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Lords Chamber

Volume 702: debated on Thursday 5 June 2008

House of Lords

Thursday, 5 June 2008.

The House met at eleven o'clock: the LORD SPEAKER on the Woolsack.

Prayers—Read by the Lord Bishop of Portsmouth.

Royal Assent

My Lords, I have to notify the House, in accordance with the Royal Assent Act 1967, that the Queen has signified her Royal Assent to the Child Maintenance and Other Payments Act.

Taxation: Businesses

asked Her Majesty’s Government:

What steps they are taking to create a more beneficial tax environment for businesses with foreign income.

My Lords, the Government are committed to ensuring that the UK tax system is internationally competitive. We are reviewing the taxation of foreign profits closely with business in considering possible reform. UK businesses benefit from one of the largest double tax treaty networks in the world. The recent cut in the UK’s corporation rate supports the UK’s beneficial position. The Government recently established a forum for multinational business to discuss the long-term challenges facing the UK tax system.

My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reassuring reply. Why have the Government embarked on this overhaul of multinational company taxation when they must have known that it might cause an exodus of companies to more tax-friendly countries? Is this another example of the Chancellor’s somewhat faulty judgment?

My Lords, the Government embarked on the process because business pressed them to review aspects of business taxation. We set out our consultation document last year and we will continue those discussions. We have not made up our minds about taxation of foreign profits at present. We are clear on making sure that our taxation remains competitive and the House will be all too well aware of the fact that our corporation tax rate is the lowest in the G7.

My Lords, the Minister has again trotted out the comparison with G7 rates of tax, but we know, and I am sure he knows, that on all other comparisons—the OECD, the EU and so on—we compare very badly. When will the Government accept that, as the CBI has pointed out, as long as the UK’s tax system is competitively benchmarked only against the G7, the UK will fail to be truly competitive?

My Lords, if the Opposition are dropping into the facile position of comparing the UK economy with, for example, Ireland, which has been much in the press recently, the Government and I can cite only the G7 countries, because those are the significant economies and Ireland is very different. It has a much, much lower corporation rate, but it has a different tax system and an entirely different economy from that of the United Kingdom, so it is not a fair comparator. What is clear is that our take is below the overall average OECD corporation tax rate, so the figures that I am quoting are relevant to a significant economy such as the United Kingdom’s.

My Lords, does the Minister agree that the remit of the forum to which he just referred, which was set up to look at long-term taxation for foreign earnings, has been changed to dig the Government out of the hole into which they have fallen by putting out a consultation document that could have serious implications for the headquartering of multinational companies based in the UK? Will he tell his colleagues in the Treasury that, before it issues consultation documents that imply government support, it should informally discuss the likely consequences with those who are most affected, rather than being forced into a public humiliating back-down, as has happened in this case and in the case of the non-doms, when the real consequences of what it proposed come into the public domain?

My Lords, as I have indicated, the Treasury produced its document in relationship to business pressure and indicated that it was a consultation document, as the noble Lord has fairly said, on the long term. A considerable range of issues will therefore be raised. The Government strengthened the position by bringing together the multinational business forum, of which, I might add, the director of the CBI is also a member, to consider these issues in the round. It is a consultation process; the Government are not committed to a particular position. I accept that we have said that we intend to ensure that any changes will be neutral in terms of revenue.

My Lords, will the Minister comment on the statement made by one of the leaders in the private equity sector that his cleaner pays more tax than he does?

My Lords, private equity is a specific-dimension issue at this point and, in the case that my noble friend has identified, relates rather more to personal taxation, when the question and all the issues that we are discussing in consultation are about business taxation. He has, however, highlighted a point that caused great concern across the nation when it was revealed in the way it was last year.

My Lords, I fear that the Minister deceives himself when he draws the comparison that he did with Ireland. He leaves out of the account the fact that Ireland is so close to us that we share a land frontier with it. It also shares the same business and legal structures as ours. There is plenty of evidence that firms are attracted to other places, particularly when we bear in mind that financial firms can transfer easily to them. Ireland is not the only place in the world with corporation tax rates at or just above 10 per cent. The Government will have to look again at this very carefully before our economy suffers.

My Lords, the noble Lord is right that there are other countries, apart from Ireland. The average rate of those that have recently joined the European Community is considerably lower than the British rate, but we do not expect large numbers of multinationals to relocate to places such as Sofia or Bucharest because there are other factors. When one looks at where business locates, business taxation is only about the sixth consideration. There are many other reasons why headquarters are established in a particular country. That is why, as the noble Lord has indicated, Ireland has enjoyed a signal advantage in taxation over many years. There is no flood of companies eager to locate from London to Dublin.

My Lords, is the Minister aware that, much as the Republic of Ireland has something in common with the United Kingdom, none the less it has a different currency and its economy now has great problems? Attractive as lower corporation tax is, Ireland now finds it very difficult to export to the United States and the United Kingdom. The euro is damaging its exports.

My Lords, the noble Lord is very knowledgeable about Irish matters. I raise the issue only because that has been the current illustration in the press; that is, the so-called potential flight of companies and their headquarters from the UK to Ireland. The noble Lord is right: the Irish economy is vastly different from the UK’s economy. I mentioned the issue with regard to our treaties on taxation, which are of great importance to the security of business when it is dealing with other countries. Those bilateral agreements are as extensive in the United Kingdom as in any country in the world.

Housing: Energy Performance Certificates

asked Her Majesty’s Government:

What information they are providing to private and social landlords about their obligation to provide an energy performance certificate for rental properties on change of tenancy; and how assessments of energy performance will be made in buildings with communal services.

My Lords, guidance for landlords will be issued imminently and has been discussed in detail with a stakeholder forum. A national print and advertising campaign will commence this month. Energy performance certificates for buildings with communal services will be carried out by an accredited assessor.

My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply and I declare an interest as a landlord of long standing. What will be the benefit of these new certificates to landlords and tenants and what form will they take? Will they show a percentage of efficiency or will they be like the efficiency labels that come when you buy a fridge or a washing machine? How easy will they be to understand? Will they simply tell you that your windows should be double-glazed?

My Lords, the benefits to landlords and tenants will be warmer properties and lower bills. The properties will be easier to market and tenants will know what they are renting in terms of the costs to run the home. There is a real benefit. The certificate will have an A to G rating to indicate the efficiency of a home. It will also tell you what you should do to improve the rating—for example, install loft insulation. There is a landlord’s energy savings allowance to help landlords who pay income tax to offset some of the costs of improving energy efficiency.

My Lords, are listed buildings at a disadvantage? Will the flat or apartment at the top of a listed building or any large block of flats be disadvantaged because of heat loss through the roof?

My Lords, I am fairly certain that listed buildings will not be made an exception, although I concede that sometimes it is quite difficult to make energy efficiency recommendations for them, simply because, for example, one has to be careful about not putting in plastic window frames and so on. The top floor of communal blocks of flats would be subject to the leasehold or the freehold and there would need to be agreement between tenants on insulation. So there are issues to be addressed.

My Lords, the noble Baroness’s Question refers to buildings with communal services. On a positive note, what pressure can leasehold owners of flats in, for example, mansion blocks put on landlords and property owners to make improvements in energy performance? What incentives will be given to the owners of properties to achieve an improvement in performance, rather than simply having a piece of paper?

My Lords, I think that they will be subject to the same market incentives that I described earlier. The landlord has to face the possibility that, after 1 October this year, the first new tenant will have to have an EPC. There will be a penalty charge if that is not provided. Obviously, trading standards officers will be sensible and there are allowances to ensure that landlords have done everything that they can and have the information that they want. The residents associations in communal flats are always worth their weight in gold in making sure that the managing agent knows what he or she has to do.

My Lords, the noble Baroness will recall that there have been a number of instances where listed building regulations have been in conflict with natural environment regulations, on one occasion stultifying changes until the building actually fell down. Can the Government assure us that there will be a proper relationship between the listed building regulations and the regulations on heat loss and so on, so that the same thing does not happen in this field?

My Lords, there is always a tension between what we want to achieve for listed buildings and in conservation areas and what we want to achieve on carbon efficiency or disabled access, for example. I would prefer to write to the noble Lord to explain how we are going to manage those situations and put a copy of that letter in the Library.

My Lords, the original Question states, “on change of tenancy”. Is that when a new tenant comes in or when a tenant’s agreement has expired and a new one is issued?

My Lords, it is important to be clear about this. An EPC will be needed only when a rented property is marketed to a new tenant after 1 October 2008. The EPC will last for 10 years, so there will be no need to renew the certificate every time there is a change of tenant and no need to do so even if the lease is renewed and there is no change of tenant. I hope that noble Lords are clear about that.

My Lords, the problem with a lot of private tenancies is that tenants who rent at the lowest end will have the highest fuel bills because those private landlords will have done little to make their houses fuel efficient; it is a nasty circular argument. What are the Government doing to make sure that the information from the EPC is passed on to the tenants so that they realise that their bills are higher if the insulation is poor? The present situation, where the EPC is not passed on by estate agents to people buying properties, is a major flaw in the system.

My Lords, the noble Lord raises an important point. We are working with tenants organisations to ensure that information goes out to tenants as well as to landlords. I should add that, at a time of rising prices, which we are all concerned about, we have an efficient and comprehensive fuel poverty scheme—in fact, it is the only one of its kind in the world—under which there is assistance for tenants.

My Lords, what is the total cost to private citizenry, buyers and sellers, of this absurd nanny-state intervention? Does the Minister not appreciate that in the present and prospective state of the housing market it is not particularly clever to impose this additional cost on the buying and selling of homes?

My Lords, the cost of climate change is higher by any standards in comparison with what the noble Lord has said. We estimate that the cost of an energy performance certificate, which of course is market-driven, will be between £40 and £100. I do not think that that is a high cost when the savings that can be achieved are estimated to be about £300 a year. The certificate will pay for itself.

Female Genital Mutilation

asked Her Majesty’s Government:

Whether they will consider the introduction of routine disclosure by health professionals when evidence of female genital mutilation is discovered in patients.

My Lords, health professionals have a duty to ensure that they work within safeguarding law as well as professional codes. For women who have undergone female genital mutilation, it is normally expected that information is shared with others, with the woman’s consent. When FGM comes to the attention of any professional, consideration needs to be given to any child protection implications, for example younger siblings and members of the extended family, and a referral made to social services or the police if appropriate. Indeed, under the Children Act 1989, everyone with information that a child is potentially or actually at risk of significant harm must inform social services or the police.

My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that Answer. Is she aware that estimates of the number of women involved and their geographic location made by agencies all over the country are necessarily based on estimates, so the figure of just under 270,000 may be very wide of the mark? Can she ask if the Government would fund a confidential inquiry, possibly done by a university, to establish the number of cases of FGM and other significant data such as the geography of its occurrence? Does she agree that this would be of great benefit to health professionals, so that difficulties in gynaecological examination, notably the use of the speculum, could be anticipated and a woman’s fears allayed? The data might also be of benefit to the police in bringing forward prosecutions; there have been no prosecutions under the 2003 Act, which is now five years old.

My Lords, I commend my noble friend’s record on this issue and record the debt of gratitude that we owe to her persistence in pursuing it with other Members of the House who have been active in this regard over many years. The Department of Health has commissioned research on the prevalence of FGM and has instigated awareness-raising initiatives, including training for health professionals which includes the appropriate response to FGM, information-sharing and a comprehensive training video. Indeed, this week a cross-government regional information exhibition is beginning to raise awareness of FGM, forced marriage and so-called honour-based violence for front-line professionals to increase their understanding and knowledge. I take on board the very good point made by my noble friend. I undertake to take this away and to explore what further might be done.

My Lords, does the Minister accept that there were for some years unsubstantiated rumours to the effect that certain doctors serving immigrant communities were prepared to carry out so-called female circumcision? I am sure she is aware that the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 makes it quite clear that it is appropriate for a doctor to breach medical confidentiality to aid the police in the investigation of a grave or serious crime. Does not she therefore agree that this illegal act of genital mutilation is a serious crime and that any doctor thereby disclosing this information to the police, without consent, would not be in breach of the law?

My Lords, the noble Lord is right: doctors are bound to release such information to the police—of course they are. As well as pursuing a legal framework around domestic violence and child protection it is very important that we work with the communities where FGM may occur. That is why initiatives such as the Metropolitan Police’s Project Azure and financial support for the FORWARD organisation, which is campaigning on this issue, are also very important.

My Lords, I was a member of the all-party group in the other place that investigated female genital mutilation way back in 1998. Despite its very comprehensive report and the renewal of the original 1985 Act of Parliament in 2003, there have still not been any prosecutions for female genital mutilation practised either in this country or on our citizens who go abroad for this horrendous operation. I appreciate that it is a desperately sensitive and difficult issue, but does not the Minister agree that until we have a well publicised prosecution of someone who has committed this act we shall not get any real progress?

My Lords, the noble Baroness makes a very good point. Child protection agencies always face a difficult dilemma with cases of FGM. There is little warning that a child is about to undergo the procedure; research suggests, as the noble Baroness will know, that the key barrier to prosecution is pressure from the family or the wider community that leads to cases being unreported; and, of course, at the time, mutilation victims may be too young, too vulnerable or too afraid to report offences or to give evidence in court. However, despite the lack of prosecutions to date, the Female Genital Mutilation Act 2003 provides a clear message that FGM is an unacceptable practice. We believe the Act has been a catalyst for the outreach work which has helped to raise awareness of FGM.

My Lords, what guidance is given to midwives and health visitors dealing with families in which FGM has taken place?

My Lords, all nurses and midwives have a duty of care to girls and women who are at risk of having FGM performed and to those who have already been cut in the past. The Nursing and Midwifery Council’s professional code of conduct states that nurses and midwives in the UK must act to minimise the risk to their clients. This includes reporting information that a child is potentially or actually at risk to the social services and to the police.

War Graves

asked Her Majesty’s Government:

Whether, following the recent discovery of large numbers of human remains, they will initiate discussions to establish a Commonwealth war graves site at Fromelles in northern France.

First, my Lords, I am sure that the whole House will wish to join me in offering sincere condolences to the family and friends of Marine Dale Gostick, who was killed on operations in Afghanistan on 25 May.

Turning to the Question, I can confirm that human remains, likely to be British and Australian, have been found at Fromelles. There has been close co-operation with Australia and the Commonwealth War Graves Commission on this project. When we receive the archaeologists’ report, we will, along with representatives from Australia, France and the commission, decide how best to commemorate those brave men, British and Australian, interred at the site. All of us should acknowledge their sacrifice.

My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that Answer and associate myself wholeheartedly with her tribute to Marine Dale Gostick.

On behalf of the All-Party Parliamentary War Graves and Battlefields Heritage Group, which I chair, I thank the MoD and the Government of Australia for the support they have given to this unique and very special excavation. Their support has been both material and financial and they are working together, as my noble friend says, in an extraordinarily constructive way. We should also express our appreciation to archaeologist Tony Pollard and his colleagues, who are working this week at Fromelles in distressing and difficult circumstances.

Is my noble friend aware that I spoke yesterday to Major-General Mike O’Brien, who is heading the excavation on behalf of the Australian army? He confirmed that, on opening up five pits, extensive human remains have been found there. Does she accept that there is strong support for the site to become an official war grave and for an appropriate service of commemoration to be held there to honour the Australian and British soldiers who died at Fromelles on 19 and 20 July 1916?

My Lords, I thank my noble friend for his comments about the co-operation from the MoD. He was instrumental in obtaining it, and the all-party group deserves some credit for it. With regard to what happens from here, as I said earlier, we want to work with those in Australia and in France and with the commission to decide what it is best to do. It is a principle of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, which is accepted by all the Governments concerned, that the remains of those members of Commonwealth Armed Forces who died during the two World Wars are not repatriated, recognising that those who fought and died together should be buried together without distinction on account of military or civil rank, race or creed. That is one of the factors that will have to be borne in mind.

My Lords, we on these Benches also send our condolences to the family of the marine killed. Turning to the Question, a number of Australian journalists and politicians are asking for these bodies to be DNA’d. How practical is that?

My Lords, the noble Lord is right to say that there has been a great deal of speculation about the possible use of DNA to identify individuals. While that is understandable and while DNA techniques have developed, we should not underestimate the difficulties that might be involved in that, not least because of the conditions in which these bodies have been kept. We need to think carefully before we go down that route, but of course all these issues will be considered by everyone involved.

My Lords, does the Minister have any estimate of the number of Australian troops who were buried at Fromelles?

My Lords, it is difficult to give estimates on this particular site, not least because it is early days. It is thought that about 400 bodies could have been buried there, but those would include Britons, Australians and possibly even some Germans. There have been rough estimates that about 150 could be buried on this site.

My Lords, I thank the Minister for her Answer and my noble friend for raising this Question. Will she note that the church has a particular interest in this matter, first, because of the concern about the appropriate treatment of human remains; secondly, because of the pastoral care of all those who are related to those who died—I speak with some feeling, since I had a great-uncle who was killed around that time, although not at that site; and, thirdly, because I presume that there will eventually be some sort of service in which we would naturally expect to be involved? Will the Minister take care to inform the church as the matter goes forward of what plans are being laid and keep us in the loop, perhaps in Australia as well as here?

My Lords, I am happy to take that suggestion on board. It is absolutely right that we deal with this matter very carefully, that we have the appropriate treatment and that we do not forget those who may have relatives involved. Many of us, including me, have had great-uncles who were involved or died in the First World War. I have visited the cemetery where my great-uncle is buried and I know that all those involved do a great deal to show the appropriate level of respect and to involve everyone, be it churches or others, in what should happen.

My Lords, I must declare a past interest as a one-time ex officio commissioner of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. I am sure that everyone who has ever been to one of its cemeteries around the world must admire hugely the dedication of the gardeners and the way in which they care for the people in those cemeteries. One of my constant concerns at that time was that the subvention to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission should be enough to keep the gardeners employed around the world. Therefore, if there is to be an additional cemetery at Fromelles, will the ministry assure us that additional funds will be made available to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission rather than it having to provide for it out of its subvention, which is already severely constrained?

My Lords, the budget of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission is currently provided by all the countries concerned on a pro rata basis depending on the number of bodies they are looking after. The UK currently provides 78 per cent of the funding, more than £34 million a year. We all admire the dedication of those involved in the care of those cemeteries. If we go down the route suggested, we would have to make sure that the resources were available.

Business of the House: Debates Today

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

Moved, That the debates on the Motions in the names of Lord Morris of Manchester and Lord Pendry set down for today shall each be limited to two and a half hours.—(Baroness Ashton of Upholland.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments

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

Moved, That Lord Brett be appointed a member of the Joint Committee in place of Lord Gould of Brookwood, resigned.—(The Chairman of Committees.)

On Question, Motion agreed to; and a message was sent to the Commons.

Rail Vehicle Accessibility (Interoperable Rail System) Regulations 2008

Ministerial and other Salaries Order 2008

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

Moved, That the draft regulations and draft order be referred to a Grand Committee.—(Baroness Ashton of Upholland.)

On Question, Motions agreed to.

Disability Rights

rose to call attention to the 30th anniversary of disability rights legislation covering the whole of the United Kingdom and the progress of disability rights; and to move for Papers.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this is a deeply evocative occasion for me, marking as it does the 30th anniversary of the coming-into-effect in 1978 of all the provisions of my Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act throughout the United Kingdom and the centrality of rights in any debate on the status and well-being of disabled people.

When the Act became law in 1970, it applied only to England and Wales. It was not until 1972, in response to insistent pressure from disabled people north of the border, that it was extended to Scotland and then, responding to disabled people there, to Northern Ireland 30 years ago.

That we are marking this anniversary is due primarily to the inflexible commitment to making life better for disabled people of my noble friends Lady Royall, Lady Massey and Lord Grocott, and my noble friend Lord Corbett with whom I have been closely associated since 1964 when, already in government, I was with Fred Peart at the Ministry of Agriculture and Robin—that is, the noble Lord, Lord Corbett, not Robin Hood—was an ever-foraging reporter with Farmers Weekly.

As so often before, I am hugely indebted also to my noble friend Lord Ashley for his fellowship, long and true, ever since he entered Parliament in 1966. It was of course hoped that he would open this debate but, most regrettably, he is not well enough to do so. He phoned me this morning and, naturally, my thoughts and heart-felt best wishes are with him. Without him—and there can be no higher parliamentary tribute—our proceedings seem strangely unofficial.

He kindly describes me in his autobiography, Journey into Silence, as,

“the most considerate man in the House of Commons”,

and said that it was his role in the proceedings on my Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Bill that convinced him,

“beyond doubt that [he] could make a contribution in Parliament despite total deafness”—

to which my response is that no one ever had a more considerate friend than him, nor did anyone work with more enthusiasm for the enactment of the Bill than he did.

I spoke of this being an evocative occasion. Sadly for many of us it is also a most poignant one, for there is another missing voice that we would have loved to hear—that of the late and revered Davina, Lady Darcy de Knayth, who made her maiden speech in your Lordships' House in the Second Reading debate on my Bill 38 years ago. Although I knew of the cruel injuries that she sustained in the appalling tragedy that had so devastated her young family, I was not prepared for the grievous extent of her disabilities when I first met this new kind of parliamentarian, as she was lifted from car to wheelchair at the Peers’ Entrance. Yet her speech was mainly about prioritising help and provision for severely disabled young people whom she saw as more needful than herself. I shall always treasure the honour that Davina and my dear friend Sue, the noble Baroness, Lady Masham, conferred on me in making their maiden speeches on my Bill.

It seems incredible and outrageous now, but from 1945 to 1964 there was no mention in any party manifesto of anything specifically to help disabled people. Between 1959 and 1964, there was not one parliamentary debate on disability. No one even knew how many disabled people there were in Britain. They were mostly seen or heard only by their families or, if they were in institutions, by those who controlled their lives. Legislation on access for them to the built environment was unknown in this or any other country, while autism and dyslexia were dismissed as figments of parental imaginings.

The notion that disabled people had rights was regarded as absurd, just as it had been for peasants, slaves, religious minorities, black people and women. To talk of as-of-right cash benefits for services for disabled people was to invite ridicule, while local authority services were mostly discretionary and often non-existent.

That was how things were when, against all the odds, my Private Member’s Bill became law in May 1970. It was, said Marcel Napolitain, France’s foremost campaigner and a world figure on disability rights, “un moment critique” for disabled people everywhere.

My Bill became law as an Act of 29 sections, imposing new duties and responsibilities on 12 government departments and quickly became the model for legislation in many other countries. It amended 39 existing Acts of Parliament in the interests of disabled people, including such major statutes as the Public Health Act 1936, the Education Act 1944, the National Health Service Act 1946, the National Assistance Act 1948 and the Housing Act 1957.

In the decade after the Bill’s enactment, huge leaps were recorded in the numbers of people identified as disabled. Millions received help in the home from a wide range of aids, including the installation of a telephone; adaptations to their homes; purpose-built new housing provision; and free parking and extended parking rights. Official estimates showed that by 1990 there were 12 million cases of assistance under Section 2 in England alone, while in Scotland, over a shorter period, there were 1.7 million. These were minimal figures, since they did not include the then 1.3 million orange—now blue—badge holders in England, or those helped by radical improvements in the care of young long-stay hospital patients in the 29 small purpose-built new hospitals opened for them under the Act, by its provisions on autism, dyslexia and deaf-blind children; and those for expediting the payment of pension entitlements to the war disabled and bereaved.

Public spending on related benefits and services rose from £330 million to £3.3 billion in the Act’s first decade. Yet wide-ranging as its provisions were, its impact went far beyond its stated purposes. Thus it was in direct consequence of its enactment that I became Minister for Disabled People in 1974, and that by 1976 legislative provision had been made for four entirely new as-of-right cash benefits: the severe disablement and mobility allowances, as well as those for carers and disabled housewives. The Warnock committee had been appointed and set in motion; Motability had been conceived and, although relief for its beneficiaries from vehicle excise duty had still to be negotiated with the Treasury, would soon be operational.

Even more important in the longer term, I was poised to appoint a committee of inquiry on disability rights—the Committee on Restrictions against Disabled People, CORAD—with terms of reference wide enough to allow it to recommend legislation for making disability discrimination unlawful. CORAD was chaired for me by Peter Large, and its membership comprised identifiably representative disabled people, parents of severely disabled children and voluntary workers of distinction. Colin, now the noble Lord, Lord Low, who assisted Peter Large so ably, was among them, as was the late Audrey Callaghan in recognition of her unrivalled services to children at Great Ormond Street Hospital.

CORAD’s historic report, from which all subsequent legislation on discrimination lineally descends, was superbly crafted by Peter Large. Often reliant on an iron lung to stay alive, he had intellect to spare and excelling integrity. It is said that he witnessed in his lifetime a revolution in the status of disabled people. The truth is that he had a pivotal role in creating that revolution. A towering figure in the disability movement, he will be honoured wherever discussion on the history of disability rights legislation is even moderately well informed.

In 1991, Peter was much involved with me in drafting my Civil Rights (Disabled Persons) Bill. Alan, now my noble friend Lord Howarth, having described the 1970 Act as

“a rare, creative achievement in politics”,

and an

“epoch-making measure”,

said, in 1995, that so, too, could the then Government’s legislation on disability discrimination have been had they modelled it on my Bill; but it was not to be, notwithstanding the skill and success of my noble friend Lady Lockwood in twice taking my Bill through all its stages in this House. More effective legislation had to await the arrival in 1997 of the Government in which my noble friend—who had crossed the Floor over the treatment of my Civil Rights (Disabled Persons) Bill and the implications for social policy as a whole—was such an exemplary Minister.

Other outcomes of the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act included its impact on Parliament itself. Here its Second Reading had to be preceded by changes in conventions, and even the seating arrangements in this Chamber. Thus the first row of the Cross Benches were removed to make space for what rapidly became known as the “Mobile Bench” of Peers confined to wheelchairs, and from which Davina and the noble Baroness, Lady Masham, among others, made their maiden speeches.

In the House of Commons, too, the Act’s impact soon became visible. It was there that the decision to adapt the whole of the Terrace originated and, among other changes, large and small, the offensive practice of detaining guide dogs at St Stephen’s entrance, leaving blind visitors to be escorted by police officers, was ended. Another change, seemingly small but hugely encouraging as a sign of Parliament’s growing acceptance of its duty to lead came when Alan Beaney, a miners’ MP, was suddenly afflicted by throat cancer, leaving him capable of little more than an intermittent whisper that could barely be understood even by life-long friends. I discussed speculatively with Selwyn Lloyd, then Speaker of the House of Commons, whether it might be possible for Alan still to make some contribution in Parliament.

Since time immemorial, of course, Members of both Houses engaged in debate only by the spoken word, but Selwyn, reflecting that Alan’s must be what he called “the ultimate parliamentary disability”, now agreed that I could move from the Front Bench and sit by Alan’s side, as he rose to speak, to help him to convey his words to the House in a debate about the future of the mining industry of the highest importance to his constituents. So together on 3 December 1970, each with a copy of the speech, Alan and I attacked, in concert, the Coal Industry Bill, describing it as,

“a sinister Bill”,

that would,

“rend the mining industry in two”,—[Official Report, Commons, 3/12/1970; col. 1534.]

and much more to the same effect. Sadly, his cancer spread and it was Alan’s final speech, uniquely eloquent in its way, and a timely further reminder that Parliament must never again accept easy excuses for excluding people from its proceedings.

One of the penalties of longevity in parliamentary life is the loss by attrition of close and valued colleagues. The longer one survives, the more colourful and crowded one’s gallery of old and trusted friends. Many of the most honoured in mine are those who laboured with me to enact the 1970 Act. They were not all of one party. They were of all parties but one mind and united by a shared determination that laws affecting disabled people must be based on statutory rights.

As well as Jack Ashley—presiding then over the All-Party Disability Group, as he has done ever since—the Back-Benchers who worked most closely with me to enact the Bill included the honourable John Astor, Lewis Carter-Jones, Dr Michael Winstanley, Fred Peart, Sir Richard Body, Laurie Pavitt, Dame Irene Ward, Fred Evans, Neil Marten and Will Griffiths. Outside the House my collaborators included Duncan Guthrie, then director of RADAR’s predecessor, Mary Appleby of MIND, George Lee of MENCAP, Michael Flanders, Leonard Cheshire, Sir Harry Platt, Douglas Bader, Lady (Pix) Hamilton, Dr Ludwig Guttman of Stoke Mandeville, Field Marshal Lord Harding, the noble Earl, Lord Snowdon, Mary Greaves who led DIG after the death of Megan du Boisson and my fellow co-operator Mary Stott, a Guardian columnist said by Megan to have inspired her proposal for a campaigning Disablement Income Group.

While we have come a long way since then, there is still, as all of us know, a long and daunting agenda of unmet need, but in facing the future today we are strongly fortified by the UN Convention on Disability Rights. We also have Rehabilitation International’s globally acclaimed Charter for the New Millennium drafted by leading disability campaigners from the north, south, east and west of the world and launched in 1991 in the Church of St Mary Undercroft in Westminster Hall, on the basis of which Davina secured and led the debate on disability rights here on 14 July 2000, after Tony Blair, then Prime Minister, had described the charter on 5 July as,

“having set the global agenda on disability for at least the next decade”.

Moreover, we are strongly reinforced on the “Mobile Bench” by my everywhere-respected noble friend Lady Wilkins and, in the last year, by my longstanding friends Lady Campbell and Lord Low. Again, in Anne McGuire we have a Minister totally committed to tackling unmet need. My noble friend Lord McKenzie will, I know, want to respond to this important debate both positively and with all his customary care and concern.

I conclude with the final words of a speech made to parliamentary colleagues the day before the Second Reading of my Bill on 5 December 1969. I told them:

“If we could each bequeath one precious gift to posterity, I would choose a society in which there is genuine compassion for long-term sick and disabled people; where understanding is unostentatious and sincere; where needs come before means; where if years cannot be added to their lives, at least life can be added to their years; where the mobility of disabled people is restricted only by the bounds of technical progress and discovery; where they have the fundamental right to participate in industry and society according to ability; where socially preventable distress is unknown; and where no one has cause to be ill at ease because of her or his disability”.

That is what the legislation that we are met now to recall was all about. I beg to move for Papers.

My Lords, I have become accustomed to following the noble Lord in debates on disability over the years that I have been here. There are very few days when one feels that it has already been said, as it has been today. The noble Lord was in at the start on the first effective step of a long journey; there had been previous attempts. It is an odd journey, because it has diverse paths. When I asked the Library to give me a list of all the major Acts since the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act 1970 that refer to disability —I understand why we have the 30th anniversary today—it gave me three lists of 15, seven and 17 Acts. I looked at them and said, “No, there should be others here as well”. I then read something from the Employers’ Forum on Disability that mentioned many health and safety Acts. I would have included many education Acts.

My joining of this diverse series of paths came in 1987, when I made my maiden speech on the problems of dyslexia. That was blatant self-interest, of course, but that is where I started from. I received assistance through the state system directly as a result of the noble Lord’s Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act. That was because a teacher at Brooke School in the county of Norfolk said to my mother, “The reason why your son cannot write is because he may well be dyslexic. I have just heard about this new thing, and apparently it is accompanied by an Act of Parliament”. So, if I bore the noble Lord today, it is his fault.

I believe that some people have said, “Not another debate about various Bills on disability”. When this started out, it went to places that we did not think it would go, because we did not have the mindset to make those sideways steps. We did not realise that effectively everything has a disability aspect to it. Everyone then got frightened about the prospect of a disability aspect to every single Act. Every single Government and lobby group have said at various times, “We cannot do that; it will be too expensive. It will stop everything happening. We will be sued if we put ramps in shop doorways. We cannot have those. They will be far too expensive, and if people skateboard on them we will be sued and go to prison”. I heard that on numerous occasions. If that has occurred anywhere, I have not heard about it. There has frequently been the panic factor or fear factor of the unknown and of the expense. “We do not do it this way, so it cannot be done this way”, has always been said.

Indeed, many disability groups have had to go through some extremely painful development—more than that, evolution—to tangle with the new worlds that they are dealing with. Many organisations which started off as fairly paternal, patting people on the head and literally asking questions such as “Does he take sugar?”, have become groups which empower people to go out and live their own lives as independently as possible by removing barriers up front; and most things that help someone in a wheelchair also assist someone wheeling a pram or carrying heavy luggage.

If you put lifts in you have fewer people with back injuries. Other small measures are being taken in various businesses. There are savings to be made by design factors. You can be walking down a corridor at a party conference and be grabbed by an official who says, “Will you host something on design?”. When that happened to me, I did not know anything about it and made some comment, asking if design was useful. Someone said, “You are a disability spokesman. Did you know that including disability factors in design have become commonplace—they are legion?” I did not. The fact that this goes on and spreads is massively important to the development of what goes on here.

Has everyone got the legislation right yet? No. Is there much more legislation and does it cover many more parts of our lives? Yes. Has that become something of a lawyers’ feast, if you let it get that far? Yes. Legislation should cross-reference with other legislation. The previous disability Bill of Lord Carter, whom one feels should be here today, but is not, insisted that we should take that path by trying to cross- reference the various pieces of legislation. All Governments have taken brave steps on their own. The cultural starting points of the various political parties have meant that their approaches have been different and the inertia of government has been there for all of us. The way that style has changed has meant a different approach; each rosette will have a slightly different take on this.

As the noble Lord said, the various stages and developments have come from all around the House, but we are far too dependent on the courts, which effectively excludes large groups from taking action if someone feels that they are discriminated against. That should go on the record. This really is not the best way forward. It may have been a way forward, and more may have been hoped of it, but it is not the best way forward—or if it is, we are in trouble.

We have to try to integrate everything more closely with the current legal structure and get in there early. The distance we have travelled is underlined by the fact that a very small piece of legislation was referred to when we were taking our places for this debate—the Rail Vehicle Accessibility (Interoperable Rail System) Regulations 2008. I believe that this is a disability issue—if I am wrong, it does not matter. The fact is, it could quite easily be. How are we going to approach this issue and deal with the lobby groups which still feel that other priorities need to be addressed first and that this basic human right is not fully integrated yet into the mindset? That is the big challenge. Do we do enough to encourage people to ensure that in the initial planning stage disability-friendly legislation should be there right up front? We are pushing things that way, because if you do not, there is a potential legal threat. Unfortunately, the legal enforcement system means that that threat is seldom delivered or is delivered with difficulty.

We have to try to take steps forward. Indeed, the present planning and accessibility duty at one point seemed to be threatened by the proposed Single Equality Bill. I hope that the Minister will confirm that all future planning regulations will be strengthened and not rolled back on the grounds of expense. We can probably enjoy that confirmation today; it will put certain people’s minds at rest if that approach can be gone ahead with. If we do that, we are taking steps towards addressing the real problems here, without having to come back again and again to Parliament—without having to try to put a disability amendment or new clause into every Bill. Some have mentioned that we always seemed to do that in the past but do it slightly less often now. Another good point is that it can be done automatically without any fuss. If we can get away from having to do that, we will have finally arrived.

The timeframe of which the noble Lord spoke is long, and we may be getting towards a comprehensive answer. It will never be perfect and the diversity of conditions, what is needed to help them and emerging technology will probably mean that it will have to be systematically reviewed. We have come a long way, but I am afraid that we can never take our eyes off the matter totally.

It is a happy and sad occasion for me. I am not doing the sum-up today because my noble friend Lady Thomas will normally lead on this subject for the foreseeable future, I hope. It is not so much passing the baton as changing the runners in the relay, because I am sure that I will still be around. However, as she was responsible in her back-room days for instigating many of the things that I did, I do not think that we need worry too much about losing a grip from these Benches.

I deeply congratulate the noble Lord on his starting the process and his championing of making sure that it carries on.

My Lords, I declare an interest as president of the Royal Mencap Society. After that declaration, I was expecting to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Ashley of Stoke, on holding the debate. Instead I am saddened by his absence. He is certainly a tireless campaigner on behalf of people with a disability, as is shown more recently by his efforts on the excellent independent living Bill. I am sure that we all wish him well. However, I am delighted to see the noble Lord, Lord Morris of Manchester, as his understudy. He is the original reason for this debate and I pay tribute to him for stepping into the breach.

The debate is an opportunity to take stock of what has been achieved in the last 30 years—since Northern Ireland was included in the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act—and of course what is still left to do. Thankfully, we have come a long way in our attitudes since the Mental Deficiency Act 1927, which defined people with a learning disability as “idiots” and “imbeciles”. As the noble Lord, Lord Ashley of Stoke, indicated in his Motion, it is now 30 years since the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act of the now noble Lord, Lord Morris, was fully extended to cover all those in the United Kingdom with a disability. He was ahead of his time and I am sure that everyone in the House will join me in paying tribute to the determination and foresight that he showed in 1970, and in the intervening years, in campaigning on all the issues affecting those with a disability.

The 1970 Act, affectionately know in another place as the Alf Morris Act, ensured that our country led the way on changes in attitude towards people with a disability. Sadly, we might be hard-pressed to make the same claim now, for no fewer than 27 countries have ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities before the United Kingdom, the latest being Kenya on 19 May. Despite that unfortunate delay, I am delighted that the Government are apparently still on track for our ratification by the end of the year.

Another crucial year for disability legislation was 1974, when the post of Minister for Disabled People was created. What better way to ensure that Parliament passed laws to improve the lives of those with a disability than appointing the noble Lord, Lord Morris, who was the natural candidate for the position? It was also the first year that Mencap held what was then Mencap Week and is now known as Learning Disability Week. In fact, this year’s week is nearly upon us, starting as it does on 15 June. This will stress that, despite there being an estimated 800,000 people of working age with a learning disability, many of whom could make a significant contribution to the workplace, fewer than one in 10 known to social services is in paid work. It is hoped that the week will remind the Government to ensure that employers know that specialist help and support are available for those wishing to employ people with a learning disability.

Over the past 30 years, there have been Acts and statutory instruments galore, all with the aim of improving the lives of those with a disability. For that, we have to thank Governments of both political persuasions. However, the most important has been the Disability Discrimination Act, introduced in 1995 and strengthened in 2005. One of the new requirements under the 2005 DDA is that each school must have a disability equality scheme in place to help it to improve and change its practices to accommodate disabled pupils and staff. Secondary schools were due to have this in place by December 2006.

Last year, Mencap carried out a survey to see how these schemes were working. The results showed that many schools have a lot further to go before they fully understand and implement a disability equality scheme. The recent report from the Joint Committee on Human Rights, A Life Like Any Other? Human Rights of Adults with Learning Disabilities, supported these findings and commented that, due to inadequate pressure from central government, the DDA and the disability equality duty were being “insufficiently understood and applied” on the ground. However, I am told that the Government have recognised that there are problems and that they have at least committed to strongly promoting the new guidance to tackle the bullying of disabled young people.

We are in the middle of a government-led consultation on the shape of future social services and expect a Green Paper on the subject next year, yet the Government are still working from an extremely low evidence base and do not have sufficient information to deliver their aspirational policies. I can give some figures now. The number of people with a learning disability is set to rise by 20 per cent between 2001 and 2021. A survey from the Commission for Social Care Inspection has already found that 73 per cent of councils are willing to support only those people whose learning disability is, in their opinion, severe or critical. All the others will be hung out to dry.

The Minister may remember that on 20 November last year I asked him whether his department would assess the number of people with a learning disability who are being denied services because of this tightening of eligibility criteria. Sadly, the Minister did not make such a commitment. Perhaps today when he rises he will be able to do so, for ignoring this problem will cause untold misery for tens of thousands of people with learning disabilities and their families.

The health inequalities faced by people with a learning disability is another crucial issue on which the Government must make progress. We are awaiting the findings and recommendations of the independent inquiry that was set up after Mencap revealed the unnecessary deaths of six people with a learning disability while they were in the care of the NHS. We expect the independent inquiry to find many more such cases and to call for annual health checks for all people with a learning disability. These were originally suggested by the Government back in 2001, yet they have failed to make progress on this most tragic of issues, despite evidence from Wales, where the introduction of such health checks has proved to be effective. In the last year in Wales, these checks picked up new health needs among 68 per cent of people with a learning disability, 11 per cent of which were serious. How many more patients with similar problems in the rest of the UK have to face death by indifference before government action is taken to ensure that the NHS is truly a health service for everyone, irrespective of their intellectual capacity?

The Government certainly took the initiative on the Children and Young Persons Bill when they placed a new duty on local authorities to provide short breaks for children with disabilities, but if the Government are to meet their stated ambition to have equality for all people with a disability by 2025, we need to see more of this praiseworthy type of legislative change.

I pay tribute to all noble Lords here today, as well as to Members in another place, who have made such a difference to the lives of all people with a disability. Now we are joined, most effectively, by disabled people themselves. Together, we are a formidable force that is capable of making even greater progress in the ongoing battle for disability rights and that faraway 1970 Alf Morris Act.

My Lords, like other noble Lords, I am very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Morris, for initiating this debate. It is one of those occasions when there is—myself excepted—a galaxy of experts.

I want initially to try to find my own road into this whole area. I shall offer two personal examples. First, I am suffering not from a disability but from an impairment to do with my treatment, which means that I cannot read very well, I cannot hear very well and I cannot eat very well. I know that not being able to hear very well—a partial hearing limitation—is a very isolating and sometimes irritating experience.

My second example is rather more related to disability. In the village in which I was brought up, there was an old man who could neither hear nor speak. I do not know what his domestic circumstances were but he had a habit of going to the village ice-cream shop of an afternoon. After school, some of us would go and buy ice-creams and see him conversing through sign language with the Italian ice-cream maker. It was a shock and would defy every conceivable health and safety regulation today but we are talking about the 1950s. What the experience of seeing those two conversing did to a whole generation of children in the village is incalculable. We saw them both as complete persons in themselves conversing in their own way. There was no patronising compassion from the ice-cream maker. You could see in the way in which they related to each other with their eyes a kind of total equality and normality. I shall never forget that.

A lot is, quite rightly, being made so far of the progress—or lack of it—of legislation; it has been very informative to hear that. Since 1978, there has been slow progress. One result of that is heightened public awareness; but when you have heightened public awareness of a group that has been marginalised, you have got to be ready for the unlocking of a marginalised collective memory. That happens with any group of this kind, and not just those with disabilities. It becomes much more complex to deal with as awareness moves from ignorance, through patronising benevolence, to seeing the group as part of the whole of society and not an abnormality. It is our fault—the rest of us—for having a rather warped view of normality.

The public debate in recent years has helped us towards greater sensitivity of language. One sometimes hesitates to take part in such discussions in case one uses language that is seen to be offensive. Much more should be done to enforce legislation, which brings me to my third point. Perhaps I may use the cloak of anonymity. I know of two excellent parish priests with disabilities: one with spina bifida and the other with cerebral palsy. Both were appointed to parishes, and the parish representatives, with great delight, saw them as people who would, with their particular conditions, bring something to the rest of the community. That is something over which I can rejoice and which I realise might not have happened 10 or 15 years ago. One of them writes very strongly about making public places more accessible:

“The problems I face are not often related to the fact that I have a physical disability but the way society creates an environment that limits my involvement. People who use wheelchairs cannot enter buildings with steps. It is not the using of the wheelchair that limits, but the steps of the building”.

That brings me on to the question of public places. As noble Lords have already mentioned other public places, it is perhaps appropriate that I should mention churches. Access to churches is often very difficult, often because of history. When I was rector at a parish in Guildford I had probably the least accessible church in Surrey. It was put there to be at the top of a hill. The present parish church in Bishops Waltham, for example, was built in the 13th century on the site of a building from Anglo-Saxon times. We are lumbered by this legacy and it is sometimes a negative one. We are doing our best to keep up with legislation but it is a slow process. At the General Synod last year there was a debate on disability which recommended that each diocese should appoint a local adviser on disability issues.

Like all the world religions, Christianity has a rather mixed history in its teachings about disability. That is why every religion needs its own critique. It is sometimes a rather irritating process for some of the faithful but I would say that it is a necessary one. There have been some rather warped understandings of the New Testament: for example, disability has been linked to sin; it is seen as a travesty of the divine image; it has been said that people with disabilities are spiritually enhanced through virtuous suffering; and, worst of all, charitable action is viewed as benevolence rather than justice.

The trouble is that we have these two words in the Christian vocabulary which, for obvious reasons connected with our history, have passed into public discussion—miracle and healing. I am rather relieved that the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Durham is no longer in his place because I suspect that in the next few minutes he would be jumping up and down correcting what I am saying, although I did clear some of this with him before he left. The word “miracle” has a very loaded understanding within Christianity and outside it. The word used in the New Testament is the Greek word dynamis, which is about power rather than miracle—the two are not quite the same. Similarly, the word “healing” is not about cure but about wholeness. During my illness I was anointed a number of times. I was not expecting to be “cured” of the disease but to be calmed, to steady me and to give me a time of rest before the next stage.

Another negative aspect of Christianity, if I may put it that strongly, is that people with mental disabilities have only recently been allowed to be confirmed. Now it is normal practice, but I remember being asked by anxious parents early in my ministry whether their children could be confirmed. Only recently I confirmed a severely autistic young lad who brought his mother along to be confirmed alongside him.

Here I am speaking on behalf of a historic voluntary organisation that has an important part to play in the life of the community. I am sure that other noble Lords have similar stories to tell about the heightened awareness that I mentioned at the beginning of my speech. There have been repeated calls, for example from the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury and Rabbi Lionel Blue, about extending this public awareness and enforcing legislation. That is one problem: the legislation needs to be more incisive and developed. However, many of the problems arise because the current legislation is not being enforced.

I shall conclude on a more general note about the way in which discussion is held, and here I want to echo what the noble Lord, Lord Rix, said. In a recent lecture in Cambridge, the noble Baroness, Lady Campbell, spoke movingly about the place of people with disabilities in the rest of society. She put it in five words: “Nothing about us, without us”.

My Lords, I am sure we must all feel the shadow cast over this debate by the absence of Lady Darcy de Knayth, who, as the noble Lord, Lord Morris, reminded us, made her maiden speech in your Lordships' House during the passage of the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act in 1970. The sense of shock and loss was palpable throughout the House on the day that her death was announced. Following that maiden speech, she became one of the most persistent campaigners in your Lordships’ House for equal rights for disabled people. In May 1990, she was responsible for defeating the Government by 87 votes to 86 on her amendment to grant deaf and dyslexic students the right to claim income support and housing benefit. One of her greatest victories came in March 1991 when she helped to kill off the Government's attempt to abolish the Independent Living Fund.

It is remarkable how much you learn about people at their funerals that you never knew before and wish you had. Davina was a woman of many parts. In her youth, after a period in Florence, she attended the Sorbonne. She was also a keen sportswoman. As well as playing table tennis, she became an archery champion and was active in the Paralympic movement. She was a strong advocate for involving disabled people in sport and won a gold medal for swimming in the Israel Paralympics. As the noble Lord, Lord Morris, reminded us, she was injured in a serious car crash in the mid-60s which left her widowed and severely disabled with three young children to bring up. It is not the done thing these days to speak of disability as a tragedy but, as misfortunes go, I should have thought that would take some beating. Yet I never heard Davina complain even as, towards the end of her life, her need for assistance grew greater. She seemed to me to just get on with things. She was kindness itself to me when I entered the House and far too self-deprecating about her own abilities. As we all know, she was held in the highest regard, so that when hereditary Peers’ automatic right to sit in the House was removed in 1999, she topped the poll to see which 10 per cent should remain. A fellow Peer told me that he did not even bother to vote for her because he knew that this would be the outcome.

In a debate on the United Nations convention last June, the noble Lord, Lord Morris, referred to the small fellowship of disabled Peers who typically spoke in debates of this kind and came to support one another. Indeed, he described it as one of the more endearing and charming features of your Lordships’ House. I am sorry that the small fellowship is not quite as strong today as it normally is, and that the noble Baronesses, Lady Campbell and Lady Wilkins, are not here because they are not well. I am sure that we all send them our best wishes and hope for their speedy return to the fellowship. I am sure that we could all do with their support.

I was very taken with the reference of the noble Lord, Lord Morris, to the assistance that he gave to a fellow MP who had difficulty delivering a speech in the House of Commons. He vividly described the double act which they performed. The noble Baroness, Lady Campbell, also has difficulty speaking for a long time without assistance, and I very much hope that, with your Lordships’ help, we may be able to find a way of helping her to overcome that disability when performing in your Lordships’ House.

I am sure that we are all particularly sorry not to see the noble Lord, Lord Ashley, in his place today to introduce the debate, as was originally planned. I join everyone else in wishing him a speedy recovery so that he can return to his rightful place in the fellowship to which I have referred.

As has been said, however, there could be no more appropriate person to introduce the debate than the noble Lord, Lord Morris of Manchester, for in truth he started it all with the introduction of the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act 1970, the 30th anniversary of whose application to the whole of the United Kingdom we are celebrating today. He demonstrated his unrivalled skills as a parliamentarian in steering it through as a Private Member’s Bill right up against a general election. Shortly after that, as Britain’s first Minister for Disabled People, he played a seminal role in the development of rights for disabled people in this country. He also played a key role in chairing Rehabilitation International’s world planning group, which drafted the Charter for the Third Millennium, which called for a United Nations convention, the fruits of whose labours have been realised only in the past year or so.

Prior to 1970, there was very little state provision for disabled people, apart from those who became disabled in the Armed Forces or through injury at work. The Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act, which was extended to Scotland in 1972 and to Northern Ireland in 1978, was a landmark Act that required local authorities to publish statistics on disabled people in their area, to provide information about how to obtain the help available and to develop comprehensive services to meet their needs. It made authorities provide practical assistance in the home, undertake adaptations and provide additional facilities to ensure greater safety, comfort and convenience. Public buildings had to make some provision to ensure easier access, better toilet facilities and parking spaces designated for disabled people.

Following his appointment as Minister for Disabled People in 1974, the noble Lord, Lord Morris of Manchester, went on to lay the foundations of the disability benefits system that we have today in the attendance allowance and the mobility allowance, and he laid the ground for the trailblazing disability rights legislation that was later to flower from the mid-1990s onwards by establishing the Committee on Restrictions against Disabled People, to which he has referred and on which I was privileged to serve.

It is customary today to place the emphasis on rights rather than services, but it is important to remember that without services “to have a right to”, there would be no rights worth having. It is therefore fitting that, in our debate today, we should take a moment to look back and celebrate the seminal achievements of those who laid the foundations of the system of disabled people’s rights that we have today. It is, however, important to look forward as well as back. As soon as we do, we immediately see that there is much more to do.

The comprehensive services that local authorities were encouraged to develop by the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act are still anything but comprehensive, and of course expectations change with time so that local authorities are for ever chasing a receding target. As soon as one need is met, another emerges. Currently, many disabled people are not getting the support they need to live independent lives. Some groups, such as blind and partially sighted people, are by and large excluded from local authority support because their needs are not judged to be critical or substantial under fair access criteria. In drawing the attention of the House to this fact—not for the first time—I immediately declare my interest as chairman of the Royal National Institute of Blind People.

To make disabled people’s right to independent living a reality, future changes must deliver choice, flexibility and levels of support that meet people’s needs. The current consultation process under way in advance of the expected Green Paper on the reform of adult social care is therefore likely to have a profound impact on disabled people’s rights. We now eagerly await the Single Equality Bill promised for the next Session. When the discrimination law review Green Paper was published in February 2007, there was great concern among disabled people and their organisations at the proposal to streamline the disability equality duty, which was introduced by the Disability Discrimination Act 2005, which had come into effect only a few months before and which, even within those few months, proved to be a powerful instrument for advancing disabled people’s rights. The proposal to replace this with “principles” to,

“underpin effective performance of public sector duties”,

was widely seen as a serious watering down of the current requirements.

The Disability Rights Commission undertook research into the views of staff across government departments on the benefits gained from developing disability equality schemes. Overwhelmingly, departments felt that the process, particularly the requirement to involve disabled people in such schemes, had been positive and productive. The process of drawing up a disability equality scheme was felt to focus minds across complex organisations with competing priorities.

The DRC’s conclusions have been reinforced by recent research, undertaken by Schneider-Ross, into the public sector equality duties from November 2007. One of its key recommendations to the Government Equalities Office, which partly funded the research, was to retain the involvement and outcome-focused aspects of the equality duties. It is therefore welcome that the Secretary of State recognised these concerns and, at the end of September last year, withdrew the Green Paper and pledged to review this and other issues, coming back with draft clauses for consultation in a number of areas this summer. This intention has been reaffirmed in the Government’s draft legislative programme, and in the Secretary of State’s remarks made as recently as Tuesday at a TUC and CBI event that further details on the Equality Bill will be published in the summer. I urge Ministers to ensure that these further details are as full as possible and that there is wide consultation to ensure that we move towards a consensus before a possible Bill in the autumn.

The conferment of rights by legislation is important, but the effective enjoyment of such rights presupposes effective mechanisms for their enforcement. For many years, concerns have been expressed by disabled people and organisations which provide advice and legal support in relation to the Disability Discrimination Act that challenging discrimination in relation to goods and services under Part 3 of the Act is very difficult and, effectively, denies access to justice for individuals who experience discrimination. Anyone seeking to challenge discrimination relating to services must use the county courts in England and Wales or the sheriff courts in Scotland. Research evidence shows that a major reason why more complaints about discrimination are not translated into legal cases is the expense and complexity of the court process.

In contrast, in employment tribunals, there is no cost for starting proceedings or making subsequent applications. Costs are not awarded against the losing party except in exceptional cases and procedures are considerably less complex. In consequence, thousands of disabled people are able to bring cases challenging employment discrimination each year.

It has been proposed by many organisations that all discrimination cases should be commenced in employment tribunals, with the tribunal being designated as an equality tribunal when considering non-employment cases. The UK review of anti-discrimination legislation concluded, that there is usually more in common between employment and non employment discrimination cases than between these cases and other county court and sheriff courts jurisdictions. The Joint Committee of both Houses, which considered the Disability Discrimination Act 2005 in pre-legislative scrutiny, cited evidence from Mind, RADAR, RNIB, RNID, Scope, Mencap and Leonard Cheshire and asked the Government to look at this proposal. I hope very much that in framing the single equality Bill they will give it most serious consideration. Now we have the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and we all hope to see it ratified by the British Government, who contributed so much to the agreement of the text with the minimum of reservations and further delay.

Perhaps I may be permitted to enter a tiny note of reservation of my own. It may be unwise to insist that the convention is ratified with no reservations whatever. If it can be, that would be wonderful. But, as the noble Lord, Lord McKenzie, said when we debated this last on 24 April this year, a modicum of reservations which do not undermine the object and purpose of a convention can facilitate ratification. Such reservations as there are tend to fall away over time.

As I said in my maiden speech in November 2006, one size does not necessarily fit all. A monolithic uniformity of provision may not always be the most appropriate; for instance, there are few who would want to say that there is no place for special schools. Last summer, the discussions over Remploy revealed that there is a continuing role for specialist factories for those who find it difficult or difficult immediately to hold down a job in the open labour market. Organisations of blind, deaf and deafblind people had to fight very hard in the convention negotiations to keep open the possibility of specialist provision where that might best meet the needs of those groups. I am glad to say that one result of the growing maturity of the disability movement is that there is room for a variety of views on questions such as these.

My Lords, let me immediately thank, congratulate and applaud my noble friend Lord Morris of Manchester for making this debate possible. I have a small complaint, of which I will not make much. He has already repeated to the House his closing remarks from the Second Reading debate in December 1969, which I was going to use today. However, what my noble friend could not say is that, over the years, he and my noble friend Lord Ashley of Stoke, whose absence today we deeply regret, have been giants in this field. Not alone, but principally, they have led all that has been achieved in disability legislation over the past almost 40 years, much of which has had support from all sides of this House and all parties in the Commons.

The noble Lord, Lord Low of Dalston, reminded us of what has been achieved through the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act. In its brief for this debate, the Commission for Equality and Human Rights acknowledges:

“Disability is a relatively recent addition to the equality family. It is easy to forget that before 1995 disability rights had not found expression in UK law. But one would not know that by looking at the sheer scale of achievements of the disability movement and the progress that has been made. A decade of change between 1995 and 2005 was bookended by two Disability Discrimination Acts, with developments in the areas of education, transport, our planning system, independent living and a new Government Office for Disability issues, to name a few coming in-between. The … Commission’s predecessor—the Disability Rights Commission—was at the centre of those developments”.

I congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Campbell of Surbiton, who is the distinguished and experienced chair of the commission’s disability committee. I hope that she makes a speedy recovery.

In the House of Commons, during the passage of the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Bill, my noble friend Lord Ashley of Stoke said that,

“we have now laid the basis for an entirely new departure and it is on this basis which has been created by the Bill that we shall see what the Americans would call a new deal. It is only a beginning, but it is a very important beginning and it is one that disabled people all over Britain much appreciate. I believe that people all over the world will look to the Bill because it is a pioneering Bill, that will set an example which will be emulated throughout the world”.—[Official Report, Commons, 20/3/70; col. 928.]

How prophetic those words were. Just four years later, my noble friend Lord Morris of Manchester became not only the United Kingdom’s first Minister for Disabled People, but also the first in the world. As has been said, an enormous amount has been achieved. It is right that we should take a minute to celebrate all that has been achieved while recognising that there is much more to do.

In 1994-95, I was proud to be the opposition disability spokesman in the other place. When referring to people with disabilities, I sometimes used the expression, “people with different abilities”. I really believe that that is a better way to look at this. It responds to those people with different abilities who say, “Do not tell me what I cannot do; ask me what I can”. Much has changed in public attitudes in the past 30 years and, by heavens, they needed to. That expression, which I have heard so often, makes the point in a nutshell.

As has been pointed out, we are promised a single equality Bill for the next Session. In its helpful brief, RADAR states that the Bill will,

“streamline disability discrimination legislation, ensure comprehensive rights, remove disparity between equality strands and strengthen enforcement. It is an opportunity to close the gap from the Disability Discrimination Acts (for example, the aviation and shipping industries are exempt from the DDA), and an opportunity to strengthen the public sector duty … There are specific changes that the single equality bill has the potential to bring into effect. Now is the right time to address the anomaly that the armed forces, with over 300,000 members, are still not required to adhere to disability discrimination law. Since the introduction of the DDA in 1995 the government has gradually brought areas into the scope of the Act. In employment, small businesses, fire services and providers of vocational training, are no longer allowed to discriminate against disabled people. The DDA does not require any employer to take on a disabled person who is not able to carry out the essential requirements of a function”.

We look forward to that Bill in the next Session.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission gives examples of the challenges that we face, some of which have been mentioned today. As the noble Lord, Lord Rix, said, the unemployment rate among people with mental health issues is 80 per cent and costs the economy an estimated £10 billion a year. Of all the people in Britain without formal qualifications, more than one-third are disabled, and disabled people in work are disproportionately in low-paid and low-status jobs. Just as there is a need to upskill everyone in this country, so there is a need to make it possible for those with different abilities to add to their skills so that they can break out of the cycle of being at the bottom of the employment heap.

I welcome the fact that James Purnell MP, the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, has said that the Access to Work scheme, which provides equipment and support for people with disabilities both into and at work, will carry on. Plans to replace invalidity benefit with employment support allowance for new claimants are meant to put the focus on assisting disabled people into jobs. Mr Purnell told the magazine Disability Now, published by Scope:

“We definitely want to get a new consensus with the medical profession around the importance of work. Ten years ago, people might have thought that signing someone off sick was probably the most compassionate thing. But if you look at the medical evidence that can have bad results for people. It is more likely that they’re going to become ill, get mental health issues”.

What that means, of course, is that—I hope that my noble friend can give the House an assurance on this—as people already on invalidity benefit are transferred to the new scheme over time, the Government must give a clear commitment that there will be no losers in the process. As I said, disabled people are already at the bottom of the employment heap, so it would be unfair to make anyone seriously out of pocket over this.

The Social Market Foundation, in its report Disability, Skills and Work: Raising Our Ambitions, which was published last year, found that improving the skills of disabled people and increasing job prospects would add an estimated £35 billion to the economy over 30 years. Around one in four disabled people aged 19 are not in any form of employment, education or training, which is three times the national average, although, by the way, the national average is nothing to be proud of. The foundation strongly makes the point that I have made about the urgent need to try to upskill people with disabilities.

The Government are investing an extra £430 million over the next three years on transforming services for disabled children and their families, including £370 million on improving short break services. They are creating a new duty on local authorities to help parents caring for disabled children by giving them breaks from their care responsibilities, which is extremely important. They are also extending the Family Fund, which helps the families of disabled children by offering support up to the age of 18.

A consultation has been launched to find the best way of increasing the reach of the disabled parking blue badge scheme to include more people who need it and to make it easier to take action against those thoughtless people who park in reserved parking places, not least in those next to supermarkets. I hope very much that the major supermarket outlets across the country will now start to take this responsibility as seriously as they should. I regret the need for that, because people ought to recognise that those spaces, although they may be empty when the person pulls up, are absolutely vital to those who are entitled to use them. I look to the supermarkets to respond, collectively if necessary, by getting together to see what can be done to improve enforcement. It is all very well having bouncers on the supermarket doors, especially late at night, but let us have some bouncers patrolling the car parks to show people that we mean business.

My feeling is that the biggest challenge for electors, citizens and the Government is the reform of adult social care. It is a joint challenge. RADAR tells me that the Government know, and BBC Radio 4’s “Today” reports this week have demonstrated, that adult social care is in urgent need of change. The reports have uncovered some shocking stories of neglect, abuse and lack of respect, as well as the need for better staff training in places of refuge where people live.

The critical point revealed by the reports is the dreadful lack of systematic enforcement after inspection by the Commission for Social Care Inspection. Indeed, I heard someone say on the “Today” programme this morning that the commission simply does not have the resources necessary to get into the enforcement business. Although I am tempted to, I will not ask why, if you cannot properly enforce the putting right of what has been found to be wrong, you inspect in the first place. I would rather turn it around and say that there has to be a clear duty on someone, after inspections reveal what prove to be extremely serious problems, of enforcement. I want to suggest that it is done either by local authority social services departments or possibly—and why not?—in partnership with the care home owners’ associations. They, too, have a responsibility here and I suggest that, if they do not have powers to expel members who do not respond properly to the findings of inspections, they should consider getting them. That would underline the point that they, too, are on the side of proper respect, care and treatment in these homes.

On the issue of social care, RADAR says that the Government’s independent living strategy, published in March this year, acknowledges the growing gulf between the real experiences of disabled people. The strategy sets out a five-year cross-government plan for closing the gap, so ensuring the right of all disabled people to live independently. The argument for extending choice and control for users of social care through developments such as self-directed support, independent advocacy and individual budgets has been won. As I said, this is not simply a matter for the Government or for local government. These are hugely complex and important issues that the public themselves have to get to grips with and try to find the answers to. If we want proper levels of care, sustained and increased over time, someone will have to pay the bill; there are no ifs or buts about it. The public have to engage in the discussion and try to sort out where to draw the line between what used to happen donkey’s years ago when families lived closer together and were able to take more responsibility for looking after elderly relatives in need of help—that has long since fractured in many areas of this country—and what is done by the taxpayer.

I said at the start that this debate is about celebrating the successes. I believe that in many ways we lead the world in this area. Let us just keep doing that, because we are not there yet. A great deal has been done to transform the lives and life chances of people with different abilities, but there is a lot more to do. However, let us for a moment celebrate what we have achieved in order to spur us on to do even more.

My Lords, I, too, congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Morris of Manchester, not only on initiating this important debate but on his long parliamentary struggle on behalf of disabled people and his personal contribution to legislation over the years. In the 1970s I found myself as an assistant director of social services in the difficult borough of Lambeth trying to implement some of the legislation, so some of the things that I am going to say later will not be said without knowledge of what it is like to try to put services on the ground in a local authority. My great regret is that some of the work done in those early years in the 1970s—particularly in collating information—was not systematically carried on for the next few years. If that had been so, we would be in a much better position today with that baseline information to provide strategic services for the future.

I came into this debate rather under the bar. When I came to sign on I was told that the list had been frozen—it was the first time I had found myself with hypothermia—but a helpful young women helped to get me on it. That was because I discovered that many of what the noble Lord, Lord Low, calls “the fraternity” would not be here today. I had always felt that they would speak with greater authority than I and, with everyone else, I wish them all well. I particularly wish to mention my dear friend, the noble Lord, Lord Ashley, because he has helped and mentored me down the years. He is not in his place today but, were he here and had I had a chance to speak to him before the debate, he would have said, “Valerie, keep on harassing the Government”. I cannot harass the Government with his charm or find myself in fits of giggles while telling them off, but I shall do my best to raise the issues that he would have raised.

As many other speakers have already indicated, there has never been a better time to campaign for genuine change for disabled people. A 20-year vision has been published; there is new disability discrimination legislation; and a new Commission for Equality and Human Rights has been established, together with the new Office for Disability Issues. I have no doubt of the good intentions of the Government or of their wish to improve the quality of life of disabled people, but, as Jack Ashley would have done, I shall keep on harassing and ask this question: if all of this is in place, why do we continue to have a yawning gap between these aspirations and implementation on the ground?

I declare an interest as chair of Livability, the charity formed from the merger of the long-established Grooms and Shaftesbury organisations. Earlier this year we produced a report entitled Freedom to Live about the lives of severely disabled young people. It tells how these youngsters hope for the same things as other young people—to travel, to get a good job, to start a family and live independently. They want a voice, leisure and a social life. They want to be involved as active and valued citizens and to make their own contribution, as I have found they can when I have shared platforms with severely disabled people and they have managed the situation as well as I.

However, the stark reality is that for far too many of them, their hopes and dreams are thwarted by a system that denies them their basic human rights. Because huge strides have been made in the past 30 years in raising the aspirations of disabled children and young people—we have encouraged them to aim higher—when they face the cruel reality of the battle to make it happen, it is no wonder they are disappointed and frustrated. Becoming an adult should open a world of opportunity and excitement; for most disabled young people their world becomes smaller and more limited. As one young man put it “It is less a move from childhood into adulthood and more a move from childhood into retirement”. Many severely disabled young people leave the security of educational establishments to sit at home for days on end with no services.

Let me give some more facts. As I said previously, after 30 years of legislation, there is still no reliable evidence as to where young disabled people are currently housed, meaning that transition plans from youth to adulthood are not based on fact. Only recently have reasonable statistics begun to be collated again. It is estimated that 40 per cent of young disabled people are inappropriately accommodated. The local authority of one young man for whom my organisation is responsible thinks that it is appropriate in the holidays not to pay the fees that would keep him active in his school but to place him in an old people’s home on the basis that it is an alternative—but actually it is much cheaper.

At 17 years of age, young disabled people are twice as likely as their able counterparts to be unemployed or not in training. By the time they are 26 it will have risen to four times as likely.

The most vulnerable point in the lives of young people is when they make the transfer from education to adulthood; from childhood services to adult services. This bears repeating because there is, to say the least, patchy advice as well as poor support and information about life choices for many of them. I have spoken directly to them about this. They will have little or no choice over where they live, who they live with and how they spend their time. What would we think of that? Packages of care and support should be in place well in advance of the transition so that the process does not become a nightmare from which the young person takes years to recover. They should have access to independent advocacy and not be forced to fight the system alone or with their parents. The transition process is complicated enough but there is a lack of clarity about who is responsible and who makes decisions. Given all the agencies involved, this can lead to considerable confusion.

What are the Government doing to ensure that this happens? I do not want them to tell me that there are lists of guidance and enactments—I have them—and that there is plenty of information available; I want them to say how that becomes reflected in the experience of these young people. I do not underestimate the difficulty of making these changes and I realise that the Minister may say that this is the responsibility of the local authority, but what are the Government going to do to try to change the culture to ensure that a person is treated with dignity and respect?

I can give other examples of local authorities and other agencies not carrying through legislation. For example, the legislation on direct payments was not being consistently implemented by councils across the country. In one of our reports we found that regulations that came into force in 2003 requiring all councils to offer direct payments to all users of community case services had been patchily implemented. At the time of the study, only 32 of the 75 authorities participating had a strategy in place to ensure that all eligible groups were able to access direct payments. I hope the Minister can tell me that the situation has now seriously improved.

Despite legislation and guidance dictating that the young person’s views must be sought and recorded during transition planning, a fifth of the disabled people questioned in one study said that they left school without a transition plan. Time and time again I have spoken to young people who have been engaged in a conversation with someone but found that it was not really an engagement. As one young person said to me, “They had their plan in their mind when they talked to me and that was the plan I was going to end up with”. However, it was not the plan she ended up with because she fought for a different plan.

My final example of poor implementation is the GLA’s strategy on accessible housing. It stipulates that all new housing must be built to the lifetime homes standards, with 10 per cent to the higher wheelchair standard. However, research conducted by John Grooms just before our merger revealed that only four of the 31 London boroughs had accurately recorded the target in their housing strategies. It is particularly disappointing to note that two of those boroughs included the target in their housing strategies only when faced with legal action. Again, I hope we are seeing some improvement in that area.

Another reason I may feel not quite as prepared as I would like, having come late into the stocks, is that I spent some time last evening at a briefing on the Education and Skills Bill. I was rather disappointed, having looked forward to new legislation, that disabled people seemed not to feature at all. Yet our Freedom to Live campaign calls for training programmes for disability employment advisers; those programmes should contain specific modules on meeting the particular needs of disabled young people. Steps should be taken to ensure that young people in their local schools receive proper advice and that they should also have access to the same kind of training programmes that the Bill proposes for young people from 18 to 19 and onwards. For young people with severe disabilities, that usually has to go on for even longer.

As we celebrate 30 years of disability legislation—I think we should celebrate, despite what I have said—we must now concentrate on making it work on implementation. There are some excellent examples of practice that should become the norm, but there are far too many examples that leave disabled people frustrated and disappointed. I quote:

“Neglecting to take account of the views of young people at crucial times in their lives results in many of them feeling unable to influence their fate. This in turn can lead to a sense of helplessness and distress”.

Surely what we are trying to do in the Every Child Matters agenda and through our work with young people is to give them a sense of hope.

As we look forward to plans for the future, let us hope for legislation that not only seeks to change the lives of disabled people but really does so. Rejoicing in what has been achieved, I look forward to it being even better.

My Lords, I rise in the gap to make a couple of quick points that stem from various speeches that have been made. This is something from the sharp end because I am the parent of a Down’s Syndrome daughter, who at the moment is with an organisation down in Yeovil.

The first part of what I have to say stems from some problems that that organisation has hit with the current complexity of the rules. While I can easily empathise with the aspirations of all the disability rights legislation, the trouble is that often the outcome is not what was intended. When it comes to the financing of these people, they get a small payment of about £21.15 a week to live on—that is the pocket money. That goes to disabled people in residential care. That may be fine for an elderly person, but, for a young adult with social needs who can semi-integrate into normal society and who wants to go out for a drink—I do not necessarily mean an alcoholic beverage—with friends once or twice a week, go to a film and indulge in one or two things like that, it is not a lot of money to live on. Everything else is handled elsewhere or dealt with by the local authority.

The next problem is that it helps enormously if such people—this stems from what the noble Lord, Lord Rix, said—can work. The noble Lord, Lord Low, also mentioned this. It helps their self-esteem. For instance, my daughter attends college in Yeovil to learn how to work. The trouble is that because she is in residential care, education at the college is not free. At the moment, fortunately, the college can find funding, but that could stop at any moment; in fact, it may stop this year. In our case, we might be able to do something about that, but that will not be the case for a lot of other children. That is very stupid, because that is what we are trying to do.

The next problem is that when they get a job somewhere—this happened when another of the organisation’s students had a job at Marks & Spencer, which was very good at looking after them—the national minimum wage cuts in. At the point where that happens, apparently you lose your incapacity benefit. If I have got this wrong, I am sure someone will correct it later. So, suddenly you have a different problem. Sorry, I have got that the wrong way round—you lose your incapacity benefit at that point. Or it may be the other way round and you lose your residential care. It does not really matter. The point is that it is very complex and you lose benefit when you do other things.

If you are an employer with equal responsibilities and you have someone who, to be absolutely honest, cannot do a real person’s full work, while on the other hand you can get someone who can do a full job for the minimum wage, which one are you going to employ at the end of the day? The trouble is that if you suggest that disabled people should work at a level below the minimum wage, people will scream, “Exploitation!”. But it is not. Some of these people are members of a community. They have friends from work. I heard of a case where one of these people fell ill with cancer and their workmates travelled a long way to see them in hospital. They felt part of society and part of the community. There is a huge value to be had from this.

Somewhere, other well-meaning legislation is causing problems. We have lost our common sense. That is the problem with the whole thing. Sometimes someone needs to stand back and say, “Look, what’s the objective? Let’s show some common sense. Let’s ensure that we can enable these things to happen”. The residential care workers are quite capable of knowing if someone is being exploited or not, if they are any good—otherwise they should not be doing the job.

The only other thing I have to say is totally separate. I have done a lot of work with Dr John Gill, who works for the RNIB. Sometimes when we try to do one thing for the disabled, it causes problems for another lot. For instance, we may drop all our automatic teller machines and door access down to wheelchair height, but people with sight or back problems may not be able to stoop down and see the screens properly. Sometimes you have to be careful that you do not do things for one group that cause problems for another. Common sense is required all round.

My Lords, I declare an interest as a recipient of the disability living allowance. It is entirely fitting, now that we have come to the wind-up of this debate, that we should have used the debate to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act applying to the whole of the United Kingdom, and to review the progress of disability rights legislation since then. I join others in paying tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Morris of Manchester, whose Private Member’s Bill it was in the first place. I pay my own tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Ashley of Stoke, who I hope will soon be back with us, and to the noble Lord, Lord Rix, who has been so influential in this whole field over the past 30 years. Finally, I join others in remembering Lady Darcy de Knayth, a founder member of the powerful and influential wheelchair lobby in this House, who is so much missed today.

Although many issues have been raised in this debate, all the speeches have recognised the progress made in the past 30 years and the importance of increasing awareness of what still needs to be done in the future. In the next Queen’s Speech we now know to expect the equality Bill, as others have mentioned, which not only will consolidate legislation in this field but, we hope, will take it further—for example, in promoting independent living and in building on the disability equality duty that requires public sector bodies to promote equality of opportunity for disabled people, a matter raised particularly by the noble Lord, Lord Low. We hope that this legislation will take disability rights further forward and, in doing so, will help the process of lifting disabled people out of poverty. That is such an important thing, as the noble Lord, Lord Corbett, recognised. I am sure everyone here will play their part in working on the new Bill.

There is no doubt that there has been a sea change in attitudes to all forms of disability in the past 30 years, thanks to the 1970 Act. I think all speakers have acknowledged that. As we all know, legislation is only ever part of the answer to any question about people’s rights, but it does more than anything else to change the climate of opinion. People instinctively know that the Government are serious about something if they legislate for non-compliance eventually to be breaking the law, even if precious few cases are taken to law, as the noble Lord, Lord Low, has said.

Every day, however, those of us with mobility problems—I am sure it is the same for those with other disabilities—come across examples where the legislation does not yet seem to have made much difference, leading to some disabled people calling the Disability Discrimination Act a paper tiger. Nowadays, for example, we expect public buildings to be accessible to wheelchair users and others with mobility problems as a matter of course, but there are still all too many public buildings with bad access; for example, with steps and no rail, let alone a ramp. Some buildings with poor access are not public buildings such as a town hall, but they are buildings to which a wide variety of people need access. A good example is the headquarters of the Town and Country Planning Association in Carlton House Terrace here in London. It is a beautiful terrace, with gracious steps and lofty columns, but to access the building, which is often used for book launches, one has to hail a passing member of the public for help in mounting steps unadorned by a rail. There is a ramp that can be put down, but one has first to find the person with it. I expect that the body charged with overseeing this London terrace has thrown up its hands in horror at the thought of a disfiguring rail, but is it really beyond our inventive designers to come up with beautiful and suitable rails for this and similar sites?

If one travels by train and books beforehand one will find that railway companies are very good at arranging for a ramp to be put down at the station. However, if one takes an unbooked train—say, from Waterloo, where unplanned visits are expected—one risks arriving at one’s destination but seeing the train sail off again with no ramp appearing, keeping one on board even though telephone calls have been put through to the relevant station. The theory is fine—which is that train travel is now possible for disabled people just as it is for non-disabled people—but the practice is very different. It is no wonder that many disabled people cannot bear the hassle of train transport, even if they are in theory able to access a train. This is an area where service users can help shape practice by being members of relevant passenger groups. Their slogan, already quoted by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Portsmouth, is good and worth quoting again: “Nothing about us without us”.

I must briefly mention two other matters. The first is access to swimming pools that are part of health clubs. Even the health club nearest to the Palace of Westminster, Bannatyne’s, has only a vertical metal ladder going into the pool in spite of many representations for a hoist. As it is in a building that already has wheelchair access, this is a real slap in the face for elderly and disabled club members.

The second matter is a little more cheerful: the provision of lavatories for disabled people. I applaud the fact that there are more of them than ever before, which is of the utmost importance for those with mobility problems. Even many pubs now boast one. There is a simple reason why we should expect the provision of disabled lavatories and accessible hotel rooms to increase: not only is the disabled population expected to grow year by year, but people will expect this provision as a matter of course. That would not have happened without the legislation that we are celebrating today.

I turn to wider disability issues. Many more people now know something about conditions such as autism. The expression “learning difficulties” is now in common usage, lending more dignity to and respect for people with those disabilities. However, as the noble Lord, Lord Rix, said, there is still disturbing evidence that the rights of many people with learning difficulties are being violated, particularly in the health service, as the Joint Committee on Human Rights found out in its report, A Life Like Any Other? Human Rights of Adults with Learning Disabilities, published on 8 March. One realises that there is no room for complacency when one reads in the report that, for many people with a learning disability,

“the violation of their human rights is seen as a normal part of their everyday lives”.

The Government’s response was underwhelming. I quote just two sentences from it:

“Several of the Committee’s recommendations are around influencing the outcome of the consultation response on ‘Valuing People Now’, the Government's consultation on learning disability policy. This response commits the Government to revisiting the JCHR report and providing a further response to the Committee when publishing the final ‘Valuing People Now’ strategy”.

Is that really what the Government define as the “practical steps” that they are committed to taking? For the strategy to be more effective, it is vital that it is adequately resourced to provide more of the services that are needed for people with a learning disability.

Finally, I turn to those with recurring mental illness, which is a huge and growing problem in this country. Only a quarter of those suffering from it are in employment. The Government are committed to providing more cognitive behavioural therapists, which is welcome, but I urge them to ensure that adequate support is available for those with mental illness who are being encouraged to find employment rather than be on benefits, and that employers are encouraged to show flexibility. The noble Lord, Lord Corbett, also made that point.

I end with a rather good quotation relating to the equality Bill which features in the Government’s draft legislative programme. It is as follows:

“Fairness and an absence of discrimination are the hallmarks of a modern decent society, with a strong economy, which draws on the talents of all”.

My Lords, this has been a fascinating and somewhat philosophical debate. I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Morris of Manchester, on achieving it, although it was unfortunately by accident rather than design. I sympathise with the Minister for having to respond to it.

The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Portsmouth talked of unlocking a collective memory. The trouble for the Government and the Minister opposite is that we in your Lordships’ House have very long memories, as the noble Lord, Lord Morris, has demonstrated today—although I suppose that he should be grateful that since the great parliamentary emasculation of 90 per cent of the hereditary Peers in 1999 that memory is not quite as long as it was.

None the less, none of us, I believe, can remember as far back as the period between 3500BC and 1800BC, when the Rig Veda recorded the world’s first prosthesis. It tells of the Indian Queen Vishpla who lost her leg in battle, was fitted with an iron leg and returned to battle. I mention this not for effect but because, in the early days after the Second World War, disability legislation concentrated almost entirely on those injured in that war, not only from a curative point of view but, even more pressingly, because of the need to increase employment. We think particularly of the Act which set up Remploy, of which the noble Lord, Lord Low of Dalston, spoke in part.

In general terms, though, nothing much had changed since the great mental hospital building programme in Victorian times. Indeed, as late as 1985, it was written that,

“in the whole field of social policy, there was no disadvantaged group so utterly neglected”.

That is an interesting comment, since the core of the problem associated with disability was seen to be social rather than medical.

I suspect that it was their awareness of this fact that the early parliamentary pioneers of disability rights championed. Of the eight MPs involved in pressing the Government, it is notable that five ended up in Your Lordships’ House: two doctors—the noble Lord, Lord Owen, and the late Lord Winstanley—the noble Lords, Lord Ashley of Stoke and Lord Morris of Manchester, who as today’s debate has proved are still very much with us, and my late noble friend Lord Campbell of Croy.

That brings me to the “Morris Act” of 1970, known technically as the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act. I agree with RADAR that it was the first Act to acknowledge disabled people as ordinary citizens, not only covering information as to the need and existence of welfare services but putting new duties on local authorities in the fields of housing and access to public buildings, including schools and universities. These have rightly figured widely in this debate, perhaps more from the physical adaptation aspect than from that of their ability to teach children to respect their disabled peers. Is not time that we settled the argument whether to educate disabled children in mainstream schools or special classes?

The Morris Act became law in the dying days of a Labour Government and had the great drawback that no extra money was given to local authorities for its implementation. The result was that some, indeed many, chose to ignore it, especially Section 1, which required a census of disabled people in their area. Plus ça change. Even those who carried on with the recording, as the noble Baroness, Lady Howarth, told us, stopped after a bit—and the whole thing became out of date really quite quickly. I confess that that was not helped by the fact that it was left to the incoming Conservative Government to implement. They, of course, were short of money, as so often happens after a period of Labour government, so implementation was delayed. Indeed, even when it was implemented, it remained almost totally ignored.

Legislative matters rested there until the next Labour Government of 1974 to 1979, who appointed the world’s first Minister for Disabled People, the noble Lord, Lord Morris, himself—a fact of which he should be, and I think is, justly proud. He and his successor, the late Nicholas Scott, who became my guru on disability matters, continually raised the profile of disabled people, asking of virtually every piece of proposed legislation what effect it would have on them. The noble Lord, Lord Addington, is right in saying that there are more pieces of legislation that have references to disabled people than to any other group in society. It was in that period that a general feeling arose that disabled people were people first and disabled second; they had—or perhaps I should say “have”—exactly the same aspirations as able-bodied people, albeit limited, to a lesser or greater extent, by their disability. I am afraid that that attitude wobbles a bit from time to time. I must tell the noble Lord, Lord Low, that I do not think that disabled people should be worried by no longer having their own employment and other tribunals.

To get back to my historical survey, it would be unfair to say that nothing happened to benefit disabled people. However, the focus was on money and disability welfare payments of all sorts, although a rather feeble attempt was made to have workplace quotas. At the same time, the attitude remained with the able-bodied that, “You can’t do that, you’re disabled”—the “Does he take sugar?” attitude to which the noble Lord, Lord Addington, referred. In my research for this debate, I discovered a saying from Aristotle, who wrote:

“Those born deaf become speechless and incapable of reason”.

It took from 355 BC, when he wrote that, until the 16th century, when Girolamo Gardano was the first physician to recognise the ability of deaf people to reason, and therefore that they could be educated along with the rest of society. We might do well to think of that when we listen to the noble Lord, Lord Ashley of Stoke—though, alas, not today.

How long will this attitude persist? It was not long ago that a severely partially sighted computer operator was selected for a job interview with a local authority, and when he arrived he was told that he should not have applied because he had a white stick. That was well after my right honourable friend’s Disability Discrimination Act 1995 came on to the statute book. That Act gave disabled people a right not to be discriminated against in employment and a right of access to good facilities, financial services and the transport infrastructure. It involved millions of, usually, able-bodied people taking positive action to make the lives and aspirations of disabled people more liveable. The equal opportunities review described it as,

“the most important discrimination legislation in a generation”.

Looking back, it is curious that the two seminal disability Acts came at the end of a Government’s term—one Labour and one Conservative. It took another 10 years for the next milestone to be achieved. It was based on the Disability Rights Task Force report, From Exclusion to Inclusion, which concluded that there were gaps in the 1995 Act and said that it had weaknesses that,

“leave disabled people without comprehensive and enforceable human rights”.

It is fashion at the moment to think in terms of human rights, something that 30 years ago we really did not understand or think about very much. What will we be thinking of, either in relation to disabled people or anyone else, in 30 years’ time? Most of us, by the law of averages, will not be here—but, none the less, I am sure that the discussion will go on.

The review concentrated on a duty on public bodies for the promotion of equal opportunities and the extension of the DDA to cover almost all activities in the public sector. Most importantly, that included transport, which hitherto had been excluded, and local councillors, as opposed to the councils themselves. Just before this, the Government’s new deal for disabled people began to get into its stride—or, perhaps, stumble would be a better word. The plan was to have a voluntary scheme in which disabled people referred themselves to a job broker, who then sought to move them closer to the job market. Of the 35,316 people registered, only 2,330 people with disabilities found sustained employment through the scheme between July 2001 and December 2002. Furthermore, the departmental review of the scheme in 2004 showed that only 1.9 per cent of the disabled people eligible had volunteered to take part in the first place.

The scheme’s failure must be one of the major reasons the Government produced the Welfare Reform Bill, which we have just finished discussing. Research suggests that 1 million people on incapacity benefit want to work and the Act is designed to help them achieve that objective but, like all disability legislation, it depends not so much on disabled people themselves but the willingness of able-bodied people to accept them into employment and society more generally. Like the noble Lord, Lord Corbett, I believe in the “can do” rather than the “can’t do” philosophy, which I hope that I showed in debates on that Bill.

The incremental effect of both Governments’ disability legislation has slowly changed the attitude of society. However, as every speaker in this debate has said, there is still a long way to go. I do not see the need for much more legislation in this area, but we should turn our attention to the enforcement of what we have. I certainly agree with the noble Baronesses, Lady Howarth and Lady Thomas of Winchester, on that. There are, however, two exceptions to this. The first is to decentralise the role of the state because, in trying to run society from Whitehall, the state takes responsibility away from people, families and communities. Of course, that applies to able-bodied people just as much as it does to disabled people. The Government need to raise public awareness of disability rights and, as I have said repeatedly, that starts in schools. That is a way for disabled people to see a practical difference to their lives.

The second thing we need to do is to conflate the bewildering array of benefits and complicated forms to which many disabled people are subjected. We are, or should be, grateful to the noble Earl, Lord Errol, and, again, to the noble Baroness, Lady Thomas of Winchester, for bringing a breath of pertinence into our debates, with their very direct comments on real problems being faced by disabled people. The Government have made a start here with the introduction of the employment and support allowance, which begins in October. But there is much more that could and should be done, and I ask the Minister what further progress is being planned, especially as we are being promised a welfare Bill next Session. Can the Minister tell us something about it? Furthermore, during our debates on the previous Bill, the Minister said that those on the support component would not be worse off that they are on incapacity benefit. It turns out that that is not true of single men, and I wonder whether the noble Lord has anything to add to what he said to my noble friend Lord Taylor in the debate in the Moses Room two or three weeks ago.

My party has called for an annual audit across the public sector of practice towards the employment of disabled people. The Morris Act of 30 years ago should have made that the norm by now, but it is most definitely unfinished business. We have already committed a future Conservative Government to set an example to the private sector by making the employment of disabled people in the public sector a priority in recruitment policy. What example are this Government giving to employers?

Finally, I mentioned Queen Vishpla’s artificial leg. Technology has since improved by leaps and bounds, and will always play a significant role in helping people to live independent lives. Too often, however, assessment and procurement processes take too long and people are forced into care. In these straitened economic times, do not the Government realise that it is much cheaper to let people do what they want—to stay in their own homes as long as humanly possible, and to subsidise them to do so, rather than pay for them in residential homes, whether state or private? I am a fan, as I said, of the disabled facilities grant. The Minister must surely agree with me that we need a much more responsive and flexible system than we have now. However, I think that the major message of this debate is enforcement of what we have. I hope that I can persuade the Minister for once to agree with me.

The noble Lord, Lord Morris, has allowed us to review what the Americans call the state of the nation as far as disabled people are concerned. I am extremely grateful, as we all are, to him for that.

My Lords, I very much welcome the opportunity provided by my noble friend Lord Morris to celebrate the progress that we have made on disability rights and to have this important debate on the crucial issues around how we achieve equality for disabled people. As we have heard, his Private Member’s Bill, which subsequently became the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act 1970, was truly groundbreaking in being the first piece of legislation to recognise the rights of disabled people. I pay tribute to his remarkable determination in ensuring that that legislation came into being and to those who worked with him, most notably the noble Baroness, Lady Masham, the late Lady Darcy de Knayth, who was my noble friend and who, as others have said, is greatly missed in this House, and my noble friend Lord Ashley, who had hoped to be here today and whose unceasing efforts over many years have greatly furthered the interests of disabled people, together with others of whom we have heard. They are pioneers and heroes of all parties but of one mind—the fellowship of Peers, as the noble Lord, Lord Low, and my noble friend Lord Morris said. As the noble Lord, Lord Addington, said in his rather brave speech, the reach of this legislation has been profound, not least in his own case.

In the 30 years since the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act was extended to the whole of the UK, the disability rights landscape has altered radically. I believe that the Government’s performance in extending rights and opportunities for disabled people and for those with long-term limiting health conditions is unparalleled. Over the past 10 years, we have significantly improved and extended rights for disabled people under the Disability Discrimination Act, although we acknowledge that this has been built on what went before.

We introduced significant changes in 2004 when we extended the employment provisions of the Disability Discrimination Act to a further 1 million employers and 7 million more jobs and when we improved rights for disabled people for physical access to goods and services. Through the Disability Discrimination Act 2005, we fulfilled our commitment to introduce a comprehensive and enforceable set of civil rights for disabled people. In 2006, we introduced the disability equality duty, which places a positive duty on all public bodies to consider how their services affect disabled people.

The extension of disability rights is proving to have a real and significant impact on the lives of disabled people. More disabled people are in employment. The percentage of those in work has increased from 41 per cent in 1998 to 48 per cent in 2007. There is still some way to go, with organisations in the public, private and voluntary sectors adapting their working environments or practices to support new employees who are disabled and existing employees who have become disabled. There is greater access to goods and services for disabled people as service providers have put reasonable adjustments in place. Our research shows that 87 per cent of service providers have made or plan adjustments for disabled people. More and more people are aware of their rights and responsibilities under the Disability Discrimination Act. Awareness of the Act among the general population increased from some 40 per cent in 1996 to more than 70 per cent in 2007. As the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Portsmouth, whom we are delighted to see in his place, acknowledged, the significance of public awareness is that it is an underpinning of the journey that society has to make.

We will continue to keep the legislative framework under review. We remain committed to a single equality Bill within the lifetime of this Parliament; indeed, we have included the equality Bill in the draft legislative programme for 2008-09, which we published last month. We remain committed to ratifying the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities by the end of this year. The Government believe that the convention is an important initiative that will help to shape the protection of disabled people’s rights for the future around the world. The noble Lord, Lord Low, reminded us of the pivotal role played in this by my noble friend Lord Morris.

While the legal framework has been transformed and has laid the foundation for equality for disabled people, we are not complacent about how much more needs to be done to deliver real change—change in the lives of disabled people themselves and change in the way society reacts to disability—and to stress that this is about justice, not about benevolence. The Government are committed to bridging the gap between national policy and the realities that disabled people face every day. The noble Baroness, Lady Howarth, who I am pleased to say made the list, reminded us forcefully of this. Indeed, the noble Baroness, Lady Thomas, spoke from experience about what more needs to be done, particularly regarding transport.

I will highlight some key steps that we have taken towards achieving that aim. In 2005, we launched the report Improving the Life Chances of Disabled People, which clearly set out our commitment to delivering equality for disabled people by 2025. We have established the Office for Disability Issues to co-ordinate work across government. We have ensured that the voices of disabled people will be at the heart of policy development in the future through the creation of Equality 2025, an independent group of disabled people set up to advise government about policy and how services are delivered in reality. We are investing an extra £430 million over the next three years to transform services for disabled children and their parents, in part to fund a transition support programme, the need for which the noble Baroness, Lady Howarth, referred to. We are committed to improving such services.

In early March, we published a five-year cross-government strategy for independent living, to which much reference has been made today. I must pay credit to the noble Baroness, Lady Campbell, who is sadly unable to be with us today, and the expert panel for their efforts in shaping the independent living strategy. The strategy sets out how government will work with disabled people, and their organisations, to enable them to live autonomous lives and to have the same choice, freedom, dignity and control over their lives as the rest of society takes as a given. It focuses on every aspect of a person’s life and is about using existing funding better to support independent living. It also brings together initiatives, amounting to over £1 billion of new funding, which will enable people to have more choice and control.

The strategy represents a unique milestone on the road towards our goal of equality by 2025. We have moved away from debating what independent living means to the question of how we make independent living a reality. We have also, through this strategy, achieved a real cross-government commitment to working together across departmental boundaries to address the barriers to independent living. We co-produced the strategy with disabled people, which has set an important precedent in how we develop policy that impacts on the lives of disabled people.

We fully intend to continue this partnership with disabled people as we move towards implementing and monitoring the strategy. Yesterday, we held a major consultation event to hear the views of disabled people on how best to do this. At that event, we also announced funding of £900,000 to support a second wave of action and learning sites from January 2009 as part of the user-led organisations project. This is on top of the funding of £750,000 that has been shared between 12 user-led organisations to help them to become action and learning sites from March 2008. These action and learning sites are a key contribution to delivering on our commitment that by 2010 each local authority area should have a user-led organisation modelled on existing centres for independent living.

We have also confirmed our intention to publish a welfare reform Green Paper later this summer to outline proposals on transforming the welfare state from a dependency culture to an empowering culture to enable people to live independently, building on the Welfare Reform Bill to which the noble Lord, Lord Skelmersdale, referred—several noble Lords referred to the replacement of incapacity benefit with the employment and support allowance as part of this strategy. We are focusing on what people can do—their capacity—rather than on what they cannot. I can confirm to my noble friend Lord Corbett that on transition nobody will face a cash cut in their benefit. The noble Earl, Lord Erroll, talked in his brief intervention about the importance of work and some of the challenges that that brings. The connection between work and health and helping people out of poverty is key to the focus of our policies.

As noble Lords said, the Government have also launched a national debate on reform of the care and support system in England. We believe that a radical rethink is required to meet the challenges of the 21st century to deliver more integrated services that are easy to access, fair, of a high quality and sustainable. While we remain open-minded about solutions, we are clear that there must be three principles for reform. The new system must promote independence, choice and control for everyone who uses care and support services, must ensure that everyone can receive the high-quality care and support that they need and must be affordable for government, individuals and families in the long term.

My noble friend Lord Morris referred to historic levels of spend. Total spending on disability living allowance in 2007-08 was just under £10 billion. We also spent £4.4 billion on attendance allowance and £1.262 billion on carer’s allowance. My noble friend Lord Corbett referred to blue badges. There has been an increase between March 2006 and March 2007 and there are now some 2.3 million badges. He also stressed the importance of the consultation that has taken place to ensure that we facilitate the provision of badges to those who need them but do not get them and ensure that those who have them and abuse them are not able to continue to do so.

Noble Lords commented on the need for legislation on independent living. My noble friend Lord Ashley must be commended for his commitment to this agenda, as the noble Lord, Lord Rix, said. The Government’s position was clearly set out at Second Reading of my noble friend’s Bill and it has not changed. We do not believe that it is necessary or desirable to take a legislative solution to delivering equality and inclusion for disabled people at this time. However, the independent living strategy sets out our firm commitment to monitoring progress on independent living on an annual basis to ensure that measurable change is made. We will review the need for legislation if sufficient progress has not been made.

The National Centre for Independent Living’s report on the impact of charging for social care was published yesterday. We have asked officials to study it carefully and to consider what policy implications it has. I assure the House that final decisions on the reform of social care funding will take account of the interaction between charging policies, benefits and employment support programmes and the impact on disability equality.

The Government have acknowledged that we face challenges in our care and support systems. As I said, we have launched an extensive process of engagement on the future of that system, leading to a Green Paper. One of the questions within this important national debate tackles the issues raised here: whether we have the right balance between national consistency and the need for local authorities to respond to local differences. We will consider the issues raised today within that context.

Noble Lords will be aware that the UK was among the first states to sign up to the UN convention on its first day of opening—30 March 2007—at the United Nations. Signing the convention demonstrated the UK’s commitment to human rights for disabled people and showed our intention to proceed to ratification without undue delay. I confirm that our aim is to ratify by the end of the year, which is ambitious given that the average time for the UK to ratify conventions of this kind after signature is around four years. We have carefully scrutinised the laws, policies, practices and procedures against the rights under the convention. The process has inevitably taken time, but that phase of the work is now over and we are carefully considering the emerging findings. The position on our progress was set out in the Statement made by the Minister for Disabled People on 6 May 2008, which identified the areas where reservations are still under consideration.

I am pleased that the noble Lord, Lord Low, noted that reservations can help ratification. For example, the Department for Children, Schools and Families has indicated that there is a need to recognise that the general education system in the UK has a range of provision including mainstream and special schools, which will require an interpretive declaration. A reservation will also be needed in respect of disabled children whose needs are best met through specialist provision, which may be some way away from their home. The Government are aware of the importance that many disabled people attach to the optional protocol and we are carefully considering the position as part of the convention ratification process.

As I said, we have committed to introduce a single equality Bill within the lifetime of this Parliament and have included it in the draft legislative programme for 2008-09. When we launched the consultation document last June, we also gave a commitment that there would be no erosion of existing protection. We remain committed to that. I hope that that reassures noble Lords, particularly the noble Lord, Lord Addington. I am unable to comment on specific proposals while policy discussions continue, but I reassure noble Lords that the Government’s response to the White Paper will be published shortly.

The noble Lord, Lord Rix, spoke with great authority about the challenges faced by those with learning disabilities. The consultation on Valuing People Now, which sets out the key priorities for people with learning disabilities over the next three years, closed on 28 March 2008. There has been a huge response. We have had more than 2,000 responses, with the total number of people involved in them being more than 10,000. The University of Lancaster is in the process of analysing those responses and we want to give due consideration to both the quantity and the quality of responses received.

The noble Lord, Lord Rix, asked when the Government would implement health checks for all people with a learning disability. In Our Health, Our Care, Our Say, which was published in 2006, the Government committed to introduce regular and comprehensive health checks as soon as possible for people with learning disabilities. We are delivering a programme of work to promote a PCT framework to support comprehensive health checks. This is key to achieving our aims of reducing health inequalities. The noble Lord also asked whether we would assess people who have learning difficulties for eligibility for social care. Everyone is entitled to an assessment of need by social care professionals. Should someone not meet the local authority’s criteria for financial support, the local authority should signpost that person towards other support. If the condition of the person changes, they are entitled to subsequent assessments. The Government have asked the Commission for Social Care Inspection to review the application of eligibility criteria to make recommendations about how we can improve practice.

I reiterate the Government’s commitment to equality and to removing the obstacles that prevent disabled people from having full choice and control about how they go about their lives. I hope that the wide range of initiatives that I have been able to outline in my short contribution today serves to demonstrate that. I will read the record and, if I have not answered any of the points raised, I will write to noble Lords.

My brief does not have quite the historical sweep of the noble Lord, Lord Skelmersdale, but I agree with the thrust of his point that we should now be focused on delivery. There is a strong framework overall and we will have the single Act in the next Session. The noble Lord asked about the employment and support allowance, which we debated when the regulations were prayed against in this House. The Government’s position on that is clearly set down. He cannot quite equate the structure of incapacity benefit with that of the employment and support allowance, because that is focused on a different system; it is focused on supporting people, helping people to identify what they can do, as we discussed earlier, and helping people who can work back towards the labour market.

In closing, I reiterate that I am under no illusion about how much more we have to do before we deliver our commitment to achieving equality for disabled people by 2025, but I firmly believe that we are on the right path towards meeting that commitment. We owe it to those pioneers and heroes to do so.

Sport and Physical Education

rose to call attention to the case for a new sport and physical education strategy; and to move for Papers.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I raised the important subject of sport and physical recreation in a debate in this House some months ago. I make no apologies for raising the issue again today, as sport and physical activity are so important to the nation’s well-being. That cannot be overstated.

In my 38 years as a Member of this House and of the other place, I have long argued the case for a higher government priority to be given to sport and the promotion of physical activity. What has happened over the past 10 years? There have been huge advances under this Government. I was shadow Minister for Sport for five years up to the 1997 general election, and I was the author of the sport manifesto Labour’s Sporting Nation. It is particularly pleasing to me, therefore, to see that so many of the commitments that we made in that manifesto have come to fruition.

I refer in particular to the pledge that an incoming Labour Government would work tirelessly to bring major sporting events to the UK; how well we have delivered on that front. We staged the enormously successful Commonwealth Games in Manchester in 2002, and of course London won the opportunity to stage the 2012 Olympic Games and Paralympic Games. Only this week, we heard that the International Olympic Committee has given the preparations for London 2012 near-perfect marks following a three-day inspection visit. If we add to that the Prime Minister’s personal support for making it a top priority to secure football’s World Cup in 2018, it is clear that the Government are succeeding in putting this country firmly on the world’s sporting map.

It is not all about elite sport and world-class events, however. Sport and physical activity are just as important at grass-roots level. The Government are well aware of that importance and have acted to secure its delivery. Increasing participation and providing high standard facilities together make the bedrock of our sports policy. We recognised in that early manifesto that the provision of school sport was vital to the nation’s young people. Schoolchildren must have access to sports facilities, and the curriculum must provide time for sport and physical activity.

That is why I am so pleased that the Youth Sport Trust has revolutionised school sport and now has its sights set on delivering five hours of physical activity for the nation’s youngsters. It is in that context that school playing fields have been such an emotive issue in past years. I am pleased to note that government policy ensures that access and participation are safeguarded in any proposal to develop school playing fields. That was another commitment made in Labour’s Sporting Nation.

Another body that plays a vital role in school sport is the Football Foundation. Here I declare an interest, since I speak as a former chairman and now as its president. It is a partnership between government and football, and it has been hugely successful in providing grass-roots facilities in our schools and parks. Since its launch at No. 10 Downing Street in 2000, the foundation has supported more than 5,000 projects worth nearly £700 million with grant aid totalling more than £300 million. There is another £114 million-worth of projects in the pipeline. I commend the work of the foundation, and I am proud of its achievements.

Returning for a moment to the manifesto, we also undertook to tackle the issue of ticket touting. Again, I welcome the progress that has been made. I also welcome the recent policy announcement by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State that he wants to see more action taken against touting at major sporting events. I led a delegation to him earlier this year, when we explained the frustration that sports governing bodies have at people who rip off the ordinary sports fan. We must make sure that young people have the opportunity to see top class sporting events at prices that they can afford. I therefore urge the Minister to expedite the work that he is doing to secure voluntary agreements from secondary ticket agents. Those companies have a final chance to show that they can control the secondary market. If they cannot do so, they must understand that they face further regulation of their activities.

With that as a background, let me now turn to some of the other issues facing us. We can be proud that we have in this country a sector skills council that is a leading light in developing sport and physical activity. SkillsActive has a crucial role to play in ensuring that there are enough coaches out there to meet demand. The Government’s recent approval of the planned national skills academy for sport and active leisure will assist in that aim. All of that is a far cry from what the Government inherited in 1997.

Of course, there are areas where more improvements can still be made. Participation rates are still too low. Painful as it may be, we in this House have to face up to the fact that 65 per cent of men and 76 per cent of women do not reach the government minimum for physical activity. That is estimated to cost £8.2 billion per year. The economy is further hit by £13.2 billion per year in sickness absence alone. Individuals who are active are 1.9 times less likely to have a heart attack than their inactive counterparts. I could go on, but your Lordships will be clear about the picture that I am painting.

Over the past 50 years, as a nation, we have seen the systematic removal of physical activity from our daily lives, and the cost of that is adding up. The Foresight report on future trends in obesity predicted a cost, at current trends, amounting to £50 billion per year. That is what is at stake. Make no mistake: that places an unbearable strain on our National Health Service. To reinforce that view, there are 1.5 million sufferers of type 2 diabetes in this country, and 90 per cent of all diabetes sufferers are type 2. That has a cost to the National Health Service of some £3.5 billion a year, and no lack of human suffering.

Two weeks ago, the medical journal the Lancet said that exercise lifestyle interventions over six years can prevent or delay diabetes for up to 14 years after the intervention period. We know that an active lifestyle can lower the risk of developing type 2 diabetes by between 33 per cent and 50 per cent. Last week Cancer Research UK told us that active men are 34 per cent less likely to develop cancer than their inactive counterparts, and I have not even mentioned asthma, stroke or osteoporosis. According to the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence, up to 20 ailments and conditions could be alleviated, prevented or cured by opportunities to be more active.

We must also not forget the psychological impact. Physical activity is like fresh air to the brain. All of this is a message that can get across loud and clear, and we should get it across. Is it is not an impossible task to change a culture, and my proof is that it has already been done. We should look at Finland. Back in the 1970s it was in a similar predicament. It had among the highest rate of smokers and drinkers in Europe and the highest rate of deaths from coronary heart disease in the world. It set in place real, concerted actions around promoting physical activity. If more people are more active more often in any shape or form, more people play sport. Finland provided exercise on prescription across the country. It opened up extensive cycling and walking programmes. Look at Finland now. By 2008 there had been a 65 per cent reduction in deaths from coronary heart and lung disease—yes, 65 per cent. It now has one of the lowest rates of smoking in the world. Most compellingly, average life expectancy has increased by six and a half years on average across the population.

Just think of the effects that such a policy would have here. The British Heart Foundation says that coronary heart disease costs every single person in this country £250 per year—a total of £3.5 billion. Lives and plenty of resources can be saved at the same time. I am sure that the Government are aware of the issues that I raise and I hope that they will take appropriate action. To reinforce that view, the Prime Minister, in his speech in January, said that to ensure the future of the National Health Service, prevention has to figure higher on the agenda. As an average, 60 per cent of waking hours are spent at work, which is, therefore, an ideal place to encourage increased physical activity. Sickness absence cost the economy £13.4 billion in 2006, the equivalent of 175 million working days. Someone on incapacity benefit for six months has only a 50 per cent chance of returning to work. After 12 months off, that sinks to 30 per cent. Ninety per cent of the time, someone on incapacity benefit for between six and 12 months will end up out of employment for five years. Unless these people are provided with the opportunities to rehabilitate physically, they and their children are likely to remain in poverty—by which I mean economic, social and cultural poverty, let alone in terms of self-respect. Poverty is exactly what I mean.

One has to be reminded that the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence has published evidence to show that physical activity can help alleviate and prevent 20 lifestyle diseases and reduce absenteeism by up to 30 per cent. The national crisis around health and obesity requires urgent and concerted action and—credit where credit is due—the Government are aware of this need. There has been a £372 million pledge from Alan Johnson and Ed Balls to fight the problem of obesity.

Delivery needs national, regional and local impact. Delivery needs effective networks to help the hardest to reach. Delivery needs a high level of customer service. It needs consistency and reliability in implementation. The achievement of many social outcomes requires greater engagement and participation from citizens and an understanding that governments cannot do it on their own. There are powerful moral and political arguments for protecting and enhancing personal responsibility. I am sure that the Government are not only aware of the opportunities at their disposal but determined to make use of them.

I was struck recently by an announcement that landed on my desk. Fred Turok, the chairman of the Fitness Industry Association has said that for every £1 invested in promoting physical activity by the Government, the health and fitness sector would invest a further £2. That is an offer that certainly must not be refused. Let us take a look at the current fitness and leisure infrastructure. There are more than 5,700 health and fitness sites across the country, including public facilities; 89 per cent of the population—53 million people—live within two miles of a gym facility; more than 30,000 licensed exercise professionals cater for more than 1 million people every day. Yet I am told that they operate at only 60 per cent of their capacity. Outside of peak hours, many of these facilities are almost empty. I very much hope that the Government will get together with the Fitness Industry Association to tackle this issue.

A number of bodies are out there with help to offer, not just health clubs and leisure centres. The Fitness Industry Association is only one. The Central Council of Physical Recreation, representing 105,000 sports clubs active in England, is another. The list includes British Cycling, the Amateur Swimming Association, the British Heart Foundation National Centre for Physical Activity and Health, and there are many more. I hope that the Government will propose to deal with all these bodies in a way that can make a difference. Working together, this alliance could have the national, regional and local structure required to back up any national campaign. It could provide the clubs, centres, coaches, facilitators and expertise that we need to change and adapt to a healthier lifestyle. Importantly, these bodies are already based firmly in the community. They will provide opportunities for all segments of society, from cradle to grave, and provide activities that are fun, sociable and accessible to all, regardless of ability.

Every town and village has a sports club of some kind within easy reach to aid physical exercise. We are surrounded by outdoor environments in which people can enjoy fresh air at the same time as fitness. Every community centre is an open space that could be filled with people from the local area being supervised by experts provided by these organisations. But this ready-to-roll wheel is not simply about places and people, vital as they are, as the essential cogs in a national campaign machine. These organisations represent the key networks and channels that the Government need to deliver real change. They represent an alliance of bodies coming together with proven ability to interact directly and effectively with people of all ages, creeds and interests, to generate the momentum of change that the Government and the community need. The Government have the ability to make this change happen, working alongside those people already active in this area. I sincerely hope that it will take place soon. I beg to move for Papers.

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Pendry, for starting this debate. He is widely recognized as a great ambassador for sport. He is no minor sportsman himself, as a former colonial boxing champion. He is a former chairman of the Football Trust and is now president of the Football Foundation. His efforts to support grassroots soccer are much appreciated. I have had the privilege of serving with the noble Lord on the sports awards committee of the Variety Club Children’s Charity and, more recently, as a co-patron of the Heritage Foundation, which raises funds for charity through sport and entertainment.

Sport is not a side issue. It affects so many areas of our lives—health, leisure, community relations, business. Sport transcends culture, class, race and religion. It can build bridges and not walls between people and places. Sport can inform and inspire. This is such a wide-ranging subject that one can focus only on certain aspects of it. I still remember, as a bright-eyed 15 year-old member of the Warwickshire Schools cricket team, practising in the indoor nets at the Edgbaston county ground in Birmingham. We were so excited when the coach suddenly announced that we would be bowling to the England captain. We all turned round, and in walked a woman. One of my colleagues said, “But it’s a woman, sir”. The coach said, “Well, I’m glad you can see. Just get on with it”. That woman was Rachael Heyhoe-Flint, bat in hand, padded up. She was the England ladies’ cricket captain.

We did as we were told. For the next 20 minutes, we bowled outswingers, inswingers, off-spin, leg-spin and googlies. In those days I could bowl a fairly wicked ball that could swing both ways in one delivery. Not many people throw that, to misquote Michael Caine. However, we did not bowl the maiden over. Rachael hit every ball with skill and force. She went on to become a director of Wolverhampton Wanderers Football Club, an MBE and a personal friend. She showed that women can play an important role in sport as players and leaders.

My father, Derief Taylor, played cricket for the West Indies and county cricket for Warwickshire in the 1950s championship-winning team, but he was proud also to be manager of the England women's cricket team that toured the West Indies in the 1970s. It was him and 20 women; he was very pleased with that appointment. Although we have many modern-day examples of women sports stars, we know that, around adolescence, girls at school start to lose interest in sport. The reasons are often connected to the physical and emotional changes that they are going through, but we and the Government need to do more to encourage girls to pursue sports. The inspirational role played by Dame Kelly Holmes in the GirlsActive schools programme is vital, but it cannot be a one-woman campaign. I should be interested to hear from the Minister the Government’s plans to encourage more girls to stay in sport.

For many years, cricket has been overshadowed by the wealth and glamour of professional soccer, but the Chance to Shine project, encouraging competitive cricket in schools, has rekindled interest. However, there is no such thing as a free launch and I hope that the Government will continue to provide matching funding. Perhaps the Minister will confirm that. Cricket has also realised that it is part of the entertainment industry and personalities attract interest. Despite his problems, players such as Freddie Flintoff have helped to inspire a game which once had an image more akin to Freddie Flintstone.

There is no doubt that professional soccer has a massive influence in the modern world. As a patron of the Aston Villa Supporters Trust, I have followed the claret and blue for many years. I am delighted that this week Aston Villa turned down a potential multimillion-pound sponsorship deal. Instead, it has decided to publicise on its shirts the local Acorns Children's Hospice. That will bring awareness and funds to a fantastic charity. I hope only that other Premiership and professional soccer clubs will follow suit. Of course they have to run a business, but they have so much influence that they can help others in need. The Government can create the atmosphere to encourage clubs to do so.

I remember when Clyde Best, a black player from Bermuda, played for West Ham in the 1970s. He and other black players were subject to a lot of racist taunts. His pace could have been his fortune but he never fulfilled his potential, partly for that reason. Thankfully, the image of the game has changed radically in Britain since then. Now most teams in the football league, especially in the premier division, have black stars, but more needs to be done to encourage members of the black and ethnic-minority communities to become managers, coaches and trainers. However, the responsibility works both ways. The problems concerning gun and knife crime in the inner cities have been well documented. Sport can be a channel away from such activity. It can teach discipline and respect for others. But it is no use being young, gifted and slack. More people from the black community need to come forward and get involved as coaches and sports mentors.

I am a director of the Warwick Leadership Foundation charity. Part of its work is to partner groups in the inner cities, to provide role models and inspiration for young people. The noble Lord, Lord Pendry, alluded to the fact that the answer does not lie only with the Government. The WLF employs that partnership principle and the Government need to do more to partner certain groups, such as faith groups, charities and other voluntary organisations. The Warwick Leadership Foundation has a particular link with the black-majority churches. Those churches are almost the untold story of Britain. Often you can get 2,000 people attending one church service. Within those communities, there are potential stars—players, coaches and mentors—but they are not in the loop; they do not know how to engage with the wider community. The Government would make great progress by reaching out to those groups and partnering them.

I spent 18 years as a barrister, mainly a criminal barrister, at the Old Bailey and a few years as a judge. It saddened me to see young men, especially black men, with ability, especially sporting ability, wasting their lives time after time. I remember sitting in a cell with a young man who had just been sentenced to five years for robbery. He said to me, “D’you know what? I could have played for Arsenal”. I said, “I’m afraid it’s too late for that. You should have thought of that before you committed the robbery”. I am not excusing such young men, but many of them lack role models and inspiration. Inspiration cannot be taught—it is caught. The Government need to understand that, when that young man went to prison, it was bad not only for him but for Britain, because we all suffer as a result. The one thing I learnt from my years at the criminal Bar was the tragic waste in talent that exists in our prison system, which is overflowing. More young black men are in prison than in college, which is very sad. What thoughts and plans does the Minister have to engage those young men and women wasting their talent who could become sports stars of the future? They are not bad people; they just lack the right direction, motivation and inspiration.

The Government still have a lot of work to do. They set a target of five hours of sport per week for schoolchildren. I say with respect that the noble Lord, Lord Pendry, presented a rather rosy picture of the Government’s achievements, in my humble view. Their own figures show that nearly 1 million children are not getting the basic two hours of sport that they previously aspired to. That is failure, not success. The Government's Licensing Act has increased bureaucracy and cost voluntary sports clubs more than £2.6 million in its first year. That makes life difficult for voluntary clubs such as Ilford Town football and athletics club to operate; I have the privilege of being its honorary president.

I still feel that the Government need to grapple with the partnership principle. I do not dispute that they have spent money, but what is important is not just how much money but how effective it is. My plea to the Government is to cut the red tape. Small clubs simply cannot operate with regulation after regulation. They want the winning tape, not the red tape. Again, I should like to hear from the Minister what plans there are to simplify the system.

Many young men and women enjoy amateur sports. My father was the first black referee in the Birmingham amateur league back in the 1970s. He was very popular. In fact, teams used to request my father to be the referee, not because he was black but because he was good. I would go along with him and see these young men and women giving their time every Saturday and Sunday morning. They believed that they could be successful in their own way, although they never became soccer stars. At grassroots level there is a real passion for games such as soccer and cricket, and I feel that in many ways the Government are stifling that passion.

Furthermore, it is an unwelcome fact that, according to a survey by Sport England, around a third of people stop playing sport when they reach school-leaving age. As a nation, we are living longer, but living longer does not mean living better. The message that sport is for all, not just the young, needs to be promoted more by this Government. I spent a rather average time as an Aston Villa youth player, but now that I am in my fifties I am still hopeful of making my first team debut for that club. I believe that it has my contact numbers.

My Lords, it is almost exactly a year since my noble friend Lord Pendry last secured a debate on sport and, once again, he is to be congratulated on organising today’s debate and on the speech that he made in introducing it. I particularly endorse what he said about ticket touting, which is an issue that I have taken up in this House on more than one occasion.

I remember that in that debate, on 28 June last year, I spoke at some length about the changes that were under way at the Football Association. These have now substantially been carried through. The FA Council’s membership has been expanded to include players, managers, referees, women’s football, ethnic minorities, disability football, supporters and the senior levels of non-league football; they have established the semi-autonomous Football Regulatory Authority—that is their description of it—and they have appointed my noble friend Lord Triesman as their first independent chairman. I know that he carries the good wishes of us all as he seeks to drive forward the necessary changes in the governance of the game.

Looked at purely in financial terms, the state of the game in England has never been healthier. The Premiership continues to attract almost undreamt-of levels of income, and even the Championship—the old Football League second division—is reported to be the sixth wealthiest league in the world. The European Champions League final was contested by two English teams, and for every Ronaldo who thinks of leaving these shores, there are dozens of other foreign footballers anxious to play here.

Yet, all is not quite as rosy as it looks. The greatest disappointment that England fans are having to put up with this month, together with the Scots, the Welsh and the Northern Irish, is to stay at home and watch 16 other countries contest the Euro 2008 championship because none of the home nations qualified. Although none of us expects Ministers to pick the England side, or even the team manager, it is appropriate to ask whether there is a role for the Government in creating a climate in which home-grown talent can thrive and challenge for places in our leading club sides, and thus better develop their skills in preparation for being chosen for the national team.

Perhaps when he replies my noble friend would like to comment on Mr Sepp Blatter’s proposal, which was overwhelmingly carried at the recent FIFA congress in Sydney, that by 2012 there should be at least six players in every starting line-up of 11 eligible to play for the national team of the country of the club. Our FA representatives in Sydney voted for this on the basis that:

“Bringing through more high-quality English players in the future is an absolute priority for the FA”.

However, if you go on to read the rest of their statement, you get the feeling that they think it will never happen, because they add:

“One of our reservations has always been that the ‘six-plus-five’ rule appears to contravene European law and we welcome further exploration of its legality”.

Can my noble friend say whether the Government would support moves to establish a “specificity of sport” rule, which would effectively provide a get-out from European employment legislation?

Staying in somewhat controversial territory, I referred a moment ago to the FA’s decision to establish the Football Regulatory Authority. More than eight years ago, the Government’s Football Task Force, on which I was proud to serve as vice-chairman, addressed the issue of independent regulation. The majority of our members signed a report which said that, if the game were not able to provide clear leadership in this area, the Government should consider the establishment of a statutory regulator.

It is no secret that the present Secretary of State, my right honourable friend Andy Burnham MP, who worked as our administrator on the task force, took that view. However, perhaps not surprisingly, the Government have tried to stay clear of the debate and have sought to rely on the Football Association to provide leadership as the game’s governing body. The adoption of much of the report written by the noble Lord, Lord Burns, has moved them in this direction and the FA’s Football Regulatory Authority is the outcome. However, if I am allowed one Latin quotation from Juvenal, quis custodiet ipsos custodes?—who will regulate the regulators? Until this year, the answer would have been the Independent Football Commission, the body set up by the game and the Government in 2000 to evaluate the performance of the governing bodies in managing football—a self-regulatory response to the final report of the Football Task Force.

In the words of the chair of the IFC, Professor Derek Fraser, in his valedictory annual report:

“The football authorities, who created the IFC in the first place, have now decided that the IFC experiment has run its course and something different is required”.

The “something different” is an independent football ombudsman to be created in time for next season. According to the FA’s website:

“The IFO will have a clear remit to receive and adjudicate on complaints from football supporters and participants which have not been resolved by the football authorities, and to raise any policy issues which have been highlighted by those complaints, directly with The FA, Premier League and The Football League”.

However, it does not look to me or to Professor Fraser that the IFO will be encouraged to monitor the implementation of the Burns report in the way that the IFC would have done, so perhaps, either today or later in writing if he prefers, my noble friend could let me know how the Government envisage that this job will be done in future.

In the month that the IFC is disappearing, it would be appropriate to pay tribute to the work that Professor Fraser and his colleagues have done over the past eight years. They have produced some reports of outstanding quality, and influenced for the better decisions on financial management, the introduction of a fit and proper persons test, better governance arrangements, equal opportunity, diversity and anti-racist initiatives, child protection, community programmes and customer relations. A lot of this is unfinished business and, in the absence of the IFC, a heavier responsibility is placed on the football authorities to keep driving those initiatives forward.

One initiative in which I have a particular interest is the provision of facilities for disabled people at sports grounds. My noble friend will recall that I asked an Oral Question about this in the Chamber on 29 April. In reply, he referred to the letter sent earlier this year by Gerry Sutcliffe, the sports Minister, to the football authorities reminding them of their responsibility to follow the guidance contained in the Accessible Stadia document produced by the Football Licensing Authority, which also builds on one of the major reports of the Football Task Force. Mr Sutcliffe encouraged all Premier League and Football League clubs,

“to work with local disabled supporters’ groups to ensure that the experience of visiting their ground is equal for both disabled and able-bodied fans”.

That is strongly supported by an Early Day Motion on the Order Paper in the other place, which has attracted more than 100 signatures. It,

“calls on all football clubs to measure their disabled supporter facilities against the Accessible Stadia Guide and Football Task Force recommendations and make a commitment to reach an equality of supporter experience for all football fans as set out in the National Association of Disabled Supporters Blueprint”.

There is one aspect of this issue on which I would appreciate the help of my noble friend; it relates to assessing how much work needs to be done. Between 2000 and 2002, the National Association of Disabled Supporters carried out access assessments at each professional club, and it is my understanding that most clubs conducted access audits in 2004-05. There is now a fear that we have taken our eye off the ball and that little monitoring has been conducted in the past three years. Indeed, the Minister for Sport answered a Question from the Liberal Democrat spokesperson in the other place on 2 June; the exchange went like this:

Mr. Don Foster: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport how many Premiership football clubs' stadia meet the needs of disabled spectators and other users in accordance with the accessible stadia guide …

Mr. Sutcliffe: The Government do not hold or collate this information”.—[Official Report, Commons, 2/6/08; col. 615W.]

To which my only response is: why not? Surely, if we are serious about ensuring that our football grounds become accessible to disabled people, the Government must monitor, report on and if necessary, cajole the authorities.

I should explain that I have an interest in this area as a vice-president of the National Association of Disabled Supporters. I have a similar unpaid position with the Football Conference. Most noble Lords will know that it involves the level of football immediately below the Football League. The conference league is a unique competition; it has a rich mix of long-term member clubs, some former members of the Football League and clubs that have risen through non-league football, known as the national league system, to experience national competition for the first time.

These clubs are as vital to their local communities as those in the Premier League and Football League. The conference league recently conducted a survey of all of its member clubs so that we could assess what they did in the areas of community involvement and football development. Of the 68 clubs in the competition, 67 responded. This exceptional response demonstrated that football clubs, at every level of the game, have a part to play in their local community. Thirty-five—more than half—organise some form of community activity. Mostly, these projects are funded by the clubs themselves or an associated charity: they raise their own funds, grant aid or sponsorship.

Community activities include coaching, work with schools, special projects with disability groups, pre-school breakfast clubs, street football, a special needs theatre group, a reading project, several healthy living initiatives, kick out racism projects and a club for retired people. There are six study support centres—a further two are in the pipeline—which run in conjunction with the Department for Children, Schools and Families' Playing for Success initiative, and nine girls-only programmes.

It is hard to overestimate the value of this work or its impact on the lives of those taking part in the activities. Many clubs are working in deprived areas where there is no other football-based community work. In addition, more than 70 per cent of conference clubs offer youth development programmes, covering all age groups from eight to 18 for boys and girls. At least 6,000 young people are being involved in sport at these clubs. Their community programmes run regular coaching courses at schools outside school time. Most clubs offer the highest standard of football in their local areas—they do not always have Football League clubs in their immediate vicinity. Their work should be doubly applauded because, unlike the Premier League and Football League clubs, their central income from sponsorship and television is much smaller. They are under no compulsion to undertake youth football development or community initiatives. That happens because the clubs choose to do so.

I bring these issues to the Government's attention because, in the words of my noble friend's Motion, any,

“new sport and physical education strategy”,

needs to take account of the contribution that clubs in the Football Conference in particular, and in the national league system generally, can make towards it.

I have described briefly what is already being achieved with the most limited financial resources. Think, my Lords, how much more could be done with realistic levels of funding. I conclude by encouraging the Government to use their considerable influence with the Football Foundation to ensure that this is delivered in future.

My Lords, I, too, congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Pendry, on securing this debate and on emphasising the centrality of sport and physical activity in all aspects of life. I want to take one of those aspects—that is, the relationship between activity, sport and health—and stretch it a bit. Before doing so, I also pay tribute to the noble Lord for his analysis of the evidence involving health and the clear demonstration that there now is of the importance of physical activity and sport in many different aspects of health, mental as well as physical.

I want to add a further point: internationally—the noble Lord raised the example of Finland—these issues will become ever more important. As developing countries become more affluent, you see the growth in lifestyle diseases and the problems of affluence, which include the sorts of problems that we are suffering from. The issues that we are raising in this debate are important on the international scene as well.

I want to stretch the discussion a bit by talking more about not just physical health but mental health and well-being—the noble Lord, Lord Pendry, raised that—social health and spiritual health. We have known for a long time of the association between physical activity and all these other aspects of health. The Victorians knew about it but, for quite a long time, we seem to have lost it from public policy. Sport and physical activity was an add-on to education. I speak as one who was a member of the National Playing Fields Association and campaigned for the retention of school playing fields on the grounds that sport was not just an add-on but was quite often a subtraction, as has already been said. In reality, if noble Lords will excuse me extending the analogy, it needs to be much more of a multiplier and should benefit whatever else is going on in a school and a child’s development.

For any new strategy, the key issue is whether it will be genuinely cross-governmental with commitments from all the relevant parts of government. I am sure that the words will be cross-governmental, but the key is that this needs not just joined-up thinking but joined-up implementation and it should be accompanied by an appropriate implementation plan. Let me take three examples, which I think will be tests of the new strategy. The first is for the Department of Health and people working in health. I pick the aspect raised by the noble Lord, Lord Pendry: mental health. We know that people suffering from mental illness are often very isolated from society and occupied within themselves. We also know that there is good evidence that physical activity is beneficial clinically. Will the strategy specifically address that sort of issue? Will it deal not just with the young and healthy but with the older, the infirm and those who are mentally ill? Will we take the opportunity of the Olympics, as friends of mine in east London have said, to draw into sport people from all sectors of society who are not normally engaged in sport?

The second question is more for the Department for Communities and Local Government. How will such a strategy tackle the issues of social inclusion and social coherence? I was struck by the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, about issues to do with particular sectors of our society and people from black and minority ethnic communities. One again thinks of girls and women, as the noble Lord said. How will that be addressed, particularly in view of the fact that we know that some of those communities are especially vulnerable to some lifestyle diseases? The one statistic that I will add to those given by the noble Lord, Lord Pendry, is that people from south Asian backgrounds are, I believe, six times more likely to get diabetes type 2 than those from the majority community. It is important that the strategy reaches everywhere.

I want to emphasise, however, how this will be linked into education. I recognise that a great deal is already going on, that the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority is seeking the development of a new integrated curriculum and that Every Child Matters lays responsibilities on departments to bring all those activities together. But let me give one example that I came across recently, the kind of example that needs to be tackled if we are to have joined-up implementation. It reminds me of the interesting quote from the noble Lord, Lord Taylor—if I wrote it down properly—to the effect that inspiration cannot be taught, it can only be caught. David Hemery, the Olympic athlete, is leading a programme called Olympian for Life. The aim of this unique and special project is to inspire and empower young people and to help them become independent thinkers. That is the starting point; it is not immediately about sport and physical activity. He says:

“We kick off the time with a visit from an Olympian, a Paralympian or other special achiever and following their motivational story we let the children know that during the next term we will help them to identify their dreams and establish a success map to start their journey and look at what it would mean to Live Olympian”—

this is really important—

“being the best they could be in body, mind, emotion and spirit, plus a look at what Olympism and Olympic values mean”.

David Hemery talks about four intelligences: physical intelligence, intellectual intelligence, emotional intelligence and spiritual intelligence, and the importance of all of them being linked. I would ask the Government whether they will be ambitious enough in their aims for the new strategy. Will they see the linkage that David Hemery examples in the four intelligences, with physical intelligence linked with the intellectual, emotional and spiritual intelligences and all the interactions that go with that?

I am not here to speak for the project. It looks very good to me, but I do not know the details. However, it raises the big question of how ambitious we want to be and how fully integrated we think sport and physical activity need to be with every other aspect of development of the whole child. For me, it raises two questions. First, in practice, how does a good deal like that get backing? I know that not every idea is good, and that not every good idea is timely or can be followed through. I also know that the Government sometimes have their own plans. The key is what mechanisms there are to enable a practical project which seeks to implement the fine words of strategy. How do we ensure that implementation is followed through and that we understand not only joined-up thinking but also joined-up implementation and that the various departments involved will work together?

Secondly, I shall not give any tales of sporting prowess, but I remember from my schooldays and from friends' schooldays that we probably divided into two sorts: those who liked all the sporting activities and those who rather loathed them. I know numbers in the second category, although I am sure that there are none in the Chamber, as they would not be taking part in this debate. I know life has moved on and that, with recent policy, there is much more emphasis on physical activity. I know that there are many interesting examples, such as schools in London, where the children have short breaks for physical activity interspersed with academic activity. It is recognised that that helps people to learn better. If that is really to be integrated in schools, implementation depends not only on a plan but on individuals.

My question concerns what any strategy will do about motivating the teachers. This is actually about sport in education, not for PE teachers but for all teachers, and about understanding how that links in with all other aspects of life. What is being done about that? In such a strategy, who will ensure that teachers and not just their pupils are Olympians for life?

I am delighted to take part in this debate. I very much support the emphasis on physical activity, physical education and sport. Coming from a health background, I know that health improves only where it is linked with education, activity, diet and all aspects of our lives. It is an all-round programme. I also know that research demonstrates that but that we need to undertake important research to show not just the links between physical activity and health, but what we need to do to make those links work effectively. That is another very practical point about implementation.

Slightly tongue in cheek, I also wonder whether the Government will learn from sport. One of the chairs in my previous life was a man called Sir Brian Smith who used to use a sporting analogy in talking about how management had changed. He recalled how when he was a young man playing games of rugby, hockey, and football people played in a fixed position either as a centre-forward, left-back or full-back and they stayed in that position, as though they were pieces in a table football team. Over the years, however, the game has developed and people started moving about and backing each other up. There are now different formations and people fill in and multitask; they flex according to how the game is going and they flex to each other. Noble Lords can see where my analogy is going. Can the Government move away from the basis of independent departments working within their fixed domains? Can those departments play the modern game?

My Lords, like others, I congratulate my noble friend Lord Pendry on providing us with the opportunity to debate this important issue, in which he has taken a close interest and over which he has had a positive and powerful influence for many years.

Much as I enjoy watching and celebrating the successes of our top teams and top sportsmen and sportswomen, my greater area of interest is in sport and participation in sport at the less exalted levels, where the money, the adulation and hero worshipping do not flow so readily but where the enthusiasm, commitment and dedication of the participants and those who coach and organise the activities, often in their own free time without financial reward, know no bounds. Such people need support and encouragement, including financial support, and I believe that the Government have done a great deal in this direction.

Last year, I completed a parliamentary sports fellowship. The organisation with which I was particularly involved was Sport England. I was able to visit some of the projects in which it had played a major role with its partners in getting them up and running in different parts of the country. Sport England is concerned with the less glamorous side of the sporting scene—the grass-roots and community level of sports participation—although, through the support that it gives, a small number of highly talented individuals develop their skills to such a level that they come under the umbrella of UK Sport, the organisation geared to the needs of our top performers.

Sport England is not just about financing investment in infrastructure and facilities, important though that is. It also plays a key role in ensuring that appropriately qualified staff, including coaches, are provided to enable and to encourage people of all ages and from all backgrounds to take up a physical or sporting activity. I want to mention some aspects of the work that Sport England is doing and has done with the younger generation.

Sport England has been involved in the Government’s physical education and sport strategy for young people from its outset in April 2003. The Government provide funding. Sport England’s aim is to reduce the number of children dropping out of sport at age 16. One important way of doing that is through delivering the community and club element of the five-hour sport offer, to which my noble friend Lord Pendry referred.

The original target in 2003 was to offer all five to 16 year-olds two hours of high-quality physical education and school sport a week within and beyond the school day. In the summer of last year, the Prime Minister announced that five to 16 year-olds would be offered up to five hours of sport a week, with 16 to 19 year-olds having three hours, because they do not do curriculum PE. He also announced an additional £100 million investment. Sport England’s investment increases from just over £8 million in 2007-08 to £23.1 million each year from 2008-09. Total government investment in school sport and the five-hour sport offer has been over £1 billion for the five years to March 2008. The take-up of the two-hour offer, which was the original objective in 2003, has risen from an estimated 25 per cent of five to 16 year-olds in 2002 to 86 per cent in 2007. The progress made has exceeded the target set in 2003, which was for 75 per cent of schoolchildren to be doing at least two hours of sport a week by 2006, rising to 85 per cent by 2008. That is not failure, as was suggested earlier, but success.

As my noble friend Lord Pendry said, playing fields now have the best ever protection through government planning regulations and arrangements. Schools are not allowed to sell playing fields that they or their communities need for sport. More playing fields are now being created than lost. In its last annual review, which was for 2006-07, Sport England reported that the most recent 12-monthly figures then available showed that 62 brand-new playing fields had been created, a number that had grown for the second year running, and that only two had been completely lost.

The percentage of children and young people participating in club sports has also risen, from 19 per cent in 2003-04 to 29 per cent in 2006-07, and the percentage of older pupils involved in sports volunteering, whether in mentoring, coaching or helping to organise activities, has risen from 9 per cent in 2003-04 to 17 per cent in 2006-07.

As I saw, Sport England has been playing, and will continue to play, a leading role in creating more and stronger links between schools and sports clubs, a role that is vital if we are to reduce the figure of 25,000 16 year-olds who drop out of sport every year. Sport England also works to provide volunteering and leadership opportunities in sport by providing the training facilities to enable people, including young people, to take on that kind of role by developing their own skills and involvement in a range of activities and through that work to provide the encouragement and organisation to enable others to continue or begin their association with sport.

Creating additional supply and demand within community sport and clubs is a further area of activity for Sport England. While providing the physical infrastructure is important, at least as important is providing resources for qualified staff to coach, train and manage so that existing facilities can be used and developed to maximum effect and benefit and so that activities can be extended.

Sport England seeks to work through national sports governing bodies. I hope that the Government have stressed to all governing bodies that, working with Sport England, they have a responsibility for increasing participation rates in their sport within the community as a whole and that it will be unacceptable if they direct a disproportionate amount of their time, commitment and financial resources to the development and promotion of the top clubs and top sportsmen and sportswomen within their particular sport at the expense of increasing overall participation rates. I hope that financial and other resources from Sport England to national governing bodies will be conditional on their producing acceptable plans on how they intend to increase participation rates across the community, including among young people, women and black and minority ethnic groups. I hope that the Minister will feel able to say clearly and specifically that that is the Government’s position.

Of course, some governing bodies are already doing good work in encouraging more involvement in their sport within the wider community. One such sport is cricket. “Chance to Shine” is the Cricket Foundation’s campaign to revive and develop competitive cricket in state schools and, in so doing, to achieve the wider community benefits that the impact on participants of involvement in team sports and well managed competition can bring. The campaign was launched three years ago with the objective of raising £25 million of private funding, which the National Sports Foundation, led by the Government and administered by Sport England, is committed to matching pound for pound. In 2005, Cricket Foundation research showed that less than 10 per cent of state schools offered pupils opportunities to take part in at least five organised matches per year. The aim is to establish, over 10 years, a sustainable cricket culture within at least one-third of all state schools in England and Wales and in the process to reach some 2 million young people, both boys and girls. I am sure that this is the kind of sports project that the Government are seeking to encourage and develop across a broad front.

Of course, sport is not just about young people. Half the adult population—those of 16 years of age or older—do not participate in sport on a regular basis. The ambition of Sport England is to get 2 million people doing more sport by 2012. The target level of sports activity is 30 minutes at least three times a week. Twenty-one per cent of adults currently achieve that target and 28 per cent do sport between one and three times a week. When we break down the 21 per cent of adults who currently achieve the target, the figure is just over 19 per cent from black and minority ethnic groups, 9.5 per cent of those with a limiting disability, just over 15 per cent of those from lower socio-economic groups and 18.5 per cent of females.

Improving those figures needs resources. In 2006-07, Sport England, financed by National Lottery and Exchequer funding, invested in a range of areas including: £64 million into the 38 national sports governing bodies; just over £4 million into school-club links to connect schools, sports clubs and children; some £38 million as part of a five-year programme to improve sports clubs’ organisation and facilities, including more coaching staff, to further raise the skills, particularly of those with identified potential, at those clubs; over £10 million on a programme launched in 2005 that has already exceeded its objective by training and providing over 3,300 community sport coaches working locally running after-school sessions and developing club sport; over £14 million capital investment in community club development projects; and £4 million in encouraging teenagers to play a variety of volunteering roles in sport, including managing events and facilities and running clubs, as well as taking on assistant coaching and refereeing roles. Also in 2006-07, nearly £17 million from National Lottery funding went into over 230 regional sports projects and over £9 million went into the 49 county sports partnerships to help the delivery of sport within counties.

All these areas of activity, like the work being done to increase the involvement in sport of young people, receive very little publicity, with very little credit given for the many thousands of individuals, the organisations such as Sport England and local government that, with government and lottery funding, are enabling real progress to be made. Taking part in sport and physical activity not only offers a purposeful pursuit and keeps people healthy, but can help to develop leadership and teamwork skills, build confidence and provide participants with a real sense of achievement.

I appreciate that a balance has to be drawn between, on the one hand, investing to meet the needs of our potential and actual top sportsmen and sportswomen and the stimulus and enjoyment that their achievements can provide to many others and, on the other, the benefits, not only to the millions of individuals concerned but also to the community as a whole, of investing to encourage and facilitate an increase in sporting and physical activity among the population as a whole. It is not an either/or situation. However, money spent on grass-roots community sport and physical activity is money well spent, as this Government have recognised through the resources that they have provided. I hope that the Minister will, as well as responding to the specific points that I have raised, be able to indicate how the Government intend to make still further progress in developing and facilitating involvement and participation at the less exalted and less publicised levels of the sports pyramid and in so doing provide further encouragement to those many thousands of individuals and organisations that work so hard and contribute so much in this field.

My Lords, I am extremely grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Pendry, for introducing this debate. I never use the word “congratulate” because it means to thank collectively, and I would like to thank him individually because I have the advantage of knowing more about what he has done in this world than he knows about what I have done. I have spent most of my life as an ungifted amateur trying to play every game, including politics—never with much success. At school, I was slightly hyperactive, and instead of the required nine hours a week—we should normally have done 11 hours—I would do 20. We had to go on three-mile and six-mile runs. We had to play every game, and I would get up early, probably because I was not sufficiently academic. I wanted to be good at cricket but I was not; I was always the promising cricketer. Although I have been in your Lordships’ House for 45 years, I have been a member of the MCC for 47 years, because I was then a promising cricketer whose career was never realised. I wear the tie today because the ball will be swinging in every direction at Trent Bridge today, no doubt guided by the ancestors of my noble friend here.

This physical exercise has its penalties. As your Lordships may see from time to time in this House, there are people wandering around who have certain difficulties. A little while ago, I was one of them. Both my knees went, and I could not admit that anything was wrong. I happened to be abroad at the time, and I saw a very nice French doctor called Dr Villemin, who said after looking at me, “Monsieur, you are obviously not academic”. I thought he said that I was stupid. He said, “No, you see, the thing about academics is that they do not take much exercise so their bones and bodies do not wear out. I am sure you will find that in your Lordships’ House when you return”.

Perhaps it was my hyperactivity that led one day to a civil servant ringing me up and saying that my name had been put forward to be chairman of a new body that was being established by Peter Shore, with the support of Denis Howell, called the Greater London and South-East Regional Sports and Recreation Council, the mandate of which was to develop sport and recreation throughout Greater London, Surrey, Sussex and Kent—so help me God—looking after one-third of the population for one-third of the time when they were not working or sleeping. I do not know why; I think I was appointed only because the Labour Party in those days would choose for unpaid jobs young, hereditary, chinless-wonder, Conservative merchant-banking Peers. I am not saying who got the well paid jobs at the time.

I was then introduced to my secretary, Colonel Boris Garside, a remarkable man who immediately said, “You may call me Garside or Colonel, but I would prefer not Boris. I will call you my Lord”. For me, who was only a junior officer in the Navy, this was almost an insult, but it was a great promotion. For six years under Peter Shore and another six years under Michael Heseltine, I had enormous fun dealing with the greatest bureaucracy the world has ever created. On our council was every governing body of sport: the Royal Parks Agency, the Army, the Navy, the Royal Air Force—you name it; there was every local planning authority and everyone else. Worst of all, my mother turned up. She was on ILEA and Westminster City Council when she became Lord Mayor. She did not know I was chairman and asked me what I was doing at the meeting.

At the beginning of the meetings, someone would say, “Mr Chairman”, someone else would say, “On a point of order; it should be ‘My Lord Chairman’”, and someone else would then say, “It should be ‘chair’”. One of the great leaders of the trade union movement here said, “When you have your meetings, why do you not hold them on a Friday before a bank holiday, preferably an August bank holiday, send out the letters by second-class post because they are deemed to have arrived on the date of the postmark, and hold the meeting somewhere strange”. So we held our first big annual general meeting at Alexandra Palace on an August bank holiday. The idea was that the chairman would call the meeting to order and there would be the argument about “chair”, “Lord Chairman” or whatever. Then a roll call was proposed, and it was proposed that those who were present should be noted by a show of hands. Those who were not present and who had apologised for their absence would also be noted. Those who were not present but who had not apologised for their absence would also be noted; they had shown discourtesy to the meeting, and the chairman would have the right to their votes. At the time, therefore, I had the majority vote.

We had no money. We did, however, have the sports council, and we were allocated the right to something like £27 million a year. When we started to have our fun, we thought, “Would it not be a good idea if we could be good at cricket again? What about the villages?”. We partly started the village cricket scheme. I went to see the MCC, which wanted a new sports centre. It wanted funding for it, as all those people did, but it did not want it to be available to anyone other than the children of MCC members. After a lot of argument, we agreed that every MCC member who had a child would agree to sign the form for others. We then watched different schools coming to the centre, because cricket was a great leveller. It was then deemed to be a good idea to run and to jog.

Robin Marler was a great friend of mine and a cricket correspondent at the Times. Suddenly the Sunday Times decided that it would have a fun run. People would get up early and run around Hyde Park. They got a shock; 3,000 people got up in the morning and ran around Hyde Park, which led to the Sunday Times saying, “That’s not long enough. Let’s run a bit further”. With Chris Brasher, the London Marathon started. I was asked to deal with the inner city and Docklands. We were asked if we could build a big arena there called the London Arena, but of course no one had any money. We managed to get the marathon to run through Docklands on the Isle of Dogs. In those days, the LDDC had a picture of a crow with the caption, “Why be in the middle of nowhere when you can fly to the centre of … ?”—whatever it was. I got a lot of friends to dress up in crow clothes, which the LDDC provided. They went around on roller skates with buckets, and we raised £232 and then £15 million. We built the arena, but then came the Bradford fire.

With the Bradford fire came an, “Uh oh”. The arena building was built on the site of an old banana shed. It was a difficult building, but it was allocated and it was big enough to have many tennis courts inside. We were going to have the Amateur Athletic Association, with an up-and-down running track and 12,000 seats that would come out. It was brilliant, but we were not allowed to use it because technically it did not exist; it belonged to the Port of London Authority. For it to exist, it had to come under new planning rules and be deemed to exist. It was therefore not suitable for anyone to be inside it, even though we could put fire engines with pumps outside. We had enormous fun in the end. We held pop concerts there.

In the midst of this, I had the difficulty of being a hereditary Conservative merchant-banking Peer down in the East End. What they did not know was that my father went into motor racing after leaving school. He died very young, but he had boxed and wrestled for charity on the Isle of Dogs under the name of “The White Eagle”. As soon as that was known, one day when I was down there a little old bird gave me a nudge and said, “Hello, how are you?”. I said, “Hello, who are you?”. “Oh”, she said, “How’s your da?”. I said, “He died in 1963”. She said, “I thought I hadn’t seen him around. You know, you shouldn’t be a Conservative”. From that day on I wanted to be an unknown Peer. I became the well known Labour Peer, which opened up everything to me in that part of the world and we got on with whatever we could think of.

Then we needed to deal with the inner cities. The East End was fantastic. You have to deal with the street. Your Lordships may remember the Scarman inquiry in Brixton. Lord Scarman was a great chap, so I went there and we decided that we would appoint ethnic minority group leaders. That was the first time I heard the phrase “ethnic minority groups”. We wanted to give them £10,000 a year and I suggested that we give some of them cash. That was probably against all the rules, but I managed to get the cash from outside the government system. I had a great ethnic minority leader from Jamaica—I was conceived on the beach out there—called Mr Rasta. He called me Mr Lord.

Mr Rasta taught me the street business. Up in the streets, you give a bunch of people a ball and two basket nets, which we did in Brixton, and you watch a child bounce a ball off a kerb and send it back over his shoulder to his friends. If he was tall, under the rules he would often be allowed to put a small child on his shoulder so that he could score. That little activity led to tremendous fun. Over that period, we ended up producing the government regional recreational strategy. I shall dig out a copy and send it to the noble Lord, Lord Pendry, because many of the things in it have been discussed today and are still around. The playing fields were being closed. ILEA was selling its land. People were thinking only of money and not of the spirit that you can bring out with a bunch of individuals. I could go on about every sport.

My final punishment concerns my fear of heights. I do not know why I have that fear. I should really be sitting on a lower Bench, but I have always thought that. One day, it was decided that I should lead a major abseiling attempt for charity. I had never abseiled. Suddenly into my office in the City came a Royal Marine sergeant and a corporal. They had a rope and said, “If you’re ready, you can jump out of the window”, and they showed me what to do. Two days later I found myself in the wind, 400 and something feet up, on top of the Prudential building doing a jump for charity. But they did not tell me that if you are that high up, and standing on the edge with your gloves on, the weight of the rope is so great that you have to pull yourself down. I dropped off a plank for about 20 feet and was stuck. Everyone was shouting at me and I have never been so frightened in my life.

But there are always benefits, and before I close I shall return to cricket and to my noble friend. I used to be chairman of the Middle East trade committee and take missions out to difficult places like Saudi Arabia. We were trying to take over all the redevelopment of Riyadh when the Saudi Government were going to move there and I was taking out a team. One of the greatest teams in the Midlands—I will not mention the name of the company—made lovely cast-iron street furniture, including lamps and so on. It produced wonderful designs using the Saudi palm leaf. However, the owner of the company fell ill at the last moment and said that he would send a substitute.

At the airport, we suddenly found that his substitute, who was in long skirts rather like Madam Thatcher, was his wife. At that time, it was quite difficult for a woman to go on a mission to Saudi Arabia. However, she was there to sell street furniture. The engineers who were with me and others had a sense of humour. She was the vice-captain of the English cricket team, so you can imagine some of the remarks that a tough bunch of men were going to say to her. One of my favourites is a bit near the bone, but noble Lords will not mind. They said, “How do you protect yourselves. We men wear boxes”. She said, “We use manhole covers”, which was her main product. That week she sold 300 manhole covers with the coat of arms design to Saudi Arabia.

When I came back, a little note in the press, instead of referring to me as a trade man, said, “Lord of cricket arrives”. Weeks later, I returned to find a letter addressed to His Excellency Sir Lord Malcolm Selsdon Esquire, House of Lords, MCC, London. The letter said, “Dear Lord, how big are your balls? Our children’s balls are four and three-quarters, but we think they should be five and a half. Could you give a ruling?”. This was a letter from a Pakistan cricket coach wanting to know what size balls should be used for children. In those six years, I had tremendous fun. We did something, but it was the individual people who brought it alive from the grassroots upward and not from the top down. I believe that that is where we should go today.

My Lords, I, too, congratulate my noble friend Lord Pendry on initiating this long overdue debate. I am exceedingly glad to see that the Government are refreshing their activities around these important areas. First, I should declare an interest as vice-president of Birchfield Harriers, the premier athletics club in Birmingham and one of the great clubs in the country. I shall be there on Sunday morning and afternoon at a men’s event, which follows the women’s events on Saturday. I shall be back again at the end of July for the AAA’s Olympic trial. However, I shall talk about tennis. I know that there is a tennis match on the television in our home when from the other end of the house I hear my wife screaming well meant advice at whoever is on the court. Unfortunately, Tim Henman did not take any notice of her, and she is hoping for more success with Andy Murray.

This week, many tennis fans will be following the French Open on the red clay courts in Paris, but not so many will be aware that this week also marks the official start of the grass court tennis season, with the first tournament taking place in the somewhat surprising setting of Surbiton. Very sensibly, the Lawn Tennis Association moves these events around centres across the whole of the country. The game is presently dominated by players from the eastern bloc because their youngsters seem to be more hungry for success than our players. In the run-up to Wimbledon there will be the inevitable chorus of voices bemoaning the lack of British champions on the tennis scene, and I confess that I have joined my wife in similar criticisms in the past. But apart from Andy Murray and his brother Jamie, there is promise of improvement.

In the women’s game in particular, progress is now being made. Britain now has five female players in the top 200, up from two only 12 months ago. Two weeks ago, Anne Keothavong became the first female in nine years to break into the top 100 players. This follows the Lawn Tennis Association’s decision to put women’s tennis on an equal footing with the men’s game, increasing the support it provides to women players. It is strange to be saying that in 2008 and makes you wonder why it was not done 100 years ago.

Among the juniors, Laura Robson at only 14 is flying high in the ITF junior world rankings, and youngster George Morgan ended last year on a high, winning the prestigious 14 years and under “Orange Bowl” against the top international performers in his age group. He is already performing well at 18-and-under events, and there are currently nine boys in the top 100 of the ITF rankings. The challenge is to convert these results into success in the men’s game. In wheelchair tennis too, we enjoy continued success as a nation and are serious contenders for Paralympic medal success in Beijing. Peter Norfolk is the reigning US Open champion, Lucy Shuker is No 10 in the world rankings, and Gordon Reid and Jordanne Whiley are making rapid progress up the senior rankings.

In the past year, the Lawn Tennis Association, the national governing body for tennis, has put in place a systematic approach across the country to discover, develop and nurture our best players. This includes increasing the support it provides to its high performance clubs around the country as well as establishing a network of talent scouts. The scouts visit clubs and competitions to spot talented youngsters, and run a series of county, regional and national level “talent ID” days. A key priority is how to keep these juniors in the game and the LTA support for its performance club network is central to this. The very best juniors have access to world-class facilities and services on offer at the National Tennis Centre which opened last year as the new home of British tennis down the road in Roehampton. As noble Lords who take part in parliamentary tennis matches will know, the centre now serves Britain’s aspiring tennis players—including, of course, your Lordships.

Of course, facilities alone do not create champions, but they are important. We need the right talent development structures in place and we need our youngsters to work hard to make the most of the opportunities which are there for their taking. We also need to do more to create quality opportunities to play and compete in tennis and other sports available to all, as has already been said by noble Lords. An estimated 10 million people will watch Wimbledon on television this year, and many more will follow the results. But for too many, that is their involvement in the sport for the year.

Tennis is a sport that takes place all year round and can be played by men and women, boys and girls, aged from four to 84. Indeed, tennis is already one of the highest participation sports in the country, with around 900,000 adults playing once a month or more. Working alongside its charitable arm, the Tennis Foundation, the LTA is committed to further growing the game as well as helping people to stay involved in sport throughout their lives, alongside the work I have already described: identifying and developing future British talent.

The Government’s strategy for sport has already contributed to improvements in this area. For example, thanks to the renewed emphasis on active sport in schools, tennis is again extending its reach. According to last year’s School Sport Survey, tennis is now offered in 79 out of every 100 schools across the country, an increase of 9 per cent since 2003-04. The links between schools and tennis clubs are a key strand of the Government’s PE and School Sport and Club Links Strategy—a name to conjure with. They are now in place in 39 per cent of schools, which represents a substantial increase of 12 per cent on five years ago, when only 27 per cent of schools had such links in place.

Over the past five years, the Government’s community club development programme has contributed some £14 million towards the LTA’s investment in tennis facilities across Great Britain. This has been put towards the development of 109 new indoor tennis courts, floodlighting for 488 courts, 469 new outdoor courts and 54 “kid zones”.

There are approximately 13,800 courts across Great Britain, 7,000 of which do not have floodlights. I still bear the marks across my back from getting involved in a campaign in my former constituency of Birmingham Erdington where an active and growing tennis club wanted to put in floodlighting. Unfortunately there was a housing development on its boundary which did everything it could to stop it. Indeed, it succeeded in doing so, but it was worth the shot. Some 5,300 outdoor courts have floodlighting; there are 1,250 indoor tennis courts; 126 partially indoor tennis courts; and there are something like 10,000 tennis courts in parks. However, from my observation, many of these are poorly maintained and the Government’s emphasis on trying to regenerate many of our large, especially inner city, parks is to be much welcomed. I hope that it leads to local authorities finding the resources to bring those tennis courts up to scratch.

As ever, of course, more should and can be done. We expect the Government to announce in the next few days their plans for the future of community sport. I hope they will say how they plan to maximise the legacy of the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games and the decade of sport ahead of us. A renewed focus on growing sport, on sustaining participation and on helping talented youngsters to excel is critical to success in this drive and I look forward to seeing how sports such as tennis can maximise their impact going forward. However, I echo the point made by my noble friend Lord Rosser that it is not all about winning medals and competitions but taking part. Millions of people—it should be many millions more—find enjoyment in sport at levels much lower than championship level.

As I have said, tennis is one of the highest participation sports in the country and is a major spectator sport. Spectators have an important supporting role to play for our champions taking part in tournaments. It is good to have a crowd behind you. That is certainly the case at parliamentary elections, so why should it be any different on tennis courts, cricket fields and so on.

The Sport England Active People Survey 2005-06 found that 874,000 people aged 16-plus play tennis at least once a month. This makes tennis the ninth most popular participation activity among adults, higher if you exclude walking, going to the gym and recreational cycling. About 3,000 schools are members of the British Schools Tennis Association affiliated to the Lawn Tennis Association. The schools’ association offers a range of training courses for teachers involved in delivering tennis in our schools.

I am glad of the recognition that has been given, in the past five years in particular, to the importance of training and of the trainers and coaches who give their services on a voluntary basis. This is especially true in athletics. There will be literally dozens of unpaid volunteers at the athletics competition to which I am going on Sunday helping to make it possible. They give their time and take the training. It is absolutely magnificent to see the support that comes to such events in that way.

A great deal of money, effort and commitment is being spent to bring more young people onto the tennis courts, with expert scouts and coaching to nurture our future champions. I hope that in not too many years we can see its benefits on the tennis courts of the world.

My Lords, perhaps the noble Lord can answer a question that I asked when I first went to Wimbledon when it wanted money. We asked, “Why do we not win? Why do we organise the best ever championships historically and we do not win?”. The answer was, “It is because of the weather and we do not have indoor facilities”. Now we have all the facilities. I know much of what the noble Lord has been involved in, but I was always brought up to believe that if you have a winner, everyone wants to play. When and how can we expect to have a real winner?

As I tried to explain, my Lords, the Lawn Tennis Association is trying to discover, develop and nurture young talent. There are more young players now playing tennis; 79 per cent of schools have tennis facilities. Like any other sport, this has to be built from the bottom up, provided that there is investment there and that there are people to encourage and coach those wanting to take part in those activities. It is my experience that playing a mentoring, handholding, nurturing role to young people taking part in athletics—quite young, in some cases—pays the most enormous dividends, because they have someone with them as well as their parents who can help and watch them grow and keep refreshing their interest.

I do not doubt that we will find there is renewed interest every time there is an Olympic Games. It is one of the great ambitions of the London Olympics in 2012. We have to use that opportunity to stimulate not just interest in sport but interest in participation in active sport.

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Pendry, for introducing this subject again. Indeed, one feels that without him doing this no one else would, so we owe him an extra vote of thanks. On that little exchange at the end, I liked what the noble Lord, Lord Corbett, said about nurturing people and bringing them on. There is always a great danger with certain sports that you rely on the lucky and the brilliant. There will always be a few of those and they can cover up enormous faults in any sporting structure, so we must look at the overall number of people. I would be rather more impressed by tennis if it got five people into the top 100 than if it produced one person who won a Grand Slam. That is just an aside.

Two things come across that show why we should pay attention to sport and physical recreation. One is that it is good for us. As numerous noble Lords have said, having fit and healthy people will save us quite a lot of money in terms of the National Health Service. The other is that it is fun. If you bring those two facts together, you ask, “Why don’t we put more into it?”. I do not know the answer, but I have a theory that the people who run political parties, the backroom boys, do not really appreciate sport. Indeed, when the Conservative Government introduced some well meant educational changes, they demolished the school sports structure unintentionally, because, when teachers counted their hours, the old structure broke down of, “Oh, you play for the fourth team in whatever sport it is; you’re on the school’s second team”, although often without proper training. It was, let’s face it, not brilliantly organised and probably failed many present-day health and safety standards. It should have gone away, but not with the crash and bang with which it went.

The disappearance of school playing fields is probably another part of the same process. The Government can take credit for stopping the sale of school playing fields. I would be rather more impressed if they had brought the process to a grinding halt as opposed to slowing it down over several years and only just having stopped it. If they are boasting about it, I would listen more intently if there had been a grinding halt and then a rapid reversal. However, we are where we are.

Sporting structures are now having attention paid to them, possibly because of the fact that there was a small crisis in that area. Particularly in school-age sport, we have made great strides forward. The real question about the dozens of schemes that the Government brought out—I probably will not get an answer today—is which ones did not work best and which ones worked well. It would be interesting to get that answer. They cannot all have been great successes, although they are easy to market. You get a bunch of children and you say, “Right, run around in front of a camera with the politician or the sports star and look terribly enthusiastic, and we’ll get a lovely launch”. Then you have increased participation figures. But how many carry on? Where does it go? What happens?

As has been mentioned, it is quite easy, if you shout at enough people in schools, especially the more pliant or enthusiastic ones, to produce a fitter, healthier bunch of, say, 14 year-olds. The problem is around the age of 19 or 20 and with adults from there on in. That is the group that we are failing. It is about the interface between the organisation of school and adult life.

Perhaps we should not feel too bad about that. My own sport of Rugby Union, for example, is probably the worst in terms of a school’s prestige among prestige schools. You would have a rugger team. You took a small bunch of people and drilled them like automatons to be good at a sport. After they achieved a degree of success, you paraded them around like trophies, more or less put them in the cabinet on the wall and said, “Aren’t we good?”. I have met at least half a dozen Rugby Union schoolboy internationals who refused to play the game again after leaving school as a result of that attitude. It is a real danger. Why? If it is not made fun, it is not taken on.

Modern training structures have been developed and, for most games, there are now shorter, easier, less technical versions—Rugby Union started to develop them before most, but tennis and cricket have followed. They aim to get people involved earlier and build up their participation levels so that they enjoy the sport, the process of being involved and the competition, and find out what they want to do. That is a vital part of building the success of the strategy. If the Government can tell us which schemes are working on that level of success, they will have taken a major step forward.

A few years ago, I produced my party’s sport policy development paper. It came just after that of the Government and just before that of the Conservative Party. The pages of those three documents were not interchangeable, but they were not far off. We all spoke to the same people and came up with the same findings: that the school model had some capacity, albeit that it was concentrated on those of school age, that we should get clubs involved so that people continued afterwards and that we should make sure that the coaching capacity existed. How that is delivered is the big question.

Let us not forget that sport can be used to divert people from other activities. Late-night soccer centres in places such as Cardiff have taken young men off street corners and allowed them to play sport at non-traditional times under floodlights. It has cut down street violence and crime. Sport can be used to that end. However, one wants people playing sport primarily because they are enjoying it, getting a buzz and forming teams.

What are we doing about sport for disabled people and how does it fit into the structure of what is going on? The Olympics have provided a huge impetus to sport by pushing it right up the agenda and making it a more serious matter. It receives more attention. Perhaps it is just my imagination, but I think that more money, attention and political kudos now surround sport in this country. How are we cashing in on that?

A huge part of the Olympics—indeed, half of it—is the Paralympic Games. I have received a briefing from Action for Blind People, which asks, first, how we are making sure that people with sight impairment can take part in sport and, secondly, whether we have looked at how we can integrate them more successfully into certain types of sport. For example, brighter-coloured balls could be used for those who are partially sighted. Certain levels of integration can be achieved. What is being done? What model are we using to bring those people together? What is the emphasis? Do the Government have an overall strategy, or is it just growing piecemeal in various sports and to various unofficial lengths?

Having been rather rude about my own sport of rugby, I draw the Government’s attention to a good scheme that the Rugby Football Union has brought forward called Go Play Rugby. It was marketed to 16 to 24 year-olds. I was not aware of it. It started at around the time of the World Cup and was probably helped by England’s surprising progress to the semi-finals—I usually cheer more loudly for Scotland, but there we are. The scheme aimed to get 6,000 people playing rugby again—people who had received training before but had dropped out. It managed to get over 9,000 people, of whom I think 840 were women. There was another scheme called, I think, Carry on Playing—it cannot be that, but I cannot remember its exact name—to monitor retention of players. The scheme marketed to an exact group, and then there were people at the clubs to receive people and look after them when they turned up asking to play. Everybody who has played a sport knows what it is like going into a new sporting club. If you happen to meet the right person, you feel welcomed; if you do not, you feel like a social leper, with the idea that you will never get out of that fifth team no matter what you do. Let’s face it, it happens.

If Rugby Union can run such a scheme and have a series of pathfinder groups and support for coaches and others to get people into the game, why cannot other sports do it? They should look at and learn from that scheme. Have the Government been briefed about the project? I did not get a chance to speak to the Minister before the debate. Are they aware of the scheme and have they looked to see whether it can be used as a model to reach that group with which we traditionally have the worst links and to say to it, “Yes, it’s okay to come out and play sport”? Part of the marketing was to say, “Find rugby, find some dates”. It is a social network that could relate to any sporting activity, or certainly to team games. You have to be able to relate socially at a certain level to be able to do a sport; you have a group of people whom you have met already and you go out with them. That social network has been part of most people’s participation in sport in the past.

Also, the more people you get playing those sports, the wealthier the sports become, because they draw their income at grass-roots level from their participants. It is that simple. If you get people involved, you get more money. Ultimately, the Government might even have to spend slightly less money if they pump-prime these projects. I hope that the Minister can give us a positive answer. If he is not aware of the scheme, he might like to go with me to talk to the RFU about it. Other members of the Government are, of course, aware of it. Perhaps we could take on this model and go further with it. We could see how relevant it is and how it should be developed in future. A great deal of effort has gone into various schemes, but we do not always report back on those that do not work. Here is one that seems to have started well and whose progress is being monitored. Can we find out what it is doing? If it is a successful model for that difficult-to-hit group—the one with the biggest wastage—it should be developed, and developed for other sports.

The noble Lord, Lord Selsdon, is always entertaining, but his description of the sports bureaucracy is one with which I am afraid nobody can disagree. Indeed, I think that he slightly underplayed it, to be honest. But this scheme seems to be comparatively simple and is organised within one sport. I hope that all those groups involved, such as CCPR and Sport England, will be able to come behind it and develop it. Will the Minister give a positive response to this suggestion and encourage his colleagues in government to look at it and at the models around it? Unless we establish finally what does and does not work, we can carry on with our scattergun approach—okay, a lot of effort has been made—but we will not maximise our return unless we really concentrate.

My Lords, like others I thank the noble Lord, Lord Pendry, for initiating yet another debate on sport, this time with a slightly different angle. It is a chance to review the Government’s strategy for sport and physical education—and it is about time. We have had some very interesting comments on widely spaced subjects.

I make one comment, before I start formally, on the Paralympic situation. Your Lordships may not be aware that once a year we put on an event called the Paralympic World Cup in Manchester, which I believe is the largest annual international Paralympic event in the world. It is sponsored now almost entirely by the Government, UK Sport, Manchester City Council and the Northwest Regional Development Agency. It has had a big impact on the Manchester area. It brings in 42 different countries and something like 400 athletes, and it is something that we can be proud of. We are ahead of the world in high-level Paralympics event management. That has come from the people who put it on, whom I had better not mention, and the funding is from government sources.

However, Her Majesty's Government’s long-term ambition through their new strategy started with a thing called PESSCL—PE, school sport and club links. The strategy stands at the heart of the Government’s current bid to improve the infrastructure for school sports. In April 2008 it was renamed the PE and sports strategy for young people. Its long-term ambition by 2010 is to offer all children five hours of sport a week. According to 2006-07 figures, 86 per cent of children are now getting only two hours of high-quality sport per week in school. The noble Lord, Lord Pendry, I and others in your Lordships’ House have been pushing at the Government’s door in previous debates to reach the 100 per cent target of two hours a week. We think that they have just about got there, and I am delighted that they have raised the bar to push on for five hours, which surely is a more realistic target for our young people.

The scheme is based around networks of secondary, primary and special schools, with a specialist sports college acting as a co-ordinating hub. The strategy has seen an increase in the amount of PE in schools. For the 2006-07 school year, 86 per cent of children in partnership schools received two hours of PE per week. So many children, as I think the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, said, are still not getting any notable PE per week.

The figure of 86 per cent is an increase of 34 per cent since 2003-04. It is a significant increase, although it has taken a long time. It exceeds PSA1 target. The Prime Minister has committed £100 million to try to offer five hours of sport both inside and outside the curriculum. This money will primarily fund competition managers and the new national school sport week. In February 2008, Mr Brown announced a further £30 million for facilities and sports colleges. That has to be good news.

We have called for an increase in competitive sports in schools on a number of occasions. PESSCL’s main achievement is in creating a structure of school sport that works and can be developed. All schools are now covered by one of the 450 school sport partnerships. The club links programme run by Sport England, as the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, told us, shows that 27 per cent of pupils accessed one or more sports clubs linked to their school or school sport partnership in 2006-07, an increase of 22 per cent on 2004-05. This level of increase must continue. The Government must have a strategy to maintain progress in the field, obviously linked to Sport England.

An increase in competitive sport is justified—and this is somewhat dubious—by the statistic that 98 per cent of schools now have a sports day. That goes into the statistics that produce the 98 per cent. Some 35 per cent now take part in inter school sport and 58 per cent in intra school competition. Those healthy figures need to be maintained.

Is two hours of sport in schools enough? It is clearly not enough to curb the child obesity problem, which is getting worse. Fourteen per cent of children—more than a million—are not getting two hours’ high-quality sport, but what constitutes high quality? I suspect that we all have a different view on that.

The figures in the Government’s own PE PSA target are ambiguous. The 86 per cent figure comes from the 2007 school sport survey that examined data from 21,742 schools operating within a school sports partnership. Therefore, it did not cover all schools. There are 25,018 schools in England, so 13 per cent of schools are not included in this figure. In addition, the survey stated that,

“70% of pupils in partnership schools participated in at least two hours of curriculum PE, which means that for 16 % of pupils there is a ‘top up’ of extra curricular school sport which enables them to achieve the two hour PE/school sport participation target”.

These statistics are bullish and indicate progress. I am not knocking the Government but there is a long way still to go. There are weaknesses with the PESSCL strategy. For example, its focus falls on secondary schools and does not necessarily provide enough support for primary schools or further education.

On 13 July 2007 Gordon Brown announced yet another target for children’s participation in sport. This stated a goal to,

“give every child the chance of five hours of sport every week”.

As the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, said, this was originally included in Labour’s 2005 manifesto—we are now in 2008—which stated on page 95:

“Investment in school sports will ensure that by 2010 all children will receive two hours high-quality PE or sport per week. Building on that, we pledge that by 2010 every child who wants it will have access to a further two to three hours sport per week”.

The PSA announcement is simply a rehash of old policy. We do not want rehashes of old policy, we want new policies, forward-looking changes and to be able to move on. The delivery mechanism of the strategy has been questioned, especially given the lack of trained teachers to supply the sport. Sixty per cent of primary school PE teachers have fewer than six hours’ PE training within their course. This is reflected in the poor physical literacy of a number of our youngsters. The Government have reduced their recruitment targets for PE teachers from 1,450 in 2006-07 to 1,180 in 2007-08. There is a massive turnover of PE teachers due to frustration, career progression issues and a shortage of trained people. The strategy has been criticised as being too target-driven. Programmes such as these should be based on children, not on targets.

Grass-roots sport stands in transition as Sport England reviews its strategy to create a world-class community system. James Purnell announced in November 2007 that he wanted to focus the attention of Sport England on,

“making sport excellent for everyone who takes part”.

I agree with that, as we all do. That is the role of Sport England. However, he advised the Department of Health to take responsibility for promoting fitness and physical activity. This is, of course, linked to the Government’s concern about the obesity epidemic outlined in the Foresight report. The noble Lord, Lord Crisp, and my noble friend Lord Taylor mentioned health issues, as have other noble Lords on many occasions. Cross-governmental operating has also been mentioned; that is, joined-up government between health, sport and education.

I had a joyous morning yesterday at the other end. Richard Caborn, wearing his hat as president of the Amateur Boxing Association, had both Ed Balls and Gerry Sutcliffe beside him at the same table, with key players on the Amateur Boxing Association board and a number of youngsters. They were telling us how the association had worked with schools to get boxing going for both boys and girls, and not only had it done that but it had linked to clubs across the country. I do not have the numbers, but for me it was an exciting start. That should form a significant part, if it has not done so already, of government strategy for community sport, which is what we are about. If boxing can do it, and if boxing can get girls in, and can get into clubs and schools, why cannot everyone else? The passion from the guys running and helping it was tremendous to see.

There are also some problems on the financial side, as I think has already been mentioned. More than £10 million was invested by Sport England in 3,000 community coaches, which was an excellent decision, and 2,000 multiskill clubs for younger children have been implemented, with the dance links programme. That is good news. There is a lot of both good news and bad news. My point is that there is a long way to go when it comes to recognising excellence.

As a direct result of Gordon Brown’s raid on lottery cash, the amount of lottery funding going into grass-roots sport has fallen by nearly 50 per cent, and governing bodies think that it is likely to stay at that sort of level until well after 2012. It has dropped from £397 million in 1997 to £209 million in 2006. That is a significant amount, and you can see it among governing bodies. I am president of a governing body, and I meet others; everyone is seriously feeling the pinch for cash. About £70 million has been diverted from grass-roots sport, on top of that, to help pay for the 2012 Olympics.

Only 13.5 per cent of the UK population are members of sports clubs, whereas for Sweden it is 39 per cent and France 26 per cent. That is a big area of work to go on with. We have heard from the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, about the active people survey and the figures that came out of that. He mentioned the Finns as well. Clubs are already struggling under current funding levels. Research carried out by the CCPR suggests that the number of voluntary clubs is falling, which is another worrying statistic, with 14 out of 21 sports reporting a worsening of the financial status of their clubs. That comes from the CCPR sports club survey of 2007. That means that there is insufficient funding to provide the sports facilities, space or personnel needed to accommodate growing demand.

Finally, obesity is getting worse. We have not got anywhere near to tackling obesity in boys, girls or adults. In my home province of Northern Ireland, seeing such people walk around the street is terrible.

In summary, Her Majesty’s Government have made some progress in recent years, but considerably more effort is needed. More money and less bureaucracy are needed. In particular, where it comes to increasing the hours of sport that can be given to young people in schools, a serious look at health and safety in relation to sport and recreation is needed from the Government. That has been accepted as something that needs to be done by both the former and the current Ministers for Sport, and it is time that the Government took it seriously. It inhibits children and young people from getting a chance to go out into the mountains and hills and on to the water doing some of the more exciting sports, because teachers, leaders and instructors are frightened of the claims culture and what is behind it. On that note, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Pendry, for giving us the opportunity to debate this.

My Lords, I join other noble Lords in thanking my noble friend Lord Pendry for this opportunity to discuss sport and to outline some of the Government’s achievements since June 2007, when he last raised a significant debate in this House on sport in the community. I pay tribute to his work over a substantial period in bringing sport to the attention of Parliament and government, reflecting the fact that there is no doubt that sport has a much higher profile than it had a decade or so ago in terms of the perspective of the nation and the desirability that government should address some of the deficiencies in our sporting provision, which this debate has helped to identify. My noble friend also called attention to the substantial progress that the Government have made in improving sporting opportunities for our people, particularly young people.

I was very glad that my noble friend brought within this framework the role of sport in promoting other significant government objectives on the wider social agenda. The investment in sport and physical activity, which we will continue to produce, will help to combat rising levels of obesity, which we all recognise are of concern to the nation. There is no doubt that people who take exercise give themselves a decent chance of avoiding levels of obesity that are often the product of an exceedingly sedentary existence. Sport has a role in terms of promoting good health, additional to those relating to obesity. I was grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Crisp, for emphasising mental health issues. There is no doubt that people often need an opportunity to develop self-respect in their lives and sport can play its part in that. The noble Lord constructively identified ways in which we could look at these issues more carefully in relation to that dimension of ill health and he said that a part of the Olympic legacy should direct itself to future sport opportunities.

Sport is a great means of bringing communities and people together and helping to improve educational attainment. It also helps to reduce anti-social behaviour and crime. We are all too well aware that young people in depressed circumstances often find that opportunities in sport can give their lives new hope and prospects; otherwise they would be led into a state of depression that is the breeding ground of people acting in anti-social ways. There is no doubt that sports clubs can be enormously important to local communities in those terms. That is why we are continuing to reform the sporting landscape. We are working closely with our key delivery partners, the Youth Sport Trust, Sport England and UK Sport, as well as many others.

We want to ensure that people of all ages play sport. I take on board the point that the noble Lord, Lord Addington, was keen to emphasise about strategies for the re-entry of people into sport. There is no doubt that the drop out rate from sport when people leave school and educational establishments is very high and we have to work hard to achieve re-entry into sport. I am grateful to the noble Lord for identifying one scheme.

My Lords, the noble Lord indicated that “Carry on” was probably an unlikely title, so I am grateful to him for being specific. We will certainly look at that, but the noble Lord will appreciate that we have identified interesting developments, apart from in Rugby Union, in other sports where opportunities are developing. In fact, my noble friend Lord Rosser mentioned Chance to Shine, with regard to cricket, about the relationship between schools and cricket clubs, which helps, we hope, to prevent the break that occurs when young people leave school and ensure that they have a welcome. The noble Lord, Lord Taylor, indicated that that depends a little on what kind of welcome one gets in a club. Good links between clubs and schools no doubt ease the path so that young people feel confident when they join a club, and will help to reduce drop-out rate. They will also increase the profile of sports clubs in the community, so that we get people taking an interest in and feeling that they can happily return to sports that they might have dropped.

I emphasise that we have, and have had, tough targets to raise participation across the country. However, our work in the area gives us a strong foundation from which to make further progress. The Prime Minister’s announcement last year of an additional £100 million investment in PE and sport means that we aim to offer every young person between the ages of five and 16 five hours of PE and sport per week, with three hours of sport for 16 to 19 year-olds. The noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, was a little anxious about progress in those areas, and he is right to chide us for the extent to which we have made progress. We now see high participation among girls as well as boys; the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, spoke about the importance of young women having the opportunity to participate and develop confidence in sport, and to continue in it after they had left educational establishments.

We are also keen to emphasise competitive sport in schools, which is why the National School Sport Week will take place between 30 June and 4 July. All round the country, in each of the school sport partnerships, there will be an exciting range of interschool and intraschool sport competitions throughout the week. We also have a brand new programme, which has already been successfully piloted in a number of areas and is due to roll out nationally from September. It will increase opportunities for children and young people aged five to 19 to participate regularly in sport in clubs and the community. Funding will be channelled through county sport partnerships and the activities themselves will be delivered through a broad range of local youth, after-school and community sports clubs, and will be determined locally by their relevance and interest to young people. I hope that meets the point of the noble Lord, Lord Selsdon. He gave us the well known description—it is not a caricature—of how sports bodies in the past seemed to include everyone, including the kitchen sink, and then produced little after those vast meetings had taken place. We are concerned to make sure that the operation of support for young people in sport should minimise red tape and deal directly and sympathetically with youngsters. That lesson has been learnt.

The noble Lords, Lord Addington and Lord Glentoran, asked about those with disabilities and their chance to participate in sport. There is no doubt that the Olympics and Paralympics of 2012 will give us a great opportunity to focus increasingly on the question of the disabled in sport, but we need to take steps well before the Games hit their highest point of public appreciation. We are concerned that there be the high-quality participation and competitive opportunities for disabled young people and adults that their more able colleagues enjoy. We support the national governing bodies of Paralympic sport in their goals and will help schools to identify pupils with higher ability, through targeted continuing professional opportunities for teachers and termly “identifying ability” days. The theme behind that is that, if we can get into schools the realisation that the disabled should have opportunities alongside more able colleagues, that will translate into expectancy with regard to continuing adult life. In that area, I assure the House that the Government will not drag their feet in any way but will be very concerned to make progress.

My noble friend Lord Rosser very ably outlined issues relating to leadership in sport and volunteering. There is absolutely no doubt that volunteers always have played and will continue to play an important role in sport, with some 1.5 million people being involved. We recognise the importance of improving the quality and diversity of young people as leaders, volunteers and role models in sport. Far too few people volunteer, but we all know that clubs depend totally on a great deal of volunteer activity. We need more people to play their part and to see the sporting opportunities that they can provide for the next generation. Twenty-three national governing bodies of sport, covering all the major sports and many others, now have a volunteering strategy in place. As part of that strategy, 989 young ambassadors will help to spread the Olympic and Paralympic message and ideals within the school sport partnerships.

A number of noble Lords, including my noble friend Lord Pendry, who opened the debate, commented on the Sport England strategy. There is no doubt that we will shortly publish a new strategy for Sport England. Considerable progress has been made in recent years, but the strategy will now set out how Sport England will develop a world-leading community sports system of high-quality sports clubs, coaches, volunteers and facilities. It will have an investment of £250 million a year and will be able to monitor progress. That point was emphasised by the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, but I know that my noble friend Lord Pendry has also always emphasised that we should be able to monitor progress in relation to the government money that is devoted to sport.

The Government recognise that being physically active is important for everyone, and therefore they are keen that it should not only be the Department for Culture, Media and Sport that is concerned with the sports strategy. The House will appreciate that there is also involvement from the departments concerned with schools, from the Treasury in providing resources and, crucially, from the Department of Health, which will be the beneficiary of the end product of more successful sport and exercise participation in the country. That participation will help the department to hit its objectives. There is no doubt that people who become involved in sport and physical activity develop healthier lifestyles, and we intend to increase those opportunities.

More than half of English adults are now either overweight or obese, as is one in four children. According to research, by 2050 60 per cent of men, 40 per cent of women and 25 per cent of children could be clinically obese if we do nothing. There is therefore no doubt about the priority that needs to be attached to this strategy and no doubt about the role that exercise and sport can play.

My noble friend Lord Faulkner raised the issue of ticket-touting and welcomed the degree of progress that we have made. We are continuing to explore options for improving the market to increase affordability and access. We are all too well aware of the extent to which sports fans are deeply resentful of the way in which certain tickets for major events provide an opportunity for exploitation. We are looking at options for a voluntary agreement on tickets for certain “crown jewel” events. Those events underpin the list of sporting events that must be available for free-to-air television. However, there may be one or two additional events where voluntary agreements can be reached on how tickets are to be distributed and where controls can be put in place to ensure that the incidence of ticket-touting is greatly reduced. We want to develop a new code of principles to deliver improved access through distribution and other market-led measures that enables more fans to get tickets at source. If we can ensure that the vast majority of tickets are taken up by those with a genuine enthusiasm for the sport rather than for making money out of the opportunities that a special event provides, it would go a long way towards reducing ticket-touting. The House will appreciate that we have necessary objectives in this regard with the Olympic Games.

Finally, I come to our past success in sporting presentation; namely, the Manchester Commonwealth Games. They show how well we could organise great sporting events; they were no doubt also a factor in London’s successful bid for the Olympic Games. We are only a matter of months from the point at which Beijing hands over to London. When it does so, London and the country more widely will be vested with a tremendous opportunity to emphasise the importance of sport in our national life. Much of that will revolve round the achievements of elite athletes in the Olympic Games and the Paralympic Games. We want our Paralympic athletes to achieve in the Paralympic Games in Beijing at least what was achieved in the two previous Games at Athens and Sydney, when they had the second highest total of medals. We might even look at one stage above that—the top position. We would be gravely disappointed if we did not hit similar levels in the 2012 Olympics. The Olympics also provide the opportunity for the world to see the highest level of achievements. We have a clear target for our elite athletes and competitors and we want those targets to be achieved. That will require great emphasis on sport training at elite levels and the necessary investment in sport.

I assure my noble friend, who has done so much work in this area, and the House that the Government are committed to a strategy that will ensure that the nation benefits from sport, that the health of the nation benefits from the participation of our people in sport and that at the elite level London presents a superb Olympics in 2012. In addition, our elite athletes and competitors should show the kind of results of which this nation should rightly be proud.

My Lords, before the Minister sits down, does he feel able to say anything on the Prime Minister’s meeting this morning about the role that sport can play in getting knives off the streets? I checked the street word earlier and it was said to me, “Turn the gangs into teams and get them to play a proper game; that is the way to do it”.

My Lords, there will be several developments in the near future on the issue, which the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, raised, as regards the legacy of the Olympics. I had hoped to be explicit in this debate, but I cannot be as clear as I would have liked. There is a slight delay on the formulation of our plans in this area. As part of this general perspective on government policy, I can assure the House that the legacy of the Games and the necessary advantages to be derived for the country will be the subject of a major government initiative in the very near future.

My Lords, this House is at its very best when it debates issues such as this one. I thank all noble Lords who have made contributions. The quality of the speeches made me feel that tabling the Motion was well worthwhile. No doubt the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, who at times could have been speaking from the government Dispatch Box, reflects the views of the shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport who said, last week, that if, in the unlikely event, he had the chance, he would not change much that Labour had done on sport. I am sure that the House will wish the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, the very best of luck in his ambition to play for Aston Villa. Seriously, I thank everyone who has taken part in the debate and the Minister for his very helpful reply. I beg leave to withdraw the Motion for Papers.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.

Common Agricultural Policy (EUC Report)

rose to move, That this House takes note of the report of the European Union Committee on The Future of the Common Agricultural Policy (7th Report, HL Paper 54).

The noble Lord said: My Lords, the report that we are debating this afternoon was published in March this year. Since then, we have received the Government’s response, which deserves full and thorough reading and, recently, the Commission’s legislative proposals on the health check. It is fair to say that anyone reading the report in the past few days would have been struck by how quickly, over the past few months, the global context of agricultural policy has changed. We are living in very fast-moving times indeed. Over the past few days, we have had the UN summit on world food security in Rome and on Tuesday the director-general of the Food and Agriculture Organisation told heads of states and governments gathered in Rome that no one understands why rich countries have distorted world markets with the £138 billion that they spend on supporting their own agriculture, clearly to the disadvantage of many developing countries. That is a fact that we must always take into consideration.

The UN secretary-general has suggested that United Nations members should plan for a 50 per cent increase in food production by 2030. Rich countries are being urged to put more development aid into agriculture in developing countries. Things are changing and if, as a global community, we do not live up to the challenges that we face in ensuring food security, perhaps some of the social and political unrest that we have seen manifest itself in countries across the world in recent days and weeks will unfortunately become a more frequent occurrence.

Global change has created opportunities and challenges for European agriculture. The central issue is how the common agricultural policy should develop to ensure that European agriculture is best placed to secure the benefits of those new opportunities. We must all consider that point.

I turn briefly to the Government’s response to our report before considering the Commission’s legislative proposals. Let me say straight away that the Government and the Select Committee are not only in broad agreement on the general direction of policy but are also in agreement on many of the policy specifics. We both want a more market-oriented agriculture that is sustainable and makes a significant contribution to the environment, particularly in the area of climate change. I shall quote from our report. At paragraph 212 we write:

“We believe that the drive towards a more market-oriented agriculture should continue. In the long term, the CAP should aim to foster a farming sector that is capable of standing on its own feet, competing in open international markets without subsidy or special protection. We acknowledge the likelihood of greater demand for agricultural commodities in future, and believe that this presents an opportunity for the European farming industry. The distorting effect of subsidies will in our view hinder the EU agriculture sector’s ability to respond to, and profit from, the expected increase in global demand for agricultural products. The CAP should instead aim to steer the industry towards a position from which it can take full advantage of a future boom in commodities prices. In our view, this means moving away from the distortions that a managed and protected internal market for agricultural commodities creates and sustains”.

That is our guiding principle against which we will judge all future legislative proposals for the reform of the common agricultural policy. We are in agreement with the Government on the future of direct payments, moving away from the historic basis, while they exist, and, more importantly, looking forward to their ultimate disappearance.

On page 61 of our report, at paragraph 222, we write:

“In the longer term … we are not convinced of the justification for maintaining direct payments under Pillar I, as the market and environmental objectives that we regard as the appropriate long-term aims of the CAP can in our view be pursued adequately with the instruments available under Pillar II. We therefore recommend that a progressive flattening of payments systems in the aftermath of the Health Check should in due course be accompanied by a phased reduction in direct payments over the course of the next Financial Perspective”.

There is a host of other examples where the Select Committee and the Government, through their response, are in agreement, but I should perhaps identify two areas of disagreement. The Government reject our argument that European farmers should be required to produce only to the same SPS standards as their competitors exporting into the EU market. The Government take the view that the, let us face it, relatively high production standards demanded of farmers in the EU are not disproportionately costly compared to other variables that have an impact on the competitiveness of farmers. However, we take a different view on this. We take the view that the imposition of higher internal standards distorts competition. I think that ought to be recognised. On another issue, the Government do not agree with our argument that the application of voluntary modulation in the United Kingdom causes competitive distortion. We think it does. These are disagreements of some substance, and there is no point pretending that they are not. Nevertheless, they should not distract from the wide agreement between the Select Committee and the Government.

The points of agreement on the Commission’s legislative proposals are, again, easy to identify. We very much support the abolition of set-aside, we welcome the fact that milk quotas will be phased out, and we support the proposal that historical payments should no longer be the basis for single farm payments. We also welcome the simplification of cross-compliance, as we do the increased flexibility given to national envelopes, the introduction of minimum payment levels for single farm payments and the increase in the funds for rural development. On those points, we agree with the Commission’s proposals that have come out of the health check. We also strongly support the EU’s decision to commit itself to the removal of export subsidies that distort trade and particularly work to the disadvantage of developing countries. That will be a major achievement when it finally happens.

There are, however, disappointments in the outcomes of the health check. We are opposed to the introduction of additional modulation for larger farmers, which in effect is a penalty on efficiency. I am sure that in many countries in which it is applied it will only increase the income of solicitors as they try to develop means by which artificial, smaller farm units can be established. Surely that is in no one’s interests. Although we welcome the extension of decoupling, we are disappointed that it has not been completed.

Overall, what is the judgment? I suspect that the committee will take the view that, so far as it goes, the Commission’s proposals are going in the right direction, but that in terms of placing European agriculture in a position to take full advantage of the opportunities that now exist, the proposals are simply too timid. There is no recognition of, let alone enthusiasm for, the fact that to be successful European agriculture must engage fully with the market and the consumer, rather than continually reflect the interests solely of the producer.

The Government deserve to be congratulated on securing important reforms of the common agricultural policy in the past 10 years or so, often in the face of stiff opposition. For the future, we must continue to work towards the elimination of tariff and non-tariff barriers and always be on our guard against their being introduced via the back door. Above all, however, what is needed in the Commission’s proposals—I am afraid it is missing—is a clear signal of the end of direct payments. The time has come, the situation is right, and it is sad that the opportunity has not been seized. I beg to move.

Moved, That this House takes note of the report of the European Union Committee on The Future of the Common Agricultural Policy (7th Report, HL Paper 54).

My Lords, it falls to me to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Sewel, and his committee on the thoroughness with which it has conducted its inquiries and the fund of information which it has unearthed. I have even heard some outside this building saying that it is a textbook for anyone wishing to understand what is happening in the common agricultural policy. I also congratulate him on obtaining the opportunity for us to discuss these findings today, even if he had to wait a little before it became possible to do so.

As noble Lords will be aware, it also gives us a chance to look at what the EU Commission has come up with in what it has described as its health check. It should not be surprising that it contains many similarities and enough was known about the general direction of the health check to inform some of the findings of the report. But it is very clear, all the same, that neither report has reached the point where the findings will be put directly into practice. As the noble Lord, Lord Sewel, said, the EU report seems to lack a certain amount of vigour, which, in this country, we would like to have seen. Perhaps an indication of the sort of battle that is in store can be seen in a press report yesterday: in the effort to secure a yes vote in the Irish referendum on Lisbon, the Irish Prime Minister announced that he would use his country’s veto to block any liberalisation plans in the current round of WTO talks.

As the noble Lord, Lord Sewel, has pointed out, there can be no doubt that we are now entering a very different period in agricultural markets where world price levels are approaching those that we have maintained in the EU. Can the Minister tell us if there are commodities which, in the past three months, have required export refunds other than perhaps a form of export guarantee? If we have reached that point, it would make it much easier to reform EU policy to the point where there are no export subsidies, which, as the noble Lord, Lord Sewel, said, is one of the central aims in his report.

A rather more difficult area must be tariffs. Any reform of tariffs will have an immediate effect on commodity prices within the EU, as it also will on third-world countries for which the EU provides preferential tariffs. I can appreciate that the purpose of this report was to review the internal workings of the CAP. I have looked, perhaps all too briefly, at the report, but I have not found any mention of these external effects of CAP policies. None the less, it is a consideration that will have to be taken up, which should not go unmentioned today, and will require to be reviewed along with all the other policies.

I should declare my interests: I am a livestock farmer, a member of the Scottish National Farmers Union and a member of the Scottish Rural Property and Business Association. Given my interest in things north of the Border, it will not be a surprise to those who served on the committee that I come back to a topic that was raised in the evidence given by the Scottish Rural Property and Business Association representative; namely, the requirement with some commodities to retain a certain critical mass in vulnerable areas. That is largely because of the difficulties in maintaining downstream processes and businesses.

As we can see, this rationale has been used as an excuse in a number of other countries for maintaining an element of their commodity support payments and not fully decoupling. It is one of the weaknesses of the health check programme that it requires that no one who has not maintained these payments should be allowed to reintroduce them. But it does not propose to bear down on those who are applying these payments at present and perhaps doing so indiscriminately. It also contains the proposal that it should be possible to direct assistance to fragile areas, which surely should be the threshold that should be used in considering any commodity or other connected payments. This kind of support—I think that the noble Lord, Lord Sewel, pointed it out too—requires to be looked at largely as social and environmental support. Does the Minister consider that this support could be entirely moved into Pillar 2 and not create the distortions which cause the problems with our negotiations with the WTO?

It is very encouraging for us to know that a reduction in the conditions required for cross compliance is in consideration, but there are other aspects of EU regulation that will need careful review. The most recent that I have come across is in haulage regulations. I know that the Minister does not have responsibilities north of the Border, but it might be as well for noble Lords to be slightly aware of some of the problems.

The movement of livestock from the islands and the west coast of Scotland is a highly seasonal affair, largely taking place for two months in the autumn. One of the main livestock hauliers in the area has just sold up his business because the cost of compliance and the sternness of the regulations make it uneconomic and too frustrating for him and his employees. The EU regulations state that for any animal involved in a journey that from start to finish lasts from eight to 12 hours, the lorry must be fitted with a watering system. At least half of the animals being transported are sheep, who have no idea about drinking bowls or nipple drinkers. The ferry from Uist to Oban can take up to seven hours before any onward journey is considered, and once the time has been exceeded, both the lorry and the trailer require climate controlled forced ventilation and satellite tracking. This may not be quite the same challenge for areas in Cumbria or Wales, but all these areas are also affected by the lack of small-scale slaughterhouses nowadays, which has increased the difficulties for the animals and the hauliers.

The noble Lord, Lord Sewel, said that the EU is still looking at bearing down on making large payments to larger farmers. There was a proposal to cap single farm payments which would have had a disproportionate effect on UK farmers, but now that same idea is being targeted at increased modulation. Again, from the Scottish point of view, where more than 85 per cent of the land is in less favoured areas that tend to comprise huge acreages or hectarages of land, although not necessarily huge businesses, this would be felt very heavily. It will discourage the development of larger units. We have all seen that if agriculture is to move forward, some small-scale units need to be amalgamated so that larger and more efficient businesses can be put in their place. The aim of the agriculture commissioner, Mariann Fischer Boel, is of course to increase food production in order to stem rising prices, so to introduce a policy that would actively discourage an increase in food production seems absurd.

In their response the Government ask if they can channel aid to these areas in a more focused way to help with unemployment, but that would require innovative thinking. I do not know whether the Minister can give us an indication of how that might be done. They will have to come back to the fact that a certain amount of what might loosely be called agriculture will be needed for the management of the vegetation, and as time goes on, some sort of useful production in order to supply the increasing demands of the world’s population will be needed.

My Lords, I congratulate the committee on producing an excellent report. I can tell by the amount of detail that an awful lot of hard work went into it. The health check has come at the right moment for this debate. This is a time of great turbulence for food production, with price hikes and food riots, while the discrepancies between supply and demand have sent the price of food upwards. This follows a long period of stable low prices in the UK and I believe the report has to be read in that context.

I can well remember saying in lectures 30 years ago that food represented 27 per cent of the disposable income of an average family. Add to that the 33 per cent of income that went on housing and you had already got rid of 60 per cent of disposable income. Until the end of 2007, food purchases represented only 11 per cent of income and there was a steady increase in the purchase of luxuries such as holidays. We have now had a reality check. Over the past 18 months, Tesco alone has made a profit of £2.5 billion, £1 billion more than the entire UK agriculture industry. Those days are behind us as well. We have had a situation where farmers had poor profitability, particularly in the uplands where their incomes have been lower than the national minimum wage. There is a huge dynamic change going on.

Now everyone else, other than just farmers and agriculturists, is starting to talk about food security. In the past 10 years food security in the UK has decreased by 16 per cent, from 86 per cent to 70 per cent. At least a quarter of our food is imported, so what impact will that have on our balance of payments?

In the past lean 20 years many farmers have said, “Thank God for the CAP”—we have certainly said it in Wales—and “Thank God for the French farmers”, who have ensured that all EU farmers have had a positive income. The UK Treasury would never have given us that kind of support. I am afraid that that is a fact of life.

Why is it that complaints about high food prices do not always focus on the commodity markets, for example, where doubtless at this very moment bets are being placed on the future price of wheat—which has doubled in the past 12 months—and impacting on the current sale price? That is having an effect, too, on the ability of the poor to buy food. A lot of factors are involved in this which cannot be ignored and the report should be set against that background. It is like an academic exercise in some respects: “Reform of the CAP—discuss”. We could still be doing that at midnight, so I shall try to get through only some of it.

I partly blame the Treasury for some of the misdemeanours that have occurred in the agricultural industry. It is interesting to note that only last week the Chancellor said that he felt that direct subsidies should be scrapped. Unfortunately he did not put that remark into context and some journalists interpreted that as if it was going to happen tomorrow. Fortunately the report, and even the Government’s response to it, does not reflect that kind of immediate way of dealing with the problems.

We have the report, the Government’s response and the EU proposals. Unfortunately, I have time to look at only one or two issues. As an ex-member of the committee, I am not going to be a good boy because I do not agree with some of the things that it says. Pillar 1—the single farm payment—has, in the context of agricultural economics, many different interpretations. For those of us who have studied agricultural economics, the three classic principles are land, labour and capital. On the land issue, grade 1 agricultural land has many options; you can grow as many as 25 to 30 different crops, for example, with differing values. Even grade 2 or grade 3 land will do that, but with grade 4 land you have fewer options, and when you get to grade 5, all you are left with is beef and sheep. That has to be recognised in any CAP policy.

That brings me to the issue of area payments versus historic payments. Does one size really fit all? Probably the greatest epoch-making agricultural legislation in the UK, the Agriculture Act 1947, was headed by Tom Williams, a West Yorkshire miner who saw the need for food security and for designating land as less favoured areas—which, in socio-economic terms, were poorly off—and the Treasury in those days was willing to fund that kind of policy. The socioeconomic needs of the less favoured areas are important, in my view. When the chairman, the noble Lord, Lord Sewel, quotes the FAO chairman—or director, I cannot remember which—about the £130 billion shortfall, we must not forget that the Americans are putting $200 billion into agricultural support in the States, which is distorting the whole of world trade, yet they are going on about the WTO and all the rules it breaks. We must be careful about where we put the blame when the EU is reducing its budget on agricultural expenditure.

I agree with what the noble Lord has said. We certainly need to scrap milk quotas, set-aside and export refunds, which are a horrific distortion of trade and impact badly on third-world countries. Historic payments, however, are a totally different situation. When we try to apply area payments right across the UK, for example, in the form of the CAP, my concern is that on that basis land may be traded as a commodity because of the area payments that are on that land. I can see that as a possibility. On the other hand, if you look at historic payments as they are in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, you find 80 per cent less favoured areas—80 per cent of areas that can really produce only beef or sheep. There are hills that have had a certain number of hefted stock every year for the past 200 years. That is real history, isn’t it?

We cannot ignore the less favoured areas, and I am pleased to see that in its summary the committee has paid due concern to the poorer areas in the Common Market, in the EU. They need support. What kind of support do they need? I am alarmed by the Scottish evidence here that a 5 per cent reduction in modulation—I am quoting this off the top of my head, so I may not be close enough in accuracy—results in a 19 per cent reduction in farm income. That is a graphic illustration of the importance of historic payments. They may have to be phased out over a long period, but if that is done then something has to replace them. The income streams and disposable incomes in the uplands need to receive support from Pillar 2, as the report rightly says, because we need diversification from those income streams. Very often the farm income is supplying only 50 per cent of the net disposable income of the family, and the rest is coming from elsewhere. That has to be encouraged. Pillar 2 is undoubtedly the way to do it, but I have reservations about whether the British Treasury in matched funding will have the resolve to support rural areas in that way, not just in Britain but throughout the European Community.

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Sewel, for giving us the opportunity to debate this issue. Although I have nothing to do with the report, as I am married to a farmer I thought I might make a few comments, because I help her with the regulatory paperwork side of the business. It is an interesting report that helped to explain some things. I was interested in the government response and astonished myself by agreeing with quite a bit of it. I liked the objective of continuing to produce the majority of the food we consume, but my worry is whether we will end up doing that.

We live in a complex system and a complex world. Agriculture is even more complex, and we have complex interrelationships with nature. A rules-based system does not work properly. In an ideal world, the market will work, but the trouble is that one cannot predict things well enough. We cannot predict what is going to happen to farming in a few years. We cannot assume that prices will continue to go up, particularly for Europe. Many different things could change. Zimbabwe could sort out its problems and start producing a proper harvest again; Ukraine might do the same; Australia may get some years of rainfall; and suddenly our wheat and grain would be totally uneconomic again. On the other hand, the people who still have some cattle left will like that. Those interrelationships are difficult to predict.

People forget also that farming had some very tough times while the prices were down. Overdrafts have increased. Now that farmers are trying to make some profits, they probably have to give 40 per cent of them to the Treasury in a really good year. It is therefore quite hard to get the overdraft back down again before the next bad time comes along. If the Government are this year modulating 18 per cent of money that could go to help pay off the overdraft, it does not help because it is yet another tax.

Competing in open international markets sounds like a wonderful idea and is a great aspiration. However, let us suppose that nitrogen costs go too high—that assumes that we can get nitrogen because no predictions have been made on whether any will available in one or two years. There is huge pressure to stop producing it. It is energy-intensive and people want us to stop putting so much nitrogen on the ground. The trouble with that is that one’s yields will drop, at which point we all suffer and enter a more difficult cycle. Since our underlying and infrastructure costs are higher, we will make a loss if we do not have a fairly high yield off the farm. The cost of fuel is going up, as are many other production costs. The report is wrong in stating that regulation of emissions will not have an effect on costs. Merely complying with those regulations is bound to have a cost—one should not kid oneself otherwise.

Defra’s desire to simplify the regulations is sensible. There are many stupid inconsistencies at the moment. A more common-sense approach is needed and decisions need to be taken more rapidly—particularly as the time to submit SP5 forms approaches—so that people really know where they stand. I give an example of a ridiculous regulation this year related to planting wild bird cover. Maize is technically a combinable crop, so one can fertilise, spray and look after it. It thereby flourishes and helps the wild bird population. A mixed crop, which would be better for the wild birds, is not harvestable. It therefore comes under GAEC 12. You are not allowed to fertilise or spray it; your crop will die; and the wild birds will have nothing to feed on. It is just stupid. Why can Defra not get its act together to say something about that early enough? Instead, it says, “Oh, no, we’re bound by the rules from Europe”. It should get its act together.

Adding water costs to the SMRs and GAECs will make life more complex and difficult. At the end of the day, the farmer faces a whole lot of rules which state that one should do something on certain dates as if the world were a perfect place and they could predict everything. But they are coping with the weather, which is unpredictable and changing. Their machinery may break down at the wrong moment. Their contractor may decide to move to a different farm at that date. Their livestock may go ill. One cannot predict what is going to happen. It is not like running a great factory. Most of those businesses are not run with lots of spare capacity, machinery and manpower; they are small, tightly knit organisations which are run close to the bone, so one cannot do it.

It is said that the bigger businesses will benefit from all this regulation because they will be able to deal with it. I agree with those who say that the payments should not be capped. Just because the businesses are bigger does not mean that they are making a lot more profit—all kinds of other inefficiencies will exist. One has to find out whether they are profitable before one can start saying that one is going to remove their income. All that would do is bankrupt agriculture generally. It is not the income that matters, but the bottom line.

Interestingly, if we move to bigger units, it will help people who worry about set-aside disappearing. Now that set-aside has been removed in the past year, I have noticed that a lot of fields that my wife popped into set-aside she does not want to remove again. Why? The machinery has become too big. It is not worth turning something of only 2.5 hectares back into wheat. You lose too much around the edges anyway; you have to have 5-metre margins around the watercourses under the pesticide regulations and you will not be able to get the table for your combine. By the time you have got it into the field and put the table on, it is time to take it back off again. So they are not worth farming any more. Some of these things are going to be permanently set aside. If you have a larger unit, the machinery will be bigger so you have de facto set aside. So you should go for bigger units.

The Pillar 2 redistribution is a very good idea. It is what the public want and there is a lot of environmental benefit from it. I enjoy seeing wildlife back, although it has always been around. It has just been shifting around—and, yes, there have been some problems. But with Pillar 2, it is a case of where the money is going to end up. There is a suggestion that some of it should really be going into regeneration schemes, rural development schemes and other things that are not to do with land management. At the end of the day, I thought that this whole area was about land management, and it is the land management that will suffer. If you put big money out there and pop it with some quangos to decide where it is allocated, the farmers will not be the ones sitting on the committees because they will not have the time or the inclination for the bullshit that goes around in those committees, and they will not understand it—

Sorry, it is a technical term. They will not have the time to try to understand how the thought processes go on that regulatory stuff. So the money will probably not end up where people think it is going to end up—in good environmental schemes that will help the land.

Then you come on to the debate about the role of farmers. Do we actually want people who enjoy and love the land, who understand and will work with the vagaries of nature and who do not have a nine to five mentality? You cannot have that mentality when you are dealing with the countryside, the weather, livestock and stuff like that. Those people do not like paperwork and they do not like being treated like idiots either. If you think that someone who has done an environmental studies course in university, who has done one farm walk and then starts producing books telling you how to run a farm, knows what they are doing, you have got another think coming. I would love to know how many people who write these regulations actually possess a pair of Wellington boots. I should not think that it is very many of them.

Then there is the necessity of supporting certain markets. If you want to have grassland and parkland still and have it properly done—and under the countryside stewardship scheme, some of it must be managed that way, quite correctly—you must have some cattle left. Of course, there is a big problem about how you keep cattle, the types of cattle, and what happens if cattle become totally uneconomic. In some parts of the country, it is very hard to find lawnmowers to come and eat the grass in countryside stewardship schemes. So we may need to distort things there to ensure that the environmental side is looked after properly.

The last thing I have to say is on the character of the farmer. The reports from Defra and other places glibly say that the farmer should learn about risk management and should join co-operatives and selling groups, and so on. Well, the co-op made a nasty mess of selling its wheat this year, so it does not always work. The large buying and selling groups can make just as many mistakes as the small farmer, so you cannot rely on that.

As for options and futures, they are quite dangerous financial instruments. I have a friend who is a potato farmer who went heavily bust on that a few years back, thinking that he was hedging against losing his potato crop. There would not be so much money to be made out of them in the City if they were not also high risk. At the end of the day, if there is a high reward there is a high risk behind it. The sort of person who is managing land is probably not the sort of person who is interested in that sort of risk or that sort of business or intuitively knows it. If you release half the active sellers—I am trying to think of another word for those with sharp practices—or the financial advising people on to the farms, you will again have some disasters.

It is all very well saying to farmers that they should diversify but, again, you come back to character. A lot of them do not want to run bed and breakfasts or hotels. And then you have the problem of planning. If you want to get a composting unit on to your farm, or something like that, which is nice and green and environmental, everyone will object because they will say that it smells—and then it will take one and a half or two years to get planning, if you get it at all. So it is not easy. You have to get capital for this; you probably have not been making money, so where is the capital going to come from? It is a different kind of business person you want. Is that the sort of person you really want running the countryside and land management in future? Perhaps it is—I do not know—but I am not sure that some of the people who are there are the people that you are making the right recommendations to.

My Lords, I serve on Sub-Committee D on Environment and Agriculture. I declare an interest as a farmer and landowner. I must also declare that for more than 20 years I have been lobbying to get the CAP reformed so that it addresses the problems of rural areas and represents all their population and not just the farmers. Even in the predominantly rural regions of the EU, agriculture’s share of gross value added is only 5.8 per cent. On average it is even less, and if you include the more urban regions it is much smaller still.

I believe that government should not interfere with the management and control of the nation’s businesses. That is not efficient. An administration trying to control aspects of agriculture in 27 countries should limit itself to regulation and ensuring fair competition. However, the sad thing is that far too many people on the Continent treat agriculture as part of their cultural heritage rather than a business, and believe that every farmer should be protected because what he is doing is part of some sort of sacred duty. In reality of course he is no more part of the cultural heritage than the village cobbler, the butcher or the baker, who get no support.

The landscape might be part of our culture, but not the farmer, so let us buy the product and not subsidise the man. That particularly applies to our less-favoured areas, where farming is mainly about landscapes, and landscapes are mainly about farming. In these remote and often mountainous parts, it is important for social and environmental reasons that land managers of some sort are encouraged to stay in place.

Anyway, as a result of this near spiritual approach to farming in some continental countries, when the Commission approaches the reform of the CAP it is as much a political exercise as it is a rational examination of the future needs and requirements of a massive, and massively diverse, food industry. The question that should be asked, and is really not, is: “What do we want from our agriculture in 10 to15 years’ time, and how do we ensure that we get it?” The answer should be that we want to have an environmentally sustainable industry, which produces high-quality, good-value and sufficient food in a way that does not endanger the environment or the needs of future generations. The way to get there is to improve the infrastructure and help create a competitive industry that responds to market signals and not to political ones; an industry that is not dependent on taxpayers’ financial support, or on protection from the rest of the world; and an industry that does not utilise 40 per cent-plus of the EU’s budget in order to keep it as it is now. In other words, agriculture desperately needs the commercial pressures in order to keep it constantly changing in tune with market signals. That is how it will thrive and produce the food that Europe needs.

However, the Commission, and now the Parliament, has to consider the vested interests. I might say that these vested interests do not only include farmers. It was interesting that when New Zealand did away with its agricultural subsidies in the 1980s fewer than 4 per cent of farmers went under, while I believe that over 50 per cent of its Ministry of Agriculture staff were made redundant. I will not go further down that road. Suffice it to say that these vested interests seem to have political clout, and even when you get some reform a new set of vested interests seems to appear. Real reform is thus very slow.

One of the more interesting interviews that we had during our inquiries was with the European commissioner for financial programming. As noble Lords might imagine, she can think of a lot of better things to do with 40 per cent of the budget than to give it all to farmers. One of the things she said in passing which caught my attention was that in giving eastern EU farmers their very small equivalent of the SFP, we were only really helping the Chinese and Japanese economies. She paused like I am pausing now. She went on to explain that this is because many of the small farmers were just using this money, which was new to them, to go out and buy TVs and microwaves which they had never before been able to afford, while just carrying on farming in the way they had always done. So one has to ask: “Is this money helping them modernise their industry or making them more efficient in producing more and cheaper food for the EU taxpayer, or is it just the start of getting them hooked on a way of life dependent on government handouts?” Furthermore, if that is a justifiable question applying to them, might it not also be true in connection with western EU farmers? What does the single farm payment actually achieve for EU taxpayers outside the less favoured areas?

There is no doubt that in eastern Europe farmers need help in restructuring their agricultural industry, but at present Pillar 1 is remarkably badly equipped to do this. Certain rural areas in western Europe also need help, but why pick only on farming as the conduit for support? The CAP could be described as being monotheistic in that it blindly worships farmers at the expense of others in the countryside. However, if we want to create wealth and employment in the countryside let us foster new cutting-edge businesses which will not need ongoing support once the right infrastructure is in place such as more commercial workspace or good broadband and transport links. If you want landscapes or habitats, then by all means pay farmers to produce them, but leave the food market alone. Encourage co-operatives, and above all encourage or even pump-prime insurance schemes so that both farmers and consumers can cope better with the bad years, but do not go down the route of the disastrous recent French proposals to make the EU food industry even more protectionist. That is reverting to the failed policies of the 1980s and will ultimately lead to an inefficient industry where the supply of food is gradually reduced and becomes more expensive than ever.

As I have said in other speeches to your Lordships, we are going to need a really competitive and productive European food industry in years to come. There could be world food shortages and it is inevitable that at times food prices will go up. However, as has been said, food as a percentage of the household budget in much of western Europe has fallen during the past 50 years from more than 30 per cent of household spend to some 10 or 11 per cent now, so here at least there is some slack in the system.

I believe that farmers and food would be so much more appreciated if the market was not distorted by the political interference of the CAP. I also believe that farmers in Europe can in future supply the food that Europe needs, and can even keep others further afield well fed, but only if they are exposed to the realities and pressures of the marketplace and not cocooned by the comfort of the present CAP. Meanwhile, a well funded Pillar 2 could do so much more for our countryside and those who live there.

My Lords, I came along to listen to this debate because we were enjoined to do so yesterday during our proceedings on the Lisbon treaty when we discussed reform of the CAP. Having listened to the debate I join all other noble Lords in congratulating the noble Lord, Lord Sewel, and his committee, and the staff who supported them, on the very high quality of their report. That is not in doubt and never is with your Lordships’ European Select Committee reports.

Indeed, all your Lordships’ Select Committee reports are of the very highest quality and many of them go on to be very influential in the areas which they cover. However, I intervene to ask what I and others asked yesterday: how much difference can any reports from your Lordships’ Select Committee on the European Union make to policies which are now dictated by Brussels, however much the Government may agree with them? Virtually none, I submit. I am fortified in this fear by a series of recent Written Answers to the noble Lords Lord Vinson and Lord Tebbit, who asked what effect any of your Lordships’ European Select Committee reports have had on EU policy over the years.

Having tried and abandoned the disproportionate cost defence, so far the only answer the Government have been able to give came on 19 February this year, which stated:

“The Select Committee’s recommendations on a restricted scope and the country of origin principle were incorporated into the Audiovisual Media Services Directive (amending the Television Without Frontiers Directive)”.

When pressed on this paucity of hard achievement, the Government have fallen back on extolling the general quality of your Lordships’ European Select Committee reports, with which, of course, we all agree. The questions my noble friends and I were asking yesterday, and which I repeat today, are fortified by the Minister revealing during Committee stage on the Lisbon Bill that only some eight of the 27 other countries support the UK’s call for radical reform of the CAP and, indeed, of the even more infamous common fisheries policy.

As I understand it, the French and their allies have blocked any meaningful reform until 2013 and are threatening to do so well beyond that. So what chance is there of such reform? What difference does it make if the British Government agree with the report? None, I fear. Is not the only answer for us to repatriate our agriculture and fishing policies? Why do we not do that? We could then control our agriculture and fish, without being part of these truly wicked policies. I apologise to the Minister for trying his well known courtesy and patience so far, but I look forward to his reply.

My Lords, it is deeply moving to see the noble Lord, Lord Pearson, here today as a surprise appearance in the gap. He has added lustre to the quality of the debate, but his remarks were very predictable. I am sure that the Minister will deal with some of them. They always reach a fundamental existential conclusion, and we know what it is. It is not really part of this debate. I imagine that most other participants today are anxious for us to remain enthusiastic and active members of the European Union, which is an increasingly successful entity in a difficult and complex world, with more and more opportunity to help other parts of the world, not least in food production.

We have had the benefit of some very expert views. I think of the sagacious comments of my noble friend Lord Livsey, and I note what he rightly said about the expense of the United States farm support system. Other experts such as the noble Earl, Lord Erroll, and the noble Lord, Lord Cameron, have spoken, and we are due to hear from a great expert on agriculture and horticulture; the Conservative spokesman. Above all, I echo the thanks of previous speakers to the noble Lord, Lord Sewel, and his colleagues for a very arresting and radical report, which needs much careful attention.

This debate has arisen at the same time as the Commission has produced its preliminary draft health check proposals, of some complexity, and there is a lot more to come in the negotiations. Paragraph 211 of the report sums up the great difficulties of getting the balance right between the legitimate and growing single market in food and farm products and the pressure to repatriate partially some of the differences and variations in complicated national policies. That is an intricate exercise for the future, and we wish all member Governments and the Commission well in trying to get the best system for post-2013.

Britain takes less in total in CAP support payments on recent statistics than, say, France, but its average take is much higher because of the relatively high incidence of giant farms and large estates. Yet when the Commission tried, rightly, to apply a cap on CAP payments, the UK Government and wealthy UK estate-owning farmers protested vigorously, somewhat ironically. However, everyone knows that large farm estates have to be helped somehow to preserve and enhance the local environment for the general good. That is the reality. So the European Commission needs sympathy and help in its often abstruse and hard-to-grasp searches for solutions for post-2013.

The planned scrapping of set-aside will inevitably reduce the subsidies to the largest entities anyway, and those funds can then be deployed in smaller farms, especially where pro-environment objectives are encased in the overall activity. Meanwhile, the old world of excessive CAP support for excessive production is over—which is welcomed by most people—and few will lament that major change. The next few years will, however, reflect the global change to booming demand and food shortages in many developing countries.

It is fascinating also to observe the changes in French thinking in recent times. The presidency period that it will inherit on 1 July will reveal a much greater willingness in France to accept radical new objectives, which is a major adjustment. So if France can change in the future, Britain needs to as well, armed as we are with our famous obsession for free markets and the survival of some of the most skilful asset-strippers. I say that slightly tongue in cheek, but people will know what I mean. Of course, the big German farms could also suffer if the 7 per cent reduction at over €100,000 is implemented by the member states by the November deadline for the package to be agreed.

I trust that this target can be reached, because there is a wide range of views among the 27 about future modernisation priorities, from the acceptance of some interventionist support at one end, to the total scrapping of present-day subsidies, which seems to be the view in Sweden. Meanwhile, the French agricultural population is now down to 4 per cent and many small farms in France have ceased to function. This makes the task of modernisation easier, not harder. I declare an interest, as I live in France and I am surrounded by some of the remaining small farms. I am glad that the Danish commissioner, who has been praised in this debate several times, has advocated the use of unspent funds within the CAP support nexus to help third-world farmers, showing once again the powerful example that the EU can set as a provider of investment aid to underdeveloped countries, rather than short-term handouts to prop up.

The relatively high free-market view is endorsed in the sub-committee report, with its advocacy of the farming sector,

“capable of standing on its own feet, competing in open international markets without subsidy or special protection”.

I hope that the committee clerks, when they read the Hansard of this debate later, will send a copy to the United States and Japanese farm support agencies where subsidies remain the highest in the developed world, much worse than the CAP.

I hope that the European Commission will heed the committee’s later suggestion that the other available funds, such as cohesion, structural and regional funds, as well as CAP Pillars 2 and 1 can better be used to deal with the weaknesses of the rural economies in many sub-areas of the member states. The Commission in Brussels, like sub-committee D, is anxious to get the balance right between the logical availability of common support mechanisms post-2013 with the localised national and regional decision-making within each member country to secure the focused policy effect of cash help, plus incentive cash for innovative measures if farmers enhance the environmental benefits as well. This acceptance of permissive flatter payments being used by the members is surely a highly desirable objective if it can be practical, fair and transparent. That is of course a big “if”, but it must be achieved.

The Commission is very keen to move away from the historic payments model, as the report of the noble Lord, Lord Sewel, emphasised. It also expresses support for full decoupling and full abolition of set-aside, which must surely be pragmatically inevitable in the global village context if the advanced countries are to set an example. WTO rules also favour non-subsidy models for locally weak and impoverished farming zones, as well as normal units. I see that the National Farmers’ Union strongly argues for all arable support to go, not for keeping it for suckler cows and ewes, for example.

I believe that the Commission is more and more committed to the full abolition of export subsidies and the eventual elimination of milk quotas and cereal intervention payments. We have five years to go before this brave new world has to start, which is an adequate transitional period for normal healthy farm units to accept. Even after 2013, some support mechanisms could be retained pro tem on a tapering basis. In fact, the sub-committee report advocates this approach in paragraph 245.

On these Benches, we also welcome the report’s strong adherence to the co-financing of Pillar 2 outlays, as it enhances the subsidiarity of national efforts to secure local aims with efficient spending norms. We also welcome the proposal that member states could pay the SPS in two doses, which would mean that hapless farmers here would not have to wait an excessive time for full verification of claims. We would save some of the embarrassing comparison of other member states with the efficiency, or not, of what has happened here. I pay tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, who is not here for understandable personal reasons, for his honest admission of the difficulties with the department’s system in that regard.

I was glad to note that the National Farmers’ Union campaigned to get rid of the permanent pasture restriction, or the irritating “use it or lose it” rule. I very much agree with that. The NFU also worries about the distorting effects of Article 68 or 69—or is it the other way round?—payments under the 10 per cent procedure, and this certainly needs to be thoroughly sorted out and clarified into a tangible model system for 2013.

I understand also that the NFU—and I do not act as its agent, it just happens to have made a number of good suggestions on the health check—is concerned that the Article 68 schemes could produce the opportunity for member states’ agricultural ministries to slip into the habit of introducing quasi-modulation discounts. In paragraph 239 of its report, the sub-committee strongly supports the plans to get like-for-like reductions in voluntary modulation in return for increasing compulsory modulation. I would be grateful, therefore, if the Minister responded to this specific point in his wind-up speech, including the proposed modulation tabulation from the 3 per cent, the 6 per cent and the 9 per cent matrix of reductions onwards to the final outcome likely for 2012. I observe that the national modulation systems in, say, Portugal or Britain will reduce the payment against the increases in EU modulation, presumably to produce the same net effect, but how will all that work in practice? That is an important question. There are bound to be some uncertainties in those areas pending the working-up of the final reform package, but it would help to have the Government's preliminary thinking, while we fully accept that there is still a maximum of negotiating water to flow under the CAP bridge.

Finally, I would be most grateful if the Minister were able to say something on the latest unrest among dairy farmers, which has been mainly manifested in Germany, Holland, Austria and a little less in France. However, I feel that the debate has been useful and timely, and that the report of the noble Lord, Lord Sewel, is a tremendous generator of important and radical thought.

My Lords, I declare an interest as I am active in my family farming and horticultural business, and am a member of and active in a number of organisations connected with it. I join other noble Lords in congratulating the noble Lord, Lord Sewel, and his committee on a first-class report. The competence of those involved shines through, and it is well written, clear and straightforward. It is more than a layman’s guide in the sense that it provides definitions of those strange words that the CAP uses, such as “decoupling” and “modulation”, which are not normally used in the language. It can also be used as a textbook by experts, as my noble friend the Duke of Montrose suggested.

I read the report thoroughly, as I had it with me while I was overseas sheltering from the rain last week. I tried to read between the lines to see whether I could detect any subtleties. I do not see any; I see a pretty unanimous committee working on a strong consensus. Accordingly, it has been able to produce a report that has not had to blunt its thrust, and has had good interaction with many witnesses. I found myself compiling what I want to say today with far too many notes, because the report is detailed and the various recommendations are worthy of comment. I have to edit out some of what I say, as I am sure the noble Lord, Lord Dykes, had to as he tried to encapsulate all his points.

Events have moved on since the report, as the noble Lord, Lord Sewel, said and as we discussed last night. The health check has arrived. It is only in draft, but it contains the structure for substantial reform. Although Commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel said that it was not reform but that reform awaited the budget review, we can see that the concept of having one vision and two steps incorporates a serious attempt at change. The report is right to have anticipated that. There is a coincidence of argument between the report and the health check, and the Government’s response. There are areas of difference but, generally speaking, there is consensus. As the noble Lord, Lord Sewel, pointed out, the events of the past few months have, if anything. highlighted the urgency of change and the need to maintain momentum for it. This week, the United Nations summit in Rome has drawn attention to the need for food security to be high up the political agenda. We have an opportunity to keep the topic to the fore.

One interesting thing about the report is that it reveals the tension that exists between commonality and subsidiarity, and I do not think that these matters are easily resolved. There is also a tension between the more productive areas of agricultural regions—the areas where I am fortunate enough to farm—and the less favoured areas of which my noble friend the Duke of Montrose and the noble Lord, Lord Livsey, spoke. The report leans towards a resolution through greater control by member states, particularly in the environmental and social fields in Pillar 2. I think that that must be right, but it still shows that there is a tension between protectionism and the free market. That may be inevitable but, pace the noble Lord, Lord Pearson, we did not solve that problem in the pre-CAP days. The noble Lord, Lord Sewel, is right to say that there must be a move towards removing subsidy and facilitating the freeing of the market. There remains a strong necessity to liberalise markets where we can, and the report recognises that.

However, there is one point that I feel the report failed to address but should have done—that is, the huge inhibitors to the free market created by nitrate vulnerable zones and things such as the pesticides directives. Somehow or other, we have to try to stop the generation of restrictive and inhibiting ideas from the Community if farmers are to play their full part in boosting agricultural production in this country.

As if to reinforce these distortions that come into play, the report concentrates on the use of Pillar 1 for social purposes. Channelling funds through Pillar 1 may not be the best way to tackle these problems—the committee was right to draw attention to that—but I disagree with the noble Lord, Lord Livsey, in that I am not sure that support through production prices or production subsidies is the right way to deal with the social problems of disadvantaged areas. Pillar 2 is the right vehicle for that activity.

Environmental benefits are very important, and farmers are properly recognised as agents in providing a landscape and an environmentally attractive background to the lives of all citizens in this country. However, I am not sure that the cost to industry is always recognised. The benefits can lead to a number of market disadvantages. For example, we are rightly in favour of things such as animal welfare but within the market these can lead to distortions, particularly on a worldwide basis. If in these areas we repatriate scheme management and funding to national Governments, I hope that there will be ways in which we can balance out the disadvantages. I suspect that a key element will be proper labelling on foods of the country of origin. The Community has been slow to recognise that that is one way in which it can support consumers and also support producers in maintaining high standards and have them clearly recognised on the shelves.

The report goes into some detail on the single payment scheme and it must have been right to do so. The scheme has caused a great deal of difficulty and has lost farmers a lot of money over the past couple of years because of its complexity—as it operates within England at any rate.

The English authorities were right to undertake an area payments system. Historic payments, as the committee suggested, will have to be phased out if we are to avoid ending up with more distortions than we currently have. It was also right in what it said about the costs of small payments and the need to eliminate, on a de minimis basis, smaller claims and not to be diverted from seeking to cap payments. It is important to try and facilitate partial payment, as the health check recommends, so that where there is some concern about the precise exactitude of a claim, at least a fair percentage of it could be paid to the farmer, avoiding the huge financial problems that some farmers have had trying to get their payments paid on time.

One difficulty that farmers face—the noble Earl, Lord Erroll, was absolutely right—involves the bureaucracy that goes with so much farming today. The burden of overregulatory cost compliance is very negative; it has had an enormously negative effect on the way in which farmers view the CAP. It is often overegged and the inspection requirements are far more demanding than they need to be. Many farmers are prepared to maintain very high standards. I have to declare an interest as a member of LEAF, which sets standards—it is a quality mark. We need facilities whereby membership of such organisations reduces the necessity of having a double-whammy inspection system.

I hope that, notwithstanding the thrust of the report on the production side, there is also an important role for the common agricultural policy in maintaining rural communities. The report addresses that but stretches beyond the immediate problems of the CAP. It requires us to try to maintain the social fabric of rural communities, which involves the provision of post offices, health service reorganisation and the resolution of transport difficulties—all of those feed into strengthening rural communities. That involves not just Governments—I am not seeking to make an assault on the Government—but also the commercial banking sector, retail organisations and the whole area of retail planning, which have made the survival of rural communities very difficult. I believe that the CAP can be an agency for trying to ensure that we have sustainable communities in rural areas in future.

I suspect that the key, as the report suggests, is the liberalisation of the system. This objective has a moral imperative. We must seek to provide food for our country’s citizens that is of a fair quality and at a reasonable price. We must all be prepared to meet this challenge. If we are to take the industry with us, we must take every opportunity to get bureaucracy off farmers’ backs. The noble Earl, Lord Erroll, spoke eloquently of the hassle factor, which so annoys farmers. We must recognise that in a world where food markets are changing fast, the need to provide good quality food at reasonable prices is a major challenge. To do that we need investment in science and technology. I hope that we shall be able to debate that aspect in the future because I am sure that a programme of modernisation is necessary if we are to achieve full productive capacity with our farming resources in this country. We need to encourage new farming techniques and we need a proper linkage between pure science and its application.

I end by repeating my congratulations on an excellent report. I hope that the committee has similar success on fisheries. I also hope it returns to agriculture as the debate moves on. This is a fast-changing scene and I believe that continual interaction between this House, its committees and the policy is very important.

There is a consensus on much of which we speak; there is a tide which we can catch; it is a time of challenge to feed the citizens and the world; it is a time of change for farmers and politicians; and it is a time of opportunity which we should welcome.

My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend for introducing his committee’s report and for the trenchant points he made in covering the main issues. The committee’s report, for which he can take great credit, represents a substantial amount of work.

The noble Lord, Lord Dykes, said he regretted that the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, for good reasons, could not be here. His regrets are as nothing compared with mine in dealing with these issues, particularly as I thought we were moving towards a fairly gentle consensus. In fact I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, for emphasising just how great that consensus is. I also welcome the constructive comments that were made from all parts of the Chamber, with those little reservations that one comes to expect from a thoughtful House. But then the noble Lord, Lord Pearson, appeared. Gentle consensus is scarcely the order of the day in those terms. From what I can see, most of us have been concerned about whether we can move successfully from Pillar 1 to Pillar 2, but the noble Lord, Lord Pearson, wants to bring them both down and the whole of the temple with it. I congratulate him on being able to present that position in the four short minutes permitted. I shall deal with those more general points in a moment but I want first to respond to the main issues of the debate, which are in the report.

It is certainly a very timely initiative. Recent legislative proposals published on 20 May by the European Commission for the next round of CAP reform—the so-called health check—covered elements outlined in the Commission’s communication on 20 November 2007. The health check will review the 2003 reforms and contribute to discussion on the future shape of the CAP. Noble Lords have participated in this debate on the assumption that we can be optimistic about the capacity and certainly the need for change of the CAP, but they are also optimistic about the extent to which we can effect change with the sole reservations introduced by the noble Lord, Lord Pearson of Rannoch. In a moment I shall indicate why we should be optimistic about certain changes which certainly need to take place. We shall consult stakeholders before reaching our final position for the negotiations, but this is a good chance to comment on the overall direction of travel.

As the House will have appreciated from the government response, we very much welcome the committee’s report. It offers a thorough analysis of the common agricultural policy’s strengths and weaknesses. We share the key planks of the committee’s conclusions on the directions of future policy. We want the health check negotiations this year to play an important part in the reform process by reducing regulatory burdens and giving farmers greater control over their business decisions, a point emphasised by the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, and introduced by the noble Earl, Lord Erroll, in his contribution. We want to reduce the trade and market-distorting nature of the CAP and direct public spending more towards the delivery of clear public benefits which we would all share. In parallel to this, the EU budget review provides an important opportunity to examine how the CAP should be reshaped beyond 2013 and—a more distant perspective—to ensure that it is fit for purpose and delivers maximum value for EU taxpayers’ money.

There is no doubt but that the committee’s report offers a valuable contribution to both those debates. My noble friend, with his customary perspicacity, emphasised the obvious fact that we also need to recognise the changed context in which we are operating, even in the months during which the report was being compiled. It is clear that the change in the world situation—the rapid escalation of food shortages—means that we need to direct our immediate attention to those who are worst affected.

Food is becoming increasingly unaffordable for poor households around the world, and humanitarian agencies have a great deal to do. Every day 25,000 children die because they do not have enough to eat. We are calling on all countries, particularly those in the developed world, to respond generously to appeals from the World Food Programme. DfID has announced our contribution of a £450 million aid package to help the poorest countries in the current crisis. The Prime Minister has written to the Japanese Prime Minister, who is chair of the G8 and hosted a food summit on 22 April, to emphasise that we need a coherent and holistic response from the international community. As important as this debate is to all those in Europe, particularly in Britain, who depend upon the countryside for their living, those who require us to guarantee food production need to recognise the wider context of the world crisis that we are facing.

This debate is about issues that concern us all directly. The noble Lord, Lord Cameron, said that we ought to have a clear perspective, a vision for farming. It is necessary that the CAP should be directed towards clear objectives so that changes can be effected that set a new pattern for the future. I can only emphasise that the Secretary of State sought to set out a clear vision for farming in the conference last November. He foresaw that we need an industry that earns its rewards from the market for the quality, safety and environmental and animal welfare standards of the food and other products it produces and which is profitable and competitive domestically and internationally. He foresaw an industry that works collaboratively to meet the challenges it faces and that manages risks. I take on board the contributions made by several noble Lords. The noble Earl, Lord Erroll, particularly emphasised risk management by farmers. We need an industry that embraces its environmental responsibilities—that tackles climate change and manages water and the soil, seeing them as essential to its long-term economic success rather than as a threat to it—and that is valued and rewarded by society for all the environmental services it provides, including managing the landscape and enhancing biodiversity.

CAP reform is a key element to our achieving those goals. At present, the CAP is expensive, wasteful and inefficient. The report identifies where necessary change should be effected, and all contributions this evening have emphasised that change. I will come in a moment to the one or two reservations that were expressed about certain aspects of it.

The CAP distorts global markets, weighs farmers down with regulation and acts as a disincentive for farmers to maximise their market competitiveness. Our long-term vision is to see the elimination of Pillar 1 of the CAP altogether, leaving public subsidy targeted at specific public benefits such as environmental enhancement through Pillar 2.

Good progress has been made in reforming the CAP in recent years, although that progress has not been rapid enough; the Government have been frustrated in some respects. Much more clearly needs to be done. Indeed, the report identifies the essential reforms that are needed to boost farm competitiveness, to improve value for money and to address concerns about food prices. In particular, we want the health check to cut distortion and shift the emphasis of the CAP even more towards protecting the environment.

Beyond the health check, the EU budget review provides an important opportunity for the EU as a whole to examine the CAP closely and to consider how it should be reshaped. It is worth stressing that the CAP costs EU taxpayers a substantial amount of money. In 2005, Pillar 1 cost the EU budget more than €42 billion, and the CAP placed an additional €42 billion burden on consumers. We will engage with other member states, the Commission and our stakeholders in the coming years to ensure that the negotiations on the next EU financial perspective address these concerns.

Can we hope for success? We all know the barriers to success. Noble Lords in the debate have identified some of the difficulties and have voiced possible reservations. These issues will need to be confronted. The noble Duke, the Duke of Montrose, asked whether the higher world food prices mean that the EU no longer needs its export refunds. I certainly agree, as do the Government. High prices mean that it is totally unjustified for the EU to maintain its price support systems. I have a word of solace; we are pleased that the EU recently set cereal import tariffs to zero, so the noble Duke’s point is appreciated.

The noble Lord, Lord Livsey, expressed a note of reservation that we will need to continue to support farmers in less favoured areas, such as upland areas. We both recognise that issue and agree that certain types of farming, which clearly benefit society, should continue to receive support. That support will, however, have to be more targeted than it is under the existing CAP provisions. We want it to be done through Pillar 2 of the CAP, not through the untargeted, blanket direct payments that have obtained until now.

The noble Earl, Lord Erroll, talked about the burdens on farmers, particularly the red tape, and the fact that farmers should not be subject to burdensome regulations that have no real significance. We are concerned to simplify the CAP for those very reasons. However, the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, would be quick to challenge me if I did not enter the caveat that we need proper controls over the use of these substantial sums of money. We are not arguing for a lack of accountability with regard to these issues.

The noble Earl, Lord Erroll, talked about wild birds and specific regulations relating to them. We will consider this issue, but neither my notes nor my background equip me in any way, shape or form to cope with it now. Even my membership of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds does not help me, so I will have to write to him after the debate.

The noble Lord, Lord Cameron, emphasised the need for farming to be entrepreneurial and market oriented. We agree with him entirely; that is the thrust of the Government’s policy. Our Farming for the Future initiative is about helping farming to become profitable and competitive without being dependent on subsidy. I noted that my noble friend Lord Sewel, who is so much better qualified on these issues than I purport to be, was nodding in agreement with the noble Lord when he was making his forthright remarks in those terms.

I am not quite sure of the order of importance of the two issues to which I shall now turn. Perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Pearson, will take second place on this occasion; after all, he had only four minutes to deploy his case. I want to emphasise the obvious fact that other countries are following our lead on the CAP. I cannot comment on detailed negotiations and how much support we will get in crucial areas, but there is a widespread acceptance in the EU that the status quo is not sustainable, which obtains as much for France as for any other country. That is why we can—in the way in which the noble Lord, Lord Dykes, and, I think, the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, on the two Front Benches expressed themselves—have elements of optimism about what could be achieved in fresh negotiations. This report gives clear lines for the Government, who will be able to build on that.

I cannot reply to the noble Lord, Lord Pearson, in any more direct terms than this. He was disappointed yesterday and I shall disappoint him today, although I know that his disappointment will not in any way diminish his zeal for criticism, which is expressed in this House on every opportunity. He will just have to accept it when I say that I look forward with enthusiasm to the next time that I will be subject to that representation.

If the noble Lord will forgive me, the more substantial issue on this occasion, which is directly related to the report, is the position that the Government will adopt on modulation. I say to the noble Lord, Lord Dykes, that we need to target funds at rural disadvantage, which will be present in most member states for the foreseeable future. Its extent varies enormously across different environments. That will appear to point more towards structural and cohesion funds as the main source of funding outside national government spending to address such issues. The continuing role of Pillar 2 needs careful consideration against that background. That is how the Government will address themselves to this.

It is difficult for us to reach a definitive view on the modulation aspects of the health check. Much will depend on how the proposed voluntary modulation adjustment will work. However, we will be pressing the Commission to provide more information about this adjustment process in the working group discussions. It is vital that UK rural development programmes are at least protected, as the noble Lord, Lord Livsey, indicated. There is scope for the UK to do more in support of the new challenges.

The UK has 12.8 per cent of the utilisable agricultural area within the EU 15 member states, but it receives 3.5 per cent of the EU 15 core rural development budget. Unless that is addressed, the UK will continue to rely on high levels of modulation to support its ambitious and proper rural development programmes. We need to concentrate on modulation for the very reason that the inequities exist.

I am grateful to all noble Lords who have spoken and, once again, I congratulate my noble friend on having produced such an excellent report, which almost achieved complete consensus in the House.

My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have contributed to the debate and my noble friend the Minister for his reply on behalf of the Government. He is a Jeff Rooker in waiting, perhaps. It was a particular pleasure to listen to the noble Lord, Lord Pearson of Rannoch, and I can only say that I look forward to an even more extended contribution from him when we come to discuss our report on the common fisheries policy.

I see the role of the common agricultural policy as being essentially to regulate the single market in agricultural products, full stop. If the alternative to the common agricultural policy is 27 member states with their individual, separate and idiosyncratic tariff regimes, support and subsidy regimes and protection regimes, I am afraid that you can give me the common agricultural policy every day.

The House has been extremely generous in its comments on the report but, if praise is to be distributed, it ought to go almost entirely to three people: our Clerk, Julia Labeta, our committee specialist, Alistair Dillon, and our special adviser, Professor Sir John Marsh, who yet again has provided us with an invaluable service. I thank them all very much.

That brings us to the end except for one thing. I suppose that we all look forward with quiet confidence to this agenda of reform being taken forward under the French presidency.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House adjourned at 6.06 pm.