House of Lords
Thursday, 28 June 2012.
Prayers—read by the Lord Bishop of Birmingham.
Economy: Deficit Reduction
My Lords, tackling the large deficit that this Government inherited was, and is, necessary to restore public finances to a sustainable path. Reversing the historic rise in public debt will strengthen the UK’s medium-term growth prospects.
My Lords, has the Minister seen the OECD’s latest figures, which show that when the Government took office in 2010 our net debt in that year was 53.9% of GDP, while in Germany it was 52.2%? By 2013, next year, they say that UK debt will be 74%, although it is likely to be higher now in the light of the latest figures, while Germany’s will still be 50.5%. The budget deficit was serious, of course, but it cannot be blamed for those figures. Does the Minister not agree that those figures show that the real reason behind this is that Germany had growth, whereas the Chancellor’s deficit reduction plan deliberately had no growth? In those circumstances, can we now expect another U-turn, shortly I hope, to provide some capital for structural expenditure, which might just help to kick-start a bit of a revival?
My Lords, the debt figures that the noble Lord, Lord Barnett, recited precisely illustrate the structural deficit challenge that we inherited from the previous Government. We have already reduced the current budget deficit from 11% to 8% of GDP in two years, but there is much more to do, and we will do it. We will be reducing borrowing by £155 billion a year by 2016-7, compared to what it otherwise might have been under another Government. We will keep on with that task.
My Lords, the Oxfam report, The Perfect Storm, published two weeks ago, says:
“The combination in the UK of economic stagnation and public spending cuts is causing substantial hardship to people living in poverty”.
In view of this, could the Minister tell the House what plans the Government have in place to mitigate the effects of their deficit reduction programme on our most deprived groups and communities?
My Lords, I can assure my noble friend that the Government are committed both through the changes that we are making to the income tax system and to other public expenditure decisions to protect the vulnerable and reward those who choose to work, particularly at the lower income levels. So we have, for example, the uprating of benefits by 5.2% more than average earnings growth to protect people from rising prices; reforms to the tax credit system, so that we are tackling the deficit in a fair way; uprating the child tax credits, so that families see an increase of £135 per child this year as well as £180 over inflation last year; changes to personal allowances, which will benefit 25 million people, taking 260,000 people out of income tax altogether; and the fairness premium at £7.2 billion—I could go on. My noble friend is right, and I can confirm that this will be very much at the forefront of the Government’s thinking.
My Lords, bearing in mind that the Lords reform Bill is predicated on the Government’s view that your Lordships’ House lacks legitimacy, I congratulate the Minister on his willingness—at least on this occasion—to answer our questions, albeit not very satisfactorily. I hope he continues with that.
On the substantive issue, has the Minister seen the Governor of the Bank of England’s latest, extraordinarily pessimistic forecast about the likely status of what one would have called the real economy—as opposed to the financial economy? Bearing in mind that most of the Government’s expenditure cuts have not yet been made, surely the governor in his pessimism is actually not being pessimistic enough. Does the noble Lord agree?
My Lords, I think that the Governor of the Bank of England is, as always, being very realistic and clear about the nature of the dangers that we continue to face particularly because of the eurozone crisis. This is precisely why we will stick to the fiscal course that we have charted; why it is supported by the IMF, the OECD and business organisations here; and why it is that we have 10-year interests at 1.7 per cent. We will do nothing to jeopardise that position in the face of the very real dangers that the governor points out.
My Lords, the first thing that we need to do to support growth is to continue to have companies and individuals confident that we will stick to a responsible course and keep interest rates low. It is from this that all else flows. As well as tight fiscal discipline, it is important that we have a loose monetary discipline. That is the right policy prescription. We will target our other efforts into making sure that education, infrastructure and each of the key drivers of medium-term sustainable growth are supported in all that we do as a Government.
My Lords, the Minister has referred to the reduction of the deficit from 11% to 8% of GDP. However, is it not the case that the deficit on current spending has hardly changed over the course of the last year and that almost all the reduction in the total deficit has come from cuts in investment spending?
No, my Lords, that is not correct. Last year, Government departments came in with underspends of some £6 billion—and that was certainly not all capital spending. What my right honourable friend the Chancellor was able to do this week by cutting fuel duty, putting £550 million back into the pockets of hard-working families, illustrates how we are able to use underspends and put them to very good use where they are most valuable to our people.
My Lords, can the Minister explain why the Prime Minister was the only leader of a nation attending the G20 whose country was in recession? If he is talking about inheritance, does he recall the fact that, in 2010, this Government inherited a 2 per cent growth rate and now it is nought?
My Lords, we face very difficult challenges. For all the deficit reduction that we have done, this country still has a budget deficit higher than Greece, Portugal and Spain. Yet we have interest rates that are very much lower and the confidence of the markets, and it is off that base that sustainable growth will come.
Armed Forces Day
My Lords, the Government are supporting this Saturday’s Armed Forces Day in many different ways. Members of the Armed Forces are involved in events up and down the country, from parades to fly-pasts, including the national event in Plymouth. As well as meeting the costs of this participation, the Ministry of Defence has made grants of some £223,000 to help communities to organise their own events. In addition, reservists were invited to wear their uniforms to work yesterday, and Armed Forces veterans were encouraged to wear their veterans’ badge. As part of the build-up to Armed Forces Day, show your support flags will be flown on all government buildings and town halls, and some local authorities are taking the opportunity to sign up to their own community covenants. This all adds up to a wide-ranging celebration of what our Armed Forces bring to this country.
My Lords, yesterday we had a Question about discrimination against our Armed Forces, and another example has been reported in the press this morning. Earlier this week, we saw Ben Parkinson carrying the Olympic torch through Doncaster. He suffered appalling injuries in Afghanistan in 2006—the loss of both legs, and brain and back injuries, which are euphemistically described as life-changing injuries. Ben Parkinson carried the torch for 300 metres. It took him 25 minutes to complete the walk. It was an act of great determination, guts and, yes, courage.
It is so that we can express our thanks, gratitude and support to our Armed Forces and veterans, and the enormous sacrifices that so many have made on our behalf, including giving their lives, that we have Armed Forces Day. In thanking the Minister for his comprehensive reply, may I ask whether the Government will review the levels of future support that we as a nation give, in whatever form, to Armed Forces Day to ensure that the crucial role undertaken on our behalf and the sacrifices made by our Armed Forces continue to be fully understood and appreciated, including by the minority of individuals and organisations who knowingly or unknowingly still discriminate against Armed Forces personnel?
My Lords, the Armed Forces will be very grateful for the Opposition’s continued support, and I share the noble Lord’s admiration for the courage of Ben Parkinson in Doncaster. With regard to discrimination, the Cabinet sub-committee on the Armed Forces covenant, chaired by Oliver Letwin, will oversee work across government and ensure that momentum on all strands of the covenant is maintained. The noble Lord asked whether we are doing enough to spread the message. Armed Forces Day now has over 1 million followers on Facebook, and this shows just how much the day has caught the imagination of people in this country. We will keep the level of assistance that we provide under review. However, one of the most remarkable features of Armed Forces Day is the way in which the lead is being taken by communities themselves, rather than here in Whitehall.
My Lords, it fairly reflects the view of those who are serving, have served in or are veterans of our Armed Forces when they say how grateful they are for the upsurge in support from the British public over the past four or five years for what they have been doing. However, there are genuine concerns about the sustainability of Armed Forces Day, notwithstanding the Minister’s previous Answer. Will he consider asking his officials to conduct a survey in the coming months of the number of cities, towns and communities that have laid on activities for this Armed Forces Day, compare them with the activities on Remembrance Sunday and the remembrance period, and try to validate the thought that a better model for the sustainable recognition of our Armed Forces in the future might be to combine on one day—probably in November—the celebration of those who have served our nation in uniform with remembering the sacrifice of those who have lost their lives?
My Lords, I will certainly take the noble Lord’s suggestion back to my department. I can assure him that I have a list here of all the events taking place throughout the country, and there seems to be a great deal of enthusiasm from all sections of the country.
In replying to a debate on 19 June about Armed Forces Day, my honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence said:
“former service personnel were encouraged to wear a veterans’ badge”.—[Official Report, Commons, 19/6/12; col. 194WH.]
Does my noble friend feel that the time has come to stop prevaricating in committees and to introduce a national defence medal to be awarded on application to all those who have served our country in the Armed Forces, and to cut all red tape and allow our service personnel to proudly wear all medals awarded to them by other nations?
My Lords, the independent review by Sir John Holmes of the rules applicable to the awarding of military medals is currently under way. He is considering all known campaigns for medals, including the case for a national defence medal, and will report reasonably soon.
I know the noble Lord is a great supporter of our Armed Forces and stands up for them on many occasions. Will he therefore join me in condemning the absolutely despicable behaviour of the publican of Browns bar in Coventry the other day who refused to admit two soldiers, who had been taking part in a military funeral, because they were wearing their uniforms? Will he look again at the recommendations—there were 40 in all—of the national recognition of the Armed Forces inquiry in the last Parliament? One of those recommendations was that we should outlaw discrimination against armed services personnel and provide the same kind of protection that we provide against discrimination on grounds of sex, race, sexuality or disability, so that these incidents never happen again.
My Lords, I agree entirely with what the noble Lord said about that terrible act in the bar at the time of the funeral of the serviceman who was killed. I pay tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Davies, who commissioned the report of inquiry into national recognition of the Armed Forces when he was Defence Minister, which of course led to the setting up of Armed Forces Day.
My Lords, Wear Your Uniform to Work Day took place yesterday, when all reservist and cadet organisations were encouraged to wear their uniform to work to highlight their important role in the defence of our country. The Plymouth event promises to be a spectacular occasion, with a tri-service parade; a fly-past by Typhoons, historic aircraft and the Red Arrows; a steam-past led by HMS “Argyll”; and lots of other service equipment on show. I am delighted that the city of Plymouth has fully embraced its opportunity to host the national event this year.
Small and Medium-sized Enterprises: Foreign Languages
My Lords, UK Trade and Investment provides a subsidised service, available to SMEs, which helps them to overcome language and cultural barriers in overseas markets. The service can provide a bespoke written report with in-depth advice and information on types of language learning and rates, and on recruiting students and foreign nationals to provide in-house language skills. The service also signposts companies to professional bodies such as the Chartered Institute of Linguists and the Association for Language Learning when they wish to select a provider for foreign language training.
My Lords, the House would welcome further information about what sounds a very valuable addition. However, given the recent parlous decline in British exports—attributable in part, according to Professor Steven Hagen of the University of Wales, to the failure of British firms to acquire language skills—and given that only three out of 100 British firms have any kind of language management strategy, will the noble Baroness start to set tongues wagging in the small business community in favour of learning languages? Will she ensure that the languages unearthed and mobilised during the forthcoming Olympics, especially those found among our ethnic representation, can be used to help small businesses, so that British exporters, unlike the British Government, can ensure that they are not speechless in the face of a widening Europe and a widening world?
Right—information on the Export Communications Review, along with all other UKTI services, will be available at Olympic business-related events. Details of the help that will be available have already gone out. We certainly wish to use the opportunity to make sure that people from our small and medium-sized businesses meet as many people from foreign businesses as possible. We are very fortunate in this country in having a multicultural society—I think that in London alone more than 300 languages are spoken. Very often it is just a case of making sure that small and medium-sized businesses realise that there are agencies that can provide their employees with the languages that they need. It is not just a matter of a requirement to learn a language; understanding the culture of the country that you are going to is also important. The French that you speak needs to be not just the French that you learnt at school but the language of the culture. UK Trade and Investment goes into small businesses with a subsidised programme to help them understand how to take their products forward by making sure that they are aware of the culture of the country they are visiting.
My Lords, does the Minister recognise the success of language NVQs in preparing students for using languages at work, especially in the SME sector? Will she undertake to meet her DfE colleagues to tell them how much UK businesses value these language NVQs and ask that these qualifications continue to count towards a school’s performance points for the EBacc after 2013?
My Lords, I declare an interest as life president of Trinity College London, the worldwide examination body in English for speakers of other languages. Does my noble friend agree about the vital importance of foreign languages for British speakers and that it is equally important for UK Ltd that the reverse applies—that those who are not conversant with English learn to speak it better?
I am very impressed to hear that my noble friend is the head of such an august organisation and am only too delighted to know that he is there. I will support him in everything that he does in taking us forward, making sure that we get the growth that we need and that we can all communicate widely.
My Lords, I shall be 70 on my next birthday and this is my first time at the Dispatch Box—all of which goes to show that in your Lordships’ House anything is possible. SMEs, very surprisingly, have been doing well recently in the area of exports. In particular, 27% of total exports to the European Union now come from this sector. However, I believe that we can do very much better. What plans do the Government have to encourage even more small companies to export?
If anyone would like to look up UKTI on the web to find out what is available to everyone, they will see that it is doing an absolutely marvellous job. When I came to answer this Question, I was delighted to see just how much it was doing, including being able to provide bespoke services. Small and medium-sized businesses often need to gain an all-round understanding of how to behave when they get to another country, and that is why this service is available to them. It is subsidised, and businesses can also have a review themselves. I welcome the noble Lord to the Dispatch Box.
I think that we should hear from my noble friend Lord Cotter.
I congratulate the Minister very much on her comprehensive Answer to the Question. The points that she made and the answers she gave were very good indeed. It is important that there should be publicity about what is available, but often there is not enough. It is also important that schools, as well as businesses, provide education in languages, and that further education colleges provide special lessons in business-orientated languages, particularly Chinese and Spanish.
My Lords, the Government act as soon as they become aware of schemes to avoid tax and challenge those by every means available. In the past year, seven schemes have been closed down with immediate effect, and since 2010 the Government have litigated some 30 avoidance cases. The Government are now consulting on a general anti-abuse rule and extending the successful Disclosure of Tax Avoidance Schemes regime to ensure that even more schemes are disclosed.
I thank the Minister for that reply. Is it not the case that thousands of extremely rich people are engaged in tax avoidance schemes and that the country is suffering a heavy loss as a result—some £25 billion? Is there not a case for setting up an all-party committee to look into this atrocious situation, which continues? What the Minister said deals with only part of the problem, not the whole problem.
My Lords, I certainly agree with the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, about the seriousness of the problem. That is why the Government—and HMRC in particular—are tackling it with all the available weapons. I stress that the Disclosure of Tax Avoidance Schemes regime, which was introduced by the previous Government in 2004, has been a successful part of that. Of the total tax gap, that is estimated to be around £35 billion, £5 billion is estimated to be as a result of avoidance. It is important to be clear on the figures.
In relation to schemes of wealthy individuals, the K2 and Icebreaker schemes, which have had much recent publicity, are under investigation by HMRC. HMRC and, of course, the Government want to make sure that everyone, wealthy or not, pays a fair amount of tax. HMRC has rolled out some very specific initiatives within its High Net Worth Unit in order tackle even more vigorously the particular challenges around individuals of high net worth.
Does my noble friend agree that the best way to avoid people coming up with complex tax avoidance schemes is to have simpler, lower taxes—which will maximise revenue and obviate the need for people to use their energies in this way—and concentrate on creating wealth and growth in our economy?
Will my noble friend bear in mind that, as tax avoidance and evasion from the UK is at least 15 times greater than social security abuse and fraud, that the Government should therefore be 15 times more energetic in dealing with tax avoidance and evasion than they are with social security?
My Lords, I do think that we are comparing apples and pears. We will be vigorous on both fronts. In relation to tax avoidance, HMRC has reassigned some £900 million of its expenditure within the spending round to tackle this issue. We should also remember that while the tax gap in the UK is £35 billion—about 8% of liabilities—it compares well on an international comparison. For example, the equivalent in the US is 14% and in Sweden 10%. So, yes, there are big numbers to be played for, but good progress is being made.
The House may have been encouraged by the Minister’s initial constructive response but past practice does not seem to quite measure up to his optimism. He commended the legislation passed by the Labour Government in 2004 under which accountants have to submit to Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs any scheme which leads to tax avoidance. Was this implemented in the famous case of the comedian Jimmy Carr? Did his accountant inform HMRC? If so, what was done about it? If he did not, when are the Government going to act?
My Lords, individual taxpayer confidentiality is very important. It is the prime reason why we are certainly not going to see individual tax returns published and, therefore, I am not going to comment on an individual case. That particular case has had a great deal of airing in the past couple of weeks.
Is the Minister aware of the job that charities do for their donors by picking out case histories of how their donations can make a difference to particular families and children? Might not Her Majesty’s Customs and Revenue do more to inform taxpayers about the value for money that they get in paying for services? It could give a specific example of, say, a bright graduate, recruited into the teaching profession, making a difference to particular children in an inner city area? The graduate could then say, “I am so grateful for the money that trained me and for the difference that I have been able to make to these children”. There are many concrete examples of the difference that taxpayers’ money makes to individuals, children and families.
I agree with the noble Earl that the voluntary and charitable sectors make an enormous contribution. Often they deliver more cost-effective and better quality services than public bodies and the tax regime around charities supports that. That is precisely why we are so keen to drive forward philanthropy and a tax system to support it. I share the noble Earl’s sentiments.
Electoral Registration and Administration Bill
The Bill was brought from the Commons, read a first time and ordered to be printed.
Business of the House
Motion to Approve
Draft Communications Data Bill
That the Commons message of 21 June be considered and that a Committee of six Lords be appointed to join with the Committee appointed by the Commons to consider and report on the draft Communications Data Bill presented to both Houses on 14 June (Cm 8359) and that the Committee should report on the draft Bill by 30 November 2012;
That, as proposed by the Committee of Selection, the following members be appointed to the Committee:
L Armstrong of Ilminster, L Blencathra, B Cohen of Pimlico, L Faulks, L Jones, L Strasburger;
That the Committee have power to agree with the Committee appointed by the Commons in the appointment of a Chairman;
That the Committee have power to send for persons, papers and records;
That the Committee have power to appoint specialist advisers;
That the Committee have leave to report from time to time;
That the Committee have power to adjourn from place to place within the United Kingdom;
That the reports of the Committee from time to time shall be printed, regardless of any adjournment of the House; and
That the evidence taken by the Committee shall, if the Committee so wishes, be published.
Motion agreed, and a message was sent to the Commons.
Motion to Take Note
My Lords, I beg to move that the House notes the future of English cathedrals. In doing so, I cast no aspersions on cathedrals in Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland: I wish to concentrate today on the cathedrals of the established Church of England.
I am delighted to have this opportunity and I am most grateful to those colleagues in all parts of your Lordships’ House who have put their names down to speak. I am particularly glad that I will be followed in the debate by the noble Baroness, Lady Andrews, the distinguished chairman of English Heritage, who has made such a magnificent contribution to causes about which we both care deeply. I am also very glad that the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Worcester has put his name down to make his maiden speech. I am sure the House looks forward to what he has to say.
After I leave the Chamber I shall be going to King’s Cross to catch the train to Newark. It will stop at Peterborough and I will see the cathedral there. If I had the time, I could alight and go and admire the tomb of Catherine of Aragon. I could even get a train to Ely to see that glorious lantern tower rising above the fenland. In fact, I shall get off at Newark and go to my home in Lincoln.
I hope that the House will forgive me if I beg leave to agree with Pugin, Ruskin and Alec Clifton-Taylor that Lincoln is the fairest cathedral of them all. Of course, if I stayed on the train, I could go to York, that most magnificent and greatest in size of all our Gothic cathedrals, and admire the wonderful stained glass windows. I could continue to Durham, where the noblest Romanesque building in this country dominates the landscape—
“Half church of God, half castle ‘gainst the Scot”,
as Sir Walter Scott said.
However, I will not be able to do any of those things today.
I want to reflect briefly on the importance of our English cathedrals. We could all agree that one comes closest to the soul and story of a nation in its great buildings. That is nowhere truer than in our wonderful English cathedrals, especially the pre-Reformation cathedrals and those ancient foundations that were designated cathedrals either in the 16th century or after. However, we are talking not just of noble historic buildings of often unsurpassable beauty but of living, breathing, vibrant buildings, and it is important that we recognise that. They are centres of worship; that is their primary purpose, and those of us who are Christians, particularly those of us who are members of the Anglican Church, will always regard that as their primary purpose.
However, they are centres not just of worship but of music, craftsmanship and of their individual communities. I seek in this debate to underline the continuing contribution of the 42 diocesan cathedrals of England—plus, of course, the two royal peculiars of Westminster Abbey and St George’s, Windsor, which are always taken together—to rejoice at what they are and what they represent, and to stress how crucial it is that their future should be secure. We rightly talk and behave as if they belong to us all, and as cathedrals of the established church they do. Each week around 40,000 people worship in our cathedrals; last Christmas season something like a million people worshipped in the cathedrals of this land.
However, it is not just for their services that we regard them as we do. Last week I had the honour of convening a meeting between parliamentarians from both Houses and deans of English cathedrals. A number of your Lordships who are in the Chamber today were present at that meeting. It was a very interesting occasion because we were reminded by those who have the daily charge of our cathedrals what a key role they play in the social, cultural, civic and national life of England. We heard about Bradford Cathedral—not perhaps the most distinguished architecturally, although it is a very fine building, but a church where people of all communities, and faith communities in particular, are able to come together for mutual fellowship and sustenance.
We heard about Wells Cathedral—Wells, that wonderful small city, surrounded by marvellous countryside that nevertheless has many problems within it. We heard from the dean how Wells ministers to that rural community. We were reminded about how often cathedrals are the centres for concerts, exhibitions and graduation ceremonies. Only three weeks ago I went to Southwell Cathedral. There was a graduation ceremony taking place when I arrived. I went to see the exhibition to mark the 350th anniversary of the Book of Common Prayer and the Diamond Jubilee of Her Majesty the Queen. I talked to the dean and became conscious of how that cathedral, in a very small city, was the focal point for miles around. We were reminded at the meeting last week of how, at moments of sadness and rejoicing, a cathedral was a place where people came together. One thought of Soham and Ely and, on a much happier note, every cathedral in England this year has had a special service to mark the Diamond Jubilee of Her Majesty the Queen.
However, when all too easily we take for granted the beauty and dignity of our cathedrals and their surroundings, we also tend to take for granted the glory of the music and the excellence of the craftsmanship. Even the fact that cathedrals continuously patronise the arts in the best possible way tends to be taken for granted, too. I was delighted when a couple of years ago English Heritage published a document that concentrated on the new things which have been built in and around our cathedrals, highlighting in particular the sculpture in Lincoln and the magnificent tower at Bury St Edmunds, which people now talk of as if it had been there for centuries. When we take these things for granted, we ought to remind ourselves that they do not just happen; they all come at a price.
I am glad that we do not have the French system where all the fabric of religious buildings is vested in the state. That would be a great pity, and I know of no dean and do not yet know of any bishop—perhaps I will be disabused today—who takes a different view. The pride and sense of local patriotism that leads to fundraising through a sense of belonging to a community are absolutely irreplaceable and beyond price. But we have to recognise that there is no automatic direct funding from the state to support our cathedrals, nor is there such funding from the Church Commissioners. They provide for the stipend of the dean and two canons, but that is about all. To a large degree the cathedrals are still self-financing. As the Dean of Lincoln Cathedral, Philip Buckler, said to me earlier this week, cathedrals value their independence but not their isolation.
Things are better than they were. When I entered another place in 1970, there were no state grants at all. I served on the Historic Buildings Council and we were expressly forbidden to give grants to places of worship. I introduced a Bill to provide state aid for parish churches. The campaign was successful and it was followed by one for cathedrals. We are all glad and grateful for that. We are particularly grateful to English Heritage for what it has done, and I shall say a word or two more about that in a moment. But although things are better than they were, there are still real problems. This year we had the VAT bombshell in the Budget. The Chancellor has responded and we are grateful.
Listed places of worship will continue to benefit, but let us remember that each cathedral is at the centre of a series of buildings. Almost every cathedral has a close, just as we have our minster yard in Lincoln. The cathedral is responsible for the upkeep and maintenance of often incredibly important medieval and later buildings. The VAT exemption does not touch anything other than the actual place of worship. It is also limited to the year 2015, so there is no certainty of continuity. That is a pity and a great worry to those who are concerned with these issues. Money from the Heritage Lottery Fund, for which again we are all grateful, can go to interpretive schemes and to new extensions but not to the maintenance of the actual fabric of the cathedral.
All this must be seen in a context where, as we speak, Canterbury Cathedral, the mother church of the Church of England, will need £50 million over the next five years. Lichfield, which used to be my diocesan cathedral, has had to raise and spend £5 million over the past five years and will need another £7 million in the five years ahead. At Lincoln we will need £16 million over the next 10 years. All this is in addition to the £50,000 a week that it costs to keep the cathedral open. It is a similar figure in Winchester and many other places.
English Heritage has been put in a very difficult position. It has had its own grant reduced. That has meant that the carefully worked out strategy between it and the cathedrals has been to a degree undermined. That is partly because of diversion of resources to the Olympic Games. We have to face up to that. The Heritage Lottery Fund has also had resources that might have been devoted to some of the causes that are dear to us in the Chamber today diverted to the Olympic project. I wish the Olympics every success but there has been a distortion of priorities in recent years that needs to be put right.
We must recognise in all of this the positive contribution that cathedrals make to the local and national economy, music, craftsmanship and employment. Although it is wrong to define the importance of our cathedrals in terms of tourism, we must remember that those who bring so much much-needed money and, indirectly, employment to our country are attracted by our great buildings. They are attracted particularly to the great country houses and cathedrals of this country.
I make a plea to the Minister that she should discuss this matter with the Chancellor, the Culture Secretary and others. I would like to see a more generous interpretation of the VAT exemptions. That is crucially important. In Lichfield, the dean has pointed out to me that one project alone is likely to cost another £500,000 as a result of recently announced changes. That money is not easily found.
I pitch my request at a very modest level. I would like £50 million provided as an endowment for the cathedrals of England over the next five years, with the money given to and channelled through English Heritage, which has the expertise to liaise and to distribute it. That would be a particularly appropriate gesture in the year of the Diamond Jubilee, bearing in mind that the Queen is after all Supreme Governor of the Church of England. I do not think that many people in the land who appreciate things of enduring beauty and wealth, whatever their religious persuasion, would begrudge that very modest sum. I would like to feel that we could have a promise that that will be discussed. Of course, my noble friend cannot make an exact promise at the Dispatch Box.
There are two enduring images of this country perhaps above all others: Constable’s painting of Salisbury with the spire above the meadows and, from a more recent period, the picture of St Paul’s in the Blitz, rising above the smoke. No nation can afford to call itself civilised if it allows the spire of Salisbury or the dome of St Paul’s to be put at risk.
My Lords, it is a great privilege to follow the noble Lord and to congratulate him on securing the debate. He has been an amazingly effective champion for aspects of our heritage. I very much welcome what he said today and am grateful for the generous remarks he made both about English Heritage and my stewardship of it. I very much endorse what he asked the Minister for; it is not easy for us to ask in our own name for additional funding. To make such a case is commendable because English Heritage is known to have world-class expertise and judgment in these affairs. If the House will allow me, I will talk a little about our work in respect of cathedrals. Of course, I declare my interest as chair.
It is significant that the idea of the cathedral has a much wider currency than the notion of a building or even of one faith. When we say that something is cathedral-like we mean that it is of extraordinary scale and splendour. It makes us wonder in awe at how it was constructed and by whom. When we see the traces of those early and brilliant builders, designers and engineers, we understand that both faith and genius transcend time. These places are indeed held in trust for ever and for everyone, so they obviously occupy the pinnacle of our work at English Heritage in many different ways. It is a privilege for me, as chair of English Heritage, to have the opportunity to visit so many, and to do so in the company of the people who love, cherish and know more about them: the deans, the conservation architects, the craftspeople, and indeed people from English Heritage itself, who are very fine historians. When I visit them I also get a sense of the challenges that they face, and the ambitions that they hold for the future. In his speech, the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, displayed a wonderful balance between celebration and concern about the sorts of issues that cathedrals now face, and the choices before them; choices that include opening the doors ever wider to more diverse, more challenged communities, and the responsibility for those communities that cathedrals have held over the centuries.
In my excursions I go to some very high places, to see for myself the work that is being done on the exteriors of cathedrals. The other day I was clinging on to the Norman ironwork on the great Norman windows of Canterbury Cathedral. When I managed to get down from the scaffolding I went down to the workshops to see how the glass is being conserved, and saw the extraordinary delicacy of the work being done. I also recently crawled over the roof over the Chapter House of Westminster Abbey and saw how the Victorian engineers had tried very hard to improve on what their medieval predecessors had done, and how they had found that the engineering genius of the medieval craftsmen was in some ways so much superior to their own. It is wonderful that we maintain those traditions of celebrating in stone the work of the craftsman. On the Chapter House finial you will now find the faces of the modern stonemasons who did the work—including a Sikh, who led the team—looking very sternly up Whitehall.
The work of restoration and repair—conservation of brick, glass, wood, paintings, silver and so much else—is endless and expensive. The good news is that our cathedrals, due to the loving care and craftsmanship of which the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, has spoken, have never been in better shape. That makes the scale of the challenge for the future rather immense. The story spans two decades, from the first fabric survey that English Heritage did in 1991, which revealed that £164 million needed to be spent on repair and rescue over the next decade, to our updating survey in 2009, which was repeated in partnership with the Association of English Cathedrals and the Catholic Church’s Patrimony Committee. In 1991, when we did the work, it was perfectly clear that many cathedrals, as measured against our buildings at risk register, were classified as being at risk of loss of their historic fabric—in short, they were buildings at risk. In 2009, the survey revealed that the overall state of repair had improved dramatically.
How had this been done? Well, of course it has taken a great deal of money, and I will give your Lordships some figures. However, it has also required a great deal of partnership and focus to address what needed doing after the alarming diagnosis in 1991. Funding was then made available from the Government, with which English Heritage constructed a dedicated grant scheme, and that ran until the last offers were made in 2009-10. Grants worth £48.6 million were made available to 518 cathedrals. Indeed, five cathedrals, which presented the greatest challenges—Salisbury, Lincoln, Ely, Worcester and Liverpool—received almost £20 million. The partners in this massive effort were the Wolfson Foundation, which helped us toward the end of the scheme, and of course, the Heritage Lottery Fund, which gave £45 million to over 100 cathedrals.
We are, therefore, genuinely all in this together. I pay tribute to the Cathedrals and Church Buildings Division of the Church of England—and in particular to Janet Gough—for the partnerships that it has brokered with partners such as the Wolfson Fund, the Pilgrim Trust and others in order to finance the Cathedral Fabric Repair Fund.
We have done different things. We at English Heritage address the urgent repairs: the high level stonework, the roofing and rainwater goods. It is not glamorous work, but my word, it is very important, because without that, nothing else can be achieved. Many of the Heritage Lottery Fund projects have supported not only conservation, but wider public access, and the enjoyment and understanding of our cathedrals. For example, £10.5 million went to the York Minster Revealed project, which is not only securing the great east window, but is showing every visitor who is interested how glass is conserved, £2 million went to restore Birmingham’s cathedral graveyard to its 18th century design and Durham cathedral has received a first stage pass to celebrate the Venerable Bede and the arrival of the Lindisfarne Gospels.
Where are we now? The 2009 survey revealed that there had been dramatic improvements, but that another £110 million was necessary over the new decade for ongoing care and maintenance. For example, £63 million was necessary for just five cathedrals: Canterbury, Chichester, Lincoln, Salisbury and York. English Heritage continues to be engaged with Lincoln because of the scale of the challenge. We have recently given £750,000. However, that grant has finished and we have turned our focus to areas of equal concern to the Anglican church and other faiths—parish churches and churches in the community—and the enormous challenge there, and I am pleased to say that Lincoln is now the only cathedral on the risk register.
So much has depended upon the skill and craftsmanship of the people at work. I have the pleasure of seeing it regularly. For example, in Hereford, in a lean-to shed, three apprentices—apprentices are often female these days, and often young—working just as the medieval stone masons did, carve and do the facing work in front of all the visitors who cross the precinct. It is indeed a medieval scene. These skills are being inspired and nurtured by our cathedrals, and I am delighted to say that there are increasing numbers of schemes for training and recognising these crafts because historic building skills do not belong in the past. They have as much potential for growth and are as much of an assistance to our economy and to the creation of jobs as many of our other building crafts. That is where cathedrals fit in to the national economic challenge. They are places of prayer and watchfulness, but they are also places capable of generating huge prosperity. In 2004, it was estimated that their economic impact was about £150 million.
Facing these future challenges is the way in which English Heritage wants to engage with cathedrals. Our immediate responsibility is for the protection of the fabric, hence our concern about metal theft and the guidance we have produced for cathedrals and places of worship on how to tackle it, our concern about the impact of VAT, which the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, described very concisely and well, and our continuing concern with VAT. This is not a problem that is going to go away, particularly in relation to charities that are looking after listed buildings with very little support and scope and even to owners of historic homes.
We also work with cathedrals to help them realise their highest ambitions for the future. For example, our work Creativity and Care celebrated Michael Hopkin’s magnificent extension to Norwich Cathedral, but it also points out that the mundane can be made beautiful: for example, the new fire doors at Winchester Cathedral. The challenge to every cathedral today is to remake itself as the heart and spirit of the community and to provide the cafes, lavatories, bookshops and educational spaces that enable people to feel that they belong there and understand the place and to become what Frank Field called,
“wise and willing midwives to future glories”.
We celebrated that in Creativity and Care. I remember the magnificent Tom Denny windows in Hereford Cathedral and the magnificent new font in Salisbury Cathedral. Our funding may not be what it was, but our spirit is as buoyant and passionate as ever about pursuing the partnership that cathedrals want from English Heritage, and we are happy and proud to provide it.
My Lords, I congratulate my noble friend very sincerely on obtaining this debate, and I am delighted and humbled to take part. By comparison with him, I am a very ordinary Anglican. I am particularly grateful to be able to follow the noble Baroness, Lady Andrews, because she has led the English Heritage programme, not just in this field, of course, but in other fields, with great success and distinction. There is wide appreciation, which I share, of the fact that English cathedrals have an historical and continuing role not only as centres for active Christianity in our communities but as great historic buildings of wide architectural and cultural significance.
If I have any right to speak in this debate, it is as a failed architect. I had to draw cathedrals as a student and then went on to be a senior member of the RIBA staff. More importantly, as an ordinary man in the pew, I have had the most extraordinary experiences in various cathedrals. I witnessed the ordination of my two brothers in Guildford and Wells Cathedrals—an interesting contrast there. I remember taking my mother, who lost two of her much beloved elder brothers in the First World War, to a performance of the “War Requiem” in Exeter Cathedral, which was both a great cultural and religious occasion and very moving for both of us. As a humble Anglican, I witnessed a great movement forward when seven women priests were ordained in Truro Cathedral.
My only family connection with your Lordships’ House is my ancestor Bishop Jonathan Trelawny, who was one of the seven bishops who were arraigned for seditious libel and acquitted in Westminster Hall in 1688 and then triggered the Glorious Revolution. He was described by James II as the most saucy of them all. I have suggested to my family that that might be an epitaph when I go. His picture is in the Peers’ Guest Room in the House. He is the one with the Beatles haircut at the far end.
Previously, during the Reformation—I am also a failed historian—Thomas Cromwell persuaded Henry VIII that he could legitimise the nationalisation of the church, its cathedrals and its wealth, removing its temporal power and so making it concentrate on the spiritual needs of the nation. It may be thought from the theme of this debate that there are those who think it is now payback time. I do not believe that that is true, but nevertheless think that it is right for Parliament to take a real responsibility for the future of this great heritage.
There are some important dilemmas for both the church and Parliament. Our established church is the established church only for England, as is apparent from the Motion of the noble Lord, Lord Cormack. As a good unionist, I think that those who represent other parts of the United Kingdom may have a legitimate reason for expressing some concern about the treatment of the heritage of the different denominations and the different churches. As my noble friend said earlier, the cathedrals belong to us all, but there may be some queries as to who “all” is in that respect.
That is not, however, the big dilemma for either the church or the Government, because the cathedrals are an important part of our heritage. Yet I as an Anglican and the church itself are proud of the independence of the church from the state. We believe, I think rightly, that faith should be an important part of our national life but should not be nationalised by the lay state, the whole body politic of which has to be strictly faith-neutral. Yet the church is rightly looking for recognition of its role in conserving priceless parts of our cultural and physical heritage, as both my noble friend and the noble Baroness, Lady Andrews, have been saying.
My noble friend referred to the French situation. I do not think that any of us want to emulate that. That is the wrong way to go. The noble Lord’s French history is better than mine, as I know to my cost, but I think that the French situation goes back to Napoleon, who wanted to separate dramatically the state from the church. There is no established church in France, yet there the state recognises its responsibility to its national heritage and therefore its major contribution to the maintenance and conservation of all the French cathedrals.
As has already been said, there is the important issue of the Government’s and therefore Parliament’s treatment of financial support for conservation. The noble Baroness referred, as did my noble friend, to the VAT situation. I will spend only a couple of minutes on that to avoid repetition and to keep within my time limit. The VAT treatment of historic buildings, not exclusively cathedrals, is a sorry saga that goes back many years. In the excellent briefing from the Lords Library on the future of English cathedrals, there are no less than 16 pages of updates on the treatment of VAT on historic buildings, particularly churches and cathedrals. The end of the brief from the House of Commons Library says of the Listed Places of Worship Grant Scheme, which is how the Government have sought to square the circle of reducing the exemptions and then having to pay by other means:
“Further details on how the extended scheme will operate will be published shortly”.
The confusion and lack of clarity continue to this day, even weeks after the 2012 Budget, when it was thought that this situation would be clarified and improved.
From my discussions with members of the chapters of various cathedrals I know that they are looking principally for clarity at the moment. On this issue and others, we are often told that we are all in it together. Yes, in a period of austerity it is difficult to find new resources, but the very simplicity or otherwise of such schemes as the Listed Places of Worship Grant Scheme is having a very disturbing effect on the chapters and on other organisations responsible for historic buildings, not least some of the great parish churches, which are having an equally difficult time and with which I have also been in contact.
I hope that this will not be thought to be so politically correct as to be incorrect in your Lordships’ House, but I welcome the fact that we now see some women being promoted into the responsible positions in the chapters of our cathedrals. They bring new life, approaches and, perhaps, intuition to managing the very difficult situation that many of the chapters face.
The Church of England and those responsible for many other historic and religious buildings deserve from Parliament at least an improvement in the clarity and speed with which decisions are taken by the Government. In that respect at least, I hope my noble friend’s debate today will draw the attention of the Government and my noble friend on the Front Bench to the anxiety that many of us in many parts of the United Kingdom feel. We deserve to do better by those who are responsible for such an important part of our cultural, architectural and religious heritage.
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, for the opportunity to celebrate the good news of our English cathedrals. He will understand that if you want to find a Birmingham cathedral, you are more likely to come to it by the future HS2 rather than by a leisurely trip up the east coast. What you will find there is a jewel by Thomas Archer, who built St Philip’s parish church on the highest point of the burgeoning new town that would fuel the industrial expansion of Britain. It was built in 1715. That building is now in the heart of the commercial and professional centre of the largest UK city outside London. It is an oasis of prayer to which people, whether visitors or citizens, come day by day to enjoy a beautiful space in which our new dean, Catherine Ogle, says you can do only one thing, and have that enhanced by the magnificent Burne-Jones stained glass windows.
At the same time, as we will probably hear again today, the choral tradition in Birmingham is of a very high standard, to the extent that Hamish Pringle recently commissioned a new choral work, based—the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, will be pleased to know—on the King James version of John, chapter 1, verses 1 to 14, which is available for parish churches as well as high days in the cathedral. The work of a new young composer, Alexander Campkin, is thus in the heart of one of our great commercial cities.
Of course, as your Lordships may know, the number of young people applying to join cathedral choirs has increased by 6.8% over the past 12 months. That is the obvious but, across England, a living cathedral is a place of civic, cultural and inter-faith engagement. We find that no less so in Birmingham than across the country. It is also a springboard for, if I may indulge this phrase, growing confident Christians in our urban and rural areas. You will find programmes not just about engagement with the regional bankers and Chatham House seminars, following the difficulties in the debate about capitalism last year, but programmes that encourage practising Christians at work to examine what it means to live well in our local community.
That is just one example of what is happening all over the country in our 42 cathedrals. We are seeing, as your Lordships will again know, a steady increase in regular congregational attendance of some 3% a year. That has been going on over the past 10 years. Furthermore, special events and regular public and civic events are even more popular than they have been for years. In 2011, for example, over 3,000 special services attracted 1 million people, and 1.84 million attended public or civic services. Our cathedrals have approximately 12 million visitors a year. They have 15,000 volunteers, people who give up their time freely to enable these places, about which we have heard that the heritage is so important, to be places of living prayer, worship and community engagement. Over 300,000 children attend our cathedrals for educational purposes during their curriculum learning in term-time.
As you look around the country—I hope that we will hear more about this from others in a moment—you will find particular things happening as the cycle of events goes on. We have heard that Coventry Cathedral has just celebrated its 50th anniversary. Of course, it has a distinctive contribution, as so many cathedrals do. In this case, it is the Community of the Cross of Nails, a world-wide gift of reconciliation in a troubled world. In Winchester, the Winchester Bible is now redisplayed. In Truro, the cathedral has been engaged in a county-wide renewal through Inspire Cornwall.
We have heard from several speakers already that this comes with a huge implication for resources. When noble Lords reflect on the age, scale and complexity of the buildings, it will not surprise them that it is estimated that some £100 million over 10 years needs to be spent across the country in ordinary cyclical repairs. I am not talking about the marvellous things that are inspired by English Heritage and other grant-making bodies, but £100 million over 10 years just to keep thing in place. Indeed, since 1991, at least £250 million of repair works alone has been carried out in English cathedrals. Of course, you can follow all this up in the English Heritage Fabric Needs survey. We have been reminded that there is no core state funding for English cathedrals. I am not going to go down that route myself but, while new work and exciting developments are funded generously, routine repairs are much more difficult. There is still a gap between the cathedral’s division grant and the overall cost that has to be paid every year.
Cathedrals are enormous, historic, heritage, prayerful, worshipful places of sanctuary for people who are shy of religion. They are places where people can come and rediscover wonder and awe, both through art and music, and, simply, the power of prayer. Their role in the life of our nation’s cities is immeasurable: civic, cultural and spiritual. It will be a huge boost to the confidence and morale of all these people who are involved, hundreds of thousands of them, in our cathedrals to hear Her Majesty’s Government give a ringing endorsement to our cathedrals in every aspect of public policy.
My Lords, I must begin by declaring my interest as I have recently been appointed chairman of Leicester Cathedral council. I congratulate my noble friend Lord Cormack on successfully achieving this balloted debate. He has spoken clearly and passionately about the important role of English cathedrals in today’s society.
Lincoln Cathedral, built in 1092, stands high on the hill overlooking the city of Lincoln and is, indeed, an impressive building. Its dean claims that it is arguably the finest gothic building in Europe. It attracts visitors from around the world. Some come to see its historic past and enjoy its architecture while others come to find a place of peace and quiet to reflect and pray.
Leicester Cathedral cannot begin to compete as it was only back in 1927 that the parish church of St Martin’s became our cathedral. What we can do is offer a warm welcome to all our visitors, whether they are people of faith or none. Over the years, Leicester Cathedral has become recognised as the place that brings together people from all faiths, a centre that attracts civic services, cultural events and, indeed, only last Saturday held our Armed Forces Day service. I hope the cathedral is seen as being there for everyone in the city and county and not just for Christian worshippers. I believe that we are there to offer a variety of daily services, but also to expand our important mission work and support Bishop Tim in his work throughout the diocese.
You can imagine our great joy when, shortly before Christmas, we learnt that Her Majesty wished to open her jubilee celebrations with a visit to Leicester early in March. Our city is truly multicultural. We have many faith groups within the community and we wished to organise a service of thanksgiving and celebration that recognised that diversity. The day for Her Majesty began at De Montfort University, from there to the cathedral, followed by lunch at St Martin’s House and, finally, a walk through the main streets of the city. It was truly a day to be long remembered and at the heart of the day was the service at Leicester Cathedral. Here, the second poorest cathedral was involved in a remarkable day.
I believe that all cathedrals, both large and small, have a crucial place in today’s society. What we should be is a place where tourists, believers and all those seeking quiet reflection feel equally at home. The cathedral is there for all, open to all, an inspiration to all. Leicester Cathedral is open daily and holds services throughout the day and, of course, is busy at weekends too. However, it is more than simply a place of worship. If one looks at the many projects that the cathedral organises, one is amazed that so few can achieve so much.
We are a centre for Christian education and a base for outreach within the city and county, supporting a wide range of community projects. Christ’s calling challenges us to go out in his name and we do just that. In Leicester, we support particular projects working among asylum seekers and refugees. We run a street pastor scheme at the weekends. The Leicester Cathedral community has developed links with the local ecumenical church charity, The Bridge: From Homelessness to Hope, which recognises significant need in the city where the number of homeless has increased over the past few months.
These are but a few of the projects undertaken by a small staff of only 11.98 full-time equivalents, supported by some 138 volunteers. Our religious education officer continues work with primary schools, through the faith journey, which links the work of the cathedral with our Sikh, Jain and Buddhist near neighbours, enabling members of those communities to talk about their own faith journey and to share in our experiences. The work of our choristers’ outreach programme has enabled 14 schools to host weekly workshops, and more than 500 children came to the cathedral for one of these events.
None of this important work could be achieved without the enthusiasm and dedication of both stipendiary and lay members. I would like to record my thanks to our dean, Vivienne Faull, and her team for their hard work, faith and dedication. The cathedral is a real focus in the city and the county, so it is not surprising that it has been the chosen venue for major services in the city and county, as the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Birmingham said was true in Birmingham. The St Patrick’s Day service, our Armed Forces Day service, which was held last Saturday, the civic service to remember 9/11, 10 years on, and the High Sherif’s service for Leicestershire and Rutland are but a few that I have time to include.
For all this activity, the cathedral faces real challenges, many of them revolving around finance. Unlike some cities, the Leicester Cathedral parish community is small, and we have constantly to look at new ways of running what is a business. That may sound very commercial but, in truth, we have to look at what we do and how we finance our work. This short debate has given me the opportunity to talk about some of the work undertaken by a very small cathedral. It would be lovely to share the experience, and perhaps the difficulties, of Lincoln. But Leicester Cathedral has carved out for itself a real role, and will continue its work into the future.
I add with great pleasure my thanks to the noble Lord, Lord Cormack—I can hardly restrain myself from calling him my noble friend—for providing us with this opportunity to reflect on the contribution that cathedrals make to our national life and how it can be sustained. For me, personally, it is axiomatic that it is a very important question. I grew up in the cathedral city of Winchester and was educated at the cathedral choir school. I now live in the cathedral city of Norwich, where we have two great cathedrals. Not only do we have the magnificent historic Anglican cathedral, where the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Wakefield was dean before his translation, but we are also blessed with the presence of the great Roman Catholic cathedral of St John the Baptist. Canon Duckett wrote to the 15th Duke of Norfolk to tell him of,
“our present great need of a new church”,
and ventured the exclamation and prayer:
“Oh, that God would inspire your grace to build one for us”.
And that is exactly what happened. George Gilbert Scott Jr was the architect—he was the son of George Gilbert Scott Sr, the architect of St Pancras station, which many people also believe to be a cathedral. The great church in Norwich was constructed between 1884 and 1910 in a consistently pure and beautiful early English gothic style, and was finally consecrated as a cathedral in 1976.
Between my beginning and my end, I had the privilege to represent another cathedral city, Newport in Monmouthshire. We were in the diocese of Monmouthshire, and St Woolos is the cathedral of that diocese.
For centuries, the cathedrals have shaped and expressed the spiritual, cultural and civic life of our country. They continue to do so and, as has been noted, they also contribute to our economy in attracting very large numbers of tourists. I am not a religious person, and it is hardly for me to talk of the spiritual value of our cathedrals, but non-believers also value the continuity, calm and beauty that the cathedrals afford us. The magnificence of the King James Bible and the cadences of Cranmer’s collects—on which the most reverend Prelate the Archbishop of Canterbury made some very illuminating remarks in a recent talk—are all part of the ceremony of our national life and our private solace. Of course, there are other vernacular versions, which no doubt rightly have their place.
Forty of the cathedrals of the Church of England are grade 1 listed buildings. Canterbury and Durham Cathedrals are world heritage sites. Our cathedrals are a fountainhead of music. After 60 years, I am still haunted by the extraordinarily beautiful anthem “Remember Now Thy Creator”—the words of Ecclesiastes set to music by Charles Steggall and sung by the choir in Winchester Cathedral—and uplifted when I remember the sounds of Stanford in B flat. When I was Minister for the Arts and Heritage, a brace of deans came to see me from Hereford and Southwark to share with me their anxieties about the cathedral choir schools and the problems of maintaining them. Sadly the Arts Council was deeply uninterested in their problem but the cathedrals found other ways and I understand that now, every week, more than 1,000 boys and 800 girls sing choral services. My successors did better than I did. I am pleased to say that the Government contributed £1 million a year, over four years, from 2008, towards the chorister outreach programme to enable choirmasters and choristers to visit schools. Some 60,000 children have had that benefit and around 1,600 teachers have been trained in how to teach choral singing. It would be good if, even in these straightened times, public funds could be found for a number of scholarships to enable children from poor families to attend cathedral choir schools.
The libraries and archives of our cathedrals are great repositories of the national memory. In Norwich, Camberwell College of Arts students have the opportunity of a placement in which they survey the bindings of the books in the great cathedral library. The noble Lord, Lord Cormack, drew attention to the importance of cathedrals in sustaining heritage and traditional skills in this country and I pay tribute to him personally for all that he has done to support the maintaining of these skills.
The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Birmingham drew our attention to the impressive statistic that 300,000 children attended educational events at cathedrals in 2011. There is, I would think, no subject in the national curriculum that it is not possible to teach by using the resources that cathedrals provide. Of course many of our cathedrals—in fact I would imagine all of them—are engaged in outreach and Christian care work. I mention simply one example: the day centre for homeless and vulnerable people within the precincts of Sheffield Cathedral. We use the phrase “cathedral cities”. Cathedrals of this country engage and express the civic and the public realm. Again, the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Birmingham told us that no fewer than an estimated £1.84 million people attended civic and public events in cathedrals in 2011. It is interesting that the Occupy movement decided that it would base its protests at four English cathedrals—not perhaps a very happy experience for all concerned; the jubilee celebrations more recently were a much better one.
In Britain, as the noble Lords, Lord Cormack and Lord Tyler, reminded us, it is not our practice to nationalise our sacred and historic buildings—at any rate, not since the time of Thomas Cromwell. The cathedrals are independent ecclesiastical corporations and take responsibility for themselves. However, there are also responsibilities that should properly fall upon the community and the state. The noble Baroness, Lady Andrews, told us of the 2009 cathedral fabric needs survey, which found that more than £100 million-worth of repairs needed to be planned for over the next 10 years. I understand that the buildings division of the Church of England is only able to contribute around £750,000 towards those needs, so there is a decanal cash flow problem of formidable proportions in a country that is not getting any richer.
The cathedrals, as we have all acknowledged, provide immense benefits to the secular realm. What is the reciprocal responsibility of the secular realm? The communities, of which Cathedrals are at the heart, rise to this responsibility. Congregations and wider circles of local people are very happy to contribute what they can. I pay a tribute to the noble Lord, Lord MacGregor of Pulham Market, who leads the fundraising campaign for Norwich Cathedral. He very much regrets that he cannot be here today because he is engaged in another public duty. The capacities of local communities to raise money to support their cathedrals of course vary. There is an inescapable responsibility on the state.
Over 19 years, English Heritage’s grants for cathedrals scheme contributed, I believe, £52 million towards this very important purpose, latterly supported, with its customary imagination and generosity, by the Wolfson Foundation. English Heritage has now been placed in a position in which it cannot afford to continue with a fund dedicated for this purpose. The Heritage Lottery Fund has also contributed £44.5 million to help the cathedrals since 1995. As our compatriots in these desolate times are consoling themselves by playing the lottery in some considerable numbers, we can anticipate that heritage lottery funding will be quite buoyant, so that is a source of hope.
However, it is not enough for the Government to rely upon the lottery to fulfil the public obligation. The Public Accounts Committee in 2009 urged that the Government should provide core funding for our cathedrals, on the analogy of the grant in aid that the Government provide for the national museums. If we think about it, it is strange to reflect that the National Railway Museum in York is subsidised by the Government to enable it to maintain free entry, whereas York Minster, without public support, has felt it necessary to charge. I admire the National Railway Museum in York but which of these institutions is of greater cultural importance to our country?
No doubt the Minister will say to me that we have a terrible problem with the deficit and that we have to cut it. But I would say that, when there is such a radical recasting of public expenditure, we need to think deeply about the proper responsibilities of the state. I hope that the state will accept that it has an inescapable responsibility to ensure that there is a decent public contribution to support our cathedrals. The public assume that there is. They would be shocked to know that there was not.
I do not want to overrun my time so I will not add to what other noble Lords have said about VAT. However, I hope that the Government will strenuously renew negotiations with the European Union to enable the anomaly between VAT on repairs and VAT on alterations to be removed. As the Government have graciously reconsidered some aspects of their recent Budget, I hope that they will also reconsider their very lamentable decision to increase VAT on alterations to 20 per cent because that will hurt cathedrals very badly, particularly when they come to develop educational or visitor facilities within their listed buildings. I look forward, therefore, to a fully considered statement of the Government’s view of their responsibilities towards our cathedrals when the Minister replies.
My Lords, I am delighted to have the opportunity to make a maiden speech today. I begin by expressing my heartfelt thanks to your Lordships for the welcome that I have received. I am very grateful to them, as I am to the staff of the House, for their help.
To make a maiden speech only three days after being introduced into the House might be thought of as being just a little precipitous. However, I like to think that it is providential that this Motion concerning cathedrals should appear today, since cathedrals are very close to my heart and they have been, literally, for most of my life. I spent most of my teenage years living almost within sight of Canterbury Cathedral and then three years living only yards from Durham Cathedral as an undergraduate. I was ordained in the cathedral of the Bishop of Chichester, whose place I take in this House, and who gave stalwart service to both his cathedral and the House. I ministered for seven very happy years as a canon residentiary at Ely and now live closer to my Cathedral in Worcester than anyone else in what I believe is the only private dwelling that has ever appeared on a bank note.
It could be argued that cathedrals loom larger, literally in every sense, in my life than in the lives of most people. However, my experience tells me that cathedrals are a crucial and enriching part of the lives of countless people who have not had the good fortune to be as closely associated with them as have I. Further, cathedrals are a living and precious part of our architectural, historical, cultural and spiritual heritage.
I support pretty much everything that has been said in the debate so far, and I hope that that will be my continuing experience in debates in this House. I take exception to only one thing—I cannot agree with Alec Clifton-Taylor’s assessment of Lincoln Cathedral, glorious though that building is, but I would refer your Lordships to his statement that medieval cathedrals are,
“the supreme expression of English architecture”.
I am sure that he would have had a good word to say also about Birmingham, Wakefield and Leicester Cathedrals—as he would about our great 19th century and 20th century Catholic cathedrals.
My own cathedral of Worcester stands at the heart of a diocese that has been in existence since 680. I am its 113th bishop and the present glorious building dates from 1184 when my sainted predecessor Wulfstan oversaw the demolition of the Saxon building. The iconic view of it from Worcester county cricket ground, standing high above the River Severn, is famous the world over and is dear to countless people in Worcestershire and Dudley—the area now covered by the diocese of Worcester—who feel committed to their mother church. Many of them will, with me, have the opportunity to welcome Her Majesty the Queen to the cathedral in just a few days’ time.
The fabric of the building, like that of most English cathedrals, is arguably in a better state than it has ever been, thanks to mammoth fundraising and indispensable grants from English Heritage, to which reference has been made. What will happen in the future, with no direct government funding, is a source of anxiety, to say the least. The problem with the lottery is that it is as its name suggests. I describe myself as an expert in lottery applications—all of them failed.
Cathedrals are not just architectural gems but hugely significant active symbols of our common religious and spiritual heritage. They are visited each year by increasing numbers of people with varying religious affiliations. I think it could be said that all these people have a real, if not expressly articulated, sense of the spiritual. Cathedrals have been described by the novelist Susan Hill as being:
“At the still point of the turning world”.
Reading the prayers left by those who have lit candles in cathedrals makes it clear that they can enable deep feelings to surface and be articulated. Cathedrals generate many millions of pounds for our economy but are not, of course, simply tourist attractions. They are vibrant hubs of culture and spirituality. Last year in Worcester, the ticket sales for the Three Choirs festival, the oldest of its kind in the world dating from the early 18th century, were higher than they have ever been. That was just one event in very many that included drama and art, as well as much fabulous music and civic occasions.
At the heart of the life of our cathedrals lies their choral tradition, which is one of their most glorious and remarkable features. I remind your Lordships that until the Reformation, choral foundations were universal throughout Europe, but England is now the only country left with such a tradition intact. In France, Spain, Germany and Italy they have all but disappeared. In Italy, an English choir had to be imported to Palestrina’s own church, the Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome, to mark a significant anniversary of his death. In this country, cathedral music has not only survived against the financial odds but improved. Alongside the daily round of worship, it enriches myriad special services and events to which thousands come, and during which architecture, words and music combine to provide a feast for the senses which feeds the whole person at a much deeper level than can be articulated in mere words.
Cathedrals are the places where bishops have their teaching seats, and they are great centres of education for people of all faiths and none, to which reference has already been made in this debate. The majority employs a qualified education officer and thousands of children are welcomed each year for outstanding learning experiences. Cathedrals have vast educational potential, much of which is tapped, as a result of their architectural, historical and social significance, their aesthetic and artistic merit, and the fact that they are the home to vibrant Christian communities. Last year, more than 3,000 educational events were laid on by cathedrals. It is not just children and young people who benefit. Debates and lectures are laid on for adults about issues of common concern to church and society. Only just over a week ago the Director of Public Prosecutions gave a lecture in Worcester Cathedral on the law and the media, in which he considered the question of the public interest.
I could wax lyrical about cathedrals for a very long time but the basic point that I want to emphasis is that cathedrals offer something that is most definitely in the public interest in all sorts of areas. They are a precious part of the inheritance of this nation and enrich our common life immeasurably. In conclusion, I repeat my thanks for the welcome that I have received from your Lordships and urge that this House should indeed take note of the future of English cathedrals but, in so doing, I urge that they should be valued, cherished and supported.
My Lords, it is a great honour to be able to follow the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Worcester and to congratulate him on a formidable and elegant maiden speech that blended so perfectly his own experiences with the challenges of public policy. We can see from his speech what a great asset he is going to be to your Lordships’ House.
Indeed, at a time when Members of this House are under a degree of scrutiny, the right reverend Prelate exemplifies the very characteristics that make this House so special, for his range of interests and expertise is as diverse as it is deep. In fact, he began his career as a chemistry teacher, which will suit him well for our debates on scientific issues. He then became a teacher at Harrow School, trying to instil into his pupils—he would have failed with me—the basics of chemistry. That will make him a natural for debates on education, an area on which he touched today. After Harrow, he spent six years as vicar of an inner city parish at St Luke’s, Wallsend, giving him a perspective on inner city issues and social responsibility that will be much valued in this House. He has a deep interest in international affairs, too. As a longstanding member of the World Development Movement, he will be a natural in dealing with international development issues. Finally, he is president of Worcestershire County Cricket Club; he is thereby a shoe-in for sports debates. In short, the right reverend Prelate is an all-rounder whose contributions we look forward to with great eagerness.
We are all indebted to the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, for securing this debate, which has relevance and importance for every region of our country, every diocese and every parish. I am particularly pleased to take part because it gives me an opportunity to talk about two cathedrals in Essex close to my heart, and what they can tell us about the future of cathedrals across England.
I am from Brentwood, which is at the heart of the Roman Catholic diocese of Brentwood, a diocese that, quite uniquely, is exactly coterminous with the Church of England diocese of Chelmsford. Both towns have exceptionally fine cathedrals. In Brentwood, the cathedral dates back to 1861, when it was just a parish church. It was raised to cathedral status in 1917. The cathedral in Chelmsford has more venerable roots, with the first church on its site founded over 800 years ago. It became a cathedral in 1914, when the diocese of Chelmsford was created to meet the needs of the urban population east of London. Both cathedrals have changed considerably over time. Brentwood’s magnificent cathedral was substantially enlarged between 1989 and 1991 in the Italianate style by Quinlan Terry. Taking his inspiration from the classical Renaissance, this cathedral is one of the master architect’s greatest works and one of the finest buildings in Essex.
Chelmsford’s cathedral has grown more organically, with new stained glass windows in the 19th century along with a rebuilt nave and enriched porch in 1953 to mark the bonds between America and Britain in the Second World War. It now has, in the 21st century, a magnificent collection of modern art.
Both these buildings underline how cathedrals grow alongside their communities, reflecting the changes in society and constantly updating themselves, as the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, said, to remain relevant, vibrant and the focal point of the diocese they serve.
The Bishop of Brentwood, Bishop Thomas McMahon, a man of huge importance to civic life in the towns and villages of Essex, has written that a cathedral takes its name from the Greek word for chair, cathedra, from which the bishop presides as the “shepherd of the diocese”. As well as being the parish church for those who live nearby, cathedrals stand as the fulcrum of worship for local people. In Bishop Thomas’s words, they stand there,
“to proclaim and celebrate the Christian mysteries in an environment of excellence and beauty”.
In other words, they are of vital importance to the cultural and spiritual fabric of our nation and need to be cherished.
However, cathedrals, as we have heard, are not just about buildings so much as the people who are in them. The central point I want to raise, and one on which a number of noble Lords, including the noble Lord, Lord Howarth of Newport, have touched, is about the importance of church music and the choirs and organists who provide it. Our cathedral choirs are as much a part of the rich heritage that nurtures our communities as the buildings they sing in. At this point I must declare an interest as a member of the Council of the Royal College of Music.
Both the cathedrals I have talked about have prestigious choirs. Brentwood’s was formed in 1984 and over the years has undertaken tours throughout Europe. Just a few weeks ago, a young man who is a member of the choir and a Brentwood schoolboy, Harry John, was one of just 40 young people in the Diamond Choir that sang for Her Majesty the Queen at St Paul’s. In Chelmsford, an innovative choral foundation, formed in 1994, supports the work of its excellent choir, which brings world-class skills right to the heart of local communities. As the very reverend Peter Judd, Dean of Chelmsford, has said,
“when the psalm is being sung … one is privileged to be in the presence of something exquisite—rather like standing in front of an utterly beautiful painting in the National Gallery, except our Choir does not sing in central London, it is happening here in Chelmsford every day”.
Cathedral choirs perform three vital roles in our cultural life. First, they keep alive and flourishing the tradition of English church music, which is one of this country’s shining artistic achievements, dating back to the remarkable output of Byrd, Tallis, Gibbons and Purcell, and in more recent years, of course, Wesley, Bairstow, Parry and Vaughan Williams. Our cathedrals, choirs and organists have all played a central role in fostering that tradition. In the 18th century, a choirboy from Gloucester Cathedral, William Hayes, went on to become a significant composer and a pivotal figure in English musical history. Three centuries later, one of our greatest choral composers, Herbert Howells, an alumnus of the RCM, learnt his musical trade from the organist Herbert Brewer, also at Gloucester Cathedral. Charles Wood had a similar start to musical life at Armagh Cathedral. Their experience, and that of many others, testifies to the importance of local music teaching and experience in nurturing great national talent.
Secondly, they provide for those who worship at cathedrals, or are simply visiting them, something magical and mystical that lies beyond mere words. They enhance the experience of visiting our cathedrals, as indeed so many other churches, in a way nothing else can. Great buildings need great music. And the music—some of the most sublime works ever written—needs these buildings.
Thirdly, they provide real beacons of artistic excellence in their local communities. They attract new audiences to cathedrals, encourage local composers, act as a magnet for visiting musicians and provide a cultural experience that nothing else can in the same way. As Professor Robin Leaver, an internationally recognised hymnologist, has so pithily put it, church musicians are not simply there to produce,
“nice noises at various points in worship”,
but are cultural ambassadors in their own right. Equally importantly, cathedral choirs often give boys, and increasingly girls, their first taste of high-level music-making. Many go on to successful musical careers. There can be no better start to a musical life than experience in a cathedral choir.
However, cathedral choirs face challenges as much as our cathedrals do. They can prosper only if they have secure and comfortable environments in which to practise. As the English Heritage Creativity and Care report, which we have heard about today, highlighted:
“It takes resources to maintain a proud and ancient choral tradition: resources and space”.
They also need a functioning organ—perhaps the most expensive musical instrument to maintain—and dedicated teachers who so often work on a purely voluntary basis. I was delighted that the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Birmingham talked about volunteers. They are of such huge importance. A cathedral such as Chelmsford depends on 480 volunteers to keep it going and we need to do more to cherish them.
Above all, there is a challenge to ensure that there are sufficient numbers of church musicians entering the profession to meet the needs not just of the cathedrals but the parishes that form the bedrock of the diocese. Across the world, more churches are chasing fewer music graduates. The teaching of music, particularly in our state schools, is a real issue here, although I suspect that is a subject for another debate.
Many of our cathedrals are, quite rightly, moving now to secure the future of church music and they need our support. I think in particular of the new music resource centre at Wells Cathedral, which we have heard about today, and the new Song School at Chester Cathedral. These are just the sorts of initiatives that are required to secure the future of cathedral choirs and of the proud English choral tradition.
The noble Lord, Lord Cormack, has done us a huge service by securing this debate today. Our cathedrals, with their choirs, are one of the jewels in the crown of our national life. It is right that we celebrate them, recognise the challenges that lie ahead and seek to identify ways in which they can be supported. As the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Birmingham said earlier, a ringing endorsement from your Lordships’ House today would be a splendid way to start.
My Lords, I am delighted to take this opportunity to speak today about Britain’s best building. I agree with a great deal of what the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, said, with the exception of his very touching, if ultimately misguided, conviction that Lincoln Cathedral is the fairest in the country. You need not take my word for it—in a survey by the Guardian last year, Durham Cathedral came out with a ringing success, with 62% of people voting it the best building in Britain. That capitalised on its success a decade earlier, when the BBC had a similar poll and again Durham Cathedral was Britain’s favourite building. It is not hard to see why. One of the cathedral canons described one of the joys of her ministry as watching one of the many parties of schoolchildren who arrive. They come in a long crocodile, with two children hand in hand at the front. As the first children walk in, they gasp at the sheer scale and stop dead, so that the crocodile piles like dominoes as the rest keep coming in behind them. They struggle to make sense of the sheer splendour of the space. It had a very similar effect on me the first time I walked in. Strangely, the nave of the cathedral is not just enormous, it is somehow intimate. The current and rather wonderful Dean of Durham described the nave as being,
“large enough to lift our vision but intimate enough to hold us and affirm our humanity”.
In some ways, that is what cathedrals do in general, not simply architecturally.
As many noble Lords will know, Durham Cathedral was built on the site where monks bearing the body of the great northern saint, St Cuthbert, came and finally settled after travelling to escape Vikings. They had been moving around with Cuthbert’s relics and the Lindisfarne Gospels—which we look forward to welcoming home soon, at least briefly—and finally stopped after coming to a bend in the River Wear and getting stuck behind a milkmaid and a dun cow. When Cuthbert’s body refused to go any further at that point, they took this as a sign that they had chosen the right place. I am delighted that they chose such a beautiful spot, although I am sure the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Worcester would be with me in saying that every now and again one might wish they had chosen a flatter spot. I was delighted to hear his maiden speech. It was eloquent and articulate, and I can only conclude that his undergraduate studies must have served him well. He is most welcome.
Durham Cathedral is more than an architectural marvel; it is a sacred space with a wonderful choir, which sings at eight services a week. However, that tradition is not just for a privileged minority. Durham Cathedral set up a wonderful music outreach programme, in which choristers went out to local primary schools across the county and sang for the children and then with the children. Over a period of weeks, the children would learn the music and then come together with other schools in a wonderful concert in the cathedral, which would be full of proud mums and dads who had never expected to hear their children sing music of this quality in a space such as that. It has been a wonderful developmental experience. In fact, one child who came to the cathedral with his school in exactly that fashion saw this, went back and told his mum and dad that this was what he wanted to do and some time later—two years ago—he became BBC Young Chorister of the Year. Since then, he has sung in Downing Street, at the Albert Hall and with Katherine Jenkins, and all because the school visited Durham Cathedral.
The cathedral draws people to itself from all over the world but it is also a centre for Durham itself. I went to Durham in 2006 to take a course at the university for just a year and I am still there—it has that effect on people. When I came to the end of the course, I graduated in the cathedral—an experience that many people have. During the Lumiere festival—a festival of light—the cathedral was completely filled with sculptures of light and flame, so anyone who thinks that our cathedrals are overly risk-averse or in any way scared by health and safety issues should visit Durham.
Some 120,000 people came to the Lumiere festival but 600,000 go through Durham Cathedral every year. For me, one of the great highlights of the year is the annual Durham Miners’ Gala—or the “Big Meeting”, as it is known locally—every July, when thousands of people descend on the city from across the county. This is where the traditional mining culture and trade union heritage of the county are celebrated. Even though the pits have closed, people come from every village and march through with their own brass band and banner. These are still markers of identity for the communities and the people in them. There is a service in the cathedral, the bands are marched in and the banners are paraded. When there is a new banner, the community brings it in for the bishop to bless. Last year, regrettably, we saw the 60th anniversary of the colliery disaster at Easington, in which 83 men and boys lost their lives. The Easington banner was trimmed with black and it was brought in so that the cathedral could mark that aspect of the community experience as well.
As the right reverend Prelates have said, people also bring their individual and private troubles to the cathedral. Every day, many people come in to light candles, write prayers or just sit in the quiet space. The volunteer chaplains at Durham, as elsewhere, hear all kinds of stories. There might be a soldier coming in to pray before being sent to Afghanistan, or perhaps bereaved people who do not have a faith but do not know where else to take their grief coming to the cathedral, trusting that they can somehow be held in that space. That is what a cathedral can be and what Durham certainly is—at the heart of a community to celebrate its joys, as the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, said, and to hold people in times of sorrow, to be with them and to provide a way for them to express that sorrow and be held as a community.
However, none of this is easy. It takes hundreds of staff and hundreds of volunteers. All kinds of people come through the cathedral. I am a tutor at St Chad’s College at Durham University. We, like every other college, have our annual St Chad’s Day service in the cathedral. During the service, students bring to the altar to be blessed emblems of their everyday student life, including sporting equipment, musical instruments, even the odd book, and this year, for no obviously discernible reason, a life-size cut-out of President Obama. All aspects of life are taken up and can be blessed and celebrated.
It seems to me that that role of community-gathering by institutions at the heart of our communities is one that the state has a responsibility to support in some way. Despite the fact that this is Britain’s best-loved building, was founded more than 900 years ago and is, as my noble friend Lord Howarth of Newport said, on a UN World Heritage Site, it does not have any regular government funding. The £60,000 a week that it costs to maintain the cathedral and its associated buildings and ministries has to be found by the incredibly enterprising but, surely by now, tiring dean and chapter. I applaud them for being able to do this without charging the public to come into the cathedral. It is an incredibly difficult struggle every single week. However, if people had to pay to get in, it would be hard to see either how the individuals would feel able to use it in the way that I have described or how it could fulfil that role at the heart of the community which is so powerful for our city.
When the Minister considers her response to the debate, can she give us any comfort at all regarding how the state can recognise its responsibilities? I thought that the suggestion from the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, was excellent and I would encourage her to reflect on it. Perhaps she could start an endowment to which others could be encouraged to contribute. Durham is a very poor county, yet people find the money to celebrate the cathedral. However, the cathedral is not just for us; it is for the entire nation and it is one of Europe’s architectural treasures.
Finally, I know that the Minister has an interest in Durham, and that might encourage her to visit the city at some point and to look around the cathedral. However, I urge any noble Lord or anyone reading this debate who has an interest in this matter to step into their cathedral, if they have not done so previously, to see what it can provide in an era when the gathering institutions in our communities are under threat. These can be spaces that welcome everybody, raise our vision and, at the same time, affirm and hold us in our humanity.
My Lords, I cannot hope to come up to the same standards of energy and enthusiasm that we have just had from the noble Baroness, Lady Sherlock. However, I begin by saying that, as with my friend the right reverend Bishop of Worcester, whose excellent maiden speech we have just heard, cathedrals lie very close to my heart, so I am very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, for making this debate possible.
I have spent 15 years of my life working in two very different cathedrals. For seven years I was a residentiary canon at Portsmouth, a parish-church cathedral in an urban setting right next to the great naval dockyard. Then, for eight years, I was dean of Norwich, a magnificent medieval cathedral, to which we have already heard reference, and one of the two greatest Romanesque churches in England. I am not vying for it to be the top one but it is certainly as good as Durham.
Cathedrals offer an extraordinary variety of experience, as I shall note later. There is one brief vignette which focuses something of this and which for me seemed bizarre. During my time at Norwich, we celebrated the 900th anniversary of the diocese and cathedral. Anglia Railways kindly agreed to call one of its locomotives “Norwich Cathedral”. That was very good news, but it was the final denouement of this tale to which I want to advert. At the end of the year, I was invited to Norwich station for the denaming ceremony. That seemed to me quite baffling. Most of the Anglia Railways locomotives took their names from significant places in the north-west of England, where they had previously toiled—names such as “Vulcan Foundry” and “City of Preston”. Here was “Norwich Cathedral”, named after the single greatest focus of tourism in East Anglia, with more than half a million people passing through our doors each year, and we were taking the name off the locomotive. That is an interesting reflection on how people do not always see the significance of these great buildings.
For all the talk of the decline of religion, cathedrals remain enormous magnets for all sorts and conditions of people, as we have already heard. In a recent essay on church growth, it was noted that alongside the growth in the size of congregations, mentioned earlier by my friend the right reverend Bishop of Birmingham, the spend was £91 million in cathedrals alone, and the total impact on the wider localities was more than £150 million. However, church growth just touches the fringes of the impact of these places. They are the contemporary equivalent of common ground. They are open to all who come—all can graze in their pastures, as it were. Indeed, the variety of expressions of their impact is clear in the myriad people who consider themselves to be stakeholders.
Many organisations and individuals ask to use our cathedrals—from civic services to Rotary International, and from local businesses to voluntary sector agencies. However, these stakeholders—and there are myriad others—are matched by the diverse reasons for visits by individuals. Some come as tourists; others as pilgrims. Some come for silence and solace in the face of life’s difficulties and challenges. Many is the conversation I have had in cathedrals with people in places of sadness in their lives. Some come with the explicit hope of talking and meeting up with others, so a guide in a cathedral has to be immensely sensitive, knowing when people might want to speak and when they might not. Of course, some come as aficionados of architecture, while others come simply to celebrate the place, the city in which they live.
I remember being in Norwich Cathedral one morning when a chap who had been thrown out of his house by his wife—probably for very good reasons—came up to me and said, “Ooh, it’s a big place you’ve got here, isn’t it?” It was interesting that he had lived in Norwich all his life and had never been in the building before. What was it that brought him there? Well, I just mentioned that.
In Norwich—to focus there a little longer—it is the cathedral, the university and the football team, of course, that somehow give the city its character, its personality and its status. Cathedrals give a city their soul. Cathedrals belong to everyone. In both Portsmouth and Norwich, people of other religions and people of no religious faith will talk of “our cathedral”.
Often cathedrals work with other agencies to nourish a city’s flourishing. In Norwich we co-operated with Delia Smith, the queen of cookery, in a centenary service for Norwich City football club. By good providence we even had what passed for Canaries robes of yellow and green to match the occasion.
Cathedrals, too, have been the seed-bed for the nourishing of music in our nation. We have heard so much already in this debate about the quality of cathedral music. Most significant as well is that so many of our really talented classical musicians, people now at the top of their tree in their profession—not related particularly to church matters—started their musical careers in cathedral choirs. This essential work needs to continue via proper financial support. I was very pleased to hear the noble Lord, Lord Howarth, say how important this remains, not just for our cathedrals but for the whole heritage and tradition of good music in our country.
For all these reasons, I am acutely aware of the need to respond to any moves that may undermine these great flagships of the spirit. As we have already heard many times, a month or two ago a change in the VAT regulations threatened to undermine the very breadth of what cathedrals offer. It is the alterations, adaptations and modifications of these buildings that make them speak more effectively to our own generation, so I am very thankful that we are being given respite in that area, at least for three years. However, as the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, and the noble Baroness, Lady Andrews, have said, I hope we can be reassured further that that respite will continue well beyond that time; not only do we not get proper funding, but having to pay VAT would actually take funding away from us. Therefore we are grateful for the shift on VAT and for the extra grants available.
Still, however, the issue of adequate state funding for essential maintenance and conservation is crucial. I absolutely agree with the noble Lord, Lord Cormack; I would not want the situation to be as it is in France. Nevertheless, as we have heard, English Heritage’s budget is always under pressure and now cathedrals are placed alongside other churches in an open market. We are enormously grateful for all that it has done, and I am enormously grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Andrews, who has been greatly supportive in our diocese. I look forward to welcoming her again in the near future.
Let us go for the £50 million that the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, asked for. If you compare it with the amount of money in terms of the fuel excise duty that has been so much in the news in the last few days, or, indeed, the £1.3 billion that will go to the European Union—doubtless for good reasons—£50 million is as nothing.
Like all organisations, as well as facing outside threats, the Church of England is always capable of shooting itself in the foot. The Dioceses Commission needs to be careful not to threaten to undermine the very raison d’être of cathedrals. Merging dioceses easily dissolves important local loyalties and takes away the point of these buildings as the focus of a bishop's ministry and the character and personality of a locality. Present plans in our part of England aim to keep cathedrals for the moment even if the dioceses merge; but what will be the logic, and for how long could two or three cathedrals be justified in one diocese?
Furthermore such changes seem to ignore the essential reason for the existence of cathedrals. They are the home of the cathedra, as we have been reminded—the seat of a bishop. We need smaller, not larger, dioceses, each with one cathedral, the teaching seat of the bishop who is the focus of unity for the church in that place. As others have said, the essential reason for cathedrals is for the worship of Almighty God; that is the beginning and the end of them.
Let me end with one further telling vignette. It relates to that extraordinary outflow of emotion on the death of Diana, Princess of Wales. We opened our doors in Norwich—where I was at the time—from dawn until dusk, and I saw one woman enter the building, light a candle and pray for 10 minutes. On her way out of the cathedral she thanked me for making the great church available and said, “I am not religious or anything, but I had to come”. I reckon that 10 minutes of prayer and a lighted candle feels a pretty religious thing to do. Whatever she thought she was doing, such an act and expression of commitment is but one of so many reasons why we must work even harder not only to preserve our cathedrals but to make their ministry and service to a whole community more effective than ever. I, too, look forward to a great statement of confidence in the Government supporting our cathedrals and I hope that they might think carefully about that £50 million.
My Lords, I add my thanks to the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, for introducing this debate and, indeed, for the way in which he has championed our national heritage over many years. I speak with much less authority on this subject than other speakers, but I am delighted to contribute to a debate that has sparked such knowledge and passion, and to take the opportunity to congratulate the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Worcester on a moving and illuminating maiden speech.
As has been said already, England’s cathedrals are some of the greatest ancient buildings in Europe. Whether ancient or more modern, each is often the largest, most architecturally complex, most archaeologically sensitive and most visited building in its town or city. While our cathedrals are first and foremost places of Christian worship, they are also cultural centres and tourist attractions. They are at once places of pilgrimage and public buildings that host great national or civic events. They are prayerful spaces that also host community events and busy cafés.
Beautiful and breathtaking their architecture may be, but as the Church of England points out, these buildings are not just heritage landmarks but contribute to the wider community in diverse ways. Often they are the only local space of any size with public access, hosting concerts, lectures and degree ceremonies; and, of course, they are still used for their original purpose. Attendance at regular weekly services in Church of England cathedrals has increased over the past decade, as the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Birmingham said.
The number of volunteers involved in the mission and ministry of cathedrals on a regular basis has increased by 24% to 14,500—an average of 345 volunteers for every cathedral. They are truly part of the big society. Last year more than 250,000 children attended educational events at a cathedral, with Westminster Abbey adding a further 12,000 to that nationwide figure. Just under 10,000 children are being educated at schools associated with cathedrals, and more than 2,000 of these children and adults are involved week by week in providing cathedral music.
Other noble Lords provided many examples of the contribution of cathedrals to the community—I will not repeat them. They all demonstrate our cathedrals’ continuing active role in people’s lives. This also means meeting legislative requirements and offering modern facilities. It is for this reason that I support the long-running campaign by the Church of England’s General Synod to cut the rate of VAT on church repairs and maintenance. The former Council for the Care of Churches argued that,
“charging VAT on repairs … encourages unnecessary alterations and discourages … good conservation”.
The distinction between repairs and maintenance on the one hand and alterations on the other is artificial and complex to administer.
Like other noble Lords today, I welcome the recent rethink by the Chancellor of the ill conceived proposal to introduce VAT on alterations and improvements made to churches and cathedrals. Cathedral deans—who can generally be relied on to speak their minds—were quick to point out that the tax would not mean more money for the Government but less maintenance for historic buildings. Adding 20% to the already fearsome costs of keeping open our great cathedrals—let alone keeping on top of major repairs—would have made this work completely unmanageable.
As the majority of alterations to listed church buildings take place in order to improve access to them and to broaden their use by the wider community, the Chancellor’s U-turn is entirely right and proper. By increasing the annual budget of the Listed Places of Worship Grant Scheme by £30 million and amending its scope to fully compensate churches for the impact of removing VAT relief from alteration work, he has acknowledged the importance of these buildings, which, of course, should never have been overlooked in the first place. However, concern remains. Although the proposals in the Budget will have an impact mostly on alterations to listed church buildings as distinct from repairs, the Church of England is nevertheless concerned that the money available to reimburse churches for VAT charged for repair work will also be affected as a consequence of the extra demands placed on the Listed Places of Worship Grant Scheme.
I echo the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, and ask the Minister how confident she is that the £30 million will cover the additional costs borne by listed places of worship following the VAT change. Can she also be confident that the additional resources will enable 100% compensation for repair and maintenance costs eligible under the current grant scheme? I ask because I want to see more of the life-enhancing alterations so magnificently exemplified by Wells Cathedral in Somerset—a cathedral I love visiting—as well as by others in English Heritage’s report, Creativity and Care.
The report shows how thoughtfully and sensitively some of our cathedrals have been adapted and developed to remain relevant today. I, too, pay tribute to the superb contribution to this work made by my noble friend Lady Andrews. At Wells there are some 1,700-plus services, concerts, educational visits and other events organised by the cathedral each year. That amounts to about five events a day, each attracting a different public. Yet until recently the cathedral had no adequate toilet, no disabled access to many areas of the cathedral church, no education area for visiting school groups and an overcrowded restaurant.
All that has changed following one of the biggest building programmes at a medieval cathedral since the Reformation. Unblocking the pilgrims’ porch—in medieval times the main entrance to the building—has allowed access between the precinct, the cloister and the church. A new cloister provides a reception area, an expanded shop and a first-floor restaurant. It took seven years to get permissions and, in total, the work cost £7 million, much of it coming from the Sainsbury and Garfield Weston Foundations and the Heritage Lottery Fund. The end result is a triumph of 21st-century vision and sensitivity, magnificently balancing the building’s significance with the needs of modern users.
A cathedral in my home county of Yorkshire also supplies a wonderful example of where the money has been found to make alterations that serve a 21st-century community. The Leeds Roman Catholic Cathedral, built in the early years of the 20th century, now has some very modern new facilities. A thoroughgoing clean of the interior in 2005 transformed the grime of my childhood to light-filled glory. Some 25% of the £2.4 million cost was gathered by fundraising within a relatively small and not particularly wealthy diocese. Another example is York Minster, where an innovative project by the York Glaziers Trust has transformed the Bedern chapel, a medieval building in the close which I recall as merely a ruin. Winning a Heritage Lottery Fund bid in 2006 led to new flooring and a new ceiling, and CCTV that allows visitors to watch the work at close hand.
To keep our cathedrals relevant takes money, vision and commitment. This has always been so. As Frank Field pointed out, the process of refitting our cathedrals for the future has never stopped. For that process to continue today, funding is vital, as so many other contributors to the debate emphasised. So, too, of course are goodwill and volunteers.
It is not only our cathedrals that are extraordinary; so are many of the 14,000 listed places of worship in England, as other noble Lords attested. Anglican churches alone form 45% of the grade 1 listed buildings in England. In 2006, necessary repairs to all listed places of worship in England were estimated to cost £185 million a year. It is worth noting that of the money spent on the repairs, 70% was raised by congregations and local communities.
The Listed Places of Worship Grant Scheme, now totalling £42 million, is only guaranteed for the next three years. We need to know that our extraordinary legacy of cathedral buildings will be safe on our watch and that they will be given the best chance of seeing out the next thousand years. I join with other noble Lords in hoping that the Minister will be able to offer hope that the state will continue to provide its part of the necessary funding.
My Lords, I acknowledge with gratitude the House’s indulgence in allowing me to speak in the gap. I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, on securing the debate. I shall not attempt to continue his elegantly described train journey through the cathedral cities of east England, but I will speak about the six great cathedrals of Wales.
I declare an interest as chairman of the Representative Body of the Church in Wales and an interest as a grateful recipient of an early education as a boarding choirboy and organ student at the Cathedral School, Llandaff, the only professional cathedral school in Wales. As the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Worcester referred to in his excellent maiden speech, cathedral music must never ever be underestimated as a core of the cultural life of our country.
Our cathedrals in Wales range in scale from the small but perfectly formed St Asaph, now situated in the United Kingdom’s newest city, to the imposing grandeur of St David’s, a cradle of Christianity in these islands since the 6th century and declared a centre of pilgrimage by Pope Calixtus in 1123. Our newest cathedrals in Brecon and Newport are well established as key places in civic and social life; and Llandaff, a remarkable mixture of old and new, now hosts the largest organ built in this country for the past 100 years. It was beautifully demonstrated this April at a jubilee thanksgiving service in the presence of Her Gracious Majesty the Queen.
However, cathedrals will face even greater challenges in the coming years as they, as centres of excellence, continue the process of adaptation to serve an array of faith, community and outreach projects. The most recent announcements on VAT, while welcome, are still confusing and uncertain, as the noble Lord, Lord Tyler, and others have suggested. If grant provisions for returning in grant the equivalent of VAT are not retained—not only in this Parliament, as promised, but beyond—the implications are most serious. The award-winning creation of the cloisters at St David’s Cathedral, for example, would have been nigh impossible to realise if full VAT had been imposed on all the costs involved.
As the noble Baroness said, cathedrals, like all churches, face serious threats from metal theft. It is vital to continue our efforts to eradicate this crime wave. The Private Member’s Bill recently introduced in the other place is therefore greatly to be encouraged.
My Lords, I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, on securing the debate and thank all noble Lords who have contributed to it.
I was struck by the suggestion made by my noble friend Lady Andrews that the word “cathedral” has, in some senses, become detached from its relationship to buildings and can be used in other contexts in order to give a sense of scale and impact of the event being described. This debate could be called cathedral-like in the sense that we have ranged wide, with knowledge and expertise, across the histories of our cathedrals and the contribution that they make to our society.
We have benefited tremendously from the expertise around the House today. I have already mentioned my noble friend Lady Andrews, who does so much in her capacity as chair of English Heritage—she has been congratulated on her work throughout the debate—and there were also, of course, the detailed contributions of the right reverend Prelates. They have taken us into the day-to-day living in cathedrals and how that impacts on local communities, and given impressive snapshots of the work that they do.
I congratulate the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Worcester on his maiden speech. He said that it was providential that he had come up to the House a few days before this event and that he was able to make his maiden speech, unlike so many of us who skulk around for several months wondering how on earth we are going to do it. We wait for an appropriate debate to come along, and what happens? Is it in two or three days? He was able to come up and wow us all with his contribution, which was so eloquent—as it would be, of course, from a fellow chemist.
In my researches for this I was very pleased to note that Worcester Cathedral had a Bishop Wilfrid in the early 700s and again in the 920s. There has been none since then; I am not offering, but it is time that the Wilfrids of this world struck back.
I should declare that as a Scottish Presbyterian, raised in a slightly different tradition, I am probably not the best person to address this topic today. However, we do have cathedrals. I was in Dornoch Cathedral only recently, while on holiday, and I have also in a recent lifetime sung regularly in St Giles’ Cathedral in Edinburgh and attended concerts in St Magnus Cathedral in Kirkwall. We have also heard about the cathedrals in Wales.
It is clear that, in making speeches such as this, one has to reflect on one’s experiences in these amazing buildings because of their scale, their impact and the contribution they make. Very few of us have been able to avoid addressing that as we have spoken. I suppose that I am to add to that. I now live regularly in England, although I do go back to Scotland; my cathedral highlight was probably singing, as part of a concert, Tallis’s motet “Spem in Alium” in Bath Abbey—not a cathedral in that sense, but close enough to count for this debate. It was a fantastic occasion.
Somehow cathedrals seem to attract people to visit them. We have agreed that there are 42 of them. I happened in my research to come across a story in the Sun newspaper recently about an English Heritage worker who has visited all 42 of England’s Anglican cathedrals and licked every one. He now plans to carry on licking in Scotland, Ireland and Wales. He said:
“We’ve no idea why the bet was centred on licking cathedrals—it just was. I’ve tasted a lot of new places”.
The cathedrals of Britain span the millennium, from the cathedrals dating from the 1100s to the modern cathedrals found in Liverpool and Coventry. As we have heard, they display a wide array of architectural styles, from early English Gothic to the majesty of the Renaissance at St Paul’s and the 1960s modernism in Liverpool. In the Middle Ages and up to the Reformation in the 1500s, the church enjoyed enormous power and wealth, and cathedrals are eloquent symbols of the dominant place it still holds in British society.
This debate has provided three strands of concern. The first is the question of whether our cathedrals can continue to be both ecclesiastical and, as it has been said, “common ground” places for our people. The evidence is pretty good. The worry is how we can continue to fund them in the way they are currently perceived. Many of us have talked about the places of worship scheme and I have some questions for the Minister at the end of what I have to say.
The noble Lord, Lord Cormack, said that the soul of a country was in its buildings and that we could not call ourselves civilised if the spire of Salisbury or the wonderful vision of St Paul’s in London were ever at risk. Cathedrals are living, vibrant buildings, and as we have heard they make a contribution to local communities not just with spiritual and other work but in economic terms. It is very difficult to believe that we would continue to operate in society with our weddings, our funerals, our christenings, our graduations and even in the jubilee without using our cathedrals as a centre of much of the focus of our activity. Several noble Lords have spoken very movingly about the music in cathedrals and the contribution that has been made over the years to the musical life of our country. However, as we have been warned, we must not take this for granted. We must certainly celebrate our cathedrals—we must cherish, value and support them—but we must also express our concerns to those who have the authority to ensure that they continue.
A recent BBC survey found that representatives of almost half the cathedrals in England that responded to the survey were concerned about meeting running costs in two years’ time. Despite financial concerns, only nine of the cathedrals charge a mandatory entrance fee. We have heard a bit about Durham Cathedral already from my noble friend Lady Sherlock. Durham Cathedral does not charge for entry but asks visitors to make a £5 donation towards running costs, which are about £60,000 a week. Despite the request, on average visitors donate 32p each. There is obviously a huge gap. The quandary there—this is my second point—is that the question of what cathedrals are raises the question of whether there should be a charge. The chapter at Durham has obviously discussed the idea of charging for entry “many times”. However, as the BBC report says, the chapter felt that the cathedral was a public place where people should have free access for prayer and worship.
As we have heard, in England cathedrals can obtain funding from a range of agencies, including the Heritage Lottery Fund, or HLF, and English Heritage. On the latest figures, at the last grant announcement in January, HLF had requests totalling £27 million and gave out £10.3 million, so it was oversubscribed 2.6 times. We have also heard that English Heritage has seen the amount that it has to give in grants reduced from £25.9 million in 2010-11 to £15.4 million in 2012-13 as a result of government funding cuts.
There has been an interesting campaign about the way in which VAT is levied on church repairs; a number of earlier speakers mentioned that. I have taken two or three of their points, because I think they are relevant to the general questions about how we address this.
The case was made in a paper from the Church of England’s General Synod that since the largest portion of the grant aid available to support cathedrals comes from public funds, it is rather wasteful that much of the money is then recycled back to the Government through VAT. That is an important point. It has also been pointed out that the Government take more from the VAT charged on restoration works than they contribute in grants through their various bodies. There is also, of course, the more generic point that charging VAT is a disincentive to potential donors, since people are reluctant to give money that they know will end up being paid as tax.
We have some questions for the Minister and would be grateful to have them answered at the end of this debate. One of the problems about funding the church arises from the question of whether there can be a reduction specifically of VAT on church repairs and alterations. I understand that in December 2010 the current Government stated that they saw “no realistic prospect” of an agreement at EU level to allow for historic church repairs to be zero-rated. Can the Minister confirm that the Government have now given up attempting to get this concession?
In December 2010 the Government announced that the listed places of worship scheme will continue until 2014-15, with a fixed annual budget of £12 million. However, in the Second Reading debate on the Finance Bill, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury announced that he would increase the listed places of worship scheme by £5 million a year to enable churches that have alterations to benefit from the scheme and not to be adversely affected. That took us up to £17 million per annum. I have one more loop before I get to the final figure.
The Church Commissioners said that we had got to “an insecure and inadequate solution” and that the potential VAT cost faced by the Church of England could be as much as £20 million a year. At the start of the new Session, therefore, the Chancellor announced that the Government would provide an extra £30 million a year for this scheme. He said:
“That will be 100% compensation, exactly as we promised in the Budget, for the additional cost borne by churches for alterations. It should also go a long way towards helping the situation on repairs and maintenance, where in recent years they have not been able to get 100% compensation”.—[Official Report, Commons, 17/5/12; col. 731.]
Could the Minister confirm the exact figure? My noble friend Lady Warwick said that it was £42 million per year. I make it £47 million per year. It would be nice to have an exact figure. In addition, that would make HMT the biggest funder of ecclesiastical buildings in the country, which is great; a slightly novel situation. Again, it would be interesting to confirm two things that relate to that. What did the Chancellor mean when he said that this additional grant would go a “long way” towards helping the situation on repairs? Are all alterations and repairs now to be covered by that, and if so, is it the Minister’s view that the £47 million—or £42 million, whatever it is—is now sufficient?
A final and important point is this: do the Government now believe that they have all funding in place, and will they now let the funding continue to operate, as this scheme was due to end in 2015? We would be grateful for the final word on that.
My Lords, I start by thanking my noble friend Lord Cormack for securing this debate on the important issue of the future of English cathedrals. His background in this area, as others have noted, is formidable. We have also heard from many other noble Lords with great expertise, including the noble Baroness, Lady Andrews, the chair of English Heritage, and from those with long personal involvement with cathedrals. That was shown in the outstanding maiden speech of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Worcester and by many others. We have also heard from two former choristers, as they identified themselves: the noble Lords, Lord Howarth and Lord Rowe-Beddoe. There is a huge debt to acknowledge.
Cathedrals represent part of our most important cultural heritage. Our ancient cathedrals hark back to an earlier age of achievement and are an example of the rich architectural treasure that we must safeguard as well as enjoy. For centuries, cathedrals have been very visible signs of our Christian heritage. One need only travel towards Chichester or Salisbury to get some idea of how extraordinary the distant spires must have been in earlier, less mechanised times or industrialised eras, or to see Durham from the train. I am not going to get into a debate as to which of these amazing cathedrals should be at the head of a league table because they all have their wonders and they are all astonishing.
In medieval times they were centres of learning as well as a source of inspiration through art and architecture, and of course they were frequently the goal for pilgrims. Their ravaging at the time of the Reformation must have been traumatising for those around. Their architecture is undoubtedly some of the greatest work this country has ever produced and their impact should not be underestimated. It was excellent to hear from the noble Baroness, Lady Andrews, about the continuity of craftsmanship that helps to support our cathedrals. The noble Baroness, Lady Sherlock, mentioned the Venerable Bede. His Ecclesiastical History of the English People, which I read in Latin during my history degree, shows that the cathedral’s role as a home for items of historical significance has hardly declined over the centuries.
Cathedrals are still at the centre of Christian life, serving their local communities and visitors, as several noble Lords said. They help visitors make sense of one strand of our history. Cathedrals work closely with local schools, offering visits and courses. They are also a natural focal point for their surrounding areas and those working in them today often reach out to the wider society around them, seeking to support mothers with young children, homeless people and the local economy. Many noble Lords, particularly my noble friend Lady Byford and the right reverend Prelates the Bishops of Birmingham, Worcester and Wakefield, outlined the social impact of cathedrals today.
Preserving and maintaining such massive and outstanding buildings, most of which date back hundreds of years, is clearly a significant challenge. I have noted the different way of funding in France that was mentioned by several noble Lords. Speakers said that they did not want religious buildings to be vested in the state. There seems to be general agreement that that is not the way to do this, and therefore we must ask how best the state can engage. Recently, a number of important restoration projects were undertaken. The noble Baroness, Lady Andrews, referred to the York Minster Revealed project, which secured the conservation of the Great East Window. The Heritage Lottery Fund has already committed £10.5 million to the project. Earlier this year the fund gave a “first round pass” of more than £10 million to Winchester Cathedral for urgent works. From a total figure of more than £44.5 million of funding to cathedral projects since 1995, more than £25 million has been directed by the Heritage Lottery Fund towards the conservation of physical fabric—external stonework, stained glass, internal floors, monuments and screens. Cathedrals are encouraged to apply for funding through the fund’s open programmes, where grants of between £10,000 and £5 million can be obtained.
We have heard quite a bit about what English Heritage has been doing. In 1991 it established a dedicated grant scheme for cathedrals. We heard about how that came about and its amazing effect as it ran through to 2010. It offered £48.6 million, together with an additional £2.9 million from the Wolfson Foundation, which has also been referred to, towards the cost of repairs. Subsequently, English Heritage stopped the dedicated scheme as its 2009 cathedral fabric survey indicated that the overall state of repair of our cathedrals had improved dramatically. It is extremely encouraging to know that. Lincoln remains the only cathedral on the at-risk register, and English Heritage is supporting it. It is therefore important to note that we can be reassured that when the problems were flagged up, Governments of different persuasions took them seriously. English Heritage took forward the work. The position of cathedrals, and to a lesser degree parish churches, has been stabilised, and the debate can be set in that context. This is a very important issue, but at least the situation is more stable than it was at the beginning of the 1990s.
DCMS has a number of schemes that cathedrals can access. This year the department has allocated a one-off £1.1 million capital grant for listed places of worship. This has been allocated to the Church of England and the National Churches Trust to distribute to buildings of all denominations and faiths across the UK. The Heritage Lottery Fund focuses funding on the non-fabric aspects of buildings. For example, a £475,000 grant was awarded to the partnership between Lincoln Cathedral and Lincolnshire County Council to ensure sufficient trainees to conserve the built heritage in the area. That is extremely important.
I will move on to VAT, to which noble Lords referred. In the 2012 Budget, the Government announced that from 1 October of this year the current zero VAT rate for approved alterations to listed buildings would be replaced by the standard rate of VAT. When this was announced, the Government also committed to extending the DCMS listed places of worship grant scheme to cover any resulting VAT costs incurred by listed places of worship for alterations following the change. Listed places of worship, including cathedrals, were already eligible for grants towards VAT costs on repairs and maintenance through the scheme. It was therefore logical to extend the grant scheme to cover alterations in time for when the VAT treatment of alterations and repairs is put on the same footing. The Church of England, on behalf of all faith groups, provided evidence to the Government that further funding was needed to enable the scheme to offset successfully the impact of the VAT change. The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London led the discussions with the Treasury, and I thank him for doing so.
Following those discussions, the Government announced that they would provide an additional £30 million of funding per year for the duration of this Parliament for the scheme. This brings the total annual funding available up to £42 million per year and will come into effect when the VAT rate applied to alterations to listed buildings changes. In answer to the noble Baroness, Lady Warwick, the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, and others, we are confident that this additional funding will fully cover the additional costs borne by listed places of worship following the VAT change. The additional resources will also enable full compensation for repair and maintenance costs eligible under the current listed places of worship grant scheme from the beginning of this financial year. Cathedrals of all denominations across the country will be able to benefit from this funding.
I am most grateful to the noble Baroness. Will she remind her right honourable friend the Chancellor that if he increases the rate of VAT on alterations to listed buildings from zero to 20%, it will be an irrevocable step? Under European Union law, future Chancellors will not be able to roll back on that. While we are all immensely appreciative of the £100 million that was previously provided to help listed places of worship through the listed places of worship grant scheme, along with the additional £30 million that has now been promised, the continuation of a stop-gap remedy on a time-limited basis is no substitute for a proper policy.
As I mentioned to the noble Lord, this is a time-limited debate. I am coming on to other issues in a minute. I will make sure that all the issues raised in the debate are flagged up not only with DCMS—which I am temporarily covering for in the debate; it is a great pleasure to do so—but also with the Treasury. He can be reassured about that. If there are any issues that I do not pick up in my answers, I will respond to them after the debate.
I want to pick up some of the issues that noble Lords raised in the debate. Music was a key theme in various speeches, if noble Lords will excuse the mixed metaphor. It is probably rare for one to get goose bumps in debates in the House of Lords but as the noble Lord, Lord Howarth, mentioned the specific pieces of music that we can hear in cathedrals I am afraid that that is what I got. We all recognise the importance of music in cathedrals. My noble friend Lord Black made the case that great buildings need great music. They certainly have it and we recognise the importance of making sure that it is sustained. As I mentioned, we heard from two choristers. The noble Lord, Lord Howarth, and my noble friend Lord Black urged support for music.
I emphasise that the Department for Education’s music and dance scheme will this year provide just over £200,000 for around 100 bursary schemes at independent choir schools through the choir schools’ scholarship scheme established in 1991. I hope that noble Lords will be pleased to hear that. Last year the scheme provided funding for choristers at a range of cathedrals including Westminster Cathedral, York Minster, Canterbury, Lincoln and Christ Church, Oxford. I need not say that choristers are a valued part of the music and dance scheme. The Department for Education will continue to support that scheme.
It was also striking to hear what is happening with education in cathedrals. I knew something of this and of course we know of their long history and significance in the medieval period. It was encouraging to hear from my noble friend Lady Byford, the right reverend prelate the Bishop of Worcester, the noble Baronesses, Lady Sherlock and Lady Warwick, and others how important cathedrals are in terms of education for today’s children.
We also recognise how important the cathedrals are for our tourism industry. The noble Baroness, Lady Andrews, emphasised the significance of that and we are acutely aware of it: we value it greatly. I mentioned but will reiterate, particularly to my noble friend Lord Cormack, that I will flag up the concerns expressed today both to DCMS and the Treasury. My noble friend mentioned a £50 million endowment fund for the care of cathedrals which should be given to English Heritage. I noticed the noble Baroness, Lady Andrews, welcomed that notion, which did not surprise me. As I mentioned before, the Government have committed an additional £30 million a year to the listed places of worship scheme and £500 million to heritage organisations over this spending period.
My noble friend Lord Cormack and others asked whether the listed places of worship scheme would come to an end in 2015. It is not limited in that way and does not need to end then. It is guaranteed to the end of this Parliament. We have a fixed term and so we know that that will be until 2015, but the scheme may continue after that. I am sure that what noble Lords have said today will feed into the discussions that any future Government may have.
My noble friend Lord Tyler flagged up that he felt that the details of the listed places of worship scheme were not as clear as they might be. DCMS and HMT are currently carrying out a consultation with stakeholders on the details of that extended scheme. It is extremely important that that is happening so that we can make sure that everything is covered as it should be. As one would expect, the Church of England has been closely involved in discussions and the design of the scheme so far.
The noble Baroness, Lady Warwick, the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, and others asked how confident we were that the £30 million would be sufficient. The Church of England provided the Government with evidence on the impact of the VAT changes. DCMS, the Treasury and the Church have expressed confidence that this will cover the additional costs following the VAT change and will enable 100% compensation for the repair and maintenance costs currently eligible under the scheme.
In summary, I again affirm that the Government are very much committed to supporting the preservation of cathedrals, just as we are committed to preserving the rest of our historic environment. We offer support for cathedrals through English Heritage, the Heritage Lottery Fund, the listed places of worship scheme and the DCMS capital grant, as well as schemes run by other departments. DCMS has committed more than £500 million to heritage organisations across the spending period and recently secured an extension to the listed places of worship scheme. The Government agree that it is important that cathedrals are looked after properly and provide a great deal of support for this.
This has been a stunning debate. It has taken us out of the amazing building of the House of Lords and, in our imaginations, around these cathedrals—even if they compete with each other over which is the most stunning. That was an unusual feature for a debate but made this a very important and enjoyable one. There can be no doubting the commitment to our cathedrals of those in the Chamber or of the Government.
My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister. I am told that I only have two minutes. I would love to mention every speech but I thank all those who took part in what was a wide-ranging, passionately felt and very well informed debate. I am extremely grateful. I must single out the noble Baroness, Lady Andrews, whose presence has been much appreciated by us all. What she said was even more appreciated. I must also mention with great delight the maiden speech of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Worcester. As my noble friend Lord Black said in his remarkable speech, it augurs well and we look forward to the right reverend Prelate’s future contributions.
This debate has united the House in expressing concern for these glorious buildings. There might be slight differences of opinion as to which is top of the list but that matters not a jot. We are talking about some of the most glorious buildings not only in this country or Europe but in the world. I derived some comfort when the Minister said that she wanted to ensure that they were safeguarded as well as enjoyed. Grateful as we all are for what she said, I hope that she will reinforce the request for the £50 million endowment. It is a very tiny sum in the national budget, as others indicated. I very much hope that something will come of that. The sums we are talking of are small.
One of the recurring themes of the debate was the wonderful contribution of choral music and the crucial importance of maintaining that tradition, which means so much to us all. When I go to Lincoln for choral evensong, as I do every day when I am there, I come away feeling inspired, refreshed and invigorated by what I have heard, and by the solemnity of the surroundings in which the glorious music took place. I feel the same on a Sunday morning after sung matins. I am delighted by the good Prayer Book services in Lincoln. I thank all noble Lords for what they said in the debate and am most grateful to them for underlining the importance of this glorious built heritage of ours.
FSA Investigation into LIBOR
My Lords, I will now repeat a Statement made by my right honourable friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer in another place.
“Mr Speaker, I would like to update the House on the Financial Services Authority’s investigation into the manipulation of the setting of the LIBOR and EURIBOR interest rates and the Government’s response.
The London Interbank Offered Rate or ‘LIBOR’ and the Euro Interbank Offered Rate or ‘EURIBOR’ are the benchmark reference rates that are fundamental to the workings of the UK, European and international financial markets, including markets in interest rate derivatives contracts. These contracts may sound exotic, but they are the bread and butter of our financial system and are used by businesses and public authorities every day, and they affect the mortgage payments and loan rates of millions of families and hundreds of thousands of firms, large and small. LIBOR and EURIBOR are by far the most prevalent benchmark reference rates used in euro, US dollar and sterling interest rate derivatives contracts. The outstanding interest rate contracts alone are estimated to be worth $554 trillion.
Yesterday, the FSA published notice that Barclays had, on numerous occasions, acted inappropriately and breached principles 2, 3 and 5 of the FSA’s Principles for Businesses. As a result, the FSA has imposed a financial penalty of £59.5 million on Barclays. In other words, the FSA reports that this bank, on numerous occasions, did not conduct its business with due skill, care and diligence. The bank did not take reasonable care to organise its affairs responsibly and effectively, with adequate risk management systems, and it did not observe proper standards of market conduct. As the FSA puts it,
‘Barclays’ misconduct … created the risk that the integrity of LIBOR and EURIBOR would be called into question and that confidence in or the stability of the UK financial system would be threatened’.
Barclays is not alone in this. The FSA is continuing to investigate the conduct of a number of other banks in relation to LIBOR. The FSA continues to commit significant resources to its investigations into potential attempts to manipulate LIBOR, and it continues to work with its counterparts overseas and with other authorities in the UK. The investigations concern a number of institutions both based in the UK and overseas, but it is already clear that the FSA’s investigation demonstrates systematic failures at the heart of the financial system at the time.
I want to thank Adair Turner and the team at the FSA for a very thorough piece of work. However, it begs three vital questions. First, how were such failures allowed to continue undetected and unchecked—particularly in the two years before the financial crisis, when the FSA is clear that the most serious breaches occurred, and the only motive was greed? Secondly, what changes are needed to our regulatory system in the future to prevent such abuse occurring again, and to make sure that the authorities have every power they need to hold those responsible fully to account? Thirdly, what further investigations are required into the activities at Barclays, what sanctions are available, and what questions must their chief executive answer?
First, the FSA report is a shocking indictment of the culture at banks like Barclays in the run-up to the financial crisis. The e-mail exchanges between derivative traders and the LIBOR submitters read like an epitaph to an age of irresponsibility. Through 2005, 2006, and early 2007, we see evidence of systematic greed at the expense of financial integrity and stability. They knew that what they were doing was wrong: ‘Keep a secret’, one trader tells another in February 2007, ‘If you breathe a word of this, I’m not telling you anything else’. Yet no one at Barclays prevents them, no one in the tripartite regulatory system knows anything about it, and the Government of the day were, literally, clueless about what was going on.
The FSA is clear that the most serious breaches of its Principles for Businesses occurred in the years leading up to the financial crisis. Once the crisis is under way, Barclays’ concern switches from the greed of traders to concern from the management about the reputational risk to the firm. Barclays itself raises concerns about the LIBOR with the FSA in late 2007 and 2008. Yes, the financial system was experiencing a severe stress, and markets were frozen. However, it is clear that Barclays—and potentially other banks—was still in flagrant breach of its duty to observe proper standards of market conduct and to give citizens and businesses in this country and elsewhere proper transparent information about the true price of money. Britain’s tripartite system of regulation failed us in war and in peace—and the country has paid a heavy price for that.
That brings me to the second question of how we can prevent this from ever happening again. This Government are getting rid of the whole tripartite system. The Financial Services Bill now before Parliament will create a new, far tougher regulatory system. A new Financial Conduct Authority will focus, razor-like, on market abuse and protecting consumers. We have been reviewing with the FSA and the Bank of England the operation of the LIBOR regime—which was not regulated under the last Government’s Financial Services and Markets Act. The market is already changing and the role of LIBOR is changing with it. As part of our review into LIBOR and the strength of the financial regulatory architecture, we will examine if there are any gaps in the criminal regime inherited by this Government and we will take the necessary steps to address them.
I cannot comment on possible criminal investigations for individuals involved in this activity. The authorities are exploring every avenue open to them, but shockingly, the scope of the FSA’s criminal powers granted by the previous Government does not extend to being able to impose criminal sanctions for manipulation of LIBOR. As part of our review into LIBOR and the strength of the financial regulatory architecture, we are examining whether strengthening the criminal sanctions regime for market abuse and market manipulation is warranted, and if so, we will provide for these powers quickly. In addition, next week the Government will publish a consultation in response to the report on the failure of RBS, and will consider the possibility of criminal sanctions for directors of failed banks where there is proven criminal negligence.
Under the previous Government’s regime, fines paid to the FSA are used to reduce the annual levy other financial institutions are asked to pay. I am far from convinced that in all cases this is the best use of the money. We are considering amendments to the Financial Services Bill that ensure that fines of this nature go to help the taxpaying public, not the financial industry. I have also asked my officials urgently to investigate whether this legislation could be applied to the fine imposed on Barclays. However, it is clear that what happened in Barclays and potentially other banks was completely unacceptable, and that it is symptomatic of a financial system that elevated greed above all other concerns, and brought our economy to its knees. That brings me to the final point.
As I say, a number of individuals are under formal investigation by the FSA, and this number is expected to increase as the investigations continue. The Serious Fraud Office is aware of the matters under investigation, and there are ongoing discussions between the FSA and the SFO about the evidence as it develops. As far as the chief executive of Barclays is concerned, he has some very serious questions to answer today. What did he know, and when did he know it? Who in the Barclays management is involved, and who, therefore, should pay the price? It is quite right that the Treasury Select Committee has asked him to appear urgently to account for himself and for his bank. We all want to hear his answers.
The story of irresponsibility is not over yet. Our financial services should be a source of economic strength and national pride for this country. However, failures in our banks and financial system have cost the country billions and put thousands out of work. Those responsible should be held responsible. We want our financial services to support the creation of jobs and prosperity for millions. This Government are sweeping away the regulatory system that failed. They will protect taxpayers, punish wrong-doing, and put right the wrongs of the age of irresponsibility.”
My Lords, that concludes the Statement.
My Lords, I thank the Minister for repeating the Statement made in the other place. I would like to open by saying a little about the role of this House. It is probable that we will have to take account of today’s events in amendments to the Financial Services Bill. My view of the first day in Committee on the Financial Services Bill was that it was pretty apolitical and very much about getting the right result for the country. I hope that we can carry on in that way. We will do what we can to co-operate on bringing in any changes. We must, through the usual channels, make sure that there will be time to scrutinise properly.
Turning to yesterday’s events, the first area I shall touch on is what is to be done. The Government have claimed that the Financial Services Bill would have created a different result and would have markedly improved the situation. In the Statement, there is no illustration of what that means. I would value the Minister setting out briefly what parts of the Bill are going to change. I have done my best to try to understand the Bill, and I do not see the obvious areas, but if they are there, we will help get them into law and make sure they happen. If the Minister will set those things out, it would be valuable to the House.
Secondly—I shall stop the numbers because they will go on for ever—the regulation of LIBOR and its derivatives was rejected in the other place by the Minister. I am not quite sure what the Statement says. I think it says that the Government are thinking about it. I would hope that the Minister would be a little firmer than that. Surely these things, which are so important, must come into the regulatory regime and must do so soon.
The Statement talks about criminal sanctions. Criminal sanctions are extraordinarily difficult to bring about because of the burden of criminal law. It is fair to say that you cannot find them in the current legislation, and yes, okay, it is our fault—I hope my leaders do not hear me say that. One of the reasons is that it is extraordinarily difficult to bring criminal sanctions into an area such as this where the criminal burden of proof is so high, but if the Minister can illustrate with a few examples what criminal sanctions the Government are thinking about, once again, we will listen to his remarks very attentively.
Let us move on to the victims. The Statement referred to, I think, millions of families and thousands of businesses. These people have probably lost out financially. What are the Government proposing to do about recompensing them? Are they going to bring in any law, or at least address the balance between shareholders and customers in this very difficult area of financial services? This is a scandal akin to the PPI scandal, and we have to recognise its size.
There is the issue of balance. Forgive me, but I will keep coming back to it. There is the concept that the law should contain a duty of care to customers. We are not yet at that point in the Bill, but I would welcome the views of the Minister about whether we should move across that spectrum towards customers having legal rights if, through their processes, the financial institutions they are trading with have put them at an unreasonable disadvantage. It will be difficult to frame, but we have to think about this balance and we have to be in a situation—for a number of reasons that I will come on to—where victims have real care. Finally in this section, the Financial Services Bill is a good vehicle. It will need co-operation, but we encourage the Government to do it. We must do it in a highly scrutinised way.
What is going to happen to those responsible? I am sure that if there are criminal routes, they will be taken. I point out to Members of the House that, frankly, this is not for the Government. Criminal actions and criminal prosecutions are for the appropriate prosecuting authorities, and I hope we can trust those authorities to pursue any criminal sanctions with due vigour. We would expect nothing less of them, and we will be deeply critical if they do not. The FSA probably has powers short of criminal sanctions against individuals to stop them holding office and so on. It would be valuable if the Minister could lay out a little detail. Are they available? How will they be applied?
The real sanction in this case will be in the hands of the Barclays board. It is for that board to act, and to show it is acting, in a way that sends a message that this bank is going to change how it behaves. The tests set out by the Chancellor are incomplete. It is not a matter of what the chief executive knew or when he knew it; it is what action he took to make sure that he was seeking to know and that there were processes in place to assure him that proper responsible actions were being taken by his traders. Donald Rumsfeld ruminated on this. I cannot quote him exactly, but he said something quite profound: you are responsible not just for your errors but for foreseen risks and also for foreseeable risks. Foreseeable risks are risks where, by having the right structures and systems, you can look into the future and make sure that you have got it right. That is what good auditors do, it is what good risk managers do, and it is what this bank should have been doing. It should have seen these risks much earlier.
We come finally to culture change. I have been in the culture change business. I have not run a great bank, but I ran what I consider to be a great institution that is responsible for 2 million people a day and for their lives. Less than a year before I took over, it had killed 31 people. The result was that the boss at the time was fired, after a proper inquiry, his boss was fired, and I ended up head of that organisation. The key change we made was to ensure that everybody was personally responsible. If a death occurred on the Underground, it was my responsibility. It was my responsibility not to check the particular area, but to be able to assure myself that I had done all that was reasonably practical for such a thing not to happen. Indeed, on most occasions one finds that one has learnt something or has to do something more, but all the way through the management chain individuals have to be personally responsible. That burden of responsibility to probity failed in this case.
In addition, we have to look at the bonus structure. We do not talk about bonuses bluntly enough. Frankly, you introduce bonuses to change behaviours. You change behaviours in what is arguably an acceptably benign way. You get people to work longer hours, with more vigour, to be more inventive and so on, but unfortunately a bonus culture will push you to the edge of regulation. When you do that, you have to make sure that the systems are in place to prevent that push beyond the edge of regulation. That requires enormous care and is an enormous responsibility for the board.
The culture must change in the banking industry and it must change from the top. This board must be seen to take decisive action, as indeed must all boards. This is a very, very serious day. This leaves a stain on Britain. Let us be frank about it: before today, people believed that bankers were greedy and stupid, and, sadly, they now know that they are dishonest. For the financial centre of Europe, that is a pretty unhappy combination. We are calling for the strongest punishment for those who have broken trust and broken the law, tough regulation to prevent such practices and a culture change in our banking industry. We must get our economy working, and we must remove this stain on our reputation and repair it. We on these Benches will do all we can to bring that about as quickly as possible.
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, for confirming the Opposition’s support for possible amendments to the Financial Services Bill to reflect these matters and for his frank admission that there may be lacunae in the law that now need to be plugged.
The noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, asked what the Bill will do to improve matters. First, we are creating a focused conduct regulator, the FCA, which will supervise in a much more focused way than the FSA the conduct of markets because it will not have all of the prudential side to look at. The FCA’s operational objective of protecting and enhancing market integrity goes to the heart of our discussion. Because it is a self-standing body, the FCA will create a different culture and risk appetite. It will take a tougher, more proactive and more focused approach to these sorts of issues and there will be specific powers that we will discuss in detail through the Bill’s proceedings. For example, in circumstances like this, the new power of the FCA to disclose the fact that a warning notice in respect of a disciplinary matter has been issued means that the FCA will be able to disclose that it is taking action at a much earlier stage in an investigation than the FSA. So the new structure will be much better suited to dealing with this sort of problem.
There is also a lot of ongoing work to review how the LIBOR-setting process works. There are consultants involved with the BBA and the panel banks working with the FCA. There is a supervisory committee for this work on which the Treasury sits as a non-voting member but providing strategic steer for the work. I would expect findings to be published from that review within the next few months. There are all sorts of ideas floating around, such as changing the LIBOR data to actual trading data rather than the submission basis we have now and whether there should be a new LIBOR code and so on. So there are a lot of ideas, the work is well advanced and will be reported in the next few months.
The criminal law ought to be the last stage. As the noble Lord said, we have to get the culture right within the banks. We have to have appropriate powers in the FCA to be able to detect things as early as possible and take action. We need to see whether there are any gaps in the criminal law. As with the forthcoming report into RBS, there will be a consultation on whether there should be new criminal sanctions on negligent directors of failed banks. So this is very much on our mind.
The noble Lord then asked about people who have lost money. This is a difficult issue because it is not possible to know whether LIBOR has been manipulated on any particular day. It will be impossible to know what the effect of the attempted manipulation has been, if any. It is a complicated rate-setting process which means that half of the submissions that go in are excluded from the calculation. So some of these fraudulent or incorrect rates that went in—I should not presume anything that hints at criminality; that is for others—may not have got into the calculation. So we do not know whether people have benefited because the rate went up higher or lower than it should have been. People could have either benefited or lost out; it is not clear.
The noble Lord made some interesting observations about culture and management and so on. My right honourable friend did not want to list all the questions that the Treasury Committee will no doubt ask of the chief executive of Barclays but I am sure they will include one or two of the questions that the noble Lord put.
Lastly, the noble Lord talked about the stain on the banking industry. It is important to say that, although it is indeed a stain on the banking industry and that it has significant effects on London and the UK, there are also banks under investigation that are not British or headquartered and managed from the UK. There were regulatory failures in the run-up and through the financial crisis in the US and other countries. So, yes, it is a serious day for the banking industry; yes, there is a stain that needs to be dealt with; and yes, London needs to clean up its act but it is not only the UK that is involved in this.
My Lords, the public are rightly outraged by the manipulation of interest rates and Europe is going to look more suspiciously at London just at a time when we are trying to protect the City. So there are great issues at stake.
Will the Minister explain why the FSA’s fine on Barclays is so small? As far as the company is concerned, £59.5 million is a freckle and far less than the fine in the United States. Surely it is not the senior regulator in this case. Why are there no sanctions at all—we are not just talking about criminal sanctions—against anybody senior? It is one thing to go after the traders but systematic mismanagement and manipulation of the market over four years surely affects senior people and has to engage them. The questions are to be asked by the Treasury Select Committee, which is an outstanding Committee, but surely they should be coming from the regulator with the ability to follow with direct sanctions.
Lastly, it is crucial that the Financial Services Bill is looked at again because, although we have a new form of regulator coming in the FCA, which I hope will be rigorous and effective, we must ensure in this Bill that the regulator has real teeth so that there is fear when that regulator looks again at this kind of mismanagement, and a fundamental change in behaviour.
My Lords, I share the concerns of my noble friend. This is the largest fine ever imposed by the FSA. The US comes at this in a different way in many respects so the seriousness of the issue is demonstrated by the size of the fine in relation to anything else that has ever been done by the FSA in this country. It is the largest. The FSA sets the fines and it should do so. This has to be an independent process and I am sure nobody would want the Government involved in it.
As far as the investigations are concerned, my noble friend may be jumping ahead of the ongoing investigations by the FSA and SFO. I do not know where they will come out or who will be involved, but those investigations are going on. As for a powerful regulator for the future that is able to do this, I could not agree with her more. The FSA model completely failed. As I have already explained, the Financial Conduct Authority will be focused and will have as a core objective the integrity of markets. It will be much better placed to deal with these kinds of problems as they come up in future.
My Lords, when I was a young barrister, I occasionally prosecuted, on behalf of the Board of Trade, persons thought to be unfit to be directors of a public company. Those cases, as I recollect, were not all that difficult. The Minister has mentioned criminal sanctions, where of course the burden of proof is the usual one and it is high. Without prejudice to a particular case, is similar procedure still available to prevent directors holding positions in future on the grounds of unfitness?
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble and learned Lord. As I said, we have concerns about the question of directors, particularly directors of banks, to make sure that the regime is appropriate and tough enough. The regime for directors of banks, because of the special nature of their role, should be looked at on its own merits. That is why it is timely that the RBS report and consultation, going very much to this point, will be published next week by the Treasury. I hope that we will get a debate going about what is appropriate in terms of the special regime that might be appropriate for directors of failed banks if they are shown to have behaved negligently.
My Lords, the Statement says that this was going on throughout 2005, 2006 and early 2007. Was it stopped in 2007, or has it been going on since then? I wonder whether it has been going on for another five years. If so, what do my Government propose that we should be doing? Can we actually believe these people?
My Lords, on the particular case, the FSA report sets out what was going on. The important point for my noble friend is that the point of highlighting the dates which my noble friend gave was that this activity was going on before the financial crisis. It was going on in an atmosphere of greed in what were perceived to be the good times. When the financial crisis hit, the activity of the individuals at Barclays was motivated by something else, which was to do with the reputation and standing of Barclays in the market. The particular relevance of those earlier dates was to distinguish what then happened during the later period, in the financial crisis.
As the FSA and other regulators’ investigations go on, they will tell us more about the extent and duration of these activities. Given that the banks have been on warning of this for a period, I would like to think that they have taken significant steps to clean up their activity. We want to make sure that, as I have described with this ongoing review of the LIBOR system, the system is appropriate to the new market circumstances.
As a former chairman of the Treasury Select Committee, I of course strongly support the idea of its investigation. Does the Minister agree that if the executives of Barclays did not know what was going on, they ought to consider their position? If they did know what was going on, they ought to resign immediately.
My Lords, in the Minister’s Statement he repeatedly says that there were failures of the regulatory system and it was matter of greed, and so on and so forth. What was going on was not a failure. It was deliberate criminal deceit. Under those circumstances, how can the Minister possibly say that criminal charges should be the last resort rather than the first resort? By all means, let us try to tidy up the system. In view of what appears to be absolute, outright criminality, we should recall that fraudsters rely on the fact that they will escape the law through such mealy-mouthed words.
My Lords, I am certainly not going to jump to premature conclusions which are not for the Government—or, I suggest, other Members of this House—to jump to, about what is or is not criminal activity. I have made it quite clear in repeating my right honourable friend’s Statement that investigations continue by the FSA and the Serious Fraud Office. We will hear the views of the appropriate authorities in due course on these matters, but those investigations are ongoing.
My Lords, from every noble Lord and noble Baroness who has spoken there has been consensus on the seriousness of this, and also about making sure that the appropriate steps are taken to, at the very least, prevent a repeat of it. However, moving forward should be done on the basis of honesty and not scoring cheap points. It is regrettable that the Minister used the word “clueless” to describe the previous Government. If the Government want consensus, as everyone who has spoken does, they should make sure that there is no repeat of that, or they might be asked what measures their party proposed during that time.
My Lords, during earlier parts of today, I have criticised the former Government’s behaviour and policies on certain matters. I have commended certain things that they had done. In this case, I stand by the words of my right honourable friend the Chancellor.
Does the Minister agree that the apparently noble gesture of the directors of Barclays in waiving their bonuses this year is not good enough? I will be pretentious and say that we, the people, demand that they pay back every bit of the bonuses for the years in question.
While we are talking about this, I cannot remember—because I have been in this place for so long—whether the process of deregulation was begun by the Minister’s Government. It was the noble Baroness herself who elevated greed to a virtue. Then the whole international financial consensus pleaded with us all for soft-touch regulation. That is what they got. We were wrong, but they were wrong for exploiting it. They, and not the two Governments who have been involved, are culpable.
My Lords, on the noble Lord’s first point, I am sure that the board of the bank in question will listen to his views on bonus matters. That is principally a matter for the board of Barclays Bank to consider.
The noble Lord, Lord McAvoy, has said that we should not get too far into prior history here. There is a risk that I will get drawn into these matters. It was Mr Gordon Brown and Mr Ed Balls who espoused very explicitly the virtues of light-touch regulation, and that was the environment in which these traders operated.
My Lords, LIBOR rates could not have been interfered with by one institution alone. There would have to be accomplices. I therefore presume that that is one of the directions in which the investigation will go.
Is the time ever going to come again in this country when someone takes professional responsibility for what is going on, leaving aside the criminal activities that will be pursued by the regulatory authorities? Is no one going to take professional responsibility and suffer a professional sanction if they are found in default?
Finally, sadly, we as taxpayers own substantial numbers of banks. Can the Minister assure the House that there is no such activity in institutions that are owned or partly owned by the taxpayer?
My Lords, on the first point made by the noble Lord, Lord Empey, as I have said, other banks are being looked at by the relevant supervisory authorities here and in other countries. All that is ongoing. I very much endorse what the noble Lord has to say about the profession taking responsibility. If the banking industry wants to be thought of as a profession, clearly it should think about how it re-establishes professional standards. I speak as a chairman of the ifs School of Finance, the former Institute of Bankers, so I feel very strongly about that and believe that the profession needs to think about it very clearly.
I am not aware of public authorities being involved. I can be pretty clear that no public body is involved in any way in the LIBOR-setting regime and therefore in what we are discussing this afternoon.
My Lords, would the noble Lord remind us of the basis of company law? In whose interests are the banks supposed to be operating? Is it, in some sense, the public interest, the customer’s interest, the worker’s interest? Whose interest is being served by the banks? Is he satisfied that there is now a general perception in this country that it is not like that at all and that the banks are operating in the interest of some people at the top of the banks?
My Lords, I think the issue here is that, whatever the law says about the way in which the banks have to operate, the behaviour that has been exposed in this case is that of naked greed, and that is completely unacceptable whatever the legal framework. It is at heart an ethical question as much as anything else, as I see it, and is quite independent of the legal framework around it. Whatever the requirements of the boards vis-à-vis shareholders and other parties, at the heart of this—as has been exposed very clearly by these extraordinary e-mails—were individuals behaving in a most extraordinary way.
My Lords, is not one of the most serious aspects of this whole thing the potential economic consequences that are going to come from the reputational damage to the City of London, which is so important to the British economy? Would he agree that the only way of restoring reputation from malfeasance is to seek out and deal very publicly with those who are responsible? Does he remember—I remember all too well, as I declare myself to have been a victim of it—the malfeasance in Lloyd’s of London, which was never really sorted out because no one was held to book and certainly no one suffered any particular penalty that I can recollect. One thing that they seem to be able to do in the United States is to deal very severely with individuals who are found to have misbehaved from positions of great financial responsibility.
My Lords, I completely agree with my noble friend Lord Marlesford that the reputational consequences here are very serious. I stress the point that this is not simply a London or a UK banks’ issue as it appears. The inquiries clearly cover other regulators and other banks and we will see where they go. However, it is precisely because of the significant reputational damage that the Chancellor has come forward immediately with his response, which I repeated this afternoon.
On the question of Lloyd’s of London, without repeating the tortured and difficult history there, it is worth saying that after a long and difficult period for that market, Lloyd’s of London is at the forefront again of the world’s specialist insurance market. It has a critical position and is, I believe, stronger than ever. While we certainly do not want to go through a long and difficult period, as Lloyd’s of London did, it does show that well-regulated markets in London are capable of leading the way in innovation and value-adding in financial markets.
I make one observation, perhaps as a correction of the comment made by the noble Lord, Lord Marlesford. I speak as the former chairman of the committee that created Equitas for the solution of the Lloyd’s of London problem and put in place the Equitas solution. The difficulties with Lloyd’s of London were caused, to a very large extent, by another great failure of regulation by a parallel market in America. It was not wholly a United Kingdom problem. The problems of Lloyd’s of London were exacerbated to an alarming extent by the failure of the US authorities to regulate the clubs that were put together for litigation purposes on a group class action basis relating to asbestosis, which allowed open, free entry to anyone who wanted to join, regardless of the fact that they had never been near a scrap of asbestos in their whole life. This is what created the enormity of the problem. It was a massive failure of regulation by the USA authorities that undermined a major institution, and we should not forget that. These things are never isolated.
Education and Training: People with Hidden Disabilities
Motion to Take Note
My Lords, first, I thank everyone who has taken the trouble to put their names down for this debate. I must also declare a series of interests. I am not only dyslexic but vice-president of the British Dyslexia Association and patron of the Adult Dyslexia Organisation, and I work for Microlink, a company that provides support for those with disabilities and of which I am chairman.
When I linked autism and dyslexia and included them in hidden disabilities, the main point that I was trying to make was that anything that is not easily spotted at the start of the educational process, whenever someone chooses to take that, leads to problems if it impedes one’s learning or classroom situation. How early one gets in and identifies the problem is crucial.
I will say only a few words on autism, starting with Asperger’s, for the simple reason that there are many people in the Chamber who know far more about the subject and can talk from greater depth of knowledge than I will ever be able to. Those with Asperger’s, who are on the edge of a spectrum, are often identified later as a result of interaction with other people outside the home when it becomes less difficult to spot. This would be made much easier if someone was trained in the initial stages of education and in the classroom, and indeed if that training was not a limited introduction, to be able to spot it later on as problems start to manifest themselves, often simply because they were not dealt with earlier.
The problems of social interaction—taking things too literally; not being able to communicate properly; non-verbal communication, which is so important even when talking in this Chamber—create other problems if they are not picked up. We must have someone who can recognise these problems and get in earlier. I am really calling for people to be trained throughout the education process to pick these up. Also, education and training are supposed to be lifelong. All conditions for which there is not this embedded knowledge, and even sometimes when there is, are going to be spotted later on in life. Therefore, we must not limit ourselves to training just in the education sector.
I appreciate that the noble Lord, Lord Hill, may find himself having questions directed at him that might go to BIS, to the Department for Work and Pensions, or to the Department of Health—certainly in the case of autism. We had a little exchange earlier in the week when he asked what the best lead department would be to drive something. I suggest that when it comes to some of these conditions, the Department for Education could be of the most benefit, certainly for dyslexics. The basic few examples that I have given for autism and dyslexia are very clearly there.
A good point is dyslexia, because the problem occurs when one starts to use written language. Dyslexia, which I believe means “difficulty with words” in Greek, becomes apparent of course when one starts to learn to read and write. To access all forms of education and training in our society as we are going through, one has to have those two basic skills. If you do not deal with those, you are at an eternal disadvantage.
This situation is getting more prominent—I was about to say worse—for the simple reason that as we formalise our skill base more, measure it and try to support people, there are more and more occasions when you have to write something down or react to written information. Whether it is on paper or on the screen, that requirement is always there. There is a greater emphasis on the written paper in the modern driving test, as opposed to the one that I took. I do not have to go on much further because we can all think of examples. That is what we have if we do not deal with the situation for certain people.
It is reckoned that 10% of the population are on the dyslexia spectrum. I think it is 1% for autism. We could have mentioned many other hidden spectrums, such as ADHD, dyspraxia and dyscalculia. We are probably getting up to about 15% without trying. I do not know what that percentage is in every classroom, but it is a very high one, so we must have a degree of knowledge based in that classroom for early intervention.
Why have I brought this matter forward at this present time? It is because we are having a look at the whole special educational needs sector—we are coming down the track. The Government have made proposals. However, I do not know whether this was intentional—I hope that it was not—but the people concerned with these non-obvious disabilities have heard warning bells rung by some of the language that was used. This may be a chance for the Minister to muffle those bells a little in the process of his speech. I refer to things like, “We will concentrate on things and get a whole cross-departmental approach towards making sure that people go through. We will cut down the number of people on the special educational needs register. We will concentrate better”.
Unless we have people with expertise based in the front, identifying the problem, we cannot do these things. Even if we redefine someone with dyslexia as not having a special educational need, because the system can use it, they are still dyslexic, and dyslexic throughout their lives. It is not something that you get rid of; it is a disability and it is to do with the organisation of your brain. It is there for ever, as I know to my cost.
Aside from this, going into my personal history, I wonder how many other people in this Chamber have been congratulated on their improving handwriting on Christmas cards in their forties.
My noble friend says “the opposite”. I look forward to hearing from him later on.
It is something that stays with you, and you have a different developmental pattern. Sir Jim Rose said in his report:
“Dyslexia is a learning difficulty that primarily affects the skills involved in accurate and fluent word reading and spelling … Characteristic features of dyslexia are difficulties in phonological awareness”—
I shall not try to say that twice—
“verbal memory and verbal processing speed … Dyslexia occurs across the range of intellectual abilities”.
There is a great deal more in that vein to be found in the document from Dyslexia Action. It is always there, and you will always have a different learning process, which means that every time you go into a new phase of your educational and training process you will always have the problem. The way in which it is dealt with will change over time, as will the way in which you deal with it and your interactions with other people. That will change under the pressures on you, but it is always there. If we get teachers trained initially and then make sure that others throughout the system have the support and knowledge of what was happening, we will take a huge step forward. We must make sure that the interaction and the different learning process never become a barrier. We must allow people to explain it.
If someone has the condition explained to them, they start to be able to take the appropriate steps to mitigate the condition. If a teacher goes up to a child and says, “You’re not stupid, you’re dyslexic”, that teacher and all other teachers have an infinitely better chance of a positive relationship than they would if they did not identify the problem. You can then go and tell the parents. The dyslexia world is full of the recurring story of parents saying, “My child is dyslexic and I have discovered that I am”. How do people get through life? They will say, “I never take notes—I always ask someone to do it for me”—as a result of having never kept a pen on their person for more than about three seconds at a time. They are dependent on partners, and so on. Those are the success stories.
In our prison population, about 70% or 80% are reckoned to have problems with literacy. Every single assessment of the prison population that has looked at it has come up with the figure of about 50% being in the dyslexia spectrum. If you take on board the idea that if you cannot access education you cannot access training because you cannot go through the process with a technical ability to read and write—and thus you cannot get employment—you have a far greater likelihood of becoming an offender. Asperger’s, I am afraid, is also highly represented. Possibly not communicating as other people do might lead to conflict. It is a very complicated and worrying situation. If you do not get in there early and coherently, it will cause problems.
What do I want done? Sir Jim Rose presented, under the previous Government, a model for the better training of dyslexics within the teacher training programme. You have to make sure that that is used not only in the initial training but throughout the system. Throughout the process of training, it is equally appropriate. The noble Baroness, Lady Wilcox, might well be able to regale my noble friend on the Front Bench with the long series of meetings that we have had over apprenticeships. The previous Government decided that they would reassure employers about standards in training and said that everyone must pass an English key skills—now functional skills—test. When challenged on this, they said that they would make a change, but I think that it fell through the cracks in the changeover of Governments. All I know is that I have spent the better part of two years chasing around to get those people the same support and help to get an apprenticeship that you currently have to get a degree—or at least for there to be no greater barriers.
At the last meeting I had, it was agreed that assisted technology could probably be used to get through this test. Someone said, “Well, no one has complained about it—we haven’t had one letter or e-mail”. You get that degree of resistance further up. I have had meetings with the Department for Work and Pensions, usually under the last Government. There is nothing new here. They said, “Well, yes, we’ve got people with needs who are long-term unemployed. We should help them”. “How?” “Oh, it’s complicated—we’d have to get more training packages”. “Yes, please do”. The Department for Education is uniquely placed to set a precedent for good training and awareness. That department can drive this. If it cannot, it can at least build the engine and hope that someone else will put their foot on the accelerator.
We must do something here to address the problem. Some 10% of the population with dyslexia are underachieving in many cases, sometimes becoming a drag on our society. The figures for autism might be smaller, but the problem is as profound, man for man, if not more so. We have to try to address the problem, but we will not do so unless we get a greater degree of awareness throughout the system. We have to get agreement. Every time a dyslexic has to deal with a form, they are at a disadvantage. Every time you ask someone to fill in a process that has anything to do with reading and writing, a dyslexic is potentially disadvantaged. We have to make sure that at all these points there is someone there who understands and, when you say, “I am dyslexic”, will understand that slight adaptions should be made. Assistive voice to text and text to voice technology is very old beer now. I have been using it personally for over 12 years. It is now comparatively easy to use. We have a way forward. This is something that could be integrated into the classroom more easily. It need not be that big a problem—all you need is slightly different patterns of dealing with this.
I look forward to hearing from my noble friend when he replies that the Government are taking this on board and that his department is driving this through the whole machinery of government. If it does not do so and merely concentrates on the schools aspect, it will leave people with a wonderful set of skills for one part of their lives and leave them to fall off a cliff the next.
My Lords, I refer the House to the Register with my interest in autism charities. It is a great privilege to follow my noble friend who has brought the debate to the Floor of the House today. He is a passionate advocate, particularly for those with dyslexia, and also always speaks out for those with what he termed—I think quite rightly—the “hidden disabilities”. As he said, somebody can meet someone they do not know, talk to them, observe them and not think that there is a problem—particularly with dyslexics and those with autism, and those on the more able end of the autistic spectrum such as people with Asperger’s syndrome.
Although there is still so much more to do, we know that several things have been done that have improved matters for all these children. When I started out as an MP more than 20 years ago, I remember in my constituency casework meeting professionals both in education and in health—doctors and teachers—who denied that autism or dyslexia existed at all. There were parents in my constituency who were paying privately for their dyslexic children to have tuition on Saturday while their classroom teachers denied that such a condition existed.
It has been a real battle to get autism up the agenda. Of course, both Houses agreed in the previous Parliament to an Autism Act. I say to my noble friend that I am increasingly concerned at the number of government departments that seem to be oblivious to the fact that there is an Autism Act on the statute book. Yes, it does focus very much on health, social care and integration—but it particularly affects those in transition out of education through those very difficult years into adulthood. I urge my noble friend—as I have urged other colleagues in other government departments—to make sure that, when they are legislating and looking at codes of practice, they look at what the House has determined should be the future for people coming out of education who are on the autistic spectrum.
In the classroom there are so many things that relate both to dyslexia and to the more able children on the autistic spectrum. I was very interested to see the article, “Dyslexia Still Matters”, in Dyslexia Action, which sets out effective practice that would make a difference. There were four very simple points, any of which could apply to autism as well. The first referred to:
“A whole school ethos that respects individuals’ differences, maintains high expectations for all”.
We know that children who are different in any way very quickly become subject to playground bullying and name-calling. All too often in a classroom situation it will become apparent to other children that they are struggling with the work. This of course applies to both autism and dyslexia. I hope that we have gone past the stage where they are subject to name-calling by teachers. That sounds rather shocking but I can think of several examples where teachers told children that they were “thick”. These memories will have remained with them well into their adulthood. One can only speculate on the impact that this had on both their self-confidence and their ability and willingness to learn in later life.
Dyslexia Action also refers to:
“Knowledgeable and sensitive teachers who understand the processes of learning”.
I am a great advocate of integrated education for children with a whole range of disabilities but I draw a line where the school does not understand the condition well enough to take those practical steps—very often environmental ones—that will enable a child to learn. I emphasise “learn” because there are children who because of their nature sit passively at the back of the classroom and allow education to wash over them year after year. It is quite common, for example, that children with autism are very sensitive to light and noise—even to the noise of a lot of children talking in close proximity. They struggle to concentrate and hold on to thought processes and eventually give up.
What happens to those children? It is not rocket science. There have been enough studies into this for us to be able to deal with it. It should not be an ongoing problem. These children start to develop what we might describe as challenging behaviour in the classroom. The children—particularly the autistic ones—who start to chuck the chairs about are the ones who suddenly get the attention. The ones who sit quietly at the back and end their school days without the benefit of the proper education that their intelligence tells you that they were clearly capable of obtaining—they are the ones we are letting down. I come back to those who start throwing the furniture about. Challenging behaviour is difficult for any teacher in a classroom setting. We are all aware of the need for the teacher to think of the whole class and not just that one child who, on an ongoing basis, may be disrupting the education of the others.
I must say to my noble friend that I have concerns and have had them for a long time. Although the Government—and the previous Government—no longer believe that so many statements should be issued, one of the reasons for trying to obtain a statement for a difficult child in a classroom setting concerns the allocation of extra teaching hours for a teaching assistant. All too often that teaching assistant is not trained in the needs of that individual child—whether dyslexic, dyspraxic or autistic—but is used all too often to assist the teacher with the general management of the class as a whole. Therefore, the need for the individual child who has a statement of educational needs to really motor on with their education is something that, very often, is not addressed just by having a teaching assistant in the classroom, particularly in respect to autistic children.
Of course, autistic children are different. It is a danger to just lump them all together. Their needs will be different. They are individuals. Their teaching needs will be best addressed by an environment and a teaching process that recognise what those needs are—which needs to be put together after very careful assessment. If we are going down the route of not having as many statements—I am a great advocate of statements; I cannot think of how many constituents I have gone into battle for who wanted a statement or challenged one, and I feel that statementing helped a great many children—there is at least a need for all children, statemented or not, to come through education with their needs being assessed and recognised. That is important not just while they are in the classroom; it is equally important when they go through that transitional period of adolescence and into adulthood, when they may need to access training such as apprenticeships, further education or, in many cases, higher education, which a great many of these children are capable of obtaining if they have the right package of support.
I want to share something with my noble friend. I suspect that his colleague in another place, Sarah Teather, will already be aware of it because on 11 July she will address the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Autism. The group has put together recommendations that we believe should apply to all autistic children. This will read across to other children. The recommendations are that every school should have a lead teacher for autism, and that all children and young people with autism and special educational needs should have an action plan, whether or not they have a statement, so that as they move through the transition period a record of what their educational needs were in school can go with them. The thing about children and education is that how you communicate with them when they have a communication disorder will apply as much when they become adults as it did when they were in the classroom. We are now talking about skills and services for life because, as my noble friend said, they will have this condition throughout adulthood—it does not apply only to the classroom.
The all-party group also recommends that there should be meaningful support for all young people with autism and SEN up to 25 years of age, including those who are not in further education. Some of these children, including some of the brightest, take a few more years than other people, because of their needs, to get there. If you do not give them the opportunity, the cut-off points in terms of their age can be detrimental. We have had debates in this House about the need to consider the needs of children through to age 25, and I think that the Government have been receptive. I hope that my noble friend will accept this.
Of the adult community with autism, 60% rely on their families for financial support and 40% live with their parents. Many people who have adult children with autism and other types of lifelong disability would recognise immediately that parenting is for life—it is for as long as you can continue to support that child. There are, therefore, very elderly pensioners supporting pension-age children. That is not unusual. It is important that we address the fact that many of these adults are sitting at home without the training or opportunity to make the positive contribution that many of them would like to make. That does not mean that you can just fix them up with a job. I commend my noble friend Lord Freud, who is not here, for personally taking a great interest in seeking to raise the number of people with Asperger’s syndrome who get into work. He has set up a group that is liaising with employers to show them that such people, with the right package of support, can make a great contribution to their own independence in paid employment and to the economy of the country.
However, we should recognise that some issues regarding disabilities in training and employment in the workplace are more easily resolved than others. Some adaptations for disabilities, after management has been made aware and has put in practical adaptations, do not subsequently take up any management time. This is particularly the case with the Asperger’s group. They need ongoing support in the workplace—although not to do the job; they can do some high-level jobs—and someone who understands how they function. How the individual functions and what works for them is as important in the classroom as it is in the workplace. We should help them make that transition and give them as much support and education in the workplace as we provide in the classroom.
My Lords, I sincerely congratulate the noble Lord on winning the ballot for this very important debate on the disabled. I want to widen the range of his examples, because there are others who are disabled in different ways and there are general lessons to be learnt from the problems arising from how we deal, or fail to deal, with one form of disability, which then reflects on somebody else. I note the remarks of the noble Baroness who has just sat down on the importance of parenting, which is a lifetime problem. That is significant, too, for the disability that I will deal with.
I take part in this debate without any expertise whatever, not even “a veneer of expertise”, as Mr Clegg has apparently said. I declare an interest as one of my grandchildren suffers from type 1 diabetes. It is a disability that is particularly acute for the young. I am happy to say that he is able to do most things except contact sports such as rugby, which is a pity. He sails, fences and skis, which pose no difficulty. I have been trying for some time to get separate figures for research into type 1 diabetes, as opposed to type 2, the latter of which affects, in the main, older people. Type 1 sufferers—the young in the main—are growing in number at an alarming rate. At last, I think I am making a breakthrough in the answers I am getting, which I appreciate. I believe I heard the Minister, some months ago, responding to a question on the issue of education for the disabled. He was both understanding and appreciative, and I said that if the opportunity arose I might say something in the future. I believe it is only in recent years that some of the difficulties of children with problems, sometimes underlying ones, are being understood better and allowances made for them.
When I was at school, and even while my children were small, the problems of a child with dyslexia were not properly taken account of. Today’s report from Dyslexia Action states:
“Knowledge, understanding and expertise is patchy and Dyslexia Action too often still hears accounts of parents struggling to have their concerns recognised and addressed at school”.
That was the tenor of some of the remarks. The report goes on to say:
“Difficulties in their children’s learning are not picked up early enough”.
I say no more.
I return to type 1 diabetes. I attended a meeting in the House only this week on the research that is taking place on type 1. However, I fear a real breakthrough on causes and treatment is yet to come. The causes are not properly understood and more research on such things as artificial pancreases is required. Despite all the care in the world, and even with the modern pumps that are worn by children, there is no assurance that the sugar/blood condition, if that is the correct term, is correct at all times. The problem can be particularly acute at night and I would not weary the House by reciting the number of telephone calls that sometimes have to be made at night to an absent parent, of the type the noble Baroness referred to, when the child is away on school activities.
As far as education is concerned, it boils down to this: there is no guarantee what condition the child with this problem will be in the next morning. It is an unremitting battle to take every step to avoid a hypoglycaemic event—the right blood-sugar level is crucial. If a child has had a difficult night, even if he avoids a hypo, I suspect he is not in as good a frame of mind as his counterparts to face difficult and testing exams. It is very bad luck indeed if he has had a hypo the night before or even an unacceptable blood-sugar level. Should one make allowances for this kind of disability or for any other disability?
In a different world, I read of questions being asked about some notable individuals who have distinguished themselves in Paralympics in the past and I read press reports as to whether they were really as disabled as it was thought at the time. As a criminal lawyer, who has had the privilege of examining and cross-examining medical experts over the years in a whole range of cases and conditions, I know that some judgments in these fields frequently have a degree of subjectivity. Hence, the inevitable difficulty of getting acceptable yardsticks on which to make allowances.
I do not wish to traverse subjects such as cot deaths but we will all have read about the cases, some of which I have been involved in, that involve a huge amount of controversy. Part of the difficulty of getting yardsticks is that the degree of subjectivity can be very high.
I fear that I have no real answer to the question of how best to deal educationally with a child who has been close to or, worse still, has developed a hypo the night before his exams. Perhaps the way forward—this point has general application—is for examiners to have some sort of guidelines concerning the need, to be accepted by preliminary identification. I have dealt with one disability but the same applies to the kinds of cases on which the noble Lord has concentrated.
The answer—these are only suggestions—may be to provide extra time in an exam for any child with a disability, or perhaps, appreciating the problems that might be entailed, some flexibility over the timing, perhaps postponing an examination for just a few hours. Such conditions would be helpful in ensuring recognition of the problems of any disabled child, whatever his disabilities. A temporary blip in a child’s condition should not be allowed to endanger a proper assessment of his talents or perhaps handicap him unnecessarily in his further educational prospects.
My Lords, I, too, congratulate my noble friend Lord Addington on securing this important debate.
When reading the briefing material that came to those of us who had our names down to speak in this debate, there was one particular statistic that jumped out at me. It was that, in a study carried out in 2003, 41% of a sample of 1,000 unemployed people were dyslexic. I do not know whether there has been an update, because that was almost 10 years ago, but it is a pretty damning figure. Therefore, if your Lordships do not mind, I am going to stretch the topic of this debate very slightly beyond education and training into the employment which we hope will result from them and which is an important component of a fulfilled life.
An example from the Dyslexia Foundation about an organisation called Training Plus Merseyside in my city of origin, Liverpool, was instructive. In 2004, it was told that 4% of its clients had a special educational need. It obviously had a hunch that this was a gross underestimate, so it did something about it. It did some staff training, invested in screening tools, paid for psychological assessment and used ICT interventions, and it found that the real figure was nearer to 30%. What that tells me is that, at least at that time, the number of people slipping through the diagnosis net at school was far too large and many of those were landing up as NEET—not in education, employment or training. Indeed, all young people with disabilities are two and a half times more likely to fall into the NEET category than their fully able peers. Of course, there is a large cost, both personal and economic, to this, so we need to get it right at the education stage before the situation becomes entrenched.
The Government understand the importance of early diagnosis and intervention and have announced professional assessments of children’s health and development at the ages of two and five, as well as the phonics check at year one in primary school. I hope one can assume that the two and five year-olds’ checks are done by multidisciplinary, experienced professionals, but the phonics test will be administered by ordinary classroom teachers. That is why it is so essential that all teachers, in their initial training, have a meaningful SEN unit, including information about how to recognise and source appropriate help for children who achieve low scores in the phonics test and who therefore may suffer from dyslexia at some level.
Of course, it is far more likely that the parents will have noticed a problem—particularly with that other hidden disability, ASD—long before the child goes to primary school. It is really sad that so many of them say that they struggle to access appropriate care in therapies. I met a parent recently who noticed something wrong when their child was two and sought medical advice when he was two and a half. The doctors would not intervene until he was three, by which time his fairly normal vocabulary for his age at two had all but disappeared.
For parents with a child with severe ASD, working with their child and supporting him through his therapy and exercises is a full-time job. It is an enormous commitment, often meaning that they have to give up their own career, with the resultant stress on the family budget. However, if the condition is caught early enough and appropriate interventions are provided, the results can allow that disabled young person to be quite functional and lead a pretty normal life. However, adjustments have to be made in the education and work place and the person supported to reach his full educational potential and then become a productive worker. Even NICE says that this is a cost-effective intervention.
In schools, if the condition is not detected, as Charlie Taylor, the Government's behaviour adviser told the education Select Committee this week, it can result in bad behaviour. The noble Baroness, Lady Browning, has given us some graphic examples of that. As he pointed out, this is not the child's fault and should not be treated as such. Sadly, many employers also do not understand the conditions that we are talking about today and make no allowances.
Another thing that struck me in the briefings was the statement from Ambitious about Autism that:
“At 16, young disabled people hold the same aspirations to stay in education and find fulfilling careers as their non disabled peers”.
Well, of course they do; but, sadly, only one child in four with autism continues their education beyond school due to lack of suitable courses and lack of support. However, many do persist and get university degrees. When you think of the struggle that they have had, it is tragic to learn that a quarter of graduates with autism are unemployed. That is much higher for their age group despite the fact that seven out of 10 employers who have autistic employees report a very positive experience and would recommend employing people with autism to other employers. It is a terrible waste of talent after such a struggle. It is no wonder that many of them succumb to mental health problems, welfare dependency, and so on. This must change.
The Government have introduced the Youth Contract to help unemployed young people to get into work, and I think we can safely assume that many of them will have dyslexia or autism, or may be somewhere on either of those spectrums. Can my noble friend the Minister tell me what special provision is being made within the Youth Contract for these young people? If it is not for them, who is it for? It is doubly important that these young people are catered for with appropriate courses and support into work, especially in the light of the impending duty to stay in education or training until the age of 17 and then 18.
I return to education and the much more common condition of dyslexia. The Government have made clear their deep commitment to improving literacy. They are also changing and improving initial teacher training and continuing professional development. These two things go together. In this country we work with teachers to improve their practice. We do not sack head teachers on national television, as Michelle Rhee, the director of education in Washington DC did. We have nothing to learn from a city that let its schools get into such a bad state, where half of 15 year-olds were illiterate and 1,000 teachers were considered incompetent. Things are different here.
Will my noble friend the Minister say whether all the future vehicles for initial teacher training—including the ones in the new training schools—will have a compulsory SEN component, including training in how to recognise dyslexia and how to access the right support? Can he also say what is being done about teaching assistants? Again, the noble Baroness, Lady Browning, mentioned their importance. They are now an indispensible component of the staff of modern schools—especially primary schools—so it is vital that they have opportunities to specialise in supporting teachers with children with disabilities or special needs in their classrooms—which, actually, is most of them—and that they have a clear career path if that is the way they want to go. Can the Minister say something about that?
It surprised me recently to discover that the Open University teaching courses, often used by teaching assistants to move on to be a full teacher, do not have the option to specialise in SEN. One has to do a general teaching degree first. This is a pity as many teaching assistants already have good experience with children with special needs and could do well on a specialist teaching course. If this is not correct, I hope someone will give me the information.
As we have heard, Dyslexia Action is calling for a national dyslexia and literacy strategy. You cannot have a literacy strategy without addressing dyslexia. As the noble Baroness, Lady Browning, has pointed out, there are four simple key elements: whole school ethos; knowledgeable teachers; creative adaptations to classroom practice so that all children can be included; and access to additional learning programmes and sufficient resources. This does not seem too much to ask and I hope the Minister can assure us that this will happen.
My Lords, I, too, thank the noble Lord, Lord Addington, and congratulate him on obtaining this debate. Like other noble Lords, I admire the determination with which he has pursued these issues on many occasions in the House. I welcome the fact that we are debating this issue with the Minister because, from our exchanges both during education Bills and subsequently, I know what a keen interest he takes in these matters. Knowing that we are dealing with and talking to someone who has such an interest is encouraging for those of us who have concerns in this area.
I, too, have benefitted from the briefing that we have had for this debate, particularly from Dyslexia Action. However, I do not want to speak only about dyslexia because I find from the briefings that I get from organisations in all the various parts of the spectrum—ADHD, autism and so on—that they all have similar areas of concern. The best thing we can do is to bring all those groups and their concerns together and try to unite them in a common strategy. After all, the process is the same, as I shall discuss, and it is only individuals with particular problems who have to be treated differently within an overall strategy.
I declare an interest as chairman of the All-Party Group on Speech and Language Difficulties. Currently we are conducting an inquiry into the links between speech, language and communication needs and social disadvantage. I shall mention some of the emerging evidence that we are getting because it is relevant to this issue. In that connection, we have had two days of evidence this week, which I have found the most valuable and inspiring days I have spent in this House, listening to practitioners in the field.
As I have explained to the House, my motivation stems from an experience in a young offender establishment in Scotland when the governor said to me that if he had to get rid of all his staff, the last one out of the gate would be his speech and language therapist. When I asked why, he explained that the offenders could not communicate either with each other or with the staff, and until and unless they could, no one knew what to do with and for them.
I met the marvellous woman who was carrying out this work and asked her what she did. She said she had assessed them all and found hideous shortcomings, which she was able to do something about. I asked her who was the best person in England to do this work and she named a professor at Surrey University, who I asked to come with me into a young offender establishment, and she did. She assessed the boys there and found all kinds of things which were not being picked up in other assessments conducted in reading, writing and other skills.
These include substance-abuse-induced memory loss, hearing problems and sight problems. Most telling of all, however, 100% had the communication difficulties associated with 1% of the population. Clearly, there is a link in all this. I will not bore the House, but subsequent work in putting two speech and language therapists into young offender institutions for two years, academically evaluated, proved within a month that they were an absolutely essential part of the establishment.
Secondly, it identified very clearly that picking up these problems at the age of 15 was far, far too late. It has got to be done earlier. It is not just being able to engage with the people who were looking after them in the young offender establishment; they had missed out on being able to engage with teachers throughout the whole process of life until then. No doubt, that failure had a lot to do with the fact that they were in those establishments. A statement was made to me, which I have never forgotten, that the inability to communicate was the scourge of the 20th century, and it is certainly that of the 21st century. I couple that sentiment with two other statements that I have repeated on many occasions in this House. One was the marvellous remark of Winston Churchill’s in 1910 that,
“there is a treasure, if you can only find it, in the heart of every man”,
with the clear implication that it is your duty to find it. Secondly, it is my firm belief that the only raw material that every nation has in common is its people, and woe betide it if it does not do everything that it can to identify, nurture and develop the talents of all its people, because if it does not and it fails, it has only itself to blame.
Thinking that through, therefore, I am very concerned that people with hidden difficulties and disabilities which could be identified early must have them identified, so that the talents and the treasure can be nurtured and developed not just for their benefit, but for the benefit of the nation as a whole. In preparing for this debate, I looked at my shelves upstairs and I was staggered at the amount of information and the number of reports on the subject. For instance, we had the Bercow report of 2008; the Department for Children, Schools and Families’ better communication plan; the Field report on the foundation years; the Marmot review of health inequalities; the Allen report on early intervention; a joint consultation on the new approach to special educational needs from the Department for Education and Department of Health; the Department for Education’s statutory framework for the early years; the 2012 Green Paper and the pathfinders; and, only today, another document from Dyslexia Action, Dyslexia Still Matters. These reports, together with masses of papers from the Communications Commissioner, the Children’s Commissioner and many practitioners, all say the same thing: that if we are going to make progress, we must intervene early—and the earlier the better—to discover difficulties and disabilities and do something about them as soon as possible.
I turn to the evidence that we have been hearing. I was very pleased to hear from the Department of Health that four new service models are being produced jointly by that department and the Department for Education, together with royal colleges, health visitors, UNISON and others, with pathways for parents, children and practitioners. Two have already been introduced; one for pregnancy and the early weeks of life and one for pre- and early school from two to 10. Another two will be introduced for the nine to 19 year-olds. Furthermore, I am glad to see that there is one for the criminal justice system. There is clear evidence in this that the health and well-being boards which were formed in the recent Health and Social Care Bill have a very important part to play in this. Interestingly, however, a number of our witnesses have said how much they wish that the phrase “mental health” was eliminated from our vocabulary and “mental well-being” was used instead. It is a much more satisfactory term; “well-being’ is a “doing” word, and might make people understand the problem better.
I come to the practicalities. We heard from a health visitor and a speech and language therapist from Northern Ireland that compulsory assessments are being conducted on every child at the age of two, and that health visitors have been trained by speech and language therapists to understand the symptoms they are looking for. They are picking up difficulties as well as disabilities, which is enormously encouraging. Northern Ireland has an advantage in that health and social care work together, which is not the case all over the country. The witnesses highlighted how hugely important this is because otherwise you begin to get fragmentation, which is difficult to deal with.
We then heard what is being achieved in Stoke-on-Trent. It has adopted a motto to the effect that communication is everyone’s business and regards intervention as a multi-agency activity. Some 5,000 people have been trained to identify symptoms. They are not only teachers and parents, but policemen and voluntary sector workers. People are on the lookout for these things and the response is co-ordinated. Stoke has developed a staged pathway which I believe is a model that others could follow with advantage. Indeed, Staffordshire has been fortunate to have had for many years some visionary people working in this area, with research that goes back 10 years showing the benefit of taking this sort of work further.
We heard from representatives of children’s services and speech and language therapists in Walsall. They realised that children entering secondary school had also not had problems identified. They have been assessing people as they enter secondary school. They have been doing this as a pilot for three years and they have some interesting data. Moreover, some schools have found that they have to do these assessments not just when pupils arrive, but at various stages of their passage through the school. I hope that that is not something which will be dismissed. It was interesting to note that after our evidence session, the people from Stoke married up, if you like, with the people from Walsall because they clearly reckoned that they had something to learn; you have to carry on beyond the early years.
Carrying on is the lesson in some excellent work that has been devised by the English Speaking Board for enhancing employability. What is absolutely crucial is the word “transition”. Whatever we do with those who have hidden disabilities and difficulties, having found them, we have to concentrate on the transitions from stage to stage not only throughout their education but on leaving school and making the transition into the workplace, and then on through life.
Later in the year we shall issue a report about this. It will say, frankly, that we think this is an area that needs national oversight. We are concerned that local authorities will be responsible for certain parts of it, with the healthcare and teaching sectors responsible for others. Unless someone pulls all this together, people will continue to fall through the cracks.
The other message that comes through strongly in the report I saw today from Dyslexia Action is that the solutions lie in using existing knowledge and good practice because there is masses of it out there. Rather than reinvent the wheel, for heaven’s sake, let us exploit the valuable expertise and experience of the marvellous people who do this terrific work.
As the title of this debate suggests, it is essential that appropriate teaching and training are available and accessible to all people according to their ability and talent. The ethos of the English Speaking Board is that every person is an individual with unique capabilities and problems who must not be compared with another; rather, each must be judged on their own merits. I hope that the Minister will be able to assure the House that a national approach which makes certain that people are not allowed to slip through the net from the moment of an early assessment at two years of age is what the practice will be, and that what is done in Northern Ireland will become common practice throughout the whole of the United Kingdom.
My Lords, we are indeed indebted to the noble Lord, Lord Addington, for securing this debate and also for the very powerful advocacy that he displayed when he opened it this afternoon. Finding a job is difficult enough these days, especially if you are a young person. Consider how much harder it is if you are disabled. In particular, if you are a young person with learning and developmental disabilities, accessing the right support and opportunities to find a job is especially challenging. On top of this, you are part of a substantial cohort of young people with special educational needs and disabilities, all of whom are likely to be unemployed, too.
In 2009, the Department for Education showed that 30% of young people who had a statement of special educational needs when they were doing their GCSEs, and 22% of young people with a declared disability, were not in education, employment or training when they reached the age of 18. This compares with just 13% of their peers. The Department for Education’s National Pupil Database 2009-10 reveals that just 20% of children with special educational needs and statements achieved five A*-C grades—less than one-quarter of the rate for children without special educational needs.
One person in every 100 has autism. Consider the detrimental effect that this has on the employment prospects for adults with autism. Too many autistic children and their families are being let down by the special educational needs system and are struggling to access the support that they need. That is why I and a great many others welcome the Government’s decision to reform the system through the forthcoming children and families Bill.
The noble Baroness, Lady Browning, has been a great champion and we all admire the hard work she does on behalf of people with autism. She referred to the All-Party Group on Autism’s recent report, The Right Start: Reforming the System for Children with Autism, of which I have a copy. As a result of publishing the report, we will press the Government to ensure that the legislative opportunities down the tracks for change will benefit all children with special educational needs, especially and including those with autism.
Our report, which is based on a public survey and expert evidence from young people with autism, parents, teachers and professionals, leaves us believing that the Government’s forthcoming legislation is perhaps a once-in-a-generation opportunity to make some significant change and improvement. Briefly, I will draw the House’s attention to just five key points from the all-party group report. They cover training and best practice; specialist support at school; involvement of parents and young people; transition, or the extension of the SEN system up to 25; and accountability.
On training and best practice, 84% of respondents to our survey said that teachers were not given enough training to teach and support children with autism effectively, yet we know that training is essential to understanding this complex matter. It is therefore necessary that the Government continue to fund the development of successful training programmes. We also believe that where specialist knowledge exists it should be shared. Schools should be able to draw easily on the expertise of neighbouring schools.
As a subtext, and on a matter that I have referred to before in the House, over 70% of youngsters excluded from school in England have SEN. That statistic should alarm us all. The mother of an autistic child gave evidence to our All-Party Group and said,
“My son is very articulate and very bright, but he’s autistic. The headteacher just thought that he was a naughty boy, who needed some anger management, and he got excluded on a couple of occasions”.
In a major National Autistic Society survey, 17% of children with autism have been suspended from school at least once, and more than 4% have been excluded permanently from at least one school. More than that, 32% of parents surveyed were asked to collect their child at lunchtime or before the end of the school day for reasons other than that the child was ill, and some 19% of parents reported this happening on more than four occasions.
Unless this is officially recorded, these types of exclusions are illegal, and we need to get this message across. Experts who came to give evidence told us that almost every single case of exclusion from mainstream school could have been avoided had more staff been aware of the children’s needs, and had there been better planning at school level to support children with autism.
On specialist support at school, our report highlights the fact that children with autism can have a range of complex difficulties that often need specialist support—that is pretty obvious. Far too often, however, parents say that this expertise is simply not available. We certainly hope that the Government will ensure that all children with autism have access to the support that they need, including those without a statement, or an educational health and care plan. We certainly believe that every school should have a lead teacher for autism—a point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Browning.
Moving on to the matter of involvement of parents and young people, we discovered that less than half of parents of children with autism considered that they were truly involved in shaping the support that their children need and receive at school. Autism professionals we met agreed with this, and so did 30% of the teachers. Over 90% of parents said that they wanted to be more involved, and that they wanted schools and local authorities to work closely with them, sharing information and ensuring that a consistent approach is taken at home and at school.
The SEN system is to be extended to 25 year-olds, and they, too, must be involved in the decisions that affect their lives. As for transition, for too many families the struggle for services intensifies as young people reach adulthood, and as we were told in one evidence session, as statements of special educational need come to an end it often feels “like falling off a cliff”. The Government have decided, I believe rightly, to extend the SEN system to 25 year-olds, but they must ensure that many more young people with autism can access the support and opportunities they need to live independent adult lives, and that those who are able can enter apprenticeships and gain employment. Our inquiry was told by one parent:
“When my son leaves school he has no future. I suggested work experience placements for young people with autism. At the moment they have nothing”.
That is simply unacceptable.
In quoting the noble Lord, Lord Freud, again, I echo the words of the noble Baroness, Lady Browning, who has been a great supporter of and friend to those who work actively on behalf of people with autism. The noble Lord said that the Government want to increase the number of people with autism in work to 30%, doubling it from 15%. We all share that ambition and we back him to the hilt in that.
Finally I will touch on accountability. An important aspect of any reform must be greater accountability for parents. Too many parents who came to give evidence to us said that they had to fight constantly to gain access to the support that their children needed. That is why we need an effective complaints system encompassing all state-funded schools, and it must be a priority, in order to ensure that parents have confidence in that system. Like many others, I wait eagerly for the children and families Bill, hoping and praying that it will help to show us the way forward.
My Lords, I join other noble Lords in congratulating my noble friend Lord Addington on initiating this debate. Like them, I commend him on his consistency and persistency on these topics over many years. I must first of all declare an interest as the honorary president of Ambitious about Autism, the national charity for children and young people with autism, and I also declare a family interest in dyspraxia.
We have made some progress on the education of children on the autistic spectrum over a period of years, both under the previous Government and under this. I pay tribute to the two current Ministers who have shown an interest in this subject: my honourable friend Sarah Teather and my noble friend Lord Hill, who is to reply today. I will use this important debate to highlight the situation faced by young people with autism at a slightly older age and to suggest some solutions that might improve their ability to access education, training and employment. In view of the superb contributions that have been made in the debate, I will inevitably echo quite a large part of what other noble Lords have said.
What stops young people with autism accessing education and training? Ambitious about Autism research shows that 51% of Britain’s schoolteachers have never received training to help them support children with autism. The noble Lord, Lord Touhig, referred to exclusion. Children with SEN are currently disproportionately likely to be excluded from school as a result of this lack of skills and understanding in their teachers. Responding to our research, 43% of parents reported that their child with autism had been formally excluded within the previous 12 months, and 55% of parents said that their child with autism had experienced an illegal exclusion of the type mentioned by the noble Lord in which parents are called in the middle of the school day and told to take their child home. Department for Education statistics show that 27% of children with SEN are excluded from school a year, which is eight times the rate of children who do not have SEN. Exclusions have an obviously damaging effect on pupils’ educational progress and attainment. They also put pressure on parents. Many parents have said that their child’s exclusion had a detrimental effect on their employment and therefore on their family finances.
Beyond the problems surrounding exclusion, the current lack of teacher training in autism means that young people with autism are often in a classroom without any teaching staff who understand their needs. Quality of teaching is very important in ensuring that pupils with autism are appropriately recognised and supported and go on to reach their potential. Just one in four young people with autism continues their education beyond school. This is in part due to a lack of suitable provision, which my noble friend Lady Walmsley mentioned, poor funding structures and a workforce that requires additional support and training to support learners with autism. However, we know that young people with autism want to access employment and training, and we also know that they need the right support in order to do so. While there is a dearth of education and training available, young people with autism have very limited options.
A host of reports from recent years provided evidence that the transition to adulthood for young people with autism and other disabilities is poor and that there is a serious lack of educational opportunities for this group. Ofsted states that,
“the real choice of education and training opportunities at 16 was limited for many young people with learning difficulties and/or disabilities. Inspectors found few courses available for young people with the lowest levels of attainment”.
What impact does this have? The social impact of unemployment for young people with autism is huge. Not continuing in education or training beyond school leads to a loss of potential for young people and society. Disabled young people are 2.5 times more likely not to be in education, employment or training than their non-disabled peers, which is a direct result of failure to access appropriate education or training. Many young people with autism have very limited choices when they finish school. Often their only options are to stay at home with their parents or go to a residential care home, often with people twice their age. Failure to provide opportunities for education and training that will lead to employment denies young people with autism the right to fulfil their potential and contribute to society.
In addition to social costs, failure to provide for young people with autism leads to higher long-term financial costs. The National Audit Office found that £1 million per person could be saved by supporting young people with learning difficulties to gain the skills to live more independently. It also found that supporting a disabled young person to access work reduces lifetime costs to the public purse by £170,000.
So what is the solution? First, we need training for all school staff in autism and an awareness of other special educational needs and disabilities. I accept what the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, said about bringing all of this together. This could include compulsory SEN training and a core autism module in initial teacher training. It is important that it is not just teachers who are included but also teaching assistants and supervisory staff such as mealtime supervisors.
Secondly, a school admissions code that ensures schools and admissions authorities are obliged to place children with autism in suitable schools is essential. We must guarantee an excellent education for all children and young people with autism. It is essential that schools have fair exclusions policies that ensure exclusions do not occur as a result of an unmet special educational need.
Thirdly, we need to ensure that government initiatives such as the Youth Contract are accessible to young people with autism and other disabilities, as a number of noble Lords said. Can the Government explain how they will make the Youth Contract fully accessible to disabled young people? Can they confirm that Access to Work funds will be available for young disabled people doing internships and volunteering placements?
Raising the participation age to 18 is welcome, but it appears little thought has been given to what this might mean for young disabled people, many of whom are not in employment, education or training—not through choice but through a lack of suitable provision. The raising of the participation age will help young people only if it coincides with the development of more and better educational provision. Have the Government committed the extra funding that is needed to meet the additional needs of young disabled people who are currently not participating? How have they calculated the level of this need? The funding must take account of all additional needs, not just those of young people with statements of SEN.
As part of Finished at School, Ambitious about Autism made a number of recommendations to improve post-16 education for learners with autism. I welcome the fact that one of those recommendations—a legal right to educational support for young disabled people up to the age of 25—has been adopted by the Government. I hope that, accompanying this, there will be a funding system that will give young people and families more information, choice and support, a cross-government focus on outcomes and destinations for young disabled people and a further education workforce with the skills to support young people with autism to achieve their ambitions.
It is not, however, all about government action. Ambitious about Autism, my own organisation, has launched a new strategy to create more and better services beyond school age. As part of the strategy, the charity is developing and launching new services to enable young people with autism leaving school to continue to learn so that they can transition to living and working as part of their home community. Its aim is to establish a new community-based college that is a partnership between specialist and mainstream provision.
Lastly, I have a few points on education, training and employment for people with Asperger’s syndrome—high-functioning autism—as well as others on the autistic spectrum. As the National Autistic Society says, while there are similarities with autism, people with Asperger’s syndrome have fewer problems with speaking and are often of average or above-average intelligence. They do not usually have the accompanying learning disabilities associated with autism but they may have specific learning difficulties. These may include dyslexia and dyspraxia, or other conditions such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or epilepsy. With the right support and encouragement, people with Asperger’s syndrome can lead full and independent lives.
People with autism, including Asperger’s syndrome and high-functioning autism, often have much to offer employers. With the right support, they can contribute fully to the workplace. In a study carried out by Research Autism in 2008 for NAS Prospects (London) on the experiences of employing people with autism, seven in 10 employers questioned had had a positive experience of employing someone with autism and said they would recommend it to others.
The NAS has launched its Undiscovered Workforce campaign, which works at a national level with Ministers, employers and others, and at a local level with campaigners, MPs, local businesses, universities and individuals. I commend that campaign. I also very much welcome the particular interest shown by my noble friend Lord Freud in his capacity as Welfare Reform Minister—this was mentioned by the noble Baroness, Lady Browning—and the interest shown in employment issues by my honourable friend John Hayes, the Employment Minister in BIS. The NAS seeks to increase the availability of specialist employment support for those seeking work and those already in work to transform attitudes and increase opportunities for people across the autistic spectrum to fulfil their ambitions in the workplace.
Therefore, will the Government pull all these aspects together through their disability strategy, the Youth Contract and the forthcoming children and families Bill—which has also been mentioned in this debate—to make sure that young people with autism and others with special educational needs are appropriately supported to enter further education, higher education, training, apprenticeships and employment? I look forward to hearing what the Minister has to say.
My Lords, I, too, thank my noble friend Lord Addington not just for securing this debate but for his passion in making sure at every opportunity that these matters are at the forefront of our consideration. I am sure that his determination will succeed.
I declare an interest as a practising head teacher. I was very mindful of what my noble friend Lady Browning said about young people being labelled in the past. Because of their learning difficulties, they were often regarded by their peers, and sometimes by their professional teachers, as “thick”. From my first teaching job, I remember a teacher who was very keen on literacy and would test every child on their reading age every month. She had a chart on the classroom door with the names of all the children—there were 40 of them then—and their monthly reading age. Because some of the children had learning difficulties—sometimes specific learning difficulties, sometimes global learning difficulties and sometimes dyslexia, although we did not know that at the time—their reading age never moved. Therefore, the teacher would say, in an almost patronising way, “Poor little Michael”, or, “Poor little Dominic”, or whatever their name was. That was not the fault of the teacher but it created huge problems. These were not just learning problems; as was rightly said, it often led to bullying.
This did not just happen in schools. When I was doing my education degree, I vividly remember a very highly regarded lecturer in education almost dismissing dyslexia, saying, “There’s no such thing. It’s just made up. They don’t have dyslexia in China, do they?”. That was often the view at the time. Thank goodness we have moved on.
We then moved on to a period in which we began to understand dyslexia and other learning difficulties but did not know what to do about them. Resources were very limited. It would often be a parent who came into the school and said, “I think my child is dyslexic”. The teacher would say, “Oh yes?”, and would eventually get around to thinking about what might be done about it, but the resources were not there. We have come light years in what we are now able to do. Both the previous Government and this Government have taken enormous steps regarding special educational needs and are to be congratulated on what they have done. That is not to say that there are no further things that we should do.
I give one example of the progress that we have made, which touches my heart. A very close friend of mine has a daughter who has mild cerebral palsy. Although she required a bit of pushing from her parents—she was in the independent sector—she has been supported all the way through her education. She is now at Leeds University, which has been fantastic in supporting her. She obviously has a scribe whenever she is doing exams and so on. When she could not get the work in on time, they said, “Come on, we’ll help you and make sure that’s right”. She repeated one year. This year, she will get her degree and the following year she will do a two-year masters degree. That is something of which, as a nation, we can be duly proud.
The only reason I got involved in this debate is my own personal experience. The previous Government rightly used the phrase, “every child matters”. If we are going to make sure that every child matters, that has to be in everything. I look at my own school and at what we now do. First, we have an ethos that recognises particular special needs issues. On dyslexia, we have a qualified SpLD teacher who is, thanks to government funding, undergoing her masters. She is qualified to diagnose specific learning difficulties. The staff are also trained to identify characteristics of learning difficulties. They then use a checklist and go to the head of special educational needs. If that resource did not exist in schools, we would have to try and buy in a specialist teacher, or we would have to go and get the school psychologist, which would often mean a waiting list of six to 12 months. Having the resource in the school itself, having the staff qualified and trained, makes a huge difference.
What happens when a child is identified as dyslexic? Obviously, we involve the parents. We put together strategies in the classroom. We look at intervention strategies. We look at one-to-one teaching. We look at a multi-sensory programme of teaching. Most of us learn in an auditory or visual way. If a young person is dyslexic, we need to do lots of oral work and what we call “over-learning”—learning strategies to cope.
What do we need to do as a country? Again, I agree with my noble friend Lord Addington and other noble Lords have made the same point. We need to ensure that the training is there. In each school, there ought to be somebody who is fully qualified. That needs to be a crucial, integral part of our initial teacher-training course.
A lot of colleagues will have had information from Dyslexia Action, and the Dyslexia Foundation from my home town. The work that they have done to case study and highlight has been tremendous.
I am grateful to the Minister for always being prepared to listen and give information. I think that he is probably fed up of my Questions, but I have asked him a number of them on dyslexia. They not only show that we understand what needs to be done, but they indentify next steps. The money that has been made available by the Government is to be commended. However, looking at the uptake of funding and the number of people who have taken training places, region by region—I will not embarrass various regions—there are huge regional variations and that gives me cause for concern.
In a recent Question I asked whether the Government would consider asking teaching training providers how many compulsory courses there were and how many optional courses there were. Sadly, we do not hold that information centrally. We need to hold that information. We need to know how many teacher training establishments make this provision, so that we can plug the gaps. We need to get that information.
I agree with my noble friend Lord Clement-Jones that we have made huge progress. I am heartened at what we have heard but I am absolutely sure that progress will continue to be made. With the noble Lord, Lord Hill, a Minister who listens and I am sure is prepared to act and, in the other place, a Minister, Sarah Teather, who believes strongly in special educational needs and early intervention, I am hugely optimistic.
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Addington, for initiating this debate today. He has an impressive track record of campaigning on these issues and both he and a number of noble Lords have given some very well informed and passionate contributions this afternoon. I really appreciated the opportunity to listen and learn. I would also like to place on record my thanks to all the people—both the individuals and the organisations—who wrote to us with some very constructive solutions for the way forward, but also with some harrowing accounts of some of the problems we face with these issues.
I begin by reiterating the point acknowledged by my noble friend Lord Morris, the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, and others in the debate, that while dyslexia and autism represent a proportion of the problem, there is a bigger challenge of hidden disabilities. For example, to give some other statistics, more than 3 million people have asthma in the UK, one in 200 people had epilepsy and one in four people will experience mental health problems—or should I say mental well-being problems—with an increasing number of young people in this category. Overall, it is estimated that around 70% of people with a disability in this country have a hidden disability. As the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, rightly suggested, there is much to commend a united strategy to tackle these issues although there are individual elements to each of the disability issues, as we know and as we have rehearsed this afternoon.
The truth is that we have improved our medical skills in diagnosis and treatment, but these have not been matched by the ongoing learning and support guarantees necessary to enable young people to lead enriched lives and fulfil their potential or—as the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, put it—to enable us to find the treasure within them. Despite the progress resulting from the Equality Act, we are still confronting levels of both overt and covert prejudice, institutionally and socially. These are lifelong challenges with very different solutions needed at every stage.
As we have heard, for young people with hidden disabilities in particular, even once a diagnosis has been made there is a subsequent fear of being adversely judged and labelled, or alternatively being disbelieved. At the same time, young people do not want to draw attention to their disability and appear to be different, either because they are embarrassed or, as we have heard this afternoon, because they fear bullying in a school or social environment. As a result they do not always access the funding and resources to which they are entitled.
While the original SEN programme played an important part in moving disability and special needs towards centre stage in the design and provision of local authority, school and personalised support—I thank the noble Lords who paid tribute to the previous Government’s efforts in this regard—it had undoubtedly become too bureaucratic and formulaic in its execution. There were too many agencies involved, no incentives for joined-up services and a degree of piecemeal funding.
Therefore, we welcome many of the aspirations in the Government’s special educational needs Green Paper and their response to the consultation. We support the concept of a single, simpler birth-to-age-25 assessment process and care plan with the right to a personalised budget for parents and young people to buy in support services. Parents tell us that these proposals match their aspirations for their children’s ongoing care. We welcome the requirement for earlier testing and intervention—another point made by noble Lords this afternoon.
We welcome the emphasis on providing an education that will help young people with disabilities into meaningful employment. But given the complexities of the new arrangements, and the need for parents to be reassured that there will be an improvement in the support given to their children, we would caution against rushing into legislation before the outcome of the 20 pilots, which are currently experimenting with the new proposals, have been properly evaluated.
The Minister will know that the interim report on the pathfinder pilots published this week is already flagging up some worrying concerns. For example, it is proving difficult to get agencies to work effectively together; assessments are being duplicated, not streamlined, as was the original intention; and the higher costs are judged not to be sustainable. More importantly, there are increasing criticisms that, contrary to their stated and well received objectives, the pathfinders are failing to involve young people themselves in the shaping of the new services. I raised this matter in Questions earlier in the week, and I once again urge the Minister to confirm that the full conclusions of the pathfinders will be evaluated before the Children and Families Bill is published. I would be grateful for his comments on this.
We would also expect the Government to set out clearly how the funding for these new, improved services will be guaranteed at a time when specialist posts are being lost due to deep cuts to council budgets and to health and welfare budgets. Could the Minister explain how the transition from separate budget heads in education, health and social care to an integrated, personalised provision will work in practice? Will they be expected at a local level to transfer funds into a separate pot, and it will it be ring-fenced?
As the Green Paper acknowledges, and a number of noble Lords around the Chamber this afternoon have said, education and training are central to addressing the needs of young people with hidden disabilities. As has been mentioned, it starts with initial teacher training courses and the need for compulsory modules on identifying, understanding and providing for children across the full spectrum of disabilities. It needs to be supplemented by specialist teachers trained in supporting young people in the classroom. It also requires sufficient teaching assistants, properly funded and trained to support the individual learning needs of specific children in the classroom. Those points were echoed by the noble Baronesses, Lady Browning and Lady Walmsley.
It also requires top-class careers provision in schools, which can give disabled young people specific advice about further and higher education courses and the employment options available to them. The Minister knows our continued concern about the quality of advice being provided by the new schools-based careers service, and we have a specific worry that children with specialist support needs will not get individual face-to-face advice to aim their skills at achievable ambitions. Perhaps the Minister could comment on this. Surely it should be a fundamental right of all children throughout the education system to have the same rights. Can the Minister clarify the legal position with regard to SEN children having access to academy places, and their rights once admitted? Would he agree to review the legislation if it is found to discriminate against statemented or SEN children?
While no one would pretend that the provision in schools is perfect, the message from many disability groups and individuals is that it is the transition from school to higher or further education and ultimately into meaningful employment that remains the biggest challenge. Parents who have seen their child have good support at school can be shocked when they view the adult options available when their child reaches the age of 16 or 18, with specialist adult facilities dominated by much older attendees, often with complex needs, or when they are faced with an FE syllabus that does not provide courses on a full-time basis, leaving parents struggling to provide home care at other times of the week when courses are not being provided. This is why FE colleges need to be centrally involved in pathfinders and why it is essential that they have a statutory duty to be involved in the transition planning for individual young people at a very early stage in their education so that appropriate provision can be laid on in the FE colleges to meet their needs sufficiently in advance.
Finally, as several noble Lords have highlighted, the real challenge highlighted in this debate is about those with hidden disabilities finding and keeping meaningful work. As the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, and the noble Lord, Lord Touhig, identified, the statistics are, quite frankly, depressing. Disabled people are twice as likely to live in poverty as non-disabled people. Some 22% of young people with a disability were not in any form of education, employment or training when they reached the age of 18—twice the level of their peers. The Labour Force Survey showed that, in 2011, 41 per cent of men and 43 per cent of women designated longer-term disabled were also unemployed. The result, as we have heard, is too many young, capable people trapped at home with increasingly elderly parents.
The Sayce report for the Department for Work and Pensions identified a number of solutions with which we concur, particularly the personalised approach and the expansion of the Access to Work scheme, which they describe as the Government’s best kept secret. This helped 37,000 disabled people into work in 2009-10. However, it needs to be better funded and more focused on helping those with hidden disabilities into work. The Government also need to focus on those with mental disabilities rather than seeing their role as just providing practical adaptations and support. Much greater emphasis should be placed on helping people access mainstream apprenticeships rather than separate, short-term internships, as seems to be the trend at the moment.
These are challenging issues—particularly challenging against a backdrop of central and local government cuts and welfare reform—that might face any Government. This Government have set out ambitious solutions for helping those with disabilities access quality education and jobs. However, with reducing budgets, the practical implementation may well elude them, leaving parents and young people frustrated and disappointed. In this context, I look forward to hearing what the Minister has to say in response to this debate to reassure us.
My Lords, I would congratulate my noble friend Lord Addington but I think he has had enough praise already this afternoon. He spoke, as I knew he would, with a great deal of knowledge. We all know the passion that he brings to the subject. I was grateful to him for doing so, and to my noble friends Lady Browning and Lord Clement-Jones, and the noble Lord, Lord Touhig, who spoke with equal authority about autism. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Morris of Aberavon, brought up the subject of diabetes, which I thought broadened the debate in an interesting way. The noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, spoke about speech and language difficulties, which is another manifestation of some of these issues that we are seeking to find solutions to.
As well as being a good debate, it is a timely one because, as noble Lords have said, the Government are introducing their children and families Bill, which in a way, I hope, sets the framework for much of what we have discussed this afternoon and how we hope to be able to improve things in future, because that Bill seeks to put into legislation a new framework for the education and training of disabled children, young people and those with special educational needs. The whole purpose of that new approach is to seek to promote better and earlier identification of children’s needs—one of the recurring themes this afternoon—and a better transition from school to further education, higher education, adulthood and the world of work, which I think is one of the other recurring themes of this afternoon.
To my noble friend Lord Addington, who was keen that I should muffle some bells, I think was his phrase, I would say—I am sure he knows this—that the purpose of these reforms is not reclassification or trying to knock people off lists but about trying to bring together what has been too disparate a range of provisions into a simpler and more coherent whole.
Perhaps I may set out our overall policy direction, bring your Lordships up to date with the latest position in some key areas, and then try to respond to the main points put to me. We have heard a number of facts this afternoon. It is the case that there are some 220,000 children with statements of special educational needs. Last year, there were more than 165,000 young people aged between 16 and 18 with a self-declared learning difficulty or disability studying in mainstream further education colleges. We know that these children are less likely to achieve well at school and are four times less likely to participate in higher education. At 16 or 17, young people with learning difficulties and/or disabilities are almost twice as likely as their peers not to be in education, employment or training. Those figures and others that we have heard this afternoon powerfully underline the case for reform.
As we have been reminded, under the current system, needs are often picked up late, families too often have to battle to find out what support is available, teachers and lecturers feel hampered by bureaucracy and lack the skills and confidence to meet those needs; and young people over 16 with SEN have weaker entitlements to support in colleges than if they had stayed at school, and lack clear routes into independent living and work. I think there is broad agreement that the system needs to change and that the objectives of the Government’s reforms are the right ones. I welcome the support given by the noble Lord, Lord Touhig, and the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch, in that respect. I accept her point that there are practical issues that we will need to work through. However, the direction of travel has broad endorsement.
Put simply, our goal in these reforms is that from 2014 we will have a better integrated assessment process that is more streamlined and better involves children, young people and parents. There would be a single education, health and care plan for children and young people with statements or learning difficulty assessments for post-16 education in the current system. This would help to deal with the important point raised by my noble friend Lady Browning and others about the current cut-off at 16 and the problem that brings. The proposals will include an offer of a personal budget, for those who want it, to give families greater control over the services they use. The plans will give parents the right to express a preference for any state-funded school, including academies, or college. There will be a requirement that local authorities publish a local offer of services for disabled children and young people, and those with special educational needs. We will also introduce statutory protections comparable to those currently associated with a statement of SEN for 16 to 25 year-olds in further education, with access to routes of appeal.
In order to prepare the ground for the new system, as the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch, said, we have set up 20 pathfinders, covering 31 local authority areas and their health service partners. These pathfinders are testing out many of the proposals set out in the Green Paper, such as education, health and care plans and the local offer. I listened to the points made by the noble Baroness about some of the practical concerns, and I agree that my department will need to reflect on them and take them into account as the proposals are taken forward. We will publish an interim report later in the autumn, and we will work with a range of different services to take the lessons on board.
We are also keen to make progress with the Bill in order to get the new system in place. We plan to publish draft SEN clauses for the proposed children and families Bill in the first week of September. A period of consultation and pre-legislative scrutiny will follow before the Bill is introduced to Parliament in spring 2013. That will provide an opportunity to pick up on some of these practical issues. Subject to the approval of Parliament, we hope that the Bill will gain Royal Assent in spring 2014.
One of the recurring themes this afternoon has been the importance of early identification. Here we are taking action on a number of fronts. We are, for example, recruiting and training an additional 4,200 health visitors by 2015, and identifying whether a child is disabled or may have SEN is a core part of the training for those health visitors. When parents have concerns about their child’s development and learning, they will be offered additional support and, where appropriate, referred to another health professional such as a speech and language therapist or a paediatrician.
We are also working to bring together the early years progress check at age two in the new early years foundation stage with the healthy child programme health and development review at age two to two and a half. That picks up on a point made by my noble friend Lady Walmsley. Our long-term ambition is to develop one properly integrated health and early years review to support children’s development, drawing on the expertise and professionalism of both the early years and the health workforce.
We are working with the Department of Health to see how we can best achieve this. We have asked Jean Gross, the former communications champion for children and young people, to lead a group exploring ways of improving that information sharing, and are expecting findings from that in October this year. Our aim is that the new integrated track, bringing these two aspects together, will be introduced in 2015, when the additional health visitors to whom I have just referred have been recruited.
A number of noble Lords raised the issue of reading difficulties. My noble friend Lady Walmsley mentioned the phonic screening check, the first of which was carried out earlier this month. It will help to identify pupils who have not met the expected standard in phonic decoding, and schools will then be expected to provide appropriate support to help them make good progress and master these essential early reading skills. I think it was alluded to this afternoon that it was the Rose review that underlined the benefits of systematic synthetic phonics for teaching those with dyslexia.
There is also some evidence that schools are getting better at identifying children with autism. The department has been collecting data on the number of children with different types of SEN who either have statements or are on school action plus. The statistics show that, in 2004, 31,000 pupils were identified as having an autistic spectrum disorder. This had risen to 61,500 in 2011, which seems to suggest that there is a greater recognition of autism in the education system. However, there is still a need to recognise and diagnose autism earlier, and we certainly expect local areas to take account of guidelines that are available, such as the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence’s guidelines on the identification and diagnosis of autism.
I will say a few words about early language, an issue raised by the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham. In March, the Government announced an early language development programme to train practitioners to help children up to five years old, particularly those with SEN, by focusing on improving communication and language skills. The programme will help the most disadvantaged children with a special focus on the under-threes, who are at risk of language delay. The new early years foundation stage framework, which my honourable friend Sarah Teather has been working on and which is to be introduced in September this year, will also make a number of improvements. There will be a stronger emphasis on the three prime areas most essential for children’s healthy development: communication and language; physical development; and personal, social and emotional development. We have commissioned the Early Language Consortium to deliver a three-year early language training programme to train practitioners to identify language development problems and then work with children and families.
That takes me to the importance of teachers and training, which is one of the recurring issues. My noble friend Lord Storey spoke in a very practical way about some of the steps that a school takes in dealing with these issues, which I found helpful, as opposed to some of the more abstract ways in which the issue is explained to me in the department sometimes. We are taking action in a number of ways to improve teachers’ skills in identifying and addressing the special educational needs of children and young people. The new standards for qualified-teacher status include a specific focus on meeting the needs of children with special educational needs or those who are disabled, which was a question raised by my noble friend Lady Walmsley. We have launched a scholarship scheme for teachers to improve and extend their knowledge and expertise when working with disabled pupils and those with SEN, including their knowledge in specific impairments. That scheme has already awarded funding to around 400 teachers to undertake specialist postgraduate qualifications.
My noble friend Lady Browning and others also spoke about the importance of teaching assistants having the necessary skills, so we have launched a similar scholarship scheme for the most able support staff working with disabled pupils and those with SEN. That should enable support staff to gain degree-level qualifications to build their skills and expertise, including in specific issues such as dyslexia.
The Teaching Agency has developed advanced-level materials on autism, dyslexia, speech, language and communication difficulties, and behavioural, emotional and social difficulties. We have increased the number of special school placements available for initial teacher training to up to 900 in 2011-12. We have provided funding for up to 9,000 school SENCOs to complete the mandatory higher-level SENCO award, and we are also funding a further 1,000 SENCOs in 2012-13.
Reference was made to the role of the voluntary sector, and we are supporting that sector as well in helping teachers and schools. Through the voluntary and community sector grant programme we have funded the Dyslexia-SpLD Trust, providing £1.4 million over two years, to raise awareness and support parents. We also provided a grant to Dyslexia Action, with the RNIB, to make more than 650 core texts available in a digital format for dyslexic pupils.
In addition, we are funding the Autism Education Trust to develop national standards for those working with autistic children, as well as training at universal, enhanced and specialist levels, and delivering that to at least 5,000 staff across the country.
Perhaps I may say a few words about the Achievement for All programme, which coaches and supports schools in improving the attainment of their pupils with special educational needs. We know that schools using the programme saw children make greater progress in English and mathematics than other SEND children across the country. In a significant number of schools involved in the pilot, they even exceeded the progress of non-SEND children nationally. An independent evaluation carried out by the University of Manchester showed that pupil attendance was significantly improved, with an average increase in attendance of just over 10%. It also showed significant improvements in behaviour, including lower levels of bullying—one of the issues that we have talked about—stronger relationships between schools and parents, and a greater awareness of and focus on special educational needs. We are now spending £14 million to roll that programme out across the country so that more children can benefit. More than 900 schools have joined the programme since last September and the number is on course to be 1,500 by the end of this year.
We also talked about successful transition into adulthood—an issue referred toin particular by my noble friend Lord Clement-Jones. We are running a trial of supported internships in 15 further education colleges this autumn. We are providing funding over a couple of years to 25 colleges to test different models of post-16 work experience, and 13 of the colleges involved in the trial will be testing models for young people with learning difficulties.
We are consulting on a more flexible approach to study programmes for all 16 to 19 year-olds, which we think will lead to that whole age group getting more valuable skills and qualifications. We are also providing funding to encourage greater partnership working between clusters of independent specialist colleges, FE colleges and schools so that they work together to improve local provision for young people with learning difficulties and disabilities and share expertise and delivery arrangements. We are going to increase the number of clusters further this year.
Furthermore, the Learning and Skills Improvement Service and the National Institute of Adult Continuing Education have launched specialist qualifications for college teachers working with disabled young people. We think that that will improve the expertise in the FE workforce.
I am pleased to say that more young people with learning difficulties are completing apprenticeships. In 2010-11 more than 17,000 people with a learning difficulty or disability successfully completed an apprenticeship, and that figure has increased in each of the past five years. The number of apprentices declaring that they are dyslexic more than doubled between 2005 and 2010. My noble friend Lord Addington will not be surprised to hear that the success rates for apprentices with dyslexia are similar to those of their peers. Almost 70% of apprentices declaring dyslexia succeed at their apprenticeship compared with 75% of those who do not report a learning difficulty.
The Government will issue an action plan later this summer with a number of measures to increase the accessibility of apprenticeships for young people with learning difficulties and disabilities. That will be aimed at colleges and training providers. I know that my noble friend Lord Addington has been discussing that with colleagues of mine. He has offered to help, I think, with the production of that guidance. We are grateful for that offer and I am sure that will be extremely helpful.
The noble and learned Lord, Lord Morris of Aberavon, raised the question about exam adjustments. There is a system of exam adjustments in place; schools and colleges can put arrangements in place to provide things like extra time, supervised rest breaks or assisted technologies.
The Youth Contract, which was mentioned by my noble friend Lady Walmsley, should support more than 55,000 16 and 17 year-olds over the next three years. It will certainly benefit those with learning difficulties and disabilities because they are disproportionately represented in this group of young people who are not in education, employment or learning.
The noble Lord, Lord Touhig, raised the important point about accountability. The new exclusions process, to be introduced in September, will provide additional safeguards for pupils with SEN. In particular, there will need to be an SEN expert to provide advice to the independent review panel. On the point about exclusions raised by the noble Lord, Lord Touhig, and my noble friend Lord Clement-Jones, I agree that the statistics clearly show that the groups we are discussing are disproportionately affected by exclusions. The Government’s trials, based on an approach pioneered in Cambridgeshire to try to give schools a far greater incentive to tackle the problem at source rather than excluding pupils and leaving it to other people to sort out, are going forward. They had great results in Cambridgeshire. Trials are taking place now in 11 local authorities and 300 volunteer schools, and I hope that that will be part of the solution to tackling exclusion.
The issue of careers was raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch; I know that that is a concern of hers. We have been clear in the guidance that, for the kinds of group that we have been discussing, those with learning difficulties and other disadvantaged groups the expectation is that schools and colleges should provide face-to-face guidance.
That has been a slight canter across the terrain, and I hope noble Lords will forgive me if I have not picked up on everything. If there are some specific points, I will follow them up. However, I hope that what I have said conveys the range of activity that is under way and the extent of the Government’s aspirations. As my noble friend Lord Storey and others reminded us, it is easy to forget sometimes just how far we have come. Many people have made that possible over a long period of time, and there is good work to build on.
The fundamental reforms to the system proposed by my honourable friend Sarah Teather is ambitious, but rightly so. I am glad that there is broad support across the House for those reforms, and I hope that they will provide the platform for the further exposition of some of these issues to which the noble Lord, Lord Touhig, referred. I hope also that noble Lords will accept that, in the important area of helping those with hidden disabilities, this Government have been making progress, and I hope that I have shown that we are certainly committed to making more.
My Lords, in the few moments remaining to me in this debate, I would like to thank all those who have spoken. I could speak again at considerable length, but I do not think that would be wise. The only thing I would say is something that we used to hear from the previous Government when we were in opposition. They used to state, “We have done more”—I think it was in the field of disability—“than any other Government before us”. My response was, “Yes, you have, and so you damn well should have”. That is also true of this Government now, in this field. If we can leave it, having said that we have made things a little better than they were before, and hopefully a lot better, we will have succeeded. However, we are standing on the shoulders of what has gone before, much of which was good, despite the mistakes, and I hope that we can carry on in that vein. This discussion has demonstrated a degree of consensus that is actually very helpful.
Question for Short Debate
My Lords, a debate on dementia is long overdue. Indeed, the last time your Lordships’ House debated dementia was on 25 June 2009.
Today there are 800,000 people with dementia in Great Britain, and two-thirds of them are women. Currently only 43 per cent of people with dementia have a formal diagnosis, yet we all know that diagnosis is the key to accessing information, treatment and support services. There will be more than 1 million people with dementia by 2021 in this country. This year alone it will cost us £23 billion. Currently there are 600,000 family carers of people with dementia.
While significant resources are being spent on dementia, they are often being spent inefficiently and in ways that do not meet the needs or aspirations of the people with dementia and their families. Improving services for people with dementia could therefore boost outcomes and also prove cost effective for the taxpayer. Over a million people living with dementia in the United Kingdom by 2021 will present a major challenge as people with dementia are significant users of both health and social care services, and there remains an unacceptable variation across the country in the quality of services and support. Too often, people with dementia are unable to access the support they need and are frequently failed by the current system. Urgent reform of the social care system is needed, along with a real priority attached to dementia, if we are to improve lives.
As a former member of the Public Accounts Committee in the other place, I well remember the 2007 report by the National Audit Office which found that the health and social care response to dementia was inadequate and that spending on dementia, while significant, was poorly used. The Alzheimer’s Society 2009 report, Counting the Cost, showed that there was an unacceptable variation in the care of people with dementia in the hospital service. It found that people with dementia were staying in hospital on average a week longer than other people admitted for the same reason. A report for the Department of Health by Professor Banerjee in 2009 estimated that 180,000 people with dementia were being prescribed anti-psychotic drugs but that two-thirds of the prescriptions were inappropriate. Anti-psychotics rob people with dementia of their quality of life and lead to 1,800 deaths a year. In January 2010, the National Audit Office’s interim report on dementia found that progress on implementing the national dementia strategy in England had been patchy and had got off to a slow start. The Alzheimer’s Society’s 2011 report, Support. Stay. Save., found that half of people with dementia were not getting the support they need.
Last March, the Prime Minister’s challenge on dementia laid out further key commitments on research, healthcare and dementia-friendly communities. The Queen’s Speech in May outlined the Government’s plans to introduce a draft Care and Support Bill for England. We are told that the Bill will set out how the Government will modernise care and support law to ensure that local authorities fit their services around the needs, outcomes, experiences and aspirations of the people. We are told that it will build on a personal budget agenda, simplify the laws around social care and improve the way in which people get information about their due entitlements. Dementia plans and strategies are in place in Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland, all of which emphasise the need to improve awareness, diagnosis and services.
While the vast majority of care for people with dementia is undertaken by family carers, people with dementia frequently use social care services. The current system does not work for the person receiving care, it does not work for the person providing the care and it certainly does not work for the taxpayer. The chronic underfunding of social care over many years has driven down quality, choice and accessibility. Over the past four years, the increased demand for social care has outstripped the increase in expenditure by 9 per cent, and the ability of people with dementia to live well is increasingly under strain. People with dementia are being unfairly penalised by the existence of what is called the dementia tax.
Individuals and families are spending tens of thousands of pounds to access the care they need, while care for people with other medical conditions, such as cancer, is free. The Alzheimer Society’s 2008 report, The Dementia Tax, found that people with dementia and their families are willing to make a contribution to the costs of their care. However, they need a fairer deal which protects them against very high costs and which also guarantees the quality of care. Where one lives determines the level of care received, as councils decide locally at what level to start providing support. Across the country, people cannot get essential care, while some in a neighbouring authority can. A patchwork of complex rules and assessments makes claiming what people are entitled to difficult and off-putting. The highest spending local authority, Tower Hamlets, spends five times more than Cornwall, the lowest spending authority.
People have a limited say over the care they receive. Choice and control is the experience of too few people. Out of two million older people in England with care-related needs, 800,000 receive no formal support at all. The lack of support early in the condition leads to a substantial pressure on long-term care and acute sectors. Some 10% of the respondents to the survey Support. Stay. Save. reported that the person with dementia was admitted earlier than expected into long-term care because of inadequate support in the community early on. A similar proportion reported that the person with dementia was admitted to hospital when it could have been avoided because there was lack of early support in the community. This is despite evidence that early intervention is both cost-effective and is what people with dementia and their carers want. The care paid for by local authorities is too often provided to people who have significant need when evidence shows that investing in care earlier would reduce demands on the National Health Service. The Alzheimer’s Society has been campaigning for many years for a change in the way we pay for care. The forthcoming social care and support White Paper is an historic opportunity to overhaul our care and support system.
What can we do to make a difference? The Dilnot commission proposed a fair system where no one would lose more than 30% of their assets. That would help. However, without additional government funding, England’s social care system will not be fixed. The recent Nuffield Trust report identified a number of funding options that could release funds to invest in the social care system. The Government must begin a public debate on where money for care could come from. Money intended for social care must be used for care, and not for filling in potholes. At present, each local authority decides which of the four levels of fair access to care services eligibility criteria they will fund: low, moderate, substantial or critical. It is profoundly unfair that two people living either side of a local authority boundary—they could be living either side of a road—could be entitled to significantly different levels of care. The Government must introduce a national eligibility strategy to improve consistency and fairness across the country. Progress has been made, but we have a long way to go.
Just over two years ago I took part in a march. It was a memorial march in memory of people with dementia who had died. I walked with a man whose wife had not spoken a word in 18 months. He was her carer; he sometimes had respite when his son could take over. His wife was doubly incontinent; they had no shower or toilet facilities on the ground floor. He told me that the only day he was confident that she was kept clean was the day that she went to a day centre, where they had showers, and so forth. He was battling hard in order to find funds to provide these basic facilities on the ground floor of his home. I came away full of despair after talking to that man. I am sure that noble Lords must have had similar encounters.
When we last considered this subject, in a debate introduced by the noble Baroness, Lady Murphy, in 2009, she told us that the average age of your Lordships was 68 and that one third of us will die with dementia. That brings it home that every one of us must know or will have an encounter with someone who has dementia. We really must do something about it. We have a duty to those in our society who are desperately locked away almost as prisoners of illnesses of the mind. It is down to those of us who can still articulate and make the case to ensure that the Government and we as a society do something to improve the quality of life for people with dementia.
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Touhig, for enabling us to hold this debate and for his eloquent and moving introduction. I confess that I am a veteran of pretty much every one of our debates in this House over the past 10 years. We have had dementia strategies and dementia plans, and I congratulate the previous Government on their work on those important documents, which have moved us forward. Dementia is something that affected my family until last December, when my mum died having, in her words, “kind of lost the place a little bit”. That was her euphemistic way of talking about dementia. It is a subject that for the past 20 years I have followed with a great deal of interest because, as noble Lords know, I work with older people.
I want to sound a somewhat more hopeful note than did the noble Lord, Lord Touhig, and I do so because two or three things have happened that give cause for optimism. Building on the work of people like the noble Baroness, Lady Greengross, and the all-party parliamentary group, as well as on important reports from Alzheimer’s bodies, the Prime Minister’s Challenge on Dementia and the updated dementia strategy are extremely good documents because they move us forward. Not only are they forward-looking, they are quite detailed. The strategy talks not just in broad terms about the need for more research and support, but it begins to draw down different areas in order to achieve a series of things which, over the next five years, will bring about real and actual change in both communities and the health service. They will be of benefit to people who have dementia and their carers.
The Prime Minister’s Challenge on Dementia is based on three things: raising awareness and understanding, early diagnosis and support, and enabling people to live well. There is a commitment to increase research funding to the unprecedented level of £66 million, some of which is to be spent in social care, which is extremely helpful. Some of the money will be spent on redesigning services in the health service, but some will also go to the Medical Research Council for further research into brain scanning. We are beginning to move away from broad strategies into more targeted and focused areas. I was pleased to see that resources are to be devoted to developing dementia-friendly communities. That is not jargon. People are starting to work towards a definition of what that is all about.
For more than 20 years I have followed the work of the Dementia Services Development Centre at Stirling University, both under its previous director and now under Professor June Andrews. It has contributed more than any other organisation to the understanding of dementia as an illness, to understanding the needs of carers, and to enabling academics and healthcare professionals to move forward. Recently, Professor Andrews gave a talk about design. She and her colleagues had been involved in a community pilot study in the Forth Valley. People from various disciplines worked for a year to see how, within their existing resources, they could manage things differently. I was pleased to see that not just the health service but organisations like the police, libraries, churches and the general public felt more confident in their ability to deal and interact with people who have dementia. We are getting close to the point where a diagnosis of dementia is not going to lead to older people and their carers automatically being cut off from the life they enjoyed previously and which, for many years to come, may still have some meaning for them.
Professor Andrews talked about the issue of design, and particularly design in people’s homes. I am very pleased that some of the people involved in the Prime Minister’s challenge are designers and private companies, looking at how they can respond in practical ways to the challenge of dementia. Professor Andrews also talked about the need to develop things like glass-fronted fridges so that people know that they have food. I look forward to the time when homes have glass-fronted freezers because I stopped counting the times that I had to throw away a freezer’s worth of food because my mum forgot about it and it went bad. Design, lighting and so on in people’s homes can make a tremendous difference to their ability to remember.
I want to focus on one particular area that has not been mentioned so far. Many older people with dementia also have other disabilities. If you are a carer supporting somebody and you try to find out about adaptations, they will be designed for a particular physical disability and not for someone who has a physical disability and also dementia. In this hopeful time, designers could look at the potential to design appliances for the home for people who have the multiple disabilities that most older people will develop.
One particular area we should focus on is telecommunications. It is great that there is enormous change going on in the world of telecommunications and that, for example, phones can now be used by people with hearing disabilities who could not use one before. Yet there is absolutely no point in having a phone that has wonderful functionality if you cannot learn to use it. Professor Andrews made an important point about the ability of people to design things in future that will have new functionality but will look like the objects that people with dementia remember—retro-designing things so that people can continue to use them.
I am also pleased that in the dementia challenge we are finally recognising that in future all health and social care professionals, whatever their discipline, will deal with people who have dementia. That will include dentists, pharmacists and others. We are now moving to a point where basic pre-qualification training for all health and social care professionals has to include dementia, whatever the area of specialism.
In the short time available, I will raise one more point. Last December, the Alzheimer’s Society produced a report, Short Changed, about the experiences of older people with dementia, and their carers, with banking and financial services. Older people with dementia are particularly vulnerable to financial abuse. We have known that for years. We knew it 15 years ago when the noble Baroness, Lady Greengross, set up Action on Elder Abuse. It is now more than five years since the passage of the Mental Capacity Act. At that time, the Office of Fair Trading and the British Bankers’ Association produced guidelines about tightening up procedures in relation to people who lack mental capacity, but we still have problems. Anybody who listens to “Money Box” will regularly hear reports of irresponsible lending to people with dementia.
I make one particular suggestion: will the Government, with the Office of Fair Trading and the British Bankers’ Association, now do some further work on banking services for people who lack capacity? Will that work draw a difference between people who have learning disabilities, people who have mental health problems which may be episodic and people who have dementia? All three have different issues but at the moment the banks treat them all the same. That is causing a problem, not least for carers of people who have dementia, who are worried and trying desperately to enable their relatives to keep control of their finances for as long as they can. They want a backstop for when the time comes when their loved ones can no longer manage.
Dementia is a terrible thing, and it is going to happen to more and more people as we live longer. It is going to become a part of life for more of us. I am not a Pollyanna, but having read the dementia strategy and the Prime Minister’s Challenge on Dementia, I think we now have reason to be much more hopeful than we have ever been that we will be able to see people living well with this terrible disease.
My Lords, I, too, thank my noble friend Lord Touhig for securing this debate. My mother lived with dementia for many years and in the early stages suffered greatly from it. What she went through in the early 1990s was depressingly instructive about the state of dementia care at that time in the London suburb where she lived. My mother was diagnosed in 1993, but that diagnosis took place only after my sister and I ignored the advice of our mother’s GP, who said there was no point in a diagnosis as nothing could be done for our mother if her increasing memory loss and confusion turned out to be the result of dementia. When the diagnosis was confirmed and we asked the GP for help, the GP who had cared for my mother and looked after our family for 25 years, she said that she was very sorry but there was nothing that could be done medically and she could not help my mother any further.
No support was offered to us by the local NHS or the local authority. We were on our own while my mother was rapidly deteriorating, bewildered and panicked by what was happening to her. My sister and I, with six young children between us, could not care for her in our homes, so we looked for a care home for her, but we could not find anywhere that we felt would provide anything like a real home for her. So we searched for carers to look after her in her own home. We were untypically fortunate enough to be able to do that, and we went through one carer a week for six months, as we could find nobody able and willing to take on the complex task of caring for someone suffering from dementia. Finally, when we had really begun to despair, through some good luck, we found a caring woman who looked after my mother wonderfully for the last four years of her life and helped make those years, for the most part, happy and peaceful.
Finding a carer was not the end of the problems that we faced. As my mother’s general state of health declined, she spent more and more time in hospital, and at one point in 1997, she was having to be fed through a tube. The consultant then insisted that she no longer had any quality of life and that the tube should be removed and she should be allowed to die. My sister and I disagreed and the consultant then tried to bully us—and I use that verb advisedly—into following his advice, telling us that we were being selfish and that the bed was needed for a patient who would benefit from it more. The pressure he exerted on a daily basis was intense and caused us great anxiety and distress, but we still resisted and, in the end, we were able to find a hospital that took a different approach and we moved our mother there. Through its loving care, my mother recovered, the tube was removed without her dying as a result and she was eventually discharged and went home where she lived for a further nine months, mostly happy and peaceful.
I have told this personal story at some length because it illustrates the state of dementia care at that time in that outer London suburb and is typical of the experience of so many people, many of whom are unfortunately unable to care for their relatives in the way that we were able to care for our mother. It typifies the experience that so many people living with dementia and their carers went through at that time. There was no empathy with the patient, no support for relatives and carers and a pervasive inadequacy of care.
Twenty years ago, I assumed that was the way things were and had to be, but in 1997 I was elected as the MP for North Swindon and I found that in Swindon, thanks to the imaginative work of Dr Roger Bullock and his colleagues, dementia care was immeasurably better than that received by my mother. There was respect and dignity in the way care was delivered, there was an underpinning belief that those suffering from dementia could still enjoy a good quality of life, and there was dedication to providing therapies to that end, all of which had been notably absent from the care on offer to my mother.
I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Barker, that over the past 10 years, the practice in Swindon has become more typical and the neglect and indifference experienced by my mother less so. There has been real progress and there is better understanding of the disease. The national dementia strategy launched by the previous Government in 2009 was a landmark, and I hope there are no members of the medical profession today who still believe that those suffering from dementia cannot enjoy a reasonable quality of life. I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Barker, that the Prime Minister’s Challenge on Dementia, which was published three months ago, is most welcome. It sets out some of the progress that has been made and there is a commendable determination to go, as the Prime Minister puts it, further and faster. I am concerned, however, about the obstacles that remain in the way of such progress. It is depressing, for example, that the Alzheimer’s Society, which does such invaluable work in this area and for whose support I shall always be grateful, found in 2009 that there was an unacceptable variation in the care of people with dementia on hospital wards, as my noble friend Lord Touhig has just outlined. There are still no national eligibility criteria for access to care and there should be. As my noble friend has pointed out, the difference between the highest spending local authority at Tower Hamlets is five times that of the lowest spending one in Cornwall. This sort of variation is neither fair nor justifiable.
Moreover, as my noble friend Lord Touhig has said, the most pressing need is to sort out adequate funding for social care. As the population ages, the number of people suffering from dementia increases. There are 800,000 today and that is forecast to rise by 25 per cent in the next 10 years alone. There are at least 600,000 carers today and that number is almost certainly an underestimate. These figures are never accurate and they are almost certainly a significant underestimate. That number is bound to rise, too. Because they receive too little support, people with dementia are admitted earlier than they need to be into long-term care and into hospital when adequate support in the community might have rendered that unnecessary. This is a wasteful, inefficient and above all unfair system.
There is also the continuing refusal of the Government to extend the protections of the Human Rights Act to all those in care homes. It is perhaps those with dementia who are most in need of such protections and the application of those fundamental human rights principles of dignity and respect. We have debated this issue recently in your Lordships’ House and the Minister was adamant in his refusal even to contemplate the extension of such protections. I still hope he may think again, if not today, at some point in the not-too-distant future.
Finally, I want to address the issue of innovation, which is so important in all issues to do with health care but particularly so in this area of health and social care where our understanding of this disease is growing exponentially. We have to listen to and learn from the experience of those who are living with it and their carers. I pay tribute to the Department of Health because I think it is taking some worthwhile initiatives to foster such innovation, but significant problems remain. For innovation to flourish, two things are required: first, empowerment of the frontline; and, secondly, the ability to roll out best practice so that everywhere in the country can benefit from it.
Ten years ago I was so impressed by the quality of dementia care I found in Swindon that I wanted to help develop it into a model that could be replicated across the country quickly and easily. So in 2002 and 2003 I worked intensively with all the relevant local agencies, in the NHS and the local authority and with local carers, to develop new and better mechanisms. The innovative proposal that emerged from that process offered choices for different care packages to sufferers and carers. It offered integrated care and a unique role for the voluntary sector, all of which successive Governments and professional bodies and the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Dementia have said are important.
This proposal required no extra funding. That meant, however, that local managers would be required to be highly efficient in their management of resources and they were concerned that this new challenge might affect their ability to meet all the targets that the Department of Health then required them to meet. So they needed some assurance that, if they were to embark on this enterprising initiative, they would not be penalised by the Department of Health for missing any other targets as a result.
This was a difficult issue, especially as the then Government were so driven by targets. As this was an important initiative, however, formulated not by an MP but by outstanding frontline professionals and patients and carers, I would have expected at least a dialogue about it. I wrote several letters to two successive Health Secretaries and I never received even the courtesy of a substantive reply. It was not that the idea was rejected; Ministers refused even to discuss it. Even their Special Advisers saw no point in discussing it.
I should say that the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, an adornment to your Lordships’ House, then in the Prime Minister's Policy Unit, was enthusiastically supportive but sadly that counted for nothing in the face of an indifference from the Department of Health which stemmed, as far as I have been able to work out, from the fact that this idea did not originate in the Department of Health.
I understand that the Government’s reforms will relax the sort of control from the centre that stifled the Swindon initiative, but maximising the benefits of self-directed support of the sort that that initiative envisaged requires an adequate infrastructure of information and services to support patients and carers in their choices. Ministers say that they want personal budgets to be the norm by 2013. That could produce some of the same outcomes that the Swindon initiative envisaged and which research by the Mental Health Foundation has shown are valued by carers and users. However, these desirable outcomes can be secured only if there is adequate infrastructure in place.
At a time when so much control is being passed from the centre to local agencies, and local authority and NHS budgets are under such pressure, is the Minister confident that such infrastructure will be adequate everywhere across the country—not just in the places of excellence, such as Swindon, but everywhere? Can he be confident that there will not be the same unfair, uneven provision from area to area that has characterised dementia care in the past and about which my noble friend Lord Touhig spoke so eloquently? It is increasingly accepted that, nationally, dementia care has been unacceptably neglected for far too long and that, locally, provision has been far too uneven. I hope the Minister can demonstrate real commitment to going, in the Prime Minister’s words, “further and faster”, not simply by saying it—which I am sure he will, with his characteristic grace and eloquence—but by demonstrating that in future there will be the quality of care that all those with dementia and all those caring for them deserve, and that it will be available everywhere in the country.
My Lords, I start with three lots of congratulations. First, I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Touhig, on securing this debate, which is of the utmost importance, and on speaking so eloquently, as did the other noble Lords who have spoken. Secondly, I congratulate the previous Government on introducing the dementia strategy and on the research summit, which I was privileged to co-chair. At the summit, important plans were laid, which could lead to a lot of change. Thirdly, I congratulate the Prime Minister. I was in the hall when he spoke and heard his speech. I have never heard him speak as well as he did on the dementia challenge. He is obviously very committed to this, as am I—I am passionate about it—and it was wonderful to hear what he said.
What has changed is that we are having a debate on dementia when people are not afraid to mention it. It is, as the Prime Minister said, as things were with cancer a long time ago and later were with AIDS. We can now talk about dementia. People know that it is absolutely essential to get things going and changing with regard to dementia. We must implement the action. The Government are committed to what the previous Government were committed to. We have all-party agreement that this is of the utmost urgency. We must get this right now.
What we face is largely due to recent medical success. We are now able to control or get rid of many of the acute illnesses that used to take people away from us, particularly cancer, heart disease and so on. We have had wonderful success but must now face, in effect, an enormous crisis, which is mounting not just in this country but across the world. It is on a par with climate change and it is of the utmost urgency that we get this right. We have to get more money into research and care, we must have staff who can do the caring, and families must be helped with the caring that they need to do. There is an enormous amount that needs to be done. The fear of people in this country is now not nearly as much about cancer as it is about dementia. As the noble Lord said, one in three of us will die from it and the costs are immense. If we get things right, we can reduce those costs.
The all-party group has 70 Members from both Houses and the wonderful thing is that they come to the meetings. I chair three other all-party groups and am a member of others. People do not come—they are too busy doing other things—but the group on dementia is very well attended. We have had some marvellous results from the inquiries that we have carried out on some of the subjects mentioned by the noble Baroness, Lady Barker, such as early diagnosis, anti-psychotic drugs and staying too long in hospital if you have dementia. That last is totally inappropriate, both for the person with dementia who goes in with a broken arm or a fractured femur but also for all the other patients who cannot sleep, rest or get better. It is appalling. To be blunt, we know that 20% of our acute hospitals now need converting into primary-care-led hospitals where the sort of treatment from which people with dementia and others with chronic diseases could benefit is introduced. It is quite difficult to persuade Members of the other place that they will be re-elected if they join forces in changing the hospitals in their local constituencies. However, that is what needs to be done if we are to meet the need of the fast-growing numbers of people who suffer from one of the dementias.
We also know that early diagnosis is essential. As the noble Baroness, Lady Barker, said, there are things that can be done. There is some hope now. Early interventions into the neural networks can achieve change. It is not far off that we will actually be able to do something about dementia, not just helping people to live better but moving towards a cure. We must all get together to get the research under way and properly funded, globally as well as nationally, and all benefit from it. It is essential that early intervention in neural networks is pursued.
Much has been said about the need for better hospital care for people who do go into hospital, and about better care in the community, in which I have been very much involved, looking at the human rights of people who need care and support in their own home. I will not joint the debate with the Minister about where human rights are applied, but I will say that human rights are really important as a training tool, where you start with the person and look at respect, dignity, the right to have some social interaction with others and the right to family life. That means that you do not separate husband and wife if they go into a care home. The care worker has to spend more than 15 minutes with the patient, because you cannot clean them up, give them a meal, arrange their day, get things ready, look after them a litte and have a chat in 15 minutes. We have to change the rules and standards of care in people’s homes. If we look at those issues as an infringement of human rights, it helps us to train people to get it right. I do not blame the providers of care in people’s homes. Many of them are struggling to make ends meet, too. We need a better system of funding for that. We need local authorities to come together, as some are now doing, so that those people who have to do everything in 15 minutes and then travel without being compensated for the travel or time of travel will not have to do so. At least several boroughs or local authorities are getting together to minimise the risk of that happening. So things can be done which do not cost a great deal.
We have to get cost-effective care. We have to look at the standards of care and the training of staff. We also have to look at the status of staff. Care work, work with people in their own homes or care homes, is low status and very low paid. Why would they continue to do that? They are very committed or they would not have got into it in the first place. In fact, if you go and work on the Tesco cash till, you get shares in the company, you have mates to talk to, you have regular hours and, when you go home, you know that your work is finished. That does not happen if you are caring for people with dementia. It does not happen if you are caring for vulnerable people anywhere. This is why our staff leave and take up other jobs—they are under pressure. We really must get the care regime right.
Moreover, we must make sure that “integration” really means something, because if we do not join up our services and include housing and care, both health and social care—and we have an opportunity to do it—and if we do not get it right, we will be letting down some of the most vulnerable people in society. The role of health and well-being boards and the commissioning groups are critical to getting this right. We can, in fact, do it now. If we also look at annual budgets of local authorities and make sure they do not continue to be threatened with the loss of their central government grant, we can begin to get some preventive work introduced locally as well. It is a disgrace that we can only look after people when they are in a critical condition. If I were a director of adult social services, that is what I would do—we would all do it—and that does not help people to remain fit and well for as long as they possibly can.
We can and must do something about dementia. We have all-party agreement on the urgency of this, and on the need for change in our attitudes and in our services, and in the integration of care for those with a terminal disease, which does not get treated as a whole at the moment. If we do not get agreement and act now, we cannot call ourselves a reasonably compassionate society.
My Lords, I thank my noble friend Lord Touhig for securing this debate and for introducing it so passionately. In your Lordships’ House, we often talk about the ageing of society. People are living longer—a lot longer—and this is a subject for rejoicing and a tribute to developments in society and health provision. However, as we have heard, one of the other consequences of this development is undoubtedly the increase in dementia. We are all aware of the figures and I will not repeat them. Although there have been some welcome developments in recent years, not least as a result of the publication of the dementia strategy and, latterly, the Prime Minister’s commitment, there is still a very long way to go. Most people with dementia and their carers are not living well.
Although we have made progress, we still have a lack of awareness. Dementia is not something we really want to discuss, still less plan for within our families. I always remember when I was leading the carers’ movement that we managed to get a dementia storyline placed in one of the leading soap operas. However, it did not last long because the issue of incontinence might have had to be faced and the producers felt that the viewers did not want to know about having to wash soiled sheets.
There are also great difficulties in diagnosis. Let us not forget that up to 40% of acute hospital beds are occupied by dementia patients, but of that number as many as 80% have their condition diagnosed after they have been admitted. They are, therefore, being nursed and treated by non-specialised staff who may have little or no experience of the condition and of whom it is unfair to ask the skills and competences which such patients need.
It may be that GPs are reluctant to diagnose dementia because, as the noble Lord, Lord Wills, has reminded us, they believe there is no cure or because they do not want to depress either the patient or his or her relatives. However, without proper diagnosis, there is no hope at all of putting patients and their families in touch with the services they badly need. We should not forget either that the number of people with dementia that each individual GP sees during their career is relatively few and we should not expect them, therefore, to be an expert in diagnosis. What we can and should expect is that they are willing to make referrals to experts who can make a diagnosis. Talk to the family of any dementia sufferer and they will almost invariably tell you a long and distressing tale of how long and how much persistence it took to get a proper diagnosis.
The third thing is the lack of support. Dementia can be coped with but support services are vital and they are in short supply, and I am afraid they are getting shorter. Caring services are in crisis due to lack of funding. Talk to anyone engaged at the sharp end and the story is the same. Fewer and fewer older people, including those with dementia, qualify for local authority support, and many services provided by the community and voluntary sectors are disappearing. Those services especially under threat or gone already include those aimed at preventing those with low-level needs from reaching a crisis situation.
Let me tell your Lordships about Raymond, who is 85 and cares for his wife, Margaret. He says that Margaret,
“has been diagnosed with dementia. My caring changes from day to day and week to week. You are living on a knife edge—you don’t know what the next hour or day will bring … I have a nurse who comes to get”,
“up at 7.30 in the morning and then puts her to bed at 7.30 in the evening”,
but her visits are now only 15 minutes long—and Raymond has been told that they have to be cut down to nine minutes in the next year. Margaret,
“goes to a care home from 9.30 until 3 in the afternoon”,
“which is a great help. They have games and entertainment. I can get down to my jobs while”,
Margaret is away. It used to be Wednesday and Thursday, but it has been cut down to one day a week. He goes on to say:
“Caring is very tiring. I try to cope to the best of my ability but I find I can’t take it in my stride. Life is very stressful, especially the practical work. I prepare meals and do the housework … I pay someone to sit in with”,
Margaret, once a week,
“while I go out … I go to a carers’ meeting on a Friday. It’s like opening another door. I can get back to normal. The tension goes away and my head clears. We talk among ourselves and there is a pleasant atmosphere. We all have a tale to tell. I find out how other carers overcome their problems. It’s an escape valve. You are with your own kind—people who know what you are experiencing. Without the day centre and the carers’ group I couldn’t manage … I don’t know what I would do”.
Although Raymond is 85, he does not want to give up caring for his wife. However, unless he has what he calls his escape valve, what will happen to him? I have to tell your Lordships that the day centre provision is under threat and the carers’ group, which was set up by a local authority worker, is now run by carer volunteers.
The noble Lord, Lord Touhig, reminded us how important it is to support the families who provide the bulk of care for dementia sufferers. As I often remind your Lordships, they are saving the nation £119 billion a year, so it is in all our economic interests to keep them in a caring role. But it is also important for the future because we will need many more carers. If they are not also going to become a drain on our economy in their old age, we have to support them now and enable them to stay in paid work as long as they can. The recent report published for Carers Week, In Sickness and in Health, tells a very distressing story about the health of carers as a direct result of their caring responsibilities. No fewer than 87% of them said that caring had a negative impact on their mental health and 83% on their physical health.
Carers and the people they care for already pay for services. If they are not eligible for social services or their income is above a threshold, they have to pay, which can range from domestic assistants to care workers. Services can be arranged with the local authority or trust, and others through private companies. This is often the cause of financial distress for carers. With the introduction of personal independence payments and changes to employment and support allowance, this may lead to substantial numbers of people losing benefits, which may mean that the person being cared for can no longer purchase the service. That means that carers will have to find alternative ways in which to pay for a service by dipping into their savings, getting into debt or simply going without.
In the current economic climate, there are concerns that an already struggling system is going to be further hit. Cuts to services will only make matters worse. For some carers, the ultimate impact will be giving up caring themselves because their health has deteriorated so much that they can no longer do it. That comes at a significant cost, as the person they care for will need to be admitted to residential care. For others, they are storing up serious problems for their future. Who will be there to provide the care in their place, if carers can no longer carry on?
I have three questions for the Minister, who I know is very aware of carers’ problems. Indeed, I was most grateful to him for attending a carers event that I hosted last week and for taking time from his very busy schedule to speak to carers and hear their problems. I appreciate that and know that he has always been concerned about this issue. Let me put the three questions to him. When will the Government act on the issue of sustainable funding for social care? The reform of the law on care is very welcome and I understand that we will hear about that shortly in the White Paper but we have to address properly the funding issues. How can we ensure that there is ongoing support for carers, including giving them a break—the kind of break that Raymond has just once a week that enables him to keep going? We heard rumours at one point from one of the Ministers that the Government were planning to enable GPs to prescribe respite care for carers. Is there any truth in that? On the subject of general practitioners, how in the new structure of the NHS do the Government plan to monitor the performance of GPs with regard to carers, since they are so important for them as a first port of call?
My Lords, this has been a comprehensive and authoritative debate on one of the major health and care challenges facing us today: namely, how we provide treatment, care and support for people suffering from dementia and ensure that their families, carers and the staff in hospitals, care homes and those who come to the patient’s own home can help them have the best quality of life and care. As one would expect, many of the key concerns and questions on improving research, diagnosis, understanding, services and support have been ably put by noble Lords during the debate. I will not repeat those. I look forward to the Minister’s response.
Of course, I also pay tribute to my noble friend Lord Touhig for securing this debate and for his excellent opening speech, setting out the context, the stark facts, the progress and developments since the national dementia strategy was launched by the Labour Government in 2009, and the challenges that we still face. Most importantly, I appreciated his reference to carers of people with dementia because they are so important in the debate—whether they have 24-hour caring responsibility in their homes, are family members supporting a dementia sufferer or are supporting their loved ones in residential care.
My noble friend Lady Pitkeathley also spoke passionately about carers, as you would expect. Ensuring that the everyday experience of carers is heard in debates such as this is vitally important, and the House is better informed for it. As a trustee of our local carer support group in Elmbridge, Surrey, I know that about 70 per cent of carers we support locally are caring for somebody with dementia. The dementia ranges from people experiencing the early disturbing signs of the onset of dementia, who, with their families, are wondering what the future will hold and how they will be able to cope, through to those in the severe advance stages, still cared for at home or in residential care, either with respite or permanent care.
Speaking to just a small number of these carers, two things are particularly striking—apart from the love and dedication that it takes to cope and carry on. First, the carer never stops feeling responsible, even when the husband or relative has had to go into hospital or residential care. Secondly, it is striking how much better we need to become at understanding the range of care and support that is needed, and at providing flexible community personal support and day and residential care that treats people with dementia with dignity and helps them maintain their quality of life.
I will quote from one carer whose husband with dementia is in residential care because she could no longer cope with him at home. She said:
“I had him home this weekend, which was nice but he was very distressed when I took him back this morning because he clearly didn’t want to be there. It makes me feel so guilty and sad, because when he is with me he is full of smiles and hugs, and I feel I am betraying him by taking him back. He has become unsettled generally because one of the residents in his wing has severe dementia and shouts and swears all day long. It is having a negative effect on my husband and the staff, but when I raise my concern with the home manager, he makes it clear that there is nothing he can do”.
Why this care manager feels unable to take action is a complex mix of failing to understand the spectrum of care that is needed and failing to respect the individual’s needs and the impact their behaviour has on other people with dementia, as well as on their carers and families. It is also often about poor assessment of the patient’s needs, lack of resources, inadequate training and the low pay of staff. As Carers UK has stressed, carers often report challenges in finding appropriate services with the necessary expertise to provide the right care, environment and support—a problem faced by my noble friend Lord Wills, as he explained.
This failure to find adequate care means that it will be more difficult for families to accept practical help or take a respite break, as they do not have confidence in the quality and appropriateness of the care. Also, as evidence to the Dignity in Care Commission set up by Age UK, the NHS Confederation and the Local Government Association has shown, poor or neglectful care, even for just a few days, can have a devastating effect. Locally, I was told of a care home that billed itself as having a “specialist” dementia ward. However, the reality of the care it provided—or did not provide in this case—meant that an elderly lady admitted for respite care to give her husband a break deteriorated so badly during her short stay that she was unable to return home because she could no longer get to the toilet on her own or feed herself. She is now in permanent residential care. The respite experience pushed the husband over the edge and he was no longer able to cope.
As I always stress, there is of course good-quality care and best practice in day care, assessment centres and residential homes across the country, and the huge challenge, as usual, is to raise standards in the homes where there is poor care to their level. I pay tribute to key improvement tools such as the Age UK’s initiative, My Home Life, which promotes quality in care homes for older people. It is an exemplar programme that helps staff to optimise the quality of care in their homes and has the active support of the Relatives and Residents Association and the national provider organisations representing care homes across the UK.
For dementia, the need for more research, early diagnosis and the importance of providing integrated health and social care for people to improve services are key elements, as noble Lords have stressed. The Alzheimer’s Society’s estimate is that two-thirds of people living with dementia live in their own homes, and a third live in care homes. The reality, however, as we on these Benches have repeatedly stressed, is that current inadequacies and failures of the system will not be addressed without tackling the crisis in the funding of social care. As all key stakeholders in the voluntary, public and independent provider sectors, as well as care professionals and service users, have stressed, a full package of reforms that address legal, current and long-term funding is needed.
How can local authorities that are currently having to cut £1 billion from social care budgets provide adequate or improved community care support, not just for people with dementia but for people with other lifelong conditions such as stroke damage or diabetes, and for their carers and families? I understand that new figures revealed by the Alzheimer’s Society and MHP Health Mandate also reveal an alarming 12% increase in the number of emergency hospital admissions for people with dementia since 2006. Is this not evidence that the community services that are needed to help people live at home are woefully inadequate to meet current or future demand?
I ask the Minister if he can update the House on when spring will finally arrive and the social care White Paper will be published. What will it cover? We know it will focus on the reform of social care law, which is very important, but does he not agree that making changes to the legal rights and entitlements of elderly and disabled people without dealing with the issue of how the services are to be funded now and in the future will only create more expectation and demand that cannot be met?
On the question of improving early diagnosis, can the Minister update the House on what progress has been made by local NHS organisations in developing plans to improve diagnostic rates, as set out in the Prime Minister’s dementia challenge? The challenge also made £54 million available through the dementia Commissioning for Quality and Innovation—CQUIN—programme to hospitals offering dementia risk assessments to all over-75s admitted to their care. Can the Minister update the House on how many hospitals have received payments under this scheme and how many hospitals have offered such risk assessments to all over-75s?
On the issue of keeping track of how the national dementia strategy is being implemented, I understand from the Mental Health Foundation that Andrew Lansley at last year’s Dementia Action Alliance event promised that there would be an annual report on progress. This would be a really important lever to help drive through improvements. Can the Minister advise us on when the first annual report will be published?
Finally, as regards the White Paper, can I press the Minister, when he updates us, to advise us on whether it will set out a clear timetable for addressing the recommendations of the Dilnot report, as well as a full government commitment to the cross-party talks on this, and to standing by the Prime Minister’s pledge to deal with social care funding in this Parliament? As he knows, the Minister has promised the House that the Government will not shy away from tackling this issue. I have pressed him on this matter on a number of occasions, and I must say that his responses have become increasingly expansive as we have gone on.
On 11 June, he assured me that the Government are,
“absolutely committed to introducing legislation at the earliest opportunity in this Parliament to establish a sustainable legal framework for adult social care”.—[Official Report, 11/6/12; col. 1137-8.]
That much we of course knew by then but, on 18 June, the Minister assured me that the Government’s,
“aim has been and remains to legislate in this Parliament to create a fairer, more just and better funding system for social care”.—[Official Report, 18/6/12; col. 1542.]
So today I am hoping that he will be able to go the extra mile and commit the Government to producing a timetable in the very near future for consultation on the Dilnot recommendations, and for implementation of long-term funding proposals in this Parliament.
My Lords, I begin by congratulating the noble Lord, Lord Touhig, on securing this debate and thank him for his compelling speech. As all noble Lords have emphasised, dementia is one of the most important health and social care issues that we face as a society. The statistics are staggering. The 670,000 people with dementia in England will double over the next 30 years, and the current £19 billion cost will inevitably spiral.
Dementia affects not only health and social care but all of society, and the speeches today have brought that dimension graphically to life. We need to be better prepared. Dementia is a priority for this Government, and we are working to ensure that it becomes a priority for every part of our society—communities, banks, supermarkets and transport. All need to become dementia-aware and dementia-friendly. That is why, on 26 March, the Prime Minister set out the Government’s challenge on dementia, to go further and faster in implementing the national dementia strategy in three key areas: driving improvements in health and care, creating dementia-friendly communities and improving research into dementia.
I was grateful to my noble friend Lady Barker for what she said about the challenge. We do mean business in this important area. Nationally, three champion groups are driving delivery. The first meetings of the three groups have already taken place and work is well under way to make progress on the challenge. The champion groups will report their progress in September 2012 and again in March 2013.
People with dementia, their families and carers have told us what is important to them and what will help them to live well with dementia. They want to receive an early diagnosis and timely, good-quality information that will help them to make informed choices about their care. I listened with dismay to the story the noble Lord, Lord Wills, told us about his own mother in that context. They want the treatment and support they receive to be the best for their dementia and their life, regardless of whether they are cared for at home, in hospital or in a care home. They want the care they receive at the end of their life to be compassionate and appropriate and to support their exercise of choice.
Early identification of those who care for people with dementia is crucial so that they can be directed to the information, advice and support that will help them in their caring role. The NHS operating framework requires the NHS to work more closely than ever before with local carers’ organisations and councils to agree plans, pool their resources and make sure that carers get the support and breaks they deserve.
However, there are other reasons why change is so important. The challenging economic context, as noble Lords have emphasised, makes it even more important for new and more efficient models of service delivery. That is why we have launched an innovation challenge prize of £1 million for NHS organisations to develop ideas for transforming dementia care. Through the dementia care and support compact, the social care sector is committing to leading initiatives to improve the quality of care for people with dementia. That includes work to ensure that people with dementia are clear about what they have a right to expect of care services.
The noble Lord, Lord Wills, asked about the funding for all this. The Government have already made increased funding available to the NHS and many of the aims of the challenge should deliver savings. For example, the CQUIN goal of improving the recognition of dementia in hospital should lead to people with dementia spending less time in hospital, and ensuring that people with dementia are diagnosed early should stop them going into crisis. The Prime Minister’s challenge is about the NHS and social care making better use of the resources already available to them.
The noble Lord, Lord Touhig, asked about the eligibility criteria for care. The imminent White Paper on care and support—I stress that it is imminent—will set out our plans to transform the care and support system for everyone, including people with dementia. The noble Baronesses, Lady Pitkeathley and Lady Wheeler, asked me for further and better particulars on our plans for publishing the White Paper and indeed for reforming the funding of social care. The care and support White Paper and the progress report on funding reform for social care will be published simultaneously and, I hope, very shortly. I believe that I can go no further than I did the other day in responding to the noble Baroness, Lady Wheeler, but I can reaffirm the Government’s intention to legislate on both funding reform and the reform of the law on social care as early as possible in this Parliament. Clearly, following the publication of the White Paper and the draft Bill that will go with it, we will wish to hear from all sides of the House and indeed from all sectors of the community about the direction of travel and the detail of our ideas.
The noble Baroness, Lady Pitkeathley, asked about the role of GPs. As part of the Prime Minister’s challenge, we are actively working with the royal colleges to identify how best to improve early diagnosis through awareness, education and training at GP level. Early and accurate diagnosis is, as the noble Baroness and others emphasised, very important in ensuring that people with dementia can access the support and information that everyone needs when they receive the dismaying news of this dreadful condition.
My noble friend Lady Barker spoke about adaptations for those with multiple disabilities. I agree with what she said. It is important that designers think about people with dementia when designing products for older people. The department provided funding to the Design Council to run a project to encourage design for people with dementia. There were 185 entries, which shows that designers take this seriously and that the design community is very definitely rising to the challenge.
The noble Lord, Lord Wills, spoke about the Swindon project and innovation. I can tell him that we very much want to see good, innovative practice spread out across the NHS and social care. That is why we have launched the innovation challenge prize for dementia, to which I referred. We are very much looking at innovation as part of the implementation of the Prime Minister’s challenge. Incidentally, the dementia challenge is to achieve a dramatic reduction in the proportion of people who have undiagnosed dementia, with evidence of a step-change in the diagnosis rate and a strong service response. The challenges in this and other areas will be open for a minimum of three years, which should encourage health communities and organisations to confirm their intention to apply for a prize.
The noble Lord, Lord Wills, also referred to human rights. We very much welcomed the publication of the report of the EHRC inquiry into human rights in home care for older people. The report found evidence of mixed practice. While we should be positive about those who deliver good-quality care services—and there are many—there is no excuse for bad practice. We believe that the report performed a valuable service by shining a light on the care and support provided in that most private of spaces—people’s own homes. We cannot tolerate poor quality in any of our care services. I completely agreed with what the noble Baroness, Lady Greengross, said about training. Care and support that respects human rights must be the foundation on which we build to make a reality of our vision of better health and well-being and better care for all. We will continue to work with the EHRC, the Care Quality Commission, local authorities and care providers to ensure that poor practice is rooted out.
The noble Baroness referred, quite rightly, to workforce issues and training. We know that two-thirds of people in care homes have dementia, so it is vital that the workforce is trained in dementia care. Indeed, 10 leading care home and home care providers have already signed the dementia care and support compact to which I referred, and we aim to have 50 organisations signed up by September this year. The compact sets out the organisation’s commitment to deliver high-quality, relationship-based care and support for people with dementia. I think that that statement of intent gets the process off to the right start.
The noble Baroness, Lady Pitkeathley, rightly reminded us of the vital contribution that carers make to society, a theme taken up, very perceptively, if I may say so, by the noble Baroness, Lady Wheeler. The Government have taken strong action to support carers. We set out our priorities in Recognised, Valued and Supported: Next Steps for the Carers Strategy, published in November 2010, and we are providing additional funding of £400 million to the NHS between 2011 and 2015 for carers’ breaks. As we set out in Innovation Health and Wealth, published last December, from April 2013 access to all CQUIN rewards will be dependent on commissioning support for carers in line with NICE and SCIE guidelines.
Furthermore, the 2012-13 NHS operating framework requires the NHS to work more closely than ever before with local carers’ organisations and councils to agree plans, pool their resources and make sure that carers get the support and break that they deserve. I very much hope and believe that that will have a positive effect on the thousands of carers of people with dementia in England.
Although dementia can be a crushing condition, we must not lose sight of the fact that people do live well with it. We need a profound shift in culture and behaviour if we are to reduce the stigma of dementia. All too often dementia is ignored, and the work of carers and other professionals goes unrecognised. Business and civic organisations are part of the solution. They can help to create dementia-friendly communities where people with dementia and their carers can remain and do the things that we all take for granted, such as travelling around and shopping. As so often, my noble friend Lady Barker was completely right in what she said on this theme. We need to create communities in which people are not ashamed of or embarrassed by dementia.
As we have a few minutes in hand, with the leave of the House I will continue a little longer. We need to create communities that show a high level of public awareness and understanding about dementia, communities where people with dementia and their carers are encouraged to seek help and where people know enough about dementia to be able to help someone with the condition. By 2015, there will be at least 20 places recognised as working towards being a dementia-friendly community. Places and organisations that meet the criteria being developed as part of the Prime Minister’s challenge will be awarded dementia-friendly status. I can say to my noble friend Lady Barker that, as part of the dementia-friendly communities strand of the challenge, we are working with banks to ensure that they and their staff understand the needs of people with dementia and that staff are dementia-aware.
The noble Baroness, Lady Greengross, mentioned an important part of the Prime Minister’s challenge, dementia research, spanning basic research through to living well with dementia and increasing capacity and capability across the entire research system. It commits the National Institute for Health Research, the Medical Research Council and the Economic and Social Research Council to increasing funding for research into dementia from £26.6 million in 2009-10 to an estimated £66.3 million in 2014-15.
Over the next three years, the NIHR will support the four new NIHR biomedical research units for dementia, projects resulting from the recent NIHR-themed call for research on dementia, and additional work depending on the volume of high-quality applications received. In addition to the increase in funding for dementia, the MRC will spend over £3 million to support the UK brain banks network. This connects all the UK brain banks for the benefit of donors, researchers and future patients. This money includes £500,000 a year to improve the process for donating brain tissue by meeting the costs of collection through the NHS. The ESRC is making £5 million of additional funding available to fund research into the prevention of dementia and interventions to maximise the quality of life for people with the condition.
There is much that the Government are doing and much more yet to be done. To address the challenges of dementia, we need a response not only from the NHS but from society as a whole.
My Lords, as there is a little time—this is not my intervention—I want to place on record how enormously heartening I found the Minister’s response to the debate. I feel inspired by much of what he said and I want to put on record my thanks to him for his response.
My question is this: are there any milestones in place to measure progress in meeting the Prime Minister’s challenge and, if so, what are they?
My Lords, if the noble Lord will allow me, I shall write to him on that. The answer, broadly, is yes, we want to see progress made by certain steps of time. However, time does not permit me to spell that out now.
There are already significant signs of progress up and down the country. The Prime Minister’s challenge is about mobilising not only the NHS and local authorities but all the resources that our communities have to offer. A great deal of good work is already going on and is beginning to lead to a steady increase in diagnosis rates, which is promising. The result of that will, of course, be that many more people will get the treatment and care that they need and that their loved ones deserve. Long may this continue.
House adjourned at 6.06 pm.