong emphasis on the regeneration aspects of the Games. The Lower Lea is in tremendous need of such regeneration and the Olympic Park itself will be located within some of the UK’s most disadvantaged boroughs. The Prime Minister underlined this when he said in welcoming the Games:
“But as well as being a wonderful sporting and cultural festival, the Games would also deliver benefits for the capital and the country. They would drive the environmentally-friendly regeneration and rejuvenation of East London, give a huge boost for tourism across the UK and provide thousands of new opportunities for work and volunteering”.
I think that we all share that sentiment. My contribution to this debate will focus on the physical regeneration and legacy aspects of the Games. I am not an expert in the economics of staging Olympic Games but I lay claim to some knowledge and expertise in delivering large-scale, complex regeneration projects. I declare an interest as chairman of English Partnerships for the past five years, the national regeneration agency, although we have no locus on the Olympic project as such. But over the past five years I have worked very closely with colleagues to deliver a diverse range of regeneration and development projects: from the regeneration of the entire English coalfield over the past 10 years, to the reclamation of the Greenwich peninsula, the redevelopment of King’s Dock in Liverpool, and so on. We are currently working on a portfolio of more than 50 such projects across England, many of which bear striking similarities to the legacy and regeneration aspects of the Olympics project.
So it is from a basis of experience that I consider the way in which investment in regeneration is being planned and offer my noble friend the Minister some thoughts on how best to secure the regeneration that we all desperately want to see. Evaluation of other Games, whether Olympic or Commonwealth, concludes that, like the curate’s egg, they tended to be good in parts. I suspect that other noble Lords who will speak today will be more familiar than me with the outcome of the Manchester Commonwealth Games. But certainly the events in Sydney and Barcelona—both billed as regeneration Games—did deliver most of the economic and some of the social benefits that were promised.
It is probably worth noting that just over 9 per cent of the Barcelona investment went on sports infrastructure and facilities and the remainder on classic regeneration and public realm projects. That city has moved from being the 18th to the third most visited in Europe after London and Paris. So in many ways it “did what it said on the tin” for Barcelona.
Sydney is probably the most impressive legacy. Independent evaluation suggests that the Games delivered some $3 billion Australian in business outcomes, $2 billion in post-Games sports infrastructure and service contracts, an injection of more than $6 billion in infrastructure developments across New South Wales, more than $6 billion in inbound tourism spending during 2001 and a greatly enhanced business profile for Sydney and New South Wales through the equivalent of up to $6 billion Australian of international exposure.
At the heart of the direct preparations for the Sydney Games were additions to its sporting and entertainment infrastructure through the construction of Olympic venues. Perhaps the most visible legacy of the Games is the new suburb of Newington, home for the Olympic athletes during the Games, and the Sydney Olympic Park. However, there are some outstanding legacy issues. The stadium, initially heralded as one of the best Olympic venues ever created, has presented the City with a white elephant as there were no long-term users identified for the stadium and it continues, sadly, to be used for one-off sporting events such as the Rugby World Cup.
Nevertheless, Sydney is a very good model and we should be pleased that David Higgins is chief executive of the Olympic Delivery Authority. He was a close colleague of mine for three years at English Partnerships. David was a key player in the construction element of the Sydney Games and learnt a huge amount there. We should also be pleased that his board at the ODA and senior team have extensive experience in complex regeneration projects.
However, we should challenge the client side of the 2012 Games—the noble Baroness, Lady Valentine, has explained the tapestry of players there—to create the conditions to enable the ODA to succeed, for the resources being committed are immense, and I do not use that word lightly. Like other noble Lords, I suspect, I rarely pay much attention to local press reports on so-called Olympic costs. I am sure that when they are ready and it is appropriate, the Government will set the correct budget. However, if reported figures of £1.8 billion for regeneration costs alone are anywhere near the mark, I urge the Minister to be very demanding in what is delivered for that level of investment.
There are very well developed methodologies in linking investment to outcomes: methodologies, for example, adopted by Her Majesty’s Treasury, endorsed by the National Audit Office and widely used across England by English Partnerships, the Housing Corporation, the regional development agencies and the 23 urban regeneration companies. For £1.8 billion, the Government should expect a very heavy basket of outputs that includes, in terms of current methodologies, buying more than 45,000 homes, even building in the London affordability cost, and more than 2 million square feet of employment floor space. They should expect leverage from the private sector of up to £10 billion and land receipts of £1.5 billion for that level of investment. I stress that I am sure these are reported costs, and the Minister may tell me that they are not exact costs. If they are near the mark, that is the kind of basket of outputs that the Government would routinely demand of regeneration investment elsewhere in England.
Even if we temper those with an Olympics premium, which is valid, and if we temper those with all the construction built at the new sustainable buildings code at level 3, and if we temper it with ambitious family and affordable housing policies, we should still demand an excellent regeneration outcome. For 25 years, we have learnt how to deliver complex regeneration; economic, social, environmental—real sustainable regeneration. I dearly hope that the 2012 Olympics will build on that experience, and the Government should demand that this is so.
My Lords, this is a welcome opportunity to start the process of debate on the Olympics, which I am sure will continue on many occasions over the coming years. I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Valentine, for her opening remarks to set the scene, but I will try to correct her on one point. Yes, the building of the Dome was completed nearly on budget, at an over-run of only 2.5 per cent. It would actually have been a very substantial improvement on budget had it not been for some of the more unfortunate government controls on how the process was run. There would have been a saving of some tens of millions without the interference of the Government. The over-run on the Dome all occurred in the management costs and the running of the Dome and of its ancillary services. It was something like 45 per cent over budget on that section, resulting eventually in what amounts to an £811 million learning curve for the Government, which I sincerely hope they will be marking and using extensively in the lessons for the Olympics.
When we heard that the Olympics were beginning to be a very real possibility, the group of senior management who worked with me over the last four months to keep the Dome operating and then through the following year to bring about its final solvent liquidation decided to have an away day together to think about what we might like to suggest to the Government would be the lessons that they should most take from the Dome. We wrote that up into a paper, which we sent to the then-Permanent Secretary at the DCMS, Dame Sue Street, and to Sir John Bourn at the National Audit Office. We were very gratified when shortly afterwards both those parties decided that we should have a day together to debate the paper. We presented our paper to Dame Sue and Sir John and eventually in the fullness of time a report was published on 2 February, which in the main encapsulates almost all the recommendations that we made. We were very gratified.
However, there were four sections in which the report watered down our advice or eliminated it altogether. I will highlight those points today, because they are potentially the subject of an enormous waste of money in the process of the Olympics as time goes forward. First, the most persistent problem that the Dome had was to sustain solvent trading at all stages, and solvency, if you have not got it, is extremely expensive in commercial consequences. Secondly, there is the use of consultants. I know that there is a big budget for consultants at present but, like the leaves that regularly stop railway trains in bad weather, they are the wrong consultants in the main. I will go into that in a bit more detail.
Thirdly, there is the obstacle race that the Government impose on the sensible contracting-out of essential services. The Government believe that they can do anything better and cheaper than everybody else, and the Government are emphatically wrong. Finally, there is sponsorship, which is a frightening area. A big budget is assumed for sponsorship, as there was at the Dome. If the same shortfall on sponsorship achieved occurs in the Olympics as happened at the Dome, you will immediately need to add half a billion pounds on to the budget now because that will be the shortfall cost.
The problems with the shortfall of the realisation of sponsorship are the first lesson that should be learnt because you have to get your sponsorship very early. The Government should be doing it now. The problem with the sponsorship was that the Government never had a single, standard set of rules for every sponsor, so any sponsor could come along and negotiate what he wanted. For example, McDonald’s was certainly coming in with a big budget. But no one realised until July the following year that McDonald’s was going to send the Dome a £5 million bill for building its restaurant on the Dome site. That made rather a big hole in the sponsorship it had received.
Similarly, British Airways and BT both insisted on providing their own staff and then deducted the entire payroll of the staff they gave to man the zones at the Dome from the value of the sponsorship they were giving. As a result of it there was absolutely no cash value left over for the Government. These are the sorts of the things that have to be standardised and kept clear for the future.
Then there is the question of sub-contracting. You need a lot of sub-contractors to run 14 major sporting events simultaneously. The sub-contracting in the Dome covered everything from maintenance right the way through. In fact, sub-contracting produced the only successfully accomplished fraud—well it was successful until they went to prison—that was mounted against the Dome. This arose from the lunatic—forgive the word—refusal of the Government to allow a very small expenditure of only a few thousand pounds to have the vetting process for sub-contractors done by a professional body rather than doing it by an ad hoc group created within. As a result, they took on a maintenance operator for the lighting function who did not exist and they did not notice it. They succeeded in giving this operator the right to generate its own invoices and then sanction them for payment, with the result that £3 million went through the door.
Another major problem was they did not, until we had been open for three months, decide that they needed to sell tickets at the gates and they had not got any turnstiles. Turnstiles for the Olympics are not mentioned anywhere in the report. But turnstile operation must not be attempted by government again. We became suspicious of the failure of our own turnstile operations only when one of our turnstile operators was wheeling a Tesco trolley across the forecourt one night and he was hit by a gust of wind which overturned him, bursting the sack on top of his trolley, causing more than £2,000 worth of £20 notes to blow across the concourse. We had 22 turnstiles and it was reckoned that three of them were operating on that basis more or less every day. We do not know how much we lost down that avenue.
There needs to be a willingness to bend the rules which currently prohibit government bodies from contracting out. At the meeting we had, the National Audit Office said, “That’s no problem with us and there won’t be a problem with the Public Accounts Committee if it’s explained to them too, but it needs Government to sanction the rules by which the consultants can be applied”. Another crazy consulting rule that the Government have is that if you have already used one consultant successfully, then you must not use him again, which is a bit self-defeating. Because if you use him again you are showing favouritism, so you must share it around to the next one in line. This means that you have got to pay the next one extra fees to go through the learning curve of understanding what needs to be done. This is folly unrestricted.
All of this leads us back to what is for me still the biggest and most important issue and the one which cost us so much money at the Dome. That is the refusal of Government to allow the contracting out of certain key financial control functions. The first and worst of those was that they dictated that for every unit to be delivered each would have to have the maintenance of its own bought ledger. The Dome was obviously one unit to be delivered, but something like 14 separate corporate entities will be created to deliver each of the stadia for the Olympics.
The bought ledger at the Dome was a complete and utter catastrophe. One day, when I had been at the Dome about a month, I had a phone call from an individual who said, “I really just wanted to thank you, as the new chairman, for the £100,000 I received yesterday and ask you to assure me that it is safe for me to spend it”. I said, “What is it for?”; he said, “It is the £100,000 you send me every month”. I said, “That is very interesting. What do you get it for?”; he said, “Well, we could not balance our invoices with you at the back-end of last year and we were not going to continue to finish the building, so Jenny Page agreed we could have £100,000 every month just to keep us going and that we would sort out the invoices later”. I asked, “And have we sorted them out yet?”; “Oh, no”, he said, “But you keep sending me £100,000 every month, which I do appreciate”.
All the suppliers had been divided into £100,000 suppliers and £50,000 suppliers and each month, according to which side of that lucky dip they came, the suppliers were being sent a cheque. At the time, we had outstanding an assumed liability of £35 million in unresolved invoices. We did not have a clue what they stood for or whether the work had actually been performed, as another problem was that the structure had not allowed for quantity surveyors to be contracted, so there was no means whatever of establishing the validity of the work that was subject to the invoices that were coming in. That was bad enough for the Dome, but if we are to have 14 such projects going at the same time, can we please have committed, contracted quantity surveyors running through the organisation?
Those are the main points. If we do not do that, we shall have insolvency in every one of the 14 operations and we shall have a complete and utter disaster. It does not have to be so, but the Government need to make some changes.
My Lords, I congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Valentine, on securing this debate. I also congratulate her on all the work that she is doing in promoting the Olympics and in promoting London.
As a Mancunian, I witnessed the very successful Commonwealth Games and I am very conscious of the legacy that they left for Manchester. I summarise the legacy as the three “p”s—perception, physical and pride. By perception I mean the way in which Manchester is seen as a vibrant city, with hotel developments, and the fact that the major parties now hold their conferences there; by physical I mean the stadium, which is now used by Manchester City, and the swimming pool development; and by pride I mean the huge morale booster for Mancunians that those successful Commonwealth Games left to the city. Many now believe that Manchester's successful hosting of the Games played a key part in London getting the 2012 Olympics. I am sure that the London Olympics can, and will be, as great a success as the Commonwealth Games were for Manchester and will give a huge boost to our nation.
London starts from the great advantage of it being our capital city and arguably now the world's number one city. In many ways, one would like the London 2012 Olympics to be called “the legacy Olympics”, because it would focus our minds on the long-term benefits.
I am sure that in subsequent contributions a number of my colleagues will focus on issues ranging from regeneration of east London, transport and sporting legacy to employment and skills. As a former Tourism Minister, and chairman of the Association of Leading Visitor Attractions—the million-visitor-a-year club and essentially the jewels in our national tourism crown—I would like to focus on the tourism dimension of the Games, tourism being our fifth-largest industry.
London 2012 provides a unique opportunity to project globally our national image and our great cultural heritage, not just for the short duration of the Games themselves—the number of tourists during the Games may well fall as compared with other years—but also for the enormous tourism opportunity pre- and post-2012. I am very conscious that there is a lot of scepticism in the regions about the coming Olympics; they do not really feel part of them. The more tourists we bring to this country, the greater the benefits for the regions as tourists stay here longer and visit many other parts of the UK.
I do not wish to dwell on negatives today; we want this to be an optimistic, positive debate. I certainly do not wish to overdwell on party politics. We cannot afford for much longer the festering dispute over funding which, by way of example, dominated yesterday’s Evening Standard. It is up to Gordon Brown, as Chancellor, to grip the funding issue. He cannot hide behind the skirts of the DCMS for much longer; we need closure on this issue. The disputes and negotiations between the Treasury, the DCMS and London must be brought to a close shortly, or we will all suffer. The suggested cost of £9 billion is obviously a large sum. Put in comparable terms, it equates to the likely cost of 10 new Wembley stadiums or the profits announced today by the Royal Bank of Scotland. However, it is all well within our national capability, particularly given that national pride is at stake.
I want to make two points about funding. First, because we are running overbudget, we must not lose our nerve or skimp on the design and quality of the Olympic structures. We must take the long view. Secondly, as the majority of spending will be of a capital nature, we must adequately support that capital expenditure with a view to bringing in more tourists by means of some realistic revenue spending. It is surely madness for the Government, at present, to consider cutting in real terms the budget of VisitBritain. The marketing budget of VisitBritain is currently ranked 26th in the United States, our most important tourism market. Ireland spends four times as much.
It is also absurd for the Government to reduce the British Waterways budget at this time because of problems with Defra. Nevertheless, I was delighted yesterday to read about the development of our canal network in east London, to the long-term benefit of sport, tourism and carrying materials to the Olympic site. We also need to consider increasing spending on our great museums, opening new galleries, developing exciting new exhibitions and providing the funds for new purchases for our great museums and galleries. I say to Ministers that we need rather more joined-up government to support London 2012.
Monday 12 March will be the start of British tourism week, under the patronage of His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales. This is designed to raise the profile of our great tourism and hospitality industry, and to demonstrate what we have to offer to visitors. With only limited resources, VisitBritain operates in only 36 markets from 23 overseas offices, but approximately 200 countries will compete in the 2012 Olympics. There is a major challenge in projecting our image. Ideally, we need some form of presence in all those countries. In particular, I suggest using and promoting the British Council, which has a presence in 109 of those countries, and perhaps creating Olympic ambassadors in the remainder.
In about 18 months, the Olympic banner will be passed to the United Kingdom from Beijing. Parallel to that, Liverpool will be the city of culture. The world’s media will then be focused on the United Kingdom and the 2012 Olympics. It is essential that those correspondents who come here enjoy their United Kingdom experience and report back favourably. They want to see real progress on construction and transport infrastructure; they want value for money as visitors. Above all they want, and must receive, a warm welcome. Each of us has a duty to be an ambassador for our country and the London 2012 Olympics from now on. There is every opportunity for the 2012 Olympics to be a great success and for the United Kingdom to benefit from our raised profile in tourism. I hope we will all be able to take pride in the 2012 Olympics and the positive legacy that will undoubtedly follow.
My Lords, on the evening of 6 July 2005 I was licensing one of our priests to a parish in East Ham. He came from Burma, and in front of me was a multicultural congregation. There was a palpable sense of celebration and joy at the thought of the Olympics coming into their community. A very large portion of the Olympic site lies in my diocese. I and my colleagues, the right reverend Prelates the Bishop of Southwark, who is here today, and the Bishop of London, in collaboration with our ecumenical partners, seek to put a structure in place in the churches and the faith communities to ensure that we, too, think about how the legacy works out and how we can play our part in this great event.
It is worth remembering, without taking anything away from all those who promoted the bid, that the children of east London played a significant part in the final stages of winning the bid for London. It is important that they and their generation are the people who benefit from the Games arriving in our capital city. I hope that your Lordships will forgive me for talking for a moment or two about the wider cultural, social and spiritual issues at stake, in terms of regeneration.
Will this event seriously take account of the context in which it is to be set? The London Borough of Newham is probably one of the most multicultural boroughs in Europe; it is certainly one of the youngest communities in Europe. As an east London borough, it contains quite a high proportion of children and young people who fall below the poverty line. Are those young people and children going to be engaged in the Games?
Last year we had the incidents of people being arrested in Stratford on terrorist charges, and all the issues of the image of young people from different cultural communities. Will this be an opportunity for us to build a more open and successful society, including the many faces of life that form our community today? As the planes bring the athletes into London, will we still have aeroplanes taking asylum seekers and refugees out of London? I had my attention drawn to a person who had been working in Newham for 10 years but who, last week, was sent home. These issues have to be joined up and connected.
Will the Games have a ring of steel around them, in which case the community in which they are set will not be engaged, or will there be real opportunities, by us all working together through volunteering and employment, to draw a whole generation into the excitement of this experience?
If you go into east London today, you cannot avoid the reality that religious faith is important for people. It is important that the legacy of the Games also takes account of those issues in their lives for the future. Will we have a serious conversation, not just with the churches but with the other faith communities, about the needs of those communities for the future? I was told, recognising the size of the south-east of England, that nearly two-thirds of young people who are active members of churches in England are inside the ring of the M25 and that a very high proportion of them go to predominantly black-led churches. How are their needs, as they see them, to be met in the structuring of the legacy? Are we thinking about those sorts of facilities?
I want to talk about housing. I understand that people are already buying up properties in east London and that the affordability of housing is becoming an issue. I am told that people in Asia and across the world are buying properties with a view to the Games. What are the proportions of the affordable housing that will be part of the legacy? I heard what the noble Baroness, Lady Valentine, said about the London Docklands Development Corporation. I am sure that we all endorse the need for a clear structure, but one outcome that we do not want in east London is the gentrification of Tower Hamlets and Newham whereby the poor of those communities disappear into Barking, Dagenham and Thurrock. With the mobility of people, there are now 11 BNP councillors in Barking and Dagenham. We must watch that in the end we do not say how wonderful things are in the immediate communities when all that we have done is shift the problems elsewhere; we gentrify the riverbank and a few hundred yards back, moving the poor elsewhere. That will not do. We must think about the social issues and make sure that the benefits of the legacy go to the people who host the Games. These are complex social, spiritual and cultural issues, but they are terribly important because if we get the legacy right we shall have done something for the well-being of the whole of our country.
My Lords, I congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Valentine, on raising our sights beyond the topic of the moment and encouraging us to look at the value of the Olympic and Paralympic Games. When I started to make notes for this debate, I found that it was impossible not to mention the chimera of a budget. It is beginning to be quite difficult. I do not want to skimp—to use my noble friend’s phrase—and I know that the bid document states:
“We are only building new venues where clear legacy needs have been identified and supporting business plans developed for post-Games use”.
However, it is beginning to be quite difficult not to think about taking a hard look at the number and scale of the venues and the existing facilities that London and the UK have to offer. My other reason for being unable to resist the temptation of mentioning the budget is that, like the Mayor of London, I do not believe that any contractor could look at a 60 per cent contingency and not be tempted to regard that as part of his base budget.
My main point about the budget is that what is happening does nothing but feed opposition to the Games. Some of that opposition comes in the guise of conditional support, which is really opposition waiting to break out in public. A huge benefit of the Games should be to draw people together in their enthusiasm for them. The more that confidence in the enterprise as a whole ebbs away, the more damage is done. I do not know whether the figure in the bid book should have been £3 billion, £4.5 billion or £5 billion instead of £2.375 billion; if it had been one of those, a higher figure might well have been broadly accepted, but the rumours and the time that is elapsing mean that support is leeching away. When we get to the budget, we must have enough detail to be able to analyse it, the variations from the original figure and the subsequent changes after it is published, because I do not think that it will remain a static figure. We must not hide behind commercial confidentiality and keep from the public what these Games are really costing because, as the noble Baroness reminded us at the start, there is immense value, not all of which one can put a cash figure on.
The budget itself is a legacy issue, given that the money will have to come from somewhere: indeed, £340 million has already been diverted from community sport, and the Secretary of State says that more is to be taken. How do we contribute to the sporting legacy? No wonder that the charitable and voluntary sectors are so concerned about the position of the lottery. Those sectors will, in different ways, be contributing to achieving many of the potential legacy aims.
Like my noble friend, I am a Mancunian, and I am proud of what Manchester did with the Commonwealth Games, even if my team does not seem to be as inspired as it should be by its new stadium. I am now—I am not sure whether this is an “and” or an “or”—a Londoner. One of the legacies that I very much do not want is the feeling that affluent London is getting it all. As we have just been reminded so powerfully, “affluent” does not apply to the area of London where many of the events will take place. The legacy should not have a geographical limit; it should not be confined to, or within, London. I am surprised that we have so far not heard speeches about the need to show legacy benefit right across the UK. Indeed, I thought that we might have a Welsh speaker today. As the noble Baroness has said, we need to acknowledge the regeneration in its broadest sense, particularly the transport developments, which would never have been achieved without the bid for the Games being won.
I particularly want to mention the Paralympics, the legacy of which is to,
“motivate greater numbers of young people—and in particular those with disabilities—to become involved with sport, and to aspire to elite performance”.
The LOCOG budget has £90 million for the Paralympic Games and I understand that half of this comes from the public sector funding package. There are no established pathways for disabled people to get into sport and no pathways for training non-elite athletes and coaches. Not very long ago, the London Assembly, of which I am a member, looked at sport for disabled people in the context of the bid having been won. We heard from those working in the area that, although there has been some discussion of legacy funding, there are no financial or timescale commitments and no indication of what will go towards disabled sports. There has been no increase in funding for community sports since we won the bid; indeed, as I said, some money is being redirected. I ask this not to carp but because I hope that there is a positive answer: how can the Paralympic sport legacy, any more than the whole Olympic sport legacy, happen without more funding for community sport?
Just talking about the value of the Paralympic Games will not magically create a change in attitude or participation. Someone needs to drive this forward. As part of the investigation by the London Assembly, I visited a sports club in Camberwell. The visit was at once inspiring and disheartening. It was inspiring because we visited a class of very disabled children, run by an absolutely terrific coach, where there was one-to-one assistance from trainers; one could see from the attitude of the children who attended and from talking to their parents who were with them what value this gave to their lives. However, between the time of our visit and the time we launched the report, which was only two or three months later, the club had to cut its classes to one a week. There had been only two, but this was cut to one. Fifty-thousand pounds a year—peanuts for this budget—would make an enormous difference to that club, and there must be many like it.
Access to sport for children with special needs is horribly neglected. They are often sidelined from sports provision in mainstream schools. Lack of transport is a barrier; teachers are not properly equipped and they barely get any training. The London Games provide the impetus for change and we should honour the promises that we made in London’s bid. We should also stick to our promises to another group. The noble Baroness has talked about skills and training. The group that I am talking about so badly lacks jobs skills. It is only too easy not to make the effort to reach the very hardest to reach: those deprived personally and those in deprived communities.
To end more positively, I shall quote the leaders of two of the so-called Olympic boroughs at a meeting of the London Assembly. One said,
“we are using the whole carnival, celebration and excitement … as a catalyst to re-ignite passion within our communities and serious engagement with our communities”.
“we want to use the Games to enhance community cohesion”.
Her borough, Tower Hamlets,
“is rolling out, through the local strategic partnership, the coming together of communities to bring forward their ideas and how they want to see the Olympics affecting our borough”.
She reminded us that 42 per cent of children are in poverty in the borough, in which the average salary, because of Canary Wharf, is £100,000 a year.
The great thing about winning the bid was the can-do approach that it encapsulated. It is now essential to maintain people’s confidence and show that we can do it, and do it well.
My Lords, I, too, congratulate the noble Baroness on this timely and important debate and on starting it off in such a thought-provoking and powerful way. As has been said, there is some controversy and public concern about the cost of the Olympics and the Paralympics, and rightly so: it obviously needs to be gripped and dealt with, lessons need to be learnt, as has been said, and public confidence needs to be maintained in this whole enterprise. I guess that we could probably all predict some of the other storms that we will see and hear about over the next five years, although I shall not tempt fate by doing so. Some of them will need real attention, but none of them should blow the Olympics off course or lead to short-term and short-sighted reactions.
That is why the noble Baroness’s debate about the long term and the legacy is so important. All her arguments about how the legacy needs to be planned for and managed are powerful. It will not simply happen; someone needs to be responsible for it and for each part of it. We need to be clear about what sort of legacy we want and, as important, about what the measures of success will be. These measures need to be about outcomes and not only about processes. They need to be things that we can point to and identify as lasting, beneficial results—the legacy, if you like.
All that implies a significant role for leadership and management, but this is not only about robust planning and management or governance and government. If the Olympics and Paralympics are about anything, they are about inspiration, effort, achievement and ambition. They are about individuals and teams. They play to our aspirations. I suspect that one of the most lasting legacies will be in what thousands of people actually do and actually feel. It is not only about authority planners and government; it could be about us all. It certainly sets challenges for very many people such as architects, designers, teachers, health workers, sports people, and public and private organisations.
In this context, I was very impressed by the energy of the bid and by the images and portrayal of London and its citizens. There was a real sense of momentum, of unity of purpose and of community built from diversity. It was very inclusive; I was struck by the words of the right reverend Prelate on this. This was impressive and it bodes well for the future if it can be maintained.
When, on 1 March 2013 in this Chamber, the noble Baroness asks whether we are satisfied with the emerging legacy, I hope that we will have a great deal to say and that, although not all of it is likely to be positive, much of it will be. Most important, I hope that we do not conclude that it all went pretty well but that it was a great missed opportunity.
Let me turn to that legacy. I declare an interest as the former NHS Chief Executive and Permanent Secretary for Health, so your Lordships will not be surprised to know that my comments will concentrate on health. There is, I know, an awful lot of planning under way from the NHS and the department with its partners. Excellent work is being done with Sport England, with its great campaign for sport and exercise, making sure that we all understand the link between exercise and health and that exercise is as widespread as possible. Good work has already been started on sports medicine, as was raised in a recent Question in this House. I also want to mention the Paralympics in this context. What boost will we see for sport and activity for disabled people as a result of the Paralympics? I very much identified with the remarks of the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, on this. But what, for the Paralympics, will be the wider impacts and who is responsible for securing them?
Let me draw out one aspect that can often be overlooked in this context; namely, the link between mental health and physical activity. Evidence shows that physical activity is the second most important thing for people’s mental well-being—the first, incidentally, is having somebody whom you can confide in and trust. I guess that that is not surprising—we all know it—but it is another important point about the legacy of these Olympics and Paralympics. We need to make sure that it reaches everyone. That can be very difficult; it can be pretty difficult for us all to get to the gym or whatever is our intended method of getting some exercise, but persuading people who are not feeling very good about themselves to do it may be even harder.
Let me talk about east London. As has been said, the Games are taking place in the poorest part of London with the worst health facilities and the worst health—although east London has some wonderful beacons of excellence. It is said, and I believe it to be accurate, that as you go east, for every tube stop life expectancy drops a year. Presumably that stops being the case at some point. However, it is a real point about the area in which this enterprise is taking place. I note from Sport England’s recent study that the people of Newham are the least physically active in the city; it is perhaps not surprising that sports activity is often associated with affluence.
Sheila Adam, the director of public health for London, reminded me that one reason why many health people signed up to the bid was that the Games would take place in east London, not west London, and that we saw the opportunity for enormous health benefits from that. What is likely to be left behind in health terms in east London? I know that some health facilities are being planned for the Olympics. It is important that these are secured for the longer term and that we understand that these are community and primary care facilities and not hospitals. The thing that is greatly lacking is services that are available immediately to people in the community. We need to be reassured that these facilities, which will be created for the great influx of people over this period, will then be turned over to local people for their use.
Mental and physical health is determined by things other than the NHS, such as community facilities. However, there is no use in sport if there is no access and I hear rumblings that some facilities may not be available in the longer term. We need to be reassured about that. But this is also about transport and infrastructure and, as the noble Baroness, Lady Valentine, said, regeneration. Poverty and ill health go hand in hand, as do ill health and worklessness. The economy and health go hand in hand; good health can benefit the economy and a healthy economy boosts health. When I asked other health planners what was most important in this legacy, high on their list was employment, which of course helps to pull people out of poverty. They went on to mention employment in the construction period, not just for outsiders but for local people and local organisations, and the need for longer-term investment, as the noble Baroness, Lady Valentine, and others have said. It will be interesting to know what local people with all their diversity of culture and background will say about the legacy. Will they feel part of it? Will they feel more connected to affluent Britain? Without the gentrification, will this be a place where people choose to live?
I have talked about the things on which the Government need to take the lead in securing, although they will depend on the enormous creativity and energy of all those involved locally. But on the aspirational, what new standards will be set? What records will be broken off the track or sports field or out of the pool? What is the opportunity for people to be challenged and inspired in every field? Let me conclude with three quick examples, two of them not from health.
The first one relates to sustainability and sustainable building. I was talking to some architects recently about the challenging sustainability targets that are already in place in London. They were saying, “Why not raise the bar even higher with the Olympics? Why are we not showing a generation what can be done and what the aspiration for the future should be?” The second is another topic that we have not talked about—security, that growing industry that intrudes on us all. How will that be achieved in a safe and friendly but non-constraining way? How will it be managed in the midst of a lively community? There are standards to be set there.
Finally, I turn to research. The biggest problem in health today is keeping people healthy. As I have said in the House before, that is about early health, not late disease. We know a lot about late disease—we know the biomedicine and the research—but there is not yet very good research on maintaining health. This is an opportunity to have a laboratory in the UK, perhaps in the East End, to understand the issues and learn some of the lessons.
I hope that the illustrations that I have used are useful. My contribution can be summed up simply: plan systematically for the legacy, play to the aspirations and imagination of us all and challenge people to set new standards in every field.
My Lords, it is a pleasure to be debating this aspect of the Olympics rather than the minutiae of the budget, although I agree with my noble friend Lady Hamwee about the need to get some certainty on it to avoid a corrosion of public support for the Olympics. I also agree with my noble friend Lord Lee’s thoughts about the budget, not least in respect of museums and galleries. Having queued like an eager schoolboy yesterday at the tremendous exhibition organised by the northern museums and galleries to hold the football which was used in the 1966 World Cup final and have my photo taken—I am sorry if noble Lords missed that chance because I think it has gone back to Preston—I know how important even that kind of legacy can be in terms of driving both aspiration and economic development.
However, in my view the cost of putting on the Games can only be justified if they produce a legacy which goes well beyond the immediate impact of the Games themselves. I think it is pretty clear that there will be a substantial positive legacy in the Lower Lea Valley and surrounding areas. There is clearly going to be significant physical regeneration, which is extremely welcome. However, I do not believe that the cost of putting on the Games could be justified if the only beneficiaries were going to be the communities in east London contiguous to the Olympic park. For me, the real success of the Games will be measured by the extent to which it has been possible to use them as a catalyst to longer-term changes in economic and social behaviour. This is a lot to ask but I do not believe it is impossible because of the power of the Games’ brand and the extraordinary power of sport to motivate people to behave in ways which society believes to be positive.
What would then constitute a successful legacy? In the time I have today, I would like to concentrate on the social component because I believe we should be looking to the Games to enable us to effect a stepped improvement in health, fitness and educational levels across the whole of the UK and not just London. If we are to achieve this, we will need to be more successful than any Olympics or any other international sporting event to date. I believe it is possible, first, because we are debating this a long time before the Olympics happen so there is time to get things right, and, secondly, because there are examples elsewhere in the world and in the UK where good practice has developed around big sporting events. I would like to mention three of them and in doing so I declare an interest because I have acted as an adviser to all three.
First, as a result of the failed bid to host the 2006 football World Cup in England, an initiative was launched between the Prince’s Trust and the FA Premier League, the PFA and the Football Foundation to link the work of the trust’s programmes for unemployed and disadvantaged young people with professional football clubs. This year, 10 years on, 12,000 unemployed young people will have participated in this programme and more than 80 per cent of them will have gone on to get a job or have gone into further education and training. None of that would have happened without a bid, which in the end was unsuccessful. How much better could we do on the back of a successful bid?
Secondly, I am involved in a programme which has just begun at the North-West University’s Mafikeng campus in South Africa. It gives poor students a university education which they would otherwise have been unable to afford—because they have an ability in football. That is possible because the 2010 World Cup is going to South Africa and funding partners are willing to get involved in sport and community development, which, frankly, would not have been forthcoming without the impetus of that great sporting event.
Thirdly, to take a programme which should benefit a whole nation—albeit a small one—the cricket World Cup in Barbados is being used by the Government and people of Barbados to put in place a seven-strand legacy programme for economic, environmental, sport and social development. I am involved in the strand which aims to put in place a programme for young people to combine sport, mainstream education and lifestyle training, covering among other things nutrition and sexual health. All these things are already being addressed in Barbados to a greater or lesser extent, but the cricket World Cup has given it the chance to take provision to a higher level and to tap into new sources of funds to do so. There is no reason why we should not seek to follow that precedent.
Having been involved in these programmes, what conclusions do I draw about what we need to do to maximise the social and economic benefits for the UK? First, we need to set clear targets, which should include increasing participation in sport and physical activity. There should be particular efforts at school level, but equally we need to get much better at encouraging young people when they leave school to keep active and to remain so throughout their lives. To do that, we need to look well beyond the Olympic disciplines. Speaking for myself, I have to accept that I will never be a triathlete, a pole-vaulter or a sprinter. Fortunately, there are less demanding forms of activity which I can and, I hope, will pursue to keep myself fit. We need to do more to provide facilities and encouragement for people like me.
We should use the Olympics to improve the nation’s diet. It is blindingly obvious that no athlete could compete successfully if he or she ate unhealthily, drank like a fish or smoked like a chimney. There is great scope to encourage children to eat more healthily if they understand that Olympians follow a healthy diet, but we need more to make that link. Incidentally, we are not just talking about obesity. I gather that about 1 million people suffer from other eating disorders, principally anorexia and bulimia, of which 80 per cent are teenage girls. We ought to think about how we can use Olympic models, rather than catwalk models, to be role models to that group.
We should use the Olympics to improve basic education by learning from the experience of professional football and cricket clubs which have sports-related curriculum material delivered at the grounds and more widely through the Playing for Success programme. The Olympics offer endless opportunities for coursework in maths, English, languages, geography and history, which we should develop. Finally, we should use the Olympics to teach the Olympic virtues of sportsmanship, tolerance, fair play and international goodwill. At a recent conference in London, I was intrigued to hear a leading Chinese Olympic official describe how Olympic values were being taught in all Chinese schools in the run-up to the 2008 Games. It seems to me that to include and induce these values into a generation of young Chinese would be doing the world a very great favour, and we should do likewise.
Having set such targets, how are we to achieve them? First, we need simple, clear structures to deliver them. The noble Baroness, Lady Valentine, talked about structures in the East End for physical regeneration in the longer term, but we need equivalents to deal with these social issues. I am not suggesting a huge parallel bureaucracy of what already exists, but at a national level at least there needs to be a clear co-ordination of effort, which can be filtered through, in many cases, existing local structures.
Secondly, there needs to be more resources, as always. The only country which has taken sporting and physical activity rates up to the level set by our Government for Sport England is Finland, where they spend more than twice as much per head than us. I do not believe that we should look for new money: a lot of money is spent—not necessarily always very well—on improving healthy lifestyles and education, which could be diverted into these areas.
Thirdly, we need leadership. The rhetoric from Ministers and others so far has been excellent, but we need an ongoing political will to continue getting across the potential of the Games, as well as getting the delivery right. The noble Baroness, Lady Valentine, suggested that we need a Cabinet Minister. I am not sure about that, but I certainly support the idea of a Minister for the Olympics. The CCPR in its briefing for today points out that there is a tendency for major events to have a long sunrise and a short sunset. We need to get cracking now to exploit the sunrise and to allow us to prolong the sunset.
My Lords, I very much welcome this debate and I thank my noble friend Lady Valentine for initiating it. I declare an interest as someone who works extensively across the arts and heritage sector, and I must say that I am somewhat surprised that so far there has not been very great mention of the role that culture can and will play in the Olympics and the Paralympics. I also declare an interest as a member of the Olympic Culture and Education Committee, which was involved in putting together the cultural aspects of the bid. The focus of this debate is the socio-economic benefits of the Olympics. I have observed that the contribution that the cultural programme could make in this respect has not been discussed to a great extent anywhere, so I want to foreground that.
In the context of ever-rising costs of the building project, as noble Lords have said, it is important to reassure the public that this expenditure is an investment in the region and the country as a whole. Besides the tangible infrastructure—already mentioned—such as the stadium, improved transport, the media centre, accommodation and the boost to local economies through tourism, et cetera, there will also be the impact on our sense of ourselves as a nation in terms of our ability to deliver one of the most complex and prestigious global projects and to share with 200 other nations our cultural riches.
In our bid document, we expressed three key objectives for the arts, culture and education programme for 2012; namely, to provide a dazzling and spectacular ceremonial programme which is creatively and impeccably staged; to unlock Britain’s creative wealth and London’s reputation as a world cultural capital to celebrate youth and internationalism; and to instil the Olympic spirit through inspiring education. We recognised the importance of addressing the desire of the founder of the modern Olympic movement, Pierre de Coubertin—the creation of a partnership between sport, culture and education. If we go back to de Coubertin's vision, we see that he intended the creation of an environment where the highest achievements of the human body and the human intellectual and creative force could meet in the spirit of mutual inspiration. We very much want to build on this vision. This is a huge challenge, especially as we now have a commitment to staging a cultural programme that lasts for the four years between Beijing 2008 and London 2012.
Now an integral part of the Olympic programme, other host cities have recognised the social and regeneration benefits of staging a sustained, strategic cultural programme. The principal reasons for doing so might be summarised as, first, acknowledgement of the cultural and creative capacity of the host city; secondly, improvement of the quality and reach of cultural services; thirdly, providing a showcase for the country’s cultural and creative diversity for internal consumption; fourthly, projection of the city and the country globally; and, fifthly, changing its image.
London, of course, has a good head start in many of these areas, but we should acknowledge that, although in many respects we have an enviable reputation for supporting arts and culture through public subsidy, we cannot afford to be complacent. I was particularly struck by that in relation to our discussion in Question Time about the precarious nature of some of our local provision.
There are some bright spots; first, the unprecedented co-operation between the five London Olympic boroughs is an excellent sign of the benefits of collaboration across boundaries to secure a much-enhanced cultural provision for all. The cultural sector has already made a substantial contribution to improving the quality of life, sense of local pride and self-esteem across the country. The sector has worked hard to develop and resource diverse communities, including people with disabilities. We should remember that, as one of your Lordships has pointed out, Britain initiated the Paralympics—a tradition on which I hope we will build in both the cultural and sporting festivals.
When allied strategically with regeneration programmes, the achievements have been notable in both urban and rural areas. Cumbria, Newcastle and Walsall particularly spring to mind; in the Olympics and Paralympics context, as others of your Lordships have already mentioned, Manchester is a good example of how culture and sport work so well together. The investment in Barcelona’s cultural infrastructure was also important in its rising popularity as a European destination. I would like to know: are there any cultural facilities that we hope will emerge in east London as a result of the Olympics and the Paralympics?
Culture is obviously a huge draw for people coming to London, and this attraction can be used to encourage visitors to travel beyond the capital. I know that Yorkshire, for example, is keen to maximise the benefits of cultural tourism in its regional development plans for the Olympics. One hopes that there are co-ordinated strategic plans for delivery on that objective across the country. China’s parting message at the end of the 2008 Olympics will be “Sail Onwards in Hope”. We hope that that will be taken up by our FriendShip project, a centrepiece of the cultural proposals for 2012. Through working on themes of exchange, voyage and exploration, the challenges of national and global citizenship can be examined, with the aim of helping young and older people to develop an understanding of what it means to be a modern Briton in our contemporary world.
The provision for young people is clearly important and the keystone of the cultural programme. We have been shamed by the recent report on the psychological and physical environment in which we bring up our children. Within many parts of the cultural sector, there has long been a recognition that young people have not been well served in our society. Although we alone cannot solve these problems, we certainly can, will and have been initiating and participating in cultural projects by working across a number of sectors and professions, including health, mental health and the environment. We can continue to work on such projects, which can at least in some way contribute toward improving the lives of our young people.
The Olympic cultural festival can also contribute to the legacy of the Games through opening and sustaining dialogues with the many nations that will be represented through the sporting events. Cultural diplomacy has significant potential as a positive force, and it stands the best chance of being effective if a wide, diverse range of actors across services, professions and sectors—and the cultural sector—are involved in negotiating the process, shape and delivery of the programme and a vital cultural legacy.
With constant reports of budget over-runs, I would like the Minister to reassure the House that the already slim resources allocated to the cultural programme are not to be clawed back. The sum involved is so tiny in comparison to the overall budget that any such act would merely be a gesture, but I know that the cultural sector is nervous about that.
I am passionate about sports and spectacle, and I very much look forward to the successful delivery and long-term legacy of the Olympics and Paralympics.
My Lords, like other noble Lords I want to thank the noble Baroness, Lady Valentine, for initiating this debate and for opening it so positively that it set the tone for us today. I declare an interest as a board member of the Olympic Delivery Authority.
Strong partnerships and the sort of working relationships to which the noble Baroness referred are key to delivering both a successful Games and, perhaps more importantly, the legacy that London and the whole of the UK want. Those are between LOCOG and the ODA, between Government and the GLA, between boroughs, business and the London Development Agency, and so many others. The expectations are high, as we have indeed heard today, but not as big as the challenge. I confess to feeling very shell-shocked the first time that I went around the site itself, on a bus tour organised for new board members. The sheer enormity of the task in the site itself is huge, before we even talk about the wider legacies in the communities and country beyond. We should never underestimate the size of the task ahead.
Like others, I do not intend to dwell on the budget or to continue building a sense of what is, in my view, a false crisis about it. Personally, I agree with the comments of the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, on the contingency funds and I hope that a realistic level is agreed there.
The Games are an absolutely massive challenge. To put it in context, the project is twice the size of T5 but has to be built in half the time. It is a fantastic opportunity. This is not just about creating the stage for what will be the greatest sporting spectacle that the country has ever seen—if we get it right—and making the most that we can of the opportunity. It is about regenerating one of the poorest parts of London and bringing a range of benefits across the country as a whole.
I have a few indices about the local community; many of your Lordships have already referred to these today. We know that of the 354 local authority areas in the UK, three of the five host boroughs are the fourth, fifth and 11th most deprived. The remaining two are in the top 50. Life expectancy in Newham is the lowest of all London boroughs—six years lower for men and five years lower for women than Westminster, which has the highest. We heard earlier about tube stations; it is actually from Bank to Stratford via the Central line that each tube stop represents a one-year decrease in life expectancy. A majority of children live in poverty in 23 out of the 24 wards, and unemployment runs at 35 per cent on several estates.
Stratford is in the London Borough of Newham and is situated in the north of the Lower Lea Valley. Socially, this area is one of the most diverse in Britain; with 300 languages spoken in London, many of them are spoken in this area. Newham also boasts the youngest population in London and the highest BME population in the country. That is both a challenge and a huge opportunity for us, if we get the legacy right.
There are two crucial elements in the DNA of everybody involved in this project. First, Games and legacy planning are truly integrated for the first time in Olympic history. Secondly, the planning for the Games through LOCOG and via the Olympic Delivery Authority is fully integrated, and they are working strongly together. As many Members of the House will be aware, that partnership is crucial to the delivery of the Games and their legacy—and has been criticised in previous Games in other cities.
A culture of “no white elephants” is running through the ODA. There will only be permanent facilities if there is a long-term legacy-use post the Games. There is no point staging brilliant Games and then suffering a sort of national hangover, with the venues gathering dust two years afterwards. As we want this project to be the catalyst for lasting social change, it is absolutely essential to get that right. We are talking about staging the greatest sporting event on Earth, but also about delivering the largest regeneration project in Europe.
How is this task being done? Planning is absolutely key, as many noble Lords have said today. If we plan for Games and legacy together, we have a chance truly to achieve the objectives that we have set. Equally, if we plan and then make decisions, we must stick to them. Projects run into trouble when the scope is changed half way through. I thought it might be useful to give some examples of how, by working together, we are planning to help deliver the legacy that everyone wants. The partnerships are multi-faceted and wider than that of LOCOG and the London Development Agency.
I shall give some tangible examples. The 70,000 volunteers that LOCOG requires link the pre-volunteer programme that the LDA is running to address worklessness in London into planning for the Games themselves. Similarly, combined work by the GLA and the London Development Agency on skills links into the employment opportunities that the ODA and LOCOG provide. Within the Olympic Park, the ODA is delivering the international broadcast centre and media press centre for the Games; that will then become part of Hackney’s legacy ambition, by converting these facilities into industrial space afterwards. Likewise, the ODA’s current procurement needs—and, later, those of LOCOG—link to the ambitions and work of the LDA, which is creating the London business network to help London businesses get the most from the Games, as well as skilling-up to exploit wider business opportunities.
As the noble Baroness, Lady Valentine, said most acutely, it is crucial to put aside both old vested interests and silos. This will work only if people work together in a way which we know at times has not happened. Most crucially, we have to ensure that local people, especially the Bangladeshi communities, benefit from the opportunities that will come forward in the next few years.
One of the most difficult parts of the delivery of the Games and the legacy is meeting the very high expectations there are—whether with regard to skills, sustainability, diversity, sports participation or arts and culture. Of course, there is also the overall economic and physical regeneration. Somehow we have to value and harness that enthusiasm but, above all, we must have a very tough, focused delivery programme, or none of this will be met. I hate to sound boring, practical and pragmatic, but that is where the work has to start.
In broad terms, the delivery programme involves two years of acquiring the land, securing the necessary planning permissions and doing the venue and infrastructure design. That is well on the way. There are then four years of cleaning up the land platform, constructing the venues and the infrastructure and one year for test events. It is clear that the Games experience is significantly enhanced if the venues have been tested and volunteer programmes properly prepared.
So far the ODA has finalised the master plan. It is over six years out, has given clarity and certainty, has saved jobs, and has ensured that there will be more sustainable venues post-Games. The programme timetable has been finalised and the planning applications have been submitted—which did not really fit into the overall sustainability and environmental aims of the Games, because it meant truckloads of paper were submitted. But they were submitted on time and that is going through. The process of undergrounding the pylons has been started and we have started to see the transport improvements come on stream. The delivery partner has also been appointed and a very far-reaching sustainability report is being published, too. It is early days, but a strong start has been made. The major milestones have been hit and the challenge will be doing that week in and week out for the next 2,000 days.
The level of enthusiasm remains very high. Of course, there are difficulties and there will be more, but local communities are very clear about the benefits. Earlier on I was looking at a letter received from the mayor’s office in Hackney, which says:
“For the last seven years Hackney has consistently recognised the opportunities that a bid to host the London Games and hosting the Games themselves, can bring to a community and how it can act as a catalyst at each stage of the process, to accelerate the delivery of a range of long held Borough aspirations as well as using the momentum of an Olympic project to bring forward new ideas and new relationships”.
The mayor then goes through a range of opportunities that he sees being delivered in Hackney. These include dealing with,
“worklessness, training and employment opportunities”,
physical regeneration, transport opportunities, and volunteering. The letter says that Hackney sees,
“the Olympic Park as the catalyst in bringing a revitalised environmental and sporting focus to”,
that part of east London. It is also an opportunity to raise the level of participation in sports and arts to a level that has never been met. So there is a high level of enthusiasm in Hackney and all the other boroughs, which at the moment is still building on the bid process. It would be very unfortunate if a level of cynicism crept in at a national level that then fed down into those local boroughs—because at the moment that cynicism is not there.
Expectations and enthusiasm remain high; the plans are sound, but very challenging. The task of this great project is for me not only the Games, huge though that is, but how the local community is transformed after 2012. Clearly as a House we should return to this subject many times. I am confident that if we work together across the bodies to which we have referred today and the political divides, we can meet these tasks, pass these tests and leave a great legacy for the whole country.
My Lords, I too congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Valentine, on her prescience in securing the debate today as the IOC is meeting in London and following the leaks of alleged escalation of costs at the weekend. That is not the subject before your Lordships' House today, but I shall make one comment in passing. Whatever the eventual cost outturn, the Government and this nation must demand excellence in quality and demonstrable value, and ensure that it is delivered.
The noble Baroness, Lady Valentine, and other noble Lords, have great experience and knowledge of the activities in Greater London, and she expressed concern that we should ensure an economic and social legacy for future generations. I was personally much moved by the contribution of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chelmsford and his remarks on the social consequences. It is something that we need to take into consideration in our House.
I should like to spend a few minutes on parts of the legacy envisaged for the devolved Administrations, the nine English regions in general and Wales in particular, on this glorious St David’s Day—although it will disappoint the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, that someone is here to talk about it. I remind your Lordships that outside the core athletic activities there is also a cultural Olympiad, which commences at the closing ceremony in August 2008 in Beijing. It is interesting to note that in the history of the modern Olympiad up till 1948, which was the last time when the Games were staged in London, Olympic medals were awarded for sculpture, music, literature and art. This cultural Olympiad will extend for four years.
For successful delivery of the vision of London's bid, it is vital that the core aims of celebration, welcoming the world to our shores and the involvement and inspiration of young people are centre stage. It is understood that no specific funding will be available for the cultural Olympiad and that a large part of the programme will probably be delivered by existing organisations and networks. Some funds may be made available through the Legacy Trust UK, which will be established next year, and could be funded to the tune of £40 million, including £34 million from the National Lottery and £6 million from the Exchequer. That is to be spent over the years up to and including 2012. However, I trust that the Government will heed the words of deep concern expressed by Sir Clive Booth in connection with the apparent plundering of the Big Lottery Fund referred to by the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee.
It is essential that nationwide activities are complementary and co-ordinated through the mechanism of the Nations and Regions Group. In Wales the culture group is discussing numerous options, which include securing a short but high-level Welsh presence in the UK’s presentation at the Beijing closing ceremony; seeking to establish an Olympic link to the Artes Mundi festival in 2012; the creating of an opening ceremony for the Olympic football tournament group which is to be staged in Cardiff at the Millennium stadium; featuring the Olympic theme in the Urdd, National and Llangollen International Eisteddfodau; establishing an international arts festival by 2009 to provide an opportunity of leverage for that part of the 2009 Ashes series taking part in south Wales and the all-important Ryder Cup in 2010; and offering, through LOCOG, the opportunity to host an Olympic youth camp in Wales.
As noble Lords can see, the menu is extensive, and I am sure that similar thinking and activity is gathering momentum through other English regions and devolved Administrations. However, there lurks a cynicism about LOCOG's ability to ensure that the cultural Olympiad is not simply a London programme and whether there will eventually be an ability to maintain a commitment to the programme when resources are inevitably drained as pressures escalate. As the cultural programme in Great Britain will rely on a prosperous arts landscape, any cuts in this sector’s funding over the next four years must significantly reduce the ability of that sector to deliver a unique and outstanding cultural Olympiad.
In respect of the core sporting activities and related programmes, it is encouraging to know that the majority of structures being created in the London area will have sustainable use. As important for the legacy, if not more so, are the softer priorities such as tourism, skills and education, volunteering and sports development for young people. Businesses will need to respond and to develop proactively—to develop, adapt and innovate—to meet the opportunity that the event will present. It is important, specifically, that procurement skills be addressed as a matter of priority. Nationally, SMEs must be encouraged and actively supported through existing mechanisms to up their game and be proactive in getting involved in the tendering process. There are, and will be, significant opportunities for tier 1 and tier 2 suppliers.
Volunteering was recognised as one of the most successful aspects of the 2000 Sydney Games; volunteers gave a warm welcome, displaying good cheer and impressive language skills. In the immediate term, development of a pre-volunteer programme—a concept successfully used in the Manchester Commonwealth Games 2002—could be pursued. It consisted of basic-level skills training, targeted at people in communities with high levels of unemployment or economic inactivity. It is also important to take advantage of the interest that has already been stated by the people in this country to ensure the broadest participation.
It is predicted that tourism will be boosted by some £2 billion, some 40 per cent of which could well go outside London. This is supported by experiences in Barcelona and Sydney. Again, that will happen only if the regions of the devolved Administrations grasp the opportunity now.
My consistent view is that nothing will come to the regions or to the devolved Administrations unless there is substantial proactivity. An official of the 1992 Barcelona Games organising committee recently said:
“I recommend that the lesson for Wales is that you should be proactive, autonomous and as quick to take advantage of opportunities as possible and not simply ask others for resources and for help. It is necessary to establish a realistic and early commitment”.
Another person said that Barcelona was neglected for most of the 20th century and had the chance to invest in six years what would otherwise have taken 50 years to achieve.
Finally, I quote, with permission, from the former premier of New South Wales, the honourable Bob Carr, whom I recently consulted. He is a good friend of Britain and of old Wales. A few weeks after the Games in September 2000 had ended, he wrote:
“It was a new age for Australia, a new way of looking at ourselves and celebrating our unique, diverse, enriching, common purpose. We were, I felt, the happiest people in the world’s most favoured nation at the best time in our history”.
Let us see if we can do the same.
My Lords, in trying to sum up a debate such as this, various things keep recurring. Although everybody thinks that the Olympics are a wonderful opportunity—the noble Baroness, Lady Valentine, must be congratulated on giving us the chance to say it—there are pitfalls of expectation surrounding the event. Only my noble friends have actually said this, so let us get it out of the way. Unless there is a degree of coherence about the budget, which requires the involvement of everybody in government, in both Westminster and Whitehall, we could be hanging an albatross around the neck of the Games. We have to be coherent, because if everything is going well, the press have nothing to write about. We have to tell the truth and push it out properly; we must let people know exactly what is going on.
My noble friend Lady Hamwee, not for the first time, encapsulated the argument within government. With a 60 per cent contingency, any contractor worth his salt will say, “I’ll have some of that, if not all of it”. We would all do it if we knew that that budget was available—at least we would try. So we must get some clarity.
When the announcement was made, it was a moment of pure joy that will stay with me for a long time. Even at my advancing age, I jumped in the air, punched the ceiling and cried “Yes!”. True, I wish it had been a few years earlier so that when I landed, my knees did not creak, but the feeling of enthusiasm that only sport can bring was there. Only in sport is that idea of being all together and the exultation in someone else’s effort and triumph.
We really must support this. That is why it is worth having these arguments and making sure we establish a degree of coherence. If we do not, we will not get there. We must encourage people to get involved. The social benefit that will result and of people being enthusiastic about sport is a huge, positive thing. It gives us a sense of identity and brings us together. That happens in all sports. Not only are we taking part in this, we are creating it. That is a benefit.
Let me give some free advice which can be cheaply ignored. If the Prime Minister wants a legacy, let him look to the Olympics. A successful Olympics will be a positive legacy that nobody will begrudge him. The first thing the Government must do, with help from all the political parties, is establish a degree of coherence about what we must achieve and the framework for it. The one thing that could spoil the Games for the enthusiastic sportsman is the idea that we might squeeze out those benefits by taking all the funding for the event and not leaving enough for the legacy. We will not get the regeneration that is required to turn this enthusiasm into participation in local sports clubs. We will not get people deciding, “I’ll try that sport”. Increasing sports participation will probably happen through the minority rather than the mainstream sports. People will say, “I’ve seen that and I’ll try it”, and, “That looks like a sport I’d like; I’ll find out how it’s done”. This is one of the great educational aspects of any Games. People see something done really well and think, “I’d like to try that”. Olympic success can do that as well as the educational aspect.
Can the Government confirm that there is a certain point beyond which they will not go in drawing in the budget to the Olympic centre? The sporting legacy for the country could very easily be damaged. Indeed, there is already a fear that that will happen, reflected in the briefing we have received. Can the Government take this opportunity to say that we will not allow all the football pitches in south-east England, for example, to be neglected for two years to make sure that the Olympic budget gets everything, and will they repeat it often? They must state that there is a limit and that we will make sure that there is something to pass on. The Government have to ensure that their finances, as well as the finances of the Olympic bid, are well organised. I know there is a line beyond which the Government do not have direct authority, but they are the people who can do it if anybody can; they need to make sure that this is protected. If they do not, a lot of what has been debated here will not transpire, and we will not get the benefits.
With regard to the health benefits that will flow from the Olympics—I thank the noble Lord, Lord Crisp, for referring to a point I raised earlier about sports medicine—the direct aesthetic and health-related benefits of being fit will be a bonus. Taking account of the stories in the press at the moment about zero-size models and super-heavyweight 10 year-olds, this is a point at which we can say that there is a way of giving a positive example of what you can do. In their whole thinking on this topic, the Government must address how the cultural themes, and everything else that has gone behind this, can be worked in. The fact remains that the sporting idea at its centre must be protected and preserved.
I come to one of the more difficult points that I will raise in the debate about the Olympics and sport generally. It is a criticism, I am afraid, of the Paralympic movement. Many of us on these Benches would see this as an odd thing to start with—especially for somebody who holds the brief for both sports and disability, as I do. I am not against the Paralympics in any way, but there is a major problem at the moment. Those who have a learning disability are no longer included. This is the result of probably one of the most heinous bits of cheating, and of breaking the Olympic spirit, that has ever occurred. The competition in the Paralympics is to be the best inside your own field, where you have the idea of competition and a level playing field. In 2000, a group of Spanish athletes infiltrated the Spanish learning disability basketball team, cheated, and got the gold medal. They damaged the spirit of the Olympics. In my opinion, this is as bad as any drug cheating that has taken place. Indeed, it is possibly worse. By not getting these groups back in, however, you punish the athletes who were not cheating, the people who have only that opportunity to compete at this level. You also remove a whole stream of funding and competition opportunities on the way up.
I do not know whether the Minister had warning that I intended to raise this subject. Does the noble Lord have any idea about what the Government are going to do? How will this be taken forward to the relevant bodies? This decision also takes in those with Down’s syndrome. You can check those with Down’s syndrome very easily. I have a long-standing association with the UK Sports Association for People with Learning Disability. If you meet many of the athletes involved, you do not realise that they have a problem until you have spoken to them for a certain period of time. It is usually physically apparent for those who have Down’s syndrome—you can chromosomally test for this, I believe.
Why are we not encouraging this group back in? I hate to have to leave on this one point, but the Olympics are for everyone. Can the Government please give us an assurance that they will address this matter?
My Lords, I join in congratulating the noble Baroness, Lady Valentine, on securing this debate. As commented, it is timely following the recent flurry of press activity: yesterday’s Evening Standard, and papers last weekend. I am sure the comparison made with the ill fated Millennium Dome, in the Sunday Telegraph, has made many of your Lordships shudder, though not, perhaps, as much as the comments on the Dome made by my noble friend Lord James of Blackheath.
Before continuing, I declare an interest as chairman of the National Playing Fields Association. As your Lordships have highlighted today, the legacy planning for the Olympic and Paralympic Games was more central to our bid than it has been to any previous host city. The Olympic Delivery Agency has gone as far as to suggest that this was,
“the first time that Games and legacy planning has worked hand in hand”.
The Olympics were won with a bipartisan approach and the Bill discussed last Session had cross-party support. I am sure all in this House would like the 2012 Games to secure a lasting legacy of economic and social benefit, not just for east London, but for the UK as a whole. The question is: will they?
Today’s debate has picked up on four key issues, which are considered the backbone of the 2012 Games legacy: the regeneration of east London; the provision of permanent venues for future use; an increased participation in sport, particularly at school and community level; and a boost to the economy, predominantly via tourism, as mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Lee of Trafford.
There are positive legacy aspects. The cost-benefit study by Arup shows that, as a direct result of hosting an Olympic Games, there are examples of quantifiable benefits in terms of additional tourism. The job creation aspect of the development, production and regeneration is also very clear.
However, there are worrying aspects. Skills Active has warned that we should not presume that holding the Games will naturally inspire inactive people to change their ways. Indeed, the Central Council of Physical Recreation does not believe that there is any evidence that previous Olympic Games have instilled a long-term legacy of participation; it is a view backed up by other research. The Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport has expressed concern about the struggle permanent venues may have to maintain commercial success after the Games. The details of the plan to deliver the commercial and residential future development envisaged for the Olympic Park, post-Games, are yet to be finalised.
I understand that the Government’s response to the report of the Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport is due on 26 March. In advance of that, do Her Majesty’s Government intend to publish a plan, as recommended by the Select Committee, on how they hope to achieve a significant increase in sport and sporting activities in Great Britain at community and grassroots level? The benefits of such an increase in sporting activities have been eloquently expressed by the noble Baroness, Lady Valentine, and the noble Lords, Lord Newby and Lord Addington.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer has made statements in the press about increasing the number of hours of sport that will be available for schoolchildren. It is not clear how this will be achieved. Are Her Majesty’s Government going to comment on this, and indeed on any of the other recommendations?
Funding of the Olympic project has significant ramifications, to put it mildly, for all areas of the potential legacy. Some of your Lordships have spoken on this. In the words of my honourable friend in another place, Hugo Swire, it is a “gross incompetence” on the Government’s part that they failed to include in the initial estimates potential inflation in building costs, VAT, or a realistic contingency fund—let alone the as yet unconfirmed security costs. Are there any other surprises, such as decontamination costs, still to come?
The original budget—which Ministers assured this House and the other place on numerous occasions was robust—was generally supported. But only 19 months on, the estimated cost of staging the 2012 Games has had hefty increases. What will the cost be in three years' time—or at this rate, what will the cost be next month? When will the Minister be able to tell us the true cost of the project and provide the details asked for by the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee?
We all know stories of the building work over-running on both budget and deadlines. What chance is there of being able to avoid this type of problem when there is such a lack of clarity in the first place? I am sure that the Minister will have been grateful and will have welcomed the fine advice of the noble Lord, Lord James—given at no charge. The ever burgeoning bill, coupled with the Secretary of State's failure to make a convincing case that the management exists to ensure that money is put to good use and the silence of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, is jeopardising the project. The London 2012 chairman, the noble Lord, Lord Coe, and chief executive, Paul Deighton, have both highlighted that this increasing uncertainty is making it difficult for them to raise sponsorship from companies to pay for that part of the Games which is to be funded by the private sector.
Today there have been calls for caution regarding the possible serious consequences for the charitable and voluntary sector by any further diversion of funds from the lottery's good causes to the Olympic infrastructure. Even before any further increases—which, after reading the recent press, we are so nervously anticipating—there is a brake on the development of any new programmes for the immediate future. There will also be significant shortfalls for current published programmes. It is ironic that one of these, lottery funding to sport, was reduced from £397 million to £264 million last year. Can the Minister please assure the House that he will look elsewhere for extra funds and that there will be no more demands on the lottery? If there were, it would have a serious effect on the charities and organisations that the lottery was set up to assist.
We on these Benches believe that if this project is to be a success and encourage the legacy which we all support, there must be proper management of the project so that budgets, cost projections and timetables are met. The Secretary of State agreed the original budget and must now deliver the goods. That is what needs to be done if there is to be a lasting legacy of economic and social benefit.
My Lords, I am grateful to all noble Lords who have spoken in this debate and especially for the constructive tone that has been developed in most cases. I particularly appreciate the success of the noble Baroness, Lady Valentine, in tabling the debate and thank her for her opening contribution, which I think set the tone for the debate.
Of course there are anxieties about the Olympics and all sorts of questions which the Government cannot resolve at this early stage in the development of the project. However, we are making substantial progress. I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Howard, for indicating that the bid and subsequent developments on the Bill enjoyed bipartisan support—in fact, support from all sections of the House. I am a little dismayed that his contribution was the only one in the debate that focused entirely on negativism about the Games.
Perhaps I may make the obvious point on costs. Of course costs are an important dimension of the Olympics; but the Sydney Olympics, which received considerable praise for how the Games were conducted and for their legacy, did not produce a budget for the Games until two years before they took place. We are under some onslaught from the opposition Benches because we do not have a full budget five years before the Games, despite the fact that the International Olympic Committee has recognised the considerable progress that we have already made. The extent of the progress made will be recognised—I am very grateful to my noble friend Lady Morgan of Huyton, who can comment authoritatively on these matters in view of her participation with the authority—although the site that has been chosen and is being developed and cleared is a monumentally difficult one to address. But that is the strength of the legacy. Into one of the most difficult areas of east London are going the substantial resources necessary to create a significant legacy indeed.
So although I hear what the noble Lord, Lord Howard, says, I say to him that a range of wholly speculative figures have been cited by the media in the past few months and claimed to be the cost of the Games. In fact, one expects one or two newspapers to lob another several hundred thousand pounds almost every week on to the cost they have identified. We are not in a position at this stage to confirm the cost of the Games. A range of speculative figures are being bandied about.
We recognise the importance of getting a budget as soon as we can. Discussions are continuing within government on the cost issues, including wider security, tax and contingency provision. We will make an announcement in due course once these discussions have been concluded. I think that noble Lords opposite ought to restrain their current onslaught against a background where our position on the Games is relatively well advanced in comparison with other hugely successful Games.
I assure the noble Lord, Lord James, that lessons have been learnt from the Dome and developments of that time. He reinforced those lessons today and his speech will be noted with the greatest care. He will recognise that some of the mistakes made on the Dome were previously appreciated and acknowledged. That is leading to a very different approach by government to the Olympic Games.
I want, however, to follow the main tenor of the debate and talk about the enormous legacy that can be created by the Games—an economic and sporting legacy, and a hard legacy in the construction of buildings of dramatic architecture, several of which will continue to provide enormously significant facilities after the Games are over, on brownfield land which is derelict, contaminated and heavily scarred by Victorian industry. The Games will transform an area that has been neglected for so very long.
Another aspect of the hard legacy on which my noble friend Lady Ford enjoined us is that we should ensure that the local community also benefits directly. After the Games are over, there will be 9,000 new homes in and around the Olympic Park and nearly 40,000 new homes in the immediate area. These will be built in a hugely disadvantaged part of London. I was grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Valentine, for identifying the nature of the problems of the East End and the surrounding boroughs. It seems to me that all too often many decision-takers, and certainly those who comment on the Government’s decisions, know the West End of London, the route of their journey to Parliament, Whitehall and the main railway stations well—except that they tend not to know Liverpool Street so well—but the land beyond Liverpool Street and the City is relatively less well known to them. As the noble Baroness, Lady Valentine, emphasised, these boroughs have the highest unemployment rate in the country and deprivation on a level unmatched elsewhere, although we recognise that other parts of the country also need careful attention in that regard.
The benefits of the Games must be measured in hard opportunities for the people. They will mean improvements in skills and opportunities. The Olympic Games will create construction and development opportunities. I also bear in mind the point that the noble Lord, Lord Crisp, emphasised about the health of people in deprived areas. There is no doubt at all that the five boroughs reflect their poverty in those terms. I understand his very important point that it is time that we shift even greater emphasis to aspects of mental health, and that poor physical health often derives from the poor state of mind of people who, for all sorts of reasons, feel unable to cope. I think he will recognise that some of these points are being registered very forcefully in other aspects of government activity within the Department of Health, and that there is a growing emphasis on the need for additional resources to be allocated to mental health. We want the Games to give an uplift to the East End and to lift morale, which will itself help to provide extra resources and an optimistic commitment to the Olympics among the people there, and to the circumstances in which they live.
The five boroughs are co-operating extraordinarily well on the Games. There is no doubt at all that they see the opportunities that they offer, and that is why they are positive. Everyone recognises that we must get a balance between benefits and costs, but it is also important to recognise that we have an obligation to provide the highest quality Olympics that have ever been held. We face challenges ahead in that regard. One such challenge is behind us: the Sydney Olympics were spectacularly successful. We have every expectation that those in Beijing will hit new heights. We face a significant challenge if we are to produce the best Games ever and the Government are all too well aware of that.
The usual constructive suggestion was made that these problems will best be solved by having a Cabinet Minister devoted to them as his or her sole occupation. I appreciate the attractions in changing the organisation of government. However, when I replied to a question on that matter two days ago, two former Cabinet Ministers said they did not think that changes of specification and responsibilities at Cabinet level added a great deal. I do not think that the Olympics will be helped by a change in government organisation. The Olympics will be well delivered only if all government departments with responsibility in this area collaborate effectively. That is what we need to ensure. The very fact that we have set as the objectives the range of benefits which were identified in this debate helps greatly in this regard. I am confident that if we need to change government structure, that change will be effected. I think that it will be recognised—the Olympic committee recognises this—that, having won the bid, the government response to the challenge of preparing for the Games is far more advanced than any previous arrangements for such Games.
As was to be expected, the noble Lord, Lord Lee of Trafford, emphasised the enormous tourist advantages of the Games and the importance that we should attach to the wider tourist benefits to be gained across the whole of the United Kingdom. I link that with the other theme which came across strongly throughout the debate—that the Olympic Games will constitute a showcase for Britain. I hope that one of the aspects of that will be medals won by Britain. However, we can bet even more safely on the fact that we can provide for tourists to Britain an absolutely unparalleled experience in our artistic and cultural legacy, as several noble Lords mentioned. The noble Baroness, Lady Young, emphasised the cultural dimension of the Games, as did the noble Lord, Lord Rowe-Beddoe. We need to recognise across the nation that the Olympic Games will put the United Kingdom as a whole very much in the spotlight, in the same way that we are already seeing an enormous shift in the world’s perspective on China. Its economic development is the most significant factor in that regard but we should not underestimate the showcase that the Olympic Games will provide for China too. The Games constitute a very great opportunity for the United Kingdom given its enormously rich cultural assets. I was grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Rowe-Beddoe, for emphasising the contribution that Wales can make in that regard, but it applies to all parts of the United Kingdom.
We want to link cultural and artistic aspects to the cultural Olympiad which will run alongside the Games. Cultural aspects of the Games do not comprise just the opening and closing ceremonies although those provide the most dramatic showcase and appear on worldwide television. The Games are an opportunity to celebrate the values of the Olympics and the cultural dimension attached to those. We are planning to develop that across the nation.
The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chelmsford brought a different dimension to the debate. He referred to the multicultural setting in east London in which the Olympics will take place and to the need to provide a lasting legacy of sound values for young people and communities. I very much appreciated his contribution. The noble Lord, Lord Rowe-Beddoe, said that he was also moved by the speech. The Olympics will take place in a part of east London that needs to be given a sense of hope and to be the subject of good news rather than the bad news with which it is often associated in the media. The Games should lift young people’s idealism. The churches have a great deal to offer in that regard and all faith organisations in the multi-faith community of east London can play their part. We should appeal to them to do so because their influence in east London is so very strong. That strength needs to be built on.
Given her responsibilities and roles outside the House, the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, made a very measured, constructive speech in which she emphasised the necessity of maintaining high morale and support for the Games. She pressed upon us the damage to morale if we were unable in due course to produce a proper budget. I assure her that we recognise that factor. These are not easy issues. There is no doubt that certain aspects relating to the development of the Games, not least the nature of the site, are proving challenging with regard to costs. But I assure her that we take her representation seriously. We recognise the advantages that we can derive from being able to make progress in the near future on the budget. I hope that she will recognise that every energy is being devoted towards that objective.
I was grateful for the contribution of the noble Lord, Lord Newby. We recognise that the Olympic Games present an enormous opportunity within schools and educational programmes to promote commitment to sport and Olympic ideals. I agree that we need to make progress in that area. We are devoting some £40 million towards a trust to promote sport and the cultural dimensions of the Games. He will recognise that this is a pump-priming activity. However, there is no doubt that one department of government which sees the enormous opportunities of the Olympic Games is the Department for Education and Skills. Several noble Lords emphasised that we need to change the culture of young people. The noble Baroness commented that we must move from being couch potatoes. There are opportunities. In the past year, we have been supporting the Schools Games. They made an enormous impact. We recognise that we have to provide opportunities for competition for young people. We have to move sport up the educational agenda. It will be recognised that in the past things were not read in these terms. We know the costs of the selling-off of playing fields in previous decades. A stop has now been placed on that. But what is more important is that within schools we recognise—it is why we emphasise it within the school curriculum—the great importance of the commitment to physical activity and exercise. Those factors all relate to the stimulus which the Olympics can provide.
It has been an interesting and in many ways an enormously constructive debate. Every noble Lord who participated has recognised the challenge which the Olympics present. Five years from the delivery of the Games, we see the challenges rather than achievements. Of course, the Government are vulnerable to the charges presented by the noble Lord, Lord Howard, in a series of detailed questions to which there are not immediate or easy answers. I make this appeal to him. First, we will meet the issue with regard to costs very shortly. Secondly, of course the role of the Opposition is to challenge the Government, but let us recognise this fact: we shall deliver on behalf of our nation the best Olympic Games ever only if everyone in this country is committed and devoted towards that objective. We need the help of all parties. We need to sustain all bipartisan support. Today we have had a debate which should encourage him in that bipartisan activity rather than in being too critical.
The Government are pleased that the Motion has been timed for today. It was important that the Olympic Games were brought to the fore at this stage. I congratulate the noble Baroness on having done so.
My Lords, I found the debate stimulating and interesting. I thank all noble Lords who offered insights. I found particularly valuable the comparisons with the Millennium Dome, the Manchester Commonwealth Games and Barcelona, and even failed sporting bids. I referred to turning couch potatoes into runner beans. When the noble Lord, Lord Lee, spoke about the three “p”s, the debate risked taking a distinctly vegetarian turn. I particularly thank the noble Lord, Lord Davies, for his response on behalf of the Government. I congratulate the Government on the progress to date in preparing for the Games.
In summary, I remind the House of my key points. We need to focus on the benefits which the Olympics will bring. We need to work hard now to achieve them. The legacy of the Olympics and Paralympics needs to be more than medals and venues. There is the opportunity to bring lasting change, both physical and social, to east London. But that requires clarity on which body is in the lead between 2012 and 2020, and that body needs the powers and resources to deliver. It also requires public and private sectors jointly to commit to bringing more of the workless into employment, not through worthy but unsustainable job-creation schemes but by identifying the needs of employers and helping people without jobs to meet those needs through appropriate training and support. We must also learn lessons from our recent past. We know that regeneration will be painfully slow unless the infrastructure to establish true communities and link them to existing workplaces is created too.
Lastly, to deliver a successful legacy as well as the Games needs a clear commitment from government. There are two key roles. The chairmanship of the ODA needs to be resolved and I continue to believe that we need a Cabinet-level Minister whose job is to bang heads together across departments and to champion the legacy. I beg leave to withdraw the Motion for Papers.
Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.
My Lords, with the leave of the House I shall repeat a Statement made in another place by my right honourable friend the Minister for the Armed Forces. The Statement is as follows:
“Before starting the Statement proper, I should like to pay tribute to Rifleman Coffey, who was killed in Iraq on Tuesday. Our thoughts go to his family and friends at this time.
“With permission, Mr Speaker, I should like to make a Statement about the UK military commitment in Bosnia-Herzegovina. The UK first deployed to Bosnia-Herzegovina in 1992, as part of UNPROFOR, in response to inter-ethnic violence resulting from the collapse of the former Republic of Yugoslavia. We are all sadly familiar with the atrocities committed during the Bosnian War, which resulted in an estimated 100,000 people killed and the forcible displacement of some 1.8 million people.
“After three years of conflict and following a NATO air and land campaign, a ceasefire in Bosnia-Herzegovina was agreed in 1995. This was followed by the brokering of the General Framework Agreement for Peace—more commonly known as the Dayton agreement—underpinned by the deployment of NATO forces.
“The international community has retained a military presence in Bosnia-Herzegovina since then, initially through NATO and, since 2004, through an EU force. At its peak, the international community presence, under NATO, amounted to some 60,000 troops, including some 12,000 UK personnel.
“Today there are approximately 6,000 international troops in EUFOR, of which some 600 are from the UK. This significant reduction over the years is testimony to the continuously improving security situation in Bosnia-Herzegovina.
“With the UK’s involvement in the UN, NATO and now EU forces, we have been operating in Bosnia-Herzegovina for some 15 years, contributing to the maintenance of a safe and secure environment. Indeed, we led EUFOR for its first year of operations and have been the lead nation in Task Force (North West).
“Over the years, UK troops have been engaged in large numbers of operations to recover illegally held weapons, ammunition and explosives, as well as assisting the local authorities to combat organised crime. I would like to set out the detail of some of our successes.
“There are still dangerously high levels of small arms and light weapons in Bosnia-Herzegovina and, while a number of international organisations are implementing initiatives in this field, they are all dependent on donors. Last November, I had the pleasure of opening an explosive waste incinerator designed to destroy surplus small arms ammunition. The UK funding for that project amounts to some half a million pounds.
“In addition, the UK continues to fund the training of junior officers from all of the three main ethnic backgrounds, thereby contributing to the building of the state. In this financial year, UK support for this project is in the region of £1 million. The UK is also assisting in the development of the NATO trust fund mechanism to facilitate the resettlement into civilian life of up to 6,000 personnel made redundant through defence reform processes. The project will aim to provide training and advice to former soldiers who are returning to civilian life.
“It is clear that Bosnia-Herzegovina is becoming increasingly safe. In recent years, there have been increasing indications of a security situation that is approaching normality. Parliamentary and presidential elections took place last year, and they were judged to be free and fair. Significant steps in defence reform have been made, resulting in the establishment of a single, multi-ethnic military force that is compatible with NATO. That has resulted in Bosnia-Herzegovina being able to contribute a small number of troops to operations in Iraq.
“Perhaps most important, the majority of people displaced from their homes during the war have chosen to return, many of them to areas where they do not belong to the majority ethnic group. In recognition of progress in all those areas, Bosnia-Herzegovina was invited to join NATO’s Partnership for Peace programme last autumn, on the condition that there will continue to be full co-operation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. NATO will closely monitor its efforts.
“The time is right, therefore, to reassess the role of the international military presence. In December, EU Foreign Ministers agreed in principle to transition EUFOR from a large dispersed force structure to a smaller, centralised one. On Tuesday, at a meeting of the Political and Security Committee, EU member states gave the final approval, in light of the continually improving security situation, to this change. The resulting reduction in force levels, from approximately 6,000 troops to 2,500 troops, will allow Bosnia-Herzegovina to take more control of its own affairs. The EU decision to move to transition is in accordance with clear military advice that the security situation is stable and that the local authorities are able to cope with all but the most serious incidents.
“The Welsh Guards, who are currently deployed, will therefore not need to be replaced with any further manoeuvre troops. More than 600 troops, principally from the Welsh Guards, will return to the United Kingdom. That will mean that the UK’s future in-theatre commitment for the next phase of EUFOR will be a small number of staff officers in the Sarajevo HQ, although we will continue to contribute to the pan-Balkans operational reserve force. A small number of troops will be needed to ensure a smooth transition to the new EUFOR structure and to dismantle the base at Banja Luka.
“As we come to the end of UK military operations in Bosnia-Herzegovina, we can look back and see the contribution that our Armed Forces have made to the rebuilding of a country destroyed by conflict. As with other theatres of operation, they have been central in establishing a secure environment in which political solutions and reconstruction can be pursued.
“But while much has been achieved by the UK, our efforts have not been without significant losses. We must remember those UK service men and women who were injured or who laid down their lives trying to protect the people of Bosnia-Herzegovina, and I pay tribute to them. A series of commemorative events, both in Bosnia-Herzegovina and in the UK, is being planned to honour the 55 personnel who lost their lives and the many thousands who were deployed. I will provide further detail of these events in due course.
“But we must look forward as well as back. There is still progress to be made, particularly in pushing forward key political reforms, ensuring less nationalism in political discourse and developing state-level institutions. The UK must, and will, remain engaged as Bosnia-Herzegovina strengthens her position within Europe and beyond”.
My Lords, that concludes the Statement.
My Lords, I thank the Minister for repeating the Statement and for giving us advance sight of it. I declare an interest as a trustee of the Fund for Refugees in Slovenia, which was founded to provide relief to Bosnian refugees, primarily in Slovenia. The charity has been concentrating on helping Bosnians to return to their pre-war homes, particularly in the Srebrenica region. I join the Minister in paying tribute to Rifleman Coffey, and from these Benches we send our condolences to his family and friends. We also echo the Statement in remembering all those United Kingdom service men and women who died or were injured trying to bring peace to Bosnia-Herzegovina over the past 15 years.
Much progress has been made in Bosnia-Herzegovina, and we welcome those successes referred to in the Statement. However, it would be naive to see this announcement as an end to all the problems there and to expect a smooth transition for Kosovo. On every front, 2007 looks set to be an extremely challenging year for the Balkans region. Serbia remains an unstable country that is led by a radical party whose leader is currently in The Hague facing charges of genocide. The recent unrest in Kosovo, and Belgrade’s unwillingness to engage constructively in the final status talks, have cast a shadow over President Ahtisaari’s proposals for supervised independence in Kosovo. In Bosnia-Herzegovina, separatist forces in the entity of Republika Srpska continue to hamper Bosnia’s progress. Too many Serbs believe in a greater Serbia and that all Serbs should live together. What message is our pull-out sending them? Will they not be emboldened by the lack of an international military presence that has long served as a deterrent to their aspirations?
High Representative Christian Schwarz-Schilling has just announced an extension of his role until 2008, which is an extra year on top of his original mandate. That reversal of an earlier decision has been taken after a realistic assessment of the obvious uncertainties in the region. At the same time, the decision has been made to reduce the international military presence by cutting EUFOR numbers from 7,500 to 2,500. Will the Minister explain the remarkable discrepancy between those two assessments of Bosnia-Herzegovina’s stability?
If the Bosnians are deemed incapable of taking greater control over their own affairs on a political level, why are the Government so confident that they can be self-sufficient on a military level? We hope that the decision has been taken because of a genuine belief that lasting stability can be maintained in the Balkans region and not because the Government need all the troops that they can get in Afghanistan. What provisions have been put in place to allow a future increase in the number of troops in the region if needed?
The alleged war criminals General Mladic and Radovan Karadzic are still at large. Who will be responsible for trying to bring them to justice? To argue that the region is now stable suggests that a lesser emphasis is now being put on the surrender of those two individuals. How many of our troops, and from what other countries, will remain in the pan-Balkan force, mentioned in the Statement? Finally, how many of our own troops will remain to continue the important task of training the Bosnian forces, particularly in the essential task of mine clearance?
My Lords, from these Benches we, too, offer our condolences to the family and friends of Rifleman Coffey, who was killed in Iraq earlier in the week. We warmly welcome the Statement as an indication of improvement in the security situation in Bosnia-Herzegovina. It is always difficult to judge the exact moment when one can make a significant drawdown and there are inevitably some risks associated with it.
I note the report in today’s New York Times of a statement released in Brussels that said that, in doing this,
“the Union would be prepared to ‘re-establish a more robust military presence if needed’ in the months after the reduction”.
Other reports talk about such a contingency for the next six months. The Statement does not mention that. Perhaps the Minister could clarify whether there is such a contingency, so that it may be necessary to put some more forces in during the transition period. If so, is the UK committed to such a reserve of force capability?
The Statement reviews the history of our involvement in Bosnia-Herzegovina and shows how the progressive move from the military operations under NATO auspices to the civil military under the EU, and progressively towards total civil, has been the right approach. It also shows that we have been at this problem now for 15 years. This is a lesson that we need to learn for our other stability operations worldwide: they take a very long time to achieve what we are seeking.
Does the Minister agree that this has been an excellent example of co-operation between NATO and the EU, in the handover from NATO to the EU? Does he also agree that it has been a milestone in the development of experience for forces operating as part of the European Security and Defence Policy forces and, as such, that it gives us some confidence for the future?
I regret that my noble friend Lord Ashdown of Norton-sub-Hamdon is overseas and cannot be here for this Statement, but I pay tribute to his important role as high representative. Much was achieved during his time in the post. However, does the Minister agree that there is still much to be done? The Statement reflects and welcomes the unification of the military forces. The three communities—the Muslims, Serbs and Croats—still disagree over unifying the police forces. What progress does the Minister see in that aspect? The high representative post itself is to be extended. To what extent does that indicate continuing concerns about the robustness of the political arrangements, rather than the security ones?
In this progression from military to civil, we will presumably need to be thinking EU-wide about more support for civil society in Bosnia-Herzegovina. The Statement gives some indications of what the UK has been and is doing, but do we intend to do more in the future on the civil side?
The Statement is a welcome piece of news in the context of the over-commitment of our forces globally, which we have been talking about so much over the past weeks. It presumably also brings other benefits in equipment. Can the Minister tell us whether any support helicopters will be released that we might be able to use elsewhere?
The Statement is also a reminder of the scale of other EU forces that are involved in this operation. They, too, will feel the benefit of a drawdown. Does the Minister feel that this will make it easier to get them to contribute elsewhere, where the demands are needed? We have talked in particular about Afghanistan.
I wonder whether the time is now right for the Ministry of Defence to produce a report on this operation—the history of it, the lessons learnt and the successes—as we have done with other operations. Perhaps the Minister might take that idea back to the Ministry of Defence. As the noble Lord, Lord Astor of Hever, reminded us, other problems still remain in the Balkans, particularly in Kosovo and Serbia, and we will have to remain aware of what is happening there and hope that we can have similarly happy outcomes.
Finally, reflecting the Statement, I make from these Benches a tribute to those members of the British Armed Forces who have over the years served there and done a fine job, in particular those who have been injured and killed. As I said earlier in the week when reviewing our contributions in Afghanistan and Iraq, we keep saying how much we value our forces. One tangible way of showing how much we value them is through how much we reward them. The Armed Forces Pay Review Body report is still awaited; it is still overdue. Perhaps the Minister could say something about that in his reply.
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lords for their support of the Statement. The noble Lord, Lord Garden, is absolutely right; this is an example of the success. We believe it is an excellent example of the positive impact that a European security and defence force can make. It is a positive example of the way in which the international community can come together to be a force for good in an area of great difficulty. It is also an example of the considerable length of time that these operations can take— 15 years. As we think about our operations in Afghanistan and Iraq and our experience of the Balkans and Northern Ireland, it is worth reflecting on the considerable time it can take for the people within such countries to take full responsibility for their own security. None the less, it also tells us that there is a need for our Armed Forces to make a contribution under the comprehensive approach to security reform, after considerable fighting has taken place.
The noble Lord, Lord Astor of Hever, asked about the apparent difference between the political and military assessments. That reflects the assessment by the European Community that the time has now come for the emphasis really to shift to diplomatic measures. We accept that there are remnants of difficulty. He highlights the particular issue relating to war criminals and we accept this. But we and our partners do not believe that a military force is now the prime means by which these issues are addressed, and therefore the emphasis needs to go to diplomatic means. As the tripartite presidency of the country recently said, the point has been reached whereby responsibility for security can be taken by the country itself. This news is positive.
In terms of the number of troops that were asked within our contribution, we are contributing approximately 180 personnel to support the NATO KFOR and UN mission in Kosovo. With regards to the reserved force, that is to be undertaken during the next two years by other countries, although we are the standby force. The noble Lord, Lord Garden, paid tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Ashdown, for his contribution. There are a number of noble Lords in this House, some of whom are in their place today, who have together made considerable contributions—both in terms of foreign policy and defence—to the progress of this troubled region and to today’s happier position.
We need to continue to provide support on the civilian side—for example, by providing police expertise—and we will do so. We are looking at issues relating to equipment. I am not in a position to give specific details of helicopters, but we are looking at that issue. I will take back to the Ministry of Defence the noble Lord’s idea about a report on operations and the lessons that can be learnt. Although we cannot make a read-across from one theatre to another—the geography and the situations are completely different in Afghanistan and in the Balkans—none the less, we can see the effectiveness of the comprehensive approach and of the international community working together over a considerable time with a joined-up approach, with diplomatic efforts, and with efforts in defence, to achieve a successful outcome. I believe that can give us increased confidence that the strategy we are following in very difficult operations in Iraq and in Afghanistan will, in time, prevail. The noble Lord mentioned valuing our Armed Forces, as we do, absolutely. On the pay review, my understanding is that there will be a Written Statement on that tomorrow.
My Lords, I thank the Minister for looking back over the 15 years. It has been a long, sad and in some respects highly controversial effort, but the noble Lord dealt with that very well, for which we all thank him. Is he aware that his account of the situation in Bosnia-Herzegovina today is notably more optimistic than others we have received? By chance, this morning I read a very detailed and authoritative report which was much more pessimistic.
I have two questions. First, which European countries will provide the remaining 2,500 troops that it has been agreed should stay there as a continuing military presence? Secondly, can he assure the House that in taking this decision, the EU took into account the dangers arising from Kosovo, where an announcement, a plan, is being made, but where there will be much argument and dissension? The Republika Srpska argues that if Kosovo is allowed to secede from Serbia, it must be allowed to secede from Bosnia-Herzegovina. That is a dangerous and deceptive argument. Are his colleagues really sure that it will be pursued by diplomatic, political and argumentative means, as we all hope, and that there will not be a temptation to take advantage of the run-down of UN forces to try to urge that argument by violence?
My Lords, the noble Lord is right to highlight that. With his deep experience of these matters, he is right to highlight that one needs to identify the tipping point; when the military effect has got to a point when the right thing to do is to draw down those forces. A balance has to be struck between defence and security reform and diplomatic efforts. That judgment has been taken very carefully by the European coalition, taking into account the dangers, recognising that there is a point when the presence of the troops is no longer the major way in which the pressures can be brought to bear and that the people can be encouraged to take responsibility for reform, allowing the diplomatic process to blossom.
The judgment is that that point has been reached and that the contribution of the Armed Forces in the region is no longer necessary. I shall write to the noble Lord and give full details of the breakdown of troops and operations by country. I also mention the presence of the reserved troops who provide a strategic overwatch. In other operational theatres, we have a clear strategy by which we move to local overwatch and then to strategic overwatch, so that, if the situation deteriorates, troops are able to go back in. The situation will be closely monitored.
An example of that relates to mine clearance—the noble Lord asked about that. The role of the forces was to teach the country’s own forces the skills of mine clearance and to support them in that. They have now got to the point when they can and should be doing that themselves. That is an example of where the time is right. It is a difficult judgment to make and it has been considered carefully, but we believe that this is the right time to make that transition.
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for repeating the Statement and for the condolences about the rifleman killed in Basra. As he was from my old regiment and indeed from my new regiment, the Rifles, I particularly appreciated his words. Although that was the first fatality suffered by that battalion— now 2nd Battalion Rifles—I thought that noble Lords would be interested to know that it has already had 23 other casualties in the course of its term of duty in Basra, having been there for just a few months. That gives some idea of the strength of the military activity that our troops still face in that area.
On the Statement, I am very glad that it has been found possible to withdraw troops from Bosnia. That will certainly relieve undoubted overstretch and make it easier to sustain our military effort in Afghanistan. I am sure noble Lords will agree that it is an indication of how well and intelligently our forces have done their job of gradually securing the integrity of the Bosnia-Herzegovina state. Once again, they deserve to be congratulated on their performance over the years.
My Lords, I agree 100 per cent with the noble and gallant Lord in paying tribute to members of the Armed Forces who have lost their lives or who have been seriously injured on operations. He mentioned, in particular, those who have been hurt or have died in operations in Iraq. I also agree with how well and intelligently our forces have acted in that theatre over many years. I am sure that the whole House will join me in paying full tribute to the contribution that they have made.
My Lords, I, too, congratulate the British Army on the job that it has done in Bosnia-Herzegovina and elsewhere in the west Balkans over many years. I echo the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Hurd, about the wider picture concerning Republika Srpska and so on. Serbia is feeling a little roughed up at present. The autonomy and independence of Montenegro is one factor and there is also the position in Kosovo. Some of us have been quite surprised at how robust the Dayton process has proved to be. It is very important at this stage not to allow it to be destabilised.
My other point is the wider role of the European Union, acting as a magnet—and a magnate, when one considers the funds that go there. When, in 2000, we on the European Union Select Committee took evidence, I recall that each year €5 billion were being spent on the military and €1 billion on development and reconstruction. It would have been nice if it had been the other way around. Perhaps my noble friend could comment further on the question posed by the noble Lord, Lord Garden, about how far that is now in prospect. Although the European Union is acting as a magnet, lots of development work has to go side-by-side with governance in building up the economy.
My Lords, I agree with my noble friend. He recognises the essential importance of the Dayton agreement, its robustness and the way in which we must continue to pursue those ends. We have reached a tipping point in the comprehensive approach between the emphasis on military input and on diplomatic means to civilian support for the region, particularly as regards the police, where we are making a significant contribution, and as regards development and reconstruction. The emphasis needs to be on that, together with diplomatic efforts. It is very important that, having gone through the processes and the difficulties of the past 15 years, we do not allow the region to slip back, and that we continue to make efforts on civilian support and reconstruction that we have made throughout that time.
My Lords, I am confident that the Welsh Guards operated with great distinction, as they normally do. Last year, it was my privilege to attend the ceremony granting them the freedom of Pembroke. Will Minister tell me what, if any, casualties they suffered?
My Lords, I add my condolences on the sad death of Rifleman Coffey, who was a light infantryman before he became a member of the Rifles, the regiment in which I once had the privilege of serving, like the noble and gallant Lord. The striking point is that this young man, who only joined, I think, in August 2005, was already on his second tour. He had to be asked to do a second tour in Iraq. This adds considerable weight to the suspicion of my noble friend Lord Astor that the optimism expressed by the Minister in this Statement may surely, in many people’s minds, be severely coloured by the worry that it has not necessarily been made on a purely objective judgment of the situation in Bosnia, but arises from the reality of the troops’ situation and the problems of manning-level faced by our Armed Forces.
I ask the Minister, first, a question he has already partly addressed: if our hopes are disappointed, what arrangements are there for going back to restore what may be, by then, a much more difficult situation? Secondly, does this enormous reduction of forces in one go have the support of the Bosnian Government?
My Lords, yes, it has the support of the Bosnian Government. The arrangements for response by the reserved forces have been identified. We then provide a standby force behind that, to provide a strategic over-watch. I will write to the noble Lord with the full details of numbers and contribution of troops from different countries.
This Statement, as the whole House recognises, is a positive statement of progress made after a considerable period. Nevertheless, it is in the context of significant pressure on our Armed Forces in other operational theatres. The way we, with our European partners, have been able to make this decision about Bosnia-Herzegovina reduces that pressure by a small amount. However, let me make absolutely clear that in each of our operational theatres we make decisions based on conditions on the ground. To say that this decision has been taken to provide us with the ability to relieve pressure and support other theatres is just not true. We have, jointly with our European partners, taken a decision that is appropriate to the conditions as we see them. There is no intention to address issues in any other operational theatres.
Law Reform: Murder
rose to call attention to the report of the Law Commission on reform of the law of murder including the question of mandatory life sentences; and to move for Papers.
The noble and learned Lord said: My Lords, the report that the House is now invited to take note of was published on 28 November 2006. It covers the law of murder and manslaughter in England and Wales, though not in Scotland. It is a long report and I do not suppose that any noble Lords have read every word. Nor have I. On such study as I have been able to make, I have concluded that it is by far the most complete and scholarly account of the present state of the law of murder that I have read. I cannot, in that respect, praise it too highly. I feel sure that the House will want to congratulate Mr Justice Toulson and his team, and Mr Justice Etherton, who succeeded Mr Justice Toulson, on their achievement. I do not agree with all their recommendations, but that is not surprising. On almost every subject on which they have consulted the public they have found differing views. There is one thing on which everyone is agreed: the present law of murder is a mess. It is described in paragraph 1.8 as,
“a rickety structure, set upon shaky foundations”.
I start with the question of sentencing and, in particular, the mandatory life sentence. Until we get that right, it is difficult to create a coherent structure for the law of murder and manslaughter. That is because murder, as has been observed so often, covers an enormous range of offences—far wider than any other crime. At one end are the horrific offences which will always carry a sentence of life imprisonment, whether mandatory or not. At the other end are the offences where mitigation is so strong that one would normally be thinking of a sentence of two or three years, if that.
Yet, as the law now stands, all these offences are subject to the same mandatory sentence of life imprisonment. That is inherently unjust. It means that the trial judge cannot tailor the sentence to the crime being tried. It ties his hands. Sentencing is one of the most essential functions that a judge has to perform. I will illustrate that later.
First, it is sensible to describe how the mandatory sentence of life imprisonment has come about. When capital punishment was finally abolished in 1965 there were two alternatives. One was to give the trial judge complete discretion in sentencing, up to a maximum of life imprisonment. I favour that view, as did all the judges in 1965, led by Lord Parker, then Lord Chief Justice. He tabled an amendment to give effect to that view. It was carried in Committee in this House by two votes.
The other view was to retain the mandatory life sentence, but to give judges discretion to recommend a minimum term to be served. This second alternative won very little support in either House in 1965, but prevailed in the end—as things sometimes prevail in Parliament—because time was running out and the sponsors were desperate to get the Bill on to the statute book.
I must make good my claim that the mandatory sentence is inherently unjust. I start with mercy killing. We all know the kind of case that comes before the courts more often than one would like. A husband has been nursing his terminally ill wife for many years; she begs him to put her out of her pain and eventually he gives in, smothering her with a pillow. He has acted out of the purest compassion, yet he is undoubtedly guilty of murder. The judge in such a case would be thinking of a nominal sentence—three months, if that. Yet he is obliged by the law as it stands to impose a sentence of life imprisonment. Having pronounced that sentence, he adds in the same breath, “But you need only serve three months”. That is what the public find so hard to understand. The sentence, as currently pronounced in such a case, is simply a contradiction in terms. It is almost meaningless. Yet it is not meaningless in effect, because it means that he will be subject to a licence for the rest of his life. That cannot be right. As the Law Commission itself observed in paragraph 7.48, a lifelong sentence in such a case is neither necessary nor desirable.
Take another case, that of Private Clegg, the soldier serving in Northern Ireland. On the facts of that case as they first appeared—though, happily, not as they appeared after a retrial—he fired at a car that had failed to stop at a checkpoint. No doubt he thought they were terrorists, but they turned out to be joyriders, one of whom was killed. Clegg’s only possible defence was that he fired in self-defence, but that defence could not run as the car had already passed when the shot was fired. He was convicted of murder. When the case came to the House of Lords, I had the responsibility of giving the judgment. We dismissed the appeal because we had no alternative, but we made it as clear as we could that in our view the law was unjust; it could not be right to sentence such a man to life imprisonment. However, we could not put that right ourselves. That, we thought, was for Parliament, not for us.
Exactly the same point emerges in the rather similar case of police officers who fire and kill in the belief that a suspect has a gun in his hand or a knapsack that is full of explosive. The officer has to make a split-second decision. Assuming he has no defence, he is guilty of murder. How can it be right that such a man should face a sentence of life imprisonment?
Take the case of the householder who is confronted with a burglar in the middle of the night. He grabs his shotgun and fires. Let us suppose that his reaction was excessive, or even irrational; he is guilty, as the law stands, of murder. I have no doubt that such a person should serve a sentence of imprisonment—perhaps a substantial one—but a life sentence seems entirely wrong.
I could go on multiplying cases. They are all cases that could have been dealt with easily enough if only Lord Parker’s preferred solution had been adopted in 1965, as it so nearly was. They could be dealt with now under our existing law, if only we could get rid of the mandatory sentence of life imprisonment.
It was cases such as these that led the House to set up a Select Committee chaired by Lord Nathan in 1988. It went into the whole question in great detail and called a number of witnesses to give evidence. Lord Lane, who was then Lord Chief Justice, and a great majority of the judges said that they were opposed to the mandatory life sentence. That was the view that the Nathan committee reached, and it therefore recommended that the mandatory life sentence be abolished.
Then there was the Select Committee of the House under the noble Lord, Lord Walton of Detchant, which reported in 1993. Unfortunately he cannot be in his place today. It reached exactly the same conclusion from a different standpoint. It said, in paragraph 261:
“It would avoid the law being brought into disrepute either by the mandatory imposition of a life sentence in respect of an act which was widely thought to be compassionate and (by some) arguably justifiable, or by the inappropriate substitution”—
and this is important—
“of lesser charges where it was expected that a jury would not convict for murder because of the mandatory life sentence”.
Then there was the report of a high-powered committee set up by the Prison Reform Trust, chaired by Lord Lane in 1994. That committee too came to the unanimous view that the mandatory sentence should be abolished. So far, although I may be wrong, I have not found a single instance of an inquiry that has supported the mandatory sentence. The question for the Minister is simply this: why have these recommendations been ignored?
Let me try to meet, if I can, some of the arguments that the Minister may advance. I can think of only three. The first and most obvious is that if it is abolished, some judges might not impose a life sentence when one is clearly required. The judges who try murder cases, however, are specially selected, have long experience and are all very familiar with the guidelines that describe when a sentence should be imposed. I assure the House of one thing: that judges are not reluctant to impose life sentences when they are appropriate. They should be trusted to do their job. Even if some judges made a mistake on occasion and did not impose a life sentence when they should have done, the Attorney-General can take the case straight to the Court of Appeal and have that put right. That argument simply does not stand.
The second argument is the one usually advanced by Home Office Ministers: that it would “send the wrong signal”. But what does that mean? It presupposes that someone, when planning a robbery, says to himself, “A life sentence is no longer mandatory, so I might as well take a gun with me and use it if necessary”. I suggest that that is complete make-believe. What deters an armed robber from taking a weapon with them is the certainty of the life sentence, whether mandatory or not, and the length of time he will actually serve in prison.
I will leave the third argument on one side. It may not be advanced by the Minister, and I hope it will not be.
I turn to the report, to see how the Law Commission has dealt with the mandatory life sentence. What is its view? The answer is that we do not know; we can only guess. The question was never put to the commission; it was outside its terms of reference. The commission was asked to assume the continued existence of the mandatory life sentence. One is bound to ask: why was it asked to make that crucial assumption? Was this not a key question on which the Home Office would have valued the view of the Law Commission, in the light of the recommendations I have mentioned? Why were its hands tied?
In the very few moments remaining to me, I must do my best to say what in my view would now be the correct structure for the law of murder and manslaughter. I would confine murder to the single case of intention to kill. I would not include the lesser degree of murder that covers intention only to cause bodily harm. I would then have four partial defences: provocation, as now; diminished responsibility, as now; a partial defence to cover the cases like Clegg and the police officer who shoots in the mistaken belief that a suspect is armed, or the householder who uses excessive violence; and a partial defence to cover mercy killing. It would not be hard to define this last defence, and it would be readily understood by the jury.
What does it all come to? We should abolish the mandatory life sentence. We should have a single offence of murder, not the dual offence recommended by the Law Commission, covering the intent to kill. We should have four separate partial defences reducing murder to manslaughter. All other homicide offences short of an intent to kill would be covered by manslaughter. That way we would have a simple, coherent and, above all, workable structure for the law of murder. I beg to move for Papers.
My Lords, the House is grateful to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd, for initiating this debate, for his careful analysis of an admirable report—not for the first time—from the Law Commission and for his proposals.
The difficulty is that Parliament has so many times lacked the will or time to implement so many of the commission’s reports with or without amendments. Homicide reform has always been a hot potato; the enactment of a homicide act evaded the willingness of even Mr Gladstone. The most telling recollection in the report is a comment by a criminal lawyer at the beginning of the 20th century that a belief that a criminal code would be passed in the House of Commons was as naïve as expecting to find milk in a male tiger. I hope we have now moved on.
The commission points out that:
“The issue of sentencing is not within our remit”.
The 2003 guidelines to the Criminal Justice Act have been helpful. I have been involved in more murder cases than I can remember, and in my time at the criminal bar, the main issue in the majority of those cases was the sentence arising from the question of whether the crime was murder or manslaughter. Identity was exceptional as an issue. The issue in multihanders was the role of the parties and whether they committed murder or manslaughter in its various forms.
As we have already heard, as far back as 1993, Lord Lane, who was formerly the Lord Chief Justice, advocated a discretionary sentence for homicide. I agree with the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd, that the mandatory sentence can lead to injustice. I venture to suggest the obvious: the British public easily understand the first limb of murder: the unlawful killing of another person with an intention to kill. I am less persuaded that they understand that the alternative to that is unlawful killing with an intention to do serious harm. In my experience, this is a matter that has worried and perplexed juries over the years, and I surmise that some have rebelled by returning verdicts of not guilty of murder but guilty of manslaughter in serious harm cases. As counsel for the defence, I have sometimes slapped myself on the back for getting a manslaughter verdict, although I did not quite understand why.
The commission comments that the inclusion of all intent to do serious harm cases within murder distorts the sentencing process for murder. I would go further than that because the anxieties of a jury can distort what should have been a proper verdict. I therefore welcome the strengthening—or the watering down, depending on which end of the telescope one looks through—of the alternative definition of killing through an intention to do serious injury with an awareness of a serious risk of causing death, which can be refined by the recommendation of High Court judges to include reckless indifference about causing death. For me, being aware of such a grim possibility or being recklessly indifferent to it is as good as proving an intention to kill. Any mitigation can be dealt with appropriately.
Whether we should embark on two classes of murder is more controversial. The commission argues very cogently that two classes are known in other jurisdictions. The terminology does not worry me. It should deal with many of the anxieties of juries while they ponder their verdicts. I never cease in my admiration of how juries approach their tasks.
I turn to the proposal of Sir Louis Blom-Cooper and Professor Terence Morris, who advocate a structure consisting of a single homicide offence. It would be committed on proof that the death was unlawful and that it was the outcome of the intrinsically unlawful conduct of the offender. The offences of murder and manslaughter would cease to exist. I believe that many years ago Lord Chief Justice Lane also recommended a single offence of homicide. The commission demurs and argues that the murder label is of the highest moral and social significance. I know what it means. How persuasive an argument that is in the cold light of day, I do not know. Some manslaughters are particularly heinous, and they do not carry the label of “murder”. I imagine the red tops’ field day if the Government were to abolish murder by calling it homicide. It is a measure that we have to take into account, perhaps put less starkly.
The report states that judges would not welcome that offence. I do not know on what basis, and if I am right about Lord Lane, that undermines that argument. The report states that it would be too inclusive and would cover a surgeon’s error so that his conduct would become murder. Perhaps this paragraph might be looked at again, because the conduct has to be intrinsically unlawful, so I find this paragraph difficult to follow.
While tightening up the alternative limb of murder may ease the task of juries, are they not going to jump from the frying pan into the fire in wrestling with the concept of tiered killings? After wide consultation, the commission expressed confidence that it would not prove too complex and pointed out that there is already a tiered structure for non-fatal offences. I hope that it is right, and I enthusiastically endorse the already developed practice among judges of providing written directions in murder cases.
There has undoubtedly been judicial tinkering. It is a rickety structure, but there was no alternative over 40 years of defining and redefining definitions of murder and manslaughter. The real problem is the need for reform at the border between murder and manslaughter.
The commission raised the question of whether “serious injury” should be defined. At present, where the charge is killing through an intention to do serious harm, the jury is entrusted with the decision about whether the harm intended was serious. Juries make that decision particularly well using the good common sense of 12 good men and women. I agree with the suggestions of experienced criminal lawyers, including a former DPP, that we should not embark on this field.
The commission did not enclose a Bill with its proposals and I understand why. I am confident that if a Bill is ever produced, every clause will be looked at very closely and some of these arguments, and many others, will be canvassed at great length.
My Lords, I add my thanks to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd of Berwick, for securing this debate. It is clear that over the years Parliament has not attempted to identify the purposes of sentencing or to prescribe the relative priority that the courts should attach to them.
Equally, the frequent calls for stiff sentencing for serious crimes such as violence, drugs or sexual offences are not necessarily in conflict with a wish to see fewer offenders in custody. Of course I look forward to the day when there is a determined effort to secure a shift in the public’s perception of crime and punishment. For that reason, I welcome the Law Commission’s thorough and thoughtful report. Unfortunately, however, the commission was working within one very important constraint, ably described by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd, which was not of the commission’s own making. The Government insisted, entirely wrongly, that the Law Commission’s recommendations must take account of the continuing existence of the mandatory life sentence for murder. The commission was therefore unable to recommend the single change that would do the most to enable courts to sentence justly in homicide cases; namely, the abolition of the mandatory life sentence for murder.
Abolishing the mandatory life sentence would give judges the ability to take all the circumstances of each case into account and to graduate their sentences accordingly, passing determinate sentences where appropriate and reserving life sentences for the most heinous cases. Because of this constraint, under the Law Commission’s proposals, all intentional killings would be classified as first degree murder except for cases involving provocation, diminished responsibility or a suicide pact. Yet intentional killings vary greatly from planned and calculated killings for material gain or political motives to those committed under severe pressure and in emotional circumstances of great stress. Judges should be able to reflect these variations in their sentences.
The proposals would classify as second degree murder homicides in which the offender intended serious injury but did not intend to kill and was not aware that his conduct involved a serious risk of causing death. This would enable courts to pass determinate sentences rather than mandatory life sentences in these cases. Extending the partial defence of provocation to include cases of excessive self-defence, where the defendant has acted in genuine fear of serious violence, would mean that courts could sentence these offenders appropriately and would not be bound, as at present, by the mandatory life sentence. Allowing duress to provide a defence to murder in certain circumstances would also make the law more rational and humane.
I welcome the commission’s proposal that the definition of diminished responsibility should be extended to include developmental immaturity in an offender under 18. Many children who kill do not have the developmental maturity or the control, so making a conviction for first degree murder is inappropriate. Such child offenders typically come from backgrounds involving physical, sexual or emotional abuse, parental neglect, family conflict and violence. Under the commission’s proposal, such circumstances could justify a finding that the defendant had diminished responsibility for his or her actions. There are also offenders older than 18 to whom the definition of developmental immaturity could reasonably be applied. If the Law Commission’s proposal on this point is accepted, there is a strong case for increasing the proposed maximum age for this partial defence to 21, rather than 18.
The merits of some other aspects of the Law Commission’s recommendations are more doubtful. The commission proposes, for example, that an offender who intends to cause serious injury but not to kill should be convicted of second degree murder even if they were unaware that their conduct involved a serious risk of causing death. Under the commission’s proposal, the offender who punched a victim in the face, intentionally breaking his nose, would be guilty of murder if the victim fell, banged his head on the kerb and died from a brain haemorrhage. The average person might regard this offender’s conduct as reprehensible, but would surely see such a case as justifying a verdict of manslaughter rather than murder. It is particularly unfortunate that the commission has proposed that offenders suffering from diminished responsibility should be convicted of second degree murder, rather than manslaughter, as at present. This would be a seriously retrograde step. It is completely wrong to describe people as guilty of murder whose responsibility for their actions is significantly reduced by mental disorder. The current law is right to describe these killings as manslaughter, and the description should remain.
In seeking to justify its position on this point, the report argues that the same defendant will often make pleas of both provocation and diminished responsibility, and that it may not be clear which of these partial defences the jury has accepted. This is a completely inadequate argument for a proposal that would describe a youth with severe learning difficulties, who was persuaded by an older person to play a small part in a killing, as being guilty of murder. Where defendants plead both provocation and diminished responsibility, juries should be specifically asked whether they consider that the defence of diminished responsibility is made. If so, the defendant should be convicted of manslaughter rather than murder. Despite all this detailed criticism, the Law Commission’s proposals would have the beneficial effect of enabling courts to pass fixed sentences in a considerable number of cases that now attract a mandatory life sentence. I urge the Government to go further and accept that the time is now right for the long-overdue abolition of the mandatory life sentence for murder.
My final point is about mercy killings, which both noble and learned Lords mentioned, whereby a person acts, typically for compassionate reasons, to end the life of another person at that person’s request. I am thinking here of legally challenging, but not uncommon, cases such as those of the retired policeman, Brian Blackburn, who helped his terminally ill wife, Margaret, a former hospice nurse, to die at her request; and Heather Pratten, who helped her son Nigel, who was dying of the devastating condition Huntington’s disease, to end his life. Unlike the law in many other European countries, including Spain, Portugal, Norway and Italy, the law in England and Wales does not recognise the concept of homicide with consent. It makes no distinction between ending a person’s life at their request, and ending life without any such request. The Law Commission noted in its 2004 report, Partial Defences to Murder, that,
“at present, in such cases, a conviction for murder, with consequent mandatory life sentence, can only be avoided by a ‘benign conspiracy’ between psychiatrists, defence, prosecution and the court, to bring them within diminished responsibility”.
I am concerned about the reformulation of the defence of diminished responsibility which the Law Commission has proposed, which would, if successful, reduce a first degree murder charge to second degree murder rather than to manslaughter. This may help to tackle other types of cases where a life is unlawfully ended, but unless the fundamental issues to which mercy killings give rise are resolved by a full and dedicated consultation, as the Law Commission has proposed, the new definition of diminished responsibility will do little to prevent the benign conspiracies that I have described.
In view of the issues at stake and the unpopularity of this aspect of the current law, I support the Law Commission’s recommendation that a full consultation on mercy killings should be undertaken as a matter of urgency; otherwise the benign conspiracy risks becoming a malign conspiracy. I urge the Government to reassure me and the general public that this will happen. Let us allow the Law Commission to reach a resolution on this important matter.
My Lords, I add my thanks to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd of Berwick, for bringing this report to the attention of the House. I have an interest in this matter as I was very proud to serve as the psychiatrist on Lord Lane’s committee that was considering the penalty for homicide back in 1993. My views have not changed since the publication of that report. The law of murder is still in urgent need of reform, including in relation to expert psychiatric evidence in murder trials. I regret that subsequent Governments have remained set against what would be by far the most sensible and important reform, namely the abolition of the mandatory life sentence. Retention of this sentence militates against achieving individualised justice, both generally and specifically in relation to psychiatric factors relevant to proper sentencing.
Given the current legislative climate, however, if the Government were to adopt the commission’s proposed ladder principle and the distinction between first-degree and second-degree murder, then I assume that it would pragmatically be an improvement because fewer people would be caught by the mandatory sentence. It would chip away a little at that cliff face. However, it would still leave a proportion of cases inadequately dealt with. I express my thanks for some briefings that I have had recently from Professor Nigel Eastman—a forensic psychiatrist at St George’s, University of London, who has far more extensive experience of operating these provisions than I do—and from forensic colleagues in the Royal College of Psychiatrists.
As regards the curious partial defence of diminished responsibility in the setting of abnormality of mind, the report recommends, without any discernible logic, that it is used solely in first- to second-degree murder reductions so that only if there was an intention to kill could the person plead diminished responsibility. But surely one ought to allow reduction from second-degree murder to manslaughter on grounds of diminished responsibility too.
Let me look closely at this defence of diminished responsibility. Back in the early 1990s it was used about 130 times a year. Now the numbers have dropped off to 20 or 30 a year and perhaps that is no bad thing. But there is an inherent mismatch between the constructs and methods of inquiry of law and medicine, including psychiatry. There is no doubt that the use of expert psychiatric evidence within contested trial hearings directed towards determining verdict has at times been an unseemly process, bringing forensic psychiatrists a good deal of discomfort and sometimes creating work for those ill qualified rent-a-doc figures who, thankfully, are less in evidence in the courts these days. Psychiatrists do not feel qualified to pontificate on degrees of responsibility, though they may be qualified to pontificate on abnormality of mind. So often it comes down to making a judgment on a sliding scale of moral quality. As one of my colleagues remarked to me, when someone is really mad, the courts have workable options to dispose of a patient within the hospital system. It is the ones who are not mad that we have the trouble with.
There is, of course, the very rarely used defence of not guilty by reason of insanity, but psychiatrists agree that the defence of diminished responsibility is rather a blot on their practice. It is far better to use psychiatric evidence at the sentencing stage—if the judiciary has the freedom over sentencing—when a specialist opinion can be considered without the unseemly legal argument over the minutiae of the language used to describe types of abnormality of mind.
The commission makes some proposals for modernising the definition of diminished responsibility. They are an improvement overall, but I would like further amendment to insert a further type of “diminished capacity to form a rational judgment”. I would like to see “arising from a recognised medical condition” as an appropriate wording to restrict “abnormality of mind”, and would further restrict “immaturity” to “developmental immaturity as a result of being youthful in years”. The current proposal is still too restrictive in regard to cases where there is a determined, even planned, intention to kill in the absence of any loss of control. Hence a severely depressed woman may kill her children on the basis of delusions that the world is such a terrible place that her children, whom she loves, would be better not in it, yet she might still be able to judge whether her actions were legally right or wrong. Alternately, a man may be paranoid and deluded about someone else and kill them in a planned way based on these delusions, yet still know legally or even morally that it is wrong to kill per se. There should therefore be a fourth basis for diminished responsibility to cover cases based on irrationality where there is no diminution of control.
Some successful pleas of diminished responsibility are based on “neurotic” or even “adjustment disorders”—which are not apparently very serious mental disorders—or acute reactions to stress. That may be perfectly proper, but restricting any such defence to those with a recognised medical condition would ensure that the defence was grounded in valid medical diagnosis and encourage reference within expert evidence to diagnoses in terms of one or two international classificatory systems, without explicitly writing those systems into legislation. That would encourage a common approach between experts and improve understanding between them. It might also avoid individual doctors offering somewhat idiosyncratic diagnoses as the basis for a plea of diminished responsibility. Overall, it would encourage better standards of expert evidence and improved understanding.
The criminal law as it applies to mercy killing is in a mess. I am very pleased that the Law Commission called for a separate review of it and I hope that we will take this up urgently. We know that 50 per cent of people convicted of mercy killing, whatever their sentence, go on to kill themselves. How many more people must suffer as a result of this inhumane law?
At present, the wishes of the person who has been helped to die, as the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, has said, are not relevant to the charge. The person who has helped the loved one to die can escape a long prison sentence only if he can show that he was suffering from diminished responsibility. The reality is that most of these cases involve a person who has a profound sense of responsibility and is definitely not in unsound mind. Time and again we see mercy-killing cases journey through the courts only to be dropped or reduced to a lesser charge on the grounds of diminished responsibility. In more than 15 years, not one mercy-killing case has resulted in a sentence for murder. Not one person has received longer than a 36-month sentence for manslaughter. The law is built on hypocrisy and still fails to protect the vulnerable.
Whatever the outcome of a review, mercy killings will continue unless a law providing for assisted dying is in place, along the lines of the Private Member’s Bill introduced last year. It is time for the Law Commission and the Government to listen to the public: 82 per cent of people want the law changed so that someone who is terminally ill and competent can ask for medical help to die. The benign conspiracies between psychiatrists and the legal profession, which the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, mentioned, bring the law into ill repute. For the moment, the Law Commission report sets the problem to one side, but I do not believe that the Government will be able to do so for ever.
My Lords, the House should be grateful to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd, for introducing this debate. His criticism of the mandatory life sentence has two virtues: it has been relentless and it has been correct. We have now reached the stage where that which was the subject of earnest debate years ago is now, frankly, eccentric criminologically and socially mysterious. People simply do not understand the nature of this sentence in relation to some of the circumstances to which it is addressed. I agree that it needs reform.
I turn to the Law Commission’s report, which calls for much more substantial reform of the law of murder. First, I regard this report as the opening chapter in a new reform of the law of murder and certainly not the last word. On further consideration, it may be that different degrees of the law of murder and different ranges of sentence may turn out to be the appropriate reform. But I am certainly not satisfied with the present state of criminal law. Although it is years since I did a murder case, over the past 40 or 50 years we have had malice, foresight, recklessness and intent all the subject of different and profound House of Lords judgments, which is not an appropriate state of affairs in which to consider the law of murder as a clear crime.
Reform is a general requirement. How are we to go about it? This is not a topic on which consultation—helpful as it is—is likely to be determinative. We are required as legislators to translate what we understand to be the overwhelming public feeling into rational and ordered legislation. Consultations apart, it is not the determinative part. We therefore should have, as did, I think, Professor Morris in the 1960s and 1970s, a detailed investigation of the history of murder over the past 10 or 15 years; that is, its type, the circumstance, and the way in which judges have applied the Criminal Justice Act 2003 and its appropriate schedule when determining the minimum period of sentence. That material is extremely important and, as was true when Professor Morris looked at it 40 years ago, is likely to reveal now that most murders are what is said to be domestic, being within a family or close relationship; that very few are downright shocking killings by gun or knife; and that not many are horrible serial killings. So reform is not simply to be directed at the Law Commission’s desire for legislative clarity, but to the real types of murder that confront our society.
Secondly, as to the appropriate approach in such an area for the legislature, why not have the fullest pre-legislative scrutiny after a draft Bill has been publicly considered and, if necessary, not only Grand Committee debates but the calling of evidence before an appropriate Select Committee dealing with that reform? We really must try and get it right this time. That will require a new statute defining the law of murder. Its underlying characteristic should be—I do not apologise for the word—killing. Ending another person’s life—whether with intent, with recklessness or through compassion—is a killing. Semantic fudge is not appropriate or sensible in this area.
With that reform in mind, why stop with the law of murder? In 2000, when I made my maiden speech in your Lordships’ House—full of legislative idealism, and untainted then by parliamentary reality—I asked why we do not codify the criminal law. Well, it was then only 120 years since Lord Blackburn had produced a code, and only 20-odd years since the Law Commissioner had produced a draft; but, really, in the legislative frenzy to which we have been exposed in the past 30 years, is there no room in the Parliament of this country to make the criminal law satisfactory for the protection of its citizens and the proper functioning of its courts? Of course there is, and we should find the room.
Why? Surely in the criminal law of this nation above all, coherence, clarity and certainty should find some place in our legislative endeavours. Surely the public would benefit, and the courts would be able to apply the law much more efficiently. The conclusion that we should all come to in a debate that is too short to consider detail, but rather should look to policy, is that we should reform the law of murder in the fullest and most comprehensive legislative way that we can contemplate, and then reform the criminal law. Then we can sit back as a legislature, and say that we have done something worth while for the country.
My Lords, I welcome this most timely debate and congratulate my noble and learned friend Lord Lloyd of Berwick on his clear and compelling speech. I shall be extremely brief, as I am aware of the enormity of the expertise in various fields around me; increasingly so, may I say, with every speech. As an inexperienced lay member of the Nathan committee—alas, there are not many of us left—I became, and remain, strongly in favour of abolishing the mandatory life sentence for murder. I shall confine my remarks to this, except to endorse what has been said about the Law Commission’s report giving a masterly exposé of the current state of murder in this country.
I was very struck back in 1989 by the detrimental effect that the indeterminate sentence had on prisoners. They had no framework in which to plan to structure their lives, and this equally made it difficult for the prison officers because the length of the tariff was not disclosed. Nowadays the minimum term is set by the trial judge and the offender knows its duration. However, the life sentence remains mandatory.
We were very clear that the way in which to deal with murder was not to divide it into degrees but to give the judge the discretion to impose the sentence appropriate for that particular offence given all the relevant circumstances. I appreciate the fact that it was not within the remit of the Law Commission to reconsider the abolition of the mandatory life sentence and that it has tightened the criteria for first degree murder and consequently narrowed the reach of the mandatory life sentence. But is the answer really to create more tiers to draw more dividing lines? Drawing lines creates anomalies either side of the divide and life will still be the maximum penalty possible for all three tiers, as it would be without any line drawing. I firmly believe that the Government should be bold, grasp this nettle, get rid of the mandatory life sentence and give the judges discretion to deal with the offence in the light of all the relevant circumstances.
The Nathan committee found—here I paraphrase something that Lord Nathan said in moving an amendment to abolish the mandatory life sentence during the passage of the Criminal Justice Bill, on 18 April 1991 at col. 1565 of the Official Report—that what families of murder victims wanted was that when murder had been committed it should be called murder, not downgraded to manslaughter; whether the sentence was an appropriate, determinate sentence or a life sentence was of secondary importance. I feel that the public may well take the same view.
The punishment should be seen to fit the crime and there should be a meaningful period in custody. Rather than draw dividing lines, would it not be far easier to understand for everyone and have more appropriate results to ask, first, whether it was intentional killing and, secondly, given all the circumstances, what the penalty should be? Of course, the penalty could still be life imprisonment, but because it was appropriate rather than because it was dictated.
I support my noble and learned friend Lord Lloyd on all partial defences, particularly that of mercy killing. Above all, I hope that the Government take note of the thrust of his speech.
My Lords, I congratulate the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd of Berwick, on securing his debate and bringing the subject again into the public eye. I fully support him in his endeavour to bring about a change in the existing law and I shall highlight just two separate and distinct aspects which I hope will go some way to supporting his case.
I want to dwell on the unusual position occupied by the uniformed services in discharge of their duties and deal more briefly, if I may, with the deterrent value of mandatory life sentences. First, to illustrate the position of the uniformed services, and in particular the police, I shall draw some lessons from the fatal shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes in Stockwell in July 2005. As many noble Lords will know, I served in all ranks of the police service, in the capital and outside, and during that time was trained to the highest level in the use of the whole range of police firearms. That training rightly emphasises at all times restraint, but sometimes circumstances can place almost intolerable demands on members of the uniformed services, when split-second decisions have to be made.
We all remember the loss of life and injury on a very large scale that was caused when four bombs were exploded by suicide bombers on the public transport network in July 2005. Two weeks or so later, another attempt was made but the firing chains of those four bombs were faulty. The bombs failed to explode and the bombers escaped. The following day, police were watching a block of flats where one of the would-be bombers was believed to live. The unfortunate Mr Menenez lived in the same block, resembled the suspect and was seen to leave and travel by bus, first to one and then another underground station. He went into the station. The officers following him were instructed by radio by their control room that they should consider him to be a terrorist bomber and prevent him boarding the train. The officers on the ground were not in a position to evaluate that information for themselves. In that fraught atmosphere in London, in July 2005, they had to act decisively.
Most of us would shrink from tackling a live bomb; certainly, we would not throw ourselves on to it in an attempt to defuse it. But, as we know, that is exactly what those officers did. They followed what they thought was a determined suicide bomber on to the train; they went forward when the vast majority of people would have retreated. They threw themselves on top of what they thought was a suicide bomber and they shot him before he could detonate the bomb that they believed him to be carrying. That was their training in the circumstances, extreme though the action might seem to be to some armchair critics. Suicide bombers use a number of different ways to detonate the bombs they carry and only instant fatal shooting, sadly, can guarantee that the bomb will not be detonated.
Had those officers been correct in their belief and had Mr Menenzes in fact been a bomber, we should now still be praising their courage—courage that would have undoubtedly seen the award of a George Cross. There are many examples of the award of VCs and GCs to those who have dealt personally, and with complete disregard for their own safety, with bombs that are likely to explode. But Mr Menenzes was not a bomber. He was an electrician, probably on his way to work. The officers will not be awarded medals and they face the very real risk of prosecution for capital crime. I can describe these circumstances in your Lordships' House because it has been decided not to prosecute them but instead to prosecute the Metropolitan Police, as an organisation, for offences under health and safety legislation, doubtless a route in which it is felt that the greatest exposure of all the facts can be assured.
I do not pass comment on the decision-making process that took place in the control room that day. I have no knowledge of it and, in any case, it would be sub judice. Subsequent proceedings will doubtless produce some answers for us on that point. However, I am confident enough of the facts to know that the officers on the ground probably displayed enormous and exemplary courage and took decisive action which they thought was correct in those fraught and demanding circumstances. The action was not correct. They must have come very close to being prosecuted for it. Had events been only very slightly different, one surmises that a prosecution would have been brought against them, they would have been convicted of murder and a life sentence would have followed, no matter how great the pressures on them at the time.
I do not suggest that the uniformed services, police or military alike, should be put into a special category. I do not suggest that they should be allowed to operate in a way that puts them above or outside the law. But it must be right that, if they are convicted, the court has the discretion to determine a sentence appropriate to the circumstances which, as I hope I have illustrated, can be utterly extreme and quite outside anything that the average person could ever experience.
That leads me to my second point, on which I shall be brief. I do not believe that there is any deterrent value in the mandatory life sentence. Indeed, I doubt whether there ever was. It is said, perhaps apocryphally, that pickpockets operated around Tyburn gallows in Georgian London while convicted pickpockets were being executed. Whether or not that was the case, I believe that then, as now, it is the certainty of arrest and conviction that really deters, together with a sentence that is proportionate to the gravity of the offence. It is already common knowledge that a life sentence usually means a minimum of eight years or thereabouts. It is also common knowledge that premeditated murder, or murder where there is a callous disregard for the circumstances leading to death, will usually result in a very much longer minimum sentence.
Hard core criminals know that today they can expect terms well in excess of eight years, but it is surely right to trust the judgment of the trial judge to distinguish circumstances where a degree of leniency is called for and to allow that judge to pass a shorter sentence in those circumstances. We have heard much comment today on mercy killing and I associate myself with those remarks. It would greatly improve the administration of justice for this most serious offence and would import a degree of sentencing particularity and sentencing accuracy that is sorely lacking at present. I support the Motion.
My Lords, I add my voice to those congratulating the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd, on introducing this debate, and in particular, on the fact that he has brought into it the question of the mandatory life sentence, which is, I suggest, absolutely critical, at least in practical terms, for the whole topic. Nonetheless, it was a matter that the Law Commission, the report of which we are considering, was debarred from taking into account or commenting on. Faced with that restriction, the Law Commission had to attempt to divide up the concept of unlawful killing, so that first-degree homicide had a mandatory life sentence, while the court had a sentencing discretion for second-degree homicide.
As has been demonstrated time and time again, however, categorisation of murder does not go to the question of heinousness. That was the fatal defect of the Homicide Act 1957, which made some types of murder capital offences, but not others—an anomaly that was highlighted in a passage quoted by the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, who was the relevant Minister when the 1989 report was debated. The noble Earl quoted as follows:
“If you wished to dispose of your wife and not suffer the penalty of death you must not shoot her or drown her, but you could stab her, strangle her, poison her, or set her on fire and you would get away with it”.—[Official Report, 6/11/89; col. 454.]
That meant, of course, that the only people who faced the death penalty for murdering their wives were those who had not done their research properly or who had not looked at the Homicide Act. They had, therefore, chosen the wrong method of doing it. This problem of categorisation will remain even if the proposal in the report of the Law Commission is accepted.
A clear example of this is mercy killing, which will remain first-degree murder with a mandatory life sentence, because the categorisation depends on the intent of the accused, not on his or her motive and reason for the killing, or on their moral responsibility. There is an infinite range of similar examples, some of which noble Lords have already put forward.
The solution—certainly the best solution, and probably the only real solution—is for the court to have a complete discretion in sentencing, which enables it to make the punishment fit the crime, and not to attempt to categorise the crimes, so that the categories fit the punishment. The 1989 Select Committee got it right when it said:
“The Committee consider … that the right way to deal with this matter is not to divide murder into degrees but to give the judge a discretion to impose the sentence appropriate to the particular offence, taking into account all the relevant circumstances”.
The mandatory life sentence is, I believe, a sop that was given to those wavering on the abolition of capital sentences for murder. It was opposed by the Lord Chief Justice, and the great bulk of the judges, who wanted life imprisonment to be one of the sentences that was open to them in the general exercise of their discretion. The mandatory sentence is sometimes defended on the basis that killing someone is a uniquely terrible crime. But in any rational approach, that is just not true. As Lord Hailsham rightly said:
“Murder … though often described as one of the utmost heinousness, is not in fact necessarily so, but consists in a whole bundle of offences of vastly differing degrees of culpability, ranging from brutal, cynical and repeated offences like the so called Moors murders to the almost venial, if objectively immoral, ‘mercy killing’ of a beloved partner”.
I remember a case tried in the days of capital punishment by that great and good criminal judge, Mr Justice Wintringham Stable. A young mother had been, wholly rightly in law, convicted of the murder of her young child, in circumstances which did not quite fall within the definition of infanticide. The judge said to her: “I now have to say something to which you should pay no attention. I can assure you that you will be back with your family very soon”. He then passed the mandatory death sentence in low and hurried tones, and said to me afterwards, “That should tie the Home Secretary's hands sufficiently”. But not many of his colleagues were quite as robust as that.
Not only does the passage of the mandatory sentence give to those in court a wholly misleading impression; it also distorts the statistics. It is one of the reasons why people are able to say, “Life sentences do not begin to mean it. You get out very quickly”. If you put into the equation the mercy-killers who get out after three months although they have been sentenced to life imprisonment, of course you will get curious statistics. But the answer is that they should not be there. It may also be said that the mandatory life sentence has led to artificial distortion of the law where juries have found provocation or diminished responsibility contrary to the fact but out of a very proper sense of sympathy. All that would be avoided if the courts could pass a sentence that does fit the facts of the case. I urge the Government to go ahead and do that abolition. Some of the more subtle points, and perhaps the categorisation of mercy-killing, can then wait. If you have discretionary sentencing, you have solved most of your problems.
My Lords, I want to make only one point in this most important debate introduced by my noble and learned friend Lord Lloyd of Berwick, and he has already mentioned it. If a member of the Armed Forces on duty in an area in which operational or emergency conditions apply, and in the course of that duty, in good faith and without any malice aforethought, shoots and kills a suspected offender and is subsequently judged by a court to have been guilty of committing an error of judgment, it is grossly and manifestly unjust that, because pointing a weapon and squeezing the trigger legally constitutes intent, the only punishment that he or she can be awarded is a life sentence for murder instead of a lesser punishment more appropriate for an unlawful but not premeditated killing.
By “good faith” I mean that there was no prior intent when he or she went on duty to harm anyone, let alone the deceased; that the accused, in taking action against a suspected offender, believed that he was acting in the line of duty and even following a lawful order or instruction, perhaps set out in a rules of engagement card, if one existed; or that he considered that there was imminent danger to himself or to others. The error of judgment—if that indeed was what it was—could so easily have been brought about by having to take a split-second decision about the imminence of that danger, when perhaps at the precise moment of firing the offender had passed by or turned away; or, surprisingly, no offensive weapon was found at the scene; or because a particularly stressful situation had contributed to an honest mistake.
Whatever comes out of this debate to prompt Parliament to take action on modifying the law on murder and providing discretion about sentencing, I hope that earnest consideration will be given to the predicament of good men and true, serving their country under the most difficult circumstances, having to have imposed on them, and live with for the rest of their lives, a terrible life sentence for what, at the worst, was a culpable error of judgment made under considerable stress and strain when on duty. This has happened more than once in Northern Ireland and could easily happen at any time in Iraq or in any other places where our Armed Forces and, indeed, all our uniformed security forces—what I have just said only echoes the excellent points made by my noble friend Lord Dear on the same sort of predicaments faced by police officers—serve their country on active duty in the most complex and dangerous circumstances.
My Lords, I, too, can be brief, having regard to the excellent speeches that preceded mine, thanks to my noble and learned friend Lord Lloyd giving us the opportunity to debate this very important subject.
It may be surprising that a former Lord Chief Justice should speak briefly on this subject. Certainly each of my predecessors of whom I had personal knowledge made speeches of some length on this matter, all focused on the subject on which I want to focus. Ironically, because of the terms of reference which were given to the Law Commission, it was not able to deal directly with the matter; that is, that the solution to the problem, which we all agree exists, is the abolition of the mandatory life sentence. Whatever the history or explanation of a mandatory life sentence following the offence of murder, events since that sentence was imposed have clearly shown that it is not the way to uphold justice in respect of what can be, and usually is, the most heinous of crimes.
In recent times two important changes have come about in the sentencing process for those convicted of murder. The first change is that it is no longer the province of the Home Secretary to decide when a convicted person is to be released. If the Home Secretary, not the sentencing judge, were to determine when a person should be released, there would be some logic in curtailing the role of the sentencing judge. Formerly, a sentencing judge who had to deal with a murder case had no problem in determining what the sentence should be. You were spared the soul searching that took place in respect of many sentences. That matter was passed to the Home Secretary, though you were encouraged to write him a letter giving your views on the gravity of the sentence in order to help him.
The second significant change that has taken place is the development of guidelines, which are now provided primarily by the Sentencing Guidelines Council, although exceptionally, and in my view mistakenly, the legislature occasionally intervenes. The Sentencing Guidelines Council has the benefit of an expert panel. With that expert panel’s help, it can give the broad assistance that a sentencing judge needs to perform his or her role. Guidelines undoubtedly help. They mean that a judge now knows that if he departs from the guidelines, which can be and are subject to public debate and scrutiny by committees of Parliament, it will be the subject of a reference by the Attorney-General. So there is no risk of the judge misusing his discretion to the danger of the public. The fact that those two changes have occurred, I suggest, means that the time is ripe to look again at the mandatory sentence.
The mandatory sentence is a blunt instrument. Justice today should be refined to deal with some of the cases which have been drawn to our attention by the noble Lord, Lord Dear, and the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bramall, to deal with the kind of cases we have heard described as mercy killing; and to deal with the cases where a defence of provocation and diminished responsibility is raised. In all those situations, if the judge has a discretion, he can take the approach which the facts dictate. There are difficulties if a case falls just without provocation and the person concerned is convicted of murder rather than manslaughter. The same very experienced judge to whom the noble Viscount, Lord Bledisloe, referred was presiding over a case when I was still a pupil. My pupil master was running the defence of provocation. It was a case where the defendant was entitled to the greatest sympathy. As my pupil master started to develop the defence of provocation, Mr Justice Slade—as he was in the habit of doing—tapped the desk with his pencil saying: “Mr Jones, if I were you, I wouldn’t water the brandy”. He had a sufficient confidence in our juries to know that with an appropriate summing-up, albeit one which would not enter the law of precedent, it was possible to achieve a just sentence without the law of provocation. That is another example of the fact that having a mandatory sentence which applies in one situation but not in another creates artificial situations and requires a judge to exercise those skills which only temporarily should be deployed by judges when the circumstances so demand.
I urge the Government, as have those who preceded me, to take the straight and direct course of changing the sentence from a mandatory to a discretionary one. If that is not possible, I have sympathy with the recommendations of the Law Commission, although I urge caution because once you start stratifying an offence, even if it be murder, into murders of different degrees you run the risk of creating more problems than you seek to solve. However, I acknowledge that it has done noble work in trying to clarify the difficult concepts that are contained in the law of homicide at present.
My Lords, like others before me, I thank my noble and learned friend Lord Lloyd for introducing this debate and particularly for addressing the inhumanity of a mandatory life sentence. I speak with hesitation as a doctor who has no legal training but who, like every other doctor, is of course subject to all aspects of the law, and as one who often wrestles with end-of-life decisions and finds helpful the current “bright line” of the law in prohibiting deliberate killing.
Therefore, I wish to concentrate on part 7 of the report, which has already been referred to with great compassion by my noble and learned friend Lord Lloyd and others who have spoken. I will consider it from a medical context. The partial defence of mercy killing may need a different name, because the term “mercy killing” is morally loaded, presupposing and implying that the motive was purely compassionate and merciful. It does not encourage other secondary motives, if they exist, such as personal benefit, to be equally assessed, even though we are here talking about the deliberate ending of the life of someone who appears to be in great distress.
It is worth noting, as was highlighted in the report, the sex difference in suicide pacts and consensual killings, which usually involve male carers killing their spouses. That raises some very important societal issues around caring for those who are vulnerable. The threshold of exhaustion needs to be assessed differently for male carers, and yet health services are predominantly staffed by women, and it is women who are undertaking assessments with a view to respite care or enhanced support. It may be that we are not appropriate to assess male carers. Such provocation of men needs to be considered. In other jurisdictions, it seems that the concept of force majeure in the medical context has developed in a way that would be incompatible with English law on murder. It is open to variable interpretation, including the level of knowledge and skills of the doctor, if it is a physician who deliberately ends life.
The Criminal Law Revision Committee recommendations on reform of 1976 made no reference to the state of mind of the victim. Indeed, one is left after the victim’s death only with the perception of others of that victim’s state of mind, yet such proxy assessments with hindsight are not accurate and are often skewed by the person’s own emotional distress, particularly if they were close to the person who died. Pressures, real or perceived, can coerce a person to feel that their life is of no value. Only too often that changes when good care is given in a way that enhances dignity. The vulnerable emotional state of the person who is frightened, in despair and possibly distorted by undiagnosed depression, which occurs in almost one third of those with serious life-threatening illness, should not be underestimated.
It is worth noting that the Criminal Law Revision Committee in the final report declined to recommend the creation of an offence of mercy killing, saying:
“It was said that our suggestion would not prevent suffering but would cause suffering, since the weak and the handicapped would receive less effective protection from the law than the fit and well because the basis of the suggested new offence would rest upon the defendant’s evaluation of the condition of the victim. That evaluation might be made in ignorance of what medicine could do for the sufferer”.
I remind noble Lords that Dr Cox, whose actions were publicised as a mercy killing, was convicted of attempted murder. He was seriously admonished by the General Medical Council for failing to take advice from colleagues who knew far more about pain control and who would have been able to offer constructive clinical advice in how to relieve the overwhelming distress of the patient.
That highlighted the problem of the doctor who works for far too long in the belief in his or her own competence across a broad range of areas. Another danger is the doctor, nurse or other carer who is tired, burnt out or simply a little lazy, and who perhaps dislikes the patient and finds caring for them taxing. It is all too easy to abandon efforts at diagnosing the true roots of distress and working hard to find resolution through meticulous attention to detail. Subtle secondary financial pressures are also felt by clinicians, and we know from the Dutch evidence how financial factors can subtly influence the thinking of some when it comes to end-of-life decision-making. The commission’s learned report points out the complexity of the subject of so-called mercy killing and that it is integrally linked to the debates around assisted suicide, physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia. They felt that views they had received on mercy killing as a partial defence were potentially one-sided, since their original consultation had not asked about this.
The limits on the proposed reformulation of the criteria for diminished responsibility in the light of the evidence from the Royal College of Psychiatrists are to be welcomed. When tragic situations arise and lead to so-called mercy killing, all will argue for compassionate reasons, whether in defence of the perpetrator or from the standpoint that the current law protects the most vulnerable in our society.
The final recommendation at part 7 is that the law should remain unchanged, pending a public consultation. I hope that any such consultation will be extensive and in-depth and will include those with expertise from all sides of the arguments. The complexities and ramifications of such changes in the law are far beyond the decisions and conclusions reached through simply conducting focus groups or population polls. The discretionary sentence, as my noble friend Lord Bledisloe suggested, may enable considerations of a partial defence of mercy killing, or whatever else it is called, to be looked at, devoid of such current pressures.
My Lords, I too congratulate my noble and learned friend Lord Lloyd of Berwick. I rise to speak with considerable trepidation as a complete layman amidst a galaxy of eminent legal talent and equally distinguished professional talent in other spheres. But I felt another lay perspective to add to that of my noble friend Lady Darcy de Knayth might not be wholly unhelpful.
I decided to add my name to the speakers list only 48 hours or less ago so my scrutiny of the report is less thorough than I would have liked. But its broad conclusions seem so utterly logical that it is hard to imagine any valid reason for delay in implementing them, notwithstanding doubtless valid quibbles over detail. The authors of the report, by painstaking analysis, have reached the same conclusion as most lay people will have arrived at intuitively; namely, that murders differ enormously in their degree of heinousness, sentences actually served should reflect this variation and it is therefore only logical to categorise homicides accordingly. However, I acknowledge that a number of noble Lords have been less than enthusiastic about the categorisation proposed.
There is a weakness in the report. As many noble Lords have pointed out, it is absolutely through no fault of the authors, since they reveal on page 15:
“The issue of sentencing is not within our remit”.
Sentencing is therefore touched on in only five out of the 265 pages. The weakness is that confusion and ambiguity over sentencing is perhaps the chief cause of public mistrust of and cynicism about the application of the criminal law. This is by no means confined to sentences for murder and similar serious crimes.
Well over 10 years ago Mr Michael Howard, then Home Secretary, made a clarion call for “honesty in sentencing”. Unfortunately he did not follow it up, since well over a year later those sentenced to four and a half years imprisonment for an intermediate offence still found themselves spending 50 per cent longer behind bars than someone else sentenced to four years for a similar offence, as the first sentence attracted one-third remission and the second 50 per cent remission.
Moving on to 2004, Mr David Blunkett, the then Home Secretary, declared the Government’s intention to,
“put sense back into sentencing”.
That was a characteristic new Labour soundbite—it sounded good initially but turned out to mean something very different because, by that time, primarily owing to prison overcrowding, effective remission on shorter sentences could amount to 75 per cent or, in some cases, more than 75 per cent of a sentence. Of course the public were reassuringly told that these people were out only on licence and could be recalled at any time. But, rightly or wrongly, the public tend not to be impressed. Perhaps in an ideal world they would be impressed but we do not live in an ideal world.
Nowhere is that ambiguity and confusion more marked than in the case of so-called life sentences. One day people read in the press that a murderer has been sentenced to life imprisonment, with a judge's recommendation that he serve at least 15 years, and the next day they read that an armed bank robber, who did not fire his gun and who physically harmed no one, has been sentenced to 20 years. I would bet heavily that at least 90 per cent of the public—probably 95 per cent—imagine that the bank robber will spend one-third longer behind bars than the murderer. That causes puzzlement and resentment—a totally unsatisfactory and unhealthy state of affairs—whereas, in truth, the outcome is almost the reverse. Assuming that the policy of 50 per cent remission persists, the murderer will spend 50 per cent longer behind bars than the bank robber.
To restore public confidence, surely the ratio of what we might call gross to net sentences for all offences should be aligned, with one standard rate of remission applying across the board. The whole concept of a life sentence has been devalued for many decades now. Most people are well aware that it very rarely means life—nor should it. Except in extremely rare cases, there should always be some light at the end of the tunnel, even if the end of the tunnel takes 30, 40, 50 or 60 years to reach and even if actuarially the chances of reaching the end of the tunnel are slender.
Might it not be worth while examining the system that applies in some American states, where for very serious offences, including murder, judges can sentence a convicted person to, say, 25 to 99 years or 42 to 99 years, the figure of 99 being a symbolic reflection of the gravity of the offence rather than a realistic projection of the time to be served. Adapted for English conditions, bearing in mind the absolute desirability of standardising remission procedures across the board so as not to confuse or alienate the public and to achieve Michael Howard's goal of honesty in sentencing, that would mean that instead of imposing a life sentence with a 15-year minimum recommendation, a sentence of 30 to 99 years would be imposed, or 30 to 75 or 40 to 100—there is no need to follow the American system slavishly. For the worst type of murder, instead of life with a 30-year minimum recommendation, one would impose a sentence of 60 to 100 or 60 to 120 years.
For mercy killing, in complete contrast, the appropriate sentence might be two to seven years, with the expectation that a convicted person would be out in 12 months. The seven years would be symbolic, reflecting the fact that someone had died and not in the expectation that seven years would ever actually be served. The outcome for the prisoner would be exactly the same—indeed, for a mercy killer it would be better in that he would be on licence for a much shorter period. What would alter would be public and media reaction to justice more clearly being seen to be done. This would surely be overwhelmingly favourable. I hope that the Government might at least consider whether proposals along those lines have any merit.
My Lords, I hope I may be forgiven for intervening briefly in the gap. I am emboldened to do so because I know that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd of Berwick, was anxious that someone with experience of how the law operates in Scotland should contribute to the debate that he has initiated. I do so against that background.
The problem to which he has drawn attention exists in Scotland as well because the mandatory life sentence operates there in a very similar way to that in England and Wales. However, the problem is less acute. I shall explain briefly why that is so. It is worth recalling, as a matter of history, that the concept of diminished responsibility was developed by Scottish judges many years ago in the time of the mandatory death sentence, but as matters are today, the reason why the problem is less acute lies in the definition of the second limb of the definition of murder to which the noble and learned Lord, Lord Morris of Aberavon, drew attention in his speech. While the first limb requires proof of intention to kill, the second limb is defined to a Scottish jury as requiring proof that the act of the accused was of such wicked recklessness that he did not care whether the victim lived or died. That is much stronger than the current definition in English law.
In practice, the question of whether the sentence will be the mandatory life sentence or a discretionary sentence is to a greater degree in the hands of the jury, because they have greater discretion in evaluating where the border lies in the act of the accused. Having prosecuted many murder cases in my time at the Bar, I know that it is difficult to prove an intention to kill. However, in many cases a murder conviction was appropriate because the second limb applied. I do not wish to detract in any way from the many speeches that have been made about the need for reform of the sentence, but if the Minister says that it would be going too far, I would respectfully suggest that there is a great deal to be said for looking very hard at the second limb, no doubt with the benefit of the investigation into how the law has been operating over 15 years, to which the noble Lord, Lord Brennan, referred.
My Lords, we are very grateful to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd, for raising the issue of what he has described as a “complete and scholarly” report. I wish it had contained a draft Bill, so that some of the controversial issues in its recommendations could be before us in a more concrete form. There is a more fundamental flaw, to which noble Lords have referred and for which the Law Commission cannot in any way be criticised. The terms of reference contain the political imperative that the recommendations take account of the continuing existence of the mandatory life sentence for murder.
The noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd, the noble Viscount, Lord Bledisloe, and the noble Lord, Lord Monson, have rightly called attention to the fact that circumstances are infinitely variable, from mercy killing, killing on the spur of the moment, and cold-blooded and planned killing. Methods of killing vary: the fundamental cause of a death may be poison, a shooting, a knife, a punch or even a push. Victims vary. There is a difference between a gangland killing and the killing of a small child or baby. All these variable factors should be before a judge who can come to a balanced decision as to what the sentence should be in a particular case. I would respectfully suggest that it is impossible for Parliament to decide in advance what an appropriate sentence is.
The noble and learned Lord, Lord Woolf, referred to the guidelines issued by the Sentencing Guidelines Council. In this area, when we are considering the minimum term and so on, we are bound by the straitjacket of statutory guidelines laid down in Schedule 21 to the Criminal Justice Act 2003, against which we spoke at the time.
The political imperative has forced the Law Commission into constructing this ladder, promulgating two degrees of murder as the first and second rungs, with manslaughter as the third rung. Immediately, this demands, as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Morris of Aberavon, and the noble Baroness, Lady Darcy de Knayth, pointed out, the drawing of boundary lines, mainly by focusing on the concept of intention and the use of the partial defences of provocation and diminished responsibility. These proposals in no way simplify the law; they will not lead to less frequent or shorter trials. If anything, they will add complexity to the task of a jury trying a case of culpable homicide.
The structure recommended by Sir Louis Blom-Cooper and Professor Terence Morris in their study, With Malice Aforethought, proposed that there should be a single homicide offence. They recognised, as the Law Commission itself said, that this was not within the terms of reference. The Law Commission rejected it in any event, on the basis that a hierarchical structure makes it possible to provide different sentencing possibilities for each crime and allows the jury, rather than the judge, to determine the gravity of the offence in post-sentencing procedures. By splitting it up into different levels, with the jury deciding what is the appropriate level, it is the jury that is making at least a broad categorisation of the offence. That is quite a good argument. It would have more force if we had special verdicts used more often in our courts that actually indicated how the jury had come to its conclusion, but it is very rare that a judge will allow a special verdict that will say that a decision of manslaughter was made on the basis of provocation as opposed to diminished responsibility, and so on.
If mandatory sentences, coupled with the division into degrees proposed in the report, are brought into effect, there has to be amelioration. That then requires the perpetuation of the partial defences, which I regard, from years of practice, as being highly unsatisfactory. Provocation and diminished responsibility are defences that are sometimes run singly, sometimes conjointly. For example, as the Law Commission described it in 2004, in mercy killings there is frequently that “benign conspiracy” whereby the prosecution, the defence, the judge and everyone collaborates in describing a mercy killing as due to provocation caused by the circumstances in which the individual found himself or to diminished responsibility, to reduce the offence to manslaughter and consequently lead to a lesser sentence.
These partial defences are complex. Provocation in particular is an extremely complex area; you have to show that the defendant has himself lost control, and that a reasonable person of like age and background would have lost control. That gives rise to the issue of who is the reasonable person. The noble Lord, Lord Brennan, referred to the differing judgments that go one way or the other in this field. I recall the case of Luc Thiet Thuan in 1997, before the Privy Council when I appeared for the appellant, where the council decided that no account should be taken of the fact that the appellant had suffered from a congenital brain defect. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Steyn, dissented from that Privy Council judgment. The Court of Appeal for England and Wales followed the noble and learned Lord, as did the House of Lords, in the case of Morgan Smith. Last year nine judges sat in the Privy Council in HM Attorney General for Jersey v Holley, and they held that Smith was erroneous. On the issue of who is the reasonable man there is currently a great deal of conflict. The recommendations of the Law Commission do not help to resolve the problem; they simply do not deal with it in any satisfactory way.
There is another problem: should the judge leave provocation to the jury, even if the defence does not rely on it? The Law Commission recommended in its report, published in December 2006, that the court should revert to the practice prior to 1957 where the judge filters out speculative and wholly unmeritorious claims subject to an appeal. However, that ignores the judgment as recently as last July in the Judicial Committee of this House in the case of Coutts, where the noble and learned Lord, Lord Bingham, gave an excellent exposition of where the public interest lies, to the effect that the question of provocation should be left by the judge to the jury, even though the defence does not rely on it in an appropriate case. He emphasised the importance and fairness of that in having a just trial.
The other problem that arises with these partial defences is that in some instances the Crown realises that there are strong grounds for provocation or diminished responsibility. So, if there are degrees of murder, rather than allow a jury to determine what are essentially mitigating factors that could well affect the sentence, it might well bring a charge of second-degree murder in which, under these proposals, such a finding would be irrelevant. That would be highly unfortunate for the defendant and perhaps for the victim’s family, which would be deprived of a possible verdict of guilty of first-degree murder. The use of provocation and diminished responsibility to ameliorate the effect of these proposals has not been properly considered.
Diminished responsibility is another difficult area. I was interested in the contribution of the noble Baroness, Lady Murphy. I recall one case in which eight psychiatrists and psychologists were called to give varying opinions about a person’s state of mind. There was a trial; there was an appeal on the grounds that a psychiatrist had changed his opinion; there was a second trial; and the matter went on to further appeals. As I understand it, the defendant has been in Broadmoor under an executive decision and is now about to be released into the community. There can be such a degree of difference between medical experts on this issue.
Diminished responsibility and provocation would not be necessary as partial defences if we did not have the mandatory sentence distorting the criminal law of murder. It is quite wrong to hold that under these proposals provocation could reduce first-degree murder to second-degree murder, but should not operate to reduce second-degree murder to manslaughter.
As the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd, said, there is a great deal of material in this report. It covers a very wide topic, and I regret that we do not have more time to debate it. I am extremely grateful to the noble and learned Lord for bringing the matter forward.
My Lords, I, too, am extremely grateful to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd of Berwick, for bringing this matter, not for the first time, to the attention of your Lordships’ House. He has pursued it with his customary persistence and eloquence. We have all greatly benefited from what he said.
As noble Lords will have expected, the debate has been of a very high quality; and one of its distinguishing characteristics was that not only were the legal contributions compelling but so were the contributions made by noble Lords who do not have legal qualifications. I was particularly struck by the speeches of the noble Baronesses, Lady Murphy and Lady Finlay of Llandaff, on the topics of diminished responsibility and mercy killing. The noble Lord, Lord Monson, rightly remained us of the importance of honesty in sentencing and of what a distance we still have to travel to achieve that. I thought we were extremely lucky to have the noble Baroness, Lady Darcy de Knayth, here. Many years ago, she sat on the Nathan commission, which recommended the replacement of mandatory life sentences with a system of discretionary sentencing.
The noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bramall, and the noble Lord, Lord Dear, reminded us of the testing circumstances in which the uniformed services, which are armed, have to comply with a law of murder that sometimes leaves them in impossible circumstances. One of the gaps in what has otherwise been an excellent report by the Law Commission is this failure to address that issue. The Minister has undertaken to consult on the Law Commission’s report; and I am sure that she will have found that the debate this afternoon has made a contribution to the questions that will be posed. I hope that she will have taken particular note of the speeches of the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bramall, and the noble Lord, Lord Dear, and will ask some apposite questions in that context.
One of the characteristics of the debate is that it has been dominated by sentencing, which was not addressed in the report. We know from the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd of Berwick, why sentencing was not included. It was not included simply because it was not part of the terms of reference of the Law Commission. I find that strange, because when one considers any crime, but particularly murder, the credibility of the sentencing system is as important as the conformity of the law with people’s moral standards. The two march together; and I submit that you cannot reasonably address the one without the other.
The Law Commission has produced a very thoughtful report on the law. Curiously, one of the consequences of its proposals, if they are accepted by the Government and appear in a Bill, is that more people will be convicted of murder than before. This is because the offence of reckless manslaughter will be moved up from the manslaughter category to the category of second degree murder. That category, it has been assumed by the Law Commission, will be subject to a discretionary sentencing system and not a mandatory sentencing system.
I listened with great interest to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, on the situation in Scotland. To some extent, one sees that thinking reflected in the Law Commission’s definition of first degree murder; because, in addition to an intention to kill, the intention to commit serious harm is now qualified by the requirement that the accused should be reckless as to whether there is a serious risk that the act might end in death. In a sense, therefore, the Law Commission is moving towards the Scottish situation.
There are important criticisms to make of mandatory life sentences that are unique to the mandatory life sentence. One, to which many of your Lordships drew our attention, is the way in which the fact of a mandatory life sentence distorts the approaches of juries to assessing the evidence and often leads to acquittals in circumstances where that would otherwise be inappropriate. The other distinct category of mandatory life sentence is that, however short a sentence is served, at the end of the day, when you leave prison you are subject to a licence for the rest of your life. That is highly undesirable for many offences.
However, surely the real issue here is wider than this; because even if it is right to replace the mandatory life sentence with the system recommended by the Nathan committee, we are still faced with the problem highlighted by the noble Lord, Lord Monson—namely that everybody knows that the sentence that is handed down by the court often bears little relation to the amount of time the individual spends in prison. That undermines the whole credibility of the sentencing system. Until we address that problem, the general public will not have faith in our system of criminal law. If we move to discretionary sentencing, we still have to take this further step of being honest about sentencing so that sentences handed down by judges are the sentences that are served by the person who has been convicted. That is, in a sense, the dog that did not bark in this report; but it is the dog that ought to have barked.
I for one would be very reluctant to move down the road of a Bill seeking to change the law of murder along the lines of the Law Commission report without at the same time having a set of rules about sentencing which were truly credible in the eyes of the general public. In my view these two matters run together and I hope that is the message that the Government will take away.
My Lords, let me join all those who have chorused congratulations to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd of Berwick, on calling for this extraordinarily useful debate. I think we have had a glittering array of talent. It is rare indeed to see so many noble Lords with legal backgrounds, Lords of Appeal in Ordinary, gallant Lords, scientific Lords, musical Lords almost from the Liberal Democrat Benches, singing so clearly in relation to this matter. I join the noble Lord, Lord Kingsland, not only in congratulating noble Lords but in rejoicing in having the noble Baroness, Lady Darcy de Knayth, with us because I, too, think that she was wrong to say that she does not have an expertise, having joined that Nathan committee with such distinction.
I am however a little perplexed as to where the party of the noble Lord, Lord Kingsland, actually sits. I do not understand whether he is saying that he would get rid of the mandatory life sentence. I see him shaking his head. No, he is not saying that. And I do not understand whether he is suggesting that the current system of sentencing should no longer have remission or parole or licence periods after sentence and that we should simply have a sentence of imprisonment. I am sure that he will elucidate on that in later debates, but I am somewhat perplexed about his party’s position on this. But as I now experience that perplexity in so many policy issues, I should perhaps become a little more accustomed to it.
It is a matter of great celebration that we are looking at the Government’s review of the laws of homicide because this is the first proper review in this area for more than half a century, and it is important that at all stages we debate it very thoroughly indeed. I can assure your Lordships that all the comments made during this debate will be taken into account and fed directly into the review of the Law Commission’s contributions. The impetus for this review was the concern with the way in which the law works, in particular in domestic homicide cases. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd of Berwick, asked for an explanation of why the review is as limited as it is and it is incumbent on me to answer that. Your Lordships will remember that when we first looked at domestic homicide, there were huge difficulties; for example, concerns that it may be too easy for a jealous partner to use the partial defence of provocation to escape a murder conviction through blaming the victim’s alleged infidelity. Unfaithfulness should not be an excuse for murder.
We therefore asked the Law Commission to look at partial defences. In its 2003 report on partial defences, it concluded that the law of murder was in a mess. In response, the then Home Secretary invited the Law Commission to undertake the first part of a wide-ranging two-stage review of the law of homicide. The Law Commission’s report is the conclusion of the first part of that process. The Government are very grateful to the Law Commission for its work in producing the detailed and considered report on proposals for reform.
We are particularly pleased that the commission has consulted so widely in drawing up these proposals. It has drawn together views from a wide range of interested parties, and we will seek to build on this work in the next stages of the review, which will now be taken forward by the Home Office. When my noble and learned friend Lord Morris of Aberavon questioned the commission’s comment about judges not welcoming a single offence, I believe that it may be referring to the judges of today who may have expressed that view. In doing this work, we must ensure that any reform leaves us with practical laws that provide justice for victims, properly punish offenders and command confidence from the public.
Clearly, many difficult issues arise in looking at the law of murder which raise complex moral and legal questions. But the review of homicide must not become a political battleground. We all come to this with a desire to get the law right. So today’s debate is a very welcome opportunity for me to explain the Government’s reasons for reviewing the law and why we have set the parameters for the review that we have.
In particular, I turn to the direct question that was asked to me by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd. The Law Commission has identified problems with the law of murder and potential solutions to them. We need to be able to take these forward without the risk of being sent off track by other issues. The other issues that we have discussed are weighty, involving moral and legal minefields, but the key problems with the existing law lie elsewhere. I know that there are many who would want us to go into that contentious area, including the mandatory life penalty for murder, euthanasia, suicide and abortion. But we believe that the difficulties of law are such that we should concentrate on those.
The Government believe that the mandatory life penalty for murder is an essential part of giving the public confidence in the criminal justice system, and the life sentence is of course a very important part of that. The Government are of the view that the mandatory life penalty should not be abolished. I recognise that that view is not universally held and, indeed, not a view that was expressed by any noble Lord in this debate. But we are proposing an important change and I am particularly grateful to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, for his exposition of Scottish law and the helpful contribution that that may make.
The noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd, will of course recall that Parliament very recently had the opportunity to consider whether the mandatory life penalty for murder should be abolished when he tabled an amendment to that effect during the passage of the Criminal Justice Act 2003. This House then supported the retention of the mandatory penalty. It also supported the introduction of the principles for tariff setting for murder which were introduced to ensure confidence in the criminal justice system and consistency of sentencing. Therefore, what the noble and learned Lord, Lord Woolf, said was right. It reminded us of what came out of that Act by virtue of the guidelines that can be set by the Sentencing Guidelines Council. Given Parliament’s recent support for the retention of the mandatory penalty and the principles for tariff setting, it was only sensible that the review of murder should take that reality into account.
Furthermore, and equally important, I do not believe that the review of the law of murder has been unduly restricted by the terms of reference that were set for the Law Commission. Indeed, it disagreed with those who said that its proposals for a new structure would have been different had it been reviewing the mandatory penalty. For that reason, I cannot accept the proposition that the root of the problems with the law of murder is the mandatory life penalty.
One key problem that the Law Commission identified with the present law is the mismatch between a general view of what murder means and the legal definition. This means that juries may convict killers of manslaughter rather than murder where there was no intention to kill the victim, only an intention to do serious harm, which is of course a sufficient intent for a murder conviction. That must be partly because the label of murder does not seem appropriate in all the circumstances, many of which we have discussed today.
My Lords, before the Minister entirely leaves the issue of the mandatory life sentence, will she indicate whether the Government are prepared at this stage—when embarking on the second phase of their review of murder—to consider an in-depth analysis of public opinion? The Minister says that that has motivated Parliament in the past to adhere to the continuance of the mandatory life sentence. I am bearing in mind that lay people often consider that the trouble is that a “life sentence” is perceived not to be “life”. That is partly why our debate is so contrived and confined. Does the Minister agree that a real, in-depth understanding of the public’s feelings about the appropriateness of the sentence fitting the crime would not necessarily lead to an asseveration of the view that Parliament reiterated?
My Lords, the second part of the review will continue to look at the issues raised by the Law Commission. No set provision has been made on what further consultation may take place or its nature. We believe that we need to concentrate on trying to find a legal solution to some of the clearly identified problems, which have been with us for a long time.
I know, too, of another suggestion raised in the work undertaken by Sir Louis Blom-Cooper and others: that we should have a single offence. We have had to look at that option, and it is accepted that some solutions to the problem with the law, such as creating a single offence for homicide, would necessitate the abolition of the mandatory penalty. It is true, of course, that by not reviewing the mandatory penalty that option was ruled out.
However, while that was outside the scope of the review, the Law Commission nevertheless considered it. We agree with it that while such a proposal offers some advantages, the label of murder is so significant in our society that we should neither abandon it altogether, nor apply it to all forms of homicide. For that reason, and the other compelling ones set out by the Law Commission, we are not minded to support a single offence of homicide. I stress that the second part of the review is yet to be completed.
Having accepted that we need more than one offence of homicide, the solutions we find for the problems with the law will be more complicated than simply abolishing the mandatory penalty. As a point of principle, we believe it is right that the most serious form of homicide retains that penalty.
We have looked at partial defences, and it has been suggested that we should change them. They allow juries to decide whether the behaviour of the offender is in some way mitigated, so that the full force of a murder conviction is not imposed on the offender. I am glad that there has been no suggestion in this debate to abolish entirely those partial defences, because it is recognised that they provide us with an important way in which to differentiate levels of culpability.
We do not accept that the review of the law has been restricted in a way that would prevent the problems that need to be addressed being addressed. That is demonstrated by the Law Commission’s report, which offers many interesting ideas for improving the law. It is also useful to consider how the Law Commission’s proposed new structure would affect some of the hard cases which raise the most difficult questions about the appropriateness of mandatory life sentences.
Many noble Lords raised today the appropriateness of the mandatory penalty for those who kill terminally ill loved ones. The Law Commission has proposed that the definition of the partial defence of diminished responsibility should be expanded so that it more easily accommodates severely depressed carers who kill, thus mitigating the problem. Although this does not address head-on the question of whether those who kill in such circumstances but are of sound mind should ever not be convicted of the most serious offence of homicide, we have consistently said that this is a matter of conscience and needs separate consideration. However, I was very grateful for the comments of the noble Baronesses, Lady Murphy and Lady Finlay, who both identified some quite complex issues, which we need to look at in relation to diagnosis and the appropriate role for palliative care. Can we always be sure that the mercy killing really has that attached to it? There may be other reasons. I found those comments enormously valuable.
We have looked at issues recently in this House, and will no doubt do so again. I do not see the noble Lord, Lord Joffe, in his place, but he has the consistency and persistency of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd of Berwick, so I am confident that the issue will not go away.
Another type of case where the mandatory penalty may seem inappropriate is the case of a victim of domestic violence who finally kills their abuser out of desperation. That is not a case that has been mentioned much this afternoon, but can I say how important I believe it is? We have a dreadful situation in this country at the moment in relation to domestic violence, whereby one in four women may be subject to it at some stage in their lives. We must deal with those issues, not only with a degree of compassion but with acuity too. Here again, the Law Commission offers some interesting ways to allow such killers to be convicted of an offence which does not carry the mandatory penalty, but at the same time can reflect the intentional nature of the killing.
I was also grateful for the very carefully crafted speeches of the noble Lord, Lord Dear, and the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bramall. The plight of the soldiers and police officers who discharge on our behalf some of the most dangerous and difficult duties should, rightly, excite our attention, particularly when such individuals kill in the line of duty but in doing so may have overreacted to a threat of violence or had to make a decision in a split second as to how to respond. Here the Law Commission's reform of provocation to encompass excessive use of force in self-defence could see such situations being brought out of the scope of the mandatory penalty.
In conclusion, this has been an incredibly useful and wide-ranging debate and has raised many concerns to which I am sure we will return as the review progresses. I recognise that many of those who have spoken today would like us to broaden the scope of the review to look at the continued existence of the mandatory life sentence for the most serious forms of homicide and at other difficult moral questions associated with homicide, but we believe that to do so would make for an unwieldy review. There are some genuine difficulties with the way in which the current homicide laws work which we believe can be addressed within the parameters of this review. To bring into the review other difficult and controversial areas risks preventing us being able to make progress with reform in areas where we need to see change.
The proposed Law Commission’s reforms would address many of the concerns that have been raised today about the impact of the mandatory life penalty; they would address a much broader range of issues, too. I want to build, if we can, on consensus in taking this review forward. For reforming laws as key as homicide, it is right that we have that consensus. I believe that we can do that, producing viable proposals for reform that will address the key problems without getting into highly controversial areas such as the mandatory life penalty.
Finally, in terms of the next steps for this review, we are considering whether to adopt the Law Commission’s proposals. As I have said, we see a lot of merit in them, but because this is such a sensitive area, we also want to consult widely on how to reform the law. I am sure that the consensual way in which we have always worked in this House will greatly assist us in that regard.
My Lords, I should, in the brief time I will take, apologise to the Law Commission for dealing hardly at all with the recommendations it has made in its important report. It will, I hope, be obvious to the commission that the reason was that although I had 15 minutes in which to speak, which was more than anyone else, I ran out of time. I spent too much time on the mandatory sentence about which, it must be obvious, I feel strongly. But my deficiencies in that respect have been amply made good by others who have spoken in the debate.
I particularly agree with the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, and my noble friend Lady Murphy that a person who kills without intent to kill but only to cause serious harm should not be guilty of second-degree murder, as is proposed, but should be guilty only of manslaughter. I particularly agree that if a partial defence is upheld, it should result in a verdict of manslaughter, not second-degree murder.
I agree with my noble friends Lady Darcy de Knayth and Lord Bledisloe and my noble and learned friend Lord Woolf that the problem since the Homicide Act 1957 has been the attempt to draw fine lines and create new categories. That has not worked, yet that is what the Law Commission is now recommending. Not only would there be a fine line between murder and manslaughter, which is unavoidable, but a fine line between first and second-degree murder would add to the difficulties of juries and create appeals to the Court of Appeal on technical points. I cannot, I am afraid, support having two degrees of murder.
I agree very much with the noble Lord, Lord Brennan, that if there is to be legislation, it should be considered by a Select Committee of this House. Murder is too important a subject to be considered only by the lawyers, as it has been, and by civil servants, as it is about to be. It is a subject on which the public are involved, not only in respect of mercy killing but on all the other matters we have been discussing this afternoon.
We were all deeply impressed by the contributions of my noble friend Lord Dear and my noble and gallant friend Lord Bramall, speaking for the police and the armed services respectively, and also by my noble friend Lady Finlay, speaking as a doctor, as President of the Royal Society of Medicine and as a professor of palliative care.
The noble Lord, Lord Kingsland, agreed that the mandatory sentence was the root of the problem. But like the noble Baroness, I am not quite sure whether he went further than that in condemning the mandatory sentence as such. As the noble Baroness has said, there has been a glittering array of speakers this afternoon; together they have made a very powerful case for the abolition of the mandatory sentence. Nobody has supported it. I hope, now, that the Government will take action, not only on the many recommendations in many reports, but on this debate. I beg leave to withdraw the Motion for Papers.
Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.
Parliament (Joint Departments) Bill [HL]
My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time. I am moving the Second Reading as Leader of the whole House, as this is a parliamentary measure, not a government one. This short Bill follows agreement by the two Houses in 2005 that there is a need for a unified structure for information systems and information technology services under a single official accountable to both Houses of Parliament.
The House of Commons and the House of Lords are separate employers, and there has never yet been a joint department serving the two Houses that is accountable to both. On 1 January 2006, a new joint department was established as a department of the House of Commons on an interim basis. The aim of the new department is to address modern IT needs and to allow improvements in IT services to the two Houses and to individual Members. The Parliamentary Information and Communications Technology service—PICT for short—has House of Lords staff loaned to the House of Commons on a time-limited basis. When the House Committee agreed this arrangement in 2005, it emphasised that the temporary arrangement was only acceptable in the short term.
The Bill is necessary to ensure that the two Houses of Parliament may set up a joint department, with staff employed by the corporate officers of both Houses. The two Houses are separate employers and are separately referred to in a range of employment legislation, so much of the Bill is devoted to ensuring that staff in a joint department would continue to be protected by such legislation.
The principle of a fully joint department for ICT has been supported by the House Committee and the House of Commons Commission. One reason for the creation of a joint ICT department is to improve the management of computer services to Members of both Houses, and to deliver a more efficient service.
Staff representatives in both Houses have been consulted fully. A principal aim of this short Bill is to protect staff rights. For example, in relation to the pay, conditions and pensions of staff in joint departments, Clause 3(2) makes provision similar to that in the House of Commons (Administration) Act 1978. Clause 4 and the schedule will ensure that the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations 2006—TUPE—will apply to transfers of staff between the two Houses and a joint department. Paragraphs 3 and 4 of the schedule are concerned with transfers that occur when functions are allocated to a joint department—for instance, when that department is first set up. Paragraphs 5 and 6 deal with the eventuality that functions being exercised by a joint department might be allocated elsewhere—for instance, to one or both Houses—or might even cease to be exercised at all. In all those cases, the allocation of functions which leads to staff being transferred into or out of a joint department, from or to one or the other House, will be treated as the transfer of an undertaking, so that TUPE will apply to the transfer of the staff concerned.
Most other aspects of staff representatives’ relations with management are covered by non-statutory Whitley Committee arrangements, as has been customary in the Civil Service. Those arrangements are well established in both Houses and the corporate officers are committed to agreeing a suitable extension of the Whitley system to cover a joint department.
Bills relating to the internal administration of Parliament are rare. The most recent precedent is the Parliamentary Corporate Bodies Act 1992. Because of the difficulty in finding parliamentary time, the Bill has been drafted in a way that is not limited to IT but which will allow further joint departments to be developed should the two Houses agree. Neither House has any such plans for a further joint department at present. Clause 2(3) provides the safeguard that when taking any significant decisions on a joint department, the corporate officers may act only with the approval of the House of Commons Commission and of the House of Lords on a recommendation of the House Committee. The House Committee was keen for the new interim department to be set up on a permanent joint basis as soon as possible. To that end, all the provisions of the Bill will come into force on Royal Assent.
This is a short Bill with a limited subject matter. It is intended to assist the smooth operation of a key aspect of parliamentary administration.
Moved, That the Bill be now read a second time.—(Baroness Amos.)
My Lords, I hope to be as brief as the noble Baroness. I suspect that this may be the only time this month that we have a debate on a proposal affecting Parliament that attracts so few speakers. It may be the only debate on the future structure of Parliament in which I carry the noble Lord, Lord McNally, with me, but I live in hope. I have an interest in the Bill from the perspective of the problem it addresses and the general provision that it introduces. I have only two points that I wish to raise, one concerning each aspect of the Bill.
I fully appreciate why the Bill is necessary. It is only in the past few years that Parliament has begun to get its act together on its information and communication technology. In the early 1990s, it was essentially falling behind, not helped by the Information Committee in the other place rejecting a recommendation for central provision. This was changed only at the end of the decade and central provision actually introduced after the 2001 election. Thanks to the Cummins report in 2004, the need for a more unified management structure in the provision of ICT was grasped. The problem in getting some coherence in the delivery of ICT has been not only the separate structures of the two Houses but also the complex management structure of the other place. Cummins provided the spur for the creation of a single joint-House service and we now have, as the noble Baroness said, the Parliamentary Information and Communications Technology—PICT—service, brought into being at the beginning of last year. I do not propose to go into detail because the background and the need for a joint service are provided in a very good article by Richard Ware, PICT's director of resources, in volume 24 of the Table last year.
The case for a joint service is, I think, clear and compelling. As the noble Baroness said, PICT was created on a temporary basis, pending legislation. The Bill will create the basis for it being a permanent body. As she said, it is important that those serving Parliament through a joint department enjoy the same employment rights as those serving each House. I think that there is agreement on all sides that this provision, embodied in Clauses 3, 4 and 5, is right and necessary.
I want to take this opportunity to encourage PICT to continue to make up for lost time. There is much that still needs to be done. The Parliament website has been overhauled but there is still much to do. We need to exploit new technology to ensure that people are aware of what we do in both Houses as well as utilise it for greater involvement by people who have knowledge and views useful to both Houses. Some committees have experimented with online consultation. We need to build on this and look at novel ways of harnessing technology. There is no reason why we should not be ahead of the game, rather than having to play catch-up.
I turn to the general provisions of the Bill, embodied in Clauses 1 and 2. The Bill is brought in because of the creation of PICT but, as the noble Baroness has explained, it can be utilised in the future to create other joint departments. There is already substantial co-operation between the Houses on a range of matters, necessarily so. There may well be occasions in the future where a joint department may be appropriate. The letter from the Clerks of the two Houses says that,
“neither House has any such plans as present”,
but I accept that it is prudent to make provision now.
Given this general provision, it is important that safeguards are written into the Bill. I therefore very much welcome Clause 2(3), which ensures that approval is sought from each House. The provision is somewhat asymmetrical, in that the approval of the other place is given through the House of Commons Commission, whereas here it is given by the House on the recommendation of the House Committee. I am not quite sure why the approval of the other place is not given by the House itself, but that is more appropriately a matter for Members of the other place. I think that the arrangements for the approval of this House are entirely appropriate.
Accountability is provided in that the head of a joint department is accountable to the corporate officer of each House. I assume that to be the case from the wording of the Bill. Once a joint department is in place, I am not quite sure what will happen in the event of a disagreement between the corporate officers. That might merit some reflection. My principal point, though, concerns what happens beyond formal accountability to the corporate officers. It is very important that a joint department reports regularly to both Houses on what it is doing. There is the danger that a joint department may become a little detached. There needs to be not only formal reporting to the corporate officers but a wider reporting to both Houses, and a recognition that the joint department exists to help the Members of both Houses in fulfilling their responsibilities.
Indeed, there needs to be a responsibility not only to report but to listen and take account of concerns. I appreciate that any concerns may be raised via the corporate officers. However, we should give some thought to how to ensure that a joint department is responsive and recognises its responsibility to Members. We may also need to give some consideration to how to ensure that those employed in a joint department, especially those recruited from outside Parliament, are trained in the nature and responsibilities of both Houses. They need to utilise their expertise in a very particular environment and it is important that they are sensitive to it.
Those are the only points I wished to make. I appreciate the need for the measure but I felt that it merited at least some comment.
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Norton of Louth, has ruined my first line as I, too, intended to speculate that this might be the last time for a while that we were on the same side on House of Lords matters.
These Benches welcome the Bill not only for what it does for ICT but because it holds out the prospect of further co-operation. I have often thought that we should look a lot more carefully at introducing more operations in a whole range of services in order to save taxpayers’ money and improve the service to Members of both Houses. Dare I suggest that one day we might even have joint catering in this building? Noble Lords can see that I am already gearing up to be in a radical frame of mind in 10 days’ time.
The only warning that I offer on how joint departments are managed is that it is important to get the right ethos in the staff. By that I mean that priority should not automatically be given to the House of Commons, with a joint department seeing the House of Lords as a secondary responsibility. But that apart, as the noble Lord, Lord Norton, said, the Bill gives us a chance to get ahead of the game in using new technologies both in the service of Members and communicating with the outside world. It gives us a very welcome opportunity to keep open the prospect of having other joint departments.
My Lords, every now and then we turn from telling other people, particularly the Government, how to run things and talk about the running of Parliament itself. Now, for a few minutes, is such a time and the working machinery of this great Parliament sticks up a little into the light from the depths in which it is usually shrouded.
Originally, of course, Parliament was all one and I suppose that it was run by the Clerk of the Parliaments. The name of the office is still with us, but for many centuries this House has acquiesced in the Commons having their own Clerk—that must have been a revolution in its day—and an increasingly separate organisation.
Today we are reversing that process just a little and providing for the unification of services answerable to both Houses. It is a sensible thing to do, but it would be surprising if there were not some hesitation about how far the process might go. The noble Lord, Lord McNally, has already demonstrated that. Both Houses pride themselves on their individual character and position and the Bill is widely drawn. It is true that any department can be made joint by the Clerks with the agreement of the House of Commons Commission on the one hand and of the whole House of Lords on the other. Like my noble friend Lord Norton, I am not sure of the reason for that distinction, but as presented in the Bill it is asymmetrical.
It is true that some services are already joint. Security is inevitably indivisible. The head of security and his staff operate for both Houses. The works and estate services are common to both. The Parliamentary Archives are now jointly run; the exhibition held recently showed us that. The new visitor facilities—we have looked forward to them for some time—are to be joint. There is already the joint service for Parliamentary Information and Communications Technology. It is this latter alone which is proposed to be under the joint command structure in the Bill. It is right that it should be and I support that.
What about the other services? Neatness would suggest sometimes that existing joint services should be brought under the same umbrella. However, I have never been one for disturbing arrangements which work well simply for the sake of neatness. I do not think that the rearrangements always deliver what is promised. The noble Lord, Lord McNally, has suggested that some other services might be made joint. His radical suggestion was the Refreshment Departments. Other people speak of the Libraries being blended, particularly when the Law Lords have departed and that aspect of our Library becomes more separate. I should be against either of those services being amalgamated. I see no advantage in size.
The Lord President and everyone else will know that the House will watch these arrangements carefully and will be prepared to defend its ground. There will be arguments about efficiency, which in other circles is often promised and less often delivered when amalgamations take place. The differing character of the two Houses is precious to the Members of both Houses. I speak of the present character of this House, realising that in the next two weeks we shall be discussing the possibility of a different character for it—one much closer potentially to that of the Commons. But even if the second House were to be fully elected, I believe that it would want to retain its separate identity. Indeed, I believe that it would fight to exert its independence and to gain the equality that the legitimacy of election would confer, and it would be right to do so. I do not think that that changes the point I make.
If we go on in much the same way as we do at present, the Lords will remain conscious of its position as the junior partner to the Commons, which inevitably has more resources, more political muscle and more ambition. The Lords will need to watch its position, not only when changes in scope are proposed but in normal running when there are problems about a joint department trying to serve two masters. Of course, holy writ, as well as my noble friend Lord Norton of Louth, warns us about the problem of serving two masters, but it will be present sometimes.
We welcome the Bill. We are certainly content for the PICT function to be jointly controlled, as set out in the Bill. We particularly support the clauses protecting the staff during the changes, which are obviously necessary. We will watch very carefully any attempt to use the Bill in other areas.
My Lords, it is a rather good feeling to be in a situation that I am very rarely in, which is to bask briefly in the harmony and agreement that there is around the Chamber. I thank noble Lords who have spoken for their support of the Bill.
I will try to address the questions that have been asked. In so doing, I reiterate that this is about a joint department. We in the House of Lords will ensure that the needs of this House are guarded very jealously; the noble Lord, Lord Cope, is right that Members of this House will be watching very carefully what happens in the way that the service is delivered. On the issue of the wider safeguards, which was raised by the noble Lord, Lord Norton of Louth, it is for another place to decide its process, as he indicated. It is important for this House that it is the House that makes the decision, on the recommendation of the House Committee.
On accountability—reporting to the corporate officers of each House and what happens if there is a disagreement—from time to time the two Houses have different priorities, and we have seen that in operation. That has always been the case. In certain circumstances, difficulties have been resolved by one House, for example, taking responsibility for the lion’s share of the funding or staff resource that is provided. That already happens with individual IT projects, where one House will have a much greater interest than the other. The principle of having a joint department, which is about the two Houses working much more closely together, is something that we will all want to see enshrined.
In terms of that being extended to other services, the noble Lord, Lord McNally, is being particularly radical in raising the issue of the Refreshment Department. My experience of raising the possibility of one or two parts of our refreshment services being shared is that the idea tends to disappear into a very large black hole and never reappear. Both Houses will watch how this develops, and other possibilities for joint departments may well come up in the future. I would be a very brave woman if I were to make any suggestion about what that future might be in terms of time.
The noble Lord, Lord Norton of Louth, asked about the director of PICT. He will be a member of the Management Boards of both Houses, which is important; and PICT activities will be included in the annual reports of both Houses. The noble Lord, Lord McNally, asked about training. Arrangements are being made for training for PICT staff about both Houses so that they appreciate and understand the different cultures of the two Houses.
I think that I have addressed all the points and questions that have been raised. Once again, I thank noble Lords for their support for this measure.
On Question, Bill read a second time, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.
European Union (Information, etc.) Bill [HL]
My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.
Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.
House in Committee accordingly.
[The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN OF COMMITTEES (Lord Brougham and Vaux) in the Chair.]
Clause 1 [Provision of information and statistics relating to the European Union in public buildings and on the internet]:
1: Clause 1, page 1, line 4, at end insert “where indicated by the Secretary of State”
The noble Lord said: I am grateful to the Committee for allowing me to table this amendment, which deals with a particular matter that arose in the debate on Second Reading, in which some Members understandably thought that there might be an element of compulsion. Indeed, the Minister also referred to that in her Second Reading remarks about the suggestions in the various clauses. I intervened at that stage to emphasise that that was not the intention of the Bill, which is drafted in such a way that its provisions are entirely permissive and voluntary all the way through, without exception.
However, sometimes textual equivocations can arise because of the use of, for example, the word “shall” rather than “may”. The difficulty is that “may”, as colleagues here and in the other place will understand, reduces the apparent force of the exhortatory nature of the clause, and so people prefer to remain with the stronger verb.
I thought that it would therefore be sensible and politic to propose an amendment at this stage to give the Secretary of State the power to intervene. Under the amendment, those who wish to set up a European Union centre in public buildings, public libraries and municipal buildings would apply to the Secretary of State for a certificate, which would be a board or a plaque of some kind to be displayed in the building as an indication that the Government had given their approval to the creation of the unit. That is not to say that there would be any over-riding power exercised by the Secretary of State or the Government over this matter; setting up the centre for information would be an entirely free and voluntary decision of the local authorities and other entities. However, the fact that the plaque or board was on display would show the imprimatur of government encouragement at least. There would be no connection with any European Union institutions, which would reassure colleagues who would be worried about the involvement of the European Union and its institutions in matters that should remain entirely in the national ambit. I beg to move.
Despite my general support for the Bill’s aim of providing more information to the British public about our relationship with the European Union, I am not sure that the Secretary of State is the best person to decide where that information should be displayed, unless Amendment No. 3, which is in my name, is accepted. If it is accepted, my opposition to these amendments largely disappears, because the information put out will be balanced—neither pro-European Union nor anti-European Union—and so it does not much matter where it is displayed.
However, I have one question for the noble Lord, Lord Dykes, who has introduced the Bill. At Second Reading, he said that the information would be freely available in,
“public libraries, town halls and similar public buildings”.—[Official Report, 15/12/06; col. 1771.]
Will he now, in Committee, go a little further and reveal what other public buildings the Bill has in mind? Is he thinking of schools, universities, underground stations, departments of state and so on? Does he really mean any building that is funded by the public purse? Be the answer to those questions what it may, I would have thought that the best body to sanction where the information should be displayed should be the committee recommended by Amendment No. 3. In the mean time, I look forward to the noble Lord’s comments.
It may be helpful if I set out the Government’s position on the amendment. In doing so, I pay tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Dykes, for giving the Committee the chance to discuss these important issues. The Government welcome the contribution that the noble Lord continues to make to the debate on EU affairs.
As I stated in the House last December, the Government wholeheartedly support many activities to ensure that factual information about the European Union is freely and widely available to the people of the UK. However, we do not support the idea that public buildings should be required to provide such information; I note the comments made by the noble Lord in relation to the word “shall”. Nor do we wish to support provisions that might impose extra administrative or other burdens on those providing such information.
The noble Lord’s amendments might reduce the number of public buildings covered by these requirements. Nevertheless, the new processes that they would establish for public organisations to apply and be selected and approved by the Secretary of State would be time-consuming and costly. The Government are already supporting the European Commission’s Europe Direct initiative, which has established 25 centres around the country to act as one-stop shops for public information on the EU. Many other sources, including the Government’s europe.gov.uk website and the European Union’s Europa website, offer a very wide range of factual information. The Government, therefore, have reservations about these proposed provisions and, in particular, whether they would be the most effective way of furthering public access to information on EU issues.
I echo the reservations of the Minister on these amendments. I am puzzled over how they reduce, in any way, the distinctly mandatory tone of the legislation and turn it into a more permissive measure. This highlights the dangers of trying to legislate in these kinds of areas. Legislation is the law. It empowers Governments and authorities and informs the conduct and enforcement of the law in any area, and certainly in this area. Attempts to water down, which I think is what the noble Lord, in all sincerity, is trying to do, are almost certain to be hostages to fortune.
I agree with the Minister that these amendments are unnecessary. It will be no surprise to the noble Lord, Lord Dykes, to hear me say, as I shall indicate on a later amendment, that this attempt to bring legislation into this area is a sad one. It will damage, rather than reinforce, the work of European unity and effectiveness and the creation of the modern Europe that is now developing and which I greatly welcome—it may indeed yet bring extreme benefits to our people, as it has done in the past. I do not see that this amendment will help at all.
I am grateful to noble Lords and to the Minister for their contributions to this argument. I reiterate that the clause, like the Bill, is a fairly gentle, mild set of suggestions for trying to increase the amount of physical display of our membership of the European Union, with the flag, with European information centres and so on. I say to those who might be worried about these matters that it is nothing more sinister than that.
I appreciate the words of the Minister. There is a problem of ensuring that there are no extra administrative burdens or expenses. That was not envisaged. The amendments were a particular way of trying to get over the problem of the anxiety about compulsion. Of course, there would be other ways of resolving the problem. If the Bill were allowed to make progress through further stages, I would hope that we could return to these matters.
In the mean time, I can reassure the noble Lord, Lord Pearson, on his very legitimate question. I thank him for his comments. In Clause 4, the definition is:
“(a) public libraries, and
“(b) borough, town, city and county council headquarters”.
Nothing else is envisaged. Bearing in mind the comments that have been made, including those from the opposition Front Bench by the noble Lord, Lord Howell of Guildford, I do not wish to press the amendment further at this stage. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
[Amendment No. 2 not moved.]
3: Clause 1, page 1, line 16, at end insert—
“(5) All information provided under this section shall be provided by a committee of seven members appointed by the Privy Council, of whom—
(a) two shall be nominated by organisations appearing to the Privy Council to be in favour of the United Kingdom’s continued membership of the European Union, (b) two shall be nominated by organisations appearing to the Privy Council to be opposed to the United Kingdom’s continued membership of the European Union, (c) two shall be nominated by the Privy Council as persons it considers to hold no opinion as to whether the United Kingdom should stay in or leave the European Union, and (d) one shall be nominated by the Privy Council as the chairman of the committee, being a person it considers to hold no opinion as to whether the United Kingdom should stay in or leave the European Union. (6) The person nominated under subsection (5)(d) shall not act in any capacity as chairman or as a member of the committee unless at least five members of the committee approve his appointment.
(7) No person may be appointed under subsection (5) if he is or was—
(a) a member of the European Parliament, or (b) an employee of the European Union or of any institution of the European Union.”
The noble Lord said: We come now to what, I fear, may be the main bone of contention between the noble Lord, Lord Dykes, and Europhile supporters of this Bill and those of us of a more Euro-sceptic inclination. Amendment No. 3 is an attempt to bridge the ever-widening chasm between those who regard the project of European union as a good thing—a project that has brought peace, prosperity and influence to Europe—and those of us who have come to see it as a dangerous failure that is over-regulated, undemocratic and corrupt and which bodes ill for the future of the peoples of Europe in the global economy that is already upon us.
The amendment speaks for itself. It may not be perfect, but it is an honest attempt to see that any information put before the public should pass through both Europhile and Euro-sceptic filters, thus emerging as balanced as possible. Other noble Lords may be able to think of a better way of ensuring that only balanced and honest information about our relationship with the EU is distributed, in which case I look forward to hearing their suggestions. What is absolutely obvious is that no official information from Brussels or the Government should be distributed unless it is balanced by the Euro-sceptic view. Indeed, the committee proposed by the amendment might decide to do just that. It might decide to distribute the Brussels line on a given subject with the sceptic view alongside it. People could then ask questions, talk about it, at last have some of the national debate that the Government say they want, and make up their own minds.
I take the example of subsidiarity. In his speech at Second Reading, the noble Lord, Lord Dykes, said:
“I am especially keen that the explanation of subsidiarity, for example, should be properly handled, as well as the emphasis that many policy areas remain the principal or sole preserve of the sovereign member states, which is as it should be”.—[Official Report, 15/12/06; col. 1771.]
Europhiles claim that subsidiarity ensures that the EU is given power to do things only when they can be done better by the Community acting as a whole, leaving everything else to be done by the member states. I imagine that that may be the interpretation supported by the noble Lord, Lord Dykes, but I hope that he will forgive me when I say that we Euro-sceptics regard it as entirely misleading; we would regard it as entirely misleading if that meaning of subsidiarity was to form part of the information distributed under the Bill. We maintain that subsidiarity has precisely the opposite meaning and, indeed, has had the opposite effect over the years.
We would want the people to be told that subsidiarity has always been a deception and has done nothing to stem the steady passage of powers from the member states to the European Union. We have not deviated from this view since subsidiarity was introduced during the Maastricht negotiations of 1992. We noticed then that the clause was ambiguously worded, its first sentence making it clear that it applied only to areas that had not already been passed to the control of the EU. We felt rather sorry for poor Mr Major when he claimed subsidiarity as a great victory for national sovereignty, saying that under it some 25 per cent of the already over-burdensome EU regulation would be repealed within three years. Of course, nothing of the sort has happened.
To rub in the true interpretation of the subsidiarity clause, Protocol 30 was added to the next treaty—the Amsterdam treaty of 1997. This states clearly that subsidiarity means maintaining the acquis communautaire—or powers acquired by the Community—in full. It goes further, ordaining that subsidiarity supports the infamous Article 6.4 of the treaty on European Union, according to which,
“The Union shall provide itself with the means necessary to obtain its objectives and carry through its policies”.
As, indeed, it has, as, indeed, it is, and as, indeed, it will until the EU mega-state is complete or until we, as a country, see the light—or, perhaps, the darkness—and leave the wretched thing behind us.
We would expect any information on subsidiarity to at least contain the treaty clauses and protocol on which it is based and some examples of where it has worked. Perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Dykes, could—if I could have his attention—give us examples of areas of our national sovereignty that have been returned to us under it, and examples where a reasonable person might think that the EU should not have taken powers, leaving them to the national Parliament to decide instead. We feel that examples of both those should be put to the people.
Before the noble Lord gives us those examples, I remind him of the statement made last month by Mr Roman Herzog, the former German President, to the effect that 84 per cent of all German national law since 1999 has been imposed by Brussels. It may not be quite the same figure here, although it is hard to see why it should be different. Our Government refuse to answer the question of what percentage applies here, going no further than to confess that most law affecting our business now comes from Brussels, which is bad enough.
Even if we are cautious and say that some 70 per cent of all our national law is now imposed on us by the Brussels system, that should give us all pause for thought. Does that not mean that your Lordships’ House and the House of Commons are now 70 per cent irrelevant, if 70 per cent of our function has been usurped by Brussels? Of course, working here in these splendid surroundings, and with most Members of the other place paid rather more than they might be in real life, it is easy not to see the wood for the trees. That is where our membership of the European Union has brought us, and I would like to know what subsidiarity has done to stop it.
At Second Reading on 1 December, I briefly set down, at cols. 1778-79 of Hansard, some of the other basic reasons why we Euro-sceptics so dislike and fear the project of European union, all of which we would want to form part of the information distributed under the Bill. I will not repeat them now. We hope that this Bill would give rise to open and honest debate on the innately undemocratic system of EU lawmaking, about which most people in this country are simply not aware. We hope that national debate would also be encouraged on the question of exactly what the economic costs and benefits of our EU membership really are—another subject avoided by the Government like a frightened rabbit, perhaps because private independent studies put the cost of our membership at anywhere between 4 per cent and 10 per cent of GDP. No wonder the Government do not want to have to validate that.
If the Bill were already law, we would expect it to create some national awareness of how the failed EU constitution is being put in place in Brussels—piecemeal, surreptitiously and illegally. That is not the sort of thing that Brussels or our Government, who are collaborating in this process by refusing to use the veto to stop it, want the British people to know about. Under this amendment, though, we could go to the proposed committee and ask it to publish the fact that articles in the existing treaties are being used to advance the constitution through the back door.
One of the main articles being used for that purpose is Article 308, which allows the EU to take power only,
“in the course of the operation of the common market”.
Yet this clause is being used to set up the EU’s fundamental rights agency in Vienna and to legalise its fundamental rights charter, a vast new human rights law justiciable in the Luxembourg court. This is the initiative, as noble Lords may remember, that Mr Keith Vaz, when Europe Minister, assured us would have no more force than the Beano, and which the Prime Minister assured us would never become justiciable in Luxembourg; yet the Commission has ordained that all new law must reflect the charter, and the court has declared that it is already deferring to the charter in its judgments. Thus the corrupt octopus advances. Article 308 has also been used to pass control of civil contingencies to Brussels, and even to validate a new €350 million EU propaganda campaign called “Promoting Active EU Citizenship”.
Your Lordships have considered these three abuses of Article 308 recently in Oral Questions, and there have been several Written Questions. To all these questions, the Government offer a wholly unacceptable excuse for not using the veto to prevent them. They have done it again today, in a Written Answer to my noble friend Lord Tebbit, at cols. WA 310-11 in Hansard. They say that before allowing Article 308 to be used, they submit the proposal in question to the scrutiny committees of both Houses. However, those committees are powerless to prevent the Government from going ahead, especially as the Government have over-ridden their reservations 180 times in the past three years.
The British public are wholly ignorant of this process and of the other areas that I have mentioned. If this amendment is accepted, the Bill would do much to enlighten them, an aim that the Government say that they share, although I fear that they do not. If it is not accepted, I cannot support the Bill. I beg to move.
I wholly agree with the noble Lord, Lord Pearson, in his exposé of the farce of the doctrine of subsidiarity from which so much was originally, and no doubt naively, expected. I broadly agree with what he is aiming at with this amendment. However, I could not put my name to it because I do not see it as a practical proposition. I cannot believe that there is a single person in the United Kingdom who has no view whatever about whether we should stay in or leave the European Union. Such an individual must be rare indeed. Perhaps he is a hermit buried in some cave in north Wales. Furthermore, how does one define him? It is true that one can find organisations, as opposed to individuals, that oppose continuing membership, but there must be others that are conditional opponents or supporters. There must be some that would be happy to remain members of the EU, if we reverted to the pre-Maastricht treaty position or if large chunks of the acquis communautaire were repealed, but which would favour leaving if our sovereignty continued to be eroded and the EU continued to poke into the nooks and crannies of our everyday lives, in the immortal words of the noble Lord, Lord Hurd of Westwell. They are not catered for in this amendment. I cannot suggest a better alternative. I think that the intentions of the noble Lord, Lord Pearson, are right, but I do not think that the amendment will work.
Having just stepped off a train from Brussels, I have to say that I am very much in favour of the maximum flow of information from the Community about what is going on there. I cannot see that this amendment would help that. It is entirely restrictive in both pluses and minuses, and I cannot support it.
It is always a pleasure to be engaged in debate with the noble Lord, Lord Pearson. He has always brought to his views on Europe the great virtues of simplicity and clarity. We know exactly where he stands. We now know that even more so as his party membership has changed. I am slightly bemused by the concept of UKIP advising the Privy Council on the achievement of balance, which seems an altogether novel notion, but there we are.
UKIP’s views are black and white. Quite apart from anything else, this amendment allows for no intermediate colours. Which would be the two organisations opposed to continuing United Kingdom membership of the European Union? The bottom line on all this is, as we all know—indeed, I think it is broadly accepted in this House—that the level of general public knowledge about the European Union is woefully inadequate. Poll after poll reveals this to be true. Perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Pearson, and I agree about that. The question is how you rectify this. How do you improve the levels of knowledge? The Bill is a genuine and sensitive attempt to increase the levels of knowledge, which is an ideal thing to do.
This year, we are celebrating the 50th anniversary of the original Treaty of Rome. Whatever one’s views about specific weaknesses or strengths of the European Union, one thing is surely clear: the European Union has made an enormous contribution to the civilisation of which we are a part. I dread to think what the consequences of the collapse of the Soviet empire would have been if the European Union had not existed to provide a road map for the countries of east and central Europe in their progress towards a civil society. It is almost unimaginable. We had one rather scary but thankfully brief moment right at the beginning of that process when the French and the Germans suddenly found themselves with very different views about the future of the failed state of Yugoslavia. That brief glimpse of the hard edge of European nationalism, which has not yet finally expired, was a warning.
We should do what we can to improve the levels of knowledge, as well as the understanding of the enormous achievement of the European Union and the issues that remain for debate, which are clearly controversial. The Bill is a good step in that direction. The amendment, however, is based on an extraordinarily odd notion that the only way in which you can achieve balance is to take the two most extreme positions you can find and pit them against each other.
I speak not as a frightened rabbit, but as a member of a Government who are proud to be a member of the European Union, a partnership of 27 countries working together to find practical solutions to problems such as climate change and energy supply and security, which are of real concern to the people of this country. I have one comment to make on the amendment tabled by the noble Lord. The Government are rather concerned that it could impose a costly new bureaucratic layer between the Government and the public. That, from a party whose manifesto says no to paperwork, is quite a surprising development.
I am very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Pearson, for proposing this interesting amendment. That does not necessarily mean that I agree with the actual details of the proposals. I am grateful to other noble Lords who have spoken in the debate and to the Minister for her contribution, which although brief was a very soundly enunciated commitment to the membership of the European Union, which this Government have always stated, from the Prime Minister downwards. That is appreciated. The noble Lord, Lord Monson, made some very interesting points that reinforce my intention to try to persuade the noble Lord, Lord Pearson, who I know is a gentleman, to reconsider the amendment. I am very grateful for the comments made by my noble friend Lord Watson and the noble Lord, Lord Cobbold, on this matter.
I was very anxious to emphasise at Second Reading, as I think the noble Lord, Lord Pearson, will remember, that this modest exercise and this modest Bill would be a failure if all sorts of details were not given about the European Union and our membership of it that were also adverse and negative—provided, of course, that it was factual information given through respectable public channels from independent media and so on, as we discussed before, rather than tendentious statements made perhaps above all by politicians but by many other people as well. That will be the basis of the objective information to be provided in the European Union information centres. It would, I am sure, include a lot of critical information about the EU as well. It would be daft for anyone, however enthusiastic they might be about European Union membership, to say that nothing in it poses any problems and that everything is correct. That would be childish in every way. As the very idea and notion of EU membership gets more implanted into the minds of the citizens of the member states and it is not regarded as a dangerous matter for their countries to be members, I think that natural desire to criticise in any democracy should grow. Perhaps in earlier stages those who were keen on our membership of the European Union overdid the defending of every aspect of it because they were so nervous about some of the existential attacks on European Union membership.
I was a little bemused by the suggestions of the noble Lord, Lord Pearson. I am flattered in one sense but disappointed in another as he himself clearly said that he was keen on this Bill from the point of view of providing information which he would obviously consider in a different light from some of my conclusions. I am very grateful to him for emphasising, both at Second Reading and at this Committee stage, that he thinks this Bill is a good idea from that point of view.
What he has done with the change of nomenclature from Chancellor of the Exchequer to Privy Council in Amendment No. 3 is to lift clauses and subsections entirely from his own European Union (Implications of Withdrawal) Bill which still awaits a Second Reading. I believe I am right in saying that the noble Lord, Lord Pearson, was one of the first to propose a Bill for First Reading in the present Session of Parliament. He therefore presumably had an opportunity to set a date for Second Reading some time ago but no date has yet been fixed. Therefore I am flattered but disconcerted to see that his technique—I do not accept it to be the right way of doing this—is to put a provision into my Bill. Is it to make it more difficult for the Bill to proceed? The noble Lord says not and I am grateful for that. But it seems to me that that kind of clause would make it much more difficult to actuate the provisions of the Bill. There are many ways in which decisions on fundamental membership can be dealt with outside of European Union information centres, which should be routine even if the data are extensive and deal with many different sectors.
Therefore, I urge the noble Lord, Lord Pearson, to withdraw his amendment, if he would be so kind as to consider that as a possibility today, and to set a date for the Second Reading of his European Union (Implications of Withdrawal) Bill so that we can have another proper debate on those more fundamental aspects. It would be a pity—
I wonder whether I might just put the noble Lord straight. It is not a Bill to withdraw from the European Union but a Bill to consider the implications of withdrawal. It is a cost-benefit analysis and an analysis of the advantages to our sovereignty, defence and every aspect of our national life were we to leave the European Union.
Of course I meant that by definition. I was using shorthand again with a natural desire to save time but obviously I feel the need to reply a little to some of the points the noble Lord has made.
With his own party in a certain amount of disarray outside this House, perhaps this is the calmest little edifice of UKIP at the moment. A classic technique of Governments was to have a foreign policy adventure or initiative if things at home were bad. Perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Pearson, is trying to emulate that with his suggestions today. However, in technical and mechanistic terms, what he is suggesting specifically would be a rather unwise way of trying to deal with what he quite rightly says are his aims and objectives; namely, to get the public to think about whether our membership of the European Union should continue.
One could go on at great length as these are complex matters. However, I think that the noble Lord, Lord Pearson, accidentally I am sure, misunderstands the way in which the Community functions. It is a collection of sovereign Governments working together through collective institutions which occasionally use voting procedures but often do not and legislating on behalf of all the sovereign Governments. The second chamber of the legislative process is the Council of Ministers with the European Parliament alongside and there is a democracy built in to safeguard each national member state. There is nothing for those who hesitate about our European Union membership to fear from those processes. The definition of how much legislation comes from Brussels is that legislation which has been suggested to the Commission for enactment by the sovereign member Governments—the member states—who want it.
Again, I think that the noble Lord misunderstands how those mechanisms work. The way in which the Ministers in each Government safeguard the national interest is powerful, primordial in many ways, and over-riding often, as Ministers know, which is right. It reassures those in each country who want to see a proper enactment of less legislation, because Commission proposals are often couched in communications rather than legislative proposals. Where they are directed to be enacted by the member states, those directives are very broad and usually come from the Council of Ministers originally having said to the Commission, “By the way, would you look into this area and present some proposals for us to act on?”. I hope therefore that the noble Lord, Lord Pearson, will kindly reconsider his suggestions on this occasion.
I am grateful to all noble Lords who have spoken because they have demonstrated clearly what a Europhile place your Lordships’ House is. With the exception of my noble friend Lord Monson, they clearly do not want to have a balanced debate of any kind on our membership of the European Union. To my noble friend Lord Monson, I would say that people who have not yet made up their minds on whether we should stay in or leave the European Union do exist. They might be found on your Lordships’ Cross Benches or among the judiciary. I can think of other areas of national life where they will be found.
With the greatest respect, I have to say that the noble Lord, Lord Watson, appears to have misunderstood the amendment. The proposed committee consists of seven people, two of whom would be nominated by organisations which appear to the Privy Council,
“to be in favour of … continued membership of the European Union”.
I would not have thought that that would be difficult. For a start, there is the Conservative Party, the Liberal Democrats and the Labour Party.
There would also be two people nominated by organisations who appear,
“to be opposed to the United Kingdom’s continued membership of the European Union”,
which would not be difficult either. We could certainly draw on my esteemed UK Independence Party and there are 38 other groups in this country dedicated to withdrawal from the European Union. I would think that we could take someone from there. I agree that the difficulty occurs in finding people who have no opinion, but I believe that it could be done. The rest of the amendment is self-explanatory.
I have to take issue, too, of course, but I do not want to prolong—
I thank the noble Lord for giving way. On the subsection concerning “to hold no opinion”, the way in which it is expressed suggests people who have always been totally indifferent to our European Union membership. I do not think that those people exist. I think that the noble Lord is referring to people who are uncertain about whether the United Kingdom should stay or leave the EU. If he were at some future date, or perhaps in his Bill which has not received a Second Reading, to substitute the words “be uncertain” for “hold no opinion”, that would improve the wording tremendously.
I am most grateful to the noble Lord. No doubt that is something we could consider at the next stage if the Bill proceeds. As I said, I do not pretend that the amendment is perfect. I was looking for precisely that kind of advice from other noble Lords.
The noble Lord, Lord Watson, takes it for granted that the EU has made an enormous contribution to European civilisation—peace since 1945 and all that—while blithely ignoring, as usual, the fact that NATO has kept peace since 1945 and that the former countries of the Soviet bloc have benefited enormously by their membership of the European Union. There is of course a very powerful case to say that that is not true and that they were well on their way to economic success with their own democracies, which they have now sacrificed to the European project. I would not have thought that membership is necessarily a good thing for them at all. It is, of course, a good thing for their bureaucratic and political elites, many of whom now have jobs in Brussels—or on the Brussels pay scale—at rates up to 10 times that of their previous levels of employment. For the political elite, then, the European project is a good thing; but, for the peoples of Europe I suggest that that remains to be seen.
As I say, I am disappointed but not in the least surprised that other noble Lords do not want a balanced debate on this subject or balanced information to be put before the British people, as this amendment tries to do. They are content to continue with the propaganda that pours forth from Brussels, so I am not surprised—and neither should they be—that the British people are turned off by the whole subject. They dislike it, and they wish to leave it, in ever growing numbers. That said, for the moment I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 [The flag of the European Union]:
On Question, Whether Clause 2 shall stand part of the Bill?
This is the flag-waving clause, and it seems extraordinary. I do not understand how such a clause could ever get into a Bill to be given serious discussion in your Lordships’ House, but there it is. It would be much better if it was not there.
The clause is quite clear, unlike the discussions that the Committee was having on the previous clause, which seemed to me to confuse information and knowledge. A great deal has been said about those matters, but this clause is clear: it says that there should be a mandatory requirement to fly this flag. That is unnecessary and it is not a good idea. More worrying than that, it seems designed to make the idea of being good Europeans—as we have been, Britain having been a good European country not only in recent years but over the centuries—and of European co-operation more unpopular.
Anything that raises antagonisms and makes these issues more unpopular seems an utterly pointless exercise. Some of us who have worked in Europe, and love it, and who want to see the evolution of a modern European Union—the past one has done great things, but requires major reforms to fit into the network age—are, frankly, appalled to see such a proposal. People should be reasonably free to fly the flags that they want. Can the Minister tell me where the Government have got to in revising the regulations to extend the list of flags that we do not have to advertise in order to fly? I gather that the proposal is that those should include the EU flag, the Commonwealth flag and the flag of the United Nations. What is the position there?
The general idea that a law of this nature should be passed with this clause in it seems thoroughly un-European, and I am frankly appalled that it should be put forward at all. I wish that it would be removed.
It is a rare pleasure and honour to join the Conservative Front Bench in agreeing on a European matter, and I do so with relish. The reasons why all good Euro-sceptics object to this clause is obvious: we do not want the United Kingdom to remain a member of the European Union. The less we have to be reminded that we are at present members, ever more subservient to the diktats of Brussels, the better. Nothing reminds us of the folly of our political leaders over the past 30 years in taking us into this sorry predicament more than the European flag.
I remind the noble Lord, Lord Dykes, and the Government that the European flag does not have legal status in Europe. In fact, one of the provisions of the failed European constitution was that the flag would be recognised as the flag of the European Union, along with—unfortunately—Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” as the national anthem of the European Union. Alas, poor Beethoven. So I join the noble Lord, Lord Howell, in asking the Government what the present position on the EU flag is in this country. There is a proposal to make it not mandatory but possible to fly it on public buildings, and it would be helpful to know how far that project has gone so that we can get ready to oppose it.
I suggest that the noble Lord, Lord Howell, takes the Marshalled List home and gets it framed, so that he can see his name in such illustrious company.
I understand the noble Lord’s feeling about this being mandatory, but I think that there is a case for greater use of the European flag, not least because of the problems of ignorance that have been complained of on all sides. I am sure that we have all had the experience of knocking on a door and somebody coming out and saying, “I don’t think we should join that Common Market”; when you say, “Actually, we did that 35 years ago”, you realise the gap between general knowledge and reality. But of course that is also a reflection of the whole approach of the noble Lord, Lord Pearson.
The noble Lord reminds me a little bit of Arsène Wenger—and I am sure that he will not take offence at being compared with a Frenchman. The Arsenal manager never quite loses a match; he always has some complaint, either about the referee or the opposition. I can tell the noble Lord that the truth of how the game works is that he can put his views to the British people in a democratic election and, if they approve of what he puts to them, they will elect him to this Parliament and he can form a Government and take us out of the Common Market. The Labour Party stood on such a commitment in 1983; it was the last time that a major party stood with a specific manifesto commitment to take Britain out of the Common Market. Noble Lords will recall—although I do not want to hurt the Minister by recalling it—that Labour got its worst election result since 1918. Part of the modernisation of the Labour Party involved its realising that that kind of proposal to the British people just does not wash. The fact is that all the various Acts to which the noble Lord, Lord Pearson, referred during his various interventions have gone though both Houses of this Parliament, and those who have voted for them have had to put their judgment to the test in elections.
I would like a greater show of the European flag. I was involved in the referendum in 1975, and I remember people saying then that by this time we would all be one great amorphous mass and nobody would have any national identity. Of course, that is all codswallop. It was codswallop then and it is codswallop now—the various national identities have remained and will continue to do so. I am sorry that the noble Lord, Lord Howell, is associated in such rough company, because I found some of his earlier comments very encouraging. I suddenly realised why, probably, the noble Lord, Lord Pearson, has jumped ship. I suspect that the Conservative Party is changing from its position a few years ago of rabid hostility; it is now having some interesting thoughts about the modernisation of Europe, which I think are welcome, not least from such an experienced source as the noble Lord, Lord Howell.
Let us fly the flag. I have no problem with that. As I have always said, I can cheer for Blackpool at football, England at cricket and Europe in the Ryder Cup. I will wave the appropriate flag on each occasion and still be robust about all three.
I agree with everything that the noble Lords, Lord Howell and Lord Pearson, have said, which is hardly surprising since my name is on the amendment. There is another point that has not yet been mentioned, which is that, as the Bill is drafted, Clause 2 could not be enforced. If in a borough, town, city or county council the majority of elected individuals are, to a greater or lesser degree, Euro-sceptics—or are even Euro-enthusiasts—they may still resent excessive Brussels interference, and there is no way that they can be compelled to have the flag flown in their borough, town, city or county.
Before the Minister gives his reply—and I do not want to prolong the debate—I cannot let the noble Lord, Lord McNally, get away with some of the comments that he has just made. First, he implied that I might object to being compared to a Frenchman, and I take very strong exception to that.
Quite frankly, I do not know whether he is a Frenchman or not, but the implication was that I might object to being compared to a Frenchman. This is an important point, which the noble Lord, Lord Howell, touched upon in his comments on this amendment. There is an implication that Euro-sceptics do not like Europeans—that is absolutely not true. We Euro-sceptics love the Europe of nation states. We love and respect all the nations of Europe, with their diverse cultures and histories. We dislike and fear the project of European union, which is an entirely different matter.
The noble Lord, Lord McNally, took us through the British democratic process, and said that—
I am intrigued by the last remark, which drew a very clear distinction between the nation state and Europe as a whole. Would the noble Lord think that there is no sense of European identity—whether through Michelangelo, Beethoven, or anybody else? Does he say that there is no such thing?
No, we love and respect that. But that falls under the history and culture of the nations of Europe, to which I have just referred. I make a distinction between that and the project of European union, which is entirely different and misguided. That is what we dislike.
I have been a member of the European movement for 40 years, and I have never hesitated in putting forward my views about Europe to various democratic electorates. That is the way the game is played, and I am afraid that my side has won, and the noble Lord’s has lost. Until it can get a much more radical change, it will continue to lose.
I was just coming to the noble Lord's strictures on the democratic process; but he has again confused the issue by using the word “Europe”. Does he mean the project of European union, or does he mean the nation states of Europe? They are two completely different things. It is unfortunate that the project of European union seems to have accreted, in true Leninist fashion, the word “Europe” to its cause. But it means very different things depending on what you are talking about. As I said, I do not wish to detain the Committee—I am sure that many noble Lords wish to go home for the weekend. It is wonderful to be so well supported in your Lordships' Committee.
The noble Lord, Lord McNally, took us through the British democratic process and alluded, I think, to the referendum of 1975, when the British people voted to stay in what they were assured was a Common Market. They did not vote for what we have today, which is a European Union and emerging EU mega-state. When he says, “Whether you like it or not, it has all gone through Parliament”, I would submit to him that the process of Brussels law-making under which most of our national law is now made is innately undemocratic. It is proposed in secret by the Commission. It then goes to the Committee of Permanent Representatives—or COREPER, Eurocrats from the nation states—where it is negotiated in secret. It then goes to the Council of Ministers, where it is decided in secret and where the United Kingdom now has 8 per cent of the votes. And then it is rubberstamped by Parliament, on pain of unlimited fines in the Luxembourg court.
I do not call that democracy. I believe it is one of the reasons why 40 per cent of the British people now see that there is no point in voting in British general elections. Most of our law is now made in Brussels under the innately undemocratic system which I have described. That is why I think that the whole project is misguided. I think that the flag which represents it should be torn up into the smallest possible pieces and thrown into the River Tiber to accompany the treaty of Rome.
Forgive me; one thing on which I am sure the noble Lord was quite right is that everyone wants to go home. It is probably singularly unwise of me to intervene since I strayed into the Chamber as a matter of passing interest to see what was going on, having noticed that the Bill of the noble Lord, Lord Dykes, was being debated. Apart from that piece of unwisdom, it would certainly be unwise of me to imply that I wish to take sides with the noble Lord, Lord Pearson, high as is my respect for him, because I would hold a rather different position on the argument on Europe, much closer to that of my noble friend on the Front Bench.
I think that a distortion has occurred in the debate in the past few minutes, because we have started talking as if this clause says that Britain shall come out of or stay in the European Union. It actually says:
“The flag of the European Union shall”—
a word which has recently been picked up—
“be flown on Government and public buildings alongside the union flag”.
I do not entirely understand what that means. Leaving aside the “may” or “shall” point, does it mean that if you fly the union flag you have to fly the European flag alongside it? I do not know. Whatever it means, I intervene only to support the basic proposition of my noble friend on the Front Bench, from his more pro-European perspective. I think that there is a serious risk that trying to impose this kind of thing will generate antibodies and hostility which are not to the advantage of the European project as a whole—whatever one means by that. I took that as the fundamental point of my noble friend on the Front Bench, and I thought that it had considerable force.
I look forward to debating some of these issues on a future occasion, because they are terribly important and I enjoy these debates, but it may be helpful on this occasion if I simply update noble Lords on the regulations on the flying of the EU flag in England. The Department for Communities and Local Government expects the new control of advertisements regulations to come into force on 6 January 2007. Once the regulations come into force, individuals, local authorities and other organisations wishing to fly the EU flag, and, indeed, the Commonwealth flag, the flag of the United Nations, English county flags and saints flags, when associated with a particular county, will not need prior permission from the local planning authority as is currently the case.
For government department buildings in England, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport issues guidance for flying flags, including flying of the European flag. The European flag is only flown on government buildings with two or more flagpoles on Europe day with the union flag in the superior position. This will not change when the revised advertisement consent regulations come into force. However, the revisions will mean that government departments will not need to apply for advertisement consent to fly the European flag on 9 May, which is Europe day.
How have the Government brought this change into effect when the flag itself does not have legal status in Europe? It would have been validated only by the constitution, which does not exist, so it is a sort of non-flag. How have we managed to say that we shall fly it all over the place, if we want to?
I want to give my own view on this and to reassure the noble Lord, Lord Howell, that there is absolutely no question of compulsion, as I said. In later stages of the Bill I hope that we shall be allowed to make that clear beyond all doubt by making appropriate changes to the clause. We want to encourage a greater display of the European flag, if it is now to become officially a flag in the normal sense. I thank the Minister for the helpful clarification that she has just given. My noble friend Lord Watson referred to my next point on Second Reading. We are certain that the European flag is displayed far less often in this country than is the case in many other member states. However, the idea that such display should be compulsory is obnoxious and dreadful. One just wants more people to consider displaying the European flag alongside our own national flag. Therefore, this is a very modest proposal.
I do not wish to detain the Committee much longer but I should refer to the musings of my noble friend Lord McNally about his experience on people’s doorsteps. At the time of the 1994 European election I was assailed by an elderly gentleman in Ruislip shopping centre who said, “I have been thinking very carefully about whether we should be in Europe and I do not think that we should join”. I replied as politely as possible, “I do not want to be discourteous but we actually joined in 1973”. His response then was, “Young man”—I liked “young”, by the way—“you’ve got to get your facts straight: that was the Commonwealth”. We have all these myths about what people know and understand about the European Union, but none of it is relevant to this extremely modest measure which seeks to have a little more European display here and there if people wish.
I am grateful to the Minister for clarifying in this short debate where we have got to on this question of displaying flags. I am beginning to realise what it feels like to be a UN peacekeeper where there is not much peace. I refer to the extraordinarily polarised views of Members of the Liberal Democrats, who say that everything in the EU is marvellous, which it clearly is not, and those of the noble Lord, Lord Pearson—whose support makes me a little nervous—who believes that we should give up, get out and be utterly defeatist in these matters, which I think is pathetic as well.
I should make an important point to the noble Lord, Lord McNally. He is suffering from a delusion in that he keeps saying, “We’ve won”. It is important for him and his party to realise that they have lost. That applies also to the views of the French and the Dutch on the constitution. Indeed, the general view throughout Europe was that the constitution was a Europe too far. It was a commitment to a nature of integration which is simply out of date and no longer exists. He is looking back to the glory days when the European Union seemed to be the right thing in its then form—its integrationist form. But the world has moved on. The computer and the microchip have transformed the nature of international relations and, therefore, the nature of Europe and of the whole project. If the noble Lord does not understand that at present, he will come to understand it because we shall see a reformed Europe far more suited to the network age and less suited to the yearnings of the integrationists who want to create a super bloc in a world where blocs are no longer relevant.
I realise that the hour is late and Members of the Committee want to complete the debate. Therefore, I withdraw my opposition to the clause but with great reluctance because this clause should not stand in any Bill before Parliament. Obviously, I do not wish the Bill a very good future in that respect.
Clause 2 agreed to.
Clause 3 [Twinning arrangements between towns in the United Kingdom and elsewhere in the European Union]:
On Question, Whether Clause 3 shall stand part of the Bill?
Clause 3 encourages twinning between towns in the United Kingdom and elsewhere. As such it is not welcome in this country to Euro-sceptics of my view. Town twinning is yet one more initiative to persuade the British people happily to embrace the ever-closer union of the peoples of Europe as envisaged by the project of European integration, of the European mega-state controlled by the bureaucrats and Euro-crats of Brussels. We are against town twinning on the whole. That is why we do not want this clause in the Bill.
I have one serious question for the Government and noble Lords. Can they explain why we seem to have town twinning only with Europe? What about Russia?
The twinning arrangements would and should exist if we were not part of the Union, based on one’s own admiration for Europe as individual nations. It is one very good way of encouraging our children and neighbours to make friends and learn languages in a different country. I declare an interest as president of our local town twinning. It is a very successful and happy arrangement which has little to do with Brussels.