Wednesday, 24 April 2013.
My Lords, welcome to the Grand Committee. In the likely event of a Division in the Chamber, the Committee will adjourn for 10 minutes.
My Lords, perhaps I may remind noble Lords that the timing for this debate is very tight. If Back-Bench speakers make sure that as soon as the clock shows four minutes, they sit down, or preferably just a few seconds beforehand, that will help us to stay on time and thus give everyone their due time to speak.
Education: Personal, Social and Health Education
Question for Short Debate
My Lords, having finally secured this debate, it is a great pleasure to have so many colleagues speaking in it, and I thank them all, and the Minister, for taking part. I come to this debate with one agenda. All of us are concerned about children and young people, and that they get the best possible chance both in school and in life. I very much look forward to what others have to say and how the Minister will respond.
I want to say at the start that I consider PSHE more of a concept than an actual subject in the curriculum, and I shall expand on that. I realise that things have moved on since we last attempted to hold this debate. There are proposals for the science curriculum, there is to be a curriculum review, and a Statement on PSHE. I know that the Minister understands the importance of PSHE because we have talked about it, and I want to ask him if after this debate he will meet interested colleagues to discuss how we might move forward positively. I know that the PSHE Association is seeking to form a coalition of interested organisations to support PSHE in schools. Would he also be prepared to meet such a coalition? I think that there is some confusion about what PSHE actually is, and I shall be interested to see if colleagues agree and whether they support my perceptions of it.
I shall begin with three brief anecdotes about the importance of PSHE. First, recently I was speaking at a reception held by a large and successful multinational company. I looked at its website to find out what the company looks for in its employees, and I was impressed to see a huge emphasis on communication skills, team work and the fostering of good relationships. That echoes what the CBI has said, which is that young people should be “rounded and grounded” by the time they leave school. The second anecdote is about a primary school in east London. The head teacher, who co-ordinates PSHE in the school, and six of its pupils came to talk to the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Children, which I chair, about their experiences. A few years ago, the school was in trouble as the result of disruptive behaviour, poor achievement and low morale. The new head teacher instituted a programme of PSHE in the school. It now has policies on behaviour, it has been made explicit that respectful behaviour towards others is a cornerstone of school life, and specific lessons are held on, for example, friendship, bullying and helping others. The school is now high-flying and successful. It is not surprising that a report commissioned by the Department for Education in 2012 found that,
“children with higher levels of emotional, behavioural, social and school wellbeing, on average, have higher levels of academic achievement and are more engaged in school”.
The third anecdote concerns meeting a school doctor who said to me, “You know, if you instil good health habits in children, they stick. Also, I know many examples where children have influenced parental health behaviour, like in smoking and diet”. I want to explore what the problem is about the Government making PSHE statutory. I know that it is a clunky and bureaucratic word, and we may want to explore that as well.
There are some myths about PSHE. One is that it is a single school subject such as maths or history, that teachers are not trained to do it, and that until they are trained it cannot be delivered. Another myth, as we all know, is that it is all about inappropriate sex education. Every child should be able to do as well as possible in school. A school that creates an ethos of respect and learning will support such achievement. All teachers in such a school are teaching PSHE, either in the classroom or outside it, which is about kindness, working in teams, listening to others and thinking about how one’s behaviour affects others. Teachers are helping children to gain confidence in their own abilities.
Most subjects, in fact, contribute to PSHE in one form or another—for example, PE, music, English and biology. This is why I have some concerns about the potential diminishing of, for example, art and sport in schools. It is not one thing or the other. It is not just a matter of either being academic or learning personal and social skills. Both should live together and, of course, in many schools they do.
Schools may have specific lessons on, for example, drugs, alcohol, sexual relationships, first aid, healthy eating and internet safety. The lessons may begin with a simple concept in primary school. We know that young children will not appreciate the chemical make-up of certain foods. They can appreciate that fruit is good for you and some things are not. Young children cannot appreciate the niceties of contraception, or the danger of sexually transmitted infections or early pregnancy. They can appreciate that respecting other people and being a good friend makes for good relationships. They can appreciate that some behaviours are risky; after all, we teach them how to cross roads and not to run in corridors.
I recognise that teachers cannot know about many issues related to health education. When I taught it many years ago, we had a programme of visitors, and many schools still have one—St John Ambulance for first aid, the police for road safety, a nurse for sexual relationships and diet, an MP or local councillor to talk about government and citizenship, or guides and scouts on teamwork and volunteering. All this is important stuff.
Every child matters. Every child needs PSHE—some more than others and some desperately. Some schools do a great job. Others, perhaps a minority, are, frankly, not interested. This is why, to protect children and to enhance their education, we need a strong statement from the Government about the importance of PSHE. Schools have for many years delivered PSHE in many different ways. I am asking for all schools to be required to deliver it and ensure that they are doing so, however it is delivered.
We know that PSHE teaches children to think. Is that not what education is about? I know that UNICEF’s Rights Respecting Schools initiative has overwhelming evidence that school ethos can be improved by emphasis on relationships and behaviour. We know that children grow and change. Inputs should be made every year as they gain knowledge and experience, such as in English and maths. Pupils need to discuss these issues. They live in a complex world—life is very complex nowadays for children. The internet is wonderful but has its drawbacks, as we all know. Children need the skills to make informed decisions.
What I mean by statutory PSHE is two-fold. First, every school should have a policy and ethos that parents and pupils understand about what kind of relationships and behaviours will be promoted in that school. Secondly, every school should ensure that there is a programme, year on year, for every child in which they can learn, according to age, about drugs and alcohol, first aid, the importance of healthy food and exercise, sex and relationships, risky behaviour and so on. Parents, governors and inspectors would understand this.
Do the Government understand that for some children feeling safe in school and developing self-respect and confidence are precursors to being able to learn and achieve? Do the Government realise that certain health behaviours, such as obesity, are so risky that they will cost the country millions of pounds to deal with in the future? Such health behaviours can be prevented or mitigated, partly, in school.
I will briefly restate my case. First, statutory provision for PSHE does not mean a prescribed programme. Statutory means that every school is expected to deliver a clear statement on behaviour and ethos. Secondly, every school is expected to ensure that, year on year, pupils will be entitled to learn about what constitutes a healthy lifestyle. It is not really that complicated. There are examples of excellent practice. I am asking simply that all pupils in all schools should have the right to this programme of PSHE. Again, I thank noble Lords and look forward to the debate.
My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Massey of Darwen, for whom I have enormous respect and regard, for securing this debate and for the excellent speech with which she has opened it. This is an important debate. It raises the question of just what the school curriculum should provide for young people and how that should be delivered.
In my hearty endorsement of the importance of personal, social and health education, I would like to broaden the debate to more than simply what PSHE in the curriculum can offer to young people. I hasten to say that I in no way question the place for PSHE in the curriculum, but I question whether this range of topics does not belong just as much to what parents, family and wider society should be providing, and to all that can and should be provided by good teachers of traditional subjects in a broad and balanced curriculum.
Much of the sense of self, and the confidence that we seek to develop in children, come not from what a teacher says but the way in which the school conducts its business, its overall ethos. In its briefing for this debate, the PSHE Association claims that PSHE education instils “knowledge, skills and confidence”. But these come from achievement across the whole curriculum. Confidence belongs to a well educated, happy young person, who has experienced a school life where aspiration and hard work are rewarded, teachers command respect and pupils have the confidence that comes from high achievement.
Experience shows that giving young people real responsibility, treating them with respect and applying rules that honour fairness and honesty are the most effective tools for developing both self-respect and respect for others. Offering trust to young people inspires trustworthiness, which can reduce bullying and violence as well as everyday disruptive behaviour. PSHE should not be seen as a substitute for the more powerful ways of conveying values and instilling respect for others.
I know that many noble Lords will emphasise the importance of both drugs education and sex education—the noble Baroness has already said that is not the whole story. I endorse the need for this, although I would expect biology and PE teachers to have a role here as well. The more young people understand the whole story of dangers in taking drugs, including excess alcohol consumption, the more likely they will be able to make informed choices. However, again I caution against the assumption that information will in itself determine behaviour. The same applies to sex education. Young people are subject to all too many external factors as or more powerful than anything a teacher says in whatever lesson. The school can balance those external factors only by the way in which its whole ethos conveys a sense of integrity and self-confidence in young people, enabling them to stand against some of the pressures that lead to difficult and destructive behaviour.
The 2011 Demos report notes the importance of,
“the ability to communicate effectively, apply oneself to a task, commit to long-term goals, and work effectively in a team”.
These skills and attitudes are the job of every subject teacher—science, maths, history, English, PE, music and all the rest—and to claim them as the province of PSHE can be damaging. Indeed, the way in which the whole school’s ethos is imbued with the values that create confident, achieving—and, yes, happy—young people must be the focus of all those concerned, from the governors, head and teachers to the caretakers and kitchen staff. PSHE has an important role to play in this, but it is only a part and it should take care not to claim territory that belongs to the curriculum as a whole and to the totality of the school’s message. This is too important for us to get it wrong.
My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Massey, for instigating this very important debate. Whether it is healthy lifestyles; whether it is sex and relationship education; whether it is education about drugs, alcohol or tobacco; whether it is dealing with bullying or abuse issues; whether it is bereavement or mental health problems; whether it is developing positive relationships or parenting skills; whether it is about employability or enterprise proficiency, should we not, as a society, ensure that our young people have the opportunity at school to understand and cope with these issues? Do we not owe it to young people, and to society as a whole, to educate them to understand these matters? It is simply not good enough for the “voices off-stage” to say, “Leave it to the parents”, or, indeed, for individual schools to decide whether or not they want to teach these subjects. We need to be strong and say, “Yes, these issues do matter”. They matter in particular to the well-being of our young people.
PSHE education should not be an add-on for schools to “take off the shelf” as and when they please. It should be an integral part of each pupil’s learning and of the learning ethos of each and every school. How do we know that it is important to teach these activities? There is a huge bank of research to draw on. Take, for example, the use and effectiveness of anti-bullying strategies in schools: research shows that PSHE education was unanimously rated as having a positive effect in preventing bullying. Take drugs and alcohol: a national poll of more than 7,000 young people shows that 95% said that PSHE education had helped them think about the risks of drugs, and another 80% said that it had helped them avoid them altogether.
Obesity has become the biggest public health crisis facing the UK and, indeed, the National Health Service. It is no good saying that we should educate children about healthy food if we do not include schools in addressing the issue. The recent high-profile child abuse cases again show how important it is to keep children and young people safe by developing their knowledge, skills and confidence. PSHE education provides the opportunity to explore these issues in detail and offers the first line of defence against violence and abuse. Interestingly, the youth democracy group, Bite the Ballot, carried out a survey of 5,000 young people. Those who took part in the survey said that there was a lack of attention paid to these issues in school. The organisation has put its money where its mouth is and recommends in its published youth manifesto,
“raising awareness, encouraging responsibility and promoting the wellbeing of young people in society”
through the enhancement of PSHE in schools.
The good news is that in the most recent Ofsted inspection, which covered an albeit small sample of schools, PSHE education was judged to be “good” or “outstanding” in three-quarters of the schools visited, and at least “satisfactory” in all but one of the schools surveyed. Among the issues raised was that parents were rarely consulted about their children’s PSHE education. I think that they should be consulted about it. However, good practice included schools using peer-mentoring schemes whereby pupils were trained to use their skills to support their classmates. The most effective model seen was one in which discrete, regular PSHE lessons were supplemented with cross-curricular activities. PSHE must be part of every pupil’s schooling. It should be part of initial training programmes and of the Ofsted inspection framework. In this way we can ensure that our young people are best equipped to face the problems and challenges that no doubt will confront them in their future years.
My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Massey of Darwen, for securing this vital debate. Our National Health Service is going through a very difficult period with the financial constraints put upon it. We have more cases of sexually transmitted diseases than any other European country. Some of these conditions are becoming resistant to drug treatment. Health education is vital if people are to take responsibility for their health and well-being. Prevention of infectious diseases is crucial. We need to do far better. Health education has been neglected for far too long. It should be part of all school curriculums so that children grow up realising how important good health is. They are our future.
We need to equip children with skills to prevent infections and help others by knowing what to do when bleeding, heart attacks, unconsciousness and serious injury occur. For instance, they should know the importance of not sitting someone up when they have a suspected spinal fracture. Children at school should learn first aid. They can learn fast. Emergency life support—ELS—skills are particularly important in cases of cardiac arrest, when the heart stops pumping blood. It takes only a few minutes for irreversible brain damage to occur. One has only to remember when the noble Lord, Lord Brennan, collapsed in the Chamber of your Lordships’ House and his life was saved by the quick action of the noble Lord, Lord Darzi. Properly trained children can be as effective as adults. They are often present when emergencies occur. If first aid was a mandatory part of education in schools and colleges, many people would benefit, including teachers.
Children need to learn about healthy eating and the dangers of drug and alcohol abuse. The House of Lords Select Committee on HIV and AIDS in the UK found that current provision of teaching on HIV in schools is inadequate. Many children will experience accidents in the home, on the playing fields or taking part in sport. They will witness their parents or grandparents, or members of the public, suffer strokes and heart attacks, or school friends and siblings having diabetic, asthmatic or epileptic attacks, or choking on a sweet. Surely, preventing illness and learning to save lives will make young people and their teachers more capable and responsible, and useful members of society.
My Lords, I, too, am very grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Massey, both for asking this Question and for the impressive way in which she set the context for our discussion this afternoon. PSHE is a crucial element of our education system and one which could be the key to much of our learning, because it is an area in which values can be inculcated and discussed. I am reminded of that WB Yeats quotation:
“Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire”.
PSHE is one of the places in which that fire should be lit. It is crucial that teachers are trained in the development of those values that should underpin our culture and society.
It is only too easy to take up a default position which concentrates on particular symptoms of cultural failing, whether that is teenage pregnancy, obesity or whatever it may be. There were times in my own children’s education when, so far as I could see, the one unforgivable sin in our society was smoking. There is much to be said for discouraging smoking but far more for encouraging reflection on what values should inform our society, whether they are respect for others, listening to minority voices, generosity to those in need, truth-telling or whatever. The chapter on values in the Children’s Society report The Good Childhood is an excellent starting place to develop a concept not only of a “values school” but of a “values society”, where young people can be inspired and encouraged.
All that can be summed up in the need to develop our emotional intelligence. The life skills by which we make choices are even more crucial than the individual targets on pregnancy or alcoholism, valuable though those are. I would be grateful if the Minister would comment on how emotional intelligence is itself best targeted. In this context, I particularly value the phrase “training the habits of the heart” to describe this search.
Secondly, I would value comment on the relationship between PSHE and religious studies. Religious studies can so easily become a factual description of the rituals and beliefs of particular religious traditions. While that has its value, it is much more crucial that young people are taught to explore their own and others’ spirituality, whether that is in a religious or a non-religious context. The relationship between spirituality and emotional intelligence seems to be two very closely related concepts that are not quite the same thing. It is something that our education system ought to be exploring, and it ought to be important in the way we encourage children.
It is crucial that this debate leads to a real endorsement and enhancement of the quality of PSHE. I look forward to the Minister’s comments on how that can best happen.
My Lords, I shall address just one topic; the need for first aid and life-saving skills to be a mandatory part of the curriculum, ideally as an element of PSHE. I hope to do so without repeating too many of the excellent points made by my noble friend Lady Masham of Ilton. In doing so, I declare my interest as a trustee of St John Cymru Wales, the leading first aid, youth and volunteering charity in Wales.
Every year in the UK, some 60,000 people suffer cardiac arrests outside hospital; two-thirds at home, and the other third in a public setting. With every minute that passes their chances of survival decrease by about 10%. Therefore, whether there is someone on the scene trained in the necessary skills, such as providing CPR or to use a defibrillator if available, can be a matter of life and death. By the way, nearly half of the cardiac arrests that occur in public are witnessed by bystanders who are not infrequently children.
There is clear evidence that first aid training works. It is already compulsory in many countries including Norway, Denmark, France and 36 US states, and 80% of residents in Scandinavia and Germany have first aid skills. The survival rate in Norway from shockable cardiac arrests is 52%; in the UK it varies from between 2% and 12% depending on where you are unlucky or lucky enough to be. In Seattle, where 50% of the population are trained in emergency life saving, the survival rate is two and a half times ours.
These are not difficult skills to acquire and the basic training can take as little as two hours. Several organisations offer well designed teaching packages to deliver it, including the British Heart Foundation and the Red Cross, as well as St John itself. I have been on two training courses here at Westminster; one run by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on First Aid, on which I serve along with my noble friend, and the other by the Parliament Safety, Health and Wellbeing service. Luckily, nobody has yet had to depend on my skills, and I hope that they will not have to.
St John Cymru Wales’s young life saver scheme offers training covering 11 different aspects of first aid, from initial assessment to getting the patient into the recovery position, and dealing with issues such as choking, asthma, bleeding, fractures, burns, poisoning and heart attacks, as well as giving CPR. The whole course takes seven to eight hours and is offered at both primary and secondary school levels from age seven upwards.
Since 2005 about 20,000 children have been taught basic first aid by St John in Wales, and there are a growing number of stories of young people successfully applying their skills to save lives, often of a parent, sibling or school friend. In getting myself briefed for this debate, I have been inundated with examples. For instance, a 10 year-old schoolboy at Abercarn primary school, Elliot Dunn, saved his mother from choking on a hazelnut using the technique he had learnt at school.
The British Heart Foundation estimates the cost of offering such training as no more than about £2,200 per school. Not only are these valuable skills to possess, but they are fun to learn, highly practical and can enhance children’s sense of self-worth. A BHF survey in 2011 found that 86% of teachers felt that emergency life saving should be in the curriculum, as did 70% of parents, and 78% of children wanted to be taught it. I am sympathetic to the Government’s desire to give schools as much freedom as possible to determine the details of their own curriculum. However, in relation to first aid skills, and despite what teachers, parents and students want, this approach just is not working. Only 13% of young people leave school with any life saving training, which is less than one in seven.
First aid and emergency life saving skills should be an essential part of
“pupils’ skills and knowledge relevant to growing up in the United Kingdom”,
as stated in today’s Motion. Despite good intentions all round, not nearly enough schools are teaching these skills. We should aim to be up with the field, not lagging behind in giving our students the skills to prevent their fellow citizens losing their lives when they could be saved by prompt and effective first aid.
My Lords, effective personal, social and health education can be achieved only through an active partnership between teachers, parents and government. It is primarily for that reason, given that PSHE embraces all people who might have any interest in or concern with education, that it cannot be defined in statutory terms. It is part of the life of a school, and any headmaster or headmistress worth their salt is going to ensure that PSHE is part of the education of those children. They cannot operate the school effectively without it. It has to be there.
None the less, a substantial framework has been set out by the Department for Education, which elaborates in enormous detail the sort of teaching that could be provided under this heading for children aged between five and seven. It is very comprehensive but we have to be careful about how much we try to push into a child at an early age. We must guard against force-feeding children with adult knowledge and information. They can acquire it best in their own time and in their own development. Of course it needs stimulus and encouragement but it should not be thrust down their throats.
As the noble Baroness, Lady Massey, said, it is in the earliest years that the habit of learning can best be acquired. It is then, when the mind is at its freshest and its capacity to absorb knowledge is at its greatest, that attitudes for future conduct can best be shaped. This was well underlined in a report sent out by the Children’s Society. Its leaflet states:
“Childhood is the time of our most rapid learning, of absorbing extraordinary amounts of new information and acquiring new skills and interests. The pleasure, sense of self and personal growth that children find in learning and discovery is something that is essential for each and every child’s emotional well-being”.
However, we need to be alert to the fact that children are these days subject to the most enormous pressures and hideous influences. Noble Lords may well have seen an interesting article in the New Statesman recently—an essay by Rafael Behr, headed “Generation X-rated”, and with the sub-heading:
“Never has it been so easy for young children to watch violent pornography”.
Claire Perry, the honourable Member for Devizes, who advises the Prime Minister on childhood and internet safety, told Rafael Behr:
“Some parents are in digital oblivion. They have no idea what their children are doing with computers and phones”.
I read another article recently by Barbara McMahon in the Times on 26 March, in which she said:
“Research suggests that children of preschool age are spending increasing time with their faces a few inches away from screens instead of entertaining themselves with traditional toys or reading books”.
Lisa Guernsey, author of Screen Time, was quoted as saying:
“The greatest touch screen in the world of a child is an adult face”.
This is not alarmist talk. It is happening in the real world and children have what has been referred to as an electronic bedsit that parents are often not allowed to enter. We have to guard ourselves against these things and be alert to what is going on in the real world. That requires participation in all elements of children’s education.
My Lords, I, too, congratulate my noble friend Lady Massey on leading this debate. Her support for this subject has been assiduous and she has shown real leadership over the years that I have known her. I thank her for keeping it on the agenda.
I have listened carefully to what noble Lords have said and agree with the main thrust of the argument, but with one or two caveats or differences of emphasis which I will just point out. Of course it need not be a discrete subject and of course it is about the ethos of the school and things like that. To sum it up, it is about what we teach, how we teach and the type of place a school is. All those things are important, and need a bit of space on the curriculum. Personal, social and health education is a body of knowledge as well as a set of attitudes and a number of skills. Sometimes, we almost find refuge in the view that we do not need to worry, as it will be covered by good English teachers or good maths teachers, or by the good old PE teacher or the religious education teacher. Because we have had that attitude and have never really got the subject to the top of the priority list, it has never been taught as effectively as it might be. There is a big difference between teaching it and children learning. Very often, we tick the box as “done” when we have made sure that it has been taught, but we really should tick the box when we are sure that students have learnt. There is still a big gap between teaching it and students learning it in this area of the curriculum and of knowledge. When we think about what we want for our own children—when we describe the sort of citizens we would want children to be—we mention much of what would be covered in this area of the curriculum and of knowledge. That is the nature of its importance.
Crucially, although I do not think that children do not have the facts about some of the difficult issues to do with health education or sex education, I believe that they do not necessarily have the ability to make the right decision at the right time. We all know from our own lives how difficult that is. It is very much an adult skill which we need children to gain pretty early on in their lives. That will not be taught in maths or in English, or necessarily in science or PE. Around that is what is missing when we have tackled how this subject should be taught. I am traditional about this. We know what makes a good teacher, what makes effective teaching and what brings success, but we do not have them in PSHE, which is the problem.
I have five comments that I want to throw into the debate. First, the subject area needs to be valued: schools, students and teachers need to know it is important. I have not heard the Secretary of State make a speech about PSHE and I am not really sure what the Government’s policy is. I cannot think of even a handful of ways in which this Government have given the message to the school system that PSHE is important. Secondly, we need recognition for pupil progress and achievement. We have that in the academic subjects but we do not have that in this subject. Thirdly, we need to train teachers. Fourthly, there is a best practice pedagogy. There are good and bad ways of peer mentoring, and teachers need to know what the effective ways are. Fifthly, it would be great to have one of our leading heads say, “I started my career as a PSHE teacher”. That route to school leadership has not yet happened. Although no one is against PSHE, my worry is that we are not sufficiently for it to get it to the top of the agenda. We can make nice speeches and feel comfortable with it, but unless we look at why students are not learning it as effectively as they might do, we will not make the progress that this subject certainly needs and deserves.
My Lords, I will make three points. First, I strongly support the calls of the noble Baronesses, Lady Massey of Darwen and Lady Morris, for a strengthening of the position of PSHE in the curriculum. Earlier this afternoon, I had the good fortune to speak to pupils and teachers from Leamington Spa’s Trinity Catholic School, which is particularly strong on pastoral care and particularly reaches out to young people who are looked after by local authorities. I spoke to one pupil who has her PSHE lesson on Monday mornings, in which she is currently studying child labour in the developing world. She was animated; it was interesting her. I spoke to one of the teachers responsible for teaching the subject in the school, who said that the status of this subject was low among other teachers and it is not respected. She also said that it is difficult to teach and teachers need to be well trained to deliver it properly. She pointed out that, particularly in her school, many children do not hear what they need to know from their parents, and they get that in these classes.
My second point concerns governors. I was speaking to the same head teacher, I think, as the noble Baroness, Lady Massey—the primary school head teacher who had turned around three schools using PSHE. I listened with great care to what the noble Baroness, Lady Perry of Southwark, and the noble Lord, Lord Eden of Winton, said about school ethos. Interestingly, the head teacher used PSHE as the basis for developing an ethos within the school that respected relationships, where relationships between pupils, pupils and teachers, and the school and parents were fundamental. She also found, as the noble Baroness, Lady Massey, said, that if you get the relationships right, the learning takes place. I hope that is somewhat reassuring to the noble Baroness and the noble Lord. To some extent I share the noble Lord’s concern about the possible hijacking of some political correctness in terms of sex education. We need to watch that carefully but should not stop doing this because of those concerns.
The head teacher I spoke to had the first chartered PSHE education teacher in her school, in 2008. Since then, we have three chartered PSHE teachers; there may be more now. What is happening to move that ahead? Why is the progress so slow? Perhaps I may also ask the Minister about training for teachers in child development. This should be available to all teachers and would underpin success, particularly in this area as it deals with the emotional development of children.
I remember working with a 10 year-old child about five years ago on a summer play scheme on which I had a placement. This child was attention-seeking and getting into fights with other children; he caused us all a great deal of anxiety and we were not able to attend so well to other children because of him. In the lunch hour, he would sit in an old tyre and rock himself. After 10 days of working with that child, I sat in the back of a minibus with him and heard that he was just about to be moved into his new adoptive home. This child had experienced trauma, he was at a very difficult stage in his life, and of course he had regressed towards the behaviour of a three year-old or a five year-old.
It is very important that teachers understand child development so that they can understand why a child is behaving in such a way. Is it simply misbehaviour? Is something going on in the home? Teachers should have the understanding to be able to work their way through this. I ask the Minister: how is he working with Charlie Taylor, the head of Education England, to ensure that with the welcome progress being made in teacher training, this essential element of child development is being embedded?
My Lords, no debate on this subject in your Lordships’ House would be quite complete without a bishop talking about sex. To adapt my right reverend friend’s remarks: how do we light the fire for this subject in our schools?
There is a difficult background to the sexual—by which I mean the mainly heterosexual and relational —chaos that is all too evident in our society, which impacts in particularly negative ways upon children and young people. We have heard reference to the statistics for sexually transmitted diseases—I think there are more than 1 million consultations a year in this country; quite horrendous—and then divorce, the abortion rate, underage pregnancy and much more. All this points to a great deal of misery; in fact, probably the greatest source of poverty in our society comes from relational breakdown and all that goes with it. In addition, we have the distasteful flood-tide of pornography, to which the noble Lord, Lord Eden, rightly referred, which cheapens sexuality in all sorts of ways.
So what do we do? Improvements to sex-and-relationship education must be part of the answer. Of course, some call for a curriculum that is determined by central government. Alongside this there is a demand for compulsory sexual relationship education in primary schools, which, as I understand it, is currently at the discretion of the governing body although it needs to have a policy on the subject. For my part, I can see the case for sex-and-relationship education in the late primary years so long as it does not feed the premature sexualisation of children and childhood, to which the noble Lord, Lord Eden, referred. That is a real problem today, driven largely by commercial interests. These are sensitive issues and I believe that it would be a mistake to centralise the approach in schools even if the Government have a very important advisory role in communicating good practice.
Consultations on PSHE clearly support the crucial role of parents. Schools should have the flexibility to ensure that this sensitive subject is tackled in line with both the ethos of a particular school and the parental wishes, which need to be determined. The law as it stands provides for this and the challenge is to improve the operation of the current law rather than to try to force solutions by a change to it. There are widespread problems with parenting in our society but the answer is not to lessen parental responsibility and involvement but to renew our efforts to improve and educate people about the role of parents. The centralised nature of the curriculum provides scope for this in theory but in practice its implementation is very patchy. In some schools, governors and head teachers consult parents and let them know when the subject is to be taught so that parents can follow it up appropriately at home. However, it seems that best practice is often not followed and governors as well as parents can get frustrated as they are bypassed and as local authorities advocate perhaps controversial material for schools to use. Will the Minister comment on this and respond to three suggestions for any revision to the circular which was referred to earlier?
The first is the need for governors formally to consult parents on this matter and take that seriously before determining with school staff the curriculum for a school. The second is the need for local authorities to make clear that any advice which they offer is advice, that the governors have the responsibility for this issue, in dialogue with the best expert and professional advice, and that governors cannot shirk that responsibility. The third suggestion concerns the need to communicate regularly with parents in determining the curriculum and in letting them know how it is being delivered and when so that it can be followed up in the parental home. That, I believe, would at least make a start in the right direction.
I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Massey, for bringing forward the debate eventually. I support many of the comments that noble Lords have made about skills and values. However, I would like to concentrate on sex education and pick up the question of pornography.
A few weeks ago, I sat in the bedroom of a 15 year-old boy. Together we looked at a website that, at a touch of a button, conjured up hundreds of pornographic films in 32 different categories which I will not embarrass noble Lords by mentioning. This young boy admits that his porn addiction is a barrier to having a relationship because real girls do not conform to the images he sees online. This 15 year-old bitterly regrets this situation. Imagine bitterly regretting such a thing at the age of 15 when he is not yet supposed to be having sex. As uncomfortable as it is for us to acknowledge this, his experience is becoming a new normal—it is not an unusual thing. Multiple studies, including a recent one from Boston University’s School of Public Health which reported on the rise of teen group sex, show that sexual activity among teens is increasingly reflective of commercial sexual fantasy, including its very damaging gender stereotyping. Nearly a third of all girls between 13 and 17 report having engaged in unwanted sexual acts demanded by a partner, which is a terrible blurring of the concept of consent that goes way into adulthood. Children and young adults need a less heightened environment in which to rehearse their route to being self-respecting and respectful sexual beings.
With only minimal changes to the proposed curriculum, the Government have the opportunity to ensure that primary science teaches about the changes brought on by puberty, provides a formal setting for the naming of genitalia and delivers a clear understanding of reproduction. As children get to key stage 3, experiences of adolescence, hormonal change, sexual health and disease contextualised in a science lesson would do much to give children confidence in the quality of the information they have about their bodies, while PSHE provides a broader and more discursive forum in which young people can learn about many of the complex issues they face in this area.
A recent report from the Department of Health, A Framework for Sexual Health Improvement in England, puts the emphasis for the under 16s on building knowledge and resilience and for those who are 16 plus on access to high quality services and information to provide knowledge of what sex is, resilience against the sexualised imagery that dictates inappropriate behaviours and confidence to resist the pressures that result in unwanted or abusive sexual activity. No young person should be isolated or ignorant on their journey to sexual maturity. It is disappointing that the Government have not yet made PSHE a statutory requirement, but they could undertake to make more explicit the relationship between the statutory requirement to provide for the mental and physical development of children and the provision of PSHE in our schools.
In my view, PSHE should provide not only sex education, it should include sophisticated learning about the internet itself. It should be learning that explores and emphasises its wonders, but does not duck any of the problems it produces, not least the unremitting backdrop of commercially driven sexual content. We have to be careful not to vilify parents. They are struggling to police their children on the net and many of the young people I speak to do not wish to discuss intimate bodily functions with their parents. I fear that if we do not grasp the opportunity to offer high status, high quality PSHE, the realpolitik is that we will leave the sex education of many young people to the pornographers.
My Lords, I, too, thank my noble friend Lady Massey of Darwen for securing this debate and introducing it so well. I want to bring a slightly different dimension to our debate and talk about the social and political context in which education needs to be seen and located. After all, we are asking what new skills and knowledge are needed in order that people can grow up in our society as sane human beings. Our society has changed profoundly over the past few decades and it is going to change even more. That will present the citizens of the future with new challenges. I want to look in particular at three of these new challenges which have not yet been noted in our debate.
First, there is the challenge caused by globalisation. We are an integral part of an interdependent world. The rest of the world is not beyond our boundaries; in fact, the expression “the rest of the world” does not make sense because it is already here in our midst, shaping us in a profound way. That is so not only in the form of immigrants, but also in the form of new cultures and new modes of ideas. The very idea of a border becomes in a sense problematical. Because we are constantly being exposed to new currents of thought and new ideas, there is inevitably a sense of panic. What is going to happen to us? There is a sense of disorientation and the loss of a sense of belonging. Our children, from a very young age, are faced with the problems of, “Who am I? Where do I belong? How do I retain a sense of continuity while at the same time coping with change?”. The first basic survival skill that they are going to need will be how to maintain a sense of identity that is not frozen. It must be able to cope with change, but at the same time it should not be like a set of clothes which can be discarded in favour of another set. We will have to teach them reflective skills from a young age.
The second profound change our society is undergoing is that we are increasingly multicultural. This is not only because of outsiders but because of choices that our own people are making, such as gay marriage, cohabitation and lots of other things. If we are going to live at peace with ourselves and others in this kind of society, we will require certain multicultural competences and sensibilities. We should learn to appreciate differences, feel at ease in their presence, and also develop an imaginative sympathy. Right from the age of two or three, children should be able to recognise that people can be of different colours and have different ways of life, and feel at ease with them and learn to cope with them. That skill is absolutely crucial as children grow up if we are going to maintain any degree of social cohesion and social harmony.
The third skill that I think is just as important has to do with something that one or two of your Lordships have already mentioned. There is a pervasive culture of indifference to others. We have seen severe cuts to people’s livelihoods brought about by the banking crisis, which I thought would have provoked an enormous sense of injustice and anger. It did not do anything of the kind. Bankers seem to be shameless; what are the rest of us doing? We who failed to mount sufficient pressure on the Government to bring about a regulatory regime are complicit in and partly responsible for the consequences of our deeds. Therefore, these cuts are not happening behind our backs; they are happening because of us.
It is this culture of indifference—“I have nothing to do with it, it is all the Government over there taking decisions”—that has to be countered. That involves a sense of compassion, concern for others and, going a little further, what some philosophers have called the ethical care of the self—a certain sense of pride in oneself, a sense of responsibility for oneself, so that one should be able say, with regard to health education, sex education, or whatever, “I am not that kind of person. I value myself too highly to become pregnant as a teenager or to engage in certain abominable practices”. If one had that kind of pride in oneself, which is more than self-respect and different from self-esteem, one would not dream of doing certain things. Can we instil that culture of care of the self in our children? If we do, we will have solved many of our problems without having recourse to technology or bureaucratic regulation.
My Lords, I add my sincere thanks to the noble Baroness, Lady Massey, for having secured this debate, which is extremely important.
Our schools are now labouring against a much bigger problem than in the past. In the days when we went to school, figures relating to society were far better. Just to quote a few, the UK now has the highest rate of family breakdown in the western world and only just over half—55%—of 15 year-olds live with both their birth parents. That is a huge social change. Children are considerably more likely to have a television in the bedroom than a father living at home. We also know from good, sound research that 80% of variability in pupil achievement is attributable to so-called pupil factors, particularly family influence, so schools are struggling against a huge backdrop of problems that children may be bringing in with them, which are not the children’s fault.
I will touch briefly on emergency first aid, which has already been covered by the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, and the noble Baroness, Lady Masham. I cannot but join wholeheartedly with their comments. If there was one thing that every child should learn, it would be the two hours of CPR. The children are very likely to be on the scene when the person concerned drops dead. Even though there is only a 15% chance of success, if unsuccessful, they can in their grief be consoled that they did everything they could.
I know of a woman, now in her 60s, who in her late teens found her father dead in the chair, and she has never recovered from the fact that she did not know what to do. She did not even know how to try. She just dived for a telephone and waited, and of course her father was dead. If only she had known to give him one thump on the chest, she might have felt better about the whole of her life. But it is not just about CPR. It is about coping with bleeding, choking, fractures—the real basics. Young people are the ones at risk of those; they are the ones at risk off falling of a horse, falling down a cliff face and so on.
As regards the life skills with which we are trying to equip children, they are about relationships. We are not dealing with only the nuts and bolts, if you like, of sex; we are dealing with the whole business of relating and coping with all the emotions that go on. Sadly, we have seen a rise in the number of girls reporting non-consensual sex from 28% in 2002 to 38% in 2008. Something is wrong and we cannot ignore it.
We also have to help children to cope with all those difficult emotions. EU Kids Online looked at children’s concerns on the internet and found that 22% are concerned about pornography and 18% about violent content. We know that between 1995-96 and 2005-06 there was a 66% increase in the hospitalisation of 12 to 14 year-olds from for self-harm. We have the data from the report on child well-being in rich countries and we do not do well. The United Kingdom does appallingly on teenage fertility rates. We rank badly for alcohol being drunk twice a week and children having used cannabis in the last 10 months. But we also do badly on children being involved in a physical fight and in being bullied at school at least once in the past couple of months. All of those are negative influence on children’s emotional development.
Unless we grasp the nettle, tackle this, make it part of our statutory provision and value the need to teach children all the aspects of thinking and relationships, we will continue to fail, as we seem to be doing now. I ask the Minister: where is the Government’s teenage strategy? What is happening to that group who appear to be invisible in policy?
My Lords, I join colleagues in thanking my noble friend Lady Massey of Darwen for securing this debate, and it comes on the eve of the Children and Families Bill coming to this House. I would like to concentrate my remarks on PSHE and its impact on youngsters with special educational needs.
Last year, I sat on a commission set up by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Autism. We looked at reform of the special educational needs system and we produced a report, The Right Start: Reforming the System for Children with Autism. In a survey which figured in our final report, we found that 84% of respondents said that teachers were not given enough training effectively to teach and support children with autism. Training for teachers is obviously an essential step in ensuring that all staff gain an understanding of the condition which they can then pass on to their students.
One in every 100 children in school is autistic, and most are in mainstream schools. For many of these children, school can be a difficult place. Their condition makes communicating with other students difficult, and many will experience sensory overload. The Children and Families Bill, which is currently in Committee in the other place, gives us an important opportunity to transform the special educational needs system so that more children with autism and SEN will have access to the special support that they need.
We must also think about children’s experience of school life more widely and how we can improve understanding of special educational needs pupils. That is why personal, social and health education lessons are an opportunity to improve, among other things, communication between all students, both those with special educational needs and their peers. Such lessons should help young people to develop a rounded and tolerant understanding of the community in which they live. This must include awareness and understanding of disability, including conditions like autism which can often be hidden. Children with autism, especially those with high-functioning autism or Asperger’s syndrome, can find that their disability and the challenges resulting from it are not obvious to their peers or teachers. Therefore, the classroom presents an important opportunity to help tackle this lack of awareness and misunderstanding. The National Autistic Society—I declare an interest as vice-president—recently conducted a survey which revealed that 22% of young people with autism said that they have no friends at all. A shocking 63% of young people with autism said that they had been bullied. What parent would not be greatly concerned if they found that their children left home for school and spent their school day isolated, alone and friendless? If children have special educational needs, they are singled out for abuse and intimidation by their fellow students simply because they are different—bullying and abuse caused by ignorance, intolerance and, sometimes, spite. We know that some schools have excellent strategies to tackle bullying and we need to encourage that good practice. However, it is important that teachers have a full understanding as well as training to cope.
Transforming opportunities starts at schools; it is about improving special educational needs and changing attitudes among teachers and students alike. Promoting personal, social and health skills in schools should be involved in that and should be about educating young people for the real world. It should be an enriching experience and one that should shape our youngsters for the future in which they will live.
My Lords, this afternoon I want to focus on personal and social education. We have heard a fair bit about some other aspects of PSHE but I want to concentrate on those two. Personal and social education matters for many reasons but for three in particular. The first is employment, the second is family and the third is social mobility.
The ability to get on with people, to manage one’s emotions and to understand social relationships is incredibly important in almost every walk of employment: in retail, in hospitality services, in healthcare, in politics and, indeed, in nearly all jobs that involve teamwork and leadership skills. Personal and interpersonal skills, and the emotional understanding of parents, are perhaps the key to establishing a stable, happy and secure family and to rearing happy and successful children. Then there is social mobility. Everybody is crying out for social mobility but they do not seem to be prepared to make the necessary moves towards it. Personal and social skills are absolutely fundamental to social mobility in our society.
Each child learns interpersonal skills in the family, in primary school and, I hope, in secondary school. Families today vary widely in their ability to give their children the social and emotional skills which they are going to need. A high proportion of primary schools have a satisfactory Ofsted score, but a satisfactory score only means, “Just good enough and should do better”. However, the majority of secondary schools in this country today give personal and social education a very low priority indeed. In more than 90% of secondary schools, PSHE, if it is offered at all, is delivered by a teacher with no specialist training in the subject. Those early years in secondary school are precisely the time when young people are growing up and need well trained teachers helping them to explore the personal and social challenges which lie ahead of them in the adult world. That needs skilled teachers. Interpersonal skills are not learnt overnight nor are they necessarily learnt in the classroom. I believe that such learning should be achieved using interactive programmes involving guided discussion in class based on young people’s interests and linked to programmes of extracurricular activities designed to develop social and interpersonal skills and character capabilities.
Of course some of the best schools are already doing this—but why are all schools not doing it? I think there are three answers. One is money, the second is time and the third is lack of qualified staff. It is in that context that I ask the Minister for two commitments. The first is to accept in principle the importance of taking advantage of that window of opportunity which exists during a child’s early years in secondary school, to build up the self confidence, the personal and social skills, and the character capabilities they will need later in adult life. Secondly, with such a programme in mind, as a matter of urgency I would like the Government to make a commitment to fund one or two of the major teacher training universities to develop a training module for specialist teachers to ensure that all younger people in secondary schools get the support and guidance that they need during the early years of their secondary school life. They can then develop at an age when they are very keen to know what adult life will be like and they will have the skills that they need for the challenges they are likely to meet in their adult life.
My Lords, I too, congratulate my noble friend Lady Massey. She has been a tireless champion of the importance of PSHE and has given us the opportunity to keep this issue live by debating it again today. Indeed, we have had a very rich debate.
I apologise in advance that in the short time I have, I will not be able to acknowledge the excellent individual contributions that we have had from noble Lords across the Committee today. I shall structure my remarks around three points: first, the arguments in favour of strong PSHE, including sex-and-relationship education, delivered through schools; secondly, the question of whether that objective can be achieved without statutory underpinning; and, thirdly, to ask the Government what are their next steps, given their response to the results of the recent consultation on PSHE.
On the arguments in favour of strong PSHE, we have heard in the many excellent speeches today the reasons for promoting the health, well-being, personal safety, confidence and self-esteem among young people. I will not rehearse those powerful contributions; I could not improve on them, and agree with all of them. Not only in this House but in the other place there is a strong cross-party consensus for high quality PSHE and SRE in schools, promoted not least recently by the international campaign to tackle violence and abuse towards women and girls. The particular point in that recent debate was made strongly that boys as well as girls need good sex-and-relationship education, as the noble Baroness, Lady Kidron, rightly warned us today.
There are many other reasons to support strong PSHE in schools—not only problems, such as the soaring rise in sexually transmitted diseases among young people, but in the inculcation of positive values, resilience, good citizenship, and so on. Not least, there is evidence from young people themselves in surveys conducted by the Youth Parliament showing strong support for this subject in schools. Parents, too, in many surveys, including on Mumsnet, overwhelmingly said that they want this provided for their children in schools. Teachers, too, and even the Government have conceded, in Elizabeth Truss’s Written Statement on the results of the PSHE consultation that,
“all schools should teach PSHE, drawing on good practice”.—[Official Report, Commons, 21/3/13; col. 52WS.]
There is no argument about the importance of good PSHE and sex and relationship education in schools.
My second point refers to the crucial question: whether the objective that we all share can be achieved without statutory underpinning. First, as we have heard, we know that the teaching of PSHE is at best patchy. The Ofsted report in 2010 suggested that provision was at least good in three-quarters of schools, but the survey did not include any school in special measures or under notice to improve, so that figure is likely to be a gross overestimate. Even so, it means that at the very least a quarter of schools are not providing good PSHE. Secondly, from our experience in government we know that left to their own devices, we do not see the improvement that we want from schools. In government we got consensus for statutory sex-and-relationship education as a first step to statutory PSHE, but unfortunately that fell away in the wash. Finally, the respondents to the consultation showed that 78% supported statutory PSHE or at least SRE, recognising that the necessary consistency and quality in these subjects will not come from schools left to their own devices.
In conclusion, given the Government’s position, despite that result on the survey they will not make this subject statutory, at the very least will the Minister first pull back from watering down the compulsory sex-and-relationship education as outlined in the national curriculum consultation and instead strengthen the factual content and build in a strong relationship component? Secondly, will he take up the suggestion of the National Children’s Bureau and others to make an explicit link between PSHE and the national curriculum when they publish the national curriculum document?
My Lords, I thank all those who have taken part in the debate, and particularly the noble Baroness, Lady Massey, for raising this important issue. I know of her long-standing personal commitment to ensure that children not only receive an excellent academic education, but learn the soft skills so that they can be “rounded and grounded”. I find myself in agreement with most of what has been said today. I agree with the noble Baroness that PSHE is not just a single subject, but a concept that should be part of the life blood of all schools, and that every school should have a clear PSHE ethos and programme. I want to assure noble Lords that I will use every opportunity to exhort all schools to do this and we will consider carefully what noble Lords have said today.
However, we believe that teachers need the flexibility to decide what to teach and how to teach it in ways that are appropriate. I will agree to meet the noble Baroness, interested Peers and other parties to discuss this important issue because there is no question that high quality PSHE education is vital to equip children and young people with the knowledge and skills they need. That is why we have outlined in the introduction to the new national curriculum our expectation that schools should teach PSHE by drawing on good practice. All young people should benefit from high quality PSHE education, including sex-and-relationship education. It is the Government’s aim to empower schools to deliver this as part of what my noble friend Lady Perry called a “broad and balanced” curriculum.
It is important to distinguish here between the national curriculum and the wider school curriculum. Over time, the national curriculum has extended to cover more subjects, prescribing more outcomes, and taking up more school time. The Government launched their review of the national curriculum to achieve two goals: first, to set out the core knowledge that pupils should have that is on a par with other high performing countries; and, secondly, to slim it down by reducing prescription, thus allowing teachers more flexibility and freedom to exercise their professional judgment. We know that international evidence shows that the best school systems in the world devolve more autonomy to the professionals working on the ground. Our overall reduction in prescription will give teachers greater flexibility in the way they teach, allowing them better to tailor their curriculum and to engage students in the classroom.
The sponsored academies programme, which has been built on the excellent work done by the previous Government, is about sponsors taking over the running of poorly performing schools that are often in deprived areas. Many of the areas will, as the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, touched on, have a high incidence of poor parenting, teenage pregnancy, absent fathers, drug and alcohol abuse and gang issues. As the noble Baroness, Lady Massey, said, it is a complex world. Running programmes that empower pupils to combat these issues is second nature to the sponsors and to many other schools in such areas. We want to build on this good practice to enable and exhort all schools to follow what good schools do in a way that is appropriate to them. We feel that the danger with a box-ticking approach is that schools will revert to the minimum provision, whereas our ambition, while recognising that we are a long way short of it at the moment, is that all schools should provide far more than that. For many children in situations where family life has collapsed and religion plays no part in their lives, their school represents the only solid brick they have.
I recently had occasion to investigate the gang activity in one particular area of London. What I discovered was, frankly, frightening and deeply disturbing. One of the important things that any school in an area such as this should do is provide strategies for preventing their students being recruited into gangs, which is happening at an increasingly young age. However, a school in a leafy suburb probably has other issues to worry about. It is horses for courses, and we want our schools to be free to adapt their provision accordingly. However, our approach is that we should not legislate for PSHE, particularly when the needs of individual pupils vary so widely. We trust teachers and head teachers to provide the PSHE that is relevant and necessary in their own school, but we plan to set high expectations.
However, many elements of PSHE have a statutory basis elsewhere in the national curriculum. For example, science covers the biological aspects of reproduction and the life cycle at key stages 2 and 3. Science also covers issues of health and drugs, ensuring pupils are taught about such topics as the impact of diet, exercise, drugs and lifestyle on the way their body functions, and the effects of drugs on behaviour, health and life processes. In PE, pupils are taught to become,
“physically confident in a way which supports their health and fitness”.
Several noble Lords, including the noble Baroness, Lady Kidron, and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chester, spoke most convincingly of the necessity of good sex-and-relationship education, which is one of the most important aspects of PSHE and is compulsory in maintained secondary schools. All schools must have an up-to-date policy in this regard. One of the cornerstones of this education is parental involvement and consultation. The guidance covers a broad range of topics and stresses the need for pupils to be taught to develop a strong moral framework to guide their decisions, judgments and behaviour.
The very important issue of violence against women was highlighted internationally in February by the powerful One Billion Rising campaign. Young people need to be aware of these important issues and our guidance provides a strong framework for this to happen and how to avoid exploitation and abuse. This includes the teaching of consent. We have provided the PSHE Association with grant funding to promote the teaching of consent and help schools to develop their curricula. We have also commissioned the Bailey review.
I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Hughes, and the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, for their comments on raising the quality of PSHE teaching in schools. I agree that this is important. In addition to a demanding curriculum, good-quality teaching is fundamental. There is overwhelming evidence that links teacher quality to pupils’ attainment. The Government’s reform of ITT demonstrates our commitment to recruiting the very best graduates into teaching and to giving teaching schools more of a role so that schools close to the needs of particular types of pupils can develop appropriate training.
The PSHE Association provides a wealth of resources for teachers and has launched its chartered teacher programme. This gives PSHE teachers the opportunity to evidence their professional practice. We have asked Ofsted to report on specific effective practice in PSHE teaching. It has agreed to do so and is considering the best way in which this might be accomplished and could include, for example, a national conference.
I agree with my noble friend Lord Eden about the danger of the internet. The Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre has developed a specific educational resource that teachers can use to ensure that their pupils have the knowledge and skills they need to stay safe when using the internet.
The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Ripon and Leeds talked about emotional development. Emotional skills can be developed through all aspects of the curriculum. Key emotional and moral issues such as respect and tolerance should be part of all teaching, and practised and modelled by teachers themselves. At my school, all teachers and pupils have a clear vision of the characteristics that we want our pupils to develop, such as compassion and resilience.
As to the relationship between religious education and PSHE, schools are free to design their PSHE programmes to complement other aspects of the school curriculum and a school’s ethos as a whole. I agree that religious education and PSHE together can contribute to a strong-values ethos.
The noble Baronesses, Lady Masham and Lady Massey, commented on health education. One of the key aims of any PSHE programme is to ensure that pupils receive the information they need to stay healthy and safe. I would expect a basic understanding of the rudiments of health to be a strong part of this. Again at my own school, we have a substantial information service on health issues and problems. This service is accessible by all pupils via the school intranet.
The noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, and the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, spoke about the importance of teaching first aid skills. PSHE provides opportunities for schools to teach first aid if they wish, and engage with such organisations as the British Red Cross and St John Ambulance. My honourable friend Elizabeth Truss met the British Heart Foundation and the Resuscitation Council on Monday this week. She listened with interest to their concerns and will consider them carefully as part of the national curriculum review.
I agree with the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chester that decisions about SRE should be taken by parents. Governing bodies of all maintained schools are required to have an SRE policy. I agree wholeheartedly with the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, about the importance of building pupils’ confidence and social skills.
I thank the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chester for their comments on school governance, particularly in relation to education. We are simplifying the guidance on governance, particularly in relation to statutory provision of sex education. We believe that this will be much clearer. As regards the number of chartered teachers, this has been a rigorous programme but we anticipate the numbers to rise significantly next year.
I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Parekh, that global understanding and multicultural literacy are important skills for pupils in today’s society—so important that I suggest that such provision should not be limited to PSHE lessons but be part of the whole school ethos, embedded throughout the curriculum in all teaching.
The Government believe that PSHE is a vital part of a broad and balanced curriculum and that excellent PSHE provision is part of the life-blood of all good schools. I thank all noble Lords for their contributions to this important debate.
Question for Short Debate
My Lords, I am delighted to lead today’s debate on maximising tourism’s potential. I think I am right in saying that it is just over two years since we had a debate on tourism in the House of Lords. It is a particular pleasure for me to see that the debate will be replied to by my noble friend Lord Gardiner of Kimble. I know from private discussions I have had with him just how committed he is to the tourism industry. We wish him well in climbing the greasy pole so that he is able to influence policy to an even greater extent in the future. I also welcome so many colleagues who have a particular interest in tourism.
First, I declare an interest as the chairman of the Association of Leading Visitor Attractions. The association comprises 50 members, all of whom attract more than 1 million visitors a year, and we now have seven members in Scotland. Globally, tourism is probably the world’s largest growth industry, with a huge potential. At present, something like 20% of the residents of the United States, 34% of French residents and 13% of Japanese residents take holidays abroad. In China the comparative figure is only 4.3%, while in Brazil it is 2.7%, and India 1.2%. One can see the huge potential that is to come. In the United Kingdom, tourism is our sixth-largest industry, with a turnover of £134 billion, providing 2.7 million jobs, which represents 9.1% of the workforce. Over a third of all the new jobs created in the past year—180,000—were actually created in tourism. The beauty of the tourism industry in terms of employment is that it is capable of taking in both unskilled and very highly skilled workers.
However, against this international and national backdrop, successive Governments and politicians have repeatedly failed to take tourism seriously. I believe that it is the number one industry in more parliamentary constituencies than any other individual industry. Yet, in the 2010 election, not one word was said about tourism in any of the three major parties’ manifestos. We have the occasional speech supporting tourism by the Prime Minister of the day, and there it ends, with little follow-through. Until the Prime Minister and the Chancellor of the Exchequer really get the message on tourism and drive policy forward as a priority, little is likely to change. We also need much greater co-ordination across government. Too many messages and actions are negative and there are too many restrictive barriers.
Specifically, tourism is not mentioned in the title of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. Funding for VisitBritain and VisitEngland has been steadily reduced, and there is a threat to reduce it even further. Today, I gather that in a speech made at the British Museum, the Secretary of State queried the economic benefits of the arts. The chairmanship of VisitBritain is seen as a job that takes six days a month. That is quite ridiculous, given the size and scale of our industry. On value added tax, out of 27 EU countries, the United Kingdom is one of only four—and the only major tourism destination—to charge full-rate VAT on accommodation. Independent studies have shown that reducing VAT to 5% would create 80,000 new jobs and generate an additional £2.6 billion for the Treasury.
Ireland has successfully boosted its tourism industry by reducing VAT and abolishing air passenger duty. We had a separate debate on this a few weeks ago. Since 2007, air passenger duty has been increased by 360%, which means that for a Chinese family of four wanting to visit the United Kingdom, the duty would be something like £368. On visas, although there has been a modest improvement, the procedures are still expensive and burdensome, particularly for Chinese visitors. It is hardly surprising that France has been attracting something like six times as many visitors as we have. Moreover, there were the recent comments by the Home Secretary on possible changes with regard to visas for Brazil, which have not been seen to be helpful. I believe that we will have an Oral Question in the House on this matter tomorrow. With regard to airports, despite the urgent need for new runway capacity in the south-east, the Davies commission’s report has been long-grassed until after the next election. The package travel directive puts onerous requirements on small businesses and needs to be substantially amended.
Despite overwhelming arguments that a move to double summer time, allowing greater daylight activity, would significantly boost tourism and, of course, road safety, no Government seem to have the will to take action. Regionally, the demise of the RDAs has seriously reduced funding for destination management organisations, for tourism skills training and, of course, for catalyst pump-priming support for major tourism initiatives and projects. The allocation from the regional growth fund falls well short of being an adequate replacement.
I ask my party, and others advocating a mansion tax, whether they have really thought through the implications. The owners of historical properties, many of whom are already under severe cash pressure regarding repairs and renewals, could be faced with very severe additional annual burdens; for example, with a £5 million historic property, 1% on the value over £2 million would result in a £30,000 a year extra charge. Where is that cash going to come from?
Our visitor economy in the United Kingdom is made up of a cornucopia of riches: our historical heritage, our industrial heritage, our great museums and galleries with their crowd-drawing exhibitions, our beautiful and varied countryside, our resorts, and our creative industries such as our theatres and our music. We also have a worldwide reputation for staging great ceremonial events such as the Olympics and the Diamond Jubilee last year, the royal wedding and, more recently, the funeral of Lady Thatcher. All these have given a massive boost to London. Specifically, the royal wedding at Westminster Abbey increased visitor numbers there sixfold. It is still benefiting from that exposure, and I would expect St Paul’s also to have a considerable boost to its visitor figures. Yes, we have a successful tourism industry, but we could do so much better.
I congratulate the noble Lord on securing this debate, and endorse many of his points. I know the work he did as Minister for Tourism.
I had two specific aims when I was Secretary of State, the first being that I should sign all the letters concerning tourism, which is normally left to a junior Minister. If the Secretary of State signs the letter in interministerial correspondence, all the other Secretaries of State have to sign the letter. I thought that was a wonderful “Yes Minister” device to force Cabinet-level Ministers to understand the importance of tourism and hospitality and to not let them delegate it to a junior Minister. Secondly, my small and simple target was to speak at the CBI conference on the importance of tourism, hospitality and leisure, because it is a genuine sunrise industry and a great job creator. I decided that being on the CBI agenda would get tourism and hospitality where they needed to be. I am delighted to say that I secured that small target as well.
My small specific target today—I declare my interest as chancellor of the University of Hull and as the about to be appointed sheriff for the City of Kingston upon Hull—is to secure for that wonderful, creative and vibrant city the award of City of Culture 2017.
I warmly congratulate the Secretary of State on her speech today, which I think the noble Lord did not entirely understand. She spoke about understanding the economic potential which the arts and culture offer, both directly and indirectly. They are not an add-on, they are fundamental to our success as a nation. Culture does not simply have a role to play in bringing about a return to growth, it should be central to these efforts. Culture, as part of tourism and hospitality, is evidently critical. I was delighted she made the speech at the British Museum, which was founded by a lottery and jeered at by someone from my former constituency in Farnham, William Cobbett, who asked, “What manner of interest is that to the common man?”. All these centuries later, we see that the BM has survived extremely well.
Hull has always been a hugely creative city. It is the birthplace of Andrew Marvell and William Wilberforce. More recently, Andrew Motion and Philip Larkin taught at the university. Roger McGough, Anthony Minghella and Jenni Murray were all at the university. Tom Courtenay and Maureen Lipman were brought up there. There are wonderful local centres such as the Hull Truck Theatre; the dynamic, creative and modern Ferens Art Gallery; The Deep, which, I am pleased to say, was lottery-funded during my time on the Millennium Commission, and is a wonderful environmental and conservation charity; the Guildhall; and Trinity House, which houses the largest and most splendid silver collection across Europe.
All in all, it is a vibrant city that faces on to the rest of the world. It has always welcomed people from around the world, and harnessed its creativity and excellence as a spur to tourism. I only hope it becomes, like Liverpool and Londonderry, the next City of Culture in 2017.
My Lords, I, too, congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Lee, on securing this debate. We all know of his considerable expertise in tourism and he never misses an opportunity to raise the issue. I am delighted to support him and I agreed with almost everything he said; I will reserve my judgement on double summer time, given where I come from.
I also welcome the noble Lord, Lord Gardiner, because of his background in rural affairs. The key thing to remember about tourism is that it is the economic instrument that can reach parts of the country that other instruments do not. That is where my interest in tourism comes from; it is the regeneration of remote communities. I declare an interest as a non-executive director of VisitBritain.
I, too, have been listening to what the Secretary of State had to say today about the economic impact of the arts. She said one thing that almost had me cheering: she wants “participants not bystanders”. If ever there was a compliment to tourism, it is that. I do not make any partisan point in this because, frankly, I am as critical of the Government that I was a member of as I am of this and previous Governments for their failure to put tourism at the heart of the economic debate.
British tourism has been a partner in economic development, and £24 million of partnership funding from VisitBritain has gone to the commercial sector. As a result of the activities of VisitBritain over a four-year period, £100 million has gone into a marketing programme and that has directly contributed £900 million to the UK tourism industry. That is a stunning return on investment.
If we look at the impact of tourism on jobs and growth in the economy, it contributes £115 billion to the UK’s GDP and employs 2.6 million people. Internationally, tourism employment outstrips car and chemical manufacturing in terms of the number of people employed. It is seen in other countries as a major instrument of growth, but we consign it to the cuddly fringes of government. This is an industry that can bring serious economic growth; 9% of the UK economy comes from tourism. One job in every three created between 2009 and 2011 was in tourism. Another key figure is that 44% of those employed in tourism are under the age of 30.
We all want economic growth in this country; we want it outside the south-east of England; we want it in Cornwall, Devon, the north of Scotland, the Welsh valleys and everywhere else. Tourism can bring that, but it will never have the full impact that it could have if it is consigned to the outer edges of government policy. We laud UKTI in our economic debates; we should be lauding VisitBritain, British tourism and the many hundreds of thousands of people who make it one of our great success stories.
I could not agree more. First, I declare that I am chief executive of London First, a not-for-profit business membership organisation. I, too, am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Lee, for calling this debate. If I may, I would like to turn his Motion on its head and suggest some things that the Government could stop doing. I will focus on three disincentives for tourists: first, barriers to entry; secondly, the quality of the welcome; and thirdly, the cost of departure.
Taking entry first, the World Economic Forum’s latest competitiveness rankings show that the UK has fallen from 22nd to 46th in terms of its visa requirements. China’s burgeoning middle class spends around three times as much as other tourists. However, the requirement to apply for two European visas—one for the 26 Schengen countries and one for Britain—is a turn-off. Four out of five do not come to the UK, representing an opportunity cost of more than £1 billion annually. The Government are working hard to improve the process, including investigating partnering with other European countries to provide a one-stop shop for visas, whereby, even though the screening processes are different, documents and information can be provided just once. Whatever the solution, we need to be an integral part of any European tour rather than an optional add-on.
Turning to the welcome that tourists receive, in the past we have seen long queues clogging up border control. Here, too, I have been encouraged by progress at the UK Border Force. The UKBF should be given the necessary resource, including the ability to get more and better data quickly, combined with a flexible operating culture to hit tough queue targets, at the same time as keeping out undesirables.
Finally, on tax, in the rankings to which I referred earlier, the UK comes last for airport charges, largely due to air passenger duty. If our goal is to attract visitors, it seems strange to charge them so heavily for leaving.
I return to the official topic of this debate. There are things that the Government can do or continue to do. The GREAT campaign was a good first step, but we must regard marketing the UK as a positive investment rather than an unwelcome expense. Are we really spending enough to maximise the Olympic legacy? Tourism is not a “nice to have”. It is the UK’s third largest export earner. More than that, tourist activity is often the first step to future economic activity. Today’s visitors bearing cameras may well be tomorrow’s investors, and we should therefore do all we can to ensure that they go home with plenty of pictures of red carpets.
My Lords, I declare an interest, in that the garden at our home in north Devon is open to the public for most of the year.
As we all know, tourism is one of the fastest growing industries in the world. At the beginning of the year, the Prime Minister launched a major initiative through the VisitBritain partnership: a new four-year £100 million marketing budget to deliver 4 million new visitors, generate an extra £2 billion in visitor spending and create 50,000 vitally needed jobs. It is a start. The south-west smiled; at last there was some recognition of the need to invest in one of its most important wealth-generating sectors—70,000 jobs in Devon and Somerset and more than 25% of Cornwall’s total GDP.
South-west tourism has moved a very long way from the traditional bucket-and-spade image of the 1970s and 1980s. On a wet day, to match a genuine world-class environment, many of the covered attractions are also world class, including the Eden Project, the National Marine Aquarium and dedicated local family businesses such as those in my area of north Devon. These include the Milky Way and the BIG Sheep, both of which were created through diversification from long-standing traditional livestock farms.
Far from relying upon tourists arriving between Easter and the beginning of September, the south-west has been moving towards an all-year season. This has been based upon widening the scope of the offering, coupled with investment in quality and skills. Marketing has been adapted to cater for “just in time” bookings, and branding has been based on traditional values such as loyalty. Repeat visitors are easier to attract than new.
Examples of how this strategy has worked can be seen in two sectors. The first is food and drink. The vital link between tourism and locally sourced, safe products has proved a dynamic area for growth. The south-west is now every foodie’s dream, with the UK’s most innovative cuisine, which is locally sourced, ethically produced and, importantly, prepared by fantastic home-grown talent. A clutch of Michelin-starred chefs have recognised this powerful market, with Jamie Oliver, Gary Rhodes, Rick Stein, Michael Caines, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and many others enjoying successful recent openings.
Perhaps the most exciting story, however, is in the growth of speciality tourism. There is no better example of this than what can now be seen in the great spring gardens throughout our region. These already attract more than 30% of all our visitors and this figure is not only rising but can ensure repeat visits both during the year, and year after year. There are in Devon and Cornwall some of the greatest spring gardens in the world. I say “in the world” for their only rivals are in the Himalayas. But we need not go that far; it is a very long way and expensive to get there. Go instead to Devon, to the Royal Horticultural Society garden at Rosemoor. Go to, besides many others, Caerhays on the southern Cornish coast, where there abound acre upon acre of camellias, rhododendrons and magnolias 70ft high. Its splendour, magnificence and the beautiful setting, once seen, are never forgotten. See Naples and die, but perhaps also see Caerhays and die. All these points underpin the fact that it will take more than the recession or bad weather to dampen the spirit of south-west tourism.
My Lords, I join others in congratulating the noble Lord, Lord Lee of Trafford, on initiating this debate, and I remind the Committee of my unpaid interests as president of the Heritage Railway Association and as a trustee of the Science Museum Group. Britain’s tourist potential depends on many factors, but principally on attractive destinations, such as those in the south-west that we have just heard about, enjoyable experiences in terms of where to stay and what to do, and ease of access. With more time, I would describe the huge contribution that our museums—the five museums in the Science Museum Group now attract 5 million visitors a year—make to tourism, but I shall concentrate on the part that Britain’s heritage railways play in attracting visitors to Britain.
Railways were Britain’s contribution to the development of the modern world. Their history is rooted in the work of British engineers and entrepreneurs who financed and built railways in so many countries whose citizens are now visiting Britain as tourists. We were not only good at building and exporting railways but we are, today, very good at running heritage railways. There are well over 100 around the United Kingdom, and they are increasingly popular. They do their best to offer an attractive face to their customers and an enjoyable travelling experience. Many provide excellent dining cars on the trains, often offering local produce as a feature. There are even a few boutique hotels around the country where the guests sleep in historic railway carriages, even though the carriages never leave the sidings on which they are permanently stabled.
Heritage railways are still growing. Painstakingly, mile by mile and mainly using volunteer labour, lines are being extended over track beds abandoned long ago by British Railways. Last month, trains on the pioneer standard gauge preserved railway, the Bluebell line, triumphantly steamed back into East Grinstead station some 55 years after the previous train had approached the station from the south for the last time.
Sitting suspended for a Division in the House.
My Lords, I was just describing to the Committee how heritage railways are being restored in various parts of the country. I mentioned the Bluebell line and pointed out that the North Yorkshire Moors Railway is now bringing thousands of people into the town of Whitby, with the effect of keeping cars out of the North York Moors National Park and providing a new journey experience for people. Plans are also in hand with grant funding to extend the Swanage Railway to connect with the South West Main Line to London at Wareham. Increasingly, heritage railways are being used by tourists for access as well as for an enjoyable day out. These developments are the subject of an inquiry being held by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Heritage Rail, of which I am vice-chairman, into the social and economic value of heritage railways. I look forward to sending the Minister the group’s report later this year, which will give an indication of how important heritage railways are to the tourist economy.
In conclusion, I would just remind the Minister that these railways are run largely by volunteers and operate commercially, without recourse to government for subsidy. They work with the local community and are themselves major tourist attractions. They ask for little more than to be able to continue to invest and develop, and make the plea of most small and medium-sized enterprises, to be relieved of as much of their administrative and regulatory burden as possible. A little moral encouragement and support would be welcome too, to demonstrate how much this huge voluntary effort is appreciated by those responsible for tourism development.
My Lords, at a meeting last week, I was introduced as one of Llandudno’s two “Peers” or “piers”. Either I am all at sea or out to sea, but it is good to be the only speaker here, I think, from an area that has a pier—a seaside resort. I will also say how proud I am to bear the name of this seaside resort, as Roberts of Llandudno.
Certain things have happened, especially in the past few months. The Lauriston Court Hotel on Llandudno’s promenade has been named by thousands of guest reviews on the TripAdvisor site to offer the best service in the world. You have to go to the Galaxy hotels if you wish to contest that standing. The Lauriston Court is rated the sixth-best bargain hotel. I am therefore delighted to have that confirmation of our status, and Llandudno is a wonderful seaside resort. Many other hotels and guesthouses can be recommended highly, and they are attractive both inside and out, but not all of them are. Some things could be so easily remedied. I was in Marble Arch recently and saw the state of the flags flown there. It is better to have no flag at all than one that is dirty and flea-bitten. It reduces the appeal not only of the building but of the country which the flag represents. Please provide a good outward appearance.
Finally, we have an opportunity at a time of youth unemployment through which we could somehow support more jobs for young people. They could gain qualifications, not second-class qualifications, but ones that would give them hope for a career that would be well worth while. This is an opportunity at a time when we have young people eager to take these sorts of jobs.
My Lords, Britain is a tourism paradise, in spite of our weather. As we have heard, tourism contributes more than £115 billion to the economy, represents 9% of our economy, and supports nearly 3 million jobs. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Lee, for proposing this debate and for making the important point that we do not take tourism seriously enough. It does not get the credit that it is due or the priority that it deserves. We have dropped from sixth to 11th place in the latest WEF travel and tourism report in terms of tourism competitiveness. We are the sixth most visited destination in the world, but we are losing market share.
Yet we have everything. As we have heard from the noble Lord, Lord Lee, we have the Royal Family, museums, music, theatre, London, the countryside, the arts and sport—you name it. However, the Eiffel Tower in Paris is the most photographed building in the world, while the second most photographed is right here—the Houses of Parliament. Why is that? I agree that we need to do something about infrastructure. Can the Minister say when we are going to do something about our airports, perhaps by providing a third runway at Heathrow and probably the estuary airport as well? It is not a question of either/or; we desperately need both.
However, the main reason that Paris gets more visitors than London is visas, as every survey states. The main reason for that is that Europe has the European Union’s Schengen visa and we do not belong to Schengen. Why is that? It is because we want to maintain our own border controls. Is that not a joke? We are incapable of maintaining our border controls. We do not even know how many illegal immigrants there are. The UK Border Agency has just been disbanded because it was not fit for purpose. We still do not have exit checks for people leaving this country. Can the Minister say when we are going to institute exit checks to keep control of our borders? With Schengen, one visa covers 25 countries, while here there is one visa for only the UK and Ireland. The single visa for 25 countries covers 85% of Europe’s population and GDP. We are worried about security and asylum seekers, but illegal immigrants do not hold Schengen visas. They do not have any visas. The Centre for European Policy Studies has written an excellent report on the issue.
We are losing out in this area. Figures on the number of UK visas issued over the past five years have remained stagnant at 2 million, while Schengen visas over the five-year period to 2010 have increased from 8 million to 12 million, an increase of 50%. I do not understand this. The cost of a Schengen visa for 25 countries is cheaper than the price of one of our short-term visas for the UK and Ireland. We are part of the Schengen co-operation on matters of criminality, so why do we not bite the bullet and join the Schengen scheme before it is too late? The iron structure in Paris will then not be the number one most photographed structure in the world; this building will be.
My Lords, I join noble Lords in congratulating the noble Lord, Lord Lee, on securing this debate, and I endorse the broad theme that we all feel that tourism should be given a higher priority. Let us take as read the figures which have been given; I want simply to add a gloss or two. First of all, on priority, let us take the example given by the noble Baroness, Lady Bottomley, when she was Secretary of State. It would be useful if every Bill being brought forward by any Government passed a “tourism test” before it could be agreed. Every Government should look at the effect on tourism, our most important industry, before they implement anything, whether that be visa controls or whatever.
The next point I would like to make is about jobs. People tend to forget that jobs in tourism are increasingly becoming high-quality jobs. Chefs are becoming celebrities, while further down the food chain, if that is not too horrible a pun, people in the tourism industry are at least learning to behave well towards others, which surely is a very beneficial outcome. They are also jobs which cannot be replaced abroad or digitised or computerised out of existence. The service industries will always require human beings, so these are jobs for the long term.
Another benefit of tourism which I think is underrated is the benefit to the indigenous population. Let me take a rather extreme example. When I was chairman of the Scottish Tourist Board, I chaired a conference under the auspices of UNESCO in Scotland called “Peace Through Tourism”. One of the speakers was the then David Trimble, who claimed—I am sure that he was exaggerating—that Northern Ireland and Scotland were broadly similar. However, let us give him the benefit of the doubt. He went on to say that the income per capita from tourism in Northern Ireland was one quarter of that of Scotland, and that Northern Ireland’s target of doubling tourism income was not an unreasonable one. Funnily enough, I bumped into him when we were in the Chamber for the vote, and he told me that with the coming of peace, Northern Ireland is well on the way to reaching that target.
Let us look at the effect of the Olympics on Londoners; as a result, they must feel a lot more proud of living in London. It should be hoped that things like the riots that erupted only the previous year are less likely if people feel better about the place they are living in. That is certainly true of my native city of Glasgow. The great thing about promoting Glasgow as a tourist destination is not so much that we have four times the number of four-star beds than we had 15 years ago, but that Glaswegians themselves have started to believe in their own city again. You cannot tell other people that somewhere is a wonderful place without starting to believe it yourself.
I would cite the effect of infrastructure on tourism as well. West End theatres would go bankrupt if we did not have tourism, so Londoners benefit from the fact that the tourist industry subsidises, if you like, their own enjoyment. My son, his wife and my two grandchildren live on the island of Iona, with a total population of around 90 people. However, there is a very good ferry service. Why is that? It is because the island is a tourist destination. The benefits of tourism to indigenous populations are huge.
In conclusion, and bearing in mind that the noble Lord, Lord Tanlaw, is to follow me in a few minutes, I would say this by way of compromise on British Summer Time. The current chairman of VisitScotland has advanced the notion that we should adopt British Summer Time on March 1. I know that there are apprehensions in Scotland about the effect of that, but I feel that if we moved BST forward to that date and saw the universal benefit that would deliver, it would pave the way for the adoption of double summer time throughout the country.
My Lords, I would like to make the Committee more aware of how important historic buildings and gardens are to the British tourist industry. It can be shown that Britain’s heritage, specifically its stately homes, castles and designed landscape, is the single most quoted reason for foreign visitors coming to Britain. According to VisitBritain, in 2011, some 9 million foreigners visited one or more of Britain’s historic houses, contributing £6,500 million to the economy. Here I must declare an interest in that I own a grade 1 listed castle and country park in Scotland that attracts 60,000 visitors a year. I am also a member of the Historic Houses Association, whose members are those who still own and live in their historic piles. Although I am transparently an interested party on this subject, I do have practical experience of what I am talking about.
For many years now, the Historic Houses Association has been trying to convince successive Governments of the importance of historic houses and castles to the British economy, how many foreign tourists we attract and how much our presence benefits local hotels, shops and pubs. According to its figures, the total expenditure generated by inbound tourist visits to privately owned historic houses is £1.6 billion per annum. The appropriate Minister for Tourism invariably listens to the HHA’s arguments with great sympathy but ultimately is never prepared to help us.
There are no votes in making concessions to people living in grand houses; rather the opposite, we are targeted as people to be milked. Contrary to popular belief, the majority of those living in grand houses are not particularly rich—because they are living in grand houses. HHA members collectively spend £139 million a year to maintain their historic buildings and grounds, and these sums are barely enough to contain the dry rot and stop the wet coming in.
The late Nicholas Ridley, a Minister in the Thatcher Government, grew impatient with historic house owners bellyaching about the cost of maintaining their houses. “If they can’t afford to keep them, why don’t they sell them to people who can?” was the argument.
Oh, did he? I did not know that. I think his sympathy was the same. On the surface, this seems perfectly rational but it ignores the reasons why so many of us carry on, year after year, struggling to hold on to the buildings we have probably inherited and in most cases learnt to love, while continuing to lose money every year. To own such a place is a privilege as well as a burden. Perhaps we feel we owe the struggle to ancestors who were struggling before us.
I think I am right in saying that no stately home in Britain that is open to the public actually makes a trading profit. The ones that are surviving do so only because the owner has other sources of income or can resort to selling a Titian or a Van Dyck every other year to fill the gap. Nearly all the historic buildings in private ownership are now open to the public but the income derived from them only helps defray the cost of keeping the house wind and watertight. On top of that, we must pay VAT on all structural improvements we make to the building, while our rich neighbour can build himself a brand new, comfortable, warm house completely VAT-free.
Now we hear that the Government intend to cap sideways loss relief, which was one of the few forms of tax relief to the beleaguered owners of historic houses. Then, as my noble friend Lord Lee has already said, we have the prospect of a mansion tax some time in the future. In this time of recession, many owners of historic houses are holding on to their homes only by a thread. Already some are having to face reality, forced on them by their banks.
I am so sorry, do you want me to finish? In that case, I really have only one more thing to say. They will have to sell up and may have enough money to live a comfortable and worry-free life for ever after, but every time this happens, Britain is a poorer place and its attraction as a tourist destination is diminished. I ask the Government to take the concerns of historic house owners more seriously and consider concessions that will help to ensure their survival. Otherwise, someday soon even the rich ones will run out of Rembrandts to sell.
My Lords, we all thank the noble Lord, Lord Lee, for giving us the opportunity to speak on this subject. Foreign tourists and UK citizens alike are generally in agreement that it is vital that the pound sterling remains throughout the UK as it is and that the timescales throughout remain synchronised as they are, even though they are the wrong ones. However, the threat of Scottish independence has created some doubts on both these matters. I am often asked which way I will vote on independence. I say to Scottish residents that if you believe in a Scottish pound that is not underwritten by the Bank of England—I do not believe in that—the answer is to vote yes and emigrate with your savings in pounds sterling.
The noble Lord, Lord Lee, mentioned the benefit to the tourist industry in Scotland and England of switching over to single/double summer time, something which some of us have advocated for years. However, if Scotland should gain independence via the referendum and/or further devolution of other aspects of government, may I suggest that the timescale remains an excluded subject, as it is today? At first glance, it may seem quite harmless to have a different timescale in Scotland to that which applies south of the border. It would be similar, some would say, to altering one’s watch when travelling on the Eurostar to Paris. The same could be said of trains travelling from London to Edinburgh with a one hour difference. The Westminster Government are intending to spend very large sums of taxpayers’ money to build a high-speed rail link eventually linking London and Edinburgh, resulting in a much reduced travelling time. However, if an independent Scotland switched to, say, single/double summer time and Westminster stubbornly stuck to the status quo, the trains going north across the border would still take nearly as long as they do today, thus obviating the need for an expensive upgrade of the line.
Conversely, if an independent Scotland chose to remain with the status quo and Westminster went over to single/double summer time, the trains travelling north would appear to have their time reduced by an hour, thus again obviating the need for an expensive upgrade of the line. I have not chosen trains as a facetious example but one in which time change, if it is not carefully adjusted, has an effect on major capital expenditure, which affects all taxpayers. If the Scots, in their enthusiasm for independence, decide to change the timescale—they may be entitled to do that if we adjust the constitution accordingly—there will be secondary effects that will have very severe effects on our economy. Therefore, I ask for that to be taken into consideration.
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Lee, for keeping this important issue in our minds and for giving us the chance to repeat the debate that marked my first appearance on the Front Bench. I think that my opposite number also spoke on this subject on probably one of the first occasions that he spoke since he joined the Chamber; so it has memories for us.
This was rather a mixed debate in that we heard lusty praise for local attractions from all a round the Committee, but many of those attractions are outside London. That is a good thing. This is one of the rare times when we have had a debate that has focused on non-metropolitan issues. I am afraid that we did not come up with any policy options, which I think was the purpose of having this debate. Nevertheless, I think we are all agreed that it is important that there is a policy initiative. I have to disagree with my former Minister—the noble Baroness, Lady Bottomley—who I see in her place, as I felt that she rather overstated her praise for her successor but four, I think. When I was researching this subject I was struck by the fact that when the Secretary of State before the current one left office, his parting shot was to call for new county boundary signs, saying that the current signs greeting visitors as they travel round are dull, often boring and do little to entice tourists. Surely we can do better than that. I hope that the noble Lord will give us some idea of the policy options available to him and his colleagues when he replies to the debate.
I do not have time to go through all the various issues that were raised, and a number of them are very important but they are all around the importance of tourism to the UK economy. It is our sixth largest industry, third largest export earner and accounts for about 9.1% of employment. Surely something can be done about it. The fact that it is so joined-up suggests that it is not in its right place in the DCMS. Something more needs to be added on top of that. I am attracted to the idea that came up in another place that, as with architecture, one should have tourism experts or champions in each of the policy departments within which it operates. That is something I would like to see.
Many of the comments today have been about policy issues to do with air passenger duty, visas and their problems, brilliantly exposed by the noble Lord, Lord Bilimoria, and about what the Government might do to try to resolve that. When the noble Lord replies, can he respond to the question of whether his department has raised with the relevant departments in transport and the Home Office the issues that are causing such problems in the tourism area? This is important and, as somebody said, it always gets left to the last. The current Government and the previous Labour Government did not do enough to try to resolve the issues and get the benefits that would come from tourism if they were to be resolved.
Regulation in the industry is said to be difficult and overburdensome. It is possible that that could be picked up on and put further up the agenda. There is, of course, the question of taxation. I was attracted to the figures that were presented, particularly around the reduction of VAT. I know from my recent experience in Ireland, which we visit, that the reduction there in their rate of VAT, particularly in the hospitality industry, has had a huge impact in terms of the activity going on in that area. It must, in some ways, be at least self-financing there—something that we would recommend to the Government, even though I know that the response will be that these are matters for the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
My Lords, I congratulate my noble friend Lord Lee of Trafford on securing this debate and acknowledge the wide-ranging and, I may say, formidable expertise. It is very good to see my noble friend Lord Montagu in his place today as a very distinguished former chairman of English Heritage.
The Government recognise that tourism is vitally important for the future of the UK’s economy. The noble Lord, Lord Stevenson of Balmacara, referred to it as the sixth largest industry, but I think it might be the fifth largest, and the third largest export earner. I say to the noble Baroness, Lady Liddell, that it really is central to the Government’s strategy for growth for all the reasons that I hope I can unfold.
Tourism drives investment and, along with the hospitality industry, directly supports over 1.4 million full-time and more than 1 million part-time jobs. The tourism sector provides opportunities for employment, develops valuable skills and offers a real career in the private sector across all the regions. I was pleased that my noble friend Lord Roberts of Llandudno and the noble Lord, Lord Gordon of Strathblane, referred to this. Indeed, tourism may well become our fastest growing sector over the next decade.
The Government’s tourism strategy published in 2011 focuses on delivering a first-class welcome for visitors and providing a high-quality product. The Government want to create the right conditions for tourism to be an engine of growth by removing unnecessary barriers. I was particularly mindful of the comments of the noble Lords, Lord Stevenson of Balmacara and Lord Faulkner of Worcester, on regulation. We are grateful to the Tourism Regulation Taskforce for preparing its recommendations, and DCMS continues to work across Whitehall to deliver changes wherever possible.
Noble Lords have referred to changes in daylight hours, and I am mindful that the noble Lord, Lord Tanlaw, has expressed a certain view. I am also mindful that the noble Baroness, Lady Liddell, referred to Scotland. The point has very much been put to me that we need to try to develop consensus on this matter so that the whole of the United Kingdom feels comfortable about it.
My noble friend Lord Lee and the noble Baroness, Lady Valentine, mentioned air passenger duty. This is a matter, as has already been suggested, for the Treasury. However, we cannot look at this in isolation because we must remember that other countries levy a variety of tourist taxes that this country does not. Furthermore, air passenger duty provided £2.6 billion to the Treasury in 2011-12. We need to very careful and cautious as it would be difficult to forgo this revenue without making cuts in other areas. The matter of VAT, which was also raised, has been examined by the Treasury. I refer to the significant VAT release for cultural attractions and public transport which are not available in different countries.
We have a world-class tourism product. Our towns, villages, cities, coastline and countryside, alongside our heritage, culture and shops, are exceptional. Being a gardener by name and by nature, I was of course delighted that my noble friends Lord Arran and Lord Glasgow referred to the glorious gardens of the west and more generally. We have some wonderful heritage in our historic houses and many other places, as well as our industrial heritage. I was delighted that the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner of Worcester, referred in particular to our railway heritage. I was also mindful of my noble friend Lady Bottomley speaking so powerfully and passionately about the interests of Hull, and I wish that great city well in its quest for the status of City of Culture 2017.
The number of people crossing international borders passed the 1 billion mark for the first time late last year. The tourism market is growing. The US and Europe remain our biggest source of visitors, but we must capitalise on the increasing number of people travelling from new markets. My noble friend Lord Lee and, indeed, the noble Baroness, Lady Valentine, referred to this. I specifically mention China. While we are already seeing a significant increase in the number of visitors from China—an increase of 20% in 2012— we must not underestimate the opportunity. By 2030, China will have 1.4 billion affluent consumers, which is a number greater than America and western Europe combined. Tourism must continue to adapt to attract and retain these important markets, and we must recognise that the Government will play their part. I am very mindful also of the point referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Bilimoria. We have introduced specific improvements for Chinese and Indian visas, which came into effect at the beginning of this month. It has been reported on Chinese television that 94% of Chinese visitors who apply for a visa are now successful, while 96% of applicants say that they are satisfied with the service they receive. We are also improving our aviation connectivity with China. For example, the UK has a new route to Chengdu. Improvements to our visa regime mean that targets to deliver 90% of applications online by December were exceeded, and at present over 90% of applications are online. We are also looking at Brazil, Russia, India and other emerging markets.
Through VisitBritain, the Government are investing £50 million in a £100 million four-year marketing campaign. I want particularly to acknowledge the work of VisitBritain and I am delighted also—
The noble Lord mentioned that 90% of visa applications from China and India are now being processed, but what about all those who do not even apply because we are not in the Schengen system? We are missing out on all of them. That is the point I was making.
I understand, but I am very short of time and I do not think I dare take any more interventions or I will not complete what I need to say.
I want to refer to the work of the noble Baroness, Lady Liddell, as a non-executive board member of VisitBritain. In addition, tourism also benefits from the GREAT campaign, which was given a £30 million boost for 2013-14. It targets not only our highest value inward investment destinations such as the USA and Brazil, but in 2013 it will focus on China. By 2015, all these investments aim to deliver an additional 4.6 million visitors and an additional £2.3 billion visitor spend, along with the creation of almost 60,000 new job opportunities. Recent figures show that we are on track to meet these targets. To date, direct government investment in tourism campaigns has totalled just over £70 million. In the first year alone, VisitBritain’s campaign has delivered £503 million in incremental spend for the financial year 2011-12 against a target of £373 million.
While London is an important gateway to the country, we market all the wonderful destinations across the UK. England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are all represented on the VisitBritain board, and the GREAT campaign provides the overarching framework for the promotion of the whole of the UK. I am mindful of the views expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Gordon of Strathblane, on Scotland’s continuing potential.
Last year, we used the Olympic Games to generate worldwide coverage of Britain’s attractions. This strategy resulted in 14,000 positive print and broadcast stories in the world’s media during the first six months of 2012, the equivalent of over £1.5 billion in advertising. We believe that these measures will offer real benefits to the sector. VisitBritain projects that the industry will achieve 33% growth in the number of international visits by 2020, up from 30 million to 40 million a year.
Domestic tourism is also a hugely important market, worth some 80% of tourism receipts. It has seen a significant increase, with 5.8% more being spent on domestic holidays in Britain last year. VisitEngland’s £25 million marketing campaign is expected to deliver an additional £500 million in consumer spending between 2011 and 2015. Recent figures show that this is working: in the eight-month period from early March to the end of October last year, VisitEngland activity generated incremental spend of almost £300 million. Furthermore, 56% of Britons plan to take a holiday or break at home over the next year.
VisitEngland has also received nearly £20 million from BIS and the skills regional growth fund for its Growing Tourism Locally programme. This will lead to the creation of about 9,100 indirect job opportunities. VisitEngland is also working with local tourism bodies and businesses to develop strong private sector leadership and better links with local enterprise partnerships; 150 destination management organisations have been created so far. The Government are also working with People 1st, the tourism sector skills council, to give people looking for work the skills to find it and to improve capacity and productivity.
Tourism is central to our plans for growth. The Government and the industry are working together and this is bearing fruit. February 2013 saw a 14% increase in the number of visits over the previous year, the highest increase since 2008. Recent findings from the Anholt-GfK Roper Nation Brands Index saw us move three places from 12th to ninth in terms of international perceptions of the UK welcome, which I particularly hope will be welcome to the noble Baroness, Lady Valentine. However, we must do more. The tourism industry is highly competitive and we cannot afford to be complacent.
Tourism is a top priority for the Government. We have a great country with world-class tourism to offer and we must continue to market it effectively. The Culture Secretary and the Minister of State for Sport and Tourism are working with colleagues in the Home Office, BIS, the FCO and across government, as well as with committed private sector partners, to ensure that we capitalise on our potential, about which my noble friend Lord Lee spoke powerfully. We may not be able to fix the weather but we do have the opportunity to create a positive environment for tourism to prosper.
Question for Short Debate
My Lords, I declare an interest as unpaid patron of the UK’s Register of Chinese Herbal Medicine and as someone who is nearly cured by a course of Chinese herbs of a nasty skin complaint which western medicine finds difficult to deal with. I am also the leader of the United Kingdom Independence Party in your Lordships’ House and would be failing in my duty as such if I did not point out that our herbal medicine industry and those who depend on it owe their present predicament entirely to our membership of the European Union.
In that regard, my first question for the Minister is: why does the EU’s law of “subsidiarity” not apply in this case? Are the Government really saying that we as a nation are incapable of deciding for ourselves the rules governing the manufacture and use of herbal medicines, but instead have to be bossed around by Brussels?
The sorry saga starts with a new directive in 2001, number 83 of that year, which was amended by Directive 2004/24/EC. Article 5(1) of Directive 2001/83/EC contained a chink of light. It goes as follows:
“A Member State may, in accordance with legislation in force and to fulfil special needs, exclude from the provisions of this Directive medicinal products supplied in response to a bona fide unsolicited order, formulated in accordance with the specifications of an authorised health-care professional and for use by an individual patient under his direct personal responsibility”.
So the prospect arose of having to set up statutory regulation for our herbalists. Since then there have been two Department of Health committees and two public consultations, all of which have reported massively in favour of herbal medicines generally, and statutory regulation in particular. This is not surprising. A survey commissioned by the Government’s medicines regulator, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency—MHRA—found that 3 million of our people had consulted a practitioner of Chinese herbal medicine and 25 million had bought herbal medicines over the counter in the previous two years.
The happy result of all these expensive committees and public consultations was that in February 2011 the Secretary of State for Health, Mr Andrew Lansley, made the following commitment to the House of Commons:
“When the European Directive 2004/24/EC takes full effect in April 2011 it will no longer be legal for herbal practitioners in the UK to source unlicensed manufactured herbal medicines for their patients. This Government wish to ensure that the public can continue to have access to these products. In order to achieve this, while at the same time complying with EU law, some form of statutory regulation will be necessary and I have therefore decided to ask the Health Professions Council to establish a statutory register for practitioners supplying unlicensed herbal medicines”.—[Official Report, Commons, 16/2/11; col. 84WS.]
That, you would have thought, was that. But it was not. The purpose of this debate is to discover why not. Why have the Government not set up the statutory regulation they so clearly promised they would?
Here I have to enter the world of rumour and conjecture because the department has behaved in an unusually secretive and unhelpful way. For months it has refused to answer those questions or indeed to meet Mr Michael McIntyre, chairman of the European Herbal & Traditional Medicine Practitioners Association, and myself, to discuss these questions and their answers—and indeed the solution.
As far as I can see, this paralysis has been caused by Poland. It seems that Poland had been misusing the “special needs” provision of Article 5(1) to permit imports of cheap unauthorised medicinal products which contained the same active ingredients, dosage and form as drugs that were currently authorised for sale in that country. So Poland had been approving the import and sale of unapproved drugs, which were not medically essential for a specific patient, and thus breaking EU law. The EU Commission took Poland to the Luxembourg Court, which duly found against Poland.
It appears that it is this judgment which sent our Department of Health into its present state of funk, although of course our position is entirely different and we told the department so. However, rumour had reached the department that the Commission regarded Mr Lansley’s statement and promise to set up statutory regulation as a rebellious ploy to get round its wonderful EU edict. If the UK went ahead, perhaps we would also end up in Luxembourg, where the result is of course a foregone conclusion.
Faced with this situation, Mr McIntyre decided to take independent legal advice from Mr David Reissner of Charles Russell LLP. Mr Reissner is an acknowledged expert in pharmacy and healthcare law. He is chairman of the Welsh pharmacy appeal panel and a deputy district judge. So he knows his stuff. His opinion is clear on two issues. The first is that herbalists have to be statutorily regulated if they are to be authorised health professionals and thus have access to manufactured medicines for individual patients under Article 5(1) of the directive. Secondly, it is wholly wrong to fear that the ECJ’s ruling against Poland for misuse of Article 5(1) could somehow be applied to us and block our own statutory regulation. The Polish case is irrelevant to our national position.
I sent this opinion to the noble Earl, Lord Howe, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the DHS in your Lordships’ House, on 8 April and once again asked for a meeting at the department with Mr McIntyre and the relevant Minister who is, I think, Dr Dan Poulter MP. I hoped that such a meeting would have rendered this debate unnecessary, but answer came there none and when I pressed the noble Earl, he comforted me with the information that my letter might be fast-tracked and therefore answered within 28 days—not much help for this debate. What sort of world do these people live in?
Therefore, my second question to the Minister, the noble Baroness, Lady Northover, who has my sympathy as none of this is her fault, is: when will Dr Poulter and those who advise him meet Mr McIntyre, and perhaps myself, to sort the whole thing out? Would it not be helpful if a number of noble Lords who are to speak today and who are interested in this subject came too, or will the Government take the unusual step of refusing to meet parliamentarians? What reason can there possibly be for continuing to refuse such a meeting?
There is much at stake here for the millions who benefit from herbal medicines for a range of common ailments which are not particularly well managed by conventional medicine. If statutory regulation fails to go ahead, a wide range of herbal medicines supplied by practitioners to their patients will be lost. The directive has already stopped practitioners prescribing herbal medicines made by manufacturers and herbal suppliers for prescriptions to individual patients. Also stopped have been third-party herbal prescription services which supply individual prescriptions to named patients at the practitioner’s request. Without statutory regulation, all that remains are herbal medicines prepared by practitioners on their own premises. This will ultimately put a great many practitioners and their suppliers out of business. Statutory regulation will instead provide much needed support for these thousands of small and medium-sized enterprises.
Besides all that, herbal medicine is cost-effective and should be encouraged to go on reducing the growing NHS drug bill. That is, of course, why it is hated by the pharmaceutical companies which appear to go to any lengths to snuff it out. However, I will say no more about that now because I am on best behaviour. Statutory regulation will ensure that the public are protected from poorly trained or bogus practitioners and from substandard herbal remedies. Without it much activity may go underground. Of course, I admit that there is the occasional unfortunate case with herbal medicines but they are minuscule, microscopic and invisible compared with the thousands of patients who are mistreated under our National Health Service. Statutory regulation will also support the professional education which has been developed in this country to a high degree standard. It is also supported by the MHRA itself.
It only remains for me to thank other noble Lords who are to speak in this debate. In those, I include the noble Lord, Lord Taverne, whose enthusiasm for herbal medicine is, I am told, less than 100% wholehearted. However, we are a debating Chamber and differing views are, therefore, welcome. I conclude by saying to him and all those who doubt the efficacy of herbal medicine that aspirin is derived from the bark of the willow tree.
I look forward to the Minister’s answers to my two questions.
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Pearson, for raising this Question. Not entirely unusually, I do not altogether agree with everything that he has said. My view is that the Government should not establish a register for unlicensed herbal medicines. To quote that indefatigable battler against quack science, Professor David Colquhoun, herbal medicine means,
“giving patients an unknown dose of an ill-defined drug, of unknown effectiveness and unknown safety”.
My objection is that licensing will confer on practitioners supplying these medicines a spurious respectability and credibility that can do great harm.
Every time I raise the lack of evidence for alternative medicine in this House, someone gets up, as the noble Lord, Lord Pearson, has now done, and says, “But I was cured” by whatever it is—Chinese herbs or homeopathy. On the last occasion I raised it in the House, the noble Baroness, Lady Corston, praised homeopathy and said that she hoped that my well known views, which she seemed to suggest were somewhat eccentric, would be ignored by the Secretary of State for Health. They are not entirely eccentric views; they are the views of the scientific consensus.
The noble Lord, Lord Rees, spoke about homeopathy at a time when he was still president of the Royal Society. He said that if homeopathy worked other than as a placebo all the laws of science would have to be repealed. There is not, to my knowledge, a single fellow of the Royal Society who supports either homeopathy or Chinese herbal medicine. The most detailed, careful, scientific, blind trials have confirmed that view. Only recently, the Chief Medical Officer, Dame Sally Davies, said she was perpetually surprised that the National Health Service still funds homeopathy. I recommend to those who advocate alternative medicine the book Trick or Treatment? by Professor Ernst and Simon Singh. It is extremely well researched and a very objective treatment, which does acknowledge when there may occasionally be some possible benefit, but on the whole their views and conclusions are quite plain. There are many reasons why many people feel better after treatment—often because placebos do work, whether after taking a homeopathic dose or treatment with herbal medicine. Private practitioners of alternative medicine often have more time for patients and may be good at tender loving care, which is a very important feature of good medical care. Often, people get better anyway.
Anecdote is not scientific evidence. People say, “Well, does it matter if treatment works only as a placebo?”. It does matter. Faith healing sometimes works, if people believe sufficiently strongly. In parts of the world, so does witchcraft. However, it really matters if people who are seriously ill do not take scientifically proved treatment, or if pharmacists, for example, prescribe homeopathic pills for malaria. Dr Wakefield was believed because many mothers reported that their children showed signs of autism after taking MMR. I remember a “Panorama” programme which interviewed several parents who told how this happened to their children. The programme was extremely sympathetic to Dr Wakefield’s views, and stressed how kind Dr Wakefield listened so carefully to these parents, but completely ignored the overwhelming scientific evidence that there was no established link between MMR and autism. In fact, the anti-vaccination campaign was organised by a group of people who were strong believers in alternative medicine. Today, we see the consequences in Wales.
Quack medicine is not harmless. We should not make it respectable by statutory registration, which suggests that it is not only respectable but officially licensed. Although the noble Lord, Lord Pearson, as usual, put forward his views very charmingly, I know of no one in this House who puts forward misleading arguments more charmingly.
My Lords, I am grateful to the Committee for the opportunity to say a few words in the gap. I declare an interest as a patron of the Foundation for Research into Traditional Chinese Medicine. I am also president of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Alternative and Complementary Medicine.
It is always a pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Taverne. His claim that there is no evidence of homeopathy’s efficacy and that herbal remedies are useless is not new to me or to the Committee. When compared with the risk of taking food supplements, an individual is about 900 times more likely to die from food poisoning and 300,000 times more likely to die from a preventable medical injury during a spell in a UK hospital. Adverse reactions to pharmaceutical drugs are 62,000 times more likely to kill a UK citizen than taking a food supplement and 7,750 times more likely to kill than taking herbal remedies.
In February 2011, following a series of meetings with Ministers from the Labour Party and with the new coalition Government, the Department of Health announced that it would introduce a statutory register of herbalists by the end of 2012. Statutory regulation is absolutely essential because it is the only way that herbalists can continue to have access to a full range of manufactured herbal medicinal products. It is unreasonable that interference from the European Commission should hold up the establishment of this register.
My noble friend Lord Howe said recently:
“The legislation around this policy is complex and there are a number of issues that have arisen which we need to work through. We appreciate that the delay in going out to consult on this matter is causing concern; however, it is important that any new legislation is proportionate and fit for purpose”.—[Official Report, 19/3/13; col. WA135.]
Can my noble friend explain what,
“going out to consult on this matter”
means? I hope that it refers to consultation with representatives of the practitioners, their suppliers and relevant departments in the administration of this area. If it means more delay and uncertain outcomes for a sector already plagued with uncertainty, it is unacceptable.
However, the situation is not that straightforward. This afternoon in Central Lobby, I heard a rumour that the Government have changed their mind. Apparently, they have decided to drop all plans for statutory registration and will rely on licensing mechanisms to ensure patient safety. I do hope that my noble friend can give the Committee an assurance that this is not true. Should there be any substance to that rumour, further discussion and negotiation must be an absolute priority.
My Lords, I should first declare an interest and I refer the Committee to my health interest in the register.
I am delighted to speak in this debate. I had ministerial responsibility for the regulation of herbal medicines a long time ago, but it was at the time when we first discussed the European directive. While I actually agree with almost everything that the noble Lord, Lord Pearson, has said, I do not quite agree with his opening remarks about the benefits or otherwise of the European Union. However, he speaks with a great deal of wisdom about a problem that we face.
I usually agree with the noble Lord, Lord Taverne. I have always enjoyed his interventions in your Lordships’ House on the side of rational thinking. However, I must depart from him today. Whether or not herbal medicines are effective, and that is of course open to legitimate debate, the issue we face is that an MHRA survey has shown that about a quarter of the population use over-the-counter herbal medicines. If that is going to continue, as I suspect it will, surely there is a responsibility on the part of the Government to make sure that arrangements are in place to ensure that they are safe as far as they can be, and that those people who prescribe and dispense such medicines are appropriately qualified and regulated. If the statutory register is not now to go ahead, one is left with the problem of the public continuing to purchase such medicines, as I am sure they will, but without the necessary statutory regulation. It is therefore important that we get a clear view from the Government today as to whether they will continue with proposals on statutory registration.
We were left with a very difficult problem with the European directive. To an extent, the provisions around traditional herbal medicines dealt with herbal medicines that had been on the market for a good many years—some 15 years, I think. However, it does not deal with the issue of new herbal medicines coming to market. For instance, if they had to go through the whole panoply of clinical trials, the cost would be prohibitive for a market that traditionally comprises small businesses. Even the licensing provisions for new herbal medicines are likely to cost several thousands of pounds. Again, that is very difficult for an industry that is essentially small-scale.
As a result of herbal medicines being brought within the Medicines Act 1968, which has been replaced by the European directive on traditional herbal medicinal products, this now prevents third-party manufacturing of herbal medicines being prescribed to patients by practitioners, as well as individualised herbal medicines prescribed by practitioners and manufactured by a third party. Both have been essential components in the supply chain for the past 40 years, with many practitioners relying on such services. Now those practitioners have to prepare medicines on their own premises. That is a real problem if those practitioners are not to be statutorily registered, especially in terms of public confidence.
The noble Lord, Lord Pearson, mentioned the ECJ ruling against Poland. I thought that this ruling was in relation to the parallel import of medicines. For the life of me, I cannot see why that should have an impact on the proposal for the statutory registration of herbal medicines. I know that there is an issue with parallel imports which the Government are right to be concerned about, but this is not essentially a matter of parallel imports.
Not having a statutory register will not curtail the use of herbal medicines, but it will increase the scope for unqualified herbalists to offer treatments and for customers to purchase unprescribed medicines over the internet. I know that the fear of the noble Lord, Lord Taverne, is that statutory regulation would legitimise a practice which he has cast doubt upon. However, I would ask him to consider the other problem, which is that if 25% of us use herbal medicines, is it not better to accept that they will continue to do so and put some statutory safeguards around that practice?
The benefit of regulation is that practitioners would be regulated by an independent regulator. I understand it is likely to be the Health and Care Professions Council. Of course, the HCPC is in expansionist mode, having just taken on social workers, much against my and many others’ better judgment. If it can take on social workers, it can certainly take on herbal medicine practitioners. Of course, the benefit of that is that it can strike someone from the register, prevent them from being called a herbalist, and thus give more confidence to the public. The noble Lord, Lord Taverne, will say that I am arguing his point for him and I recognise that by having statutory regulation the public are likely to have more confidence, but I think it is better that way than allowing herbal medicines to be purchased over the internet with all the problems that can arise. Many legitimate herbalists may go out of business, which would be a great pity.
I will end by making two points to the noble Baroness. First, why is her department refusing to meet the campaigners and indeed the noble Lord, Lord Pearson? As a Minister, I always met parliamentarians if they wrote to me asking for a meeting. I am very surprised that Ministers in the department have refused to meet the noble Lord, Lord Pearson. That is extremely bad form. Certainly they should meet with Michael McIntyre. I do not understand why the department has run away from such a meeting.
Secondly, there are obviously some very strong rumours that the department is going to drop this proposal. If that is the case, all that I would ask the noble Baroness is this. Would it not be sensible to meet with the noble Lord, Lord Pearson, and Mr McIntyre before a final decision is made? It would be only fair if there was some debate before such a decision is announced.
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Pearson, for securing this debate. I thoroughly enjoyed his speech, and as the last debate of the day, he made sure that we are all wide awake.
I recognise that the Government’s progress in establishing a statutory register for practitioners supplying unlicensed herbal medicines is of interest both to Members of this House, as has been demonstrated today, as well as to consumers and practitioners who use these products. I am glad that the noble Lord was assisted by a herbal remedy.
The issue of whether herbalists and traditional Chinese medicine practitioners should be statutorily regulated has been debated, as the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, will be well aware, since at least the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee report in 2000. The Government appreciate that there is, understandably, strong support from many herbal practitioners for the statutory regulation of this group, and the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, has made the case as well. In addition, many consumers of herbal medicines wish to access unlicensed manufactured herbal medicines. As noble Lords will be aware, on 16 February 2011, the Government announced that they intended to take forward the regulation of herbal medicine practitioners and traditional Chinese medicine practitioners specifically with regard to the use of unlicensed herbal medicines within their practice.
At the time that the decision to take forward the regulation of this group was made, the Government’s intention was to allow herbal practitioners to once again lawfully source unlicensed manufactured herbal medicines. That is something which practitioners have not been able to do since April 2011, when a European directive made it illegal for herbal practitioners in the UK to source unlicensed manufactured herbal medicines for their patients.
Where the noble Lord, Lord Pearson, criticised the EU, others may well feel that the EU can offer a level of protection, depending on one’s point of view. Perhaps I can address here the issue of subsidiarity. The noble Lord suggested that this meant that it was not applying to herbal medicines. The principle of subsidiarity does indeed apply. The directive makes provision to facilitate the free movement of herbal medicines while ensuring a high level of safe public health. It was thought that the directive strikes the right balance of rules to facilitate free movement to the EU level, while maintaining flexibility through domestic implementing regulations.
Since the announcement in February 2011, the Department of Health has been working with officials in the devolved Administrations and the Health and Care Professions Council to look at establishing a statutory register for herbal practitioners supplying unlicensed herbal medicines, along with a strengthened system for regulating medicinal products, to enable consumers to have safe access to unlicensed manufactured herbal medicines.
This process continues to be complex and lengthy and, with regret, I must say that we are not in a position to consult on proposed legislation. My noble friend Lord Colwyn asked about what “going out to consult” meant. As announced in the Written Ministerial Statement in February 2011, any proposed statutory legislation has to go out to an open and public consultation. I hope that that clarifies the issue and reassures him. However, I am sure the noble Lord, Lord Pearson, will appreciate that it would be irresponsible for the Government to undertake to alter the status of a group of workers without first ensuring that the policy and final decision offers an appropriate form of regulation and ensures the proposals adequately address the risks posed to consumers of unlicensed herbal medicines.
My noble friend Lord Colwyn flags the serious dangers associated with all medicines. Nothing is risk-free, whether it is conventional or complementary medicine, or doing nothing at all. That is why it is important that there is careful regulation and consideration of all these areas.
We recognise the need to balance the economic wish of practitioners to continue to supply unlicensed herbal medicines and the wish of some consumers to have continued access to them against any risks identified. We understand that there is a strong desire in the field to bring the matter to a conclusion both for practitioners and the public. However, it is clear that there is a potential risk to public health where practitioners supply unlicensed herbal medicines which may be potent. For example, the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency has recently become aware that an unlicensed herbal product containing aconite, a prescription-only medicine in the UK which can cause serious and potentially fatal adverse reactions if consumed, is being marketed and prescribed by traditional Chinese medicine practitioners for the treatment of migraine. It is therefore crucial that the nature of the regulation in the sector is carefully thought through.
Various noble Lords have made that point.
My noble friend Lord Colwyn asked whether the Government have in fact dropped the commitment to regulate. The Government recognise that there is a body of evidence about the public health risks associated with herbal medicines. It is important that the department does not proceed with the statutory regulation of any group, including herbal practitioners, unless we are sure that this will provide the necessary safeguards for patients. In other words, it is being looked at very carefully—whether the balance of regulation helps or hinders. Noble Lords have heard various views expressed.
I am afraid that I cannot answer that very simple question. I may be inspired to do so shortly, but in the mean time I should say that this is a more complex area than that. Although I will be happy to come back to my noble friend, I think that there are a number of wider issues to look at.
Perhaps I may also intervene briefly. I am most grateful to the noble Baroness for her answers, but can she be absolutely clear? Mr Lansley, when he was Secretary of State, announced an intention to implement a register by 2012. Does that mean that the Government are not going forward with it? I am not clear about this. The noble Baroness has said that she is not in a position to consult and has suggested that the Government are taking a new look at the relative risks. Can she help the Committee to understand whether in fact these rumours that the proposal has been dropped are correct?
I think that what I should do is continue with what I was going to inform noble Lords about. It may be that that will satisfy them in this regard. They are seeking an answer right now which I do not think I can give.
I should point out that while the Government are working through the issues relevant to this policy, this does not affect the availability of over-the-counter licensed herbal medicines. Significantly, there are now more than 240 products registered under the Traditional Herbal Medicines Registration Scheme. In addition, practitioners can continue lawfully to prepare herbal formulations on their own premises for use with their own patients. I also want to make it clear that the previous announcement made by the Government and any steps taken to regulate herbal practitioners should not be seen as an endorsement of the efficacy of herbal medicines either way. The Government do not have a view on the efficacy of herbal medicines that do not have a full marketing authorisation; in other words, a product licence. However, the Government do recognise that members of the public may wish to purchase complementary or alternative treatments, including herbal medicines. The Department of Health would always advise someone considering the use of complementary or alternative medicines to find a practitioner who is a member of an organisation that has set robust standards of qualification, an ethical code of practice, and a requirement for appropriate public indemnity insurance.
As I stated earlier, I regret that the Government are still not in a position to go out to public consultation on this matter, but we want to make sure that any proposals are proportionate and fit for purpose.
My Lords, in that case, perhaps the noble Baroness, before she finishes her remarks, would be good enough to answer the point made by me, the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, and other noble Lords. Will the Minister concerned and his officials meet interested Peers and Mr McIntyre? If not, why not?
Funnily enough, I was just going to get on to the point about a meeting. The noble Lord will be well aware that I am filling in for my noble friend Lord Howe. I am very sorry that it is me rather than my noble friend, with whom I am sure the noble Lord would rather have disputed this. However, my noble friend might very well be detained by the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, in the Chamber and so therefore he is potentially otherwise engaged. My noble friend Lord Howe is, as the noble Lord will know, most forthcoming in terms of engagement and meetings. I will pass on the request for meetings. I am informed that my noble friend has not refused to meet noble Lords—knowing my noble friend, I absolutely believe that—and the department will be in touch shortly. I hope that that reassures the noble Lord, Lord Pearson.
The noble Lord suggested that other speakers in this debate should be included. I was very struck by that, so I look forward to hearing reports of such a meeting, which clearly must include my noble friend Lord Taverne.
As I say, my noble friend Lord Howe is happy to meet people and no doubt this will be discussed further. Maybe I had better hurry up and conclude because I think I am about to go beyond time. Unless I hurry up, nobody will have a chance to say anything else.
No, we are all time-limited, as I know as a Whip. I am time-limited to 12 minutes. The fact that the debate can go up to an hour is neither here nor there.
I fully appreciate that this delay is causing concern among both practitioners of herbal medicines and consumers. However, I assure noble Lords that once the Government have worked through the difficult issues they face on this policy, an announcement will be made on their proposed way forward. I assure noble Lords that the Government are carefully considering this very important issue and that we anticipate being able to make a more substantive announcement shortly.
Committee adjourned at 7.02 pm.