Debate (5th Day)
Moved on Tuesday 25 May by Earl Ferrers
That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty as follows:
“Most Gracious Sovereign—We, Your Majesty’s most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Lords Spiritual and Temporal in Parliament assembled, beg leave to thank Your Majesty for the most gracious Speech which Your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament”.
My Lords, it is with a great sense of humility and honour that I rise to open the debate today. When I had the privilege of working in government earlier in my career, I conceived a lasting respect for the work and wisdom of your Lordships’ House. Whatever the future holds for me, that respect is something I shall never forget.
I start by welcoming the noble Lords, Lord Hall of Birkenhead and Lord Kakkar, and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Guildford. They, like me, will be making their maiden speeches in today’s debate and I greatly look forward to those. I fear that your Lordships, having endured my own effort, will look forward even more keenly than we already are to hearing those who are to come. I also thank my noble friend Earl Howe, who will be closing today’s debate.
The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Guildford and I seem to be linked together. We were introduced to your Lordships’ House on the same day. We discovered that we shared the same surname and, owing to some confusion in the Pass Office last week, we briefly shared the same wife. I know that the Church of England is inclusive, but that was perhaps carrying inclusivity a little far.
Entering this House and becoming a Minister at one and the same time is doubly daunting. In my department I follow the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, who started the last Parliament with a similar challenge. If I am able to meet that challenge with a fraction of the skill and dedication of the noble Lord, I will feel that I have served this House and Government well. I am particularly grateful to all those noble Lords on all sides who have greeted me so warmly and given me such generous advice this last week. I am acutely conscious of the depth of experience and knowledge in this House and I will endeavour always to listen and to learn.
Returning to Whitehall after a gap of some 16 years, I am struck by how much seems familiar. The quality of officials in public service and the advice they give seems to me to be as high as ever. In many ways, the rhythms of Whitehall feel much the same. Only perhaps in the expected speed of response to the pressures of the media is there a noticeable change. There seems to be less of a place for the pause for thought in public life. I am not sure whether that is progress, but it certainly underlines the importance of the full and careful scrutiny of legislation that is the work of your Lordships’ House.
Like many people who care about education, my mother was a teacher. I grew up thinking that there was nothing more important than education, that teaching was a high calling and that books and learning have the power to transform lives and set people free. I still believe that today. I therefore consider myself very fortunate to have the chance to play some part, alongside so many others in all parts of this House, in trying to extend to others the kind of opportunity that I was lucky enough to enjoy.
Today’s debate brings together four issues: education, health, welfare reform, and culture. All are vital to a strong society and a prosperous future for individuals and for our nation as a whole. If we are to secure Britain’s success, we must give people the skills and opportunities that will lead to personal success: a good education, decent healthcare and the chance for people to get on. In all our endeavours, we must strive to close the gap that sets the most disadvantaged in our society apart from the rest.
At the heart of the programme of legislation set out in the gracious Speech is the principle of trust. By trusting people—teachers, doctors, parents, patients—we hope to improve services and deliver more freedom, more fairness, and more responsibility. Her Majesty the Queen underlined those core principles in her gracious Speech, and set out a comprehensive programme of reform to uphold them.
A health Bill will strengthen the voice of patients and the role of clinicians in the NHS. We will allow doctors, nurses and other health professionals to make more decisions about the management of day-to-day care and services. The Bill will seek to place GPs firmly at the centre of the commissioning of care, and I am personally pleased to see the wheel come full circle, having worked at the Department of Health in the late 1980s for the then Secretary of State, Mr Kenneth Clarke. We will give more choice and control to patients over their care, and the Bill will secure on statute an NHS free from political interference.
Work is the best route out of poverty. We must therefore make sure that people see a link between work and reward. We cannot have a situation whereby someone who gets a job and moves off benefits is actually worse off in work.
The current system is also very complicated: there are 30 different types of benefit, four government agencies and a £3 billion cost of fraud and error. We will therefore introduce a welfare reform Bill to simplify the benefits system and give people a greater incentive to work. People will be supported into work, but there will be sanctions for those who are deemed capable of work but refuse available jobs. We will also review the timetable for increasing the state pension age and legislate if the current timetable is deemed by the review to be no longer appropriate.
It is also important to invest in those areas of business, culture and innovation that will help Britain to remain economically prosperous. We will therefore support investment in new high-speed broadband internet connections, to be rolled out across the UK. We will ensure that BT and other infrastructure providers allow the use of their assets, through which the fibre-optic connections can be delivered. This will reduce deployment costs, increase availability of the connection and open up the market to new providers.
It is above all in our schools that the task of building a fairer, more fulfilled and more responsible society must start. Despite the best efforts of successive Governments and despite some progress, it is still the case that half of all pupils do not get five good GCSEs, including English and maths. Since the first OECD PISA international league tables were published in 2001, the UK has fallen from eighth to 24th in maths, from seventh to 17th in reading and from fourth to 14th in science. Improving standards in schools must be our immediate objective.
Academies have a proven track record in transforming schools in difficult circumstances into high-performing centres of excellence. At GCSE in 2008 and 2009, academies saw double the national average increase in results. Last week I was lucky enough to visit Mossbourne Academy in Hackney. There, an inspirational head teacher and sponsor have transformed what was previously regarded as one of the worst-performing schools in the country. Last year, 95 per cent of its pupils achieved five good GCSEs, and earlier this year Ofsted rated the academy as “outstanding” in every category.
More schools should have the opportunity to enjoy such freedoms if it would best serve the needs of their pupils, so we have introduced a Bill on academies to give all schools the opportunity to apply to become an academy, including—for the first time—primary and special schools. All schools which have been rated “outstanding” by Ofsted and which want to apply will be fast-tracked through the process. However, I stress that the purpose of the Bill is primarily permissive, not coercive. We intend to invite schools, their head teachers, governors and others involved with the school to take up this opportunity. In due course we also intend to work with failing schools to transform them as well. Although the Bill enables this, it is for the slightly longer term. In those cases where a school is in real difficulty, the Secretary of State will have the power to require the local authority to relinquish control of the school and free the school to appoint a head with a proven track record in excellent leadership and school improvement.
In support of these reforms we will introduce further legislation to improve school standards, reduce bureaucracy and give schools more freedoms. However, delegation of responsibility to the school and the classroom must be supported by clear systems of accountability. Therefore, in a second education Bill we will simplify the current framework for assessing schools’ performance. We will work with Ofsted to establish a new framework which will scrutinise four core areas of a school’s performance, rather than the current 18. We want to concentrate on what is really important, namely the quality of teaching, the effectiveness of leadership, pupils’ behaviour and safety, and pupils’ achievement.
Children cannot learn properly in a disorderly environment. Currently, more than 1,000 pupils are excluded for physical or verbal assaults every day. In 2007-08 nearly 18,000 pupils were suspended for attacking an adult. Only 950 of those pupils were excluded. That is not acceptable. Pupils should not have to suffer disruption caused by the bad behaviour of others, and teachers should feel confident in enforcing discipline. We will therefore give teachers wider powers to search pupils for items which disrupt learning. We will remove the bureaucratic restrictions around the use of search and detention powers. We will clarify teachers’ powers on using force, strengthen home-school behaviour contracts and abolish independent appeal panels to ensure that decisions about exclusions rest with the head, which is where they belong.
Raising standards, lifting aspirations and tackling behaviour are crucial. That will help all children but, above all, it should help those from the most disadvantaged backgrounds, who have suffered the most. Figures published two weeks ago showed that bright children from the poorest homes are seven times less likely to go to top universities than their wealthier counterparts. That is not acceptable. We will introduce a new pupil premium, which will direct resources to those children from deprived backgrounds who need them most. These wider reforms, such as the pupil premium and establishing a new generation of free schools run by teachers, charities and parents, should they so wish, will be set out in a White Paper to be published later this summer.
In conclusion, the reforms set out in the gracious Speech will give more freedom to professionals to get on with doing their jobs unhampered by bureaucracy; more freedom for teachers; more freedom for doctors; more freedom for nurses; more control for people over their own healthcare; and greater incentives for people to work—in short, more trust to our professionals and more choice for our citizens. The principles of freedom, fairness and responsibility are principles greatly prized in this House. They are the principles which shape and inform the gracious Speech and the legislation I have set out today. I look forward to listening to the debate today on these important issues.
My Lords, I begin by congratulating the noble Lord, Lord Hill, on a tremendous maiden speech and welcoming him to this House. As he recognised, he joins a small but elite club of Peers who have made their maiden speeches from the Dispatch Box, such as the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, to whom he very kindly and generously paid tribute. As a former chief political secretary to John Major, the noble Lord has some soul mates here—perhaps the noble Baroness, Lady Morgan of Huyton, a great educationalist, and the noble Lord, Lord McNally, who only a few moments ago was firmly planted on the noble Lord’s own Front Bench. I would love to be a fly on the wall when these three get together to share a cup of tea, as is the tradition in your Lordships' House. But, truly, I welcome the noble Lord to our House. He brings with him a distinguished career in politics and business. He was educated at Highgate School and Trinity College, where he read history. As we have heard, he knows his way around Whitehall, having acted as an adviser to three government departments—employment, trade and industry and health—before joining No. 10, where he was political secretary. The noble Lord wrote an account of life at No. 10 at the time of the 1992 election entitled, Too Close to Call. Noble Lords should beware as there may be another one in the pipeline entitled, Coalitions and How They Fall.
It is a great honour to be a Member of your Lordships' House and a huge responsibility. I know that the noble Lord fully appreciates that responsibility. He has committed to listen to this House, which I welcome. In spite of the apparent age of its Members, this House cares very much about young people. We care particularly about vulnerable young people, children with special needs, children with no families of their own, young offenders and young people with no jobs. As the noble Lord is well aware, there is a great deal of wisdom in this House. I am glad to hear that he plans to make great use of it.
I, too, look forward to the maiden speeches of the noble Lords, Lord Hall of Birkenhead and Lord Kakkar, and of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Guildford. My noble friend Lady Thornton will address health and culture and I will focus on education. I will touch on welfare but my noble friend Lord McKenzie, who has much more expertise on this issue than I, will also focus on it.
I stress that Her Majesty’s loyal Opposition have grave concerns about the coalition Government’s welfare proposals. Given all the Government’s talk about fairness and social mobility, it is breathtaking that one of the first things that the Tory-Lib Dem Government have announced is massive cuts to youth jobs programmes. Labour believes that it is vital to help young people into work, especially as we are facing such challenging economic times. It is extremely worrying that already we are seeing the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats breaking pre-election promises to keep up support for Labour's future jobs fund. Future jobs fund jobs are real jobs, paying at least the minimum wage and lasting at least six months. The Labour Government promised funding for 200,000 jobs through the future jobs fund. More than 118,000 of these jobs have been confirmed for individual organisations, with 80,000 more pledged and bids and plans under way.
In previous recessions under the Conservatives, youth unemployment continued to rise for years after the end of the recession, but it had already begun to fall under the Labour Government after this recession as a result of extra support, including the future jobs fund. When Labour left office, there were around 40 per cent fewer young people signing on than under the Conservatives in the recession of the 1990s, and well over half of young people on JSA are coming off within three months. This is something that the Government must support.
I agree with the Minister that driving up educational standards in schools is a goal that we can all share. While children and families may no longer be in the title of his department, I hope that the Minister will also commit himself to working to give every child the best start in life, and to break down all the barriers to the progress, safety and well-being of all children in this country. Where the coalition Government get it right and act to open up opportunities to do more and to drive up standards for all, they will have our support.
The most pressing question in our debate today is that of education funding, and the impact on schools and children's services of the Government’s rush to cut the deficit. During the election campaign, it was clear that there were two different approaches. I admit that the children and teachers of our country have rather more to thank the Liberal Democrats for than they probably realise. Let us be clear that for the past two years, the Conservatives were unable, in opposition, to pledge to match Labour's commitment on education spending for 2010-11, let alone for future years. Only the NHS and international development were protected from the cuts planned for an incoming Conservative Government. I am reliably informed that it was only the intervention of the right honourable David Laws, in the days after the general election, which saved the day and secured ring-fencing for schools spending in 2010-11. However, with the shortest government honeymoon in history already over, and the right honourable David Laws no longer at the Treasury, will the Liberal Democrats continue to have the same impact on education spending that they promised? I hope that they will work hard for that.
In office, the Labour Party achieved a great deal. The noble Lord was very generous about our achievement with academies, and I am sure that the Government will recognise this as they go forward. We doubled spending per pupil; recruited 42,000 more of the best teachers; launched the biggest school building programme since the Victorian era; and achieved the highest standards and best results ever in this country, with more young people going on to college, university or apprenticeships than ever before. It is a record of which we can be extremely proud. Even in the current tough financial climate, when we need to get the deficit down steadily, we made a commitment last December with the Treasury to raise spending above inflation for schools, Sure Start and 16 to 19 education, not just for one year but for three years to 2013. That was our commitment to education.
While we were in government, we were clear about our commitment to education, but so far the coalition has been rather silent on what will happen to schools funding next year and the year after, let alone how it will pay for the proposed pupil premium and its new academies and free schools. This is a real challenge for the coalition.
The key question for today is where the money is coming from. I do not see how the coalition can pay for its announcements of more free schools and more academies without cutting deep into the budgets of all other schools to pay for them. Even the settlement negotiated by my right honourable friend Ed Balls called for tough efficiency savings totalling more than £1 billion over the next three years simply to prevent the cuts to front-line services—and that was without thousands of new extra schools and academies and the many thousands of extra, surplus places that that will require. On top of that, the Government have to find money for the new pupil premium that they have promised.
Where will the money come from to pay for the policies set out in the gracious Speech? Already parents, teachers and pupils are being told that their long-awaited new school building may not come about. We are in the dark about the future of school-building projects around the country, many of which have had months of work done and thousands of pounds spent on them.
We have all heard the coalition Government’s commitment to find £670 million of cuts from the Department for Education to help to reduce the deficit this year while protecting the front line only in 2010-11. Even here, there is no detail of where the money will come from. We made it clear that difficult decisions would have to be taken and set out in painstaking detail the first instalment of where those savings would be found, but we were given the impression by the incoming Government that they believed that the DCSF, as was, was teeming with so much waste that funding £670 million of cuts in the department would be painless. We need to know what those cuts will be, but the Government have still made no announcements to Parliament; they have just released a few select details to the Press Association, suggesting that school transport and one-to-one tuition may be for the chop.
The Government have also given no clue about how the £1.2 billion of planned local government cuts will impact on children’s services this year. What about social work reform? What about early intervention? What about safeguarding our children?
We need to know where these cuts will fall that are designed to reduce the deficit and pay for the pupil premium, the new free schools and the new academies over the next three years. Will the Government scrap the extension of free school meals? Will they scale back on one-to-one tuition and the Every Child a Reader programme? Will they cut education maintenance allowance? What about the budgets for disabled children, children in care, youth services, school sport and school music? Will the coalition scale back on the offer of 15 hours of free nursery education for two year-olds? We need answers and we need them soon.
We know that, on education policy, the Government have been divided right from the start. In April, Sarah Teather, the new Minister of State at the Department for Education, described the free schools policy as “a shambles”. She went on to say:
“Unless you give local authorities that power to plan and unless you actually make sure that there is money available … it’s just a gimmick”.
It is not just the new Minster of State who needs to be persuaded that the new schools policy is not an uncosted shambles. It will be no surprise to noble Lords to know that we on this side of the House have serious reservations about this Government’s education policy. It is reported that the Secretary of State for Education has written to 2,600 outstanding schools inviting them to become what he calls academies. They are to be told that they will get extra money from the funds that are currently spent paying for special needs, school food and transport and shared facilities such as music lessons, libraries and sports facilities. There is a good argument for successful schools being given more managerial autonomy and flexibility, provided that that is on the basis of fair admissions, fair funding and a recognition of their wider school improvement responsibilities. However, at no point does the coalition explain the impact that this may have on the other local schools. Where our academy policy gave extra resources and flexibility to the lowest-performing schools, the new Government are proposing to give extra money to favoured schools by taking money away from the rest. Where our academies went ahead with the agreement of parents as well as local authorities, the new Government propose to abolish any obligation on schools to consult anyone at all—parents, local authorities or anyone else. Where we brought in new external sponsors including universities to raise aspirations, the new Government are abolishing the requirement to have a sponsor at all. Our academies were non-selective schools in the poorest communities. The new Government will, I suspect, end up with academies disproportionately in more affluent areas. For the first time, there will be selective academies.
This is not a progressive education policy for the 21st century. It will not break the link between poverty and deprivation but will entrench that unfairness even further, with extra resources and support going not to those who need them most but to those who are already ahead. My real fear, however, is that this will result not just in chaos and confusion, but in deep unfairness and a return to a two-tier education policy as the Government’s chaotic free-market experiment unfolds.
I am not the only concerned person. Chair of the Local Government Association, Dame Margaret Eaton—soon to join the government Benches, I believe—has put on record her concern, saying:
“Safeguards will be needed to ensure a two-tier education system is not allowed to develop”.
These concerns are widespread in local government and across the school system. We will return to these issues in greater detail in the coming weeks. Will schools that do not become academies pay financially for those that do? Will the admissions code apply to those new academies and be properly enforced? Will academies co-operate, as now, on behaviour policy, or will the Secretary of State allow higher performing schools to exclude pupils as a first resort? How, without any role for local authorities, Ofsted or children’s trusts, will the Secretary of State step in if things go wrong in what will potentially be a massively centralised education system? Can we now be reassured that disadvantaged children will not lose out disproportionately by the resources from wider children’s education services being transferred away from local authorities as high-performing schools opt out and take the money with them?
These are important questions, but I make it clear that we will be a constructive Opposition. We will probe, question and challenge, but I hope that we will also agree from time to time. As I said at the start, I welcome the Minister to his position and congratulate him on his maiden speech. There are so many questions yet to be answered, but the new coalition government education policy really has some way to go. Most importantly, how will it be paid for? I, with my opposition Front-Bench colleagues, very much look forward to debating with the Minister in the future.
My Lords, on behalf of these Benches, I echo the noble Baroness’s welcome of the noble Lord, Lord Hill, to the House. I congratulate him on becoming a Minister and thank him for a fine and engaging maiden speech. We look forward to hearing much from him.
It is a fine aspiration to strengthen the voice of patients and the role of doctors in the National Health Service. On reflection, it may actually be two aspirations. It seems that a certain caution may be required when one reads that the National Health Service is to be both “patient led” and “led by clinical decision makers”. It is important to ensure that these become, as a far as possible, a single aspiration rather than two competing aspirations.
The Government's background note suggests that the reference to doctors is shorthand for front-line medical staff more generally. It is good that the role of nurses is specifically mentioned. Less welcome, however, is the absence of a mention of other front-line health workers, whose increasing recognition as members of multidisciplinary teams has been a notable sign of the progress made over the past decade.
Human health and well-being, including better clinical outcomes, require a whole approach in which doctors, nurses, allied health professionals, psychologists, chaplains and social workers all play key roles. The 1996 Department of Health document, Standards for Better Health, requires healthcare organisations to co-operate with other agencies to ensure that patients' individual requirements are taken into account and that,
“their physical, cultural, spiritual and psychological needs and preferences”,
are met. So we await with interest discussion and clarification of what is meant by, and who is included in, “front-line workers”.
It may be worth pointing out that a chaplain often serves more patients directly each week than any other single healthcare professional working in a hospital. Although his or her role may not usually be immediately life-saving, neither is the everyday work of most doctors, nurses and allied health professionals. In any case, life-saving is not all that is meant by good-quality healthcare. I hope that Her Majesty’s Government will assure us that chaplains are valued within the National Health Service as front-line staff.
In his preface to National Standards, Local Action, published in 2004, the then chief executive of the National Health Service and Permanent Secretary of the Department of Health, the noble Lord, Lord Crisp—Sir Nigel Crisp as he then was—wrote of the importance of,
“giving the individual—the patient, service user or client—more power to improve their care and drive the whole system”.
He also quoted the striking expression the “expert patient” which had acquired considerable currency, and some criticism, since being coined I think by Sir Liam Donaldson some years previously.
Greater patient voice is obviously to be welcomed, provided it is recognised that it is not easy for all to have or find a voice—such as the unborn or those with severe learning difficulties, mental health problems or dementia. Just as strengthening the role of doctors must also mean strengthening the role of other front-line health workers, including chaplains, so too strengthening the voice of patients must imply allowing a wider advocacy on behalf of patients by family, friends and carers.
Of course, empowering patients and their advocates is meaningless unless they are enabled to make more informed judgments about their needs. I was very grateful for what the Minister said in answer to a question about dementia earlier. It is very important that the Government should explain carefully how genuine patient empowerment will be implemented. This must include not only giving people more say over their own treatment, but also recognising the contribution that those who are receiving or have received care through the National Health Service can make to the formulation of policy and the oversight of delivery at every level whether local or national.
It is also important to know how changing policies will impact on current inequalities in healthcare provision and outcomes, whether those inequalities are geographical or based on resources and wealth. Enthusiasm for local action must always be in the interests of the highest standards for all. At a time of financial stringency, it is also essential to ensure that those with the greatest need receive particular attention. Special care must be taken to avoid any suggestion that some people are less valuable than others or that the chronically or terminally ill, the disabled and the elderly are, or are ever allowed to feel that they are, a burden on the rest of us.
It is also important to avoid simplistic attacks on administrators, contrasting them unfavourably with front-line staff. Although the National Health Service, like many other institutions—dare I say the Church of England?—has often been over-administered, good management and administration are essential for any organisation. Serious consequences follow when those delivering services are undermined and undervalued. Pushing more and more management tasks on to front-line healthcare staff is dangerous. Not only are they not equipped for those tasks, but if much of their time and energy is spent on managing, that must detract from their ability to deliver front-line care. Managers are a very easy target, but a scattergun approach to management reform could lead to greater problems and greater inefficiencies within the National Health Service.
My final point concerns targets. Although some targets encourage a box-ticking culture and approach, others, if evidence-based and tested against outcomes, can undoubtedly contribute towards the health and well-being of the population—for example, those stipulating waiting times for appointments and treatment. Of course targets can be abused, but it is important not to throw the baby out with the bathwater.
My Lords, it is an enormous privilege to be addressing your Lordships’ House for the first time. I thank many Members of this House, especially the noble Baronesses, Lady D’Souza and Lady Young, and the staff here, for the warmth of their welcome and their patience in dealing with so many questions from me not just once but sometimes for a second or third time.
This moment has another significance for me. As a journalist with the BBC, one of my first tasks was working on the then experimental radio broadcast from here from both Houses of Parliament, sitting crammed in very hot Portakabins beneath Cromwell’s statue. That experience gave me a genuine and long-lasting admiration for the quality of the work done in this House. I was therefore very proud that on my watch running the BBC's news services we were able to see the first television pictures of the business of Parliament come from this House. I was also delighted to establish BBC Parliament as a channel by which anyone, wherever they were, could watch, understand and feel a part of our democracy. When I look now at how that channel and the internet have developed, I am optimistic about the possibilities for engaging more people in the work that is done here—I do not need to tell anyone in this House just how important that is.
I have had the great good fortune not just to have had a career in broadcasting but also, for the past nine years, in the arts, working at the Royal Opera House and, for the past nine months or so, as the first chairman of the Cultural Olympiad board. The arts and, more broadly, the cultural sector in this country, are enormously successful. Just look at some of the numbers. The top eight tourist attractions in the UK are national museums and galleries. Heritage and arts are cited by more than eight out of 10 tourists as being the reason that they come to the UK. The Society of London Theatres announced box office receipts for last year topping £0.5 billion. That is a record number of people going to see plays, musicals, opera and dance. We see vibrant cultural landscapes all over the country in, for example, Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds, Glasgow and Gateshead. There is now, perhaps more than ever before, a thirst and desire for culture and the arts. That is as we come out of a deep recession. Perhaps that is because we need what the arts and culture can give us even more when times are tough.
The financial investment which makes that extraordinary success in the arts and culture is relatively modest. The investment in the Arts Council, for example, is 0.07 per cent of total public spending. In other words, I have worked it out as being about 17p per week per person. That investment makes money too. To take my place of work, each £1 of public subsidy generates nearly £3 through ticket sales, sponsorship, commercial activities such as selling DVDs or relaying performances to cinemas. We are typical of arts organisations up and down the country. For example, the Manchester International Festival enjoys a public subsidy of £5 million, yet the value that it contributes to the economy of Manchester as a whole is more than £30 million. Look at plays such as “The History Boys”, “War Horse” or “The Pitmen Painters”, workshopped and created in our subsidised theatres and then taken out into the commercial world both here and overseas. Public investment is the seed corn, the risk capital, which allows that creativity to happen.
Public investment also encourages private investment, be it from companies, trusts or individuals. That is why I am much encouraged by the new Government’s commitment to giving still greater incentives to philanthropy and looking at ways in which gift aid may be made more effective for both parties. Much more can be done to help organisations large and small, in London and away from London, but neither is increased philanthropy of itself the whole answer. In this country, we have a funding model which is a mix of the public, the private and the commercial, and it works. If you look across the Atlantic, the American model of dependence on fundraising for the arts has led to organisations big and small across the nation closing down in the recession or being severely curtailed. Consistent, steady funding of the arts in this country over the past decade or so using that mixed funding model has contributed enormously to the success that we are now all enjoying.
Of course, the beneficiaries of that success are not just our audiences or our visitors. For me, one of the most rewarding, inspiring things about working in the arts has been seeing the impact that they have on young people. On a recent visit to a school, a year 10 student who had been working with us on a project came up to me and said, “Now I can put your organisation on my CV. How cool is that?”. That is what arts organisations are doing in schools all over the country. We are giving young people the opportunity to get started, to have that light-bulb moment to inspire them, the moment when they can know what they want to do, have belief in themselves and what they can aim for in a career, what they can achieve to make a contribution to our society. There is nothing more important than that.
We have another chance to set out what we can and are doing here on a world stage. In 2012, the eyes of the world will be on us and the Cultural Olympiad will have a finale in a festival across the nation from 21 June to 9 September. I hope that what we put on in that festival will be of a scale and ambition greater than that for any previous Games and will leave a legacy in several significant areas. Because of the vitality and strength of the arts, culture and heritage in this country, I believe that we are better placed to do that than any other nation in the world. Well before then, I look forward to playing a part in the deliberations and work of your Lordships’ House.
My Lords, it is a great pleasure for me to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Hall, on his maiden speech. We go back a long way together. He had the unenviable task in the Thatcher years for being responsible for the news services in the BBC when Denis Thatcher felt that the BBC was a bunch of pinkos. When I became Home Secretary, he was the director of news, and I was able to see the scrupulous way in which he ensured a fair balance in the presentation of news. After that, he became the director of Covent Garden. If you think that the BBC is a nest of prima donnas and vipers, the opera world is a swamp. It is due to his calm governance of the opera house over the past few years that it has been very successful not only artistically but financially. He reminded us that having been involved with the BBC and the opera house, he is a master of subsidy. Now that subsidies are to be slashed by this Government—I trust and expect—he will have ample opportunity to speak in our House on these matters in the coming months.
I also congratulate my noble friend Lord Hill. We, too, go back a long way—back before he became the head of John Major’s think tank at No. 10. I am glad to tell your Lordships that he has always been passionately interested in education. Not only was his mother a teacher, he has a daughter at university—this Government are full of Ministers who look much younger than they are—so he is engagé as a parent in education. I am particularly glad that he is attached to a department: he is a Parliamentary Under-Secretary in the Department for Education; he is not a floater. That means that we will have his full attention on education, which is to be welcomed.
I should declare two interests. I am the chairman of the Edge Foundation, which is the largest charity in the country devoted to practical and vocational education, and of the Baker Dearing Trust, which promotes university technical colleges. I receive, of course, no remuneration from either charity.
I refer the House to the statement made by David Cameron and Nick Clegg on 20 May, which set out the programme for this coalition. It included this sentence:
“We will improve the quality of vocational education, including increasing flexibility to 14-19 year olds and creating new Technical Academies as part of our plans to diversify schools provision”.
I welcome this enormous endorsement for the colleges that Ron Dearing, before he died, and I have been promoting for the past three years: university technical colleges. When we met three years ago, Ron was alive. We decided that the one thing missing from the education system in England was technical schools. We had them in the 1950s and 1960s, but they were closed and became comprehensives. They were closed because people thought they involved dirty jobs and greasy rags and everybody wanted to be the school on the hill, so they fell victim to English snobbery. Germany did not make that mistake; it kept its technical schools and that is one of the reasons why Germany is still a great industrial nation. The latest report states that German technical schools are now more popular than German grammar schools.
We wanted to reinvent them in different ways. Why did we want to reinvent them? The CBI has just produced a report stating that 42 per cent of employers want our education system to provide high quality vocational options. Why do they want that? Because 77 per cent of employers in manufacturing say that they cannot employ people with higher skills. It is our history. Over the weekend, I dipped into Correlli Barnett’s book The Audit of War to remind myself about the history of radar. Radar was invented in the mid-1930s by Watson-Watt and by Professor Cockcroft and Professor Lindermann at the Cavendish and Clarendon laboratories, but we could not put it on enough planes, boats or airfields in the 1940s. HMS “Coventry” was sunk in 1942 for lack of radar. Radar was invented in 1939 for introduction in 1941. There were eventually 200 handmade sets in 1943. We should learn from history—it is the same with Afghanistan. We have not learnt from history. It is the lack of a technical force backing up our engineering graduates and our inventiveness. If you talk to engineering bodies, they say that we are producing enough engineering graduates, but the trouble is that graduates have to deskill in order to do technicians’ jobs because the technicians are not there. If we are going to have nuclear power stations, high-speed rail links, broadband and a green economy producing jobs, we need technicians.
University technical colleges are different from technical schools in two important ways. They are for 14 to 19 year-olds. Fourteen is a much better age to select children for skilled education than 11, which is too early. Ironically, when the Board of Education met in 1941 to decide the pattern of education after the war, it said that 13 or 14 should be the age of selection, but we chose 11, and it was a mistake. At 14, children select themselves. They know what they want to do. That is the first important difference. The second is that universities back university technical colleges, which means that their status is elevated for students and their parents.
We have three off the ground already. Aston will open in 2012, Walsall, in the Black Country, will open next year because it is converting an old school, and Greenwich was approved just before the election. The private JCB Academy will also open this year. It wants to be a UTC with 500 pupils. At these schools, youngsters will start at 8.30 am with a hammer, a saw, a drill or some welding equipment in their hands and acquire skills. In the afternoon, they will do English, maths, Science and IT for GCSE. The important thing is that the mind and the hand are trained under the same roof. The previous Government tried to make diplomas work. They got off to a poor start. In a comprehensive school, youngsters doing diplomas have to do three days in school and then take a bus to the local college. On the fourth day, they go either to school or to college. It is no way to do it. The previous Government were right to identify the 14 to 19 curriculum, but it requires 14 to 19 institutions.
I am glad to say that these schools count as academies. The pattern is this: Balls said he wanted five; Michael Gove, before the election, said 12; the team that I put together is now handling 23 applications, and I hope that in the course of this Parliament at least 100 of them will be established. They will begin to transform education in our country because our comprehensives are full of youngsters who at the age of 14 want to follow not an academic course but a course that gives them high quality skills. These colleges will do that.
They have the support of all parties in the House including, I am glad to say, the members of our coalition—I see the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, is smiling. I persuaded David Laws to support it, so I am sorry he has left the Government, but there we are. I hope that the Government will embrace these colleges. I am due to meet the Minister and the Secretary of State. We want a strong commitment to these colleges and for some of the money that is going to academies to go to these colleges. They will be an enormous contribution to the education system of our country.
My Lords, as indicated on today’s list, the noble Baroness, Lady Neville-Jones, will repeat a Statement at a convenient point after 12.30 pm. This may be a convenient point. The debate on the Address will resume after the Statement.