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Lords Chamber

Volume 709: debated on Thursday 23 April 2009

House of Lords

Thursday, 23 April 2009.

Prayers—read by the Lord Bishop of Southwark.

Health: Tuberculosis


Asked By

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what measures they are taking to combat the spread of tuberculosis in the United Kingdom.

My Lords, the Government are committed to tackling TB, and in 2004 the Chief Medical Officer for England published an action plan. Our key strategy is early detection and completion of treatment. To implement this, we launched an information pack designed to help NHS commissioners secure best services to meet local needs, and we are funding an awareness-raising programme for the public and professionals to help earlier identification of TB.

My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for that Answer. Does she agree that one in three of the world’s population is infected with latent TB? Why are there not sufficient funds to do a blood test on people with possible latent TB, a test which costs only £30 whereas treatment of drug-resistant TB costs £60,000 per patient?

My Lords, the noble Baroness is absolutely right about the problems with drug-resistant TB. She will also be aware that there have been a very small number of cases. In the UK since 1993 we have identified eight cases, three of which needed treatment—the other five patients died—and all the cases have been confined to patients with certain types of lifestyles, involving people who are homeless or dependent on drugs. We attempt to identify those people as early as possible and ensure that they get treatment and follow through the course of treatment.

My Lords, my noble friend’s interest in DfID and its work is well known. We provide substantial support for TB control worldwide. We support programmes in a number of countries and we are part of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. We fund many programmes, and we do that in two ways: one is by helping support health services in the countries that have these pandemic problems, and the other is the provision of funding to those countries’ TB control programmes—for example, in India and Nepal.

My Lords, the Minister will know that failed asylum seekers are treated for tuberculosis without charge. However, does she acknowledge that failed asylum seekers with diabetes or HIV/AIDS have to pay for their treatment, yet they are at a much greater risk of contracting TB clinically and most live in the unsanitary conditions that lead to TB infection in individuals? Will the Government reconsider their refusal to give free NHS care to these very vulnerable people?

My Lords, the noble Baroness will be aware that we certainly regard TB as a public health issue, and anyone who is suspected of having TB will receive their treatment promptly, and it will of course be free. The noble Baroness is aware that we are reviewing the other issues that she has continued to raise with the Government, because it is not in anyone’s interest that people do not receive the treatment that they need for conditions such as HIV, TB or related illnesses.

My Lords, when I was a medical student, I was familiar with the ravages of bovine tuberculosis, which often caused serious spinal and bone tuberculosis in children. We thought that bovine tuberculosis was a thing of the past, having been virtually eliminated from the country, but now there is a recrudescence of the bovine infection in some cattle and in the badger population. What initiatives have the Government embarked upon to deal with this problem?

My Lords, the noble Lord will know that the Health Protection Agency indicates that there is no evidence of an increase in the infection of humans with bovine TB as a proportion of the overall number of TB cases. We maintain diligent monitoring of all types of TB. With regard to badgers, which are slightly outside my brief, we are guided by the science in this matter. My honourable friend has made an announcement about this in the past few months and it remains a subject for debate. We are aware that TB in cattle can spread easily, but I do not think that I should take the issue any further than that.

My Lords, is the Minister aware that over the past three years, there have been reports of 13, 14 and 15 cases respectively of bovine TB infecting the cat population? Therefore, is she not concerned about the possibility of zoonosis?

My Lords, as I said, the HPA maintains diligent monitoring of all types of TB, including that mentioned by the noble Baroness.

My Lords, will my noble friend confirm that the resources for dealing with TB are allocated mainly at a local level? That being the case, is she satisfied that the way in which the resources are allocated across the country is monitored by her department?

My Lords, it is indeed the case that the resources are provided at a local level, and that is why the Chief Medical Officer provided strong guidance to commissioners at a local level. However, to make sure that they are doing their job properly, the CQC, our new body, writes that into its assessments. The assessments are made against the guidelines issued by NICE, including the TB guidelines, and the CQC’s periodic and special reviews will look at whether TB services are monitored and delivered properly at a local level.

My Lords, the Minister will be aware that the prevalence of antibiotic-resistant tuberculosis is very high in the Far East. What action are the Government taking to make sure that migrants with TB who come to this country are examined or perhaps not even allowed to enter the country because they may spread drug-resistant TB in the communities to which they come?

My Lords, the noble Lord raises an important point. We know that the highest burden of TB in the UK falls on those born abroad who then go on to develop an active form of the disease in the UK—not the drug-resistant form; there is no evidence at all of that. That is why the plan that the Chief Medical Officer launched in 2004 is targeted at those specific populations. In addition, we have a long-standing government policy that immigrants from high-prevalence countries who seek to enter the UK for more than six months are screened for TB on arrival at the port of entry. Indeed, in countries of high incidence—Bangladesh, Sudan, Tanzania, Thailand, Ghana, Kenya and Pakistan—they are screened prior to being given permission to travel to the UK. Those who are found to have infectious TB must undergo treatment at their own expense before being allowed to enter the UK.

Fuel Poverty


Asked By

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they are taking to ensure that all cancer patients living in fuel poverty are receiving the financial help to which they are entitled.

My Lords, we are fully committed to providing a scheme of social security benefits to meet the circumstances and needs of the population and to advertise those benefits as widely as possible. The Pension, Disability and Carers Service has an outreach programme and attends more than 1,000 external events and exhibitions each year. The department routinely consults stakeholders such as Macmillan Cancer Support, and the Department of Health is developing information prescriptions, which include information on welfare benefits.

My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply. I am sure that he is aware of the Macmillan campaign “Freeze out Fuel Poverty”, but is he aware of its two particular concerns that, first, cancer patients over 60 get a winter fuel payment whereas those below 60 do not and, secondly, that, as the National Audit Office report Tackling Cancer: Improving the Patient Journey made clear, 77 per cent of cancer patients are not given any financial information whatever?

My Lords, on the latter point, the noble Baroness is absolutely right about the conclusion of the report, the research for which goes back four or five years. That was acknowledged in the Cancer Reform Strategy, which was published in December 2007. Running on from it was the determination to introduce information prescriptions, part of which would give people advice on benefits and available financial support. With regard to the first point on fuel poverty, the winter fuel payment is specifically targeted at pensioners, not just disabled people or cancer patients, to support them during winter. We believe that the right approach to support vulnerable people generally who have extra needs, including fuel needs, is through the disability benefits provisions, which are available throughout the year.

My Lords, do the Government plan to revise their fuel poverty strategy in light of the fact that it will not hit its target in 2010 to eradicate fuel poverty among vulnerable households, which include people under the age of 60 with terminal illnesses?

My Lords, yes, a review of the fuel poverty strategy is under way and is due to report to Ministers, particularly DECC Ministers, later this year. I should take the opportunity to say that this is a very important issue for the Government. Since 2000, something like £20 billion has been spent on support to keep people out of fuel poverty through a range of measures, not only the winter fuel allowance. I am sure that the noble Baroness will join me in congratulating the Government on their Budget yesterday, which will continue the extra payments that are available through the Warm Front scheme and the cold weather payments, as well as our engagement on social tariffs.

My Lords, with the indulgence of the House and not wishing to display too much sensitivity, let me advise noble Lords that the question that I asked yesterday was not a plant, as indeed the question that I am asking today is not a plant. Is my noble friend aware that for the past two years my 21 year-old granddaughter has been receiving treatment at Christie Hospital in Manchester? That has interrupted her university education and, although she does not experience fuel poverty, she has had tremendous financial help from the measures taken by the Government.

My Lords, I am grateful for my noble friend’s intervention and can confirm that neither that question nor the one that he asked yesterday was planted. I do not know the individual circumstances outlined by my noble friend but I am delighted and heartened to hear that the Government’s focus on supporting vulnerable people—the people who most need our help—has been so successful.

My Lords, will the review take into account the view that these extra payments ought to be means-tested, so that those who are really in need of them get them?

My Lords, part of the system to support disabled people involves means-testing, but part of it does not. Disability living allowance, which is a key plank of support, is not means-tested. It is focused on the needs that people have. We have not means-tested the winter fuel allowance, which is a popular and well supported universal benefit that is available to people over the age of 60. That is the right way for it to continue.

My Lords, I am sure that the Minister and his Government, in all the measures that they have put forward over the past 10 years to help people with all sorts of disabilities, needs and requirements, particularly on fuel poverty, intend to do well. Unfortunately, the forms are so complicated that it is difficult to get any of the money, which means that organisations such as Macmillan have to come to us to plant Questions for us to put down in good faith to find a way through all this complexity. Will the Government, in their dying days, take time to put that right?

My Lords, the noble Baroness would not expect me to accept that the Government are in their dying days; we are full steam ahead on all fronts. The complexity of form-filling is an important issue. The Government are working and have worked to make a range of benefits more accessible, especially pension credit, enabling people to access them by phone and to have multiple benefits dealt with at the same time. In preparing for this Question, I looked at the Macmillan website. The information that Macmillan produces is brilliant and really helpful. Part of the process of dealing with information prescriptions is to signpost people so that they get information from their GPs and other care professionals not only about which government department to contact but about organisations such as Macmillan, which should be congratulated on the fantastic stuff that it produces.

Supreme Court


Asked by

My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that the brevity of his reply will be appreciated by everyone for its rarity as well as its brevity? Does he realise that the same building in its earlier incarnation had the address of Little George Street? Why, if it is the same building now, have the Government changed the name? If they are going to change the name, why not change it to something really grand—with deference to the Duke of Wellington, why not call it No. 2 London?

My Lords, the reason why the address will be changed is that at the moment Little George Street is the street on which the front entrance to the building is situated. The front entrance will alter to face Parliament Square, so the address will be Parliament Square.

My Lords, bearing in mind the need for the Supreme Court to be seen to be independent of government, would it not be more appropriate if the word “gov” did not appear in the e-mail address for the new Supreme Court?

My Lords, I have to say that that is the best question that the noble Lord has ever asked me. I will look into that, but I do not really think that he has a point there.

My Lords, does the Minister accept that it is very important that the public should know where the Supreme Court is? Some years ago, I was co-defending in Kuala Lumpur with a rather elderly QC who jumped into a taxi with his instructing solicitor, Monika Skowronska, and said: “Supreme Court”. About half an hour later, he realised that they were going through a very seedy part of Kuala Lumpur. Their protestations to the driver were not heeded. They thought that they were being kidnapped, probably by my client or agents of my client. They were decanted in a new housing development on the edge of the city called Supreme Court.

My Lords, that is why it is so important that the address is the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom, Parliament Square.

My Lords, surely the noble Lord, Lord Henley, has a very good point. If it was worth spending £100 million to avoid a supposed misunderstanding on the part of the public about the role of the Law Lords, surely we ought to avoid creating a far worse misunderstanding that the Law Lords, or the new Supreme Court Justices, are part of the Government.

My Lords, I said that the noble Lord, Lord Henley, has a good point and that I will take it away. The amount of money is £58.9 million, as opposed to £100 million, but there is a serious point here; when the Supreme Court opens for business in October this year, it will be a major constitutional milestone for this country. The court will be physically separate from Parliament, which will demonstrate more clearly than anything else its status as an important and independent core institution in this country. Equally importantly, the court will be much more accessible to the general public than I am afraid the present court is. It will be visible to everyone, too. This is an important change, which I hope the House now welcomes.

My Lords, the Minister says that the cost will be £58.9 million. I assume that that estimate was produced by the Chancellor. Will the Minister remind us what the Government told us the court would cost when they embarked on the project?

My Lords, as I understand it, £58.9 million is the set-up cost; £36.7 million for capital construction was announced in June 2007, £20.2 million of other set-up costs were announced in June 2007—the same month—and £2 million of additional repairs to the Middlesex Guildhall were announced in July 2008.

My Lords, when the noble and learned Lords who will sit in the Supreme Court retire, could they be encouraged to come back to this place to give the benefit of their wisdom?

My Lords, will the Minister accept that the word “org”, hideous though it is, would be more appropriate to indicate the independence of the Supreme Court than the word “gov”, another horrible word?

My Lords, could I be a little more helpful to the Minister? My noble friend asked what the Government’s estimate was in the beginning. I think the Minister said that it was made in 2007, but if he reads the Written Statement on 14 December 2004, he will see that the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor said:

“The cost of establishing the Supreme Court at Middlesex Guildhall will be approximately £30 million”.—[Official Report, 14/12/04; col. WS 72.]

United States: Interrogation of Detainees


Asked By

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is their assessment of the methods of interrogation of detainees revealed in the documents declassified by the Government of the United States.

My Lords, we welcome the decision to disclose this material. We also welcome President Obama’s Executive Order of 22 January restricting methods of interrogation to those outlined in the US army field manual. The UK does not employ any of the techniques set out in these memos during interrogation. The Foreign Secretary has made it clear that we consider waterboarding to be torture.

My Lords, I thank the Minister for his response. The Obama Administration have been very honest and have told the world about the interrogation techniques. Will the Minister be equally honest and tell your Lordships’ House whether we were aware that these techniques were being used and whether we used the information obtained by them in the United Kingdom?

My Lords, as I indicated in my original Answer, these techniques are not used by any British personnel during interrogation. The information obtained by the United States is taken in good faith. The noble Lord will appreciate that it is not possible for us alone to conduct the necessary defensive strategy against terrorism. We need co-operation with other states, and that co-operation is based on the information which they supply. We would not knowingly use any information that involved techniques of interrogation which we were not prepared to use.

My Lords, 183 waterboardings in one month for one prisoner—that is, six a day—is surely torture by any standards. Do the Government agree that this will make it difficult, and perhaps impossible, to use any information obtained from prisoners at Guantanamo for prosecutions in this country?

My Lords, clearly there are difficulties, and the noble Lord will recognise the important position that the President of the United States has taken on these issues. However, the noble Lord is almost certainly right to judge that evidence submitted in any trial of individuals detained at Guantanamo Bay will, in defence terms, be subject to very serious examination in the light of that information. The noble Lord will also appreciate that it is, overwhelmingly, an issue for the American judicial authorities.

My Lords, following that remark, whether anyone is prosecuted in America for these revolting practices, more reminiscent of communism and the Nazi period than of present-day methods, is a matter for President Obama and, presumably, his Attorney-General. Could we, however, be quite clear about our own position? Is it correct that HMG suppressed details the other day of the apparent torture of Binyam Mohammed, because the US was threatening to deny us vital intelligence material, or is it just supposition that the US was believed likely to threaten us under the new Administration? Has anyone checked that out, and what is the right position?

My Lords, clearly it is difficult for me to discuss the case of Binyam Mohammed from the Dispatch Box, given that it is already subject to continuing process. The noble Lord will also know the extent to which the Government have acted in referring issues to the Attorney-General for the police to examine whether any malpractice has occurred, as far as British authorities are concerned. Generally, however, it will be seen that British authorities have dealt with the American authorities on a combined strategy—as we have with others in the battle against terrorism—but have made it quite clear where we stand on techniques like waterboarding, and clearly indicated that it is not possible for a British citizen to engage in such activities without falling foul of the law.

My Lords, does the Minister ever consider that this Government have, by their actions or inactions over recent years, been in breach of international law?

My Lords, I do not accept that and am having difficulty in identifying the particular illustration that the noble Baroness might have in mind. I emphasise that it is quite clear that the new Administration in the United States are looking at these things rather differently from the previous one, but that does not alter one jot the British position, which is quite clear. We do not condone the use of these techniques, we regard waterboarding as torture, and all instructions to British personnel guarantee that it is not used by British citizens.

My Lords, in reflecting in these short exchanges the horror that everyone must feel in seeing the images of waterboarding on our television screens—the frequency with which it was used on individual prisoners has already been stated—I warmly welcome and support the unequivocal statement that my noble friend has made in describing that as being torture. Would it not help everyone’s consideration of these issues if all references to this technique, particularly those by the media, were no longer described as interrogation? While it might technically be true, it in no way reflects the reality of the practices as most people recognise them.

My Lords, in the not-too-distant past, my noble friend has asked me to do some pretty difficult tasks, and conditioning the response of the media to these issues is probably beyond my powers. But I take on board the point that he makes. The Answer I have given today on behalf of the Government, which the Foreign Secretary made quite clear some weeks ago and will be warmly appreciated by the House, is that of course the Government regard waterboarding as torture. It is for the media to reflect that position as accurately as we hope they ever do.

My Lords, where do the Government stand on extraordinary rendition, which is a larger aspect of this other problem?

My Lords, we are against extraordinary rendition. When it was suggested that the British Government had been complicit in this because of two flights by United States aircraft landing in Diego Garcia, which is British territory, the British Government clearly were unaware of any aspect of extraordinary rendition attached to those flights.

Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments

Membership Motion

Moved By

Motion agreed.

Arrangement of Business


My Lords, with the leave of the House, my noble friend Lord Hunt of Kings Heath will repeat the Statement on coal and carbon capture and storage immediately after the debate in the name of my noble friend Lord Morris of Manchester.

Health: Contaminated Blood Products


Moved By

To call attention to the findings of the Independent Public Inquiry headed by Lord Archer of Sandwell into the infection and deaths of patients with HIV and hepatitis C by contaminated National Health Service blood and blood products; and to move for Papers.

My Lords, we are met to seek the Government’s response to a report of landmark importance to a small and stricken community of congenitally disabled people for whom acquaintance with grief—recurrent and abject grief—is an inescapable fact of life. Already disabled by a rare, life-long blood disorder requiring continuous medical treatment, haemophilia patients have twice been infected en masse by contaminated blood and blood products used in their NHS treatment. Of a patient group of barely 5,000, 95 per cent were infected with hepatitis C and one in four with HIV, involving for the haemophilia community a loss of life more grievous in proportion to the numbers of people at risk than the Black Death.

Thus of the 1,243 haemophilia patients infected by their NHS treatment with HIV only 361—29 per cent—are still alive; and the much higher number of deaths among hepatitis C-infected patients is still increasing. Moreover while stigma is less explicit today than the warning cross scrawled on a plague-victim’s door, it is no less cruelly oppressive in terms of social exclusion at a time of dire need.

I have two interests to declare in the debate, not pecuniary, as president of the Haemophilia Society, and as the architect of the independent public inquiry headed so admirably by my noble and learned friend Lord Archer of Sandwell. I am most deeply grateful to him and his colleagues—Dr Norman Jones, emeritus consultant physician at St Thomas’s Hospital, and Judith Willetts, chief executive of the British Society for Immunology. No inquiry team could possibly have shown more commitment or have been more eminently qualified for the arduous task they so readily and so ably undertook, entirely without remuneration.

Their report, exhaustively researched, is one also of excelling integrity and humane concern for arguably the most needful minority in Britain today. I warmly acknowledge, too, the help of my noble friend Lord Turnberg who, as immediate past president of the Royal College of Physicians, served the inquiry with such skill and dedication until he and his wife Edna were so tragically bereaved. I am indebted to all noble Lords who will be participating in the debate and delighted that my noble and learned friend Lord Archer is speaking. He deserves well of this House for the example he sets in practical concern for the well-being of vulnerable people to whom all of us here owe the duty of care.

I thank also my good and noble friend Lady Thornton, who will be replying to the debate. We have worked in close fellowship over many years in active support of the co-operative movement, and I know that she will readily understand why I am so glad also that my friend, the noble Baroness, Lady Campbell, whose triumph over severe disability is so deeply moving, honours us with her presence here this morning.

When I announced the setting up of the inquiry two years ago, 1,757 haemophilia patients had already died from being infected by their NHS treatment with HIV and/or hepatitis C. The death toll has since risen by over 200 and many more are left terminally ill by what my noble friend Lord Winston, vice-president of the Haemophilia Society, describes as the worst ever treatment disaster in the history of the NHS.

Yet the grievous death toll is not the whole story: the haemophilia community suffers privation at a depth most other people can barely imagine. Not surprisingly, I receive many letters from infected haemophilia patients. They speak of no longer being able to work full time; of having become uninsurable due to the prohibitively high premiums demanded of them by insurers; and of other costs now being too dear to cope with.

For parliamentarians, there can be no higher duty than that of ensuring just treatment for those afflicted and bereaved by life-threatening medication supplied by the state, and the emphatic backing for the Archer report’s recommendations by the mass media shows how clearly that duty is understood by the people of this country. Just as clearly, it was quickly understood by my right honourable friend Harriet Harman, deputy leader of the Labour Party and Leader of the House of Commons. Speaking on 5 March, she praised my noble and learned friend Lord Archer for his “important work” and added her “congratulations to the campaigners” on having,

“brought to the public’s attention the injustice”

suffered by the recipients of contaminated NHS blood and blood products. She then told MPs:

“The Government will respond shortly”—[Official Report, Commons, 5/3/09; col. 999.]—

to the report.

That was seven weeks ago. More recently, on 17 March, my noble friend Lady Thornton, speaking in Grand Committee during the Committee stage of the Health Bill, described my noble and learned friend Lord Archer’s report as “a wonderful document” and concluded:

“I warmly thank him again”.—[Official Report, 17/3/09; col. GC96.]

My noble friend’s remarks, like those of Harriet Harman, were much appreciated by the haemophilia community and taken as a clear pointer to an early and positive response from the Government.

As everyone in touch with the community knows, what they yearn for now is closure with the Department of Health on terms reflecting the severity of the pain and suffering endured by the afflicted and bereaved. But to date, although my noble and learned friend sent his report under personal and urgent cover to the Secretary of State for Health eight weeks ago, on 20 February, there has still been no response from him.

Often where despair from living with serious long-term illness is compounded by stressful delay, anguish can turn to anger; and sadly this is now being reflected in letters I receive from infected patients and their families. In a letter dated 15 April, the wife of a man now terminally ill asked me:

“Why was no Health Minister willing even to give evidence to Lord Archer's Inquiry when people living with terminal illnesses and in poverty, many of whom have since died, went all the way to Westminster to do so?”.

Her letter went on:

“In other words, poor as we are, we traipsed all across the country to help forward an inquiry for which no Minister was prepared even to cross Whitehall. Worse still, why were Health Department officials forbidden, clearly by Ministers, from attending any public hearing of the Inquiry?”.

My reply to her as to other such correspondents was that, while I could not answer for the Department of Health's decisions, I have known and respected the present Secretary of State for many years; that I was sure he must share the admiration of Members in all parts of both Houses of Parliament for my noble and learned friend Lord Archer's integrity and judgment as a former law officer of the Crown; and that he would certainly be aware of the huge public backing for the report. I also sent the Hansard coverage of ministerial comments on the report in both Houses of Parliament.

Turning now to issues raised in the report that merit close attention in this debate, I want first to raise the sombre threat now of a third deadly scourge to patients dependent on NHS blood and blood products. In response to Parliamentary Questions about the growing number of haemophilia patients known by the Department of Health to have been treated with blood from donors who have since died of variant CJD, I was told on the authority of the Chief Medical Officer that the risk of infection in such cases was purely “hypothetical”. Today that demonstrably is no longer true, a recent post-mortem on a hepatitis C-infected patient having found vCJD in his spleen.

Thus an urgent updating of ministerial statements made to Parliament on the vCJD threat is called for. Specifically we need to know the department’s current figures for the number of patients treated with blood from vCJD-infected donors. We need also to know what action Ministers have taken since the post-mortem on the implications of its findings. Again, how do the Government now assess the risk facing patients treated with blood taken from such donors; and further, what protection is now in place to safeguard recipients of donated blood?

I was told on 17 March that no screening test is currently available and that securing,

“a validated screening test is a priority”.—[Official Report, 17/3/09; col. GC96.]

Meanwhile, however, many noble Lords are aware that technology already available to remove by filter the abnormal prions which are the causative agent of vCJD is not being used by the Department of Health, despite having passed EU-wide safety testing and clinical trials as required for use in the United Kingdom. Failure to use that technology could cost lives and here again we need an updating today of ministerial statements on this vitally important issue of making NHS blood and blood products free of prion disease agents.

I move now to the issue of Crown immunity, which the Archer report raises in commenting on the behaviour of the Blood Products Laboratory—the BPL. It states:

“In July 1979, the Medicines Inspectorate visited BPL, following which they reported that the buildings were never designed for the scale of production envisaged and commented that, if this were a commercial operation, they would have had no hesitation in recommending that manufacture should cease until the facility was upgraded to a minimum acceptable level”.

Starkly, the Archer report then states:

“BPL was rescued by Crown Immunity”,

adding that,

“BPL’s existing plant continued production, relying on Crown Immunity to dispense with all the requirements of the Medicines Act, but was able to meet only 40 per cent of the national requirements”.

Words have surely lost their meaning if this does not mean that by the use of Crown immunity, a relic of feudal England, the lives of countless haemophilia patients were put blatantly and gravely at risk.

Speaking in this House on 10 March, my noble friend Lord Darzi, responding to me in exchanges about thalidomide, referred to,

“the tremendous amount of work that has gone into the marketing, testing and regulation of drugs, as encapsulated in the Medicines Act 1968, from which society has benefited greatly”.—[Official Report, 10/3/09; col. 1059.]

There could be no clearer text than this for describing the enormity of the use by the BPL of Crown immunity to dispense with all the requirements of that renowned and so vitally important statute. Hence we need to reflect in this debate on from whom the BPL was “rescued” by its use of Crown immunity.

First and foremost, of course, it was “rescued” from the afflicted and bereaved of this worst-ever NHS treatment disaster by denying them any prospect of legal redress, a denial made all the more cruelly unjust by the refusals of successive Governments to agree to a public inquiry, thus leaving them with no hope of any independent assessment of responsibility for their plight until the Archer inquiry was announced.

Crown immunity has now been abolished. It was ended by John Major's Conservative Government in 1991, and infected NHS patients ask why the present Government, who clearly have no intention of reinstating Crown immunity, cannot now review the claims of the victims of contaminated NHS blood from whom the BPL was “rescued” by Crown immunity. If anyone thinks that there is no way now of reversing what happened here or of doing any more to help infected NHS patients, they should look at how the Canadian and Irish Governments have found ways of compensating victims there by more than anything even contemplated by Ministers for NHS-infected patients here.

My noble friend Lord Warner, speaking for the Department of Health on 25 March 2004, told the noble Earl, Lord Howe, that this was because it was found both in Canada and the Irish Republic that legally wrongful acts were committed by the providers of blood and blood products but that this had not been established in the UK. Of course we now know the shaming reason why, namely, that the use of Crown immunity prevented our courts even from being approached. It was because there was no such thing as Crown immunity in Canada and the Republic that legal wrong could be established there.

Among other issues of concern, the non-availability of recombinant therapy still rankles with infected NHS patients made to wait longer for it in some parts of this country than elsewhere. In England it was given only to patients under 16, but in Scotland and Wales it was available irrespective of age. It is said that this was almost certainly Treasury-driven but, for whatever reason, patients made to wait felt that they were treated unjustly and with scant regard for the effects on their health.

Another injustice said to have been Treasury-driven is that of crudely discriminatory treatment of widows of NHS-infected patients in deciding eligibility for financial assistance solely on the dates when their husbands died, even where they died within two days of each other from exactly the same cause. The Archer report’s recommendation to end such illogicality and inequity is warmly welcomed by the haemophilia community.

I come now briefly to two further issues that we must not overlook today: first, the need for action now, at no great cost, to implement the Archer inquiry’s call for improved access for infected patients to NHS facilities; and, secondly, the inquiry’s recommendation on securing the financial future of the Haemophilia Society, faced as it is now by ever-increasing calls for help from NHS-infected patients. That this recommendation has not already been implemented has appalled noble Lords in all parts of the House, and I honour those who have made clear the depth of their concern, more particularly the noble Baroness, Lady O’Cathain, for her active support for restoring at once the punitive 70 per cent cut recently made by the Department of Health in the society's government grant.

The history of the contaminated blood disaster has been described as one of a “gallery of heroes” locked in an unequal struggle with terminal illness and the power of executive government. That is so, but there is also a “gallery of heroines” left widowed and bereaved by the disaster. I reflect in particular today on the courage, constancy and tireless campaigning of wives and mothers such as Harriet Bullock, Carol Grayson, Gaynor Lewis, Liz Rizzuto, Sue Threakall to whom I know my good and noble friend Lord Corbett will refer, Colette Wintle and, of course, the noble Baroness, Lady Campbell, all of whom belong in that gallery.

In none of the many parliamentary campaigns I have been closely involved in over 45 years in Parliament—even thalidomide, vaccine damage, and those nearly 40 years ago for statutory recognition of dyslexia and autism—have I had so strong a sense that no campaigning should ever have been necessary to right the wrongs suffered by the haemophilia community. Support for their cause, as I believe this debate will demonstrate again, is everywhere seen today as an issue not of right and left, but of Right and Wrong.

I conclude now in renewed appreciation of the nobility and humanity of my noble and learned friend Lord Archer and his inquiry team. Humanity was never more humane. I beg to move.

My Lords, it is my privilege to be the first to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Morris of Manchester, on securing the debate and to pay tribute to him for his dogged and determined campaign over 45 years in Parliament on behalf of disabled people. He was appointed the Minister for Disabled People—the first of anybody to achieve that post anywhere in the world—and in this House he has continued to show exactly the quality of the advocacy that he has for disabled people. He is much to be congratulated.

I also congratulate the noble and learned Lord, Lord Archer of Sandwell, the noble Lord, Lord Turnberg, Ms Judith Willets and Dr Norman Jones for their very thorough examination of the issues involving the examination of some 300 statements that were sent to them, the examination of 64 witnesses who gave evidence orally and something like 20,000 documents. As the noble Lord, Lord Morris, said a moment ago, this is not an issue of right or left; it is not a party matter. Nevertheless, the Government have resisted the appointment of a statutory public inquiry. They no doubt will explain why they have done that in due course, but it is deplorable that the Department of Health refused to provide witnesses for public examination and cross-examination.

There are a number of unsatisfactory aspects. Since it was not a statutory inquiry under the Inquiries Act 2005, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Archer, did not have power to compel witnesses or to call for papers. Counsel was not provided to the committee to assist in the marshalling of evidence and to cross-examine witnesses. In particular, there was no funding other than private donations, which public spirited people—or a person, I believe—put forward to fund the inquiry.

It is true that the Department of Health did supply documents, but many of the relevant documents had been destroyed under what was described as the 10-year rule. In its report, the inquiry makes it clear that it was never able to get to the bottom of that. Nobody from the department gave a public explanation. It appears to be a serious error of judgment; that is the only explanation that has ever been given, but it was not given to the inquiry. There has been some suspicion that this has been the reason for resisting a public inquiry and failing to co-operate in the inquiry of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Archer. I await an explanation from the Minister.

The noble Lord, Lord Owen, who gave evidence to the inquiry of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Archer, was of the view that the documents might have been destroyed a long time ago in a desire to draw a line under the whole story. The absence of a statutory public inquiry in this country contrasts strongly with what is happening as a result of an opinion of my friend the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay of Drumadoon. The Scottish Government are setting up a statutory inquiry, and no doubt we shall have a full report from them in due course. I only hope that it will match the thoroughness of the report of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Archer.

I see that it may be difficult for the medical community to keep up with the development of new and newly identified diseases. These issues have come forward over a period of time. However, the report demonstrates that there has been clinical and research confusion. There has been limited and contradictory advice given to practitioners. One must have some concern that lack of resources has affected the care of patients and the caution that should have been taken with them. It is undoubtedly the case that contaminated blood contributed to the wider dissemination of these illnesses: hepatitis in its various forms, HIV/AIDS and, latterly, as the noble Lord, Lord Morris, pointed out, vCJD.

One recipient’s widow is a friend of mine; his name was Graham. Graham had only three treatments with blood products. The last was in 1971 when he was only 13 years old. He was then admitted with a bleed in December 1984. By January 1985, he had seroconverted and contracted HIV and non-A, non-B hepatitis, currently known as hepatitis C. Graham was not informed of his HIV status for a considerable time—years after those who were treating him had realised that he was suffering from it. He suffered from numerous minor ailments, including flu-like symptoms, extensive rashes, exhaustion and depression. In addition, he suffered life-threatening illnesses including severe anaemia. When he learnt of the nature of his condition, he was unable to have any more children. Fortunately, he had had one daughter before the condition had developed, but he was unable to have any more children for fear of infecting them and his wife.

His job was affected, and he lost it. After redundancy, he could not fill in application forms without disclosing his status, so Graham took self-employed locum work and lost many days’ pay going to hospital appointments. He could not explain to his employer why he was absent so often, and he eventually lost that work. The noble Lord, Lord Morris, referred to insurance, and Graham could not get life cover. His family and social life were severely curtailed. Perhaps the worst part was that he had to lie about his condition to neighbours and friends, and even to his own daughter; of course, at that time there was a great fear of the conditions from which he was suffering.

He died at the age of 40 in 1998. Samples of his body were sent to the National CJD Surveillance Unit without his wife’s knowledge. Four days after his death, she was told by the unit, “Well, haemophiliacs make an excellent model for this kind of study”. She was refused an inquest and did not qualify for the Skipton payments or, indeed, any other payments, because her husband had died too soon. Therefore, she did not qualify for the reasons to which the noble Lord, Lord Morris, referred. She spent four years going through independent review of the treatment and ombudsman inquiry and suffered post-traumatic stress disorder. I have mentioned this case to illustrate to your Lordships the devastating effect of what happened to Graham before he was 13, and the impact that it had on him and his family.

The report of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Archer, sets out the chronology of events, which demonstrates time and again a lack of urgency and shows how much the Government were in denial. Despite targets to ensure self-sufficiency in blood products in the United Kingdom within two to three years being set in 1975 by the then Minister, the noble Lord, Lord Owen, that goal was never met either in his timeframe or anybody else’s. Ultimately, by 1990, the attempt to make this country self-sufficient in blood products was abandoned. Government continued to rely on the importation of blood products from the United States in spite of warnings. For example, in 1983 Dr Galbraith, the director of the Communicable Disease Surveillance Centre, warned of the nature of US blood products. When, in that same year, Susan Douglas wrote an article in the Mail on Sunday referring to killer blood from high-risk donors, she was reported to the Press Council, which concluded that her article was alarmist and extravagant. Therefore, you can see the attitudes of resistance and denial that existed at that time.

When the United States introduced regulations to exclude donors from high-risk groups for plasma collected after March 1983, the old stocks were not withdrawn, either in the United States or in the United Kingdom. The noble Lord, Lord Morris, referred to Crown immunity as the cloak behind which the government department concerned hid. It is always possible not to use Crown immunity. Negligence could not have been proved unless it was shown that there was a failure by the standards of care as known at that time. The law does not require that today’s knowledge about medical matters be imported back to that time. However, by using Crown immunity, the government department concerned was able to avoid an investigation into whether, by the standards of that time, there had been negligence in what had occurred. It is not too late. If the Government chose to waive Crown immunity dating back to that time, I am sure that it would be possible for actions to be brought. However, I do not suppose that they will.

The lack of participation by the Department of Health in the inquiry of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Archer, indicates to me a worrying complacency and an assumption that no other disease communicable by blood products will ever again emerge, but vCJD emerged after the problem became known. Who knows what other disease may emerge in the future which may cause the problems that I have discussed?

We on these Benches support the recommendations of the report, particularly that there should be a statutory committee to advise Government on the management of haemophilia in this country, with patient and family representation. We agree that there should be direct financial relief for those who have been infected and for their carers, on whom much of the burden so often falls. We also agree that there should be free access to National Health Service benefits. We accept that there should be government assistance for access to insurance.

The noble Lord, Lord Morris, reminded us that this whole thing has been described as a treatment disaster, as, indeed, it was. It behoves this Government and any future Government to take the report of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Archer, seriously on board and to implement it.

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Morris, for bringing forward this debate on the report by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Archer, who I am thrilled to see in the Chamber today; I look forward to hearing what he has to say.

We know that the noble Lord, Lord Morris, is a tireless campaigner on behalf of people with haemophilia, especially those tragically affected by contaminated blood products. I declare an interest. On 19 December 1993, my first husband, Graham Ingleson, died, 18 months after his brother Anthony. They both lost their lives as a result of receiving contaminated factor 8 blood products in the mid-1980s. This inquiry is not just about those who were infected with contaminated blood products; there is another strong, underlying story. It is a story of mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, wives, husbands and friends who continue to endure the effects—psychological and economic—of seeing their loved ones die or become gravely ill. We have needed this inquiry for a long, long time and now we even more need a response from a Government who have been too silent on this issue.

Noble Lords will know from reading the report that the UK Haemophilia Society has campaigned for a public inquiry since 1988. However, successive Governments have declined to establish a statutory public inquiry. On 12 January 2006, the noble Lord, Lord Warner, then Minister of State at the Department of Health, put it clearly when he said in reply to a Question that,

“we do not consider that a public inquiry is justified as we do not believe that any new light will be shed on this issue as a result”.—[Official Report, 12/1/06; col. 299.]

Fortunately, we are blessed with the dogged tenacity of the noble Lord, Lord Morris. He knew that there was light to be shed on this issue and he knew that the story had to be told. He believed that a public inquiry should be held for three simple reasons: first, to learn lessons for the future; secondly, to go some small way to help victims and their families to articulate their stories and to gain public recognition of their plight—truth and reconciliation are often at the heart of the pain; and, thirdly, to make recommendations that would give practical help and assistance to those living with the effects of treatment contamination.

In February 2007, the independent public inquiry was launched under the considerable weight of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Archer. Even though it had no statutory power to compel evidence from the Government or the health service, it heard from 300 witnesses and examined over 20,000 documents—that is a lot of documents. Before us today, we have a remarkable report. It is born out of selfless commitments from solicitors and experts, the majority of whom gave their time and expertise free of charge.

The fact that this report was produced independent of government and the Haemophilia Society means that it is truly independent. The report states that there is absolutely “no hidden agenda”. For many of us this is probably the most significant point and only adds to the report’s power and importance. In it, noble Lords will read about the scandalously slow reaction by successive Governments to the need to safeguard blood products imported from the United States during the 1980s. This meant that we failed to protect nearly 5,000 people who died or are now living with HIV/AIDS, hepatitis C or CJD. The noble Lord, Lord Winston, was absolutely right when he said that this has been,

“the worst treatment disaster in the history of the NHS”.

He should know.

UK self-sufficiency in producing blood products could have been established much sooner than it was. It took five years in Ireland, but 13 in England and Wales. This was just one of the scandalous ways in which the state reacted to the lethal health risk of contaminated blood products. Noble Lords will have read again and again throughout the report of the inappropriate and simply wrong responses to this situation.

However, it is impossible to relive those years. Quite frankly, we do not want to keep reliving them. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Archer, is right when he says that we must now look ahead. The purpose of his inquiry was to help the truth to surface and to learn important lessons for the future. It does not seek to apportion blame.

I am hoping that the recently withdrawn amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Morris, to the current Health Bill, seeking to establish a statutory committee to provide and give advice to government and haemophiliacs on services and to help those still suffering from the results of contaminated blood products, will return at Report stage and will be supported. The amendment would implement one of the inquiry’s recommendations. Given the decades of injustice, the amendment offers one small practical way to right a great wrong and it sends out a strong message to those who are waiting for a little more. I should be interested to hear the Minister’s view as to whether this recommendation, which is not costly, and others in the report will gain the support of the Government. I am also looking forward to the possibility that the Minister will give us a timeline.

When the amendment was debated in Grand Committee, I explained to noble Lords present that every year, on the anniversary of my husband’s death, I visit the church of St Botolph without Bishopsgate in the City of London. It is a beautiful church and noble Lords should visit it. At the back is a small memorial book. In it you will find the names of those haemophiliacs who have died as a result of contaminated blood products. Every year, new names are entered in the book. Haemophiliacs living with the consequences of lethal treatment require the best information, the best support and the best advice. The proposed statutory committee can provide that. The Government have the opportunity to show at last that they recognise the extraordinary plight of haemophiliacs. I hope that they and noble Lords will feel able to support the amendment, should it be laid again at the Report stage of the Health Bill.

My Lords, I add my congratulations to those that we have already heard from the noble Lord, Lord Thomas, and the noble Baroness, Lady Campbell. I wonder whether at this point it is also in order to add my congratulations on my noble friend’s forthcoming election as a fellow of the Royal College of Physicians. It is proper recognition of a lifetime spent in the service of those who suffer.

I express my felicitations, too, on the timing of this debate. Those responsible in government needed time to read and consider our report, and to consult and discuss it, so we never expected an immediate reaction from the Government. Of course, a listening Government are an asset only if they are also a reflecting Government, and their value diminishes if they then become a dithering Government. It is nine weeks since we reported, and my noble friend’s timing of this debate cannot be faulted.

I express my thanks, too, to the noble Lord, Lord Thomas, and the noble Baroness, Lady Campbell, for the kind things that they said about us. I speak on behalf of my colleagues on the inquiry in saying that we greatly appreciated the encouragement that we received both during the inquiry and since we reported.

Our report could have been more informative if we had been appointed 20 years ago—a point already made by contributors to this debate. Memories would have been fresher, the principal participants would still have been alive and all the records and documentary evidence would probably still have been available. That is the position, which it is too late to alter. We had to deal with the situation as we found it and, although the Government continued the policies of their predecessors in declining to provide oral evidence, it is fair to say that they tried to assist us within the boundaries that they had established. Even this week, we were offered documents that until then had been withheld. Sadly, of course, it was too late to refer to them in our report.

It is always a pleasure to have the ear of my noble friend Lady Thornton. Once again, I suspect that she has been assigned as wicket keeper when it is expected that there may be some fast bowling. The Government’s strategy is, I suspect, transparent. There was a need for a Minister on the Front Bench who is cool and persuasive, who is known for her compassion to those who suffer and who bears no responsibility for any aspect of the tragedy.

It was inevitable that in reporting on this sad history we would feel compelled to comment on some of the decisions that were reached or on decisions that were not reached at all when it mattered. We tried to make allowances for the fact that the past is another country; we are judging from a body of knowledge that was not available at the time, as my noble friend Lord Morris pointed out, when perspectives were very different. The noble Lord, Lord Thomas, properly drew our attention to those limitations; we were very conscious of them. We did not consider it our major task to apportion blame, as the noble Baroness, Lady Campbell, pointed out.

The past cannot be changed. It may sometimes be rewritten but the reality remains with us. What is still open to change is the future, which remains open in two ways. First, we may learn lessons that help us to ensure that we do not make those mistakes again and, secondly, although we cannot prevent past mistakes, we may be able to mitigate the consequences. The effects of infection not only on patients but, as the noble Baroness, Lady Campbell, pointed out, on their families are almost impossible for those of us who have not suffered to appreciate. We had a moving example from the noble Lord, Lord Thomas.

For that reason we invited those who read our report to consider first how to ensure that future Governments have the maximum available expertise and experience. Among our recommendations, as earlier contributors to the debate pointed out, is a proposal for a statutory advisory committee, including clinicians, a representative from the Department of Health and, at least as important, patient representation—members from the Haemophilia Society and from other bodies who represent patients. Patient participation in relation to both individual treatment and national policy was conspicuously lacking when this tragedy occurred. Since then we have heard of the success achieved in Ireland, Canada, Japan, Thailand and the USA. Of course, there is a need for the very best expertise available, but that is enriched by an input from some of those who have actually been there.

I seem to remember that Aristotle said somewhere, although I have not been able to trace it in the past few days, that if you seek an opinion on the building of a house you should ask two people—the architect and the person who has to live in it. The second way of mitigating the consequences of the tragedy, as my noble friend Lord Morris reminded us, is to consider the financial position of someone who is already affected with haemophilia and is then affected with hepatitis C, HIV or both. In addition to the loss of the normal amenities, of which we have already been reminded, the patient is faced with additional expenses, such as extra heating, special diet, assistance with transport and domestic help and additional premiums for travel and life insurance. As living expenses escalate, earnings may well diminish. The patient may lose not only earning capacity but such additional benefits as pension rights. Families who formerly enjoyed good living standards are forced to live on benefits.

The present Government have been at the receiving end of a great deal of criticism in this case, but we have to remember that we are considering successive Governments. The details are set out in our report as to the provision that some Governments have attempted to make to alleviate financial hardship, but they compare poorly with the provision available in Ireland, Canada, New Zealand and Italy, to cite just a few examples. In most cases, that provision came about by way of settlement of claims that were being pursued in the courts. Part of the indignation felt here is that it was necessary to initiate proceedings in the courts. We believe that such action is not the appropriate way of approaching this question.

It is understandable that those who have suffered have looked for someone to blame and equally understandable that Governments have said that they were not to blame and regarded that as an end to the discussion. We said in our report that argument in the courts addresses the wrong questions in such situations. It does not matter whether claimants are time-barred by the Limitation Act, whether they were persuaded as a condition of the relief that has been available to sign a release exempting the Government from further claims, whether participants are now dead or whether records have been lost. We believe that it is unworthy for the Government to argue, “It wasn’t our fault, so we won’t relieve the financial hardship”. The party that I joined more than 60 years ago believed that the Government had a duty to ensure for all their citizens a reasonable standard of living and relief from poverty—poverty for which they were not responsible—particularly where it is attributable to a specific misfortune that is clearly identifiable. I recollect Lord Ackner asking in this Chamber on more than one occasion how this situation could be distinguished from the criminal injury legislation; a victim of crime is compensated by the Government without anyone asking whether the misfortune was the Government’s fault.

I am very conscious that this is not the optimum time to choose to press on the Government the need for expenditure adequate to address the hardship, but the relief has been withheld for too long. Many whose final years might have been passed free from financial pressures are already dead. Others have only a limited time left. For too long, the debate has been about what might have been. What needs to be discussed now is what may yet be.

My Lords, I intervene briefly to support my noble friend and others. Other than a Written Question and an Oral Question in the other place, probably in the 1970s, when the noble Lord, Lord Owen, was trying to get things moving, I do not think that I have spoken on this issue in the House. However, having followed the debate, if—as I was in the past as a constituency Member of Parliament—I were asked by constituents, “Are blood transfusions safe?”, I would have some doubt today about giving the answer that I gave then. There are people who are opposed on ideological and ethical grounds to blood transfusion. Occasionally one gets called in to persuade them that it is a good thing. However, the reluctance of the department to have full disclosure—no one is interested in blame, I am not looking for who to blame and neither is my noble and learned friend Lord Archer or other noble Lords—naturally leads to suspicion.

I have no grounds for saying what I am about to allude to, but my experience is that somewhere advice will have been given about the risk of precedent because of the possible discovery of X, Y or Z that is not in the public domain. I do not know about that; what I know is that, to take vCJD for example, we still do not know the incubation period. When in 1998 I took the order for the beef-on-the-bone ban through the other place in a raucous House late at night, the one way I silenced the House was to point out the simple fact that when the post mortems were done, the medical instruments could not be used again. Sterilisation was not an answer—they simply could not be used again because it is so infectious. As I said, we do not know the incubation period of that disease. I do not know whether there are other examples, but natural doubt and suspicion is created where there is reluctance to disclose information in a no-blame situation—the individuals concerned are not around because of the time lapse.

I very much regret that we have reached that the position. The National Blood Transfusion Service is always campaigning because we need blood for transfusions for all kinds of things, but there is bound to be a festering doubt in people's minds. I regret that. We have to ask, as others have: “What is government for?”. I always taken the view that government is for the public good, to do the things that people cannot do for themselves privately. People say that government interferes, but that is what government is for. Public good works—that is what the Government are for. However, if in doing those public good works the Government harm people—inadvertently; no one is saying that anyone went out to do this deliberately—how then do we as a society care for those who we have harmed collectively by the action or inaction of the Government? There is enough evidence of the warnings about buying blood products created from blood paid for in suspicious circumstances, especially from prisoners in United States. It is all there on the record from the 1970s and 1980s. It is there for anyone to see. It is not as though doubts were not around; they were.

The issue comes up occasionally in respect of the Armed Forces. We have a moral responsibility and a public duty. The Government—I use government as a generic term to cover all Governments—and the machinery of government, our professional civil servants, are basically there to make sure that we do not have a collapse in the standards of conduct of public administration. When there is reluctance to have an inquiry because it is said that there is nothing more to learn—“Oh, and by the way, on the inside track, we might be creating a precedent for something else coming down the line”—that is a collapse of or a lapse in standards of conduct of public administration.

I look—I looked as a Minister—to the guidance we get from civil servants to make sure that we do not fall into that trap as Ministers come and go. There is an issue here that transcends the technicalities and the human tragedies that we have heard about this morning. I shall not repeat those, but there is a serious issue of the doubt, uncertainty and pressures on individual families. I just make one point about finance, which was drawn to my attention by one of my former constituents from many years ago, whose name has already been mentioned. The £140 million paid out to the 5,000 people averaged out at £28,000. That is a sum not adjacent to £124,000, which is a sum bandied about in the other place as the annual second-home allowance. One can see what a pitiful amount it is if you have lost your career and have caring responsibilities, doubt about work and other extra pressures. It is a pittance—and many people have been denied even that.

I doubt that my noble friend will be able to answer all our questions, but, by and large, the Civil Service is frightened of this place—that is my experience from working in four departments—because civil servants do not understand it. The one thing they know about it is that the Government do not control it, unlike the other place. As long as we keep off the money side, we can be taken far more seriously and there is always the chance that we can get some action. I do not imply a threat about the legislation that is coming. Governments are judged in some ways on the big issues of the day—yesterday's Budget is a good example—but they are also judged in people's hearts and minds and, in the minds of opinion-formers, by the smaller matters of how they deal with people who cannot help themselves. There may be 100 people here, 50 there, 1,000 there, whose lives are devastated and harmed because of the state doing its function. That is a test by which any Government must be judged. The question is how they react when the small people are damaged by them—how they handle not the big financial and industrial issues of the day but these issues. The eyes of the country are on this place, and indeed on the Government—as they should be because they are the Government of the day, and as they should be on any Government—to see how a case such as this is handled. I look forward to my noble friend’s response on the issues that have been raised here today, and hope that she will take them back to the department and consider them seriously. The one message that the department will get from this debate is that this debate is not the end.

My Lords, it is with great sadness that I thank and congratulate my noble friend Lord Morris of Manchester on staging this debate. There is a huge monument of shame to successive Governments, who for more than 20 years have found ways of avoiding what are clearly their responsibilities to the victims who were infected with dirty blood and to their carers, often spouses, who are left behind and condemned to abject poverty.

One of my former constituents, Mrs Sue Threakall, who gave evidence to my noble friend’s inquiry—I congratulate him and his colleagues on it—e-mailed me this morning to say that she wanted to be here to sit in the Public Gallery and listen to this debate but could not afford the train fare from Somerset. It should shame everyone that we allow this to happen.

My noble and learned friend Lord Archer of Sandwell so aptly described this as an horrific human tragedy. That is exactly what it is. What was the response of an unnamed spokeswoman from the Department of Health, which was published in the Times on 24 February this year, to my noble and learned friend’s report? She is quoted as saying:

“We have great sympathy for the patients and families affected by contaminated blood products in the 1970s and 1980s”.

My former constituent Mrs Threakall does not want sympathy; she finds it offensive. She wants relief from the shattering poverty to which she is condemned because her breadwinner husband, Bob Threakall, who was given dirty blood, died on the wrong date in the wrong country. He died at the age of 47 in 1991, having been infected by HIV and hepatitis B and C in 1977. Since then, Mrs Threakall has been forced on to means-tested benefits as she tries to come to terms with her loss. That personal tragedy, which is repeated all around the haemophilia community, is made worse by a state that supplied contaminated blood without accepting its moral responsibilities for the consequences of that action.

As the Archer report says on page 101:

“Without necessarily apportioning blame, the state needs to act responsibly in addressing the tragedy of patients being infected with potentially fatal diseases through NHS prescribed treatment”.

When her husband died, Mrs Threakall said, “It just ripped the family apart”. It takes no great imagination to understand the full force of those words. Had her husband Bob died after August 2003, the Government would have made a compassionate payment, but as he died in 1991 she and the family got nothing, not even any kind of apology. There was no well thought out and well argued principle; there was simply an arbitrary date that had been snatched for a reason that was not explained, and that was it. If you died that side of the line, you got nothing; if you died this side of the line, you got something. That is both offensive and indefensible. It is unfair and unjust, and it has condemned Mrs Threakall, who is now 55, to severe financial problems that deserve and demand to be met. A date on a calendar and an accident of geography have denied Mrs Threakall and others justice. Had that family lived in Ireland, up to £100,000 would have been paid to Bob as a patient infected by HIV, and an average of £750,000 would have been paid to those like Mrs Threakall’s husband who went on to contract hepatitis C from the dirty blood.

My noble and learned friend’s report gives this Government the chance to right a huge wrong. No one is arguing whether it is right or wrong. As my noble and learned friend says, there is no point in trying to apportion blame. This happened, and it had severe, known consequences for the patients who were given the dirty blood and for the carers who were left behind. There is no argument about that, but successive Governments have displayed stubbornness: “Yes, that’s alright. We know all about that but we can’t do anything about it”. However, it is not a question of “can’t do anything about it”, but, “won’t do anything about it”. This Government should understand, as should other Governments, that if this is not dealt with, it will not, as my noble friend Lord Rooker said, go away. There is a determination in this House and the other place, and certainly in the community that is so seriously affected by this, not to give up this fight. I made a promise to my former constituent Mrs Threakall that I would not give it up either, because I stand proudly alongside her.

I hope in the process that the Government will find a way not to express sympathy but to apologise to the community for what happened, because we are entitled to trust our National Health Service to take all proper care, and to trust the treatment that is on offer to us. That trust was betrayed in this case, which again underlines the moral responsibility of Governments in this matter.

It is no proper response for successive Governments to argue that the NHS acted in good faith. No one doubts that; what matters are the terrible consequences of judgments made in good faith, of which this is an example. Those judgments have cost lives and have left relatives hurt and in severe financial circumstances. Those judgments, which I accept were made in good faith, were simply wrong, and victims and relatives have an unanswerable moral case to have that loss recognised.

My noble and learned friend Lord Archer mentioned the words of the late Lord Ackner—I remember him standing in the Chamber on 21 November 2002. He summed this up—this is the lawyer’s skill—in this way:

“My Lords, how does the noble Lord differentiate between this case and the extensive compensation provided for victims of crime? There is no obligation on the Government to provide a penny piece for victims of crime, but, in the past, it was provided on the same basis as the ordinary civil liability. Subsequently, it went on to a tariff system. Many millions of pounds are provided for victims of crime. Why is there a differentiation between them and the haemophiliacs whom we are discussing?”.—[Official Report, 21/11/02; col. 508.]

Why indeed? The question that he asked then is as relevant today as it was on the day when he asked it.

Finally, page 108 of the Archer report says:

“Direct financial relief should be provided for those infected, and for carers who have been prevented from working. We propose that the scheme should have the following characteristics”.

I shall not read them all out, but I draw the attention of your Lordships, and of my noble friend, particularly to paragraph (e) on page 109. It states:

“The anomalies which at present apply according to the age when the recipient was first infected, or when the infection took place or, in the case of dependents, the date of death of the original patient should be rectified. In particular, the Government should review the conditions under which the widow of a patient”,

for haemophilia,

“now becomes eligible for benefit from the Eileen Trust and from the Skipton Fund”.

I hope that when my noble friend replies she can at the very least assure us that the Government intend to accept and implement the report’s recommendations and bring to an end this dreadful agony.

My Lords, I remember a Question Time one Thursday morning when the noble Lord, Lord Bilimoria, rose to ask a particularly pertinent question which he prefaced by saying that he had got off a plane from India at 6 o’clock that morning. I never expected to find myself in the same position, but I now do. Having been in India for the past 10 days or so and not being aware of the debate on the Order Paper, I was not able to put my name down to speak. In those circumstances, perhaps your Lordships will extend me your indulgence for a minute or two so that I may make one or two observations. I intervene with some diffidence because I also recall the noble Lord, Lord James of Blackheath, speaking in the gap on one occasion when he said that although people had drawn his attention to the procedural opportunity of speaking in the gap, he had always received the advice, “Know about it. Don’t do it”.

This debate puts me in some difficulty. Arriving in the House this morning and seeing the debate on the Order Paper, I was of course anxious to support my noble friend Lord Morris, with whom I have worked particularly closely over a very long period. As I say, I would not normally intervene because I am comparatively unbriefed on the report of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Archer, which everyone has commended so eloquently this morning, and I am not as well versed in the issues as the rest of your Lordships are. However, I am moved to intervene briefly for four reasons.

First, as your Lordships know, the noble Lord, Lord Morris, is very persuasive. Secondly, although many people have referred to his tireless campaigning over a lifetime in politics, and I have known and worked closely with him for a long time, I have never heard him speak with such eloquence and authority as he has this morning. That is one reason that leads me to want to give him such support as I can.

Thirdly, in some respects, being comparatively unbriefed about the issues enables me to make a distinctive contribution, because my lack of briefing puts me in the position of the man in the street who listens to the case that noble Lords have been deploying. Anybody coming to this debate untutored is bound to get an impression of heartlessness, obfuscation and prevarication. It seems to me that the Government, in that situation, have the job of defusing that impression. From what I have heard, there is a case to answer and I hope very much that we shall hear some persuasive answers from the Minister.

My final reason for intervening is simply to underline the point mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Corbett, at the end of his contribution—namely, that the National Health Service is a public and government service to which people look for healing and cure. The irony of people being injured or, indeed, killed by the treatment that they receive in the health service casts a heavy responsibility on those responsible for running it to make proper amends to those who have suffered in the way that noble Lords have so eloquently described this morning.

My Lords, I am delighted to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Morris, and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Archer of Sandwell, as well as the noble Lord, Lord Turnberg, on producing a fascinating report into a complex series of issues. It is a commendable document in every sense. Sitting down to read it a couple of weeks ago, in preparation for this debate, brought back memories from the early 1980s: of friends of mine becoming ill and, later, starting to die and of fear, prejudice and hysteria about the new illness, which at that point had no name but seemed to affect minority groups disproportionately. I remembered that at the time somebody had produced a T-shirt with the slogan, “Prejudice Kills”. The report that we read today shows how long and devastating the effects of prejudice can be on the health of a nation; I have no doubt that the fear and prejudice that were around then led to many of the problems for people that the report of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Archer, so eloquently describes.

Noble Lords have heard me talk before about the American book And the Band Played On, written by Randy Shilts, which attempted to document the origin and spread of HIV on the west coast of America. In that book, Randy Shilts looked at the incidence of illnesses and how different communities responded to them. There is a startling point when the staff of the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta have figured out that the thing, whatever it is, is a blood-borne entity. They go along to meet the charities that, in the United States, were responsible for what was a commercial activity—the collection and distribution of blood. They try to explain their suspicions about the unfolding disaster to those charities, and to the companies and doctors who work with them. The charities ignore them, because they cannot afford the commercial decision to take their advice. In the book, the gentleman from the Center for Disease Control says, “When doctors become businessmen, where does someone who needs a doctor go?”. I remember reading that and thinking, “Thank goodness I live in the UK where we have a National Health Service and these issues cannot arise”. Then along comes the report of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Archer.

Let me pick up on the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, about why the noble and learned Lord’s report is as it is. If this matter was being discussed in America, it would be sorted out in court, because it would be an issue of commercial liability. In Britain, it is not. We have the National Health Service. Consequently, the responsibilities of politicians and the Government are different. That is why it is important to fulfil some of those roles that the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, set out so well. We must guide the Government towards the role that they have to play, which is not just to mitigate the terrible devastation that has been wreaked on individuals but also to consider the good of public health.

When I have worked on issues of medical negligence, particularly during the passage of the NHS Redress Bill, I have always come away in the knowledge that the victims of medical negligence principally want three things. They want to know what happened and why, because they want to prevent the same mistakes from happening to others, and they want acknowledgement of their suffering. Only rarely do they want to ascribe blame, but sometimes they need financial reparation to enable them to deal with the devastation that has been wreaked on them. In so far as it could, the report of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Archer, attempts to do the first and the third of those things. It does not deal with preventing similar mistakes or deal directly with financial compensation, nor should it, because that is the role of the Government. I shall concentrate on those two issues.

On reading such a report, one’s first instinct is to ask what lessons we can learn for the future. However, it is important to acknowledge that we are talking about a period of about 35 years, during which a great deal changed. There has been extensive development of clinical knowledge; for example, the diagnosis of viruses is different. There have been changes in medical ethics and the way in which patients are involved in decisions about their treatment. Protocols governing patient information and consent to trials have changed. We now have the National Patient Safety Agency, NICE and the Healthcare Commission, which is now rolled into the CQC, all of which are involved in the development and auditing of standards of safety.

However, some issues are timeless; they tend to be the boring, basic issues, such as record keeping and the integrity of data. Since those days, there has been one big change in the NHS. Management and government in the NHS have become far more fragmented and complex. We do not work so much to national standardised systems. Therefore, when the Government respond, I hope that they will take from the report of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Archer, the need to ensure that the basic systems of information and the basic principles about data retention are enduring. In these days of electronic communication, greater attention should be given to the training of civil servants and officials in the Department of Health than ever there was in the past in order to ensure that something like this is never repeated.

I should like to ask the noble Baroness, Lady Thornton, in her reply, or later, to think about another difference. A few weeks ago, she and I were involved in the debate on the report of the noble Lord, Lord Soley, into the role and efficacy of international organisations in the detection and containment of infectious diseases. I commend that extremely good report to noble Lords. The noble Baroness will remember that we talked about how the systems of surveillance and the ways in which treatment information is transmitted internationally have become much more important than they were in days gone by. Given the report of the noble and learned Lord, I should like her to comment on the current state of the Government’s domestic systems of surveillance for infectious diseases and to say whether the international systems to which the Government subscribe are of a sufficient standard to ensure that a disaster of this kind could not happen again. On what basis would she have confidence that it would not?

Noble Lords have alluded to the three or four trust funds set up to compensate the victims of contaminated blood products. I shall make a few points on that. First, we have a number of trusts, all of which have different criteria, all of which have specific limitations on which they can work and all of which are based on a principle that they are there to mitigate and to offer relief. They do not work in the same way as other compensation schemes, such as that involving compensation to accident victims, whereby the victims are given a sum of money to use in whichever way they choose in order to deal with the issues in their lives resulting from an accident. I do not understand why in relation to these diseases the Government have taken the form of charitable trust that they have as their model. Why is that so?

Secondly, many of the beneficiaries of those trusts now have a longer life expectancy than was ever envisaged when those trusts were set up. In the light of that, does the noble Baroness agree that not only the levels of compensation but the way in which those trusts are administered need to be reviewed? Finally, on a technical point, I picked up in the report that the reason why there are so many different trusts seems to be based on a technicality of charity law. Does the noble Baroness agree that it is perhaps time to review the existence of those different trusts to see whether they could be rationalised and run more efficiently as one?

I shall finish with a few questions that I hope will enable us to glean from this report lessons that are applicable now. Will the Government advise people who were treated with NHS blood products between 1973 and 1986 to be tested for HIV and hepatitis C? In so doing, will they notify them of the existence of the Macfarlane Trust? That seems to be exactly the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Rooker. The Government have an enduring role not just reactively to mitigate the terrible personal circumstances of individuals but proactively to attend to issues of public health. This will go on for many years. The latency period of these diseases is such that there are people who will not know about their status for some considerable time.

Secondly, in the 2000 audit review of the Advisory Committee on the Virological Safety of Blood, a recommendation was made that new and existing staff should receive training about the importance of record keeping and observing guidance. Is that being done for all new staff? Are the conditions under which the testing of blood products is conducted kept under continuous review? How often is the review system tested?

The noble and learned Lord, Lord Archer, is absolutely right to state that we cannot undo the past. All we can do is acknowledge the failures of our national health system. If we do nothing else today, in making our attempt to ensure that prejudice no longer kills people, we should take the advice of the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, and acknowledge that it is the role of government to ensure that the standing of the health service is as high as it can be so that people can have confidence in the NHS as the body that oversees public health in this country. If we can do that, in our own way we will have contributed a fitting testimony to the people who have died as a result of this terrible tragedy.

My Lords, I start by adding my thanks to those already given to the noble Lord, Lord Morris of Manchester, for calling for this debate and for his powerful speech. He has been tireless in raising this issue successively in the other place and in your Lordships’ House, and for that he deserves our gratitude and appreciation. The infection and deaths of patients with HIV and hepatitis C through contaminated National Health Service blood and blood products was, as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Archer of Sandwell, stated in his report on 24 February, a “horrific human tragedy”. It is therefore appropriate and just that the noble Lord, Lord Morris, should fight so hard for attention to be drawn to this report and I thank him for that.

It is also fitting that at this time we should extend our gratitude to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Archer, and his colleagues for their enormous efforts in producing this thorough, detailed and truly informative report. It is to be hoped that the two years of hard work that went into the report will now result in many more years of hard work for successive Governments as the insights raised are taken into account and, where appropriate, acted on. I acknowledge that this affects successive Governments, and the report was careful not to apportion blame. We on these Benches believe, however, that the Department of Health has done a great wrong by not taking part in the inquiry publicly. The noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, called it a “worrying complacency”. The few meetings that it did have were held behind closed doors.

This report outlines a tragedy that has resulted in the deaths of over 1,700 people and has meant great hardship and distress for many other haemophilia patients and their families. The strong underlying story of the psychological effects has been movingly told by the noble Baroness, Lady Campbell of Surbiton, and the noble Lord, Lord Corbett of Castle Vale. As the noble Lord, Lord Morris, reminded us, the noble Lord, Lord Winston, has described this as,

“the worst treatment disaster in the history of the NHS”.

Can the Minister shed some light on why the Department of Health would not allow files and documents relating to the case to be examined? According to the Times, 35 documents were withheld on grounds of confidentiality. I will be most grateful if the Minister could elaborate further on the nature of these documents, the reasons for the secrecy and why the decision was then taken to make some of the documents available—but too late, as we heard today, for the noble and learned Lord, Lord Archer.

In 2006, the noble Lord, Lord Warner, stated that the Government’s position on an inquiry was that,

“we do not consider that a public inquiry is justified as we do not believe that any new light will be shed on this issue as a result”.—[Official Report, 12/1/06; col. 299.]

I doubt that anyone reading this excellent report could agree with those sentiments. In pleasing contrast, on the last day of Grand Committee on the Health Bill, the noble Baroness said in response to an amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Morris of Manchester, that the report of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Archer, was “a wonderful document” and that,

“the Government take the report very seriously … giving careful consideration to all the recommendations”.—[Official Report, 17/9/09; col. GC 95.]

The Minister also informed us that there might be some feedback from the Government on this report before the next stage of the Bill. The next stage is to begin on Tuesday. Do the Government plan to release any useful feedback between now and then, or could it be that today the Minister will announce whether the Government intend to adopt any of the measures recommended? I ask that because there is an understandably pressing desire to hear something.

In particular, do the Government intend to establish a committee to advise on the management of haemophilia within the UK, and what is their opinion about a look-back exercise, which would attempt to identify as far as possible those who may have been infected and are still unaware of it? Regardless of whether the Government decide to accept the findings of the report, does the Minister not agree that this is an important public health factor on its own? Will she also assure your Lordships’ House that the United Kingdom will continue to be self-sufficient in haemophiliac clotting products for the foreseeable future? Have the Government had any discussions with the companies involved in this tragedy, such as Baxter, on the issue of donations to the charitable victim funds that have been established in a manner similar to those for thalidomide victims?

The report not only demonstrates the horrific consequences of the terrible tragedy surrounding contaminated NHS blood and blood products, but also warns against renewed dangers which could mean that a similar disaster may occur again. It states:

“The problems surrounding vCJD are a reminder that new infections may yet arise with serious results”.

The noble Lord, Lord Morris of Manchester, called it a “deadly scourge”, and the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, graphically described the problem. Is the Minister able to say whether any action is being undertaken to address this?

When we are ill, we have faith that the treatment that we receive will help to make us better, or will help us to manage the disease so that we can lead as full and dignified a life as possible. To receive treatment that leads to such tragic consequences is unimaginably cruel. I look forward to the Minister’s response to this timely debate.

My Lords, I begin, as have all other noble Lords, by paying tribute to my noble friend Lord Morris of Manchester, a fellow Co-operator, for his dedicated and tireless work over many years on behalf of haemophilia patients and their families. It was he who initiated the inquiry chaired by my noble and learned friend Lord Archer of Sandwell, to whom, together with Dr Norman Jones, Judith Willetts and my noble friend Lord Turnberg, we owe a debt of gratitude for their well considered report. The Government acknowledge its importance and value to those who have suffered as a result of the very treatments which should have transformed their lives for the better. There is no doubt that the tragic consequences of these treatments have seriously impaired the lives of many people and those of their families, as outlined by noble Lords, and I appreciate and commend the fact that many noble Lords wish to take every opportunity to seek further steps to remedy this situation.

The Government take the report of my noble and learned friend Lord Archer very seriously. I have now read the report and its recommendations twice and I was struck again this past week by its reasoned and passionate tone; it manages to incorporate both. As noble Lords know, the Government are giving careful consideration to all the recommendations. However, in light of this, it would be premature of me to address today the recommendations in any detail while my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Health was still considering the implications in the round. I would dearly have loved to be able to give your Lordships further enlightenment on the Government’s view of the detail but I am not in a position to do so. In answer to the point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Morris, I am pushing hard, shall we say, in terms of the next stage of the Health Bill.

Before returning to some of the salient points of my noble and learned friend's report, I should say to your Lordships’ House that we fully acknowledge the pain and suffering—physical, psychological and economic—that has afflicted so many people and which has permeated the lives of the friends and families of those affected. As the noble Baroness, Lady Campbell, eloquently described, the wives, husbands, partners and friends have had to, and still do, take care of their loved ones and support other family members.

Many Members of past Governments have expressed their regret for what happened. Perhaps I may I say on behalf of this Government how deeply sorry we are for what happened. We acknowledge that these serious infections, which were acquired as a result of NHS treatment some two or more decades ago, have struck a particularly cruel blow to patients suffering from haemophilia and other bleeding disorders, who saw treatment with clotting factor concentrates as giving hope of a much improved and possibly near normal life.

Legal proceedings were initiated and concluded several years ago and successive Governments have established three schemes to provide financial relief to those affected. In the light of the recommendations made by the Archer report and remarks made by, for example, the noble Baroness, Lady Barker, I should say that the whole issue of financial relief is being considered as part of the Government’s consideration of the report. I assure your Lordships that that is happening but I cannot tell you what the outcome will be. While Governments have taken steps to provide financial relief, the contribution of the Haemophilia Society in supporting these patients and their families cannot be overstated. I pay tribute to the work of the society and its officers, past and present, and to those members who have worked tirelessly in support of the society's aims. I know that my noble friend is concerned about the funding position of the Haemophilia Society and that this is a matter for ongoing discussion with the department.

Understandably, haemophilia patients, together with their clinicians, initially welcomed a product which improved their quality of life so greatly. As my noble and learned friend observes in his report on page 26, it was recognised at an early stage that there was some risk of infection associated with blood products, but the balance of the risk assessment was in favour of continuing to provide access to clotting factor concentrates derived from US plasma obtained from high-risk donors. With the benefit of hindsight, we now recognise the tragic consequences of the decisions about treatment that were made in good faith and with every intention to improve the quality of life. We must remember, though, that even if this country could have met its own need for the supply and processing of plasma, the risk could not have been completely eliminated. The seriousness of chronic hepatitis C infection only became apparent after full characterisation of the virus in 1989, a problem not unique to the UK.

As noble Lords know, our ability now to make properly informed assessments of the relevant events and decisions taken throughout the period in question—the 15 years from 1970 to 1985—is limited by the incompleteness of the documentary record, for which this and former Governments have apologised. The noble Baroness, Lady Barker, made some very pertinent points about record keeping. The Department of Health has acknowledged that it fell well short of expected standards of records management—a number of documents that it held were misplaced or destroyed in error—but considerable efforts have been made to identify and release all documents that can now be traced. Following an internal audit, the department reviewed all its remaining documents from the period in question and has now published over 5,000 documents, comprising more than 20,000 pages, on its website. These include documents that were withheld from the court in 1990. I am pleased that my noble and learned friend's report stated that,

“we have discovered no evidence of malicious destruction of relevant records”.

The department remains committed to publishing, in line with the Freedom of Information Act, any further relevant documents from these years. That is why it has reviewed the 35 remaining documents and I am pleased to report to the House that there are now only nine documents outstanding, and these contain personalised information within the terms of the Freedom of Information Act. We will also provide assistance to the official inquiry in Scotland under Lord Penrose, beginning with a list of all relevant files held by the department.

Turning to the question of the inadequacy of information given to some patients by their clinicians, I deeply regret that this occurred. It is a reflection of the accepted norms of clinical practice at that time. That is not an excuse but we need to recognise that we live in different times. The medical profession now takes a different approach to the assessment of relative risks and the communication of those risks to patients.

Human blood and the products derived from it can never be completely safe. I should say to my noble friend Lord Rooker that great strides have been made. There have been great improvements in safety since the 1980s, and European-wide standards are now mandatory for the safety and quality of blood and blood components used within the European Union. Multiple layers of safeguards are in place to protect against the transmission of blood-borne infection.

Products derived from blood, such as clotting factors, are medicinal products and are required to meet the strict criteria of European medicines regulation. The risk to haemophiliacs from transmission of blood-borne infection has further been significantly reduced through the introduction, for all those patients for whom they are suitable, of synthetic products not derived from human blood. This represents a major advance in safer treatment for many patients.

The threat posed by variant CJD, which has been mentioned by many noble Lords, is currently uncertain. Risk estimates are refined as new knowledge emerges, but there is still much that we do not yet understand about the transmission of this disease. We have implemented a series of precautionary measures over the past decade to protect the blood supply and we continue to monitor this area very closely in conjunction with our expert advisory committees. I know there is much interest in the introduction of a blood test but it is crucially important that any such test is properly validated.

In response to the question of my noble friend Lord Morris, I should say that studies show that the composition of blood changes as a consequence of filtration. Therefore NHS Blood and Transplant and the Department of Health require that all prion filters undergo appropriate quality and safety trials. None of the filters currently available has yet completed the necessary safety and efficacy trials. Once they have, the Department of Health will seek independent expert advice from the Advisory Committee on the Safety of Blood, Tissues and Organs in deciding whether to introduce prion filtration. I will keep the House informed of progress on that matter.

We are certainly not complacent on this issue. As scientific knowledge progresses and new technologies are developed, our independent expert scientific Advisory Committee on the Safety of Blood, Tissues and Organs continues the task of assessing options for making blood even safer, taking account of up-to-date, validated scientific evidence and its potential impact on supply and cost-effectiveness. Further, we continue to support the NHS through the National Blood Transfusion Committee and others to embed best practice so that blood is used only when clinically necessary. Current initiatives on the better use of blood are having a positive impact in clinical practice.

I turn now to some of the specific points raised by noble Lords. My noble friend Lord Morris asked, as did other noble Lords, why a Minister or an official did not give public evidence to the Archer inquiry. Apart from the fact that no one in the department has any direct knowledge of this, the department agreed that the evidence it held was documentary, which is why over 5,000 documents were released and copied to the noble and learned Lord for his inquiry. I appreciate that that may not completely satisfy noble Lords on this matter, but I also make the point that, as several noble Lords have indicated, this is the beginning of a process of accountability for the Government on this important matter, and I do not doubt that we will have several opportunities to discuss it and take it forward.

My noble friend Lord Morris and the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, raised the issue of Crown immunity, which applied at the time. Following the Burton judgment of 2001, there is strict liability under the Consumer Protection Act for the supply of any defective products. The noble Lord also raised the issue of why the department gave no explanation for the loss of documents. I have given the best explanation that we can: some documents were lost. We have carried out an audit and we have released all the documents that have been retrieved. We have retrieved documents that we thought were lost and made them available. We have apologised for the fact that in the past we fell short of the standards that one would expect.

My noble friend Lord Rooker raised the issue of full disclosure. I make the point that the Government have gone further than any other in making information available on this. We are committed to releasing all the relevant information that we hold from 1970 to 1985, when the safeguards for blood products were in place. As I say, 5,000 documents were released and we have every intention of co-operating with the Penrose inquiry.

My noble friend put his finger on the ethical matter in this debate. My noble friend Lord Morris and those who are championing the Archer report will be pleased that they have my noble friend Lord Rooker as a champion in this issue; I have no doubt that his trenchant comments will have a desired effect in the right places, because he has made them.

I looked at the list of speakers today and thought, “Oh my goodness—here are all these noble colleagues who have such vast experience in these matters”. If I were looking for people to support me in a campaign, this list of speakers would pretty much be it. My noble friend Lord Corbett made a passionate and pointed speech. We acknowledge that the point he made is one of the key recommendations of the Archer report and, although I cannot say anything specific about this, I know that it is one of the matters that the Minister is considering.

The noble Baroness, Lady Barker, raised the current system of domestic surveillance for infectious agents. We have made considerable investment in disease surveillance systems and continue to look at how they may be further improved. I would like to come back to her about this, because I remember that in the discussion we had previously on this issue there was significantly more detail about it, including the international work.

The noble Baroness also raised the issue of testing people other than haemophiliacs who received blood transfusions during the 1970s and 1980s. We are currently funding a national public awareness campaign to encourage people who may have been exposed to risks for hepatitis C factors, including blood transfusions, to consult their GPs and discuss having tests done.

The noble Baroness, Lady Campbell of Surbiton, raised various issues that I hope I have addressed. She mentioned the amendment to the Health Bill. I believe that that has already been tabled, so I will limit myself to saying that we are going to revisit this issue and that there will be further discussion at the next stage of the Bill. I have no doubt that many of these remarks will be made again at that time, and I hope I will have a more detailed answer then.

I have listened carefully to the moving, wise and considered contributions that noble Lords have made to this debate, and I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Morris for securing it. As my noble friends Lord Rooker and Lord Corbett have said, this is the beginning of this discussion. It remains for me to reaffirm the Government’s commitment to consider carefully all the recommendations put forward by my noble and learned friend Lord Archer, and to say again to those affected how sorry we are and how much we regret the events that resulted in the tragic outcomes for their families.

My Lords, many unanswered questions remain, and clearly we must return soon to the urgency of the haemophilia community’s plea for closure now on the basis of my noble and learned friend’s landmark recommendations.

Meanwhile, I thank all noble Lords who have taken part in this debate, which I am sure we will find has nudged things forward considerably for the haemophilia community. I beg leave to withdraw the Motion.

Motion withdrawn.

Coal and Carbon Capture and Storage


My Lords, with the leave of the House, I would like to repeat a Statement made by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change in another place.

“With permission, Mr Speaker, I would like to make a Statement on coal and carbon capture and storage.

In our energy policy, we face three challenges: to transform our energy to low carbon sources; to maintain security of supply; and to do so in a way that is right for the British economy and industry. To meet that challenge will take all of the low-carbon technologies at our disposal.

We need renewable energy. In the last five years, we have tripled renewable electricity supplies. We have more offshore wind power than any country in the world, and yesterday my right honourable friend announced new support for offshore wind and new financial help for the wind industry to get through the credit crunch.

We need to facilitate nuclear energy too. In the face of climate change, with assurances on safety and cost, many who once opposed nuclear power now support it. Thanks to decisions made by my predecessor, Britain is on track for a renaissance in nuclear power, and I announced last week the nominations for 11 potential sites.

The future of coal in our energy mix poses the starkest dilemma we face. It is a polluting fuel, but is used across the world because it is low-cost and it is flexible enough to meet fluctuations in demand for power.

In the UK, one-third of our existing coal-fired power stations are due to close in the coming decade. In order to ensure that we maintain a diverse energy mix, including maximising our domestic fuel supply, we need new coal-fired power stations, but only if they can be part of a low carbon future. Across the world, we know the challenges that coal presents. With many countries reliant on coal and many building new coal-fired power stations at a rapid pace, there is an urgent international imperative for us to make coal clean.

With a solution to the problem of coal, we will greatly increase our chances of stopping dangerous climate change. Without it, we will not succeed. And there is a solution to the challenge—through carbon capture and storage. Capturing the CO2, transporting it and locking it permanently underground would reduce emissions by 90 per cent. But while this has been demonstrated in its different parts and at small scale, capturing emissions from 30 megawatts, it has never been tried on a commercial scale and never the complete process from start to finish on a power station.

So the first task is to urgently drive the technology at scale. We are already running a competition for one of the first end-to-end demonstrations in the world, covering capture, transport and storage. It will be one of the biggest CCS projects in the world, more than 10 times bigger than the largest existing pilot.

Yesterday my right honourable friend announced the public funding for the next stage. We will now select bids to proceed to detailed designs. But we know we need to go further. Because of yesterday’s Budget there will also be funding for up to three more demonstration projects, and we want them to be a mix of pre-and post-combustion. To support this, my right honourable friend the Chancellor yesterday announced plans for a new incentive mechanism to support carbon capture and storage. This could be based around a feed-in tariff for CCS, so these projects would receive a fixed price for electricity, or around a fixed price for carbon abated. We will consult on this alongside our new coal conditions by the summer.

We need to ally this reliable stream of funding for carbon capture and storage, which we now have, with a policy on coal-fired power stations to drive the demonstration and deployment of CCS. We consulted last year on carbon capture readiness as the condition for new coal-fired power stations, but I have concluded that while it is right to go ahead with this condition, it will not, on its own, drive the change we need. I believe that we need to signal a move away from the building of unabated coal-fired power stations, because it is right for our country to drive us towards low carbon as part of a progressive decarbonisation. It is an essential part of a new industrial strategy, and it is necessary if we are to show international leadership on climate change.

I am proposing two new conditions that any new coal-fired power station must meet to gain consent in England or Wales. We are now proceeding with a strategic environmental assessment and will consult formally on these proposals in the summer. First, we must send a decisive signal that change starts now. I now propose a requirement to demonstrate CCS on a substantial proportion of any new coal-fired power station. We will propose for consultation a requirement to demonstrate at least 300 megawatts of net capacity, or around 400 megawatt of gross output, as a condition of any consent. The demonstration condition will mean that henceforth unabated coal-fired power stations will not get government consent.

Secondly, alongside this, we must secure not just a commitment to demonstrate, but, when the technology is proven, a commitment that CCS will be fitted on the entire plant. As the Committee on Climate Change concluded,

“conventional coal-fired power generation should only be built on the expectation that it will be retrofitted with CCS by the early 2020s”.

That is the earliest it believes it will be feasible.

With the demonstrations in the UK and abroad, we will plan on the basis that CCS will be technically and economically proven by 2020. There will be an independent judge of when the technology is proven. I envisage the Environment Agency playing that role. Every coal-fired power station built from now would have to commit to retrofitting CCS on the whole plant, 100 per cent within five years of 2020, subject to the technology being ready. It would also mean that once the technology has been judged as proven, every new coal-fired power station would have to commit to CCS, not just on a portion but on the whole plant.

I believe CCS will be effective and can be shown to work. However, I also want to seek views on whether we need a safety net in the eventuality that it does not become proven as quickly as we expect. We will also consult on whether it is possible through an emissions performance standard to implement the conditions I have outlined.

The new conditions would come on top of the requirement of every power station to buy carbon permits, which under the EU emissions trading scheme are capped and falling. I believe that the funding for demonstrations and the conditions I have proposed meet the criteria I set at the start. They set us on a decisive low-carbon path, with the UK doing more than any other country to demonstrate and deploy CCS, and they are the most environmentally ambitious coal conditions of any country in the world. They protect security of supply by making possible the only sustainable long-term diversity there is, and that is low-carbon diversity.

I have had representations that from day one there should be 100 per cent CCS on new coal, but I believe that this does not appreciate the need that still exists to demonstrate that technology before full-scale commercial deployment is possible. Such a condition would reduce the range of technologies that could be affordably demonstrated; mean that demonstration of post-combustion CCS would be far less likely; and would fail to meet our international obligation to drive low-carbon technology.

Under today’s path to low-carbon coal, we will be able both to meet our climate change commitments and have up to four new coal power stations with CCS by 2020. This route to low-carbon coal is right, too, for the British economy, and will enable us to lead the world in carbon capture and storage. Instead, with a reliable stream of finance, we are investing in British skills so our industries can lead carbon capture and storage not just within Britain but at power stations around the world. I hope our industry, universities and our scientists will respond to the challenge of creating a new industry in Britain.

Research suggests that carbon abatement technologies could sustain 50,000 jobs by 2030. This is a massive regional opportunity for Britain, and I pay tribute to our RDAs for what they have done and look forward to working with them. Teesside, Thames Gateway, the Firth of Forth and the Humber could all be suitable for a new cluster, among other locations.

For our North Sea oil and gas industry, CCS can herald a new low carbon future. Just as the 1960s and 1970s saw a new North Sea industry develop, so in the next decades Britain can do the same again with CCS. The proposals I have announced today seek to combine the drive towards low carbon at home and around the world; the need for security of supply; and the building of Britain’s industrial future. The proposals signal that the era of unabated coal is coming to an end, but a new low carbon future for coal with CCS can begin”.

My Lords, I commend this Statement to the House.

My Lords I thank the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, for giving us early sight of the Statement. The Minister knows how long we on this side of the House have been trying to persuade the Government to give Britain a lead in carbon capture and storage; indeed, my noble friends have raised the matter in your Lordships’ House many times. I am delighted to see in his place my friend Lord Jenkin of Roding who has been at the forefront of the thinking on this subject.

Because of the Government's dithering and prevarication, we have already seen the collapse of BP’s CCS project at Peterhead—work that is now being conducted in Abu Dhabi—and other countries, notably China, Germany and the United States are steadily pulling ahead of us. A year ago, the Conservative Party set out the policies on CCS that Britain should adopt, which are: to build a network of pipes and connections that will allow captured C02 to be transported from generating plants to areas of storage in the North Sea; to equip at least three new coal plants with CCS technology, paid for from Britain's share of receipts from the EU emissions trading scheme; and to introduce an emissions performance standard that would limit the emissions of any new plant to the equivalent of a modern gas-fuelled power station.

We have had to take the lead on this area of policy because the Government have allowed their own energy policy to head in the same dreadful direction as their care of our public finances.

I shall give a snapshot of the energy disaster they are leading us into. First, a third of our generating capacity is about to be turned off with no remotely adequate plan to replace it with a low carbon alternative. Secondly, North Sea oil and gas is in decline, but we have grossly inadequate storage capacity—it dropped to just four days’ worth in storage last February. Thirdly, no other major European country generates less of its electricity from renewables, despite us having the best wind, wave and tidal resources in Europe.

We now need to catch up from this appalling position. The Government have finally latched onto some of our ideas, but, if we are to have any confidence at all, the noble Lord must answer some questions about the details of the Government's intentions.

In light of what the Minister has said today, will he clearly set out his support for our call that all new coal-fired power stations will be developed with CCS technology from the outset so that they will achieve an emissions performance standard of no more than 500 kilograms of C02 per megawatt hour? Does he now accept that the notion of capture readiness, as previously promoted by the Government, is completely inadequate?

I hope that the noble Lord will be able to flesh out a better reply than I believe was given to my colleague, Greg Barker, in another place, and will confirm clearly that the Government will not approve any application to build unabated coal-fired generation in the United Kingdom. He has told us about the need to look into having a safety net in case technology does not emerge as quickly as expected, but how big will this safety net be, and at what level will it be employed? The Government must have some idea. Or are they simply putting off making any decision until closer to 2020, long after they have departed office?

On funding for the CCS clusters and demonstration plant, will the Minister kindly explain why the Government have chosen to raise the money by means of a consumer levy and not from EU emissions trading scheme receipts? If not, will he please tell us where all the money in the ETS has been allocated? It would be helpful for your Lordships’ House to know. Will the Minister tell us how much that levy will be, and on which consumers it will fall bearing in mind the burdens that the Budget has placed on households and firms? Will he assure the House that the location of the clusters will be chosen with technical viability at the forefront of considerations rather than political convenience?

If the Government’s conversion to CCS is genuine, I welcome it. However, they have left it appallingly late to secure our energy supplies for the decade ahead and to reduce our emissions of greenhouse gases. It is vital that the Government now put their house in order and see that these decisions are finally acted upon without further delay.

My Lords, coal is certainly an inevitable and important part of the future energy mix, not just in the UK but worldwide. We must find a way to cope with that in a low-carbon economy; hence the challenge of carbon capture and storage, which has been raised many times in this House. It is even more important given the lateness of the renewable energy programmes in this country and the slow start to carbon capture and storage. I, too, have criticised the Government’s rather half-hearted approach to CCS, but it was interesting that the noble Baroness, Lady Wilcox, admitted that the Conservative Party came to a conclusion on this important potential technology only one year earlier.

There are two aspects to this: the demonstration projects and the building of new power stations. We on these Benches welcome the move from one to “up to” four demonstration projects. Let us hope it is at least four; it certainly needs to be. I presume that whether it is three or four is dependent on budgetary constraints. I also welcome the potential move to both the pre- and post-combustion technologies that have been mentioned by all sides of the House, particularly during proceedings on the Energy Bill.

However, the length of time has been a problem throughout this process. We have targets and important dates in 2020 and 2050, but it is important to get solutions to climate change as early as possible. Savings and technologies implemented now are much more important than those well into the future. When do we expect the existing demonstration project to start? What are the timescales on the further three? When will they come on stream? We have long and extended timescales here.

In reality, one would certainly offer a partial welcome to the new coal stations. There is now an understanding that just moving ahead with coal-fired power stations is unacceptable and cannot happen when we are trying to decarbonise the economy. It is good that we have moved from a vague commitment to retrofitting to a mandatory 300 megawatts net when power stations are built. However, it is important to clarify whether that demonstration site must be operable before the power station as a whole can feed into the grid and be commissioned. Must that be an absolute guarantee, which must come from the power operator?

The feed-in tariff will be far more certain. I was interested that it might be a fixed-carbon price. I suppose that that is a kind of recognition that fixed-carbon prices are increasingly important when the EU ETS has a very variable carbon price.

The fact that we have a minimum capacity means that we do not have a minimum CCS demonstration percentage of the power of those power stations. Why can we not move to a minimum percentage as well? There is a temptation to have a large power station with a very small megawatt capacity. Emission standards are mentioned in the Statement, but should we not have them at the same time—particularly if we do not have a minimum percentage? Even without carbon capture and storage, the technology of the coal-fired station is important in determining its emissions. Why is there nothing in the Statement about that? The 90 per cent reduction target is enticing. However, if you co-fire a coal power station, you can get to 110 or 120 per cent because you are using biomass.

The big issue here is the part of the Statement that says,

“it has never been tried at a commercial scale and never the complete process from start to finish on a power station”.

That is the point: what happens if CCS does not work? I ask the Minister specifically: what happens if we find that the implementation or experimentation goes on well beyond the expected timescale?

I congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Wilcox, on understanding more about the safety net. I read about it and could not understand what a safety net could be. I would be interested to hear from the Minister what that is. Perhaps he could also explain how this ties in the with the EU CCS strategy. Is it part of it, or is it a separate initiative?

Lastly, the Statement mentions the renewables contribution to generation. When does the Minister expect the Government’s renewables strategy to be published? The website said spring this year. We are moving towards the end of spring fairly rapidly.

My Lords, I thank both the noble Baroness and the noble Lord for their general welcome for the Statement about CCS. There is clearly huge potential for this country in meeting the challenge of reducing emissions, for jobs—and not just in this country—in the production of CCS and in exports of British skills and expertise.

I do not understand what the noble Baroness, Lady Wilcox, meant by “dither”. The Government have been absolutely determined on energy policy. We have had our nuclear White Paper, the transmission access review, our work in Europe on liberalisation, the encouragement of greater storage facilities and renewables. Yesterday’s announcement on support for renewables has been widely welcomed.

As for other countries pulling ahead on CCS, we are one of only four countries to commit to full-scale CCS demonstration. That puts us in a leadership role, of which I earnestly believe that we can take advantage. There is huge advantage for this country in doing so if we can ensure that we pull off the technology that is required.

We have debated the energy gap on many occasions in your Lordships' House. We are ever mindful of the need to ensure that as old stations are closed down for one reason or another we have a ready-made supply of alternative sources of generation. I believe that the figures show that 18 gigawatts of generating capacity is likely to close by 2018 due to the provisions of the large combustion plant directive and the closures that will need to take place of some of our nuclear stations, and that we already have 10 gigawatts under construction, 10.5 gigawatts with planning consent and more applying for consent. Of course, we can never be complacent but we are ever mindful of the need for and critical importance of our energy supply.

The noble Baroness, Lady Wilcox, talked about wanting to see a demonstration at a coal power station. She will have noted from the Statement that that is not the route down which we are going. However, I say to the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, that the 300 megawatts net and the 400 megawatts gross are substantial figures. We are not embracing the noble Baroness’s suggestion because we have to remember that this technology is still in demonstration and has not been proven. It is a very expensive undertaking, each demonstration project is likely to cost hundreds of millions of pounds and risk is involved. We need to balance the security of supply with the need to prove the technology. I noted her comments about a limit on the emissions performance standard. We are not willing to put a figure on this now as further consideration and consultation are required. We will produce a consultation paper that will allow us to debate this further. I am sure that noble Lords will wish to have a wider debate on these matters when the consultation paper is produced.

As regards the EU ETS, we come back to the question of leadership. We have been instrumental in Europe in driving forward proposals to provide funding for CCS projects. I believe that the UK’s role was pivotal in leading to agreement at the European Council in December 2008 to allocate 300 million allowances from the EU ETS, which will part fund up to 12 CCS demonstrations. I noted the noble Baroness’s comments about the levy and the impact it could have on consumers’ bills. The IEA has estimated that the cost of tackling climate change will be 70 per cent higher if we do not embrace CCS. Therefore, I believe that this is a cost-effective thing to do.

The noble Baroness asked me about the process under which we will choose the location of sites. I confirm that it will be a very rigorous process. I agree with the comments about the need for rigour in that area. She can rely on this Government to ensure that a rigorous process is undertaken. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, that coal is an essential part of the mix. My understanding is that, globally, about 40 per cent of electricity is produced from coal. I believe that the IEA forecasts that by 2030 that will go up to 44 per cent. From a global perspective, if we cannot develop CCS successfully, we shall be in deep trouble in terms of reducing carbon emissions, so this is a very critical time for us.

I do not know why the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, thinks that we have taken a half-hearted approach to CCS. That is not the case. We have negotiated hard in Europe on the EU ETS allowances. We started a competition for a demonstration project in 2007, which is proceeding well. I understand that in the near future we will invite selected companies to negotiate. We hope that the first demonstration project will be up and running in 2014. The 2007 demonstration project will be part of the whole scheme. I also noted the noble Lord’s comments on the use of different technologies. That point has been well made in your Lordships' House. The first demonstration project will be post-combustion given its greater applicability throughout the world, but we have an opportunity to look at different technologies, which will be very important. As regards feed-in tariffs, I am very interested in the noble Lord’s views and the comments that he has made previously about variable carbon prices. We want to use the consultation process to discuss this widely to ascertain the best way in which we can fund support for the demonstration projects.

I have already commented on the 300 megawatts net figure. I do not think that is a small proportion. The noble Lord asked whether that would mean that stations would be much larger. We will need to consider that factor and I am happy to take that point on board. The noble Lord asked me what will happen if the relevant technology does not work. We expect that it will work. He will know that we believe there are no major technical barriers to its working. All elements of CCS have been successfully used. There are examples in Algeria in relation to extracting CO2 from oil and gas fields. He will know that a small-scale project was developed in Germany. However, this has never been applied on a commercial scale or in a power station. We will, of course, need to have contingency plans available if the development of CCS is delayed. I very much embrace the point he made that of course we have to look at measures to reinforce reductions in emissions from existing power stations. He is also right to say that efficiencies could be undertaken now to reduce CO2 emissions. We will need to look at that matter but it will be very much subject to the consultative process.

My Lords, I welcome elements of the Statement. First, it refers in very encouraging terms to the nuclear programme—something which was notably absent from the Chancellor of the Exchequer’s speech yesterday, when there was no mention of nuclear being a low-carbon solution to our energy problem. Secondly, like others who have spoken, I welcome the increase in the number of demonstration projects from one to up to four. I am not quite sure what that means but the noble Lord will know that during the past year or more I have voiced criticisms—indeed, my noble friend referred to this—about the inadequacy of having a single competition for a single demonstration project. I also welcome the fact that it is now open to the industry to produce designs for pre-combustion as well as post-combustion plants.

However, the Statement leaves a great many questions to be answered, and I shall take them in no particular order. I do not begin to understand the part about the,

“incentive mechanism … based around a feed-in tariff for CCS”.

When are we going to get an explanation of that? Will we have to wait for the consultation document that is promised? When will that come? We have discussed feed-in tariffs, as the noble Lord knows, in the context of microgeneration plants and so on, but I simply do not understand what is intended here and I would welcome an explanation.

Secondly, we are finding ourselves using the word “demonstration” in two entirely different senses, and I am not sure that the noble Lord has made that clear. Am I right in saying that we have understood that a demonstration plant means the full end-to-end plant that was, for instance, the subject of the initial competition? One reads:

“We will propose for consultation a requirement to demonstrate at least 300 megawatts of net capacity”,

on a new plant. What does “demonstrate” mean there? Is it a demonstration of an intention? Does it mean that the plant has to consist from the beginning of some element of CCS, even though we will not yet have had the full plant? I would be grateful for an explanation of that.

Another question seems to me to be left entirely unanswered. If there are to be a number of these CCS plants around the country, will there be any sort of a carbon dioxide grid to enable the CO2 that has been sequestrated to be transported so that it can be buried underground? Am I right in assuming that that will almost always happen offshore in the exhausted gas wells that have been drilled?

The Budget report says that the competition will continue. Are we therefore to have three or four winners of the competition, or is this a new stage with one winner, as in the original competition, and the others will need to produce something else? When will we know the details of that? The question of how one can put some details on to this is becoming extremely important, as we do not have nearly enough detail to know how this will work. I hope that the Minister can enlighten us.

My Lords, I am not sure that I will satisfy the noble Lord on all those matters, because we intend to produce a consultation paper, which is due in the summer. I hope that it will contain a lot of the details that the noble Lord has rightly pointed out. Clearly, we want to get on with this, and the consultation paper will allow us to set out some of the challenges and get responses from stakeholders including, I am sure, Members of your Lordships’ House. I pay tribute, as did the noble Baroness, Lady Wilcox, to the expertise and leadership in this area of the noble Lord, which I have long appreciated.

We recognise that nuclear will be an important component of our future energy supply; there is no question about that. What does “up to four” mean? It means up to four. I have tried to convey the Government’s enthusiasm for as many CCS projects as possible up to four. On what is meant by “demonstration”, clearly we wish to see an end-to-end demonstration. In building new coal power stations, we would expect the process to be up and running and that at least 300 megawatts net and 400 megawatts gross will go through the CCS process. We are glad to listen to views in the consultation about some of the issues around that but, at the end of the day, we hope that in 2020 it will be possible for an independent assessment to have taken place that can clearly show that the technology and the economic issues mean that this has been brought to a successful conclusion. At that stage, we will be in a position to require retrofit of the entire nature of those plants within a five-year period. That is the clear intent.

As far as winners are concerned, the 07 competition continues, albeit under the conditions that we are now setting. It is making progress. I have said that we will shortly be making invitations to negotiate. I cannot possibly say whether, if we get up to four, it will be one company or four companies or consortia. We will have to see how the competition process works through.

My Lords, the Government are clearly to be congratulated on this significant and exciting Statement following so immediately after the Budget. Because of the dimensions of our economic crisis, as spelt out so honestly in the Budget yesterday, will my noble friend confirm that in this battle for the future of humanity, which is what this is, we must have a situation among all parties in this country that, whatever the economic pressures, priority must be given to projects of this kind, without which the economic problems today would seem small compared to the economic problems that would face us in the future?

I was glad to hear my noble friend saying that his approach was that he hoped that this would succeed, rather than talking about what the hell we would do if it did not succeed. Does he agree that, while of course it must be proven, there is a tremendous difference between saying that we are investigating a possibility with government finance and saying that there is a task for those involved to make it work? The command, almost as in a war situation, is to make it work and to make it work economically, rather than to look at it as a possibility to be equated against other possibilities not yet specified.

Finally, on sites, does my noble friend agree that the issue is not simply about the main installation itself but about the infrastructure as well? Therefore, if we are not to repeat the follies of the first Industrial Revolution, it is terribly important from day one that priority is given to social and environmental considerations in terms of location. What consultation is there with DfID about how, as we take this forward, we can right from the beginning be contributing to new methods of power generation in the third world?

My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend. He is absolutely right that the effort to mitigate climate change has to be the greatest endeavour that we engage in. Long-term certainty and consensus across the Floor here and in another place are vital to that endeavour and to the industry in terms of the long-term investment decisions that it must make. In fact, if one goes to the heart of what both the noble Baroness and the noble Lord said, there is clearly strong consensus about carbon capture and storage. That is very important. There is also a great deal of consensus about the need to do all that we can to encourage renewables. Because of the renewable energy strategy, which is due, as the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, reminded us, in the spring, I am not prepared to go further than that, but we understand that it is very important.

The environmental issues need to be considered, and environmental requirements and surveys will have to be undertaken alongside any consent given to new coal power stations embracing CCS. That goes without question. It is important that we get the siting right. Using extant gas and coal fields is one of the options before us, but there are other storage facilities that we can look at, such as deep saline aquifers. One of the advantages of having up to four projects is that that will allow us to explore different options.

Of course we should be looking at what help we can give the developing world in this respect. But given the scale of increase in coal plants that is likely to happen through the world, I believe that one of the greatest gifts that we could give the developing world is to develop CCS successfully so that we can then use it in other countries.

My Lords, now that this initiative has been announced, which I am sure will be greatly welcomed by Purge, what does my noble friend believe will be the future role of organisations such as One North East, Yorkshire First and the universities of Durham and Newcastle, which have done so much work in this area? How might their role change and how can they contribute in future to the debate on and the development of this technology?

My Lords, I pay tribute to the work of those organisations and to other RDAs, which have a hugely positive role in enhancing and taking advantage of traditional industries, helping to bring them up to date and encouraging the development of new technology. From my own experience with Advantage West Midlands and other RDAs, I know that, if they are prepared to invest in renewables and to update, they can play a tremendously important role in the future. This Government believe that RDAs have played a hugely important role and will continue to do so in the future. I am sorry that the party opposite does not share that view.

My Lords, the Minister is obviously enthusiastic about this. Among possible locations for clusters, he mentioned the Firth of Forth, confirming that locations north of the border will be eligible for funding under the demonstration project. Can he say how that will link, if at all, with the conditions that he says will be applied to future coal stations, given that the Statement clearly indicates that the new conditions to regain consent will apply in England and Wales for obvious reasons with regard to the devolution of planning? Is there a link between the conditions on the one hand and eligibility for demonstration funding on the other?

My Lords, Scotland has a rich heritage and we very much want it to be embraced within these arrangements. We look forward to discussions with the Scottish Executive. As my right honourable friend in another place said, we would very much welcome any monetary contribution that the Scottish Administration would like to make. We look forward to working closely with the Scottish Executive on this matter for the very reason that the noble Lord gave.

My Lords, on balance, I strongly welcome the Statement. As the noble Lord implied a few moments ago, our focus on CCS is important in the British context, but it is vastly important in the world context. If we can give a lead there, it will help us down the line.

There are a number of obscurities in the Statement, as the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin, said, and I hope that some of them will be clarified. When the Minister’s department was set up, I said quietly that there were two decisions on which I was afraid it would be judged in the early years. One was Heathrow and the other was Kingsnorth. On Heathrow, the department lost rather disastrously. It was a perverse decision, in my view, although my noble friend Lord Soley is shaking his head. However, it was hardly the department’s fault; it was up against the strong, remorseless interests of the aviation industry. In this matter it has, in its own competence, balanced and seen off quite a number of pressures. That is commendable.

For how long does the noble Lord think that about three-quarters of the emissions of a new power station would be unabated? On some calculations, it seems to me that, if we gave the go-ahead to Kingsnorth or anywhere else too early, it could be up to 10 years, which is too long. Secondly, how will it be paid for? I declare an interest with regard to both questions. I am a member of the Environment Agency board, although I suspect that I will not be in 2020 when the agency will be called on to judge the robustness of the technology. I am also a representative of consumers through the Consumer Focus board, which I chair.

For how long does the Minister think that we will have an only partially abated new coal-fired power station? On the cost, it would be wrong, as some newspapers implied this morning, if there were a sort of poll tax on energy consumers to pay for this. It surely must be paid for by those who persist in carbon-based energy generation through the purchase of emissions trading permits and, if necessary, an additional levy. This should primarily be paid for by the carbon-generating industry and not by the consumer. Of course, all costs eventually get passed on to the consumer, but in a fair way.

If the noble Lord can give me good answers to those two questions, I will give him at least seven out of 10 for this second decision.

My Lords, my noble friend is a hard taskmaster. I do not agree with him about Heathrow; I believe that the very strong conditions set for the expansion of Heathrow have shown that the Government came to a balanced view. Government speaketh with one voice, as ever. Both my departments, DECC and Defra, played a strong and positive role in relation to the final decision. I am glad that my noble friend recognises that we have the balance right for CCS. As for the length of time, our hope is that at 2020 it will be possible for the Environment Agency—the agency that is chosen to make the independent assessment—to make a positive assessment. It would then enable us to require retrofit in these new stations within a five-year period. That would be the ideal timetable.

As I said to the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin, we will consult on money and pricing. The Statement has made it clear that we think that projects should receive payment once operational, based on either carbon or electricity price. Given the risks of being first in class, we will also look at whether help can be given with capital payments.

My noble friend spoke about the cost to consumers. That is a factor but, equally, I fully accept that there has to be the right balance. We have to be fair to consumers; we have to ensure that there is value for money and that the incentives in relation to concepts such as the EU ETS are that carbon emitters have to pay a price. However, I remind my noble friend that the IEA has said that, if we do not develop CCS, the cost of tackling climate change could be 70 per cent higher. In terms of cost-effectiveness, in one way or another I am convinced that it is right to make available the funding to help to develop CCS. There has to be some funding over and above what might come through the mechanism of the carbon pricing structure.

Civil Liberties: Electronic Surveillance


Moved by

To call attention to any effect on civil liberties from electronic surveillance and the collection, monitoring, storage and loss of digital information about individual members of the public; and to move for Papers.

My Lords, 12 years ago I chaired a Science and Technology Select Committee inquiry into the use of digital images as evidence, in which we drew attention to civil liberties implications. My debate is to call attention to any effect on civil liberties on electronic surveillance today.

First, I pay tribute to noble Lords who have taken part in debates and inquiries into the digital age. Three weeks ago, the noble Earl, Lord Northesk, led a most interesting debate in your Lordships’ House. In February, the Select Committee on the Constitution published a report entitled Surveillance: Citizens and the State. I thought it significant that this constitutionally focused committee should have spread its wings to delve in considerable and knowledgeable depth into this issue. A Home Affairs Committee report last May was entitled A Surveillance Society?—and I note the question mark.

There are four points on which I shall dwell. What are civil liberties? What does surveillance imply? What might evolve in the future—and what will be the effect for individual members of the public? For me, civil liberties are freedoms which are, or should be, guaranteed to individuals. These range from rights to free speech, fair trial, property ownership, to free association, privacy and, most importantly, freedom from the abuse of power by those who have the means and methods of dictating and of enforcing it.

The concept of our civil liberties stretches back through the centuries, notably to the Magna Carta and, arguably, pre-1066 to the Anglo-Saxon witans. In more recent times, in the face of national danger and survival, the exercise of power by government to curtail or direct individuals has been accepted as a necessary restraint on civil liberties. But terrorism, however ghastly its manifestations, should never be equated with a threat to national survival. Curtailing civil rights is playing the game by terrorists’ rules. We owe it to not only ourselves but to future generations to do our utmost to uphold and safeguard our civil rights. Creeping irreversible curtailment is the danger today.

A decade or so ago, as the capabilities of information technologies expanded, we referred to the information age and the information society. Individuals were expected and encouraged to feast on the new capabilities to inform and manage their lives and aspirations. Browsers opened a vast new world of information and knowledge. The Science and Technology Committee, of which I was a member in the mid-1990s, completed a study called The Information Society; Agenda for Action. There was no question mark in that title. Ours was the first Select Committee report from either House to be published electronically.

We saw the information society based on an information superhighway as one of the most important technological developments of the century. Directly or indirectly, the digital and communications revolution would affect us all. So it has, and at astonishing speed. In the past decade, information society—no question mark—has morphed into surveillance society—question mark. For some the question mark is no longer apposite. In 2004, the Information Commissioner was warning that the UK must not sleepwalk into a surveillance society. There have been further advances in data collection and usage since.

The various reports and debates, to which I have referred, dealt with perceptions of what forms a surveillance society, and what it now means for individuals going about their daily activities. Noble Lords will have an opportunity to consider and to debate the Constitution Committee’s hard-hitting report once the government response is to hand. The committee drew attention to the growing use of surveillance and data collection, which should be regulated by executive and legislative restraint. What, it asked, is the justification for the incessant creep towards every detail about an individual being recorded and pored over by the state? It also commented on the concept of a national DNA database, and warned that this could be used for malign purposes. It proposed new responsibilities for the Information Commissioner in overseeing the collection and use of digital data. I was pleased to note a reference to the Select Committee inquiry that I chaired way back in 1997.

While much of the report, understandably for a constitutional committee, is concerned with the impact of government and other public authorities’ activities, it notes the raft of data collection, storage, and dissemination undertaken in the private sector. I doubt, for all its good intentions, that the Data Protection Act 1998 is man enough to cope with new digital manipulations such as data matching and data mining. Marketing questionnaires, competitions, and card purchases provide a record of the interests and aspirations of individuals, which can be stored, compared and sold on. How useful for the producers of junk mail to target their activities towards possible customers. The rollout by Google of its Street View, available to all on the internet, has sparked a determined reaction by some who feel that their personal privacy and interests are being abused and even threatened. This Google activity does not seem to be troubled by data protection legislation or codes of practice.

Similar reactions have been sparked by the proposals for national identity cards. I and other members of the public have been caught by cloning of personal details through credit and debit card fraud. Noble Lords will be well aware of the explanations offered by government and others for the depth and coverage of personal data collection. CCTV, rolled out at considerable public expense over the past two decades, has certainly been an aid in identifying and tracking down suspects. Whether all the other asserted advantages of such widespread coverage in most urban areas have materialised is questionable. Crime on our streets has not significantly reduced. How many of the thousands of prisoners held in jails owe their convictions to being caught on CCTV? We know of a few high-profile cases, but I am not aware of any deep research that has upheld as cost-effective the decisions over the past 10 to 15 years to provide wide-scale CCTV coverage—one estimate is of over 4.2 million cameras—at a cost of several hundred millions of pounds to the taxpayer. Perhaps the Minister will be able to reassure the House on this.

In the inquiry into the use of digital images as evidence, we acknowledged that CCTV could intrude on individual privacy and civil rights, but we thought that it would be right to see public acceptance and approval of the use of surveillance in public places maintained and encouraged. Twelve years on, with the growth in coverage, image-matching and other techniques, we have learnt to live with it. Not all are relaxed or unfazed by the implications that it has for individual privacy, but live with it we surely will.

Where will new developments and experiences take us in the next 10 years or so? Will they be as acceptable, subject to some tightening of regulation and supervision, as the astonishingly rapid developments of the past decade have become? I fear that it is unrealistic in this digitally evolving age to attempt, Canute-like, to reverse the tide of digital development. At best, it is more sensible to attempt to control what we now have more carefully, and to consider closely the overall implications of new proposals and ways of exploiting digital developments.

What might happen in the next decade? First, loss and misplacement—let alone improper use—of any number of data banks must remain a reality. There is no way totally to eliminate such mistakes. They are as much a part of human frailty in this field as in any other, where for good or ill, mistakes and/or corrupt practice, such as hacking, cannot be ruled out. Such losses will continue and have to be accepted as a hazard of data storage, retrieval and transmissions. There may be a media outcry which will last for a few days, but unless national survival is seriously threatened, the loss will be mentally archived or forgotten. Personal privacy may have suffered, but life will go on.

There are EU proposals to fit all vehicles with a transponder, whereby their whereabouts, their speeds on the open road, information about hold-ups on the driver's planned route and so on could be collected, collated and disseminated to the driver to aid his journey. But such data collection could also be used to impose fines for speeding, jumping lights, illegal parking, or road congestion charging. Would the perceived benefits of making journeys easier and timings more predictable outweigh the certainty of punishment for every minor traffic offence? Will we really ever become that much more self-disciplined?

German research on ways of applying road charging ruled out the use of cameras that would image the driver and passengers from the front. It was deemed to be an infringement of personal privacy. Who knows who the driver might be taking out for an evening’s entertainment unknown to other members of the family? The British citizen, it seems, is more phlegmatic about camera coverage than some on the continent.

Mobile phone records also pinpoint the user’s location globally, and provide a geographical tracking log for the phone. Technically, much more can be extracted from this and other communications data, but the key issue is who has access to profiling such a database and how it is regulated. The police force in my home county, Norfolk, is to fit electronic tags to its police radios and vehicles. Combined with equipment which pinpoints the location of 999 callers, the police will achieve faster response times than before by identifying and contacting the patrol nearest to the scene. I am not aware of any adverse reaction from police officers who will be tagged, much as some prisoners on home release are today.

Such technologies might have much wider applications. We know that cats and dogs are routinely fitted with an embedded chip programmed to give details of the owner’s name and address. Now the EU wants all sheep to be tagged. Tagging humans would be unacceptable today, but after another decade or more, I wonder. If all people were to be chipped at birth, the information could be used for a variety of applications favoured by the state, such as national identity cards, periodic censuses, medical and educational records and so on. Even now, there may be some enthusiasts who claim that it would be better to embrace all these new extreme digital capabilities, rather than to stem the tide of their advance. But if stemming the tide is to be successful, it has to be based on sound rational argument about rights and civil liberties, not merely on emotion and nimbyism.

One critical issue is the concept of surveillance, with its malign inference of spying and snooping on the individual. A decade ago we were using the word “information” as in “the information society”, which is a much less threatening concept. The inference was that the individual was being empowered by the growing availability of information which would help and enhance daily life. In the next decade, we should try to move away from the concept of surveillance.

The Armed Forces, which have also developed their operational capabilities around the technologies of the digital age, speak of network-enabled capabilities. That is a bit of a mouthful, but it empowers individuals in the course of their operations to access and be alerted to the activities of friend and foe. Intelligence and much else of importance to the individual is processed and filtered to provide the user in a timely manner with relevant information and instruction. Seen from the perspective of the individual citizen, giving him or her the sense that all that is known and collected about them will give them greater possibilities in their daily lives must be the pitch for the future. They must feel enabled.

In particular, a better balance has to be found between the collection and the use of innumerable bits of data which at present are not all monitored, updated, analysed nor turned into timely effective use. As in so much of information gathering, as the Minister will recall, unless there are the right capabilities to manage and exploit the raw material, the cost of its collection and storage is questionable and may even be objectionable. There needs to be a better understanding of this balance, which would help individual citizens to accept what is happening digitally all around them, often without their direct knowledge or involvement, and to perceive clearly real benefits and advantages in their daily lives, not just further infringements of their rights and privacy. I beg to move.

My Lords, I do not think that I will be the last person to thank the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Craig, not only for bringing forward this debate but for the way in which he has done it, which was constructive and thoughtful. I have chosen to intervene because I have had a long interest in this matter. One of the things that I wish to spell out is that the nature of the debate is changing in a fundamental way, because of the advances we make in science and technology.

I start a little way back from that, because if I had been addressing this issue some years ago, as I used to in the House of Commons, I would have agreed with many of the things that the noble and gallant Lord said; in fact I would have agreed with all of them, perhaps with one caveat on the nature of terrorism. It is right that in the past 50 or 60 years terrorism has not been a threat to the state, but given the nature of some modern weapons, the greater knowledge about how to create, assemble and use them, and the potential for transporting them, some of the previous assumptions about terrorism are not as clear cut as they used to be. There is a danger in that area that we have to think through rather carefully.

I began to take an active interest in this issue in the 1960s and 1970s, because I became concerned that the way that much legislation was being introduced—the Prevention of Terrorism Act was a clear early example—was slowly but with understandable reasons eroding the general liberties that we had always taken for granted. That is always a threat, and it is encouraging to have debates of this kind and for organisations such as Liberty to constantly question the state.

As I have indicated, the problem is much wider. I think back to my early days as a Member of Parliament from the 1970s onwards. I was very dubious about cameras in public places to deal with crime, for example. The difficulty was that, as an elected Member of Parliament, the population in high-crime areas and in areas of street disorder wanted cameras. You could have all sorts of arguments at public meetings, often with the police on your side, as to why cameras would not necessarily prevent crime, but the public wanted them.

One of our problems in this area is that issues such as the fear of crime are often of most concern to the public. Fortunately, crime levels are reducing, as is street disorder. That should enable us to row back a bit, but you should have no illusions that when going into areas with a high-crime level at that time, it was difficult to resist the idea of cameras in public places. People wanted them. The same is true in other areas of surveillance. People felt safer, even if there was a relatively low level of crime. It was no good pointing out that there had not been as many murders as the press said. Many headlines stating “Another murder” often referred to the same murder, but to the suspect being caught and then to him being brought before the court. People would say, “Well, there have been three murders”, when in fact there had been one; but people had a fear and the cameras provided a sense of security. As with street lighting, cameras probably do not diminish the level of crime, but they certainly diminish the fear of crime. That is an important factor.

In recent years, I have thought about DNA. I have said previously in this House and elsewhere that I do not have a problem with there being a DNA database. It cannot do a lot of damage to me as an individual, as long as there are clear legal constraints; for example, in using DNA to prevent someone obtaining an insurance policy on their life. That is a classic example. By and large, DNA has been very good not only in correcting wrongful convictions but, perhaps more importantly, in indicating that anyone who commits a violent crime such as rape or murder is very likely to be caught if their DNA is available.

The other part of this argument, which again touches on the issue that I want to expand on in a moment, is the pace of scientific advancement. It is very easy to get anyone’s DNA: you just need something such as a hair from their head. If I invite you round to my house and then afterwards pick up a hair that has fallen off your head on to my armchair or whatever, I can get your DNA. The question is how to protect people from such use, whether by an individual with evil thoughts in mind or by a large organisation, public or private.

We tend to conduct this debate in terms of the state, but in fact information is increasingly collected and used by private organisations and, indeed, at times by individuals. Most of us accept that without too much questioning. As many people know—I do not need to rehearse the argument here—all the big supermarkets have a great deal of knowledge about our behaviour. They also have knowledge about the numbers in our households and so on. However, you do not have to go that far; most of us will regard the Google maps of the earth as very useful but we easily overlook the fact that those mapping techniques can display whether we were in the garden and can even detect the size of our shoes.

The noble and gallant Lord, who has an Air Force background, will know that surveillance from space or from the air is much more developed now. Subject to weather conditions at the moment—I stress: at the moment—you are able to define objects in very fine detail by the use of aerial or space surveillance down to the registration numbers of vehicles parked on or near your property. In fact, currently on Google maps you can see the cars outside your house. This technology is expanding almost exponentially. It is worth reminding ourselves every now and then that it is now reckoned that the power of computers doubles every three years in terms of memory and analysis and so on, and thus we are accelerating the process of the collection and analysis of data.

I am sure that, for obvious reasons, the political parties—my own included—will from time to time get into trouble for not encrypting data. When data are lost and have not been encrypted, that is obviously a headline story. My noble friend on the Front Bench will know more than a little about that sort of problem. Obviously the more encryption there is, the better that is and the less likely the data are to be misused.

However, we should bear in mind the difficulties here. There is a lot of discussion about the desirability or otherwise of our medical records being available around the country within the National Health Service. Again, I am one of those who take the view that they should be available, as long as a person has the right to remove their records from the database. That right is important, but it is very difficult to have a level of control to the point where you can guarantee absolutely that no one will have access to those records. We get very worried about that. Sweden is a country with good civil liberties and a good record of freedom, democracy and rule of law. There, you can present your card to a doctor anywhere in the country—I acknowledge that it has a much smaller population than ours—and your whole medical record will be available on the computer screen. However, you get very good treatment as a result, and that is one reason why I tend to favour such a proposal, provided that the right legal constraints are in place.

Part of the answer here lies in the law. In some ways, the law has been catching up with the technology but, in other ways, it has lost out quite badly. Data protection has been an advantage, and the Data Protection Act has helped to move things forward. I am on record as having been strongly against a privacy Act because I have felt that it would be used to stop the media carrying out proper investigations. My attempts to get the media to reform the way that they reported, particularly factual reporting, never included privacy legislation. However, leaving aside the media, the other areas that now affect privacy are so considerable that we may need to think of a privacy Act. I do not know whether this will come up in future speeches here but I know that, increasingly, judges in the UK are developing what is in effect a privacy law. It is emerging almost by stealth, if that is the right phrase, along with rights under the European Union human rights charter. If I remember rightly, Article 8 of the charter deals with privacy.

Mobile phones are the other area of immense potential. You can tell not only where a person is, regardless of whether their phone is on or off, but, due to the technology, it is not difficult to tell what they are doing with it—for example, taking photographs, if it is a phone with a camera attached. Therefore, again, the technology is moving incredibly fast. As the size of handheld sets diminishes, the ability of the units to produce and analyse information increases exponentially, and it is a massive increase.

I sometimes think that we no longer give enough thought to the relationship between science and government. I remember reading many years ago CP Snow’s lecture on science and government. I cannot recall the exact date but it must have been in the 1950s or perhaps the early 1960s. In it, he described the battle to win the ear of Churchill by Lord Cherwell on the one side, who was German in origin but came out very strongly against the Nazis, and Professor Tizzard, the scientific adviser who was, in effect, removed by Cherwell. The issue at that time was the bombing raids on Germany. The argument, which will be well understood by the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Craig, with his Air Force background, was that the carpet-bombing raids would be more effective if they were targeted not just on industrial areas but on working-class areas as well. This was not some great anti-working-class crusade; it was based on the simple and obvious fact that bombs dropped on housing areas where the houses are in close proximity to each other are far more likely to be effective than bombs dropped on areas where the houses are far apart. That was a factor that influenced the direction of the bombing campaign.

I was struck by CP Snow’s analysis that the more science advanced, the more we needed to think about the relationship between science and government. From previous questions that I have asked him on the Floor of the House, my noble friend Lord West will know of my concern, which I know he shares, about the growing ability not just of state hackers but of other organisations and individuals to crash countries’ whole computer systems. It is a profoundly dangerous and rapidly developing area. Indeed, you have to ask whether the technology moves so fast that you can never guarantee keeping up with it in terms of your ability to resist its extension.

For me, it is not so much that the principles of the issue have changed, because some of the principles mentioned by the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Craig, were present in the debate during the Civil War in Britain in the 1600s. Then, people said, “My freedom is”, and they listed those freedoms, and many of them were the things spelt out by the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Craig. I do not think that the nature of that part of the debate has changed; nor do I think that the nature of the debate has changed in terms of our needing laws to address this matter. The science and technology has now advanced so fast, and is advancing even faster, that the problem lies in our ability to know how to address it. At the same time, people want better services, be they in the health service with the ability of a doctor to see your record on screen, or the ability to prevent and detect crime. That relationship has become distorted and is difficult to keep up with.

I do not have any simple answers to this; I simply say that we need to give a lot more thought to the pace of development in science and technology and its availability to others, although I emphasises that I am referring not just to its availability to the state. We tend to have this debate in terms of the state versus civil liberties, but increasingly we need to talk about large organisations and civil liberties and, indeed, individual abuse, of which terrorism is but one example. In order to do that, we need to think very hard about the relationship between science and technology on the one side and government on the other, and how we use the law both to protect our freedoms and enhance the services that our citizens want.

My Lords, like other Members who have already spoken and those who will no doubt make it clear in due course, we are most grateful to the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Craig, for giving us the opportunity to discuss this very important subject.

We are concerned with a balance, as has been indicated, between the rights—the civil liberties—of individuals and organisations and the right of the state to have responsibilities for protecting society against crime. There is a further dimension: the rights of the individual who the state seeks to protect, which are often lost sight of, I fear. That is of particular importance in respect of DNA. It is with regard to DNA and that aspect of the responsibilities of the state on which I want to focus. There have been difficulties in determining the approach that should be adopted by the European Court of Human Rights, as well as our domestic courts.

There is a distinction between the reported decisions of our domestic courts and the most recent decision of the ECHR in the case of S v Marper. It is an important distinction because the courts in this jurisdiction in the same case up to the House of Lords took the view that the retention of DNA data—both samples and profiles—was justifiable if Article 8.1, which protects privacy, applies. The European Court concluded that the approach in that case by the House of Lords—I disclose that I was sitting as Chief Justice in the Court of Appeal—was wrong because the European Court thought that this country’s approach was disproportionate and arbitrary. It is in that regard that I want to say a few words. I do so in the light of the recent report of the Constitution Committee of which I have the privilege of being a member, which looked at these matters and emphasised their difficulty and importance.

Like the noble Lord, Lord Soley, it seems to me that the intrusion into the private rights of the individual of retaining DNA data, in so far as it constitutes an interference with Article 8, such interference is the minimum. The problem arises as regards the use to which what has been retained is put and the protection to safeguard that retention. There is also the difficulty of how long it is appropriate for the samples to be kept. The matter was examined in detail by the House of Lords in the case to which I referred in a speech by the noble and learned Lord who will follow me, although he may not follow the views that I express. I strongly endorse his speech when he considered and weighed the balance of advantage between the retention of samples as against the intrusion which was constituted.

The Government have yet to indicate what their response will be to that decision. They are still considering, as we have heard, their response to the report of the Constitution Committee. I emphasise that the DNA presently available could hugely benefit individuals who may be the subject of crimes, never mind any increase in the amount retained. It is important to bear that in mind. First, particularly in relation to sex crimes and offenders who are unknown to the victim, great protection can be provided by a DNA bank. If the DNA bank becomes extensive, as it should in the course of time, the ability to commit that sort of crime without being detected will be substantially reduced. That has to be placed on the scales as against the inroad into the privacy of those whose samples are being stored.

If, as I believe many of us would be prepared to do if encouraged and invited to give samples voluntarily, no problem would arise. But the likelihood is that those whose DNA we need to know about will not voluntarily contribute their DNA to be retained. In order to achieve protection for a section of the public, the Government must carefully devise a system that is not arbitrary. I use the word “arbitrary” as incorporating the word “discriminatory”. The European Court decision was based largely on discrimination. We were said to be discriminating in our present legislation between those who had been acquitted of a crime and those who had been convicted. It was thought that there was an imputation that if someone’s DNA was retained it was a suggestion that you had been or would be guilty of a crime, which was inconsistent with the presumption of innocence.

Personally, I do not believe that that is an inference that, in the context of that case, could properly be drawn on, but there is a hierarchy of courts and Section 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights Act requires us to take that into account. We do not have to follow the European Court's decision, but in the normal way, we do, and the circumstances in which we dissent from a decision of the European Court should be kept to a minimum. That is why we need to look at our law and produce something different from what exists—I believe that that could be readily achieved—which could not be said to be discriminatory, because it was based on the premise that benefits can be attained by having a bank of DNA irrespective of the guilt or innocence of those whose DNA is being retained. At the moment, what is complained about is the fact that the majority of those whose DNA has been retained had been convicted of a crime, thus the inference. We could revise our system so that it did not fall into that trap.

Secondly, we must have proper safeguards clearly required by statute to ensure that the database can be used only for appropriate statutory purposes. Thirdly, we must limit the uses to which it can be put and those who have access to it. If those safeguards are observed, I believe that we can take forward the benefits of DNA without infringing inappropriately the human rights or civil liberties of the individuals whose DNA is being preserved.

My Lords, I would like to apply what is sometimes called the casino principle. That is that everyone has only a limited number of chips to play. I would like to address the subject of the national identity register, which will store biographical information, biometric data and administrative data linked to the use of an ID card. Upon my retirement as a Law Lord in the second half of 2005, in reply to media inquiries, I expressed sceptical views about a national identity card system. My views have hardened. I am now strongly opposed to such a system. I would like to explain why.

The Identity Cards Act 2006 received Royal Assent on March 30 2006. That legislation was no doubt influenced by the global insecurity following 9/11 and the Patriot Act and the Homeland Security Act in the United States in the era of President Bush. It is noteworthy that even in that era, the United States did not permit the development of a national identity card system.

Our legislation is geared towards the creation of a central register and the powers to issue identity cards for everyone living permanently in the United Kingdom. The status of the scheme is that foreign nationals will need biometric residence permits from 2008. From 2009, identity cards will be issued to British citizens on application for a passport or driving licence. The Government are at present intent on introducing in due course a universal identity card system for all persons aged 16 and above legally resident in the United Kingdom.

The Government have sought to justify the ID card system on the grounds of security considerations. This is an unwarranted premise. ID cards will have no value as far as security is concerned. ID cards and the national identity register are, of course, identity-related, but there is absolutely no evidence that they will improve security. If that view is right, the case for an ID card scheme is gravely emasculated, and the Home Office attempt to sell the concept of ID cards to the public as a weapon for controlling immigration is quite misconceived. A drastic invasion of our civil liberties cannot be justified on grounds of mere administrative convenience.

If there had been a real security justification, one would have expected the Government to bring the Identity Cards Act 2006 into effect with some alacrity, but the Government are aware that there is strong and ever increasing public opposition from all sectors of the political divide to the introduction of ID cards. The Government hope that they can soften up public opposition by a phased introduction. They underestimate the robust common sense of the British people. The tide of public opinion is running against the Government on this matter. Since May 2007, there have been losses of data on a massive scale, of which some details are given in an article that I wrote which is due to be published in Public Law 2009. It is part of the evidence that the Government have not mastered the way to competently run an identity card scheme.

A central concern about the creation of a national identity register is the privacy implications that flow from having millions of individuals’ personal data contained in the scheme. Moreover, if there is an inopportune time for the introduction of an unnecessary ID card scheme, it must be now as we head into what may be a prolonged economic downturn.

It is true that there are countries, such as France, Germany and other western European countries where, due to their different historical or cultural developments, ID card systems are in place, but our heritage is different. In one of his famous English letters, Voltaire said that the civil wars of Rome ended in slavery and those of the English in liberty. The English are jealous of their liberty, he said. Our commitment to the European ideal does not require us to adopt an ID card system. The British public have no confidence in the introduction of a national identity card system and wish the Government to speak for Britain.

My Lords, I thank my noble and gallant friend Lord Craig for giving me the opportunity to speak. I probably ought to declare some interests. I sit on the business advisory board of the PGP Corporation, which deals with software encryption and security, and the International Council of the Global Trust Center in Sweden. I am paid to speak on information security issues from time to time.

Like the noble and learned Lord, Lord Woolf, I shall talk about the balance of power between the citizen and the state, because that is where this entire debate lies. We must factor into this the legacy of socialism in the expectation that the state will protect and provide for its citizens. On one hand, I accept that we must maintain the capability to trace, track and terminate terrorist and criminal activities. We must do that to protect people. At the same time, however, we must be aware that there are huge dangers. Some people say that the Government are trying to achieve freedom from fear, but we must be careful that that does not translate into a fear of the protectors. We therefore need to be aware of these dangers and to maintain strong and inviolable structures to try to protect people, privacy and freedom.

I shall deal first with the dangers that I envisage arising from the enormously enhanced executive powers that are being given at the moment. Then I shall talk about how those powers can be applied inappropriately, given the technology of today, and the danger of misinformation and disinformation that will arise from these huge databases.

Some of the history and the extension of powers stems from little incremental things. We used to distinguish between border police and internal police. Customs and Excise used to patrol our borders looking for goods and immigrants coming in, and they had hugely enhanced powers of seizure and arrest, whereas our internal revenue service was much more restricted in what it could do. Our internal police used to have to go to a magistrate or a judge for warrants to do certain things. Then we gave VAT to Customs and Excise and said that, because it was a duty, Customs and Excise must have powers inside the country, and suddenly we had an internal police duty for border police with border policing powers. There were moments in the early days when they probably exceeded what they should be doing, but they soon realised that their powers would be taken away from them if they did, and so things became reasonable. Now we seem to accept quite happily that we make no distinction between internal and border police, and these powers extend in a mishmash inside the country.

I think back to other things that I find interesting, such as how some people understand these dangers. In the United States, the Sarbanes-Oxley Act contains the rule that every company must set up a whistleblower line. The line must be anonymous because they do not trust people to reveal the secrets of senior corporate people if their identity cannot be kept private. In France, the Data Protection Act insists that any whistleblower line must identify the whistleblower. The two Acts are in direct conflict very simply because of the Second World War. In France, the quickest way of acquiring your neighbour’s land and property was to report them to the Gestapo. Your neighbour would be removed and you just walked in. That happened all too often: a fact that is not widely thought about today.

I watched “Dr Zhivago” the other night with my daughter and wife and looked at the whole business of the state manipulating people and information, who was where and related to whom, and people controlling other people’s lives. If you think about it, in the last century our forefathers fought for freedom from tyranny. They were very worried about the centralisation of power and the fact that the state wanted to tell people what to do. Dictatorships were seen as bad. The thing that worries me as we enter a time of instability, which some people suggest might last longer than others hope, is that that is when the charismatic leaders emerge. We need only look at the emergence of leaders back in the 1930s. There can be huge dangers there, and saying simply that it would not happen in Britain is not good enough. We must think about this. There was a very good short series last year on, I think, the BBC called “The Last Enemy”, which was very much on this subject. I certainly enjoyed it greatly and I hope the BBC shows it again.

On the technology, I am very happy that there should be the closely targeted tracking and acquisition of data and information about people when the security services and the police need to have them. I am, however, very much against the blanket acquisition of data which the security services and the police can trawl through and look at. On such blanket acquisition, I ought to make a distinction—and the security camera issue is interesting here. If it cannot be indexed and you cannot simply be tracked through it, I am not nearly so worried about it. Surveillance cameras that are not indexed and do not track me going through the streets every day are no concern; if something happens, they can work backwards and find it out. If they are indexed and it is possible to mine them for people’s data, then I have concerns. While facial recognition technology is still in its early days we have no serious problem with those cameras, but that could change very easily and rapidly. We should start thinking about the problems that come from that—controlling how that information is kept and used, and who has access to it.

In the same way, I have no problem with the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act—RIPA, as it is often called—and the lawful intercept. I fully accept that the security services should be able to look at the content of e-mails and telecommunications and to intercept and eavesdrop. That is carefully and tightly regulated and signed off by a proper person who is not a member of the security services. I start having a problem when it comes to telecommunications data that simply record who you rang up and when, which website you visited and who you sent an e-mail to and when. That can easily be mined for data, and a picture can be built up of someone’s life—their interests, what they do and who they deal with—both at the individual and corporate level.

Here we get into the issue of business espionage. I am very worried about the issue because the Government can start tracking things down by looking at people and their behaviours or at the behaviour of their friends and family. Equally, foreign Governments or perhaps rivals could get people with access to information to look for things. So if a company were tendering for a defence contract with a foreign country, a rival in another country might, for example, be interested to see who its key account people were dealing with. If they thought you might be subject to a takeover bid, looking at telephone and e-mail traffic could reveal a lot about what was going on. Such information is very sensitive, much more so than people realise. The fact that it is susceptible to data mining really worries me.

Some people would say, “There will be too much data. Yottabytes of it will be out there”. Interestingly, quantum mathematics suggests that there are ways of finding patterns much faster than we currently can by orders of magnitude. If that comes along, it will change the picture or the equation again, so we have to be very careful who has access to the information and how it is used. We know, for instance, that a European Government admit that 60 per cent of their intelligence budget goes on business intelligence—spying on friendly countries, in other words. So we have to worry about that.

Another thing that I worry about is that if I am a criminal or a terrorist and I know that there will be mining for information and things will be tracked down, I can easily create red herrings. For instance, I could pick out your mobile telephone when it is inadvertently or casually left in a pocket, make a quick call to a known criminal or terrorist while you were not looking, and drop it back into your handbag or pocket. I could then get someone to do the same thing a week later to reinforce the link. I could, perhaps, be quite clever and do that in two or three places. We must be very careful about the interpretation of the intelligence that we get.

Ultimately, the people who operate these systems are not highly paid. I fear that individuals can be found in any large organisation who can be suborned, blackmailed, or frightened into doing things for one reason or another—or even to think that they work for a different side than they do. Those are all traditional things; we have all seen them in the films. It may well be found that private investigation agencies and the media will also start getting access to that information; that has already been happening on a large scale with telecoms data, as we know from the Information Commissioner’s report of a couple of years ago which was entitled What Price Privacy Now?.

We will also inadvertently be setting up the thin end of a wedge. For instance, at present, because the people who own the rights to music and films have a lot of money and have been lobbying around the place, they discovered that the IPO—the intellectual property office that used to be part of the Department for Trade and Industry—is open to the idea that we should perhaps have a crackdown on people who download films and music. To do that, they want the internet service providers to start looking at what is being downloaded so that they can report on people. There is a lot of talk about three strikes and you’re out. However, the root of that is that people who are currently not permitted to look at the content of what goes through their systems will be asked to do so in order that they can say whether there is illegal file-sharing.

That thin end of the wedge is dangerous, because where do we then extend that power? It is changing the law through the back door, without people considering the consequences of effectively being allowed to open other people’s communications and mail. That is illegal in the physical world and is currently illegal under various EU and UK directives in the electronic world. But there are backdoor ways in which people try to open this up, which is another of the dangers.

The accuracy of the data really concerns me. In the information and insurance world, we talk about confidentiality, integrity and availability—CIA. People are dealing with confidentiality and worrying about availability but it is integrity that concerns me. Fairly recently, when the Audit Commission did an audit of the National Health Service and the police, it found that 40 per cent of the data were inaccurate. I do not know how serious it was, but the point is that a lot of this information is incorrect.

There was a sad incident of a father who wanted to help to coach some children in sports. His enhanced Criminal Records Bureau check failed. Why? It was because years earlier his five year-old daughter had been heard in the playground by a teacher to say, “Oh, Daddy bonked us last night”. Immediately social services were rung up and the police were informed. It was quickly established that a game had been played with a plastic mallet bought at a funfair and everyone had bonked each other on the head. There was no problem. Social services expunged the record and no one thought any more about it. The police did not think to expunge the record, whether they knew that they should or not. Years later, that record showed up on an enhanced CRB check. The police did not tell the chap why. It is very difficult to get that type of record expunged. The real problem is accuracy and the consequences for the citizen of some of the data that are out there.

The easiest way to employ people who will not show up on an enhanced CRB check—people who did not have a little fight in the playground when they were young or foolishly accepted a reprimand which stays on your record for ever—is to employ foreign nationals who have been here just long enough. They probably do not have any record that goes back very far. There is the very odd, unintended consequence that the easiest people to employ are those whom you know least about.

My message is that we need to be sceptical and not believe that technology gives a truthful picture. It can easily happen that incorrect inferences inspire investigators to target innocent individuals. The problem is interpretation. Earlier we talked about DNA. I believe that the stored bit of DNA is called junk DNA, which is not of interest to medical records. But the challenge is that it is a digital match of something real. It is limited by the accuracy of the laboratory tests and the equipment that measures it. There will be template matches with people who are different.

There is also the problem of a hair that gets translocated to a crime scene. You must know how it got there. You cannot assume that because there is an apparent DNA connection, there is a real or criminal connection or whatever between the two. We must stop believing that technology is showing us the way. For example, on relationship mapping, I should warn you that you are all three removes from Osama bin Laden. I used to think that I was about four or five removes until I said it in a lecture and someone stood up and said, “Terribly sorry Merlin. I taught him in school”. Therefore, I am two removes and you are three, as is everyone who has met me. I have now discovered a second link of someone who did business with his brother in America. Clearly, I am guilty of something.

The pressure of meeting centrally set targets is dangerous because people look for things that are not there in order to meet them. That could be very dangerous because on an average day in the summer probably 1 million tourists are wondering around Britain with foreign issued identity. Can we really track everyone in and out of the country all the time?

We need good protections. We need a stronger version of the role of Information Commissioner which would be answerable only to Parliament, protects the system and watches out for breaches of rights. We need to forbid internal authorisation or self-authorisation by departments. We must always have someone outside who can authorise things that go on. We cannot have people saying, “It’s okay because I’m a senior member of the department”. Lastly, we need to keep things in silos. I like Chinese walls. One government department should say to another, “This is what I am up to”. If things are going wrong, someone will say, “I think this should be looked at”. If there is an emergency, such as someone being kidnapped, you can break the rules. People can justify that afterwards. But at least two people would have looked at the situation and we would know what rules were being broken. We must avoid getting a J Edgar Hoover II (UK), with huge powers to look at everyone’s data, starting here.

My Lords, Members on these Benches pay tribute to the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Craig of Radley, for introducing this debate, for the benefit of his considerable experience in talking about the balance that has to be struck between national security and civil liberties, and for his excellent introduction. I am glad that we are able to have a second bite at the cherry since unfortunately I missed the debate initiated by the noble Earl, Lord Northesk, because I had to be elsewhere. It was excellent, but there is plenty of room for a continuation of the debate in general. Further, I am particularly glad to note that the noble Lord, Lord West of Spithead, is to answer our debate today because many of the questions that have been raised are for the Home Office, while of course the debate of the noble Earl, Lord Northesk, was answered by the Ministry of Justice. Within a month, we shall have heard from both government departments on these issues, which is important.

A number of the themes considered in the debate held shortly before Easter have been repeated today. Noble Lords have commented on the sheer quantity of data being kept, and indeed the noble Earl, Lord Northesk, cited an interesting figure when talking about the national identity register. He pointed out that there would be 960 billion data fields just for that one database. The scale is almost unimaginable. The heart of the first debate was the balance between the Government’s responsibility to reap the benefits of technological improvements along with the ability to keep data for beneficial reasons, and the need to safeguard the right of British citizens to privacy. Quite rightly it has again been a theme of our debate today. The noble and gallant Lord, Lord Craig of Radley, spoke of balance, and all speakers have agreed that at the moment the Government are failing to maintain that balance. Indeed, on two occasions recently the European Union has had to step in and call into question the inability to do so.

I am grateful to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Woolf, for his terrific speech on the issues surrounding DNA retention because I had intended to speak on that, but following his excellent explanation of the issues I shall not. The Government have made a commitment to review the rules on data retention in the forthcoming forensics White Paper, but qualified it by saying that they would examine the ways in which the retention of samples and fingerprints should take into account the age, risk and nature of the offences involved. My problem is that if a person is innocent, it is hard to imagine risk factors that would actually justify their personal information as if they were guilty. If the person already has a criminal record, it is likely that they will already be on the system, and other risk factors to do with social and economic demographics are far too hazy to justify turning an individual into a suspect. The conclusion is that there really does need to be a wide public debate about a national DNA database, which is something that the Government have avoided so far. However, the contribution of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Woolf, certainly points us in that direction, and surely a wide and open debate would be welcomed.

The contribution of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Steyn, on the national identity register was equally riveting, and he will not be surprised to learn that Members on these Benches agree with every word he said. Again, he has saved me considerable time because he set out very clearly many of the points that it is so important to make when debating these issues. I agree absolutely with his comment that it is particularly regrettable that the Government have chosen basically to soften up public opinion by rolling out the register on people such as foreign nationals who do not have the vote and are therefore unlikely to object.

The noble Earl, Lord Erroll, again made an interesting speech. I appreciate his comments on the dangers of the use of face recognition; he is right to be concerned. The other day, I raised briefly with the Minister the practice of the police filming people. I was filmed in Brighton on a protest outside the council offices and, when I asked why, I was told that it was in case I committed a criminal activity. That film was retained and, of course, it is now there for face recognition in the future. It was not taken with my permission and I objected; nevertheless, it is there now. That is another area of activity that we have to question very strongly.

In the debate before Easter, the noble Baroness, Lady Neville-Jones, put her finger on a couple of points to do with the scale of the databases. She said that the point is not always about the scale but about having separate disaggregated databases rather than centralised databases. She is absolutely right.

I would like to comment on two closely related issues: the weak regulation of private sector data collection and storage, and the increasingly porous boundaries between data storage systems and between public and private data.

In the earlier debate, the Minister, Lord Bach, commented that the legislative framework for data protection and privacy is the Data Protection Act and the Human Rights Act, but of course we need to add in the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act. Since that debate on 14 April, the European Commission has launched infringement proceedings against this country for the way in which the Government are implementing the EU directive on privacy and electronic communications. The public controversy has centred on the technology company Phorm and the secret trials of its systems by BT in 2006. The noble Lord, Lord Soley, spoke about private use for private profit. That is exactly what we are dealing with here, where a private company intends to intercept, through new technology, people’s web traffic for private profit. Providing that is within the regulatory scheme, there would be nothing wrong with it. But the regulatory scheme has been unable to cope with whether or not it is legal and, as the EU proceedings show, the real issue is that the UK Government have been willing to leave open a grey area of uncertainty about the legality of Phorm’s technologies.

I have asked the Minister numerous questions about this and I am sure that he is fully prepared for my questions today. BT was never brought to book for conducting the secret trials and, in answers to Parliamentary Questions, Her Majesty’s Government have called the legal opinion published online by a Home Office official “informal advice”.

The letters from the EU Telecoms Commissioner, Viviane Reding, led the Commission to conclude that there were structural problems in the way in which the UK had implemented the EU rules ensuring confidentiality of communications. The problem is that the responsibility for these issues has been passed between the Home Office, the Information Commissioner’s Office, the police and others. I am sure that the Minister will remember responding to me by saying that this matter would have to be settled in court.

The infringement proceedings assert that, in line with the data protection directive, consent for interception must be freely given, specific and informed. UK law, on the other hand, has allowed that interception is lawful when the interceptor has reasonable grounds for believing that consent has been given. The EU Commission is also concerned that the UK does not have an independent national supervisory authority dealing with such interceptions. As the clock is ticking on the two months given by the Commission for a response, will the Minister now commit to a review of the consent provisions under RIPA, and will he commit to establishing responsibility for private sector communications interception and storage, under the aegis of either an existing body such as the ICO or a new independent authority?

Answers to Parliamentary Questions confirm that the Government are considering utilising deep-packet inspection as part of the interception modernisation programme, which was confirmed to me in Written Answer HL2760. The use of DPI has been one of the main objections in the Phorm saga because of its potential to uncover personal information by reading the data part of internet traffic, rather than just the header. I do not believe that it is consistent with RIPA, but the Government have not made clear whether or not it is.

Will the Minister explain what uses DPI is being considered for as part of the interception modernisation programme? Will he confirm that one of the reasons why the Home Office has been unwilling to clarify its position on Phorm-like systems is because it is interested in using the technology itself, perhaps in the “black boxes” being considered as part of the communications database?

Before the Minister suggests to me that this is just a conspiracy theory on my part, this morning I received the answers to freedom of information requests to the Home Office from Mr Phil Main that confirm that the department e-mailed Phorm’s legal representative on 23 January 2008, offering the company the draft paper for its comments on exactly how targeted online advertising would comply with provisions under RIPA. I find it extraordinary—shocking, even—that the Home Office, when drawing up what was legal under RIPA, would consult the very company that may or may not be acting legally. That is beyond any question of “poacher turned gamekeeper”, and I would be grateful for the Minister’s comments.

On the crossover between the public and private sectors, there have been revelations in the news over the past few days that the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform gave E.ON secret police information regarding the peaceful protest at Kingsnorth. It is one thing for the police to gather intelligence about a demonstration, but it is quite another for the Government to be able to access that information and then leak it to a private company. That sort of informal data sharing should be governed by clear and transparent rules in the same way as sharing between databases, especially at the crossover between public and private bodies. Not only should data be kept for very clear purposes, but we must remember that the way in which it is shared can be dangerous.

Fortunately, we in this House will not be faced with the appalling provisions that were originally in the Coroners and Justice Bill because they were withdrawn in the House of Commons in the face of united opposition to them. Very wide data-sharing powers were proposed, and I am glad that the Government realised that they would never get them through this House.

I am glad that the noble Lord, Lord West, is answering these points today. On Tuesday, when I asked him my Question about protest, I had not realised that it was his birthday so I had no opportunity to put on the record my wishes to him about a happy birthday. I am able to do so only belatedly, but now the date of 21 April will be burnt into my memory and I shall never forget again.

My Lords, perhaps I may follow that by saying that I was done out of my speaking part on the same day by the Deputy Leader of the House calling the Liberal Democrats at the last minute. I, too, had been poised to wish the noble Lord happy birthday. Now he has it on at least three occasions, because I said it to him informally as well.

Like other noble Lords, I thank the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Craig, for giving us another opportunity to debate this extremely important subject. As he stressed, the importance of civil liberties and the balance between the requirement of the state to have a limited amount of information and the need to guard against intrusiveness are the main ingredients that we need to be addressing.

One of the main questions arising from the debate is that this country is now, in the assessment of the organisation Privacy International, ranked as the most invasive surveillance state and the worst at protecting individual privacy of any western democracy. Is that a sobriquet with which we are happy to live? As other noble Lords have said, including the noble and learned Lord, Lord Woolf, in his excellent speech, the balance between the state and the right of the individual is now clearly of great importance.

There are always sound and beguiling reasons for the collection and retention of data. One of the most prevalent reasons currently, as has been said, is for the protection against and detection of terrorism—for who can argue against the need to provide security and safety? That is the rationale that lies behind the new e-Borders scheme and the retention of DNA and it was, at least initially, the ground for the Government deciding to introduce identity cards. I was enormously encouraged by the stringent critique made by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Steyn, of this proposal. I agree with him: if people in this country begin to realise that they are going to have to carry identity cards, they will be less than happy about it. Identity cards are already on the way, however. We have already introduced biometric visas for foreign nationals. That information will be put on passports in the future, and more information will be contained as time progresses.

As other noble Lords have said, most recently we have had the EU directive, which this Government have agreed to implement, that all e-mail and internet traffic should be kept indefinitely, so that such information can be interrogated at any time to check on the position and activities of anyone suspected of crime. That is, of course, the initial rationale for it. Other noble Lords have drawn attention to the use of CCTV and the increasing technology to control drivers and road law. It is hard to know whether to laugh or weep at the general justification for the retention of details to keep us all safe.

In addition to those databases associated with prevention of crime and terrorism, there are others that collect information for social or good purposes, such as the NHS IT system. That system will, although it is taking a long time to become operational, contain information on every patient in a hospital or doctor’s surgery. Then there is ContactPoint, the comprehensive database on children, and the national pupil database, which will carry even more details on children’s progress through their school lives.

The fact that this information is designed to be accessed and transferred to other public bodies without the consent of the person in question raises many concerns, most especially where children are involved. Noble Lords may have seen the recent publication by the Nuffield Foundation on the widespread sharing of often highly sensitive personal data in the context of Every Child Matters. It states:

“The data sharing, and the improper use of children’s consent for this, was criticised by the Foundation for Information Policy Research … in a study carried out in 2006, ‘Children’s Databasessafety and privacy’. The study also concluded that the data sharing was in violation of European law”.

We have heard a bit about that this afternoon.

There are now an alarming number of “best of reasons” databases on children, including the national childhood obesity database, which will calculate and retain details of a child’s body mass index. There is also, as already mentioned, ContactPoint, which came about as a result of the Victoria Climbié disaster to try to prevent the situation that occurred when several agencies were involved in overseeing that poor child’s life, each failing to liaise properly with the other. ContactPoint was billed as,

“the quick way for a practitioner to find out who else is working with the same child or young person, making it easier to deliver more co-ordinated support. It will be a basic online directory”.

However, together with the other child systems, it is a further encroachment on what should be a right for families to bring up their children in privacy—unless, of course, they are doing something very wrong.

So much is done for the best possible reasons. However, the downsides are beginning to be well understood, particularly the inability of the Government to guarantee the safety and confidentiality of information, with disks lost in the post or left on a train. The Information Commissioner had recorded 277 breaches of data confidentiality at the end of October 2008, with a further 99 in the three months to January 2009. That is considerable number of breaches, some worse than others.

The other downside is the encroachment on people’s lives and the impossibility of having one’s name or details removed from any of these databases, even if one wants that. The worst of these, of course, is the DNA database, which now has details of some 5 million people, all having been screened as part of a criminal investigation. It is nigh impossible for someone who is cleared of any involvement in a crime to have their details removed, whether proved guilty or not.

I and my party are not against a database for serious offences, particularly for those who have been found guilty. However, we object to the amalgamation of an enormous number of details about a lot of people who should have no contact with enforcement agencies of any sort. A number of voices have now been raised in concern about what is going on. The Home Affairs Select Committee, the European Court of Human Rights—I hear what the noble and learned Lord, Lord Woolf, says—the Government’s own ethics committee on DNA and, most recently, the Rowntree report Database State have all said that the unlimited retention of DNA samples is at worst illegal and at best unethical. Does the Minister not think that the most recent statistics, which indicate a fall in the number of crimes for which DNA matches were available, should give the Government pause for thought?

As the noble Baroness, Lady Miller, mentioned, the Government were, as a result of the decision of the European Court of Human Rights, going to undertake some form of public consultation on DNA retention, with primary legislation following in a forensic White Paper. However, it now seems that even that limited exposure to public scrutiny may be denied as attempts are made to shoehorn amendments into the Policing and Crime Bill to give the Home Secretary the right to make regulations on the retention and destruction of photographs, CCTV images and fingerprints. The questions raised by the holding of all this material, and its possible destruction, should not be a matter for a limited debate on a regulation—if, indeed, it ever comes to Parliament. The European Court of Human Rights made it clear that there was a need for greater openness and accountability around the governance of DNA data and the destruction of fingerprint samples. What are the Government going to do to ensure that those strictures are met? I have some sympathy with what the noble Lord, Lord Soley, said about the usefulness of DNA collection, but usefulness and the case and causes for which it may be collected do not necessarily run together.

The subject raised by the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Craig, today and in the debate initiated by the noble Earl, Lord Northesk, a couple of weeks ago is becoming one of enormous complexity, yet it really rests on the words of the Information Commissioner, who said:

“Before new databases are launched careful consideration must be given to the impact on individuals’ liberties and on society as a whole. Sadly there have been too many developments where there has not been sufficient openness, transparency or public debate”.

The Government need to heed what is being said and take note of the creeping concerns that, to quote the Information Commissioner again, this time on the subject of a communications database:

“The plans are a step too far for the British way of life”.

We need to be aware of the British way of life and ensure that we do not transgress it or trespass on it.

My Lords, I am very grateful to all those who have spoken in this important debate and particularly to the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Craig of Radley, for this Motion for Papers. It is only right and proper that this debate is taking place. The debate seeks to consider the profound question of the role of the state in protecting individual freedom, including privacy and civil liberties, while ensuring protection from those who would seek to do us harm. A number of speakers raised that issue, which is the nub of the matter.

While there will always be people on either side of the debate claiming that things have gone too far in one direction or another, the role of government is to protect and balance both types of freedom. In an era of rapid technological change—this was touched on by my noble friend Lord Soley and the noble Earl, Lord Erroll—it is right that we constantly satisfy ourselves that we have that balance correct. That balance is maintained by a strong legislative framework; namely, the Data Protection Act and the Human Rights Act. As Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, as set out in the Human Rights Act, stipulates:

“Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence. There shall be no interference by a public authority with the exercise of this right except such as is in accordance with the law and is necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security, public safety or the economic well-being of the country, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others”.

It is the very fact that privacy is a qualified right—one that needs to be balanced against collective interests such as national security and prevention of crime—that creates the debate. The technology of the 21st century has completely reshaped the way we live our lives. Each day all of us give out a huge amount of personal information about our finances, travel arrangements, phone calls, internet use and purchases. We all recognise the benefits this brings us as individuals. The use of personal data is essential to protecting the public and, as my noble friend Lord Soley explained, to delivering efficient, effective and joined-up public services. It is required to tackle severe threats including serious crime and terrorism, to protect the public from crime more generally and anti-social behaviour, and to help people get access to the benefits and new opportunities to which they are entitled. We want to create services that improve people’s lives and are simple and easy for them to use.

Technology has dramatically improved our capability to protect people from serious crime and terrorism. The use of communications data helped to avert at least 35 threat-to-life situations, including murders, in 2006-07. DNA techniques have helped bring thousands of serious offenders to justice, helping police to solve around 1,000 rapes and murders in 2006-07. Employment checks have prevented around 80,000 unsuitable people gaining work with children and vulnerable people between 2004 and 2007. Focused targeting of dangerous individuals has helped us to pre-empt many attacks and bring serious criminals and terrorists to justice. I mention those figures to show some of the things that can be achieved. But such changes are also challenging to our capabilities. We need to modernise our safeguards to ensure that personal data are protected, that they are kept secure, and that there is an effective and transparent means of redress when things go wrong. These are difficult things to do, and we are trying hard to achieve them.

We have strict controls on the way in which data are held in the public sector and who has access to them. For example, the DNA database, which a number of speakers have raised specifically, can be directly accessed only by a very small number of people and for limited information, to allow for potential crime scene matches.

Departments are also investing time and energy on implementing the mandatory minimum standards set out in the Data Handling Procedures in Government report published in June 2008, to make certain that personal information is managed properly and used securely for the public’s benefit. That was the report that came after the study post the HMRC issue where there was a major error. I understand the concerns regarding the loss of data by government departments in the past. Such losses are unacceptable, as I have said on the Floor of the House a number of times.

We have done a lot to tighten this up, and we are continuing to do it. A major teaching effort is required there. In the Home Office, we have taken a number of steps to improve our management of personal information. One such step is the publication of an information charter setting out the standards that the public can expect when the Home Office requests or holds their personal information, how they can access their personal data and what to do if they do not think that standards are being met.

We are also committed to the independent oversight of information and making sure that the public are confident that the information we hold is accurate and secure. A number of speakers have touched on that and on the concerns that that raises. For example, the ID cards scheme will be overseen by a newly appointed independent commissioner, the Identity Cards Act strictly limits the provision of information, and we will make it easy for people to check what is held about them and who has checked their information.

We need to make sure that policies are proportionate and balance the respect for privacy with the potential harm. Sophisticated surveillance techniques must be used to deal with severe threats to the public from serious criminals and terrorists. But it is equally important that ordinary, law-abiding people are free to go about their daily lives without fear of intrusion. That is why, last week, the Government launched their public consultation on the use of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act—RIPA—explaining and seeking views on which public authorities should be authorised by Parliament to use which covert investigative techniques, and how they can do so in compliance with the law to combat crime and terrorism and to protect public safety, but not to investigate trivial offences, which is not appropriate.

Closed circuit television has been a vital weapon in fighting crime for a number of years, and I shall come to some further related points later. The reassurance that CCTV provides to the law-abiding public is quite evident to me. I live in Hackney, and people there have told me that they like having CCTV covering certain areas, and I think that it is the same across the nation. However, there are accusations of invasion of privacy and, if CCTV is to work effectively, it must be operated in a way that commands the confidence of the community that it is there to serve. The Home Affairs Select Committee made a number of recommendations in respect of CCTV, including the establishment of a national body, the undertaking of further research into the effectiveness of CCTV as a deterrent to crime, the creation of standards to enhance the value of CCTV images and a review of retention periods for CCTV footage. All these important issues will be addressed as part of the work being undertaken by the National CCTV Strategy Programme Board.

The issue of personal privacy and public protection will, rightly, always be a live debate. This Government are committed to making sure that Britain is a safe place to live, while maintaining its long-standing traditions of liberty and privacy. A number of speakers have talked about that, and I assure noble Lords that it is absolutely the view of the Government as well that they should be maintained. We will be as open and transparent as possible with the public about what we do and why.

That is why we are launching a public consultation on the way that we maintain our ability to access communications data in the face of a changing world of communications technologies. We will shortly publish a public consultation paper with proposals on a new retention framework to effect the implications of the judgment on DNA in the light of the finding from the judgment and the requirement of the European Court. We will draft regulations for consideration and for submission to Parliament later this year for approval. That point was remarked on by the noble Baronesses, Lady Miller and Lady Hanham. I hope that covers some of those points.

We are establishing a public panel to help us to understand public concerns around ID cards. We will listen to and engage with the public to make sure that we strike the right balance for the continued protection of the country and its citizens.

Let me touch on some of the specific points that were raised. The noble and gallant Lord, Lord Craig, is quite right that there has not been a detailed look at exactly what benefit CCTV has in reducing crime. That has not been done in a proper, empirical way, although we have a lot of evidence that is not empirical. The national CCTV strategy programme board will be doing a lot more work on this. We know, for example, that ANPR is a very useful tool. We know that CCTV played a key role in the investigation into the London terrorist outrages in the attack on Tiger Tiger and then on the airport in Glasgow. We were almost able to catch the men just before they set off to attack the airport—that is how good we were at using that CCTV and how important it was. Sadly, we just missed them, and so they got there.

The noble and gallant Lord, Lord Craig, also asked about the period for which CSPs are required to retain communication data. The answer is 12 months. I was also asked about the Constitution Committee report on surveillance. We are currently preparing the response, which will be issued very shortly.

The noble and gallant Lord said that crime was not going down. I am always wary of quoting statistics. We all know about statistics—one has to assume that they are correct and, if one is basing things on them, there is no doubt whatever that there has been a major fall in crime since 1997. Overall crime has fallen by 39 per cent, violence by 40 per cent and burglary by 55 per cent. We are facing some challenges in that there seems to be a slight rise again in burglary, but overall those are the sorts of figures that we are talking about.

I touched on the protection of personal data. A specific point was raised about Google Street View. The Information Commissioner has stated that he is satisfied that Google is putting in place adequate safeguards to avoid any risk to the privacy or safety of individuals, including blurring registration plates and faces. Google is also providing access to a mechanism by which anybody can report an image that causes them concern and request for it to be removed, which will then be done.

I have touched on ensuring how data are kept up to date and secure, stemming from the review on data handling. That was mentioned by the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Craig, my noble friend Lord Soley and a couple of other speakers.

The noble and learned Lord, Lord Steyn, raised the issue of identity cards. The prime reason for this scheme is not anti-terrorist. It will provide a single, safe and secure way of protecting personal details and proving identity. At the moment, we constantly have to show council tax bills, driving licences, electricity bills and so on as a way of proving our identity. This is one absolutely secure way of doing that; it is a universal and simple proof of identity, which I think will bring convenience. The public, by and large, support it. Research done over a period of 18 months showed that 59 per cent of people absolutely support it. There is no doubt that locking a person to one identity does not necessarily mean that that is who they are but, with biometrics, it is the only identity that they will be able to have. It helps to protect us against the use of multiple identities. We know that criminals, illegal immigrants and terrorists all make use of multiple identities; indeed, its training brochure shows that that is one of the things al-Qaeda teaches its people to do. This will stop that happening. So while identity cards are not the complete answer to terrorism, they have an impact on it.

The noble Baroness, Lady Hanham, talked about carrying ID cards. There is no requirement for people to do so. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Steyn, mentioned data security. The Identity Cards Act 2006 establishes a statutory duty for the national identity register to be secure and reliable. Its management and processes are overseen by the independent National Identity Scheme Commissioner, who reports annually on the uses to which ID cards are put and the confidentiality, integrity and availability of information recorded in that register. The national identity register data will be held in a very secure repository. It will be security-accredited to meet government and industry standards, and any viewing or provision of data will be subject to access controls and audited. Indeed, the levels of security very much tally with some of those that I have seen in military systems that I have seen in my past life.

My noble friend Lord Soley asked who has access to communications and how they are regulated. We launched a consultation last Friday on RIPA, which I have talked about; it will go through who can have access to things and which public authorities are allowed access to what bits. That will put a stop, I hope, to the nonsense of using the legislation for something silly like dog-fouling, which was clearly never the intention. It is absolutely ludicrous and it is good that we are having that consultation now.

I very much welcome the helpful comments made by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Woolf, on the effective use of the National DNA Database. This is a very difficult and complex issue; it was gratifying to have someone put such a good case pro it, because very often people are very anti it, out of hand, as being something appalling. The noble and learned Lord’s comments were extremely useful, and I thank him for them. The issue was touched on by a number of speakers, including the noble Baronesses, Lady Miller and Lady Hanham. We are drawing up proposals that will remove the current blanket retention policy; we intend to introduce a retention framework, setting a proportionate and evidence-based approach to retention. We have taken a number of actions already and will shortly respond fully to the requirements as a result of the S and Marper judgment.

The noble Earl, Lord Erroll, raised some points on data mining. As an aside, if he is actually talking to UBL, I should be very grateful if he would get in contact with me; I would be interested to find if there was just one degree of separation. The noble Earl raised some very good points. Data mining is definitely an issue; personal data must be protected in compliance with data protection principles, which are in the Data Protection Act, as we know. Data mining can involve processing personal data; in such circumstances, that can be carried out only in line with the DPA. However, there is no doubt that, to date, the ICO has not published any guidance on data mining; possibly, that is something that it will have to look at, because it is an area of concern.

The noble Baroness, Lady Miller, mentioned Phorm, as she has a number of times in this House. I know that she has a particular concern about this issue, as do I. However, I cannot really talk about it at the moment, as the CPS is still looking at the Phorm case, which is still under investigation, so it would be inappropriate for me to comment further.

My Lords, will the Minister comment on the one point that I raised that came out in the FOI request? The Home Office drew up a policy document on whether targeted online advertising was lawful interception. Was it normal Home Office practice for that document to be reviewed and commented on and for deletions to be suggested by the very company intending to undertake the activity?

My Lords, I cannot really comment on that, because I do not know the details. I shall get back to the noble Baroness in writing. I was not aware that that had gone on, but I shall look into it.

We are considering the issues raised in the European privacy directive letter of infringement and will respond in the required timeframe. Therefore, it is inappropriate to comment on that. On the subject of DPI, that is a quite accepted methodology for communication service providers, because it is how they ensure the health of their systems and ensure that there is not too much spam. They do it all the time; it is perfectly valid, as long as they do not use it for any other activity. As I say, however, the Phorm issue is still being looked at and is under active investigation by the CPS, so I cannot really talk about it. On E.ON, I was not at all aware of the issue that the noble Baroness raised. I shall go away and ask a question and come back in writing.

The noble Baroness, Lady Hanham, talked about ContactPoint very eloquently. These are very difficult issues. We went down this route because clearly the fact that people were not linked in together by using the advantages of electronic recording meant that some poor child died. We are looking at how we can best resolve this. Technology is the right way of doing it. We do not make people put certain information on there. We are probably going forward in the best way that we can. We would be grateful for suggestions from anyone on any way of improving this, because one has to do these things. If we do not, we get a fractured hold of information, which caused all the problems. Indeed, as the noble Lord, Lord Laming, said, that was the very reason for going down the route that we chose. I know that the noble Baroness is aware of that issue. We will have to keep wrestling with this matter, which raises some very difficult problems.

I have probably said enough. I hear the concerns of all those who fear that the Government intend to expand their collection and storage of personal information, but I can assure noble Lords that that fear is unjustified. We do not want to do this just because we want control. While, as one would expect, our objective of protecting the public is paramount, we do not intend to obtain or access any data unless doing so would be necessary and proportionate under the European Convention on Human Rights and the Human Rights Act 1998, particularly to defend our national security, to fight crime and disorder and to protect the public. However, there is a need for the Government to demonstrate this better and to explain more clearly how they are seeking to achieve the right balance between privacy and security. That is why today’s debate has been valuable and I thank noble Lords for their welcome contributions to it.

My Lords, I thank the Minister and all noble Lords who have spoken so eloquently in this debate. The Minister’s last point was well worth bearing in mind and I welcome it. Perhaps I may leave one final thought. We never give any real consideration to what I would call an exit strategy on all the security arrangements that are introduced, whether they involve barriers, identity cards or data collection. We are led to believe that it is all done for very good reasons, but each measure gets added to the previous ones. If we are not very careful, we will end up in a very unhelpful situation that seriously impinges on our civil liberties and our privacy. I beg leave to withdraw the Motion.

Motion withdrawn.

Sport: British Formula 1 Grand Prix

Question for Short Debate

Tabled By

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assistance they will give to enable the British Formula 1 Grand Prix to continue.

My Lords, I declare an interest as unpaid honorary president of the Motorsport Industry Association. I always try to approach this subject in a totally non-political and non-partisan way. I very much look forward to the response of the noble Lord, the Captain of the Yeomen of the Guard. It is comforting to see sitting alongside him the noble Lord, Lord Drayson. On behalf of the whole House, I wish him the very best of luck in the upcoming 24-hour race at Le Mans.

The Prime Minister has said that we are approaching the greatest ever decade of sport in this country with the Olympics, Paralympics, Commonwealth Games and, possibly, the rugby and soccer world cups. A world-class British-hosted event that the Prime Minister did not mention was the British Grand Prix, which we have successfully hosted for more than 50 years. BBC TV has gained a huge new audience for its Formula 1 coverage. The audience for this year’s first two races increased by 300 per cent compared with ITV’s audience last year. UK Sport, on its website, recognises that the British Grand Prix is a “mega” event in the UK which improves the image of UK sport worldwide and establishes the UK as a powerhouse of the sporting world.

Her Majesty’s Treasury, in its Green Book, recognises the economic value of this event but also the significant “place marketing effect” on TV and in the media. This has considerable value, as it encourages visitors to return to the place of the event. The Grand Prix at Donington will deliver this effect in relation to East Midlands tourism.

In a show of significant commitment to the new venue, Formula 1 management and Mr Ecclestone have recently extended the agreement with Donington from 10 to 17 years. This is unprecedented. Mr Ecclestone has further helped by, uniquely, agreeing to the fee required being paid in pounds sterling and not US dollars, so giving even more stability to the owners of Donington. This demonstrates the importance that Mr Ecclestone places on retaining a successful British Grand Prix. I pay tribute to him and to another Briton, Max Mosley, the president of the FIA, for the way in which together they have built up international motor racing, from which the British motorsport industry has benefited enormously.

The Prime Minister says that sport raises aspirations in young people and influences society for good. I agree with him. UK motorsport victories around the world raise aspirations that deliver real, well paid British jobs in the engineering and manufacturing sector. These victories are gained through the supreme efforts of many suppliers, some of whom make the smallest part of an F1 car and whose employees celebrate victory just as joyously as the drivers or the team. These small British companies in Motorsport Valley need “their” Grand Prix victories to motivate and enthuse their employees, and their customers, during difficult economic times.

The success of the new Brawn GP team has brought many suppliers back from the brink of disaster. They rely on this team’s continuing success for their jobs and future. I congratulate BERR on its proactive assistance, which ensured that this valuable opportunity was not lost from UK industry. The relationship between the annual British Grand Prix and the Motorsport Valley business cluster is vital. The loss of one undoubtedly affects the other. Businesses in Motorsport Valley are fighting very hard to retain their dominant position as motorsport becomes more globalised.

The new upcoming economies of the BRIC nations hold huge potential for small companies within Motorsport Valley, yet developed, advanced engineering competitors, such as Germany, Italy and the United States, are keen to take over this leadership and enter these markets ahead of British companies. Any damage to our international credibility, such as the failure to host our own Grand Prix, would have devastating economic effects.

British Formula 1 teams tell me that if there is no British Grand Prix, they will lose valuable sponsorship. Their major UK-based sponsors want to “live and feel” the Grand Prix. New FIA regulations allow at least two new F1 teams to start up with budgets of £30 million or so. It is vital that we attract these significant investments into Motorsport Valley, not into our competitors’ countries.

The challenge to this successful British manufacturing industry is a global one. The MIA and the motorsport industry wish to work together with the Government to meet this challenge and emerge victorious, as we do in other motorsport competition. Silverstone has done an outstanding job for many years, hosting one of the very best Grand Prix in the world, and I congratulate those involved. The Grand Prix will move to Donington but, critically, remain in the United Kingdom. Each year, the British Grand Prix generates more than £50 million of spending and the equivalent of more than 1,500 jobs. The East Midlands region cannot afford to lose such a unique advantage as this.

The new Donington facility adjoins an international airport, a new railway station and a motorway. It is easily connected to both East Midlands and Birmingham airports by the M42 and will become a new international tourist attraction in the East Midlands. The unique race car collection of Donington owner, Tom Wheatcroft, shows the history and development of motorsport valley companies and their F1 cars and sits alongside a new conference centre. It would be a tourist’s dream if this could attract some additional cars from the exceptional and rarely seen Ecclestone collection.

We are currently celebrating a young British world champion in Lewis Hamilton, driving for a British team and competing head to head with another outstanding British driver, Jenson Button. Last weekend another British-based team, Red Bull, scored its maiden victory in Shanghai. This is not just an issue of sport, although who can forget Ayrton Senna’s wonderful victory at Donington in the rain in the 1993 European Grand Prix? To further showcase to parliamentarians British success in this global industry, which provides so many valuable jobs, the MIA is hosting a motorsport industry day in Parliament on 6 July when industry leaders can meet Ministers, shadow Ministers and other parliamentarians.

We are leaders in a global industry and yet we rely on outdated figures from 2000, stating that sales were £5 billion. Last year I asked the noble Baroness, Lady Vadera, to help the MIA and MSA to update their national economic survey of 2000. That would allow them to work closely with government departments to create a well informed development strategy for the industry and sport. I hope that the regions, local authorities and relevant departments will support the MIA and MSA to deliver this research.

The DTI motorsport competitiveness panel recommended that the Government should access appropriate resources to ensure that the UK continues to host key world-class motorsports events, such as the British Grand Prix. The Minister for Sport said categorically last November that the Government would give their full support to make certain that we keep the British Grand Prix in this country. That is much appreciated by the British motorsport industry. I know that the Secretary of State at the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform, the noble Lord, Lord Mandelson, is well aware of the importance of this. I have met the owners of Donington Park. They do not seek any free state aid or a government handout. They would like to secure constructive support and positive encouragement from the Government to help them through these difficult times. Mr Ecclestone has made it clear in a letter that I have seen that should Donington fail to meet its obligations, the Grand Prix would be lost to the UK. With pressure from other countries to join the F1 calendar, South Korea hosting its first race next year and India the year after, it would not be relocated elsewhere here. There would be no British Grand Prix, which would be a disaster.

I urge the Government to give a clear, positive statement of support for the British Grand Prix at Donington and to use all their influence to bring together resources from the regions, central and local government and the respective tourist boards to ensure that Britain hosts for years to come the world’s most prestigious motorsport competition. Such a confident statement will influence bankers, investors and overseas companies to confirm their investment plans to support the British Grand Prix and so bring welcome employment and job security to many in the regions and the wider Motorsport Valley business community.

My Lords, I put my name down on the list to add to the bipartisan approach of the noble Lord, Lord Astor. We have not compared notes, although many of my points will reinforce what he said. I also want to reiterate our best wishes to my noble friend Lord Drayson. I have only done Le Mans once as a tourist—an anorak. It was incredibly exciting and different. I am sure that the opportunity to race there is almost as good as going as a spectator.

The noble Lord concentrated on F1, but it is not all about F1. There is a huge industry. This is a sport of business and a business of sport. The economic and job creation from this industry is enormous, with 50,000 people employed not in F1 but in the totality of motor sport. There are 25,000 professional engineers. Above all else, what they have of incredible value to business is transferable skills. They can move to jobs in space, aeronautics or medicine—I shall give one or two examples. About £6 billion of investment is involved, more than 50 per cent exports, which is phenomenal exports involving 150 companies. There is a big business out there that we need to nurture.

Of course, more than half the F1 teams are based in this country. They are using leading-edge technology materials. I said in a brief speech in response to the Queen’s Speech that the United States’s military visited one or two of our F1 companies to assess the materials technology that they are using. The MoD has not been near them, they are so leading edge. It is quite incredible. More than 15 universities are offering motor sport-focused engineering degrees at masters level. As the noble Lord, Lord Astor, said, virtually all the companies are SMEs employing, say, 25 people on average with a turnover of about £4 million, well over 50 per cent of which is exports, with massive investment in R&D. I understand that the pharmaceutical industry investment in R&D is 19 per cent of sales. Motor sport is investing more and exporting more.

The totality of the industry needs nurturing. It is not looking for subsidy, as the noble Lord said. We are not here today for that. The idea of the motor sport day in Parliament is excellent. One or two other industries have done it; the chemicals industry has a very successful chemicals industry day in Parliament where one can see how chemicals affect our lives as parliamentarians—clean water, new materials, food safety and other aspects.

What is proposed for 6 July is excellent. What would be better still would be if some of the exhibits that were recently in the Science Museum could be on display for the exhibition “Fast Forward: 20 ways F1 is changing our world”. They were phenomenal. The space in the exhibition was less than half the size of the Chamber with 20 examples from interior design to driver-protected space materials now used in satellites for weather measurement technology—a direct benefit to us as a population. The technique used at the pit stop has halved the mistakes in intensive care transfers in some of our hospitals. They went to Ferrari and McLaren to learn the technology of transferring from intensive care after operations without mistakes. There is incredible tyre safety technology that will end up in our vehicles and improve road safety. There is the example of leg braces for orthopaedics and of greener cars with the new flywheel technology which will definitely—one cannot say when—transfer to production vehicles on the road and benefit the environment. This is industry that is working to benefit the environment. There were 20 examples, but one was the baby pod, for transporting sick babies. That is completely new technology absolutely different to what had been used in the past to transfer seriously ill babies between hospitals and doctors. They used the technology of the construction of the F1 car to design a brand new baby pod. Photographs of that could be brought here. It would be quite useful for Ministers, civil servants and others to see those examples, which are something that the industry can be incredibly proud of.

The noble Lord made the point that we want to keep the showcase race in the country. In some ways, I do not really care where it is. That is the reality. I care that it is somewhere that is effective and modern and that has good infrastructure. I could speak about my experience of being stuck in the mud at Silverstone for eight hours, but I will not; that is in the past. It does not matter whether the showcase race is at Donington or Silverstone or is a road race. I have not been to Donington for many years, but what is happening there is excellent.

The fact is that there are more tracks in the world than there are races. There is a limit to the number of Formula 1 races. Most of the tracks will operate at a loss on the race, but the finances go way beyond that, so one has to compete for the races. I understand that France is building a new track on the bank of the River Seine near the Renault plant that is supported by the local French département, so it has public money. Yet the Renault F1 team is based here in England—think how that sticks in the craw of our colleagues in France. Nevertheless, that new track has meant a new railway station, and a fast track to Paris is being put in again with a degree of public money.

I swear that I have not compared notes with the noble Lord, but I too believe that just because the sport is run in effect by two Englishmen gives us no right to guarantee a race here. We have to make that absolutely clear. Mr Mosley and Mr Ecclestone deserve praise for what they have achieved in the sport. I am not aware of many sporting bodies headed by a British person to great effect and with a big success for the industry; there is no question about that. Given the pressure which the FIA put on the teams to cut costs, I say that they probably saw the credit crunch coming long before the bankers. The costs were astronomically wasteful because they could do anything at high-tech—a nut for £800, I am told. Teams do not all need two wind tunnels. Wind tunnels are incredibly expensive. Pressure was put on those teams long before last year to cut costs to allow more people to compete and to maintain the stability of the team. The effect of that is coming through in what we are seeing now. Both Bernie Ecclestone and Max Mosley showed foresight.

I wanted to say a few words, as an anorak and a spectator, in support of the noble Lord, and to point out that we are talking about a business. It is a sport as well, but the industrial, economic and job ramifications are enormous and go way beyond the normal sport headline. That needs to be appreciated. We are not talking about massive companies, although the team owners and the motor companies may be. The vast majority of companies involved in this sport are small and medium-sized enterprises, which employ incredibly highly skilled engineers, male and female. That is what we need to nurture, because that is what we can sell to the world. That is our unique selling point. We need to keep the showcase and the rest of the infrastructure together, because that is how we will make good progress.

My Lords, I had just stood up when a ghost passed over my grave. I am not quite sure why, but I am going to say something slightly different from what I had planned to say, because the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, has done that. Motor racing and motor sport are part of British culture. We are embedded in them, as was your Lordships’ House historically.

I go back perhaps 60 years to when I was minding my own business in the second form of my prep school. The noble Lord, Lord Geddes, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Howe, and the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bramall, were at the same school. The French master, Major Hunter, who had just got back from the war, had lost part of his skull and had a metal plate—we always remember that—suddenly got up and said, “Vous avez gagné le Mans”; “You’ve won Le Mans”. I was not quite sure what he was talking about. He showed me Le Monde, and there was a Ferrari with the name “Lord Selsdon”. I was not sure that my father was a Lord at that time; I had hardly met him. About five days later—we had asked him to come to the parents’ match at cricket—I looked around and saw out of the window a red sports car with “22” on it. We were so interested in the car that we did not notice the man who had driven it. He came up and introduced himself; he was my father. As he had been a fast bowler at Winchester, he said that he would open the bowling. He bowled an aerial wide, which was pretty distressing for me. I had been a wicket-keeper, and the parents had not brought one, so I was keeping against my own father. He then bowled another wide, said he had trouble with his knee, and was taken off. My friends remembered that moment and years later one, whose name I had probably better not mention, told me it was the defining moment of his life. He went on to become the leading fundraiser for Williams.

When you do not know about things, however, you find out later. I had not realised that strange ingredient was there not only before the war, but right throughout history. I think that Brooklands first opened in about 1903—it may have been a bit later—but you were not allowed then to race on the roads in England, Scotland or Wales. The tourist trophy was therefore established effectively to be in Ulster or the Isle of Man. After the First World War, there was quite a delay; but in 1922, the BRDC or the RAC said that it would again run that trophy in the Isle of Man. My father, who was still at school, managed to sneak out; he entered with a Fraser Nash. His mother was so keen on it all that one of the family cars that she had bought, a 1903 Mercedes, had raced at Brooklands in 1907 or something. Together with that went a Panhard and a range of other cars. His racing career, which I did not know about, followed on. So when you look back into your own history at someone you did not know, who was your father, you become extraordinarily interested.

While thinking of what he did during the war, I realised that the technology of motor racing led to the combined services having the best drivers ever of fast motor-gunboats. As those in the Navy said, “If they can drive fast cars, they can drive fast boats”. A whole range of those MGBs and MTBs were driven by racing drivers who knew each other, got on very well and went back after the war to continue their motor racing. Before the war, however, there were great cars with names that we had never heard of; one of the fastest in the world, and the first to do 100 miles an hour, was the Prince Henry Vauxhall. Vauxhall was racing cars in those days. There was also Sunbeam, and who should come along but the Shrewsbury family—the Talbots—who managed to create that great car which the French would call a “Tal-beau”.

That is all by way of background, but to come on to it: in those days, when you could not go and race on the roads, you could race on the sand—at Skegness and Pendine Sands. You could also do hill climbs and speed trials until 1925, when there was a fatal accident and everybody said that it could only be done on the road. Brooklands then came back to itself; I think that the 1926 Grand Prix was held there. They had 110 laps of a 2.616 mile circuit; you went up the various bends and did the finishing straight. There was nowhere else to go. That effectively led to the opening of Donington in 1933. All of that time the British, who did not have many cars, were using some old British names to try and attract the continental drivers and cars; but trying to attract them to Ireland or the Isle of Man meant a double sea journey. To some extent, that led to the opening of Donington, so there was only one route.

The British were really the best drivers and, in a way, had a part in the best designers. Some of the mechanics, however, were French. They were always brought up with a screwdriver in one hand and a spanner in the other; you could stab someone with one and beat them over the head with the other. Now, before the war, my father was suddenly told to go and buy a couple of Lagondas. They entered them and came fourth and fifth, or third and fourth. I found that someone had bought that Lagonda V12, which took 50 gallons of fuel, and asked me to go and look at it. It had been restored and was on the market at a total of £3 million. I wish that my father had kept it. He went on to buy a Ferrari, which he bought at the motor show in Paris because Enzo Ferrari did not want his cars to race. He then bought one of the first Formula 1 cars.

It is strange, but I had to pay my last school fees myself because, unfortunately, motor racing had shortly consumed our entire family wealth. The other day I calculated my father’s success. He ran two racing teams in France, including Ecurie Ecosse. The coat of arms was always on it. I could not understand how there was an ability to get money over to France when there was a £25 limit. I realised that we were probably in the midst of an exchange between the motor-racing community from before the war and those who were involved in special operations. Anyway, there seemed to be no shortage of money.

With the racing Dukes, including the Duke of Richmond, and the Bentley Boys and others, there was a culture that led to a need to improve one’s car. Suddenly, one day, I found that my father had bought HRG and Singer engines. I was told that I must not motor-race and, if I agreed, that I would get a car. I then got one of the first small Austin-Healey cars which I took down to HRG. The compression ratio was raised through the roof. It would go like something off a shovel.

In those days you needed the Kingston bypass because the motor-racing brigade would go from Little Jack in Berkeley Square to the Ace of Spades pub. All the motor-racing people would be there and they would all know each other. Stuart Proctor would be the RAC scrutineer from HRG. Jack Brabham was next door. Over time, I learnt that these small people had the ideas. When I became chairman of the export side of the Engineering Industries Association, I found that I was with these people—originally with 7,500 engineers. By that time I had bought a second-hand Aston Martin and could not afford a new gear-box. But one of them said to me, “Take it down to Bristol and I will take the bits apart. I will cast something”. He gave me an extra speed on the gear-box, which I could not believe.

Another person realised that if cars were forced closer to the ground, they might have better handling. But he knew that they would bump, so he put a titanium plate underneath, which is why they made a lot of sparks. A car body chap worked out that the design of the car could give that down thrust just by shaping the air, which would also give better rolling. Now as I think of all the new bits which you can stick on to the back of a car to change it and to put McLaren out of business, I remember all of those small people. I really loved what they would tell you. They taught me physics that I did not know. They taught me everything and all about metals. But they were all friends and competitors. This created a culture in England where everyone wanted to have a car. The culture is more important than people spending a mass of money on promotion. Because of that, on my birthday, I suddenly found that my son had given me a weekend and eight laps at Le Mans as a present. I might do it while the noble Lord, Lord Drayson, is there.

I have spoken about the culture and the fun. This is sport. It is not a boring activity. It is enjoyable, although the wives do not like it because they have things on their ears. But we are superb and we should remain superb.

My Lords, I feel something of an intruder in this debate. I jokingly said to the noble Lord, Lord Drayson, “Oh, it is a pity you cannot speak in this debate”. I realised that I did not want him to speak: I wanted a tutorial from him before I joined in this debate. To be perfectly honest, motor sport is not the sport that rings my bell. I will admit that straight away and risk getting lynched on the way out of the Chamber. It does not really work for me. I have always been acutely aware that my own sport, rugby, is sometimes described as grown men fighting in mud, as it was by a small lad who was watching. If we are talking about it and your eyes glaze over, be patient with us.

Undoubtedly, the economic benefits of motor sport are unarguable. Not long ago, we had a debate on tourism and I spoke about sports tourism. The one event that encapsulates the idea of sports tourism is probably the Grand Prix. A huge high-tech circus arrives, with more glamour than any other sport can manage. I say that with a degree of envy. There is several days of build-up, followed by one huge event with massive coverage. It then moves on. It is the ultimate, one-off show. I have been reading the comments made by Bernie Ecclestone about the preparations for the Olympics, but the comparison falls down because the Olympic Games are slightly more than a one-off show since they are a culmination of things. But in terms of individual touring shows, F1 probably represents the epitome of the great show.

The noble Lord, Lord Rooker, proceeded not only to shoot the fox I was after, but to blast it full of holes because of the high-tech, high-end engineering that undoubtedly goes with Formula 1 and motor sport in general. The examples I found about the level of investment in technology and rate of improvements achieved can be equalled only by the arms industry during times of war. It is a case of seeking out what is new and keeping up the pressure to make improvements. All sports do this, but the application that goes into developing the best training shoe or a jersey that does not absorb sweat and keeps you warm is not as great as that which goes into creating a high-tech engine, and will not be as transferable to other things. Technological development takes place because of the pressure to perform. The noble Lord covered this very succinctly, but the fact is that if a machine is more efficient, it helps the environment through improved fuel economy, safer design and so on. When one thinks about it, it is clear that if Formula 1 were not achieving such improvements, someone would be getting it very wrong. What we do know about F1 is that the pressure to perform and achieve is massive.

I am told that other types of motor sport have a much higher profile outside Great Britain. Whereas F1 is our thing, other forms of racing in America are very popular. There are probably instances of cross-fertilisation of technological development between the different engineers; indeed I am sure of that because why should it not happen? There is a symbiotic relationship between an enormous event in which the vast majority of the population has at least a passive interest and the wonderful industry which backs it up. That is the real prize. Even if you hate cars going round and round making a lot of noise, as someone pretty close to my persuasion put it, you cannot deny the value of the industry that supports them.

The real question we have for the noble Lord, Lord Davies, is at exactly what level do the Government feel that they should come in with offers of support? Some of the briefing I have received states that F1 takes pride in the fact that it does not need a huge injection of money. What do the Government feel they should be providing in support of the industry? Is it more investment in education at the higher levels, such as in masters degrees and PhDs in engineering? Should we be encouraging support for the industry in that way? In further education, we have to ensure that the service industries are able to support and enhance not only Grand Prix but other motor sports events to ensure that people enjoy the festival atmosphere that such events generate.

The noble Lord, Lord Rooker, mentioned getting his car stuck in a field. That is the sort of thing you laugh about 10 years down the line, but at the time people say, “I’m not going there again”. The support structure must be in place because people who are not that committed to the sport want to attend because it is a “nice day out”. Most sports have learnt how to put on a good show. What are we doing to make these events something that people want to go to as of themselves? An example of another sport would be rowing. Someone said that Henley could survive without rowing, but not without alcohol because it is a fun event. How are we helping motor sports to create fun events to attract those not interested in the core activities?

I want to say to those involved in the F1 motor industry that they do have good spats. Long-running arguments are reported in the papers and offer an example to the rest of the sporting world by showing that you should try to have your in-house disagreements in private. I will not go into the arguments that went on between Silverstone and Donington Park except to say that when we are talking about such huge sums of money, it might just be best not to claim that you are being done down quite so obviously. When very rich people involved in a certain world begin to argue among themselves, they should appreciate that the rest of us do not really want to know about it, and if we do know, we will probably just laugh.

My Lords, I thank my noble friend Lord Astor for introducing this interesting debate. I do not know whether noble Lords are aware of what a great ally of motor racing he is. He has made an exceptional appeal today and I hope the Minister will be able to reassure us.

British Formula 1 racing should be entering a golden period in its history today, with British-built cars dominating and two British drivers as serious challengers for this year’s championship. What recent discussions have the Minister and the Government had with Formula 1 authorities about the retention of a British Grand Prix? As my noble friend said, it would be an outright disaster if we were to lose the international and engineering challenge of a British Grand Prix which we have so successfully hosted for more than 50 years.

My noble friend has met the owners of Donington Park, as he said, and it is clear that they do not seek any free state aid or any handout. They would, however, like to secure constructive and positive support and encouragement from the Government to help them through these difficult economic times.

The relationship between the annual British Grand Prix and the Motorsport Valley business cluster is vital. The loss of one would undoubtedly affect the other very seriously, as my noble friend said, and any damage to our international credibility, such as a failure to hold our own Grand Prix, would have devastating economic effects. Does the Minister appreciate also that sponsorship of individual Formula 1 teams is likely to be severely curtailed as major UK-based businesses would almost certainly withdraw their support?

I have been following motor racing for over 50 years and the first British Grand Prix I attended was, I think, 50 years ago at Silverstone. Therefore I am extremely sorry at the turn of events which has occurred. However, that does not mean that I do not support Donington; of course I do. I believe that an up-to-date, first-class circuit, together with some extra facilities that undoubtedly Silverstone does not possess, will have the same, or possibly even greater, encouraging effect on the businesses associated with motor racing, which will, I believe, stay in the UK and indeed in the east Midlands.

Of course, there is also the ongoing effect of a successful British Grand Prix year after year drawing in more and more foreign companies in high technology and hugely benefiting the economy of this country and, specifically, the east Midlands.

A recent Royal Academy of Engineering Survey of over 400 engineering companies revealed that they are already finding it difficult to recruit graduate engineers and anticipate even more skills shortages in the future. What recent discussions has the Minister had with his colleagues in the Department for Children, Schools and Families about encouraging the take-up of subjects such as science and engineering? Does he accept that if we fail to achieve a change, the motor sport industry, which is worth some £5 billion to our economy, will be forced to relocate abroad regardless of whether we still have a British Grand Prix?

I want from these Benches to strongly support my noble friend’s efforts to persuade the Government to give a clear and positive statement of support for the British Grand Prix at Donington and to use all their influence to ensure that Britain continues to host a Formula 1 Grand Prix. As my noble friend said, if such a statement is made, it will undoubtedly influence bankers, investors and overseas companies to confirm their investment plans, and we would very much welcome this.

My Lords, I am grateful to all noble Lords who have spoken in this debate. I hope that my speech will be an answer to the last question that the noble Lord, Lord Luke, addressed to me about the extent to which the Government give our full support to the Grand Prix at Donington and to the motor sport industry. The noble Lord asked whether the House was aware of the contribution of the noble Lord, Lord Astor, to that industry. We are all aware of it.

I am personally grateful that this very same debate nearly 12 years ago gave me the chance to make my maiden speech, in which I sought to develop exactly the issues that my noble friend Lord Rooker developed today: the significance of this industry for high-tech engineering, the significance of the development of skills in this country for engineering and the importance of our being aware that in education we need to address ourselves to science and engineering if we are to be a successful country. I did not speak with quite the eloquence or insight of my noble friend, who is a former engineer and therefore has the advantage of me. I merely produce engineers; both my sons are engineers, one of them in the motor industry. I do not have quite the insight that my noble friend illustrated today, but I subscribe very much to his remarks.

We are all grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Astor, for introducing this debate. I am also grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Selsdon, who took us down memory lane. The noble Lord will forgive me if the Government do not go too far into the past but look to the future; after all, this debate is about the degree of future government support for the industry.

It is clear, though, and the noble Lord certainly did us a service in these terms, that the Grand Prix has a long and glorious tradition in this country and we produce great world champions, from Mike Hawthorn right through to Lewis Hamilton last year. While the Grand Prix is a regular occurrence in this country, it is no less a part of that exciting concept of the decade of sport that the Government are looking to foster, and to which the noble Lord, Lord Astor, made reference in his opening remarks, along with great events such as Wimbledon, the Six Nations, the FA Cup final and many others. It helps to showcase British talent and expertise alongside the world events that we have attracted and are hoping to attract.

We want to see success for the Grand Prix over the next 10 years and far beyond. I am grateful for the contributions today that emphasised not only the enormous thrills that the sport brings to a high percentage of our people—the noble Lord, Lord Astor, referred to television figures, and we should recognise how striking the interest in the Grand Prix is, represented by the numbers of people in this country watching the BBC broadcasts this year—but the wider issue of the importance of the Grand Prix and the industry to our economic well-being. It is important that Britain is able to stand tall in the world of engineering and to emphasise that it can enhance, develop and cultivate the high-level skills that guarantee that we will be at the forefront of research and technology. That is an important part of the success of the British motor racing industry.

I am also grateful to the noble Lord for referring to my noble friend Lord Drayson, who we all heartily hope will have a wonderful time at Le Mans. I feel a bit as if I am speaking about cricket while I have Kevin Pietersen sitting next to me, or speaking about soccer with Steven Gerrard here; it is quite clear whom the House would prefer to listen to. But my noble friend has significant interests and, as the House will readily appreciate, when speaking from the Dispatch Box the Government have only one interest: the governance and welfare of the nation. That is why I am deputed, in my rather inadequate stance, to have my noble friend sitting alongside me—but I assure the House that I have had the benefit of his advice in preparing my response to this debate.

We have all been excited, particularly this year, because of the success of British-based teams and drivers in the first three races. We all know that it is a long season and that there will be many changes. Climatic conditions are likely, one would expect and hope, to be a little different from those in Shanghai in the majority of races. We want to create an environment in which our teams prosper and, of course, we want to ensure that Britain continues to host Grand Prix.

Today’s debate gives me a chance to set out the Government’s position. The British Grand Prix is clearly one of the most exciting events in the British sporting calendar and is a key sporting event in the Prime Minister’s call for an amazing decade in sport. If the Grand Prix were not staged, it would be to the detriment of that concept. We have some of the most passionate and well informed fans in the world, who do not just watch the race on television but, as my noble friend Lord Rooker indicated—I know that the noble Lord, Lord Astor, and other noble Lords attend Grand Prix—attend such events. We are all too well aware that the British Grand Prix is the biggest sporting event in the UK in terms of attendance. Even the new Wembley Stadium holds only 90,000. One or two footballing interests are represented in the House; the noble Lord, Lord Lyell, will know that football can manage 90,000, whereas the Grand Prix can manage three times that number. We are aware of the very keen interest displayed by the British public in Grand Prix.

Ministers and officials across Whitehall have done all that they can to support Silverstone in its attempts to retain the British Grand Prix. We helped through the East Midlands Development Agency because we were anxious about the future of the Grand Prix. There has been significant investment, not just from the motor industry; there was also substantial investment in the road that facilitated access to the Grand Prix at Silverstone. We stand ready to assist in that area.

We are aware that there are some reservations about Donington. The track looks fine, but there are reservations about facilities. There is still the question of raising capital, although our intelligence is that we can be optimistic that the investment in Donington will make it a huge success. However, should anything go wrong on that front, it is important that Silverstone is available to resume its position, because the essential thing is that we must not lose a British Grand Prix.

Donington will and must succeed. We are putting all our support into it. My right honourable friend Geoff Hoon, the Secretary of State for Transport, visited Donington recently. He is also an east Midlands Member of Parliament, which is no disadvantage when one is talking about an event that has such a significant impact on the local economy. It is important that we recognise our support for Donington. Over the past five years, we have invested £11.5 million in the motor sport industry through programmes such as the learning grid in education and training initiatives, the establishment of a motor sport academy and the energy-efficient motor sport programme to put energy efficiency at the heart of the modern sport. That gives great relevance to what we are all interested in—the improved energy efficiency of all transport in the United Kingdom.

We all recognise that the commitment of 10 years for the Grand Prix is a vote of confidence that Donington Park will prove to be up to the mark when the final tests are made and that we will be in a position to ensure that the circuit and the facilities are at the highest level.

I have been reminded that one of the most significant of all victories was Ayrton Senna’s in 1993, which has always won great plaudits for the skill deployed on that occasion in somewhat difficult weather conditions. Like everyone in this House who knows anything about motor racing, I have the greatest respect for Ayrton Senna, but I hope that the first Grand Prix at Donington will have a British winner. That will certainly enhance the occasion for all of us.

Donington Park has a great history of hosting motor sport events and currently attracts large numbers of people. There is substantial investment required to bring it up to the level now required for a modern Grand Prix. We understand from ING, which is not an innocent of the world in raising money for major sporting venues, that the money will be raised for Donington and the necessary resources are in place. The track is not the issue. The issue is the costly additional facilities required.

We certainly stand by to help—not directly financially. Motor sport is an independent operation in this country, as most sports are. The Government can give degrees of support and help, as with Silverstone in the past. However, no one in this debate or in the industry argues for direct state support. We do not want a state-sponsored motor industry, but the Government can give necessary assistance and support in judicious ways, particularly by emphasising how important the industry is to the development of our society and economy. I continually emphasise that the Government will do all they can to build upon the high levels of technology deployed by the industry. In these days of loss of confidence, which is bound to attend difficult economic circumstances, the British people ought to take pride in an industry which is so dominant in the world. My noble friend Lord Rooker emphasised that seven out of the 10 major teams are based in the UK. That is only possible with a high level of research in the industry. It also means that we must produce engineers from higher education who can play their part.

The noble Lord, Lord Addington, asked specifically whether the Government would give support. The Government will continue to give the support that we have done in the past. We see our role as facilitating and encouraging the Motor Sports Association and the owners of Donington to be proactive about attracting money from various funding arrangements to guarantee the finances they need. The Government also have a part to play with skills, education and infrastructure. My noble friend Lord Rooker identified how significant the industry is, with the number of companies involved in motor sports and the spin-offs from the technological breakthroughs it makes. I emphasise that the industry has an annual turnover of £7 billion, with 50,000 full- and part-time workers, including 30,000 engineers. That is a significant part of our economy. It would be a blow if the Grand Prix were not held in this country, and we will do our best to ensure that it will be. Officials and Ministers have been co-operating with local interests to ensure that Donington is successful.

I am conscious that I have strayed a little beyond my time; I apologise to the House. We want to see the continuation of the proud tradition of the British Grand Prix in this country. We are delighted that Donington has secured the right to host this event for the next 10 years. That is a real vote of confidence and gives Donington—

My Lords, I am sorry, I misheard the noble Lord. The 17-year period is an added incentive for those who wish to invest in Donington. As I indicated, we stand ready to help in all practicalities.

The decision on the Grand Prix was taken by those with private interests in the sport, but they should not have the slightest doubt that the Government regard the Grand Prix as a very important part of the sporting calendar. It is part of our decade of sport and we trust that it will continue to be a feature of the British sporting landscape over the next decade and beyond. On behalf of the Government, my colleagues and fellow Ministers, I accept the invitation to the event on 6 July. I know that the motor sport industry will put on an excellent show demonstrating its value to the nation and the excitement of this dramatic sport.

House adjourned at 5.21 pm.