Committee (8th Day)
Schedule 1 : Power to abolish: bodies and offices
60A: Schedule 1, page 17, line 23, at end insert—
“The Trinity House.”
My Lords, I shall speak also to Amendments 67A, 88A, 139A and 165A. This is a group of probing amendments. I am keen to understand the Government’s intentions on the three general lighthouse authorities—Trinity House, the Northern Lighthouse Board and the Commissioners of Irish Lights—and to see how that connects, if indeed it does, to the possible changes to other maritime organisations, specifically the Marine Management Organisation, which we will discuss in Amendment 80 later today.
The Government have included two of the three GLAs in Schedule 7. I think that the schedule is now to be withdrawn, but it would be good to hear the Minister’s confirmation of that. In some ways, it is a pity that Trinity House will be removed from Schedule 7, given that, after all, Trinity House was founded by Henry VIII and most of us refer to Schedule 7 as a good Henry VIII clause. It is rather sad if that is to happen, but I am sure that we will all survive.
I am not going to go into the details of the general lighthouse authorities—I had the Second Reading of my Private Member’s Bill here a few weeks ago—but the issue within the Public Bodies Bill is a question of governance. The three GLAs are unique organisations in that they fix their own budgets and get the Government’s approval. Having given their approval, the Government make the ship owners pay whatever is needed to balance the books. That is not strong governance in my view. The previous Government allowed the charges to ship owners to go up by 67 per cent in one year, which was very excessive. More recently, the present Minister for Shipping, Mike Penning, has announced that he has sorted out the Irish question. In this context, that relates to the fact that ships coming into British harbours pay the dues that also provide a significant subsidy to the Commissioners of Irish Lights. That is good. Ministers have also announced that the budget for the GLAs will reduce by something like 17 per cent over three years. That is not enough but it is much better than nothing. Maybe there should be benefits in the structure as well.
Another inconsistency among the three GLAs concerns the Freedom of Information Act. The Northern Lighthouse Board is subject to FOI, whereas Trinity House is not. I know that discussions are going on between the Ministry of Justice and Trinity House but it is rather odd that there is this inconsistency. The Commissioners of Irish Lights cover Northern Ireland as well as southern Ireland and are generally seen to be most generous in their payment of their staff. A Written Answer I received a few months ago suggested that six of their senior executives were paid more than €1 million. That seems quite excessive for managing some lighthouses. They are not subject to FOI because they are partly managed by the Republic of Ireland.
It is good that the Government are cutting off the Irish subsidy by the end of this Parliament, but could the Minister in responding explain what, if anything, the Government intend to do about the governance structure of the three GLAs? There is not much incentive at the moment for them to cut costs or for the Government to make them do so. The shipping lines pay whatever the Government decide. Therefore, I would be very pleased to hear what the Minister has to say in response. I beg to move.
My Lords, I spoke in an earlier fascinating debate on the Irish lights and other matters in this field. I hope that this is a probing amendment. I listened with interest to the questions. As a lad who was born and brought up in Harwich, which is now the hub of the Trinity House universe, I would be deeply opposed to seeing it abolished, which is what the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, appears to seek to insert into the Bill.
My Lords, the House is grateful to my noble friend for raising this matter yet again. As he rightly said, we had the opportunity to discuss these issues at the Second Reading of his Private Member’s Bill. However, there are some interesting dimensions to this, which we were not able to clarify entirely on that occasion. Indeed, it was suggested that I had made a slight slip—a rare occurrence, as the House will appreciate—when I referred to the payments to the Irish being a subsidy. As my noble friend has rightly identified, it is not a government subsidy; the money is paid by the ship owners and those who pay the dues. The payments are close to being a subsidy, given that people have no choice but to pay and the Government enforce them. Nevertheless, that is one indication of how careful one must be in dealing with these issues.
The Government are to be congratulated on having sorted out aspects of the finance of this issue to do with previous support, which was paid directly to the Irish for the Irish lights. Nevertheless, my noble friend has drawn attention to a number of interesting questions. On Second Reading, the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, responded as accurately and as effectively as he could, anticipating that we would have further discussion in Committee. However, it would be helpful if the Minister responded to some of the contradictory aspects that obtain across this area, not least the freedom of information aspect with regard to Trinity House. I hope that he is able to throw light on these somewhat troubled waters.
My Lords, I admire the tenacity of the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, on this matter which, as the Minister well knows, we have discussed on a number of occasions. I declare a non-pecuniary interest as an elder brother of Trinity House and I will address my remarks mainly to Trinity House. Despite what the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, said, I do not think that it would be within the powers of any Government of this country to enact something relating to a body set up in Dublin in the Republic of Ireland. Therefore, any thought of doing things with regard to Ireland must be out of order.
The noble Lord’s other main concern relates to the payment of light dues and particularly to the efficiency of the general lighthouse authorities. The previous Administration commissioned a report by Atkins, which looked into further efficiencies that could be made in addition to those that have already been made over a number of years, certainly in the case of Trinity House. Its recommendations were accepted and are being implemented through the new general lighthouse authority joint strategic board, which was set up by the Atkins review. In parallel, the Shipping Minister asked the GLAs to consider how they might achieve an additional reduction in expenditure, averaging 25 per cent over the period ahead, which Trinity House will deliver in full through a six-year programme. This programme has also been accepted by the Minister.
Any change to the existing governance arrangements of the GLAs would bring significant risks and costs. For this reason, I suggest that the amendments are unnecessary.
My Lords, I also pay tribute to my noble friend Lord Berkeley for raising this matter again. As the noble Lord, Lord Greenway, said, my noble friend is tenacious. However, I am sorry to say that I disagree with the points that he has made. We debated this matter extensively on 21 January and I want to reiterate a couple of points from that debate. The WS Atkins report went into considerable detail on the general lighthouse authorities. The British and Irish Governments have dealt pretty comprehensively with the so-called Irish question and the new strategic board has been set up which will drive further reductions in costs. At the end of the day, the shipping companies pay these costs.
Last Saturday I picked up a lovely little book about the Bell Rock lighthouse, comprising a series of articles written by an assistant lightkeeper in about 1904. The foreword to the book describes how the lighthouse authorities in the UK work. One of the interesting points was that, despite repeated reductions in costs around the turn of that century, the shipping companies were demanding that they should not pay light dues and that the lighthouse authorities be funded out of imperial taxation. Nothing has changed in 110 years.
I do not know many, if any, organisations that could have cut their costs and increased efficiency in the way that the lighthouse authorities have. There have been massive cuts in personnel, huge advances in technology, and that is the way forward. If technology moves forward and becomes affordable, I have no doubt that there will be further reductions in light dues. For the present, however, I see no useful purpose in pressing these amendments. I am pleased to note that the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, has said that they are probing amendments.
My Lords, this has been a useful debate—I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, believes that to be the case—and I thank all noble Lords for their contributions. This is a probing amendment and I accept that in my response. I understand the noble Lord’s purpose, because he has proposed for some time that the general lighthouse authorities that serve the coast of the United Kingdom and Ireland should be merged into one body. Indeed, mention was made by the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Oldham, of the Bill that the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, has presented to the House. I also thank the noble Lord, Lord MacKenzie of Culkein, for his contribution that shows that a lot of progress is being made in this area. It is an opportunity for the use of technology that the authorities have taken advantage of. I also thank the noble Lord, Lord Greenway, for his involvement with those bodies, particularly Trinity House. I hope that my noble friend Lord Newton of Braintree will accept that these are probing amendments. I respond in that spirit.
I should explain to noble Lords that the Commissioners of Irish Lights has functions in relation to Northern Ireland and to the Republic of Ireland. Moreover, it is a body established in Dublin under Irish law. In case people fantasise about people earning enormous salaries, no staff member earns €1 million in the employment of that body. It is not for the UK Parliament to purport to abolish or otherwise this body or its functions in relation to the Republic of Ireland.
A recent independent study by the consultants Atkins, to which reference has been made—it was a comprehensive review—addressed the provision of marine aids to navigation and concluded that the present arrangements, whilst complex, achieve the basic objective of ensuring the safety of the mariner and provide high-quality, comprehensive and integrated maritime aids to navigation all around the British Isles. Notably, Atkins recommended some changes to the governance of the general lighthouse authorities through the creation of a joint strategic board. Since last year, with the Shipping Minister’s endorsement, the joint strategic board has worked closely with the Department for Transport and the three general lighthouse authorities to identify further efficiency measures to drive down running costs.
The general lighthouse authorities are no strangers to minimising their costs, as the noble Lord, Lord MacKenzie, said, by adopting new technology, estate rationalisation, joint operational initiatives and the generation of income from their commercial activities. These organisations have ensured that the level of light dues that pay for their work is 40 per cent lower in real terms than in 1993. Indeed, Atkins concluded that the general lighthouse authorities have a strong track record in identifying and realising efficiencies and cost reductions within their operation and support functions. These directly benefit ship owners through reduced burdens on the general lighthouse fund and the real-terms level of light dues.
I know that the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, has pursued this issue with terrier-like commitment, but I hope that I have been able to provide some clarity on the recent progress that we have made in this area of policy.
I am afraid that I am not in a position to answer the question on the Freedom of Information Act and its application to the various authorities, but I shall try to do so and will write to the noble Lord with that information. With that in mind, and in view of the general lighthouse authorities’ excellent reputation for delivery, I hope that the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw his amendment.
I am very grateful to the noble Lord. Before I withdraw the amendment, perhaps I may invite him to comment on Amendments 139A and 165A. In the light of the statement that the noble Lord made on the previous occasion that we debated this matter, it is not clear to me whether Trinity House and the Northern Lighthouse Board are meant to remain in Schedule 7 or whether they will be among those that are to be removed. My amendments would remove these two authorities from Schedule 7 to avoid them being changed; the Government have included them in Schedule 7 but they may want that schedule to be removed. My original question was: if the Government want them in Schedule 7, what are they going to do with them when they are in that schedule? Therefore, in theory, the noble Lord should accept my Amendments 139A and 165A on the basis that there will be no change for these two organisations.
I thank the noble Lord for his ingenuity in this respect. He should know that I have added my name to those opposing the question that Schedule 7 stand part of the Bill. Therefore, Schedule 7 will not apply to the Bill, and the noble Lord can rest at east that there will be no way in which these bodies will be included in that schedule.
Amendment 60A withdrawn.
Amendment 61 not moved.
62: Schedule 1, page 17, line 25, leave out “Victims’ Advisory Panel.”
I have played a very limited part in this Bill so far, so I hope that the Committee will forgive me if I do not get the spirit of it straightaway. I have been involved in other matters that have taken up quite a large amount of the House’s time.
I make it clear at the start that this is a probing amendment. However, that does not imply that we on this side are satisfied with the way in which Her Majesty’s Government are supporting victims of crime. It has often been said in this House, in particular, that for years victims were the forgotten people of the British criminal justice system. Sometimes they were not listened to; sometimes they were not consulted; and quite often they were not given the information that they were entitled to know. To sum that up, they were not treated as seriously as they should have been. However, I believe that there has been something of a revolution during the past 15 years or so, largely down to some fantastic victims’ organisations that have grown in strength over that period, becoming effective and powerful players, but also because of the work and extra resources that the previous Government—the Labour Government—put in to this part of the criminal justice system. In the past, the Minister, the noble Lord, Lord McNally, has been graceful enough to acknowledge that resources and effort were put in by the previous Administration.
As I understand it, victims’ panels, with which the amendment is concerned, have worked well and, importantly, they have been able to give victims direct access to government in its widest sense but to Ministers, too, and of course vice versa. However, we are told that the Victims’ Advisory Panel is to go. Some suggest that it may have gone already and I would like the Minister to comment on that.
Of course, we support the establishment of the first Victims’ Commissioner. It would be rather surprising if we did not because we appointed her in March 2010. There is no doubt that Louise Casey is held in the highest possible regard by all sides of this House and outside this House, too. Does it follow that that appointment, crucial as no doubt it was, has to spell the end of the Victims’ Advisory Panel? If the answer is yes, why does it have to end and why do victims’ panels have to go? What will take the place of those direct meetings between victims and those who run the criminal justice system, even going up as high as Ministers of the Crown? We would argue that it is crucial that, if the Government are really to understand what victims have to go through—what it is like to be a victim of crime—more sensible meetings should be encouraged.
I hope that the Minister can satisfy the Committee on this matter. We would very much welcome his and the Government’s views on the way they see the future in terms of victims and the support given to them. We are not overly encouraged by moves that the Government have already made in this area. Is it right that the large-scale surveys—I believe that they were known by the name “WAVES”—have already been abolished? As I understand it, those surveys provided, or were capable of providing, very useful information indeed for government about victims. If they have been abolished, why? Is it the Government’s intention to abolish the British Crime Survey? We know, or we have heard, that the victimisation module in that survey has already, effectively, gone. What are the Government’s intentions towards the British Crime Survey? The answers to this and other questions are of great significance, well outside the purview of this Committee. The general public are entitled to know what this Government’s policy is in regard to victims generally. I beg to move.
My Lords, I am grateful for the questions asked by the noble Lord, Lord Bach, about the Victims’ Advisory Panel. Let us be quite clear: the Victims’ Advisory Panel is not a body that gives help to victims. It does what it says on the tin: it is an advisory panel. It was established in 2003 and is a statutory, advisory, non-departmental public body, established to enable victims of crime to have their say in the reform of the criminal justice system. This is not a cost-driven proposal, although the abolition of the panel will save up to £50,000 a year.
The point made by the noble Lord, Lord Bach, is valid: that the appointment of the Victims’ Commissioner, Louise Casey, has changed the priorities and many of the things that the Victims’ Advisory Panel aimed to do have now been overtaken by the Victims’ Commissioner. Since her appointment, the Victims’ Commissioner and her team have regularly met victims in the course of their work; they have met more than 300 groups and individuals since May 2010. The Victims’ Commissioner has organised workshops and focus groups with victims of crime, organisations that represent victims and their families and organisations that provide services to victims. She and her team have also held specialist meetings with young people who have been affected by crime and carried out in-depth telephone interviews with members of the public.
It is not true that the Government have turned their back on victims of crime—quite the opposite. We have looked at a relatively small body with a relatively limited remit and taken the opportunity to remove it while also taking on board the opportunity to use the Victims’ Commissioner and her work much more extensively. The proposed abolition will in no way limit the opportunity for victims to articulate their opinions. The existence of the Victims’ Commissioner is a more effective and flexible means to ensure that victims’ views are independently represented to government. The Government’s intention to abolish the panel is in no way a reflection on the efforts of its members or the important recommendations that it has made to improve victim and witness services.
One of my weaknesses as a politician is that I am never expert on the specific pledges made in election manifestos. The last one that I remember in detail is one that I helped to write, but I will not mention which one and for which party. When the coalition took office, we took a general view. I will not produce groans from the party opposite, but in the light of the financial situation that we inherited—
Absolutely on cue. That was the situation. I am not claiming that the £50,000 being saved by abolishing the panel will right the public finances. What is more important is that the coming into being of the Victims’ Commissioner, a creation of the previous Government, has overtaken the work of this relatively small body. I do not think that it is possible to put the interpretation on it that the noble Lord, Lord Bach, did, because the Victims’ Commissioner has in the past year been carrying out an extensive consultation with the public and victims, which will feed in very much in the way that the work of the panel has. As I said, I strongly doubt whether in either manifesto there was a commitment to this body one way or the other.
I will not say anything about the noble Lord and his dedication to reading election manifestos in detail, but it is often said that the only people who read election manifestos in great detail are the opponents of the parties that write them. I am absolutely willing to accept that.
The proposed abolition of the panel is based on the understanding that the Ministry of Justice will, through the commissioner and as a matter of course, continue to consult victims’ groups and engage with a vast range of criminal justice system agencies and voluntary and community sector groups on matters related to the views of victims.
On the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Bach, there is a large number of groups doing very good jobs on this, so it is over-egging the pudding a little to say that closing this relatively small group with a very short lifespan, which has been overtaken by the work of the Victims’ Commissioner, is going to damage victim support in the way that was suggested. Indeed, the victim sector contains many organisations set up by victims themselves that focus on specific issues such as homicide and sexual violence. The commissioner provides a valuable function in helping the Government to engage with this sector by ensuring that future policy is informed by the views of an appropriately broad and diverse range of individuals and groups. The commissioner has been meeting victims, and these representative groups across the country tell her their own experience of what has been happening. She is currently consulting on a range of issues, including the treatment of young victims and witnesses in cases that involve adult defendants and provision for the bereaved. Additionally, the Ministry of Justice has invited the commissioner to consult widely on and to participate in two of the department’s priority strands of work: the development of a more transparent sentencing framework and victims’ views relating to the rehabilitation of offenders and ways in which the victim might contribute to reducing offending.
The Ministry of Justice will continue to consult and meet victims and victims’ groups. We have just commissioned a full review of the services and support offered to victims of crime. Officials have commenced, as part of the review, a series of workshops with victims’ representatives to consult them on future strategy. These workshops have been attended by the Minister with responsibility for victims’ issues, the honourable Member for Reigate, Mr Crispin Blunt.
The proposal to abolish the Victims’ Advisory Panel should not be taken to indicate any wavering in the coalition Government’s support for victims of crime. Although the panel was set up to offer advice to the Secretary of State for Justice on matters relating to victims, it has never provided any form of victim support. The Government remain committed to ensuring that appropriate support is available for the most serious, vulnerable and persistently targeted victims of crime and to ensuring that the concerns of victims of crime are heard. I hope that I have reassured the noble Lord, Lord Bach.
On the specific question about WAVES, I will have to write to the noble Lord. I will investigate what has happened. On the crime survey, I have not been briefed that there is any threat to it, but I will inquire and write. I say to the noble Lord that I can understand why and, as I have said, I do not disagree that the previous Administration gave priority to the victims of crime. Building partly on their bringing in the Victims’ Commissioner, the removal of the Victims’ Advisory Panel is not the threat to victim support that he might have suggested in moving this amendment, which I hope he will withdraw.
Before the noble Lord, Lord Bach, withdraws his amendment, I shall express my frustration that the amendment on the Valuation Tribunal Service was not moved, because I anticipated that it would give me my first, and possibly my last, opportunity to be fully supportive of the Government in the course of these proceedings. I take this amendment as a similar opportunity. First, I express my sympathy to the noble Lord, Lord McNally, on his inability to remember the detail of everybody’s election manifesto. Secondly, I say to the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, that I take his observation to mean that there was no reference at all to the Victims’ Advisory Panel in the two manifestos, from which it appears to me to follow that there was no commitment to keep it regardless of changes in circumstances. Thirdly, the noble Lord, Lord Bach, made some perfectly good points, but they did not have much to do with the question of whether there was a need to keep this body. Fourthly, I thought that my noble friend made an overwhelming case in saying that there is no need for this panel now that we have the Victims’ Commissioner. The commissioner can take advice from whomever she wishes, so I support the Government.
I thank all those who have spoken in this debate. The Minister has clearly persuaded at least one member of the governing coalition of the wisdom of his words, and I congratulate him on that. I thank him warmly for his full answer to this amendment and for dealing with the other questions that I asked. I look forward to his letter. I thank my noble friend Lord Clinton-Davis, too, for asking a very pertinent question. Like all good cross-examiners, he knew the answer to his question before he asked it.
Victims are a serious and substantial issue and I make no apology for talking about them in more general terms when I introduced my short amendment. I cannot say that I am totally satisfied with the Minister’s answer because I do not believe that the Victims’ Commissioner, a post that we set up and that the present Government very much support, was necessarily meant to be at the expense of the advisory panel, which is due to be abolished. There seems to be no reason why the two should not work hand in hand. Maybe there would not be as many advisory panels as there were before the commissioner was appointed, but the direct contact that there was between Ministers and victims of crime under the advisory panel system should be encouraged; it was of considerable use and advantage to Ministers.
My noble and learned friend Lady Scotland, who is in her place today, reminds me that she used to chair one of the panels. She says that she got a great deal of information and knowledge from it that might not be so available to Ministers in the future. This is meant as no criticism of the Victims’ Commissioner, who is an outstanding public servant, as the Committee knows well. I just ask the Government to think again about whether they should get rid of the concept of this advisory panel altogether. They should ask themselves whether the panel did not add something to the very difficult relationship between victims of crime and government.
On the point about the thinking behind this, I note that a year before the Victims’ Commissioner took up her post the then Minister wrote to all the members of the advisory panel, whose terms were all coming to an end, asking them to stay on for an extra year until the commissioner was appointed. The panel members agreed to work on until May 2010, which suggests that even the previous Administration might have thought that the arrival of the Victims’ Commissioner would call into question the future of the panel. That relates to the question that the noble Lord, Lord Bach, asked me earlier about whether the panel had already been abolished. There was this hiatus because the previous Administration had not appointed a new panel. I suspect that it was thought somewhere that there would be an overlap between the Victims’ Commissioner and the work of the advisory panel.
The Committee will be grateful to the Minister for mentioning that point, but it does not take away from the fact that the previous Government were not committed to scrapping the Victims’ Advisory Panel. At the time, it would have been quite understandable for a Minister, knowing that an election was due and that whoever became the Victims’ Commissioner would want to look at the position once he or she had taken their place, just to write that letter. Is it really the main, or an important, motivating force of the Government that it is worth saving £50,000 or whatever per year and that the good work done by the Victims’ Advisory Panel should be put on one side? There is a case for saying that the Victims’ Advisory Panel should continue in some form—perhaps a modified form. However, I am grateful to the Minister for his response. We will consider carefully whether we will bring this back again on Report. For the moment, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 62 withdrawn.
63: Schedule 1, page 17, line 26, leave out “Youth Justice Board for England and Wales.”
My Lords, it is appropriate that we move from discussing victims to discussing the Youth Justice Board for England and Wales because many of the victims of young offenders are themselves young people. I am moving this amendment in my name and that of the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, because I am deeply concerned about the Government’s decision to abolish the YJB, particularly regarding the inconsistency of that decision with the content of their own, perhaps I may say, rather creative White Paper, Breaking the Cycle, with its emphasis on prevention and rehabilitation.
First, I declare an interest as the first chairman of the board between 1999 and 2003 when I left to become a Health Minister, which I suppose is a logical kind of progression. I was very involved in developing the policy on the youth justice reforms, of which the board was a part. In deciding to abolish the YJB, the Government have shown very poor understanding of the history of unsatisfactory youth justice policies that led to the reforms.
Putting responsibility for youth justice back into a government department with many other responsibilities would simply repeat the mistakes of the past—dare I say, especially post-1979. It was the failure of the Home Office to work with other agencies and to deal with the special needs of children who offend that led to the establishment of the board after the highly critical 1996 report by the Audit Commission entitled Misspent Youth. Given that the Government think that the board’s job is done, which I find surprising, does the Minister really believe that young people will stop offending because the Ministry of Justice is in the driving seat? We should stop pretending that the board’s work is complete, for reasons that I will outline.
The history of youth justice is one of fantasy and error. The fantasy is that young people will grow out of offending, so we do not need to do too much. For some young people that may well be true, but for many the culture of offending that surrounds their daily lives is deeply established, difficult to resist and requires specialised interventions that are bespoke to young people. The error is to avoid the uncomfortable fact that many of the agencies involved with young people who have offended have no history of working together to tackle these complex issues and are reluctant to commit resources to this area without much prodding.
The purpose of the YJB was to oversee the work of the multi-agency youth offending teams and to keep on the case of their participating agencies, as well as to produce research and new ideas of what works best with young offenders. That work continues to need the attention of a national body which is independent of government and composed of members and staff with expertise in dealing with young offenders. This expertise has taken a decade to build up. Now the Government want to throw away all the hard work that has been done because of some misguided idea that they can save a bit of money and get the board’s work done by a few civil servants and, perhaps I may say, a motley crew of transient Ministers—that goes across the political spectrum—both of which are groups with no lasting investment in the work of youth justice. This is a costly error of significant proportions both for young people and the communities affected by their offending behaviour. The Government will find this out in a few years’ time as youth crime figures rise and more young offenders are banged up in costly, overcrowded establishments with fewer and fewer proper educational or behavioural change programmes.
Not everything that the YJB has done has been perfect; mistakes have been made. The reduction in research expenditure, for example, was a mistake. But the board’s overall achievements are considerable. Over the past 10 years, there has been a 30 per cent reduction in the number of young people brought into the youth justice system, from 90,000 to 60,000 young people. This policy of diversion, started in my time, has gathered pace since then, but it takes investment in and commitment to preventive programmes and independent board leadership to do this in a criminal justice system that is all too often preoccupied with short-term considerations. Stopping young offenders reoffending is one of the hardest things to do in criminal justice, but the latest figures show that between 2000 and 2008, the volume of reoffending by young people dropped by 25 per cent. At the end of 2008, the number of young people held in custody was under 2,000 compared with around 3,000 when the YJB was set up. It was the board that introduced more intensive supervision in the community to give the courts an alternative to custody. It is these reforms and improvements that the Government are now choosing to put in jeopardy with their ill-considered abolition of the board.
It is not just me banging on about something I helped to establish; independent reviews have said much the same thing. In 2004, the Audit Commission’s review of the reformed youth justice system said:
“The new structure works well. The YJB sets a clear national framework with minimum standards and takes a lead role in monitoring progress and developing policy”.
Dame Sue Street, a former Permanent Secretary in her government-commissioned 2010 review of the YJB concluded that:
“Overall, the YJB earns its place as a crucial part of a system which aims to tackle one of the most serious social policy issues in the country”.
Another government patsy, the National Audit Office, in a report published in 2010 said:
“The board has been an effective leader of efforts to create and maintain a national youth justice system with a risk-based approach, and in recent years key youth crime indicators have been falling substantially”.
The Public Accounts Committee endorsed the NAO report and the central role of the YJB in its report published less than a month ago. The PAC went on to say in that report:
“The planned abolition of the Youth Justice Board has arisen from a policy decision and not as a result of any assessment of the board’s performance. The Board has developed and maintained a distinctive focus on youth in the justice system and has contributed to positive outcomes in recent years. There is a risk that some of the factors that made the Board successful will be lost in the transition”.
It is not a risk, but a racing certainty that absorbing the YJB’s functions into the Ministry of Justice will be a major setback for an effective youth justice system and will have to be reversed in the future.
When the youth justice reforms were designed in 1996 and 1997, we gave careful thought to and took expert advice on the issue of putting the YJB’s functions in the Home Office. We decided that innovation, monitoring and encouraging local performance, tackling bad performance, reducing custody, increasing prevention and leading change would not be advanced by placing the functions in a government department. I would suggest that most objective observers would say pretty much the same thing today. Even as we consider this Bill, my intelligence is that a bureaucratic struggle is going on in the Ministry of Justice about who gets these functions, thereby reducing job losses in the successful part of the MoJ that wins the struggle. Despite its chequered career, which compares unfavourably with the YJB, the National Offender Management Service seems to be the front runner to absorb the work of the board. Can the Minister give a categoric assurance that under no circumstances will any of the YJB’s functions be transferred to NOMS or the Prison Service?
Before I close, perhaps I may be permitted to detain the House briefly with an anecdote from my time as YJB chairman which illustrates my concerns. We discovered that the Prison Service was in breach of its contract for providing education by keeping youngsters in their cells and not sending them to education classes. After repeated warnings and threatened sanctions, nothing changed, so I authorised the withholding of a monthly payment to the Prison Service. This captured the attention of top management and led to a major row, played out in front of the then Home Secretary. Eventually, the Prison Service got its money, but only after a significant improvement in performance. Frankly, I cannot see the MoJ’s civil servants deploying challenge mechanisms of that kind to underperforming large-service providers, but perhaps the Minister will tell us that a series of Rottweilers is now staffing the MoJ.
I close by giving the Minister some youth justice advice from an old hand. It is not unusual for people of previous spotless character to fall into bad company. They suddenly find themselves in a successful gang after being ignored by everyone for years. “What is wrong with a bit of vandalism?”. But it is never too late to change, and to go in for an intensive course of restorative justice and see things from the victim’s point of view. I am prepared to set the Minister up with an intensive programme of rehabilitation before Report in the hope of returning him to the straight and narrow. We might even be able to find a compromise between absorption into the Ministry of Justice and staying as an NDPB by using the model of an arm’s-length executive agency with independent non-executive directors. When I was working in the YJB, we never gave up on anyone, even Ministers. I beg to move.
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, and the noble Lord, Lord McNally, for the time, care and attention that they have devoted to meeting and briefing those of us who are involved on this Bill, particularly on this contentious issue.
In 1809, elements of my regiment, the Rifle Brigade, were greeted by those whom they were relieving during the mismanaged and ill-fated expedition to the island of Walcheren with the words, “Good luck, boys. You, too, are being made the sport of theory”. These came to mind as, incredulously, I read in the briefing paper on the abolition of the Youth Justice Board the statement:
“The Government believes that independent oversight of the youth justice system is no longer required”.
With that coming on top of the impact statement for the Public Bodies Bill’s stating that the Bill will have no impact on either the criminal justice system or human rights, I can only conclude from the proposed abolition of the one body responsible for overseeing youth justice within the system and the oversight of the human rights of young people involved with it that, as in 1809, theory has been allowed to subsume common sense.
The Youth Justice Board has been publicly recognised by Ministers as having played a critical role in transforming the delivery of youth justice, creating a safer, more distinct secure estate, reducing offending and reoffending by young people, and overseeing the successful establishment of youth offending teams, of which the Minister, Crispin Blunt, has said:
“The multi-agency YOT approach to justice that is embedded in local communities and heavily focused on rehabilitating offenders is the right way forward. One of my aims in my job is to adapt the adult system on the lessons from the youth system”.
If it has achieved, and is achieving, so much, why remove it? The secret of its success is that one organisation has provided continuous and focused oversight of a very particular part of the criminal justice system. Abolish it, and you risk all that has been achieved, and could be achieved in the future, by maintaining the momentum of progress.
In his letter dated 3 March to those of us interested in this amendment, the noble Lord, Lord McNally, said:
“The government is committed to maintaining a dedicated focus on the needs of children and young people in the youth justice system”.
The letter also states:
“We are not seeking to revert the system to that which operated in the 1990s”,
“Our current proposal, subject to the outcome of the Rehabilitation Revolution consultation … is that the main functions of the Youth Justice Board should be delivered within the Ministry of Justice’s Policy Group”.
But the Minister is proposing precisely the system that operated and failed in the 1990s.
I first became aware that all was not well with the administration of youth justice in the first week of my appointment as Chief Inspector of Prisons in December 1995, when I was alerted to the appalling treatment of and conditions for young offenders, particularly those under the age of 18 held in Prison Service custody. At that time the Social Services Inspectorate was responsible for inspecting all facilities for children in this country under the age of 18, except for those in the hands of the Prison Service, which claimed Crown immunity from the provisions of the Children Act 1989. This was something that I immediately campaigned to have changed and eventually happened following court action by the Howard League, but that is another story.
I therefore invited a social services inspector to come with me on my first inspection of a young offender institution at Onley—a split site, which holds both those between 15 and 18 and 18 to 21 in separate accommodation—to assess the conditions for and treatment of children who were held there. She told me that if it had been a social service or local authority children’s custody centre it would have been closed because of the lack of acceptable facilities or a suitable regime for children.
I then found that, as I had feared and as remains the case today, no one in the Prison Service was operationally responsible and accountable for children in prison and, therefore, there was no one whom Ministers could task with making the necessary improvements or chase when these did not materialise. For some inexplicable reason, the Home Office and the Prison Service believed that the young offender estate could be directed and overseen by bureaucratic diktat from people in policy branches. The results that I saw on the ground, over and over again, confirmed by experts, proved how wrong they were. On what evidence does the Minister think that substituting the Ministry of Justice for the Home Office will make it right now?
Against this backdrop, I well remember the collective sigh of relief among all those involved with youth justice when the Youth Justice Board was first introduced because they could now work face to face with someone responsible and accountable, who could come round and see for him or herself what they were doing on the ground, rather than impersonally with faceless bureaucrats behind desks in Whitehall ministries. I was naive enough to hope that making someone responsible and accountable for, amongst other things, the treatment of and conditions for children in prison, would be followed by similar appointments for other groups of prisoners. Because we were responsible for monitoring and hopefully influencing the treatment and conditions of children in custody, my inspectorate worked very closely with the YJB from the outset, passing on all our observations and recommendations as soon as possible, and very soon we began to see improvement because the YJB was able to override deficiencies in Prison Service management by requiring it to satisfy conditions and treatment criteria laid down in contracts.
The Minister will be familiar with the Crime and Disorder Act 1998—Chapter 37 of 1998—which established the Youth Justice Board. I will quote only from Clause 41(5)(f), which states that, among other functions, the board’s functions shall be,
“to identify, to make known and to promote good practice in the following matters— … the operation of the youth justice system and the provision of youth justice services; … the prevention of offending by children and young persons; and … working with children and young persons who are or are at risk of becoming offenders”.
How successful has it been? In addition to what Ministers have said, the Public Accounts Committee, to which the noble Lord, Lord Warner referred, said in its report:
“The Board has been an effective leader of efforts to create and maintain a national youth justice system, with a risk-based approach, and in recent years key youth crime indicators have been falling substantially”.
Like the Public Accounts Committee, I do not pretend that the YJB as currently constituted is perfect; improvements could and should be made both to its place and role in the criminal justice system hierarchy and the scope and methods of its activities. However, those can be rectified through the traditional review process. They do not justify the abolition of something that has proved itself to be a sensible agent of progress. The ideological reasons behind its abolition have been hinted at already by the noble Lord, Lord Warner.
My reason for pointing this out is that there appears to be an inherent contradiction between what is proposed in the Bill and what is in the Ministry of Justice Green Paper, Breaking the Cycle, from which I quote two statements. First,
“A ‘Whitehall knows best’ approach has stifled innovation both at national and local level”.
“A top-down approach has concentrated on process instead of results. Prisons and probation services were assessed on the basis of hitting multiple targets and whether they had complied with detailed central requirements. There was insufficient focus on whether they were delivering the right result for the public and communities”.
The Cabinet Office appears to be saying in the Bill that, yes, trying to run operational functions top-down from Whitehall clearly does not work and the practice is condemned. Yet although the alternative—appointing a named person to be responsible and accountable for independent oversight of operational functions—is successful where Whitehall has failed, it is no longer required because its laid-down role conflicts with the government policy, as confirmed in the letter from the noble Lord, Lord McNally, from which I have already quoted, which states:
“The YJB has primarily an oversight and a commissioning role, and it is this role that we propose to continue in the Ministry of Justice”.
Change is the name of the game. The rehabilitation revolution has been publicised as a “once in a generation” opportunity for change, ignoring the fact that it is only seven years since the last “once in a generation” change with the introduction of NOMS. It seems the Cabinet Office must make the only change possible, namely reverting to the “Whitehall knows best”, top-down approach that it has condemned, pretending—because it says so in its impact statement—that reintroducing failure will have no impact on the criminal justice system.
I thought that the Alice in Wonderland nature of all this had been exhausted until I read some words of the Minister for Prisons, Crispin Blunt, published on 14 January. He said:
“With Ministers making themselves more accountable, independent oversight of the youth justice system is no longer required, and the Ministry of Justice is able to lead an effective system going forward, building on the improvements that have already been made”.
What on earth does he mean by “more accountable”? Ministers have always been responsible and accountable for the YJB, as the chairman of the YJB has been to them. Is Blunt implying that it needs to be in the Ministry of Justice because accountability will be easier to exercise in the same building, or is he frightened by any suspicion of independent oversight? It is unfortunate that, in the recent past, there has been a lack of clarity about whether it was the Secretary of State for Justice and the Prisons Minister or the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families and the Children’s Minister who were ultimately accountable for the YJB, but that is a matter for Ministers, not the YJB, to resolve. It is important that the YJB chairman should know precisely to whom he or she is accountable. Lest Ministers think that I am a lone voice in all this, let me again quote from the Public Accounts Committee report, which I read only after I had prepared my remarks to the Committee:
“The abolition of the Board raises a question about how a national focus on reducing offending by young people and reducing the use of custody will be maintained”.
On previous occasions in this House, I have wished that the clocks should now show the letters “PANT”—for “People Are Not Things”—instead of “0:23”; Ministers responsible and accountable for the conditions for and treatment of young people in contact with the criminal justice system must surely realise that, because so many of them are damaged and vulnerable, they need care that is positive and personal, transparent and consistent, provided and led by people. An impersonal, commissioned approach to that task, conducted by bureaucrats in policy departments, is neither practical nor sensible, as has been proved. I hope that, faced with that reality, Ministers will not be tempted to think of delegating oversight within the Ministry of Justice to the National Offender Management Service. NOMS would be a wholly unsuitable organisation because, first, it is not a service; secondly, it is all about adults; thirdly, within it, the Prison Service has already gobbled up the Probation Service; and, fourthly, its management structure is about commissioning and not oversight.
I will not mince words. On the basis of what I have seen, I regard the flagrant abolition of a personal system, responsible and accountable for the care of vulnerable and impressionable young people, reverting to a failed impersonal one, as nothing other than thoroughly irresponsible. The Government have had the courage and good sense to listen to reason about other parts of this Bill. I appeal to the Minister to adopt the same approach to the proposed abolition of the Youth Justice Board.
I support many of the coalition Government’s initiatives on criminal justice, which makes it absolutely surprising to me that, among all the good initiatives, they should go in for the idea of abolishing the Youth Justice Board. I strongly support the noble Lords who have spoken to the amendment.
It seems extraordinary to me that a government department, the Ministry of Justice, which has a huge remit and numerous issues that it needs to resolve, would want to take in-house dealing with youth justice. If it chooses to do that, there will be an inevitable loss of expertise and specialisation in relation to child and youth offenders, who are, as the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, said, wholly different from adults and need to be looked after separately.
There is a huge importance in continuing the good work of reducing reoffending—and there has been a substantial reduction in reoffending—but it needs to go much further. To achieve this, we need a separate body from government to monitor and support that important initiative of reducing reoffending. Could the Government think again and consider that if it works, why break it?
My Lords, I am delighted to speak to this amendment in the names of the noble Lords, Lord Warner and Lord Ramsbotham. During my time on the Front Bench for the Liberal Democrats, I have been a firm advocate of the work of the Youth Justice Board. Even now, I continue to be so, despite the fact that it may affect my promotional prospects in the coalition Government. I would go even further. Despite my criticism of the plethora of criminal justice legislation in the life of the previous Government, I have held out YJB as a success. Credit must be given to the noble Lord, Lord Warner, followed by Professor Rod Morgan and now Frances Done. Each of these individuals, as chair of the Youth Justice Board, has provided sound leadership and positive outcomes. Their contribution to the work of the YJB should be recognised and applauded.
My interest has not been limited to the YJB; in fact, the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, will recollect that he advocated a debate on a women’s justice board, and I was delighted to support him in that initiative. It is hardly appropriate for me to opt out of my support for the Youth Justice Board.
I am delighted that my noble friend Lord McNally has written to noble Lords in advance of this debate. I thank him for that, as it helps to clarify the Government’s stance on this matter. I commend my noble friend for maintaining a dedicated focus on the needs of children and young people—precisely the objective of the Youth Justice Board. I am delighted that he intends to retain the youth offending teams which deliver youth justice on the ground—precisely the objective of the Youth Justice Board—and that those are not going to be abolished. Again, that is very much a sound judgment.
I am also assured that the department does not intend to dilute in any way the commissioning of a secure estate that is driven by the needs of young people and that the YJB’s oversight and commissioning role will be preserved. As the noble and learned Baroness has just mentioned, the question therefore arises: why mend the system if it is not broken? Would it not be better to retain the YJB and to amend those aspects of its role that the coalition Government want to change, in line with their commitment to localism?
The YJB has a positive story to tell. It has diverted young people from the criminal justice process, which is remarkable when we think that 74 to 75 per cent of young people offend within two years of leaving a penal institution in this country. It has also helped to reduce the reoffending rate, the effect of which can be seen in the reduced numbers in our penal institutions. I suspect that its success depends, to a great extent, on the fact that it is an arm’s-length body. That factor may be compromised if the main functions are to be delivered within the Ministry of Justice policy group.
I suggest to my noble friend the Minister that the best way to proceed is perhaps to allow the YJB to continue its present functions but at the same time to introduce pilot schemes in some areas, to see which of the two systems is better able to meet the needs of young offenders. Perhaps my noble friend could look at this suggestion and come back on Report so that we can be satisfied on the most appropriate way to tackle this problem. It is right that we devise a system that is effective. Public confidence will be shaped by the quality of the service that we provide rather than by looking at a simple argument of reducing the resources.
My Lords, I support the amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Warner, and supported by my noble friend Lord Ramsbotham. It troubles me that something that has proved to be so valuable is being done away with. Look at the numbers of young people under 18 held in custody at any one time, which have reduced significantly. Whereas in December 2000 there were 2,704 young people in custody, in December 2010 there were 1,918. The bulk of the reduction in the numbers of young people in custody has taken place over the past two years; at their peak, custody numbers were as high as 3,200. There has been a significant reduction in the numbers of young people in custody while the Youth Justice Board has been at work, saving the taxpayer the huge sums of money needed to keep those young people there.
I am grateful to the Government for the briefings that they have allowed us to have on this area. I am deeply grateful for the commitment that the Government have shown to vulnerable young people, starting with the work done by the right honourable Iain Duncan Smith. I also admire very much the work of Tim Loughton MP in his area as Minister for Children, so I am puzzled by this proposal. As vice-chair of the all-party parliamentary group for children and young people in care and leaving care, I am well aware that 50 per cent of the girls and 25 per cent of the boys and young men in custody have come out of the care system. Very many of those young people have come from deeply damaging backgrounds. They are often troubled and need a system that is child-centred and attends to their needs. It is still far from that, but there has been much good progress.
On Friday, I visited Wetherby young offender institution, particularly to see its Keppel unit, which caters for the neediest young people in YOIs. Most children in the criminal justice system are kept in young offender institutions. What I saw there was that being recruited to work with these young people were officers who particularly wanted to work with children. Generally, officers come from the adult system to work with young people in custody, so they have no particular interest when they get trained up to do this work—they have no vocation to work with children—yet they work with these children, who are often deeply vulnerable, in the secure estate.
What I found at the Keppel unit particularly was a positive ratio of young people to prison officers. Within the system, there is always supposed to be a designated personal officer for the young people. The idea behind that is that many of these young people have never experienced what it is to have a relationship with an interested elder man. Many of them have not had fathers or any stable familial experience. It is tremendously important to them and to their rehabilitation that they have something of that kind. Unusually at the Keppel unit, the ratio with prison officers is something in the region of 2:10, so each young man has a personal officer and two support officers. Sitting down with them and speaking to them, I heard—and this has not been my experience of other young offender institutions—of the very positive experience that they had with their prison officers.
Another issue that comes up again and again when visiting these secure units is the cliff-edge that young people experience when they leave the secure estate. No matter what good work takes place while they are in custody, they move out into the community, they are lost, they do not get the support that they need to get back into education and they do not get the right accommodation. This has been vigorously addressed by the Youth Justice Board. Frances Done, its chair, has been building consortia of local authorities. That has brought chief executives and chairs of local authorities into the secure estate and highlighted to them their responsibility to look after these children once they leave. I pay tribute to the work of my noble friend Lord Ramsbotham in ensuring that local authorities recognise their responsibilities, particularly to looked-after young people. He referred to the Munby judgment in this area.
The Youth Justice Board has also overseen the introduction of advocacy services for young people in the secure estate. This has been a very positive step forward. Advocates can go and speak to young people about their needs—for instance, when they move on from the secure estate—and be their voice to ensure that those needs are addressed. Unfortunately, the contract for this expires in, I think, 2013, so without the Youth Justice Board one has to be concerned that there will not be advocates in future. I would appreciate an assurance from the Minister that consideration will be given to looking at the rules in this area so that we can perhaps enshrine advocacy as a right for children in the youth justice system. Many of these children will see their parents very seldom, if they even have parents to visit them, so they need someone to look after their interests.
I am troubled by this proposal from the Government. I am grateful for the care that the ministerial team is taking to reassure us that careful consideration is being given, but I hope that more can be done by the Government to meet the concerns of my noble friend and all the noble Lords who have spoken in this debate.
My Lords, I declare an interest as a member of an advisory group to the Prison Reform Trust, which by sheer coincidence is meeting tomorrow to consider its response to the Green Paper, Breaking the Cycle. I join my noble friend Lord Warner in congratulating the Government—that is perhaps the first time I have done so since joining your Lordships’ House—on a refreshingly open approach to an issue on which I fear that my party did not excel in general when in government. That said, the Youth Justice Board was a commendable feature of that Government’s policy and I entirely endorse what all the speakers today have said about it.
The reality, though, is that this country has a fairly shameful record on youth justice, only partly alleviated by the very good work of the Youth Justice Board. It is true that, thanks in good part to the board, the number of children and young offenders now in custody has diminished over recent years, but it very much needed to. Over many years, we had, and I suspect that we still have, a significantly higher number of children and young people in custody than most other countries in the European Union—something like six times more than France and 100 times more than Finland, with a figure in the UK of around 25 per 100,000 in the population.
Looking at the composition of that group of young people, one can perhaps understand the reason for their entering the justice system. Thirty-nine per cent of children in custody have been on the child protection register and/or have been neglected or abused. Forty-eight per cent have been excluded from school. Eleven per cent of children in custody have attempted suicide. Indeed, the latest figure is that one young offender commits suicide every month while in custody. The youth offending team officers report that children who have learning impairments or difficulties more frequently receive custodial sentences than those who do not. Fifty per cent of young offenders are committed to custody for non-violent crimes. There is a real issue over the number of such children. What is perhaps even more striking is the level of educational attainment and the IQs of those in custody. Twenty-three per cent of young offenders in custody have an IQ of less than 70. Another 36 per cent have an IQ of between 70 and 79. We are dealing, on any view, with a significantly disadvantaged part of the population.
The Youth Justice Board has done excellent work, particularly, as the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, mentioned, in co-operating with local authorities in tackling this problem. However, there is little financial advantage to those authorities in so doing. Two councils have been singled out in the documents that I have just read in preparation for tomorrow’s meeting: Leeds and Hull. The latter is still a Liberal Democrat-controlled council. The former was until recently, effectively, a coalition-controlled council; it was a Conservative and Liberal Democrat administration. There is no party-political point to be made here. Both authorities invested considerably in dealing with young offenders. The Prison Reform Trust concludes that they saved the Government millions of pounds but did so at the expense of their own council tax payers and services. There is a role for local government in dealing with this, but it is one that imposes burdens on local authorities, which must be borne in mind as part of a developed approach to dealing with these issues.
The Prison Reform Trust has yet to make its conclusions known or to determine its response to the Green Paper. However, it looks as though it will suggest that the sentencing guidelines that have recently been published should be supported. The guidelines state:
“Before imposing a custodial sentence as a result of re-sentencing following breach”—
many of these young offenders find themselves the subject of custodial sentences following the breach of a previous order—
“a court should be satisfied that the YOT and other local authority services have taken all steps necessary to ensure that the young person has been given appropriate opportunity and support necessary for compliance”.
There are also recommendations for bail legislation. Just as we criminalise young people at an earlier age in this country than anywhere else in Europe, so we remand them in custody at a younger age than anywhere else in Europe. That should be reviewed, too.
The Prison Reform Trust will also make some observations on the assumption, which I hope will turn out not to be correct, that the present proposals for how the functions of the Youth Justice Board could best be delivered by the Ministry of Justice will stand if that remains part of the Government’s policy and if Parliament approves. Two particular concerns are likely to emerge. One is that the responsibilities of the Youth Justice Board for commissioning a secure estate and placing individual young people in custody should be fulfilled by MoJ staff working within the youth justice unit, rather than NOMS. While commissioning and placing in the juvenile secure unit are clearly important parts of this role, they are not well met by current young offender provision. The secure estate team should be separate from those dealing with adult custody so that independent decisions are made that make custody truly appropriate to the needs of vulnerable children. All this suggests the key importance of independence and the ability to work with local partners, particularly local authority services and the local community sector, which has a clear role in helping to resolve the huge problems faced by many of these young people.
Like other noble Lords, I hope that the Government will seriously think again about this matter. I cannot see what is to be gained by translating the functions of the Youth Justice Board into what is effectively a bureaucracy, thereby diminishing its visibility and public accountability and the capacity to work at the appropriate level—that is, locally, in conjunction with other partners—and reducing the independence that ought to be brought to bear on a crucial social issue of this kind. I hope that the Government will think again about this.
My Lords, I cannot resist following the noble Lord, Lord Beecham, as he used the word “bureaucracy”. We are faced with a point of principle comprising the difference between administration and management. Ministers manage and civil servants administer. To bureaucracy—regrettably, perhaps—the process is more important than the outcome, which does not make the bureaucrat a good manager. Ministers are short of time. They would do all the good things to which expert noble Lords around the House have referred if they could and if they had the time and energy to do them. However, if they cannot, to ensure that they get done they need to delegate their management to somebody else.
I am very sympathetic in principle to the idea of being able to collapse functions back into departments but in this case the Government should think very carefully about whether that is an appropriate thing to do. It seems to me from what has been said that the management challenge is considerable and that the possibility of Ministers having sufficient time to guide their administrative colleagues in the department to do the things in the right way is pretty remote. Therefore, we should think carefully before we take the delegated responsibility to manage away from the Youth Justice Board. It is not so much a matter of independence—we tend to use that word rather loosely as regards non-departmental public bodies—but of giving a group of people the responsibility and space to manage complicated matters which, arguably, are better managed outside the department rather than inside it.
My Lords, as is clear, there is widespread concern around this House about the Government's plan for the abolition of the YJB, and indeed more widely among those organisations which work with children in trouble. I add my voice most wholeheartedly to theirs. This concern arises for a variety of reasons. Despite the consultations which have taken place with civil servants, the detail of the practicalities of how any change will actually work once it has been subsumed into the MoJ is a cause for concern, particularly if the quality and scope of what the YJB is doing and achieving are to be sustained. It has developed an extremely important role and expertise in this very specialised field.
From my recent contact with the YJB and the many other agencies that work with children who offend, or are at risk of offending, I know how good and important the YJB’s work has become, particularly in the past few years. I pay tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Warner, for his vision in setting it up in the first place. However, there is considerable anxiety and distrust about what is likely to emerge beyond the immediate future if the YJB is abolished. There is particular concern, which has also been echoed around the Chamber, that elements of the YJB’s work will be taken over by NOMS, which is specifically an adults’, not a children’s, service. Indeed, it is not really a service at all, as the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, rightly said. NOMS inevitably lacks the expertise required for children and is therefore quite inappropriate. I hope that when my noble friend the Minister replies, he can assure us that NOMS will not take over YJB functions.
This is because children who offend are not small adults to be taken over like a series of parcels. Indeed, they are the most vulnerable, disadvantaged, complicated and challenging individuals in our society. They are children who have experienced a “disproportionate experience of loss”—indeed, one in eight has actually experienced the death of a parent or sibling—while 76 per cent have had an absent father and 33 per cent an absent mother. Thirty-nine per cent are on the child protection register, 75 per cent have lived with someone other than a parent at some time, and 40 per cent—I repeat, 40 per cent—have been homeless. The rate of children with special educational needs or who are underachieving is 46 per cent, while 90 per cent of boys who offend have been excluded from school. Finally, around 85 per cent of those in custody have mental health problems.
This is a tragic picture. Those alarming children who we see on street corners, possibly collecting ASBOs, are quite likely to have no real loving home to go to that any of us might recognise. The gang members who carry knives may be doing so because they themselves are in a state of fear from what others may do to them, and the gang is their only family. This is why a specialist body for children in trouble should be maintained, just as in medicine and teaching there is a distinction in provision between children and adults. We have a duty of care to all our children, which is or should be a priority of government and all its agencies and sectors. This should never be more true than when things are going wrong.
In my experience, while troubled children command considerable care and concern in the public mind, children who are in trouble do not. These children tend to have not our sympathy but our censure. I am not arguing for sympathy, but I am arguing for the knowledge, skill and understanding that are vital to how we manage and treat such needy children so that they do not offend or reoffend. Our society should be safer as a result. To do this, we need on the ground not only the multiplicity of agencies that are the bedrock of provision but a body that has the experience, knowledge and understanding to stand at the interface between all the elements of the justice system and give leadership and coherence to the very complex whole. The YJB does exactly that. It works with the complexity of the youth justice system that spreads across three government departments—the MoJ, the Home Office and the DfE—as well as the DH and DCLG, and the range of local agencies, to bring some coherence and leadership to a complex framework for youth justice services.
A review of full searches in the secure estate—one of the YJB’s most recent bits of work—relating to children and young people has just been completed, so what is now a routine practice in many secure establishments but is both traumatic and distressing for many children, especially young adolescents, should be taken forward only on a risk-led basis. Another project on children’s views on safeguarding, carried out in conjunction with the Children’s Commissioner, covers complaints, full searches, helplines and separation, which in “other speak” means the segregation of children. It has just been published and will have implications for the way in which these issues are handled in the secure estate in future. Earlier, as we have heard, the YJB rolled out youth offending teams, which form the underpinning structure on the ground, and youth offender panels, which successfully involve the public in dealing with offenders and promoting restorative justice. It has also successfully developed ISSPs and intensive fostering as alternatives to custody, and much, much more.
The YJB has in the process been on a steep learning curve and has come into its own over the past few years after a difficult start. The national leadership that its work demands cannot, and should not, just be lifted out and carried on by other less experienced bodies. I now quote, as others have done, something that I hope merits repetition. The Public Accounts Committee concluded:
“The abolition of the Board raises a question about how a national focus on reducing offending by young people and reducing the use of custody will be maintained”.
This comment is gently put but needs strong endorsement, for, as we have already heard, our record of incarcerating children is one of the worst in western Europe and a source for condemnation by many. However, in the past two to three years the YJB has helped to make significant inroads into the numbers in custody. They are still far too high but the signs are that the downward curve is steady. Now, pressing issues wait to be addressed, such as the use of restraint in custody—which, shamefully, is now on the increase—and even children sustaining fractures. There is a lot of work to be done.
We sacrifice the role that the YJB now plays at our peril, and the children it serves will suffer. I thank the Minister for his letter and for the attention he is now giving the subject. I sincerely hope that he will listen very carefully to the almost uniform expression of concern that we have heard today. He may also like to consider as a possible alternative, on which there could be some debate, that the YJB could be given the status of an executive agency in parallel to NOMS, which is also an executive agency. It would have its own identity and chief executive and, importantly, a degree of separateness. Of course, as we have heard, it would also ultimately always be answerable to the Minister. This, as its admirable chair Frances Done says, would then give the YJB the ability to get on with the job. That is what it needs and what the children whom it serves need too. I sincerely hope that, by the time this issue comes back at Report, my noble friend will have some words of comfort to give on this very serious suggestion.
I quote, once again, Dame Sue Street’s review of the YJB carried out about 18 months ago. The report says that,
“the YJB earns its place as a crucial part of a system which aims to tackle one of the most serious social policy issues in this country”.
It does not deserve to lose that place.
My Lords, so much that needs answering is building up around my noble friend on the Front Bench like a snow drift that I feel, if I add too much, he will not have his hands free to start digging. Therefore, I propose to make only two points at this stage, although I fear that there will be much more to be said after he has given his answer.
My points arise from the fact that in my party, as in others, there is a convention that when you intend to make a strong stand against your own party, you are honour bound to write to all Ministers and to the Whips. I dutifully wrote to my noble friends on this Front Bench and to the responsible Minister in another place. That responsible Minister, for whom I have a great deal of time, Mr Crispin Blunt, wrote me a letter, which I regret I do not have with me, that contained two points which I clearly remember and which I thought worth mentioning.
The first was that I inferred from it—I think not wrongly—that the principal motives he was giving for this move were the fact that the reoffending rate was stuck at around 75 per cent, which is far too high. It is worth saying that that results from a change in the population in which the reoffending occurs. At least two noble Lords have pointed out a 30 per cent reduction in reoffending and a substantial reduction in the YOI population. That is because the YJB has been faithfully carrying out a policy of which we all approve, and of which my right honourable friend the Secretary of State also approves, which is to keep young people out of custody. Who do you keep out of custody first? The answer is those least likely to immediately offend again. So you have a diminishing number of harder-nosed inmates who are more likely to reoffend, and when they come out they do reoffend. What is surprising is not that the statistic has not gone down, but that, as a result, it has not gone up. That is a mark of success by the YJB.
The second point I draw to your Lordships’ attention is that, in his reply, the honourable Minister, Crispin Blunt, suggested, indeed asked me—I will not say implored as it gives the wrong impression—to get in contact with some youth offender team leaders before I contributed to this debate. I suppose he suggested that in the expectation that my case would be weakened and his would be strengthened by the process. However, the opposite is true. There was one who, I thought a little timidly, did not wish to be committed, even though I said that everything was unattributable, but the others were quite clear in their own minds that this is a serious threat. A number of them thought that it would inevitably result, as your Lordships can clearly see, in a reduction in the quality of service, control and care which these young people receive. They said that the YJB had started off being bureaucratic, but that it had learnt not to be and in the past two years, in particular, it had made great progress in that direction. They said it had been a wonderful gift to them in providing a means of sharing best practice round the country. All these disparate and very complicated teams could work out the best standards to apply and learn from each other regularly. They said that they had succeeded in raising the profile of juvenile offenders when it had been, most unfortunately, too low before and that people now knew what they were about.
I have some experience in the administrative side of this area: I have considerable experience as a Minister and three and a half years of very relevant experience in the Home Office. I am sure and I hope that my noble friend will attempt to reassure us but, although he is saying that they will take all the personnel from YJB and simply move them into the Ministry of Justice so that it will still be staffed by people with straightforward, hands-on experience in their own area, I do not think he will tell you who will replace them when they retire. I fear that, as they will then be integrated members of the Civil Service, they will be replaced by integrated members of the Civil Service who have not had such experience. Indeed, I am told that those who are understudying the job at the moment are having to come out of their offices and learn for themselves what they have not learnt from their own experience.
That means that in two or three years’ time, whatever assurances we are given now, it will be back to bureaucracy. For all the reasons that have been iterated so variously, powerfully and persuasively around the House so far, I strongly advise my noble friend to listen to noble Lords and to whatever else it may be necessary for me and others to say after his lengthy reply, which I now eagerly await.
My Lords, I did not intend to speak in this debate, but in listening to the speeches, I could almost hear the Minister’s reply. I just add three short points. First, when the coalition began, I was extraordinarily encouraged by its approach to offenders and rehabilitation and felt that it was developing a real understanding of what would make a difference and, as the noble Lord said, the factors that lead to the offending of young people in particular. Secondly, I was encouraged because I felt that we now had a Government who would listen and, on listening to evidence, could change their mind. I think that that is the sign of a mature Government. The press may make something of the Government changing their mind, but I think that ordinary folk see that as a strength.
The three points that I want to make are as follows. First, all the evidence points to the fact that, as the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, said so eloquently—I will not repeat speeches that have been made—bureaucracies do not run organisations well; we have to find alternative structures. I can say that from a long career as a director of social services, having been in three non-departmental public bodies and having reorganised at least three huge departments to ensure that the service was delivered more directly. The Youth Justice Board has learnt—a point that I will repeat. As the chair of the Children and Families Court Advisory and Support Service, I know how long it takes to change a service to something that delivers not simply the service as before but one with outcomes—not outputs—for children that make a difference. My second point is based on that. The present Government should be looking for structures that represent people; not structures that meet a particular dogma or even, dare I say, a manifesto. The Government have already made changes; they could look at this one.
My third point is very different from those that have been made by others—I shall not repeat all that has been said about the vulnerability of those young people, which I know as well as anyone in the House. At the moment, there is a decrease in reoffending. If we take the long view—and I have the long view, having been in social work since 1963; I assure your Lordships that I am not that old, but I have been working there for a long time—we know that what leads to offending is young peoples’ life chances. The noble Earl, Lord Listowel, has continually talked to us about children who go through the care system and end up in our prisons, young offender institutions or the mental health system.
At the moment, there is an increase in the number of children coming through the care system. I can judge that only by the fact that, a few years ago, CAFCASS was dealing with 86,000 children; at the moment, we have 145,000 children in private and public care. They are children coming through the care system and children who will be in divorce. I often stand up for single mums, but we know that broken families give children less life chance.
Let us look at what is likely to happen in future. I hope that local authorities will be able to develop their services, but with the necessary reductions in their budgets, that will be very difficult. Unless those preventive services are on the ground and we stop the large number of children coming through the courts and into the care system, it is inevitable—because all experience tells us—that we will have an increase in the number of young people in the young offender, prison and mental health systems. Therefore, it is crucial that the Government hold on to the professional expertise and to what works. I am not saying that the Youth Justice Board is the end of all that might be wonderful because everything needs review at some point, but we know that it is better than going back into departments where people do not have that professionalism and expertise because it is very difficult to build them fast. If the Government want to hold their position in caring for children and keeping the numbers down, then they need to hold on to those people who know how to do it, who know how to manage those teams and work with them and who know about multidisciplinary working with young people in the very difficult climate that we all know we are facing as a result of the economic position.
My Lords, those of your Lordships who were in the Chamber about an hour and a quarter ago when I was assiduously seeking to gain some brownie points from my Front Bench in order to have some cash in the bank to spend later will know that later has now come. Before I say anything else, I perhaps ought to declare some kind of interest in that I chair a mental health trust which runs a low-secure unit and provides mental health services to a young offender institution in the vicinity. That does not make me an expert in the sense that many of those who have spoken are experts, but it gives me an interest in the matter.
I do not want to make many points because they have all been made, and I cannot think of a word, so far, with which I have disagreed. Indeed, the noble Baroness, Lady Linklater, understated the position: there has not, so far, been a word that I take to be supportive of the Government’s current position, including, if I read them aright, the remarks made by my noble friend Lord Eccles, which I took to mean, and I agree with them, that this is not an issue of whether Ministers are accountable—of course they are accountable—it is a question of how that accountability is best exercised and through what machinery it is best exercised. I share the views expressed by the noble Lords, Lord Warner and Lord Ramsbotham, and others that this line that independent oversight of the youth justice system is no longer required is, frankly, a heresy that flies in the face of all historical experience. We are all agreed that when the YJB was set up, the system was a mess and needed improving. We are all agreed that it has been improved. What we do not agree is that because there was a mess that has been to some degree improved we should now go back to put the whole thing into the same type of machinery that created the mess in the first place. That is the proposition we are being asked to adopt.
My final point, except one, is that I am slightly saddened by all this because of the link that has been made by the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, and the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, with the admirable White Paper Breaking the Cycle. This is inconsistent with the spirit of Breaking the Cycle. It is certainly an approach that, if persisted in, could alienate many of us, including me, who very much support the thrust of Breaking the Cycle and who believe that it is productive and a sensible way forward. I really do hope that the Minister will be able to give us some hope of further thought, discussion and compromise on this.
Indeed, I was much attracted by the idea that was introduced by the noble Lord, Lord Warner, and supported by the noble Baroness, Lady Linklater, of a possible NDPB with non-executive directors. That could be a better mechanism, but, whatever else, we need something other than just abolishing the YJB, the proposition that is implied in the schedule at this stage. I do hope that my noble friend will be able to give us some hope of change.
My Lords, I shall, at what looks like being the end of this debate, be very brief. I, too, am a huge supporter of the Youth Justice Board, particularly in its latter years. Frances Done has done a quite remarkable job, as I think we have all said. We have had such a compelling debate that I really cannot bring myself to believe that the Minister will be able to reject such a range of compelling arguments.
I will make just one point that is pretty much based on what my noble friend Lady Howarth has just said. I really do think that built into the system as it is there will be a likely growth in the number of young people who are deprived and who are in huge danger of continuing their life in the criminal justice system. Just think back to Keith Joseph and his “cycle of deprivation”. That said it all. Let us face it; we did not do much to reduce the number of those coming into that cycle until quite recently. I hope that what we have seen the beginning of will contribute to that, but we need to look much more widely. Early intervention will certainly be one of them—and I mean very early—as well intervention as at other stages at which problems are identified.
I thank the Minister for the way in which he has kept us informed and for his latest letter on 3 March. I am concerned that the type of big society that the Government are backing will have different approaches in different areas. We have the Youth Justice Board, which does a marvellous job of co-ordinating different departments and putting the whole view to others to take note of. However, in the future, so far as I can see it, we will have individual bodies with their own views, which the Government encourage. What about the bodies that, frankly, do not think that this is a priority? My question to the Minister is this: what are the Government going to do to encourage them to change their minds? They must have something up their sleeve —I will not call it a bribe, but I think that that is what I mean—to change their policies and to realise just how huge the long-term cost will be in not addressing this whole subject.
My Lords, on behalf of Her Majesty's loyal Opposition I give my wholehearted support to the amendment moved so ably in the names of my noble friend Lord Warner and the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham. I declare an interest because, as the Minister knows, I too was a Minister with responsibility for the YJB at a number of stages.
I bow to no one in my admiration and affection for the Minister, and I commend him for his bravery in seeking to reply to what has been an overwhelming debate. However, I urge him, perhaps with great expedition, to take immediate advantage of the very kind and generous offer which my noble friend Lord Warner made to him and to submit himself to the intensive supervision and treatment so that he can be restored to his previous good conduct. We know that for someone who has always been of good behaviour, returning to good behaviour is easier when the treatment is swift and direct, so let me assist.
I hope that it is by way of comfort when I say to the Minister that when considering this amendment I reasonably anticipated—although I did not see who would be here—that one would expect to hear from the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, the noble Lords, Lord Dholakia and Lord Elton, the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, my noble friend Lord Beecham and the noble Baronesses, Lady Linklater and Lady Howarth. I have to confess that I was surprised that their ranks were swelled by the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, and I was warned that the noble Lord, Lord Newton of Braintree, could be added to the list, because he was not on it before I entered the Chamber.
All that I can say to the Minister is that when I was in a similar position to that which he now occupies and was privileged to be a Minister, the one thing on which I could absolutely rely was the trenchant support which the Youth Justice Board would rightly receive from all sides of the House. One of the first leading the charge when he sat on the Liberal Democrat Benches would always have been the noble Lord, Lord McNally, ably assisted or led by the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia. He is only lucky that several other noble Lords are not also here—the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, and others—to swell the ranks. But he can imagine what they would all be saying to him at this moment. The Tory Benches have been distinguished today by our hearing from the noble Lord, Lord Elton, but the Minister knows well that the Chief Whip—the great noble Baroness, Lady Anelay—had she been on the opposite Benches, would have given two barrels in relation to these issues too. I hate to tell the noble Lord that my estimation is that he has been holed below the water and that his ship is sinking fast. Of course, there are a number of things he can do to rectify that situation.
I know that the noble Lord, Lord McNally, believes that the Youth Justice Board has done a splendid job and has achieved much. What I do not understand is why he thinks that the job of the YJB is over when the vulnerability of those young people, who are still ensnared by criminality and the tentacles of dysfunction, means that they persist in needing the specialist care and holistic treatment which the YJB so ably provides. I say holistic because, as has already been made clear in the very eloquent and informed speeches which have gone before me, the YJB encompasses issues which are far broader than those which remain the preserve of the Ministry of Justice.
The board’s success has rested in no small part on its ability to draw together issues which are the responsibility of a number of different government departments—the Ministry of Justice, the Department of Health, the Department for Education, the Department for Communities and Local Government, and my old office of the Attorney-General—together with local and other public authorities in the third sectors. As such, youth justice is now a national system, albeit that it is primarily locally delivered. It really has enabled an array of agencies in criminal justice, which need to work in an integrated way with a range of organisations providing services to children and young people, to do so. As a consequence, the youth justice system is necessarily complex and I know that the noble Lord understands that complexity. Therefore I am puzzled as to how the innovative multi-agency work that the Youth Justice Board does so well, and which it has hitherto been able to develop by working in unison with all the other agencies, is going to be continued.
Much of what I would have said has, thankfully, already been said by many noble Lords, so I will not subject the Minister to the pain of having to listen to me recite all those comments, but I will say to him that I agree with every single word that has been spoken in this debate. The YJB has been able to do something quite remarkable. It has honed the skills and expertise it needs to make a difference to those vulnerable young people who need its care. That journey, as the noble Lord will recall, has not always been an easy one. Experience has enabled the YJB to cut away much of that which was unnecessary, leading to an efficacious, fair and effective system. When I say “effective”, it is effective in terms of delivering real change and real opportunity to some of the most vulnerable and disadvantaged young people in the country, and I am not talking just about those who perpetrate crimes because, as the noble Lord will know, many victims of crime are also young people who have benefited from the work that the YOTs and other agencies which work with the YJB have been able to deliver.
No one in this debate—indeed, from talking to those outside this House, no one at all—has been able to come up with a solution that better delivers that which is needed for our young people, so I urge the Minister to think very carefully about all the suggestions that have been made on how we could amend or change some aspects of the YJB. However, I also ask him to consider the strength of feeling that exists around the House. It is a strength of feeling driven not by any sort of political agenda, but by real care and real commitment to those who have been powerfully engaged in this area for a long time and want the very best for our children. I further ask him to think carefully about the comments made by the noble Lord, Lord Elton, who sits just behind him. Having been part of a Government, the noble Lord was entrusted to deal with exactly the same issues. He remembers how difficult it was to do that without the agency of the YJB to assist him. I never had the trauma of doing that, and I think it would be wise if in the future we asked no Minister to be placed in that position.
My Lords, the noble and learned Baroness sees an open goal when there is one before her, but she has approached it with charm and a great degree of kindness. Thinking of which quotes come to mind, I considered Sir Robert Peel who said during the Corn Law debates, “You must answer them, for I cannot”, but I know that that is not my responsibility this afternoon. I shall settle for Denis Healey’s “When you’re in a hole, stop digging”. I fully acknowledge the widespread feeling around the House about this matter and I am sure that feeling and indeed that passion will be noted by my colleagues.
I have noted, as did the noble and learned Baroness, that we have had all the usual suspects on parade, plus one or two others. I am keeping a tab on the noble Lord, Lord Newton. Earlier today, he went 4-3 ahead in terms of interventions that are supportive of me when I am at the Dispatch Box, but that lasted for only an hour and now he is back to 4-4. I went to Braintree the other week to speak to the Braintree Liberal Democrats and had to spend a good part of the evening hearing what a wonderful Member of Parliament the noble Lord was, so his lack of support is even more hurtful.
However, I understand where people are coming from on this. I understand also what the YJB set out to do and what it has achieved. A number of noble Lords have pointed out that it does not have a perfect record, but it is neither my job nor my wish to detract in any way from its achievements over these past 10 years. In 2000, there was a need for the YJB to provide coherent leadership and to establish a new youth justice system. However, the youth justice landscape has changed immeasurably since then. We fully intend to retain the youth offending teams and a dedicated secure estate, which are not being abolished with the Youth Justice Board. However, Ministers should be accountable for youth justice.
I thank the noble Lord, Lord Warner, and others for their comments about the Green Paper. It was rather unkind of him to describe Ministers as a motley crew; I would prefer to acknowledge the fact that all Ministers are birds of passage. It was a little unfair to describe the idea of bringing the Youth Justice Board within the Ministry of Justice variously as vandalism, bureaucratic diktat, Whitehall-knows-best, reintroducing failure and care by people who do not care. Those are not fair descriptions of civil servants in large departments, who carry out considerable management functions without the advantage or otherwise of arm’s-length bodies. If those descriptions were true, everything would be opted out from our Civil Service.
I note some of the views expressed about NOMS, although it already has responsibilities within the youth justice system. I shall try to say where the department is coming from at the moment but then perhaps address some of the specific points which rained down on me during the debate. In doing so, I immediately pay tribute to the record of the noble Lord, Lord Warner, with whom I had a very good discussion, as I did with the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, about the origins of the Youth Justice Board. They both gave a vivid description of the situation prior to the board coming into being. It is not true that the youth justice system is the poor relation, nor is there any danger of it being so under our proposals.
The youth offending teams will remain in place. They are perhaps the greatest of the Youth Justice Board’s achievements. The holistic approach at local level of the youth offending teams has achieved real success and we want to build on that. Our reforms will build on the progress made by the YJB while restoring direct ministerial accountability for the delivery of youth justice.
The Government believe that youth justice, which involves the incarceration of children, is an important issue for which Ministers, not unelected arm’s-length bodies, should be accountable. The principal aim of the youth justice system, as established by the Crime and Disorder Act 1998, is to prevent offending and reoffending by children and young people under the age of 18. It is a system in which local authority-led youth offending teams have the primary responsibility for delivering youth justice on the ground. These YOTs comprise representatives from local authorities, health, education and children’s services. The system also includes a dedicated national commissioned secure estate for young people. Both these crucial delivery elements will be retained and neither will be adversely affected by the reforms we are proposing.
This is not because the YJB does not itself deliver front-line services. The YJB was established by the 1998 Act to provide leadership and coherence to the new system by exercising oversight functions. Its abolition is therefore a separate issue to the future of the youth justice system because its functions are to oversee local YOTs, disseminate effective practices, commission a distinct secure estate and place young people in custody. These functions are, of course, crucial in support of the effective delivery of youth justice and will, therefore, be transferred to the Ministry of Justice under our proposals, with an appropriate senior and visible level of leadership.
Since its establishment, the YJB has undoubtedly helped to transform the youth justice system. It oversaw the establishment of local youth offending teams and has fulfilled an important role in reducing offending and reoffending by young people by spreading best practice and helping to make youth justice a priority for local authorities. It has also put the delivery of youth justice at the forefront of local authority partnership working and has driven up standards in a discrete secure estate for young people. As I have said before, the noble Lord, Lord Warner, as the first chair of the Youth Justice Board, must take credit for bringing a level of coherence to the system and for raising the profile of youth justice issues.
There were good reasons why the YJB was initially established at arm’s length from government. This gave it the autonomy to make much needed changes and enabled staff with expertise in front-line delivery to lead the national rollout of youth offending teams. However, a decade on, the context in which youth justice is delivered has changed enormously, with youth offending teams now fully embedded at the local level and children’s services delivered through children’s trusts. The Government therefore believe that the oversight function of the YJB should be performed in a different way. Further, Ministers are ultimately accountable for youth justice and it is therefore right that they alone should be responsible for overseeing its delivery. Bringing the YJB function into the Ministry of Justice represents the most effective way to continue to secure the best outcomes for young people.
In reaching this decision the Government have taken into account the recommendations of the review of the YJB by Dame Sue Street, to whom I have also spoken. It should be pointed out that whether or not the YJB should be abolished was not within the scope of her study. The issue was also covered by the Ministry of Justice’s own review of public bodies.
We remain committed to maintaining a dedicated focus on the needs of children and young people in the youth justice system, while ensuring that there are appropriate and proper links to the wider criminal justice system, and that this system serves to protect the public. We also want to capture and replicate some of the best elements of the Youth Justice Board. The YJB successfully brought together staff from a number of different backgrounds, including staff with a direct experience of youth justice, social and health services, police and probation officers. This mix of skills and knowledge enables us to inform Government policy, both in Westminster and Cardiff, while also maintaining effective links with local delivery.
We want to continue to harness this expertise and experience, and I take on board the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Elton, about how you renew that within a department. As such, and in terms of developing transitional arrangements, we are consulting on how best to maintain a specific focus on youth justice as part of the discussions on the Green Paper, Breaking the Cycle. We are committed to making sure that as few young people as possible end up in the youth justice system in the first place and that those who do so face consequences for their actions while getting the support that they need to get back on to the right path.
We also recognise that a successful transition will be achieved only by working with the Youth Justice Board itself. I pay tribute again to the chair of the YJB, Frances Done, who has been mentioned by a number of noble Lords, for her contribution to a successful transition. As I have said, I am grateful to the chair, the chief executive and all the staff of the YJB for the constructive way that they are working on the transitional plan with the Ministry of Justice. Our proposed national governance arrangements aim to build on the recent success of a youth justice system which has seen a significant reduction, as a number of noble Lords mentioned, in the number of first-time entrants, the frequency of reoffending and the number of young people in custody.
Our current proposal, subject to the outcome of the rehabilitation revolution consultation, is that the main functions of the Youth Justice Board should be delivered within the Ministry of Justice’s policy group. Bringing the functions of overseeing the youth offending teams and commissioning a secure youth estate together within the policy group ensures continuing leadership of the youth justice system.
I went through all of that to get on the record where the Government are coming from on this issue. I note what a number of noble Lords have said about this and am smart enough to know that, if the noble Lord, Lord Warner, wanted a Pyrrhic victory this afternoon, he could probably get one—although I am not sure how good our Whips are. It would be absurd not to take back what has been said this afternoon by all parts of the House.
However, it seems that an enormous amount of what has happened has been attributed to the Youth Justice Board. No credit is given to the possibility that it could be done in a different or better way, while retaining what is best within the YJB. I fully appreciate what has been said. I have argued, both in this House and outside, that it is not rocket science to notice that, time and time again, in youth offending four or five elements come up: a dysfunctional family life; illiteracy, innumeracy and truancy—as one of the guys showing me round a youth offender institution said, “The trouble is that most of these kids have had only passing contact with education at any time in their life”—as well as drug addiction and alcoholism and, as I said before, broken homes. That is not an endless list, but those are issues on which intervention is possible. The House is not divided on that.
Where the House and this debate may find itself slightly out of kilter is with the way our national media sometimes treat these problems. I have already been described as “McWally” by the Sun for suggesting that there might be a different approach to treating young criminals. That is clever because it only changes one letter of my name, which I had never noticed before. I also believe that if you are a Minister of Justice and you have not been attacked by the Sun, you must be getting something wrong.
There has been a lot of emphasis on the Youth Justice Board, perhaps quite rightly so, but without enough attention to the success of the youth offender teams—another key, holistic, part of the reforms, which I would like to see carried into other parts of the youth justice system. A lot of the things that were said as part of the general debate were—
The noble Lord gives me the opinion of the youth offender teams. It is always a bit dubious when noble Lords claim to know the opinion of a section under inquiry. In fact, we are also in contact with youth offender teams, but I take the point that he mentioned them.
I am trying to see whether there is anything that I should particularly answer beyond these points. As I said at the beginning, it is a cheap shot to say that bureaucracies cannot run things. The term bureaucracy is easily slung around. I take the point that we should concentrate on structures not dogma. The issue is not dogma but whether, within the constraints that we face, we can organise this more effectively. I take on board the criticisms and we are listening.
If the noble Lord, Lord Warner, wishes to test the opinion of the House, that is his right to do so. He is a former Minister and there are a number of others around. One of the problems as well as pleasures of being a Lords Minister is that, when you are in a position like this, you cannot make policy on your feet. You can take it back to colleagues and you can listen. I have listened and I will take the issue back to colleagues, if the noble Lord, Lord Warner, is in a mood to take that in the spirit that it is offered. I cannot promise beyond that, as he knows. As many have said, gathered together in the House today is an enormous level of ministerial, local government, social service and charitable experience that any Government willing to listen should listen to. I will take this away and am also happy to talk further with the noble Lord on the matter, but that is as far as I can go today, having set out where we are trying to go and why.
The Youth Justice Board has at its disposal about £500 million a year, most of which is spent in procuring secure places. It is not that cancelling the Youth Justice Board would save £500 million or £400 million a year or whatever—I think that the estimate is something like £6 million over the period of this spending review. We are not arguing this as a money-saving exercise. Our judgment is that, successful though the Youth Justice Board has been, it has done its job and we want to try to do it differently within the Ministry of Justice while keeping much of the ethos of the Youth Justice Board and much of the lower structure at local level that has been the basis of its success. However, I am interested to hear what the noble Lord, Lord Warner, has to say to my reply.
My Lords, I do not know whether the noble Lord, Lord Warner, will be minded to make up his mind at this rather early stage and decide whether to test the opinion of the House. There is one thing that I would like to impress on the Minister—that no matter how hard his hand may be pressed to his heart when he gives an undertaking that something will be kept for ever out of NOMS or that personnel will be recruited for ever from outside the Civil Service, his hand will wither and he will pass away and the statute will survive. Therefore, I hope that the rock-bed minima that we will require before agreeing to this part of the Bill can be expressed, and the Government must undertake to express them, in a parliamentary instrument, which, if it is to be revised, will have to have the approval of Parliament again. That is the only way in which to preserve a ministerial undertaking beyond the life of one Parliament—and, sometimes, for even less than that.
The other thing that I am tempted to dwell on is the context in which the Government are making up their mind. The Minister is operating in two contexts. One is a political context in which a coalition is committed to a bonfire of the quangos. I could make a long speech about that, but I remind my noble friend the Minister that the function of a bonfire is to get rid of rubbish. You do not hack fruiting branches off a healthy tree and chuck them on a bonfire. That should not be any constraint on the Minister.
Then there is the administrative context at the heart of a substantial government department. I have been in such a place and I, beyond anybody, admire the independence and rectitude of the Civil Service. But in this case, the Civil Service is faced with swingeing cuts in personnel. The Minister asks for advice on how to set up a body of 12 people, each of whom he appoints, whose chairman he appoints and all of whose functions he can dictate—that is all in the statute setting up the body under the Crime and Disorder Act 1998. It is entirely his responsibility and he is entirely answerable for it already. The question is where that advice is coming from; it is coming from a department, which has, as far as I know, been asked only for the positive arguments and how to sell this measure to Parliament. When there is a prospect of those 12 places, and the 301 people employed by the body, suddenly being drafted into the department, diminishing the need for redundancies by that number, the department is not going to drag the seabed to find arguments against.
I hope that my noble friend the Minister will encourage his honourable and right honourable friends to stand aside from where they are at the moment—in the heart of their department—and look at this from outside, as we do, as people passionately concerned for the future welfare for the children of this country.
That is the second intervention that has reminded me what a bird of passage is ministerial office, for which I am duly grateful. I take note of the intervention from the noble Lord, Lord Elton. What would have happened if I had said that I was going to stand firm? I have said that I would take the matter back; I cannot make any more promises than that. I would be interested in having further talks with the noble Lord, Lord Warner, but I am interested to hear what he has to say having listened to this debate.
I am grateful that the Minister has undertaken to take the concerns of the whole House back to his colleagues and to reflect on what has been said, but I have a couple of questions about specific points.
First, on advocacy and social work provision in young offender institutions, advocacy has been put in place by the Youth Justice Board for a number of years now. I declare an interest as patron of Voice, an advocacy provider in several young offender institutions. It seems very clear to me, when I speak with advocates and visit young offender institutions, that this service is very much valued by the young people but also by the governors of those institutions. They can be particularly helpful in working to encourage local authorities when people are resettled to provide them the services that they need to resettle successfully. Will the Minister in the interim, between this and the next stage of the Bill, look at the role of advocates and, at the next stage, give some reassurance about advocacy provision under the new arrangements?
The second point that I should like to ask him about is social work provision in young offender institutions. My noble friend Lord Ramsbotham referred to the Children Act 1989 and how there was some lack of clarity about whether it applied to children and young people in the secure estate. The Munby judgment established that local authorities were indeed responsible for the welfare of young people, particularly in care, in prisons. Social workers were appointed by the last Government to each young offender institution. In the course of time, the Government gave responsibility for running those posts to local authorities, but there was no agreement among local authorities on how they should be funded. Sadly, half or perhaps more than half of those posts are vacant. I would be grateful if the Minister could look at this situation in the interim, between now and the next stage, and give some reassurance that there will be a continual push to ensure that those vacancies are filled and that the important work that those social workers provide for those young people is delivered to them as needed. We have heard today how vulnerable those children are and their need for expert support in young offender institutions.
I shall certainly take that back. Part of the problem with the two issues that the noble Earl raises—both the advocacy commitment and the social worker commitment—is that they are responsibilities of local authorities. One thing that we have made clear in this approach is that we intend to make local authorities much more responsible for the delivery of these parts of the youth justice system. However, we note the point and can return to it at Report.
My Lords, I am grateful to all those who have spoken in this debate, especially the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, who appears to have damaged his career prospects in doing so.
I began to feel a bit sorry for the Minister as the afternoon wore on. He dealt with the debate with his customary charm and evasion, and I pay tribute to those skills—particularly with some of the noises coming from behind him. If he thinks that he has trouble with me, I think that he has a lot more trouble with the noble Lord, Lord Elton.
It is interesting that five former Ministers spoke today from different Benches. They all showed a healthy scepticism about the ability of government departments to take on these jobs. It is worth bearing in mind that it is not just a load of head-bangers like me who are saying that but some of the Minister’s colleagues, who have spent their time in the salt mines of government. I note that the Prime Minister was not entirely overwhelmed by the performance of the Civil Service this week in some areas of its activity, so if the Minister gets too energetic in defending the MoJ’s civil servants, he may want to think about whether he will join the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, in the doghouse in terms of his ministerial prospects.
There is quite a lot here for the Minister to dwell upon. Perhaps I might just correct him and others who spoke this afternoon: they are youth offending teams not youth offender teams. It helps you to convey a sense of knowledge about the sector if you get the titles right, I have always found. I will not spend long talking about the issues that were raised but I will spend a few moments on the secure estate. The noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, raised the interesting point about money. He was quite right to do so, because the secure estate gobbles up most of the Youth Justice Board’s budget. It will gobble up a lot more money if the good work that Francis Done and others have done is not continued to keep down the number of young people going into custody down. The Government might find that any savings they make by taking some of these functions in-house will, in a few years, result in a some surprises in the Ministry of Justice’s budget if not such a great job has been done as that carried out by Youth Justice Board in commissioning services and keeping youngsters out of custody.
The noble Lord, Lord Elton, raised an interesting point, which I would certainly want to reflect on before Report. It was an important point about whether one can ensure the good behaviour of future Ministers in this regard.
The Minister mentioned that his colleagues wanted the adult criminal justice services to learn from the advantages of the youth justice service. That is a praiseworthy objective, but it seems to me that he is more likely to achieve that if he looks at the instrument that was used with the youth justice services to try to drive change. It took a long time to get some of these programmes—their structures, relationships and working practices—changed when the Youth Justice Board was set up. The youth offending teams did not all say, “Hurrah! Parliament has passed the Crime and Disorder Act and we’re all going to change our practices”. It took a lot of hard graft to get people to do that. You are seeing the results of that hard graft coming through in the work of the Youth Justice Board in the past few years. Before you throw it all away, you need to think about how long it takes to get change in most public services.
I will reflect on what the Minister said. I am after not a Pyrrhic victory but a real victory. I am very encouraged by some of the responses from across the House on this amendment. I will reflect on everything that was said, but in the mean time I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 63 withdrawn.
Schedule 1 agreed.
Clause 2 : Power to merge
64: Clause 2, page 1, line 14, at beginning insert “Subject to section (Restrictions on ministerial powers),”
Amendment 64 agreed.
65: Clause 2, page 1, line 14, after “may” insert “subject to the requirements of section 8”
My Lords, I beg to move Amendment 65 and to speak to the associated amendments. My noble friend Lord Warner just said that he was beginning to feel sorry for the noble Lord, Lord McNally. It may be that my compassion is more easily triggered than his, but my feeling sorry for Ministers started very early on in this Bill—particularly for the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, who has had to sit through the bulk of it.
These amendments are designed to improve the procedure for this Bill, both during the remaining stages of the primary legislation and in how we deal with secondary legislation in what remains of the Bill when it is eventually passed. The first five amendments in this group are essentially paving amendments for Amendments 113 and 119, which are the substantive ones and appear quite late in the Bill. It would have been better had we found a hook to hang them on earlier in the Bill, but Clause 8 deals with the procedure for developing the secondary legislation. In other words, these amendments are designed to help, whether the Front Bench opposite believes that or not. It was unfortunate that from the beginning the Government refused the suggestion of a Select Committee, but the amendments provide an alternative to that in relatively straightforward terms.
As I do not really need to remind the Government or the Committee, we have already seen great chunks of the Bill having to be dropped, partly on substantive grounds and partly on procedural grounds. We have lost forestry and much about the Ministry of Justice quangos which were to be merged or abolished under the Bill. I understand that we are about to lose the whole of Schedule 7 and I think we applaud the Government’s flexibility on that, but they ought never to have got to this stage and the Bill should not have been constructed as it was.
We need a clear and more formal explanation from the Government of why these great lists of quangos are deemed suitable for abolition or merger. I appreciate that before each Committee session we get a list of the quangos that are likely to come up for decision during it, but they do not really suffice. Today, for example, for our enormously important debate on the Youth Justice Board, which excited great interest here in Committee and beyond, we had five lines explaining the reasons for abolishing that board.
My next amendment deals with an organisation for which there are two lines of explanation. Again, I appreciate that the Minister and his colleagues have sent us several other letters to try to explain this more clearly. However, it would be much more sensible if a clear explanation were put before Parliament, rather than one in the form of regulations and incomprehensible cross-references between clauses and existing legislation, of why the Government deem, for example, that the Youth Justice Board or Ofgem, or any of the regulators, should be abolished and the context in which those decisions are being made. There will shortly be a debate about the Equality and Human Rights Commission, for which we have two whole pages of explanation. It is central to a lot of our law and our approach to society, yet we do not have a realistic explanation of why the change is proposed. As a result, the Government have had to concede a lot of the Bill at the first hurdle.
The Government have also conceded that in some other areas they will in any case need primary legislation. Late the other night, and during the previous Session of Parliament, it was conceded that the self-regulating replacement for the Security Industry Authority would need new primary legislation with statutory backing. If that is the case, the point of having this in secondary legislation falls and the point of these lists—and the whole structure of the Bill—begins to fall. The amendments that I propose here would allow us to proceed with the Bill as it is, unsatisfactory though I think most of the Committee by now deems it. It would at least mean that we were assured that when we came to the secondary legislation stage, both Houses would have before them a very clear explanation to debate and vote on before proceeding with the abolition or the merger of any such bodies.
This would cover everything that is in Schedules 1 to 6—Schedule 7 we will shortly drop—and it would mean that Parliament could have a sensible debate. If we were convinced by the explanation given in prose by the Government, they could proceed in the normal way to secondary legislation. If we were not convinced, they would have to withdraw the intent on secondary legislation, and if they still wanted to do it they would have to revert to primary legislation in the way that they now propose to do, and not only for the organisations that I have suggested. In the area of competition authorities, for example, it has been made clear by the sponsoring department that the Government cannot simply change them thorough secondary legislation provided for under this Bill, but will have to have separate primary legislation to change the whole competition regime—and quite rightly, too.
Even at this late stage, if we adopted the provisions in these two main clauses we could ensure that there was an adequate debate and that we made the decisions on a firm basis. Amendment 113 simply suggests that before Ministers come forward to trigger the secondary legislation under the Bill, they place such a document before both Houses before we proceed. Prior to any discussion of the Youth Justice Board, and before the secondary legislation emerged, we would therefore have had a very clear explanation of why the Government thought that change should be made. The outrage that people felt about the YJB, forestry and other issues would have been ameliorated had it been clear that there would be another chance to have that substantive debate.
Amendment 119 recognises that you cannot just deal with these proposals, individual organisation by individual organisation. There is the whole question of what the government strategy is for various areas of our non-departmental public bodies. I declare a past interest in relation to consumer bodies: until six weeks ago I was the chair of Consumer Focus, one of the bodies in Schedule 1. The future of Consumer Focus, which is effectively to be transferred to the third sector, is inseparable from the overall approach to consumer representation in government policy on a number of fronts.
There are other bodies. We will be debating Passenger Focus later with regard to rail and bus transport. There is a consumer body for water, and those that are represented by Consumer Focus under the Energy Act and the Postal Services Act, including the one that we are due to debate next week. There is a whole range of different structures in statutorily provided consumer bodies, sometimes taxpayer-funded, though not always, and sometimes mandatorily industry-funded. This Government’s original intention, which I applauded, was to look at that landscape as a whole; it was the intent of BIS, the main sponsoring department, to look at it in that light. In fact, it has lost a lot of Whitehall battles, and I am sad that that is the case. We are now debating each of those bodies separately and we will come up with different solutions, aggravating what is already a hotchpotch of consumer representation in that landscape.
On an even bigger scale, the same applies to economic regulators. There are economic regulators that appear in several of these schedules—Ofcom appears several times—while some appear only in Schedule 7 and therefore, I guess, they can relax. Others appear once or more in Schedules 1 to 6; Ofgem, Ofcom and the Office of Rail Regulation are all in here. Again, when the Government first came to office, they promised us a review of economic regulation and of what is appropriate for an independent regulator, what is appropriate for a government department, what is appropriate for lighter-touch regulation and so forth. It was an agenda that I did not entirely agree with but at least it would have been coherent. If we proceed under what is laid down in the Bill, however, we will take one view of what is appropriate for the regulation of energy regarding the balance between Ministers and the regulator and a different one for telecoms. Maybe that is justified, but it is not a priori obvious that it is justifiable. A clear and adequate explanation is therefore needed for this House, and I suggest in Amendment 119 that on bodies like economic regulators you should have that overall discussion in Parliament before you move to specific secondary legislation dealing with particular bodies.
There could be other groups of bodies that arise in the Bill; indeed, we are about to come on to a load of environmental bodies. The very first amendment that I moved in this Committee session related to scientific advisory bodies. It is not clear why some scientific advisory bodies are to be dropped and others are not. There must be a general explanation of the science policy across government that makes those decisions clear but it has not been put before the House; we have dealt with them on an individual basis. Most of us would hope that Ministers received some independent scientific advice before they took important scientific decisions; hitherto, by and large, independent advisory committees with experts on the scientific areas concerned provided them with such advice. So there are groups of bodies that need addressing.
My main point here is that the Government, having proceeded on this list basis, now need to rescue it a bit and bring us back to what would be a normal parliamentary procedure, with something like a White Paper or a Green Paper, before they actually proceed area by area and organisation by organisation. I appreciate that the Government do not want to do all that in primary legislation. I have been a Minister too, and I understand that sometimes the complications of having to wait for primary legislation to change what appears to be a relatively small part of the machinery of government is very frustrating. However, it has to be done with the approval of Parliament in some sense. If you are taking the process away from primary legislation, at least this House—and to some extent, I suspect, colleagues down the road—would like to see clearly the way in which you are doing it and a clear basis for it. I think that Ministers realise now that a series of schedules and lists is not the way to do it and is not adequate. My amendment would help them in future to assure people that we would have that debate further down the line and assure them that, when secondary legislation came to be proposed, it would be done on a straightforward and understandable basis.
As we all know, the tradition is that we do not vote against or amend secondary legislation. That convention would be stretched if we had not previously had the kind of debate that I am envisaging in these amendments. I am asking the Government at least to recognise that at some stage we need to have that debate and that parliamentary decision on the basis of a formal document from the Government. This would make the Government’s life easier; at least, I hope so. It would certainly help us to get the Bill through the primary stage rather faster, and I wish that the Government had come forward with such a measure earlier. For the moment, I beg to move.
My Lords, I support my noble friend. I spent part of my previous career sitting on various quangos, some of which are included in the Bill. I must say that I thought that the quango-sitting that I did was very useful, that our contribution was a good one and so on. I would like to think that they would not simply be closed down and consigned to what the noble Lord, Lord Elton, described as the “bonfire of the quangos” without adequate examination by Parliament. That is exactly what my noble friend is suggesting: before the quangos are dispensed with, there should be a thorough examination, Parliament should determine whether or not they were valuable or useful and should continue to operate and, unless that happened, the quangos should continue to operate. Perhaps they would do so in a different form but the functions would not be dropped; there would be some provision for the functions that they had carried out to be performed in future. I hope that my noble friend’s arguments will attract support from the Government. The amendment seems to be very reasonable, proposing that Parliament must have the final say. That is very important, and I hope that the Government will be prepared to accept it.
My Lords, I am not sure I have any brownie points left in the bank after various earlier exchanges but I hope I have a few. I express my sympathy with the general thrust of the point that was made very well by the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, and which has just been supported. I imagine it will be further supported by the noble Baroness, Lady Hayter.
There is, as I have said on several occasions in the House, a complete lack of intellectual coherence in the approach that is being adopted towards different bodies, particularly in respect of those parts of the Bill relating to the Ministry of Justice. I will not go on again now—although I will later—about the Administrative Justice and Tribunals Council, which I formerly chaired. However, we have a curious situation in which the AJTC is in—and for the moment stays in—Schedule 1 but the other two justice councils, which were in Schedule 7, have been cast out. The Civil Justice Council’s terms of reference were those on which those of the Administrative Justice and Tribunals Council were modelled. Nobody has explained why what is right for the Civil Justice Council is wrong for the Administrative Justice and Tribunals Council, with which it overlaps. Picking up the fundamental thrust of what the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, said, there is a case for a coherent explanation, across the board, of what the Government are doing. I hope we may get at least some assurance on that in the course of my noble friend’s response.
My Lords, as predicted, I support these amendments. Amendments 65, 69, 77, 85 and 101 in this grouping all refer to the exercise of powers being subject to Clause 8. I therefore invite the Committee to look at Clause 8, which sets out the matters to be considered by the Minister, and to look at Amendment 107 in my name. It is not before us today because it was discussed earlier in Committee—on day one, when it was grouped with an amendment tabled by the noble Lords, Lord Lester and Lord Pannick. Your Lordships may remember that their amendment was accepted, contrary to the wishes of the Government. Although my amendment was not voted on at that point, I hope that might mean that the Government will therefore accept Amendment 107 in due course.
Amendment 107 is fundamental to the amendment standing in the name of my noble friend Lord Whitty, which is in front of us at the moment. It seeks to amend Clause 8, which requires consideration to be given only to the efficiency of the bodies concerned and their accountability to Ministers. However, Clause 8 as it stands makes no reference to the purpose of those bodies as set out in legislation. Therefore, my amendment, although not before us now, would add to the matters to be considered under Clause 8,
“achieving the aims and objectives of the body where these are specified in legislation”,
where this and another place have created a body for a particular reason. That does not, to my mind, mean that those bodies can never be abolished, changed or merged. It means that their objectives, and how those objectives should be achieved if they are still relevant, should be taken into account when any question of merger or removal is on the cards. As predicted, I thoroughly support the amendment, and this grouping, in the name of my noble friend Lord Whitty. However, that is slightly on the assumption that a body’s purpose will also be considered under Clause 8 at the point at which it would be implemented.
My Lords, it has been a long time since we last discussed these matters in Committee. Perhaps I may be forgiven for forgetting that I had added my name to that of my noble friend Lord Whitty on one of the amendments that we are now considering—Amendment 85. Since I did so, I cannot see any great reason to be in favour of one amendment but not the others. I am particularly glad to see Amendment 113 in the name of my noble friend Lord Whitty. Surely it is essential that the Minister, when making an order under these provisions, should give the reasoning behind the change of status—the transfer or modification—from one to another. Surely one wants a ministerial explanation.
I have, however, come to doubt—this is really a question to my noble friend Lord Whitty—the need for the first five of his amendments, including the one that he is moving. He asks that, in relation to orders to transfer the functions of one body to another, or to modify a body’s functions, the Minister should pay attention to Clause 8. However, Clause 8 itself says:
“In considering whether to make an order … the Minister must”—
“have regard to the following objectives”,
which include efficiency, effectiveness and accountability. I do not disagree with the point just made by my noble friend Lady Hayter, but I ask the mover of the amendment to clarify why he wants to insert certain phrases that seem to indicate simply that the Minister must consider matters referred to in Clause 8, when that is what Clause 8 itself says.
My Lords, I, too, hope that the Minister will welcome this group of amendments. As my noble friend Lord Whitty said, they are helpful amendments, which do not seek to change, amend or delete any body or group of bodies listed under Schedules 1 to 6. The amendments simply require the Minister concerned to lay before both Houses of Parliament, for debate and approval, a report setting out the Government’s reasons for changing the status of any body or group of bodies listed in the schedules before making the order enabling that change in status to be implemented, with a few exceptions where primary legislation will still be needed. Orders can be only accepted or rejected but not amended, and the Government will seek to push them through considerably more rapidly and with considerably less debate than would apply had the change in status been made through primary legislation.
The amendments of my noble friend Lord Whitty will enable a somewhat fuller discussion to take place. They will also enable Members of both Houses, as well as the public and interested parties, to comment and express their support, opposition or reservations over what the Government propose for the body or group of bodies in question in a proper and open public debate before the Government make a final decision on whether to proceed with the order and its detailed provisions. Such a development would at least begin to address the democratic deficit that the Government are fostering through the absence of any pre-legislative scrutiny, followed by seeking to change or abolish by statutory instrument bodies with important roles, which were in many cases set up by Acts of Parliament.
There would also be another advantage in that it would enable the Government to reflect further on their proposals and intentions on which bodies, or groups of bodies, should have their role and status changed or abolished. It is already clear that this Bill was cobbled together in a great hurry, which is why there has been so much backtracking, albeit welcome backtracking. This has not happened because this is a listening and open Government but rather because this is a Government who seem to think that instant decision-making is the same thing as effective decision-making.
The requirement under these amendments for a report to be made to both Houses that would have to be debated and approved would encourage the Government to think carefully about the necessity and justification of what they are proposing, and would ensure that the implications have been properly thought through and addressed and that the proposals have been subject to challenge and scrutiny in a way that would never be achieved through the laying of a statutory instrument. A statutory instrument is not meant to be the way of implementing what in many cases will be significant change but rather constitutes the detailed implementation of a change which has already been the subject of properly parliamentary scrutiny and debate. That proper parliamentary scrutiny and debate is not happening under the terms of this sweeping Bill, with Ministers all too often simply hoping to get away with saying that the full case for what they are proposing, the implications of their proposals and how it is intended to implement the changes, as well as the details, will have to await the statutory instrument.
I am sure the Minister knows that the Bill has been rushed and is ill thought out and that proper, pre-legislative scrutiny, for a start, would have been beneficial to all concerned, not least to the Government themselves. The usual excuse for the rush—namely, to make quick savings to reflect the Government’s exaggerated claims about the financial situation—was not given because the Government are unable to provide costed figures on savings that might result from the Bill, or even costed figures showing that there will be any savings at all. I hope that the Minister will now accept these amendments and show that the Government’s repeated words about openness and transparency are not simply smooth and meaningless platitudes.
My Lords, I hope that I might, without abusing the rules of Committee stage, make a brief further intervention as I had not anticipated the thrust of the remarks of the noble Baroness, Lady Hayter, on her Amendment 107, for which I apologise. It may be helpful to the Minister if I give him notice of this. As I understood it, the noble Baroness was complaining that the provision in Clause 8 about efficiency, effectiveness, economy and accountability was not sufficient. I hope that my Amendment 106A focuses on that point at least as clearly by saying that one should also take into account,
“fairness, openness, transparency and justice”.
I would like to see some values incorporated into what the Government have to take account of in these matters. Even if my noble friend cannot give me an assurance on that today, I hope that he will reflect on it.
When I made a somewhat similar point to the previous Government, the then Minister, the noble Baroness, Lady Ashton of Upholland, immediately took the point and brought forward an amendment to introduce values in a similar context into the Tribunals, Courts and Enforcement Act 2007. Therefore, I hope that that precedent will carry some weight, whether today or in the future.
I thank the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, for initiating this debate with his amendments as it is agreeable to return to the way in which the Bill operates, having discussed individual bodies at length. The noble Lord gave very good value, as he always does. I thank all noble Lords who have participated. The noble Baroness, Lady Hayter, drew the attention of the noble Lord, Lord Borrie, and, indeed, that of my noble friend Lord Newton of Braintree, to Clause 8. We are still looking at Clause 8 as the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee asked us to do so. The noble Lord, Lord Rosser, has a slightly jaundiced view of the way in which the Government have established dialogue on the Bill. We are genuinely seeking to introduce a necessary vehicle to deal with the reform of public bodies. I think that there is general agreement on that across the Committee. The previous Government had such a policy and we seek to pursue it in our turn.
The group of amendments in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, would require that, before laying an order under Clauses 2 to 6, a Minister must lay before Parliament a report setting out the reasoning for any change in the status of a body or bodies he or she proposes to make, with the said report being subject to debate and approval by resolution in each House. Amendment 119 would introduce an additional requirement for a report where an order affects a body or office within a particular set of categories. I hope the noble Lord will agree with that summary of what he is seeking to do.
The Government agree that Parliament should have access to appropriate information regarding any proposals to use powers under the Bill. The government amendments that we have introduced in Committee reflect this. In the first instance we have sought, along with Peers from across the House, to introduce a new requirement for Ministers to consult in relation to proposed changes under the Bill. Secondly, government amendments have been tabled which would require any draft instrument laid before Parliament to include an explanatory document which includes details setting out the reasoning behind the order.
These requirements give Parliament ample opportunity to scrutinise the reasoning behind the laying of an order. Amendment 113 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, would effectively require an additional affirmative resolution process for a report concerning a proposed order before the order itself could be made. This amendment risks Parliament being asked to debate a report on a proposed order prior to the consultation on the said order having been concluded. Additionally, it would create a new burden on Parliament itself and on departments as they seek to deliver on the reform package to which the coalition Government are committed.
Amendment 119 would require a Minister making an order affecting a group defined as an economic regulator or a consumer body to place a report before Parliament setting out the reasons for the proposals in the context of that group of bodies as a whole. The Government, of course, recognise that changes to public bodies should not be considered in isolation. I assure the noble Lord that this was not the case for those reforms set out by my right honourable friend the Minister for the Cabinet Office on 14 October. In this instance all reforms were agreed at Cabinet level and involved extensive dialogue between departments. I particularly appreciate the spirit of the noble Lord’s amendment in relation to relatively discrete groups of bodies such as the so-called economic regulators, where a shift in regulatory practice for one could potentially impact on regulatory stability across the sector, and where it is therefore right that Government act in a proportionate, joined-up manner.
As I said at Second Reading—I am happy to reiterate it—the Government intend the economic and regulatory functions of bodies such as Ofcom and Ofgem to be excluded from the powers of the Bill for precisely this reason. I do not believe that it is necessary to place such a requirement in the Bill, because the Government expect Ministers to consider such issues as a matter of course and because our Amendment 118, which requires Ministers to produce an explanatory document with a draft statutory instrument setting out the reasons for an order, will provide another opportunity to inform Parliament of such matters. For example, where a change is proposed to a consumer body or any other body, the Government will be required by Amendment 118 to give reasons for the order that relate to considerations including efficiency, accountability and effective delivery of public functions.
I take note of this debate, in which there have been valuable contributions—not least the ideas on Clause 8 proposed by my noble friend and the noble Baroness, Lady Hayter—and I hope that, given my assurances with regard to our commitment to sharing information with the House, the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw the amendment.
Before my noble friend sits down, will he briefly animadvert on the nature of the explanatory document that he has it in mind to produce? Explanatory Memoranda about Bills often state that they are there only to explain the content, not to provide evidence that has led to formation of the policy. Furthermore, such memoranda frequently state that they are explaining only those matters that are obscure or not clear in the Bill. What is required to be helpful to the deliberative process is an undertaking that these memoranda will contain evidence explaining the policy.
A requirement under our amendments will be that the explanatory documents are properly reasoned and describe not just what a statutory instrument proposes but the reasoning behind the change. They will also include an impact assessment. The idea is that these should be full documents. I understand what my noble friend is saying and I am grateful for his intervention, because Explanatory Memoranda to Bills frequently explain only what a particular clause might seek to do, not its implications. The requirement is that the explanatory documents should explain the reasoning behind a Minister’s approach to laying a statutory instrument.
My Lords, I am grateful for the Minister’s reply. Indeed, at one point he used the word “agreeable”, which perhaps raised my expectations too much. This short debate has demonstrated a need for the Government to provide a clearer explanation of what they are doing in this area. I saw the noble Lord’s Amendment 118 and, like the noble Lord, Lord Maclennan, I thought that that related to Explanatory Memoranda of the type that normally relate to content, rather than strategy and context. If the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, is saying that the content of the explanatory document will go somewhat wider, I accept that that goes some way towards what I am arguing for.
In relation to the procedural points made by my noble friends Lord Borrie and Lady Hayter, when these amendments were drafted there was another amendment—we have now considered it—in addition to her Amendment 107, which would have strengthened Clause 8 and made more sense of it. I had hoped that that could have been sorted out later, if the Government had stated that in principle they were accepting these amendments. However, Clause 8 as it stands asks the Minister to take these matters into consideration but does not require him to explain them to Parliament in any form. I am concerned that Parliament should, at some stage in the process, hold a substantive debate on the total strategy that lies behind the reason for abolishing or changing the nature of a particular body.
That remains an outstanding issue. When we reach Amendment 118, I hope that the Minister can expand further on how he sees this issue. However, the essential point is that Parliament by this Bill is giving up the right to revert to primary legislative procedure in relation to an organisation that was originally set up after full debate on primary legislation. We need a clear explanation if we are going to cut corners in that way. I still hope that we get there in the secondary, if not in the primary, legislation. If the Minister, before we consider Amendment 118 or at Report, can put a few bones on that, I should be extremely grateful. In the mean time, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 65 withdrawn.
Clause 2, as amended, agreed.
65A: After Clause 2, insert the following new Clause—
“Report on the merger of the UK Film Council and the British Film Institute
(1) Before making an order under section 2 in respect of the UK Film Council, the responsible Minister must report to Parliament with details on which body will be responsible for performing the following functions currently discharged by the UK Film Council—
(a) supporting film exports;(b) protecting intellectual property and combating film theft;(c) providing film research, statistics and market intelligence; and(d) providing co-production support and diversity initiatives.(2) One year after an order has been made to merge the British Film Institute and the UK Film Council under this Act, the responsible Minister must report to Parliament on—
(a) the performance of the British Film Institute in discharging its function to promote the UK as an international filming location and to raise the profile of British films abroad;(b) the performance of the British Film Institute in discharging its function to develop new and emerging talent in film production throughout the UK;(c) the performance of the British Film Institute in discharging its function to ensure that a broad range of films are available for the British public; and(d) the criteria used and funds allocated and distributed by the British Film Institute for film production in the UK.”
My Lords, the Bill deals with the questions of whether certain functions undertaken by government should be devolved to public bodies and how to ensure that these bodies are accountable. The Government are supposed to check whether a function needs to be carried out at all and then to apply certain tests to determine whether a public body is the “right delivery mechanism”.
Our case is that film policy fits these tests and that government has been right to establish public bodies to deal with the delivery of its objectives. The issue is which bodies and how they are to be brought into a relationship of accountability to Parliament. The purpose of the amendment and those in the group is to review and, if possible, to learn lessons from the situation that has arisen because of the precipitant decision of the Government in July 2010 to abolish the UK Film Council. The purpose of the amendment is also to safeguard the position of its main successor, the British Film Institute, and thereby give an opportunity to your Lordships to celebrate the outstanding achievement of British talent and skills in the recent Oscar and BAFTA ceremonies.
I declare a past interest as former director of the British Film Institute. I thank my noble friends Lord Wills and Lord Judd for putting their names to these amendments. My noble friend Lord Puttnam apologises for not being present. He was here last week when we nearly reached consideration of the amendments; indeed, that would have been well timed, because it was the night after the Oscar ceremonies, for which we were on tenterhooks. Unfortunately, he is now abroad and cannot be with us today.
By all accounts, this was one of the best years for British films in the BAFTAs and one of the best years for British nominations in the Oscars across all the technical specialisms, as well as in acting, producing and directing. I am sure that I speak for all noble Lords in sending our warmest congratulations to all those involved. “The King’s Speech” joins nine other British films that have won an Oscar for best picture. Colin Firth richly deserves his best actor accolade. Tom Hooper is the latest British director to be honoured and joins Danny Boyle, Sam Mendes, Anthony Minghella and Dickie Attenborough—to name but a few of the most recent winners. With the winners for the best original script, David Seidler, and best supporting actor, Christian Bale, Britain kept up its remarkable record of success. We are good at making films.
On another occasion, I should like to draw attention to the excellent work being done, perhaps behind the scenes, at the National Film and Television School in Beaconsfield, which had another good awards season, with 40 graduates involved in the BAFTA nominations and 25 working on films that garnered Oscar nominations. We are good at films and at training people for film.
“The King’s Speech” was supported by the UK Film Council with lottery funding and is already the most successful British independent film of all time. It has taken a staggering £42 million so far in the UK and has grossed $278 million worldwide. It is reaching new audiences. Indeed, one could say that it boldly goes where no British film has gone before. As a result of the modest investment made by the UK Film Council, millions of pounds will be recycled back into supporting the UK film industry. In that sense, the film perfectly makes the case for the UK Film Council’s work.
The last Government were considering a merger between the BFI and the Film Council but wanted the bodies themselves to come up with a workable proposal. In abolishing the UK Film Council by press release, the Government threaten one of the outstanding achievements of the past 10 years, during which time film became one of the UK’s real success stories and a hugely dynamic part of the creative industries and the creative economy. Not all of this can be directly attributable to the UK Film Council, but it is worth noting that the UK box office has grown by 69 per cent over the past 10 years and is now worth £1 billion per annum. The UK film industry now contributes more than £4.5 billion a year to the UK’s GDP and returns more than £1.2 billion to the Exchequer in tax payments. The UK film industry directly employs around 36,000 people and, in total, supports about 100,000 direct and indirect jobs. Over the past 10 years, inward investment—mainly US films made here—has surpassed £5.4 billion and film exports have reached a record £1.3 billion. The Film Council, over its lifetime, has invested over £160,000 of lottery funding into more than 900 films and shorts, which have won more than 300 awards, entertained more than 200 million people and helped to generate over £700 million at box offices worldwide.
I said earlier that the Government had been precipitate in abolishing the UK Film Council. Contrast, if you will, its demise with the careful way in which the previous Government set up the body a decade ago—a process in which I played a small part. Working from an initial proposal from the BFI, a working group co-chaired by the right honourable Tom Clarke MP, the Film Minister, and Stewart Till from the industry consulted widely across industry and abroad before the report, A Bigger Picture, was delivered to the Secretary of State and then implemented. Many of the findings of that report are very relevant today.
Film is both art and business. The British director John Boorman once called it the business of “turning money into light”. It is creative and innovative, it powers growth, it stimulates employment, it drives tourism and, as the Americans have recognised from the earliest days, it can promote both cultural and physical goods. If we are to diversify the British economy, we need to support and nurture our creative industries. Film is a collaborative industry and it ought to be at the heart of our drive to develop the creative industries, drawing as it does on so many other allied industries, increasingly in the new technologies.
However, we in Britain have a schizophrenic attitude to film. Is it a coincidence that the Royal Opera House dominates Covent Garden, that the National Theatre draws eyes across the Thames and that the Royal Festival Hall stands proud beside it, but that the National Film Theatre is hidden under Waterloo Bridge, every screening potentially ruined by the traffic grinding its way across above it and audiences constantly frustrated about how to find their way in, let alone watch a movie?
The machinery of UK film is complex, with many moving parts, and there is a need for a single body to continue the work of turning the UK film sector into a professional, co-ordinated and powerful industry, capable of making and distributing movies that will earn back their investment across the world. Every Government in the world, including that of the USA, support their film industry. We have the talent and the facilities—our records show that. What the industry wants is a long-term, stable partnership with government.
When I first put down this amendment to the Bill last year, I did not know at that time that the majority of the functions of the UK Film Council were to be transferred to the BFI. Although I regret the way in which this was done, I support that decision, which I think was the right one. I am confident that the senior management and the board of the BFI will rise to the “challenge”, as the Minister Ed Vaizey put it, of becoming the,
“new strategic body to oversee the future development of film in this country”.
However, closer inspection of the plans gives me cause for concern. I understand that only 44 of the 76 UK Film Council posts are to be transferred to the BFI, as no funding is earmarked for several of the functions currently undertaken, including support of film exports, protecting intellectual property and combating film theft, and providing co-production support. Can the Minister give us some explanation of what is to happen to these functions and why it was felt that they were not central to the future development of film in this country?
Of the 44 posts that are transferring out of the UK Film Council, I understand that four are to go to Film London, which is to take over the functions of the British Film Commissioner and be responsible for promoting the UK as a base for making films across the world. Film London is a good body with an excellent track record, but separating out the functions of inward investment not only from the BFI but from the eight regional film agencies, which are combining to form Creative England, and the film agencies in the three nations of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland seems an odd way of restructuring this vital area. Can the Minister give us an idea of how this will work in practice and what benefits will flow from the new arrangements?
I understand that the UK Film Council’s research, statistics and market intelligence function, which provides crucial underpinning of data and evidence to help to inform policy, will be transferring to the BFI. However, I also understand that the DCMS will not be providing funding to support it. What sort of Alice in Wonderland world can this be? If the work is worth doing, surely it is worth paying for. I do not see the department, with its own cuts and reductions in staff, doing this. Can the Minister confirm that this function will be funded going forward?
Finally, I understand that the vesting day for the BFI to take over responsibility for former UK Film Council functions has now been brought forward to April 2011, which seems rather tight, given that so much change is under way and that so many staffing and other transfers have still to be negotiated. Perhaps the Minister can reassure us on that point and give us an update on progress.
These are serious questions, which, along with the more general points that I have been making, are the basis of the second part of Amendment 65A. If we believe that our film industry is important to us as a nation both culturally and because of its growing economic contribution, and that it is right that the Government should delegate some or all of their responsibilities to such a body, then it surely follows that this body should have a relationship with Parliament. Therefore, Amendment 65A would add to the Bill requirements that the Government inform Parliament where the missing functions currently undertaken by the UK Film Council are to be transferred and that, one year after the closure of the UK Film Council and the transfer of certain of its functions to the BFI, a report should be made to Parliament about how the new arrangements are working. I look forward to hearing what the Minister has to say on these issues.
Given what I have been saying about the schizophrenic nature of our approach to film, it occurs to me that, should the Committee agree with our proposals, we might come back at Report with a suggestion that an annual report on film be presented to Parliament, perhaps at the end of February each year, so that we can have the opportunity, every year, not only of discussing the place of film in the United Kingdom but of celebrating our ongoing successes at the BAFTAs and the Oscars. I beg to move.
My Lords, in rising to support the amendments that my noble friend Lord Stevenson has so eloquently presented and to which I have added my name, I draw the Committee’s attention to my declaration of interests as set out at Second Reading of the Bill on 9 November last year.
The success of “The King’s Speech” at the Oscars, at other awards ceremonies and at the box office this year has been widely celebrated, as indeed has the success of other British films. These are tremendous achievements. “The King’s Speech” was a tremendous achievement for the writer, the director, the actors and everyone involved in its production, and that includes the UK Film Council. As Iain Canning, one of the producers of that film, said, the film,
“wouldn't have been made without the UK Film Council”.
As we have heard and as your Lordships will know, the UK Film Council is now no more. It was abolished last year by the Government by press release. It was hard to understand why the Government took that decision last year, but it is even harder to understand today when we see the tremendous success of these films in which the UK Film Council has played such an important role. The UK Film Council was a flourishing public body competing in a ferociously competitive marketplace. It has helped to treble the turnover of the British film industry in the past 10 years. It supported the development of new filmmakers, funded imaginative and innovative British films, and ensured that British audiences could have access to all the glories of the cinema, with a wider choice of films made available to audiences throughout the country.
So why did the Government do this? In what last year the Observer rather charitably called an,
“impassioned defence of his decision”,
the Secretary of State explained that it was “simply not acceptable” to use taxpayers’ money to fund an organisation that pays its top eight executives more than £100,000 each. That was the justification that he gave. However, the Secretary of State was wrong in saying that. In fact, there were only six such executives, and if that was to be the criterion for scrapping the UK Film Council, why hand its functions over to the British Film Institute, whose latest accounts submitted to the Charity Commission show that seven of its staff received remuneration packages of more than £100,000? That is seven—one more than the number of people in the UK Film Council receiving such packages. It is not clear whether this exercise will save money overall and I would welcome any comment that the Minister may have about whether we will see any savings from bringing those two bodies together.
I entirely accept that no organisation has a right to an eternal existence but, if politicians are going to butcher successful organisations operating in a world of which they seem to have very little knowledge and understanding, they would be well advised to have good reasons for doing so. That is all the more important when the organisation in question depends for its success on a very rare combination of skills: a commercial eye for an audience, an intimacy with the medium, a human empathy with creative artists, the ability to nurture and to develop them, and an inspirational excitement about the cultural and economic benefits which film can offer and which my noble friend Lord Stevenson so eloquently set out. Such organisations are very hard to create and when they work as well as the UK Film Council was working, they should be cherished, not arbitrarily destroyed.
This organisation was scrapped without consultation, just through a press release, and, as far as I am aware, Ministers have not even had the elementary courtesy at any point since then to say anything in praise of the UK Film Council's remarkable achievements, not even about its role in the creation of “The King’s Speech”. I note the contrast with the debate which we had earlier today when the noble Lord, Lord McNally, under assault from all sides of the House, still found it possible to pay tribute to all the good work done by the Youth Justice Board. By contrast, Ministers who take responsibility for this in the other place—I obviously make an exception for the Ministers on the Front Bench in this House who are completely blameless in this respect—have not even had the elementary courtesy to say one word in tribute to the organisation which, apparently, they have so arbitrarily scrapped.
Why should the exceptionally talented people who work for the UK Film Council hang around working for a public body when they all have so many other options—much more lucrative options, in most cases—and when they are treated with such discourtesy by the Secretary of State who will determine the future of film in this country? I understand that the haemorrhaging of talent has already begun. Able and experienced professionals are leaving the public sector for other jobs and no doubt more will follow. Successful organisations such as the UK Film Council exist in a fragile ecology and politicians meddle at their peril.
Of course, there are profound challenges facing film in this country but this casual and ill thought-through decision is not the way to meet them. My noble friend Lord Stevenson has already said that last year the British Film Institute and the UK Film Council discussed a merger and both sides decided, after lengthy discussion and after securing legal advice, that there would be significant problems in making it work. That is not surprising. They are very different organisations. One is essentially a cultural organisation and the other is an industrial organisation. They may sound as though they are all in the same industry and they both have the word “film” in their titles, but culturally, organisationally and in terms of their focus they are very different organisations. It is not surprising that they should have found a merger difficult to work through. That is not difficult to understand at all. It is entirely predictable that much the same sorts of problems are now being encountered in trying to bring these two organisations together. I hope that all responsible Ministers are taking an active interest in the discussions between the BFI and the UK Film Council and can find a way of making this merger work.
Amendment 65A draws attention to some of the unease that has been created by how the functions which have been discharged by the UK Film Council will be discharged in this new era. All mergers, all kinds of takeovers, whatever you want to call this current process, are difficult in every industry and every business. It is notoriously difficult to make them work successfully. I hope that Ministers are not just standing by and relying on all the talented, highly motivated and able people on both sides of this debate to bring this off themselves. Ministers may have to intervene to bring about a successful conclusion and I hope that they will do so.
In responding to the amendment, I ask the Minister to say whether the Government will ensure that the UK Film Council’s research and statistics unit will carry on that essential work long term. I understand that the funding is guaranteed for one year but will they ensure that it is carried on long term? Without a market intelligence function like this, the BFI will be making decisions in the dark. I should be grateful if the Minister could tell the Committee what estimate has been made of the impact of not funding film exports. Film exports under the guidance of the UK Film Council have grown by 92 per cent. As my noble friend Lord Stevenson has already said, in 2008, film exports amounted to more than £1.3 billion. At a time when the Government are placing so much of their hopes for economic recovery on growth in exports, why are they taking away the support function from such a crucial industry? Can the Minister name other crucial industries where support for exports has been similarly scrapped?
Can the Minister also say who will take over the UK Film Council’s role in opening up film to as wide and diverse an audience as possible? How will the BFI demonstrate a strategy which reflects its new responsibility for the entire film sector and not just BFI-related exhibition and distribution? What can the Minister say to assure this House that the BFI will be committed to representing the interests of the film industry as a whole as well as the UK Film Council has done in the past? That is crucial as technology and the economic structure of the industry are changing very fast. What can the Minister say to reassure the film industry and this House that the BFI will address effectively such key issues as film theft, piracy, pay-TV platforms, which are especially important now that Sky has become so market dominant in acquiring film rights for television, and the smooth transition of the film industry to new digital models? As I have already said, the BFI has essentially been a very successful cultural body, so what can the Minister say to reassure everyone that it can successfully take on this complex and demanding new role?
In the coming years, Ministers—I direct my remarks to Ministers in the other place—will be judged by how far the film industry measures up to the benchmark now set by “The King’s Speech”. Ministers may move on to new jobs in Government or to none but the Ministers responsible for this decision now risk being remembered as the politicians who carelessly and needlessly destroyed an important part of the infrastructure of the British film industry. They now have to prove that what they have put in its place will be an improvement. I very much hope that they can do so. These amendments give the Government an opportunity to offer reassurance that they now understand that. I hope that they will take it.
My Lords, I add my support to the amendment of my noble friend Lord Stevenson and join him in congratulating those who won the Oscars. I perhaps should not forget the BAFTAs, which are more local and also well worth winning, as the same pattern of achievement was there.
I want to address the Committee on this amendment as I had the very good fortune to be the first person designated as the Minister for Intellectual Property, a role which I know that the new Government have also taken on as a ministerial post. The enjoyment from that role came from being involved not only in helping to drive forward businesses but in assisting in the development of cultural industries. I was under no illusion while doing so that Governments do not create business; they simply do their best to set out the conditions in which business might be able to thrive. The advantages of doing that are that, certainly in this country, we are unlikely to make much of our living doing many of the things which we have traditionally done, but we make a very good living from being successful in the creative industries.
My noble friend Lord Stevenson has pointed out that film adds between an additional 6 and 9 per cent per annum to the value created. The data that I read when I was responsible for the matter showed that the creative economy as a whole grew consistently by between 7 and 8 per cent per annum. Almost no other part of the United Kingdom’s economy had a growth pattern that came anywhere near that level of achievement. I recognise immediately some of the difficulties in measuring economic performance, but very good research from Queen Mary, London University, and other universities, has come back pretty consistently with the figure of between 7 and 8 per cent and one or two estimates which were higher. That is a fantastic achievement.
That is why I want to look particularly carefully at what might disrupt elements of that achievement and I will do so by focusing on subsection (1)(b) of the proposed new clause. The difficulty that the industry described most frequently—as, incidentally, did the music industry—was the wholesale theft of the properties being created and the tendency for people to steal intellectual property such as a new film almost as soon as it was made.
We had a range of options to try to deal with that problem. For a start, trading standards officers locally would try to identify the criminals involved and get their hands on the contraband. On occasion, the police made that effort as well. I have to say—and I mean no complaint by this, because trading standards officers and police forces have many other priorities—that it was seldom at the top of their priority list. The result was that a great deal of the great value in a great product made in this country was consistently lost. Of course it is true that American, French and other films are also stolen, but today we are concerned with what has been achieved in our film industry.
The efforts that had to be made to stop the damage being done to the industry were highly specialised, not only in the companies that made films, which of course had real concern about their property being stolen, but in the British Film Institute, which tried to work with and assist those companies in responding to that wholesale theft.
It was not a simple matter of a fixed pattern of theft. The development of the internet world and digital technology meant that the character of the crime and the way in which people could perpetrate it kept changing. That meant that consistent attention had to be paid to how people stole the intellectual property. Some people—of course, nobody in your Lordships' House—thought, as they did with the music industry, that this was a good fun, picaresque event, involving a modern-day Robin Hood banditry that was perfectly acceptable. You could steal a band's music; you could steal someone's movie; it did not really make a difference; it was all part of the public good and in the public domain so it was all right. I took a different view for a couple of reasons, which I shall sum up briefly for the Committee.
First, you cannot have a viable industry creating great products if people feel that they can steal the product easily. That is why the function referred to in the amendment is vital if we have serious intent to protect the industry. My second reason is that many of the people who were detected in the theft of intellectual property, particularly in music and film, turned out to be criminals who were also involved in a number of other activities, including people trafficking—it was often people who had been trafficked who were selling these products in car boot sales, public houses and so on—and drug distribution. It was often a way of incorporating those individuals in a wider range of crime. There was strong evidence, not least from the police forces, for which I was very grateful, which indicated that we were addressing a problem wider even than the damage being done to the creative industries.
How precisely are we to protect that intellectual property from theft? If we do not, I am genuinely fearful that the film industry will go into decline, as have many parts of the music industry. I ask the Committee not to underestimate just how steep a downward curve that industry has faced.
My Lords, I add my support to the amendment moved by my noble friend Lord Stevenson. I do so as someone who served until the general election on the Select Committee on Communications of your Lordships' House. Shortly before the election, the committee produced a detailed report on the state of the UK film and television industry as it was then—that is only just over a year ago.
A lot of the evidence taken by the committee then was in the wake of another huge success for the British film industry, although of a rather different nature from that of “The King's Speech” which we have been celebrating today. That film was “Slumdog Millionaire”, which also had huge success at the Oscars and elsewhere and depended for some of its success not on money from the UK Film Council but on a small amount of money, very early in the film’s development, from Channel 4. The reason that I mention that in relation to the amendment is that, as my noble friend Lord Wills just remarked, the UK film industry exists in a very fragile ecology. Its fragility concerns how difficult it is not so much to get things finished as to get them started.
The UK Film Council’s intervention, which allowed “The King's Speech” to be made, was at the beginning of that process. Anyone who has spent time over the past few weeks reading all the interviews and material generated by the success of “The King's Speech” will know that Tom Hooper, his screenwriter and the other people—the small group who believed in the project—struggled to get it going. Always, when we look at UK films that have big success, we think, “Of course. Why would it not be successful?”. It is not like that. One valuable thing that the UK Film Council has done, which is mentioned in the amendment, is to collect data and research on all the various ways in which the UK film industry is active. Those data reveal that the industry is in constant flux. It has moments of huge success and, at other times, moments when its success falls away.
In my view, that is partly because the industry has a relatively small domestic market. It has to get out there and sell itself into a wider world market before it can really start to make money. That is why film export is so important and why it is therefore necessary for the Government and the Minister, when she comes to reply, to explain how the film export aspect of the work of the UK Film Council will be supported and continued as we go on. The American film industry has a massive domestic market, and films can be a success in America using just that domestic market. Our film industry cannot rely on that market. It has to get out there and sell itself. The success of “The King’s Speech” is remarkable in that it has become a worldwide success. That is very hard to achieve from a UK base, and anything that is likely to undermine the continuing success of UK film by not properly supporting the export side of it is very much to be regretted.
I would also like to mention one other thing that is not specifically mentioned in this amendment, but I hope the Minister will find something to reassure the Committee about it when she comes to reply. It is about supporting film artists at an early stage in their career. Whether you are a director or a writer, the difficulty of getting your work funded at an early stage in your career is extreme in this country. That is probably an issue everywhere, but it is certainly so here. Among its many functions, the UK Film Council has over the years put some money into development and into making sure that a certain number of screen writers get to develop their work. I would like to feel that the Government understand the importance of this function and that when they come to review the way in which the functions of UK Film Council are to be transferred to the BFI that aspect of what it has been doing will be protected.
It is a very great matter of pride to all of us when a film such as “The King’s Speech” comes along and has such extraordinary success at home and in America, but it is an extremely long, hard journey to get a film such as that up and running and to get it to be as successful as that film has been. We cannot afford to lose any of the potential support for UK film makers.
My Lords, I, too, support Amendment 65A, particularly subsections (1)(d), (2)(c) and (2)(d). I declare an interest as an actress, broadcaster and producer. I shall speak first on subsection (1)(d) and the subject of diversity. For nearly 40 years now, I have spoken about the need to reflect diversity in film and media and, over those years, there have been many attempts to address the issue. Yet, sadly, this year, it was glaringly noticeable that there were no black or Asian nominees in the BAFTAs or the Oscars, which I find shocking in the 21st century. This is why I am supporting this amendment to ensure that provision is made actively to continue to address this situation.
I fear that this will not be undertaken because there is currently no diversity strategy in place at the BFI beyond a diversity programming group, which delivers various seasons and the Lesbian & Gay Film Festival. I find it difficult to understand that a modern organisation such as the BFI is without a focused diversity strategy that is actionable and measurable externally throughout the film industry. Diversity requires strong leadership from an individual to ensure success. It cannot just be an add-on to a blanket organisational remit. There is far too much proof that, although people mean well, there are always other priorities. The BFI says that it is passionate about diversity, but how will it demonstrate that to a diverse talent pool that wants more of what the UK Film Council’s diversity department has been delivering for the past few years?
My concern is that without an industry-focused diversity strategy there will be no further collaborations between the Film Fund, which distributes the funding, and the film sector to provide career-enhancing opportunities for diverse talent, which, in broadcast terms, relates to the new Equality Act. I fear that without a diversity strategy no one will actively provide real job opportunities, either in front of or behind the camera, thereby sending a clear message to the sector that diversity is not a vital necessity in order to reflect modern Britain. This will be disastrous.
Over the past few years, the UK Film Council has supported diversity projects to support the sustainability of diverse talent through proper training opportunities. These have been wide-ranging. They included: funding scriptwriters, runners and make-up artists; graduate fellowship schemes through Diversity in Visual Arts; funding digital shorts for disabled film-makers; supporting a mentoring scheme with Skillset and Women in Film and Television; and pioneering an outreach project with Pinewood Studios that hopes to encourage a greater diversity of applicants for apprenticeships and jobs. Ultimately, diversity offers the UK’s highly skilled but fragmented and diverse workforce the chance to strengthen their careers through strategic support. The industry is united in a single vision to ensure the inclusion of modern voices, so it is imperative that the BFI continues to uphold this vision and puts in place a diversity strategy overseen by experienced people. I urge the Government to ensure that that happens.
I now move on to subsections (2)(c) and (2)(d). I want to highlight the need to allocate a percentage of funds for films targeted at children and young people. The state of UK children’s film production is dire. In 2010, the UK Film Council made only six grants totalling £113,500 towards children’s and young people’s films. This works out at 0.75 per cent of the UK Film Council’s budget for filming in that year. Over the years, it was always believed that little was being done to produce culturally significant, good-quality British films for children, but it is clear to see that children’s films are a highly popular genre, as recent reports on UK film audiences in 2010 show that most of the popular films received U or PG certificates and so were classified for children.
Yet the problem for British film does not lie with trying to attract an audience to watch the films. Instead, it occurs with trying to keep the money made by successful children’s films in this country. Many of the most profitable and lucrative films since 2006 have been British-born stories and ideas, yet they were not necessarily UK film productions, as we do not have the money to make large-budget blockbusters. These are films such as “The Chronicles of Narnia”, “Harry Potter”, “Pirates of the Caribbean”, “The Golden Compass” and, most recently, “Alice in Wonderland” and “Fantastic Mr Fox”. The accomplishments of these films show that, through investment in quality children’s films, large profits can be achieved and this can bring about a good return. It also shows that, by investing in ourselves, we will be able to keep profits at home and put them straight back into funding and making even better British films for children.
The real question at hand is how the British film industry can benefit from UK children’s film productions. On 21 January 2011, BAFTA, along with members of the Danish film industry, hosted an event entitled, “Is Something Rotten in the State of Children’s Cinema?”. The event focused on the work done by the Danish Film Institute, since the UK is facing similar issues to those dealt with by it a few years ago. Denmark now has a strong film industry in which Danish kids’ films take 38 per cent of all box office takings. This can be linked to its film Act in 1997, under which an allocated 25 per cent of the state-funded film budget is put directly into funding children’s films. This figure has been ring-fenced, which has allowed Danish film-makers to produce films specifically for children. From 1999 to 2008, the market share of Danish films for children and young people was a staggering 41 per cent of the total and, in 2010, it rose to 50 per cent. What the Danes have done to create this success is quite simple; their film industry has made sure that there has always been a seat at the table for children’s film. This in turn strengthens the partnership between Danish and international producers and creates a balance between Danish and foreign participants in the technical and creative areas of production.
If the Government encourage the BFI to adopt the Danish model and if the BFI actively promotes the availability of funds for UK children’s film productions, this will attract co-production, create an active UK children’s film market and establish a creative outlet for our talented British creators so that they too can stand on the world stage and be honoured, like those who created celebrated films such as “The King’s Speech” this year. An agreed percentage of funds should be allocated to UK film productions for children and young people to enable this to happen, so I support this amendment.
My Lords, I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, on tabling Amendment 65A, which I support, as it is an imaginative amendment that seeks to discuss the UK Film Council and the British Film Institute and how their continuing respective functions will relate to each other. It quite deliberately uses the term “merger”.
I will speak to the work of the British Film Institute and to my concerns and hopes for this important organisation in the light of the changes that are to be made. Its multifaceted work does not have a primarily commercial imperative. Its work is inherently good for British culture and British society as a whole. Film has become, as in other countries but particularly in Britain throughout the 20th century and into the 21st, part of the lifeblood of the nation, so the BFI is as relevant today as it has been in the past and will be in the future.
Over decades, the BFI has done tremendous work, not least in saving, restoring and rediscovering British films that would otherwise be lost because of the fragility of the film medium. My own father, Terry Trench, worked in the post-war British documentary film industry, mainly as an editor but sometimes as producer or director. His films are among the close to a million titles that the BFI now holds in its national archive. My father was one of a number of still often unsung heroes of the original British documentary film movement, although now there is a much greater interest in this tradition, due in no small measure to the BFI—the success of its DVD compilations such as “Land of Promise” are a testament to this.
Indeed, the BFI is keen to allow work to be as accessible as possible to the public, although, given the copyright issues, this is not always easy. As it happens, the very first film that my father edited was directed by Anthony Asquith. The BFI recently restored Asquith’s early features, including “Underground”, leading directly to something of a critical reappraisal of his work. At present, the BFI is in the process of restoring nine of Hitchcock’s silent films in readiness for a retrospective in 2012, which in the year of the Olympics will garner considerable international interest.
I think on reflection that it could be a good thing if the UK Film Council was merged with the BFI—I choose my words carefully. However, I hope that this will not lead to the current BFI becoming some type of junior partner within this cinematic coalition, as with clear overall leadership its current role could and should be kept intact and necessarily as properly funded as the UK Film Council, which I understand from Ed Vaizey’s announcement on Thursday stands to benefit from a well deserved multimillion-pound injection of financial support, just as the BFI faces an undeserved 15 per cent cut in funding.
Ideally, the BFI would become the guardian of film of the past, the present and the future—the Paul Newman Butch Cassidy role to the UK Film Council’s Robert Redford Sundance Kid, if you will. However, if the overall framework overburdens the BFI and then threatens its current work, the merger will be a disaster, whatever extra funding the UK Film Council in effect receives, as there will be no legacy to aspire to and no heritage to make. In the light of this, I call on the Government to look carefully at the balance of funding and to reappraise those cuts, which are aimed at the heritage of the national film industry.
We are still fighting the same ideological battles as 50 years ago, even though the stages for such battles might have changed. My father worked for the state-funded Crown Film Unit, a much respected quango that was set up to replace the GPO Film Unit, whose work of course included the celebrated “Night Mail”. What then happened in 1952 to the Crown Film Unit, fresh from its recent BAFTA and Oscar-winning triumphs? A newly elected Conservative Government abolished it, the reason cited being financial in a time of austerity. I hope very much that the BFI goes from strength to strength and that the Government will continue to support its important work.
My Lords, I have a brief observation to make. We heard a very enthusiastic speech from the Prime Minister in recent days about regenerating the imaginative drive of British industry. We are good at the creative arts and we are good at universities. Why do we have this generalised bureaucratic approach to sweeping legislation instead of getting down to the task—the real discipline—of looking specifically at each of these sectors and the things that are happening in them and devising the strongest possible arrangements to support them in maximising their success? Their success is beyond doubt and it is absolute madness to have been through an episode in which the talent that had got together and that was fulfilling the job so convincingly has been undermined, demoralised and fragmented by what has been proposed. How on earth does this relate to what the Prime Minister was talking about at the weekend? I ask the Government, even at this late stage, not just to try to patch up what has happened and try to find some acceptable solution but to look at the whole thing again and ask how they can really ensure that they have the strongest possible and most dynamic arrangements in place to enable the film industry, and indeed the universities, to succeed as they should.
My Lords, I was not going to speak in this debate, but two things strike me. Here, I ought to declare my interest in that, in my past life, I was the chairman of a film production and distribution company.
First, my gut feeling about the merger is that it would be much better to have one body speaking to the British film industry and combining all the functions of the two existing organisations. This would reduce overheads, produce greater efficiencies and allow the new body to focus on the important issues for the film industry—in other words, to be one strong voice for the British film industry. Before these amendments came before us today, I asked one or two noble friends who are in the business for their views. I am told that not all but many eminent practitioners think that the Government in this instance have got it just about right.
Secondly, I am not 100 per cent sure why these amendments are being discussed today in our deliberations on the Public Bodies Bill. I did not think that either the UK Film Council or the British Film Institute were public bodies. They are not statutory bodies, so as excellent and as passionate as this debate has been, surely it should have been conducted outside the confines of this Bill.
My Lords, this has been a fascinating debate with, as is so often the case in your Lordships’ House, contributions by dedicated and knowledgeable Peers who are passionate about their subject. I am grateful to those who introduced these amendments but I want to be clear from the outset that the Public Bodies Bill is not the right place to debate the abolition of the UK Film Council or the transfer of functions to the British Film Institute. The UK Film Council is a company limited by guarantee. The British Film Institute is a registered charity established by royal charter. Neither is a statutory body, so neither has a place in the Public Bodies Bill.
However, Amendment 67B, in the names of the noble Lords, Lord Stevenson and Lord Wills, and Amendments 77A and 85B, in the names of the noble Lords, Lord Stevenson, Lord Wills and Lord Judd, would include the UK Film Council and the British Film Institute within Schedules 2, 4 and 5. Amendment 65A, in the names of the noble Lords, Lord Stevenson, Lord Puttnam and Lord Wills, and the noble Baroness, Lady Bakewell, would create a duty for the Government to lay before Parliament a report following a merger under Clause 2.
I will consider these amendments together. In answer to the remark made by the noble Lord, Lord Wills, about recognition from Ministers of the success of “The King’s Speech”, as recently as last week the Minister, Ed Vaizey, praised the UK Film Council in a speech at the UK Screen Association. That is on public record. The Government remain absolutely committed to supporting the British film industry. The decision to abolish the UK Film Council should not be misconstrued as an attempt to undermine the industry. I urge noble Lords to consider the substance of our proposals before coming to conclusions as there is a certain amount of support for this merger even from the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson. While the UK Film Council is being abolished, its most important functions will be retained, many of which will move across to the British Film Institute. These functions include the distribution of lottery money, support for films in the regions, the media programme and the certification unit that is essential to film tax relief.
The noble Lord, Lord Wills, was rightly concerned that the British Film Institute’s research and statistics unit should be retained. I can assure him that we, as well as the industry, believe that that is critical. Discussions are progressing well between the BFI, Film London and the UK Film Council, and we are confident that the transfer in April will leave no gap in the service provided to the UK film industry. The noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, is right that we are looking for the full transfer in April 2011. As referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, the DCMS is currently discussing with the industry and the BFI the solution to funding the research and statistics unit. My noble friend Lord Cathcart made a very valid point and he is absolutely right. I am most grateful to him for reminding us yet again that these bodies have no place in the Bill.
British film-making continues to have a bright future under this Government. The film tax credit, which is worth more than £100 million each year to the British film industry, will continue with the certification unit moving across from the UK Film Council to the British film industry. Lottery funding available for the industry will increase from the current £27 million to £43 million by 2014, an increase of more than 50 per cent. The success of films such as “The King’s Speech” shows that we can be proud of the country’s contribution to film-making and I was delighted that this contribution was acknowledged at last week’s Oscar ceremony, as well as at the BAFTAs and the Golden Globe Awards. I should like to add my congratulations to all those involved to those of the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson.
The noble Lord, Lord Wills, asked several questions. He asked whether talented staff will have a fulfilling future. We agree and would hope that they will. Transfer arrangements are currently the subject of due diligence discussions between the British Film Institute and the UK Film Council. He also asked about film exports, as did the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh. Tough government decisions have had to be taken and priorities established but the UK Film Council continues to work with the industry to promote film exports. The noble Lord and my noble friend Lady Benjamin asked about responsibility for diversity issues. I can assure them that it is part of the fuller policy remit. The noble Lords, Lord Wills and Lord Triesman, asked about piracy and we understand their concern. The BFI does not represent the film industry on IP issues. The responsible agency for public policy is working with the industry.
We have had an interesting debate and I should like to remind your Lordships once again that these are not statutory bodies and should not appear in the Bill. However, I have taken note of the points and some of the constructive ideas. If I have not answered all questions asked by noble Lords I will of course take them back to the department. I should also like to remind your Lordships that the additional statutory reporting requirement is not feasible as it relates to a merger under Clause 2 of bodies which have no place in Schedule 2. I would therefore ask the noble Lord to withdraw his amendment.
My Lords, I thank the Minister for her response. In some senses, this debate has proved to be exactly what we had hoped that it would when we put down the amendments. We did so in a spirit of discussion and debate, which I hope has not been misconstrued on the other side. It is clearly a probing amendment. You cannot reinstate that which should not be instated in the first place and you certainly cannot abolish it subsequently since it has already been abolished. So we were in somewhat of an Alice in Wonderland world. We expected to be caught out and indeed we were.
However, in so doing, the debate has been exactly as we had hoped it would be. There have been contributions from all around the House, which have covered all aspects of what we thought was an important issue. We have made the point that this is something that will not wait simply on some arbitrary definition of what is a statutory body and what is not. I said at the very beginning of my remarks—I am sorry that the Minister did not come back to this—that if the general point being made in this Bill is that bodies devolved from government to bodies whether statutory or not is an important feature of our constitutional hardwiring, why is it that we are not able to work into our system a method under which those bodies can be asked to report back to Parliament so that we can have the sort of discussion which we so patently have had today? That is a question which the noble Baroness might like to take back and think about as we move towards the Third Reading of the Bill.
Several extremely valuable points were made during the debate. I particularly enjoyed those made by the noble Baroness, Lady Benjamin, which she has made to me on many occasions when I was in a position to do something about them. I suffered then and I think we have all suffered again today as we realise how bad we are about the diversity issues to which she drew our attention, and how much neglect there is in our overall concern about culture if we do not nurture our children. I wish the noble Baroness all the best in carrying on with putting these points forward. It may not be the case that the Danish model is the right one, but it is certainly something that we should be looking at, and I hope that the BFI will take it forward.
The noble Earl, Lord Clancarty, was too modest when talking about his family’s experiences. I think that there is an Oscar lurking in there somewhere, along with other prizes, and we should celebrate that with him. He made the point exactly as one would expect: when we have something successful in the country—we had the Crown Film Unit that did fantastic work which is now being restored and reissued to audiences—when it is doing particularly well, we tend to chop it down on the grounds of cost.
My noble friend Lady McIntosh said that we always have to think about how to get started in the industry. It is not a traditional industry in the sense that you can join at the bottom and work your way up; rather it is one that is feast or famine. If you have a success you are able to build on that, or you may have a series of failures. What you have to do is create a context within which work can be supported and nurtured and in which new people can always be brought forward. Creativity lies in the innovation of the young, not in the successes of the old, and we have to make sure that we get that right.
My noble friend Lord Judd drew attention to the imaginative drive that permeates throughout many ministerial Statements these days. Why on earth can we not recognise that the creative economy is one of the places that we will get the returns we need? It must be backed with really sensible proposals that will take it forward and thus out of the traditional modes with which we have been trying to support it. My noble friend Lord Triesman made the important point that IP is the key to a lot of future creative activity and that those who try to abuse it are often linked into other criminal behaviour. We are going to be in serious trouble if we cannot think through how the rights to creative activities are being taken away from the creators up to the point where sometimes they will not invest in order to achieve the benefits that we would like from them.
All in all, we have had a particular debate. I felt that the Minister did not really pick up on what the excellent speech of my noble friend Lord Wills was about. My noble friend tried to say that while we are supportive of where we are, because we are going to have a merger between the UK Film Council and the BFI whether we like it or not, there are some good things to say about it. The noble Earl, Lord Clancarty, drew attention to the problems that can arise where a cultural body takes on a commercial wing. But the BFI has done production before and, I think, can rise to the challenge going forward. However, as my noble friend Lord Wills said, we now have a benchmark. We know what success means in this world. I recommend to Ministers that they should think carefully about where the UK Film Council took our film industry so that, when we are able to debate this issue again, we can think again about the benchmark and consider whether the changes that are being brought forward now are sufficient and can succeed in achieving a sustainable British film industry, something that all noble Lords will join me in saying that they want.
As I said, this is a probing amendment and I do not intend in any sense to embarrass either my own or any side by taking it to a vote. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 65A withdrawn.
House resumed. Committee to begin again not before 8.45 pm.